Posts Tagged With: outdoor skills

Make Your Own Meatballs

Meatballs are fun and always seem a little fancy. Whether they are classing up a simple meat sauce, serving as a tasty appetizer, or floating in a savory soup like the Miso Noodle Soup I posted last week, meatballs simultaneously add a bit of playfulness and elegance to a dish.

Making your own meatballs is easy and fun, and the flavor possibilities are only limited by your imagination. Here is a mix and match guide to making your own meatballs. And, if you’re vegan or vegetarian, you don’t have to miss out on the fun. You, too, can enjoy a little meatball madness.

You could omit or substitute the egg and/or breadcrumbs. They help hold the meatballs together, but they are not required. It will depend on your combination of ingredients. For example, the meatballs for the Miso Noodle Soup are made with ground pork, honey, sriracha, salt, and pepper, and they hold together very well.

Ingredients for a Basic Meatball
1 pound protein of your choice, ground
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 egg
¼ cup breadcrumbs

Choose a single protein or a combination like beef and lamb or beef and pork (1 pound total): beef, turkey, pork, chicken, lamb, or 2 (15-ounce) cans beans, drained, rinsed, and mashed.

Add at least 2 (1 tablespoon total): oregano, cumin, paprika, cinnamon, red pepper flakes, soy sauce, honey, sriracha, chili powder, taco seasoning, grated parmesan, or grated cheddar.

Vegetables and Herbs
Add at least 2 (3/4 cup total): grated onion, grated carrot, minced garlic, citrus zest, chopped cilantro, chopped parsley, chopped rosemary, or chopped thyme.

In a bowl, mash all the ingredients together. I like to glove up and use my hands, which are the two best tools in the kitchen. (For the beans, if you use a food processor to mash them, be careful not to over process or they will fall apart).

Divide the meatball mix into 16 blobs (technical term) and form/roll each blob into a round little ball.

Arrange meatballs on a baking sheet and bake in a 400°F oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through, or they can be (gently) dropped directly into a simmering soup or sauce and cooked 5-10 minutes or until done.

Makes 16, nicely sized, meatballs.

Now it’s time to experiment and try different combinations. Have some fun and make some magic, I mean, meatballs!

If you like this blog and don’t want to miss a single post, subscribe to Chuck Wagoneer by clicking on the Follow Us button in the upper right corner and follow us on Facebook and Pinterest for the latest updates and more stuff!

Categories: Main Dishes, Snacks, Under the Lid | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Miso Noodle Soup with Meatballs

Want to wow your campers? Serve this savory miso noodle soup with meatballs. This soup is perfect for a cool or cold evening when you are wanting a hot meal, but on the lighter side. It brings a mild, subtle heat and folks can add more or less heat by how they garnish with the red chiles. Both my son and daughter like this soup and they are on opposite ends of the heat scale.

While this soup isn’t difficult to make, it might not be suitable for young chefs. This soup is a bit more sophisticated. It’s a far cry from chili and macaroni and cheese. This is also not a good soup for a large group because you need at least a quart of volume per person. We make this for the 4 of us and I use a 6-quart Dutch oven. I might be able to make this in a 4-quart, but I like having the extra room for stirring and to prevent boiling over.

You could double this recipe in a 12-quart stock pot to serve 8 and even triple it in an 18-quart stock pot to serve 12, but serving might become challenging trying to evenly divide all the noodles between 8-12 bowls. We use tongs to grab the meatballs and noodles and, when you get down to the last few noodles, you’re kinda fishing for them.

Be careful when you’re ladling the broth into the bowls because this soup is hot (boiling) and, if you’re holding the bowl while you are ladling, the bowls heat up really fast and get really hot. Even the heavy ceramic bowls we use at home quickly get too hot to hold.

For photographing, I sliced the red chiles to make it look pretty, but we actually prefer to dice them so we get a little heat with every bite. I also removed the seeds, which is where a lot of the heat is.

We did not use the sambal oelek (ground chili paste) because it contains seafood oils and we have allergies in the household. Instead we used sriracha, which is a straight across 1:1 substitution. So, if you can’t find the sambal oelek or, like us, have allergies, sriracha is a safe alternative without sacrificing flavor.

We find our soba noodles in the refrigerated section. The package has 3 6-ounce pouches and we use all three pouches because we love noodles. We find the fresh mung bean sprouts in the produce section. The bean sprouts add a bit of crunch and freshness to the soup.

Our chop stick skills are not the greatest so we serve this soup with forks, for the meatballs and noodles, and large spoons, for slurping the delicious broth, but you could forego the spoons and just drink straight from the bowl. It’s good to the last drop!

So, if you’re wanting something different or cooking to impress, this makes a great lunch or dinner soup for a small group.  Serve this with an Asian salad and you have a perfect soup and salad combo!

6-quart Dutch oven or stock pot, medium bowl, measuring cups and spoons, and tongs and ladle for serving.

2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 cup green onions, sliced diagonally, and divided in half
9 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried ground ginger
64 ounces chicken stock
18 ounces soba noodles
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste) or Sriracha
16 ounces lean ground pork
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons miso paste (fermented soy bean paste)
2 cups fresh mung bean sprouts
3-4 red Fresno chiles or red jalapeño chiles, sliced or diced

Slice the green onions and red chiles, and mince your garlic if you’re using whole fresh cloves. In a medium bowl, combine honey, sambal oelek (or sriracha), ground pork, salt, and pepper. I gloved up and dove in with my hands to mix it all really well. Shape pork mixture into 16 meatballs. Assemble all your ingredients. Now it’s time to put flame to your pot.

In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, warm the sesame oil. Add ½ cup green onions, garlic, and ginger, and sauté 1-2 minutes. Add chicken stock, increase your heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer 8 minutes.

To the stock mixture, stir in miso. By hand, one at a time, carefully drop in the meatballs and cook 6 minutes or until done. Add noodles and cook 2-3 minutes more (depending on your noodles). Divide soup between 4 deep soup bowls (minimum 18-ounce bowls) and sprinkle with remaining green onion, mung bean sprouts, and red chiles.

Serves 4 perfectly. Each person gets 4 meatballs and 4-5 ounces of noodles, and lots of yummy broth.

If you like this blog and don’t want to miss a single post, subscribe to Chuck Wagoneer by clicking on the Follow Us button in the upper right corner and follow us on Facebook and Pinterest for the latest updates and more stuff!

Categories: Main Dishes, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dutch Oven Nachos

On our last scout campout, Scoutmaster Murray was cooking for the scoutmasters. For lunch on Saturday, he made two Dutch ovens of nachos with turkey chorizo, diced white onion, cilantro, diced tomatoes, and lots of cheese. They were a yummy lunch, filling but not too heavy, which was perfect going into a busy afternoon of teaching outdoor skills.

Nachos make a great meal or an appetizer. They are easy, fun, and completely customizable. You can build them any way you want to. They are great for an evening cracker barrel because they are finger food so there are no dishes to wash late at night.

If you line the Dutch oven with foil, when the nachos are done, you can carefully lift them out of the oven using the foil. Set the foil “bowl” directly on the picnic table and spread out the foil. Campers can just dive right in and start pulling off clumps of loaded tortillas.

The recipe below is for fully loaded nachos. While the list of ingredients is by no means comprehensive, it includes a lot of options. Use some or all of them. Use more or less of something. Treat this as just a guide for helping you decide what you want on your nachos. And I’ve included all the classics to serve with your nachos. Have fun!

12-inch Dutch oven, large skillet.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground beef, turkey, chicken, or pork
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 package taco seasoning, or your own mix
12 ounces tortilla chips
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup corn kernels, frozen, canned or roasted
1 ½ cups cheddar cheese, shredded
1 ½ cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1 (15-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes, drained
1 (4-ounce) can black olives, sliced
¼ cup red onion, diced
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
¼ cup cilantro, fresh, chopped
8 ounces sour cream
8 ounces salsa
8 ounces guacamole
1 (15-ounce) can refried beans, heated

Line a 12-Dutch oven with foil and start 25 coals.

In a large skillet over medium heat, warm oil. Add ground meat and garlic. Cook until meat is browned, about 3-5 minutes, making sure to crumble the meat as it cooks. Stir in taco seasoning. Drain any excess fat.

Place about half of the tortilla chips in the Dutch oven, spreading evenly. Sprinkle on 1 cup of cheese and add the remaining tortilla chips. Top with 1 cup of cheese, ground meat mixture, black beans, corn, tomatoes, black olives, and remaining cheese.

Bake in a 350°F oven, using 17 coals on the lid and 8 underneath, for 10-15 minutes or until heated through and the cheese is melted. Serve immediately, topped with onion, jalapeno, and cilantro. Serve with refried beans, sour cream, salsa, and guacamole.

Serves 8

If you like this blog and don’t want to miss a single post, subscribe to Chuck Wagoneer by clicking on the Follow Us button in the upper right corner and follow us on Facebook and Pinterest for the latest updates and more stuff!

Categories: Dutch Oven, Main Dishes, Meals in 30 Minutes, Recipes, Snacks | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Principles of Pancake Perfection

Camping and pancakes just seem to go together. Sitting at the picnic table with a stack of fluffy round pillows, drizzled in maple syrup. If you serve them with a couple strips of bacon and a cup of coffee, it’s breakfast heaven.

Whenever our troop goes camping, there is always at least one patrol that serves pancakes for breakfast. And, while pancakes are relatively simple to make, there are a few tricks to attaining those light, fluffy pillows we all dream about. Come on, admit it. I know you dream about pancakes, too.

On my Outdoor Cooking Skill Progression Chart, I put pancakes a couple steps up for the following reasons: You have to measure your ingredients because, technically, you’re baking and there is some chemistry involved. It is hard not to over mix them. Skillet and griddle work is a little more challenging because you have to manage your heat better. And, then there is the whole flipping the pancake that takes a bit of skill and coordination, and practice.

So, let’s dive into the principles of pancakes and I’ll share best practices and common mistakes.

Pancake Ingredients

When prepping the pancakes, you want to divide the ingredients into two categories: dry and wet.

Dry ingredients include flour (AP, whole wheat, rice, almond, etc.), sugar (granulated or brown), baking powder (to make them light and fluffy), and salt (balances and enhances the flavors). Your dry ingredients can be prepped at home and loaded into a container or resealable bag. Just be sure you are making enough because you won’t be able to prep more in camp.

Wet ingredients include milk (buttermilk, milk or non-dairy milk), fat (butter or vegetable oil), eggs (for structure and adds to the light and fluffiness), and extract (vanilla, almond, etc.). Your wet ingredients can also be prepped at home and poured into a tightly sealed plastic bottle for the ride to camp in your cooler.

Prepping and Mixing

In two separate bowls mix together all your dry ingredients and all your wet ingredients. When you are ready to combine, make a little well in your dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Gently stir together just until combined. DO NOT OVERMIX. Resist the urge to stir out every single lump until it’s totally smooth. Trust me, a few lumps are okay.

If you over mix the batter you will end up with stacks of tough and chewy pancakes instead of the light and fluffy ones you were probably dreaming about. Tough and chewy pancakes are only good for one thing: Frisbee.

So, mix the batter just until the wet and dry ingredients are combined, and there are no more visible wisps of flour. The batter will be lumpy and, again, that’s okay.

Resting the Batter

I usually mix my pancake batter and then turn my stove, which allows my batter to rest while the griddle heats. Resting the batter anywhere from 5-15 minutes allows the glutens that were activated during mixing to rest and relax. Also, the starch molecules in the flour have a chance to fully absorb the liquid. This will give the batter a thicker consistency.

Managing Heat

It’s important to allow time for the griddle to get good and hot evenly. You want medium heat or about 375°F. Too low and your pancakes just won’t cook. Too high and they will be burnt on the outside and raw on the inside. We’re going for the Goldilocks heat: Just right. And, you may need to adjust along the way so don’t be afraid to do that.

A good way to test your griddle is to wet your fingers with water and flick it onto the surface of the griddle. The griddle is ready if the water droplets sizzle and dance before they eventually evaporate. Medium heat will give us pancakes that are golden-brown on the outside with slightly crispy edges, and soft but cooked through on the inside. Pancake perfection!

Greasing the Griddle

I can’t count how often my young chefs don’t do this and it always leads to disaster and pancake tragedy. Always pack extra vegetable oil when you plan to make pancakes.

When the griddle is up to temp, add a light coating of oil. We prefer vegetable oil, which tends to have a higher smoke point than butter and won’t add any flavor to the pancakes like olive oil.

After your oil has a moment to warm, you can begin adding batter to the griddle. Try to control your excitement. We’re not out of the woods just yet.

I prefer to use a ¼-cup measuring cup. It makes for a nice-sized pancake that is easy to flip. Depending on the size of your griddle, you could also get 6-8 pancakes per batch. This is important because once the pancakes start going down, the vultures will start circling.

If you have the griddle real estate and you are a more experienced pancake flipper, you could bump up to a ½-cup to 1-cup measuring cup for bigger pancakes. You can also use a smaller measuring scoop to make little silver dollar pancakes. Those are always fun.

Lightly coat the griddle with vegetable oil about every other batch of pancakes. Keep it light! Don’t let oil accumulate on your griddle or let your griddle run dry. If you see oil accumulating on the griddle, just use your spatula to redistribute it around the griddle. Remember to adjust the heat if you need to.

Flipping Pancakes

Pancakes should be flipped once, and only once, during cooking. And as long as you didn’t flip them too soon, you won’t need to flip them any more than that. Flipping pancakes too many times causes them to deflate, losing some of that wonderful fluffy texture.

As the pancake cooks, bubbles will start to form on the surface. Do not be tempted to pop them. I know, it’s fun, but when you pop the bubbles, you are releasing air from the neighboring chambers, essentially “flattening” the finished cake by vacating the air that was giving it some of its rise and fluff.

The pancake is ready to flip when the bubbles start to pop on their own and your edges are lightly browned and a little crispy, and the pancake is looking dry around the outer edges. If you’re still a little unsure, it’s okay to gently lift an edge and sneak a peek underneath. Generally, it will take about 2 minutes for the first side and 1-2 minutes for the second side. The most important thing is for the middle to be cooked.

Adding Extras

If you are adding extras like fruit to the pancakes, add after you pour the batter onto the griddle. Blueberries are a classic add on, but you could also add sliced bananas, chocolate chips, nuts, or whatever you like.

When you’re ready to serve the pancakes, you can serve with butter and maple syrup; however, you can also add flavored syrups, chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, peanut butter, cream cheese, fruits, nuts, whipping cream, and sprinkles. Just to name a few.

Serving Warm

Serve your pancakes immediately or keep them warm by wrapping them in foil. If I’m making pancakes for a crowd and I want us to all eat together, I’ll warm up one of my large Dutch ovens to about 200°F and line it with foil. As I off load each batch, I add them to the Dutch oven to keep them warm.

It’s no fun to put stone-cold syrup on warm pancakes. If it’s a cold morning, you should warm your syrup. Your campers will love you for it.

Fan Favorites

Here are a few of our favorite pancake recipes (and we’re always adding more) because pancakes are something we dream about:

Buttermilk Pancakes

Snoqualmie Falls Oatmeal Pancakes

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

Cinnamon Roll Pancakes

If you like this blog and don’t want to miss a single post, subscribe to Chuck Wagoneer by clicking on the Follow Us button in the upper right corner and follow us on Facebook and Pinterest for the latest updates and more stuff!

Categories: Under the Lid | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Buttermilk Pancakes


Buttermilk pancakes are simply the best. We love them. Buttermilk brings a subtle tanginess to the pancakes, which balances nicely with the sweet maple syrup. Buttermilk makes a slightly thicker batter and supports the baking soda and baking powder for fluffier pancakes.

These buttermilk pancakes go together easy. Both the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients can be prepped at home and then combined in camp on the morning that you are going to make them. When making pancakes in camp, always prep a little more batter than what you think you’ll need. Hungry campers always seem to gobble down more in camp.

Serve with warmed maple syrup or flavored syrups, fresh fruit, and nuts. And, of course, bacon or sausage always pair nicely with pancakes.

Griddle, small mixing bowl, large mixing bowl, whisk, pancake flipper, measuring cups and spoons.

1 egg
1 ¼ cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
Extra vegetable oil for greasing the griddle
Butter and maple syrup for serving

In a small mixing bowl, whisk egg. Whisk in buttermilk and vegetable oil. Set aside.

In large mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in the dry mix and add the wet ingredients. Stir mixture until just combined but still slightly lumpy. Do not over mix. Set aside to rest 5-15 minutes.

While the batter rests, heat a griddle to about 375°F and lightly grease it with vegetable oil. Using a ¼-cup measuring cup, pour pancake batter onto the griddle. When pancakes have a bubbly surface and slightly dry edges, flip to cook the other side.

Serve warm with butter and maple syrup.

Makes 8-10 pancakes

This post has been shared at Homestead Bloggers Network. If you like this blog and don’t want to miss a single post, subscribe to Chuck Wagoneer by clicking on the Follow Us button in the upper right corner and follow us on Facebook and Pinterest for the latest updates and more stuff!

Categories: Breakfasts, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Banana Brown Sugar Caramel Strata

Layers of fluffy French toast cubes, warm gooey bananas, covered in brown sugar caramel sauce, topped with a brown sugar crumble, and drizzled with maple syrup. Do I have your attention?

This strata is breakfast comfort food and, while it is a bit challenging to make (i.e., multiple steps), it’s so worth it. It’s great for camp in a Dutch oven or at home in a casserole dish for a holiday or weekend breakfast or brunch. We’ve made this a couple times at home and in camp and, each time, it’s received rave reviews.

A strata is a great way to make French toast for a crowd without having to stand at the griddle flipping slices of bread. It can be sweet or savory. This one is most certainly sweet. With a few substitutions, this could also be dairy and/or gluten-free.

A strata is also perfect for making in camp in a Dutch oven. A lot of this can be prepped at home so, in camp, it’s just some assembly required. Just allow enough time in the morning to assemble and let it rest while the bread soaks up the egg mixture before baking. About 20 minutes of rest ought to do it. If you want that occasional big hit of banana, slice your bananas thicker. I prefer to dice my bananas so there is a little bit of banana in every bite. Either way is yummy. It’s just personal preference.

If you’re making at home, this French toast casserole can be assembled the night before, placed in the refrigerator overnight, and baked in the morning. In the morning, all you have to do is add the topping and bake. Again, great for a holiday or weekend brunch.

12-inch Dutch oven or casserole dish, medium sauce pan or skillet, large bowl, whisk, cutting board, knife, small bowl, measuring cups and spoons.

Ingredients for Brown Sugar Banana Filling
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar packed
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 ripe-firm bananas peeled, sliced and quartered

Ingredients for French toast
8 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 cup half and half
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 15-ounce loaf French bread cut into large cubes (preferably a day or two old)

Ingredients for Topping
1/3 cup light brown sugar packed
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Ingredients for Serving (Mix & Match)
Maple syrup, caramel sauce, sliced bananas, chopped nuts, and whipped cream.

Prep Brown Sugar Banana Filling
At home or in camp, in a medium skillet or sauce pan on medium heat, melt 6 tablespoons butter. Add brown sugar, maple syrup, and salt. Cook, stirring constantly for a few minutes until the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and carefully stir in the bananas. Set aside and cool to room temperature while you prepare the French toast. If prepping at home, load the sauce into a container and add the bananas in camp so they are fresh.

Prep FrenchToast
In a large bowl, whisk eggs, milk, half and half, brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. This can be poured into a bottle that has a tight seal for the ride to camp in the cooler.

Prep Topping
In a small sealable container or resealable bag, combine brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt. Add butter and, using a spoon or your fingers, work the butter into the dry ingredients until the butter is evenly distributed and the mixture resembles wet, clumpy sand. Seal and refrigerate (cooler) until you are ready to bake the French toast.

Assembly if Making at Home
Grease a 2 1/2 or 3 quart casserole dish. Place half the bread cubes in the bottom. Spoon half of the banana-brown sugar mixture over the bread. Top with the remaining bread cubes. Pour the custard (egg mixture) evenly over the bread cubes. Lightly press down on the top of the bread to allow the top layer of bread to absorb some of the custard mixture. Spoon the remaining banana-brown sugar mixture over the top of the French toast. Cover and refrigerate overnight or until bread has soaked up all liquid.

Assembly if Making in Camp
Line a 12-inch Dutch oven with foil and grease with butter or non-sticking cooking spray. Place half the bread cubes in the bottom. Spoon half of the banana-brown sugar mixture over the bread. Top with the remaining bread cubes. Pour the custard (egg mixture) evenly over the bread cubes. Lightly press down on the top of the bread to allow the top layer of bread to absorb some of the custard mixture. Spoon the remaining banana-brown sugar mixture over the top of the French toast. Cover and rest 20-30 minutes or until bread has soaked up all liquid.

When you’re ready to bake, crumble the topping over the French toast.

Bake in a 350°F oven, using 17 coals on the lid and 8 underneath, for 40-55 minutes until puffy and golden brown, and set (check that the center is not too wet). Baking time will depend on how deep your casserole dish is and whether you prefer your French toast more well done. Refresh coals as needed.

Serve immediately with syrup, caramel sauce, whipped cream and/or chopped nuts.

Serves 6-10

This post has been shared at Homestead Bloggers Network. If you like this blog and don’t want to miss a single post, subscribe to Chuck Wagoneer by clicking on the Follow Us button in the upper right corner and follow us on Facebook and Pinterest for the latest updates and more stuff!

Categories: Breakfasts, Dutch Oven, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pizza Pasta One Pot

Our family loves pasta and we love pizza so this was a lot of fun to make. And, just like pizzeria pizza, this pasta dish could be customized to your personal taste. Make it like your favorite pizza. You could use gluten-free pasta or a whole wheat pasta. You could change up the meats, add some vegetables like bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, olives, or make vegetarian pizza pasta.

This pasta dish really did taste just like a pizza and everyone loved it. Another great thing about this dish is that it is a one pot recipe. One-pots are great for camp because you’re only using one pot and one burner, making for less mess and less cleanup. And, this meal goes together fast. We were able to get dinner onto the picnic table in less than 30 minutes, which makes this recipe great for a roll-into-camp night or an evening meal after a busy day of outdoor activities.

Serve this with a salad and some bread sticks and you’ll feel like you’re sitting down to eat at your favorite pizza place.

Large skillet with lid or 12-inch Dutch oven, cutting board, knife, measuring cups and spoons.

2 tablespoon olive oil
16 ounces Italian sausage, casing removed, mild or spicy
1 cup mini pepperoni or regular pepperoni quartered
2 (15-ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
16 ounces rotini pasta
12 ounces water
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
Red pepper flakes for serving
Parmesan, grated, for serving

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add Italian sausage and cook until browned, about 3-5 minutes, making sure to crumble the sausage as it cooks; drain excess fat. Stir in half of the pepperoni and cook until heated through, about 1 minute.

Stir in tomato sauce, oregano, basil, garlic powder, salt, pepper, pasta, and 12 ounces water. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer until pasta is cooked through, about 12-14 minutes. Stir occasionally to ensure pasta is absorbing the liquid.

Reduce heat; top with mozzarella and remaining pepperoni, and cover until cheese is melted, about 2 minutes.

Serve immediately, garnished with parsley. Serve with red pepper flakes and Parmesan just for fun.

Serves 10-12

This post has been shared at Homestead Bloggers Network. If you like this blog and don’t want to miss a single post, subscribe to Chuck Wagoneer by clicking on the Follow Us button in the upper right corner and follow us on Facebook and Pinterest for the latest updates and more stuff!

Categories: Main Dishes, Meals in 30 Minutes, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Good Dish Washing in Camp

My older scouts have learned the value of good dish washing in camp. But when scouts first cross over into the troop, it can be a challenge. At home, they probably just load their dirty dishes into an automatic dishwasher so this concept of hand washing dishes may be completely foreign to them.

I can’t count the number of times over the years I have told scouts to wash their dishes in hot soapy water and yet, I still catch them washing their dishes underneath a community spigot with cold water and no soap. Washing dishes in this manner will take longer, wastes a lot of water, creates an unsanitary area around the water spigot, and simply will not get the dishes clean or sanitized, creating health issues for campers down the trail.

I’ve even seen young campers just stack their dirty dishes, pots and pans back into their chuck box. I’m not sure if they just don’t realize they will have to wash them before they can use them again or they believe the chuck box works like their dishwasher at home and will just magically clean them. If we don’t catch it, sometimes the dirty dishes ride back home in their chuck box, which gets unloaded from the trailer and stored in the shed. When the chuck box is opened on the next campout, all manner of molds and germs have grown (see gross image below). We’ve had to throw away things like the wooden spoon below because we’ll never get them clean enough to be used safely. It’s a hard lesson sometimes.

Washing dishes in camp does not have to be hard nor does it need to take a long time. Here are some simple tips for good dish washing that will help you stay healthy and minimize the impact on the environment.


  • I have an adjustable table that I can raise to counter height. I use it in my cook shelter as a prep and serving place. If you don’t have a table, you could use the end of a picnic table.
  • A set of three plastic dish pans. Use tubs that are large enough to accommodate what you will need to wash, but are not so big that you have to boil gallons of water to fill them.
  • Large pot with a lid or a large kettle for boiling water.
  • Dishwashing soap (I prefer Dawn for its grease cutting abilities and it’s easy on the environment).
  • Scrub brush, nylon scrubby pad, scrapers, etc.
  • Small bottle of bleach or steramine tablets.
  • Mesh bags and/or collapsible drain rack.
  • Cheesecloth.
  • Heavy duty trash bags.
  • Rope for a clothesline.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Heat Your Water
Before you actually serve the meal, start a kettle or large pot of water on the fire or the stove. By the time you are done eating, the water will probably be boiling.

Set Up Your Wash Station
Clear one of your prep tables or the end of a picnic table and set out your dish pans and drying rack (if you’re using one). This is way more comfortable and preferable than setting your wash tubs on the ground and squatting while you wash your dishes (yes, I’ve seen my scouts do that).

Divide your boiling water between the wash tub (first dish pan) and the rinse tub (second dish pan). Top off each of these pans with just enough cold water to take the sting off. Keep the water as hot as you can stand it. To the wash tub, add a few drops of soap, and mix in. Fill your third dish pan with cold water and add just 2 steramine tablets or a little (and I mean a little) liquid bleach. You only need 1 teaspoon of liquid bleach per gallon of water. I usually start a second batch of water just in case my wash and/or rinse water becomes too dirty and I need fresh water. By the time you want to refresh the water, it will probably be ready.

Prep Your Dishes for Washing
Each camper is responsible for taking their napkin and wiping their dishes clean, getting off as much food residue as possible. With hungry campers and good food, this is usually not a problem. I’ve even watched scouts literally lick their plates clean. For the cook, there is no higher complement than that. Pre-cleaning your dishes as well as your pots and pans will keep your dish water cleaner, longer. Wipe or dust off any soot on your pots and pans.

Organize your dishes, pots and pans so that you are washing the cleanest dishes first and the dirtiest dishes last. Always save your greasy pots and pans for last. You can always make a fresh hot soapy wash and rinse.

Hot Soapy Wash
Everything gets a good scrubbing in the hot, soapy water. Run your fingers over surfaces to make sure there is nothing stuck on. Pots and pans that are greasy need to be tested before they are rinsed. Rub a finger inside the pot and if there’s still grease, you will need to wash it with soapy water a second time. Drain and/or shake off as much soapy water as possible so as not to contaminate your rinse water.

Hot Water Rinse
After all the soapy water has been drained off the dishes, submerge them in the rinse water. If you can’t completely submerge them, use a cup, bowl or your cupped hand to pour rinse water over the dishes. It is important to rinse off all the soap because soap residue on your dishes can give you diarrhea.

Sanitizing Soak
In the third dish pan, submerge dishes in the sanitizing solution for a full minute to sanitize them. From here they are loaded into mesh bags and hung on a clothesline or arranged in a drying rack to air dry.

Air Dry
Air drying is best. It is very effective and you are not using roll after roll of paper towels. You can also dry dishes using dish towels, but once the dish towels become soaked, it is difficult to get anything dry with them. You can hang them on a clothesline, but unless you have sun light and/or a good breeze, it can take a while to dry them. In addition, they need to be dry by the end of the day so they can be taken down and placed in one of your totes; otherwise, they will pick up condensation over night and be damp in the morning. If you are using dish towels to dry your dinner dishes, odds are the towels will not be dry before you go to bed. The two best methods for air drying are hanging dishes in mesh bags or arranging them in a drying rack.

Rinse Dishpans and Dispose of Gray Water
Now that all the dishes are clean and work surfaces have been wiped down, take a piece of cheesecloth and strain your wash water into a gray water sump. This is usually located at the community spigot. The food particles caught in the cheesecloth can be thrown into the trash. Using your rinse water, rinse out the wash tub. Finally, pour your sanitizing water from the third dish pan into the rinse pan and let it stand for a minute, then pour it into the wash dish pan and let it stand for a minute before pouring into the sump. If a sump is not available, you will need to carry your dish pans at least 75 steps from any streams, lakes, campsites, or trails. Fling the water with a long sweeping throw to spread it over a large area. Choose a sunny area, if possible, so it will evaporate quickly, causing minimal impact.

Dispose/Secure Your Trash
After dinner or after the evening cracker barrel, secure and walk your trash to the camp trash dumpster. You want to avoid leaving it in your campsite overnight because it will attract critters and they will easily tear open the bag and scatter trash as they rummage through it looking for food.

Start water to boil.
Set up dish washing station.
Pre-clean your dishes.
Wash cleanest to dirtiest.
Hot soapy wash.
Hot clean rinse.
Cold sanitizing soak.
Air dry in mesh bags or a rack.
Dispose of gray water.
Secure trash.

If you follow these steps, washing dishes should go quickly and easily, and they will be safe to use for your next meal.

If you like this blog and don’t want to miss a single post, subscribe to Chuck Wagoneer by clicking on the Follow Us button in the upper right corner and follow us on Facebook and Pinterest for the latest updates and more stuff!

Categories: Care & Maintenance, Cooking Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cinnamon Roll Pancakes


These pancakes are simply amazing. One of my fellow scouters, Stephanie, was our grubmaster on the last campout and she made these for breakfast Saturday morning. They were awesome! They taste just like a cinnamon roll. You can top them with cream cheese glaze or maple syrup or both if you want to double down on the sugar! Everyone opted for the cream cheese glaze. Toward the end of breakfast, I saw Scoutmasters coming back to the table and just picking up a pancake with their hands and walking away. Folks just couldn’t stop eating them. It was great!

These are a bit labor intensive, but a lot of the prep could be done at home before you go with just some assembly required in camp.

For the cinnamon filling, you could use a plastic condiment squeeze bottle or a resealable bag. The condiment bottle will provide more control when swirling onto the pancakes; however, it will take a little longer to clean out. Same is true for the cream cheese glaze. If you opt for condiment bottles, pack a bottle brush and clean up should be easy.

You’ll need to manage the temperature of your griddle closely as too hot of a griddle can lead to burning cinnamon glaze, also making for more challenging cleanup.

I also recommend warming the cream cheese glaze so that you’re not putting cold glaze on hot pancakes.

When I made these for my family, I made ¼-cup sized pancakes and the recipe made 9 pancakes. My son ate three pancakes and my daughter and I both thought two was enough. You could serve these with bacon or sausage and fruit to round out the meal.

My daughter called these decadent and said she wouldn’t need any sugar for the rest of the day!

Again, these pancakes are a little high maintenance, but well worth the effort. They are a fun variation from the regular pancakes and will surprise and delight your campers of all ages. Definitely a winner, killer breakfast.

Ingredients for Pancake Batter
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Ingredients for Cinnamon Filling
½ cup butter, melted
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Ingredients for Cream Cheese Glaze
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 ounces cream cheese, melted
1 ¼ cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Prep at Home
Prepare cinnamon filling: In a medium bowl, mix butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Scoop the filling into a small resealable plastic bag or into a condiment squeeze bottle for the ride to camp in the cooler. If you’re making these for cooking at home, allow the cinnamon filling to rest and set for at least 20-30 minutes. You want it thick; not runny. This is an important step. It takes 20-30 minutes for the butter and brown sugar to completely emulsify.

Prepare dry ingredients for pancake batter: In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt and load into a resealable plastic bag or hard-sided container. (If you choose a large enough container, it can also serve as the mixing bowl in camp.) This will ride to camp in your food tote.

Prepare wet ingredients for pancake batter: In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, oil, and egg and pour into a plastic or glass jar with a tight seal for the ride to camp in the cooler.

Prepare cream cheese glaze: In a medium glass or microwave-safe bowl, or in a pan on the stove on low heat, warm the butter and cream cheese until melted. Remove from heat and whisk together until smooth, then whisk in powdered sugar and vanilla. Pour into a condiment squeeze bottle or a plastic container for the ride to camp in your cooler. After arriving at camp, if the glaze feels a little too thick, you can thin it with a little milk.

Prep in Camp
Pull your cinnamon filling and cream cheese glaze out of the cooler and allow them to come up to the ambient temperature. If you want a warm cream cheese glaze, you could warm it in a bowl of hot water.

Prepare pancake batter: Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix just until batter is moistened. DO NOT OVERMIX; a few small lumps are okay. Add a little milk to thin it if you need to.

For the cinnamon filling, if you are using a resealable plastic bag, squeeze all of it down to a corner of the bag and snip off a tiny (and I mean tiny) corner of the baggie. You’ll pipe the filling onto the pancakes like piping on cake frosting.

Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium-low heat. Grease with canola oil. Scoop ¼-cup to ½-cup of pancake batter onto the griddle, depending on the size of pancakes you want. Squeeze a spiral of the cinnamon filling onto the top of the pancake (work quickly because you want the pancake to poof up around the filling). When bubbles begin to appear on the surface, and the outer edge of the pancake starts to look dry, flip carefully with a spatula and cook until lightly browned on the underside, 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer pancakes to a foil packet or a heated Dutch oven and keep warm while you make the rest of the pancakes.

When ready to serve, drizzle warmed cream cheese glaze on top of each pancake. No syrup required; however, you could have some available for folks who want it either in place of or in addition to the cream cheese glaze.

Makes 8-9 ¼-cup pancakes or 4-5 ½-cup pancakes.

This post has been shared at Homestead Bloggers Network. If you like this blog and don’t want to miss a single post, subscribe to Chuck Wagoneer by clicking on the Follow Us button in the upper right corner and follow us on Facebook and Pinterest for the latest updates and more stuff!

Categories: Breakfasts, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Planning Your Camping Menu

I don’t know about your households, but the dreaded question in my household is always: “What shall we make for dinner?” It’s almost always answered with, “I don’t know” or “I don’t care” or plenty of shrugs. Eventually, we figure it out, but sometimes I feel as if pulling teeth would be easier.

Creating a camping menu can be just as challenging at times. Here are 12 things that will help you plan a great camping menu and influence what you make.

Food Pyramid
First and foremost, you always want to plan a menu that is healthy and nutritious. When we’re camping, we’re working and playing hard. Our bodies need good fuel to keep us going; fuel like proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.

Check the 10 day forecast for the area you are going to be camping in. Is it going to be warm, sunny, cold, rainy, snowy? Weather can help you decide if you’re going to go with a hot and hearty menu or a fresh and cold menu.

Activity Level
What kinds of activities will you be doing while camping? Will you be working on a service project, playing hard, or just lounging around the campsite? Will you be hiking during the day, and need a portable lunch and snacks?

Food Restrictions
Does anyone you are cooking for have any food allergies or food restrictions? You’ll want to accommodate them as best you can. For some folks, it might simply be an intolerance and a small amount of their restricted food is okay. For others, even a little could be life threatening.

What equipment do you have in your camp kitchen to cook with? You probably have a propane stove. Do you have a box oven or a Dutch oven? Can you cook or heat anything in foil packets? What can you cook with besides your propane stove? More resources means more menu options.

Age/Ability of Cooks
Who’s going to be cooking? Adults and/or youth? Are they experienced or not so much? Plan a menu that fits their level of cooking skills and experience.

What is your budget for the weekend? Do you have a hot dog kinda budget or a steak and shrimp kinda budget? Even if your budget is on the tight side, you can still do a lot and feed your campers well with a good menu plan.

Minimizing Food Waste
Plan your menu so that you’ll have minimal leftovers, which are difficult to manage in a camp setting and are often just thrown away.

Minimizing Packaging Waste
Be mindful of your packaging waste. Plan your menu and prep your ingredients so that you’re filling bellies and not filling garbage cans.

Minimizing Clean Up
Plan your menu and prep your ingredients so that you’re not having to do a lot of clean up after each meal. Too much prep in camp means more dirty bowls and utensils.

Balance Easy Meals With Challenging Meals
Plan an easy dinner on your first night because you’ll also be needing to set up camp. Likewise, plan an easy breakfast on your last day because you’ll be needing to break down camp and head home. In between, choose a couple of meals where you go big. We like to do a big breakfast Saturday morning and a big dinner Saturday night. This is where we challenge ourselves with more complicated meals because we’ve got more time to execute. At the very least, plan at least one meal that will blow the doors off your campers! They will love you for it!

Finally, for my scouts, are you cooking to meet a requirement for rank or for a badge? If so, be sure to review those requirements and plan your menu to ensure you fulfill them.

All this may seem like a lot to think about, but when you actually sit down to plan your menu, you’ll be surprised how quickly menu planning can go and you can rest assured that you and your fellow campers will eat well.

If you like this blog and don’t want to miss a single post, subscribe to Chuck Wagoneer by clicking on the Follow Us button in the upper right corner and follow us on Facebook and Pinterest for the latest updates and more stuff!

Categories: Cooking Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: