Posts Tagged With: outdoor

Cheese for Backpacking

We have a deli drawer in our refrigerator that is overflowing with cheese because we hate cheese in this house! With only a few exceptions, just about every meal includes cheese of some kind. Years ago, my children decided that if I had a food-based name, it would be Parmesan because I put Parmesan on just about everything. One of my go-to snacks is string cheese or a wedge of Cheddar.

On a weekend or week-long backpacking trip, I’m not sure I would survive without cheese. And, cheese is a great source of calcium and protein, two important things for rebuilding our bodies after a long day on the trail. In addition, for me, that little wedge of Laughing Cow or that slice of Cheddar on a cracker is a morale booster and puts me in my happy place. So, what to pack?

Hard Cheese

Hard cheese is best for extended trips, hot weather, snacking, and meal topping. Low moisture in aged hard cheeses concentrates flavor and extends shelf life. Hunks should remain edible for more than two weeks in temps in the low ‘80s. All hard cheeses sweat oil and whey, so opt for bricks rather than sliced or shredded and the moisture will be easier to manage and the shelf-life will be longer. Wrap in waxed paper then loose plastic wrap–not a resealable bag. Store in a food-specific stuffsack to prevent an oily mess. Our favorites are Cheddar, Mozzarella, and Parmesan (of course).

Cheddar is good fuel for cold or hard hikes due to its high fat content (9.5g/ounce). I love pairing it with apples or slicing it and eating on crackers.

Mozzarella is another good choice, but it needs to be the low-moisture, semi-dry variety and not the water-packed kind. Smoked hunks and string singles (my favorite) can last two weeks without refrigeration.

Parmesan is considered a recovery superfood because it is protein-dense and salty (450mgs/ounce), and digests quickly and easily. Pack solid pieces (trim off the rind) and shave onto meals after cooking or include the powdered variety in your homemade meals.

Soft Cheese

Soft cheese is best for short trips and cool weather. Their high moisture content makes them mold quickly. Soft cheeses should remain edible for a week at temps below 72°F; at higher temps, they can spoil in as little as two days. Purchase vacuum-sealed packs. After opening, seal in an airtight container and store in a cool part of your bag.

Brie is a creamy, sharp-flavored cheese that is high in salt. The rind is edible so there’s nothing to pack out. If you’ll be hiking through an area where there are good trail berries in season, it goes well with berries. If not, you could pack single-serve packets of jam to go with it.

Cream cheese is a low-fat spread that adds body to sweet or savory foods. If you thin it with a little water, you can substitute it for sour cream or milk in a recipe. Single-serve packets are pretty easy to find and last longer than a week without refrigeration.

Goat cheese is easier to digest than cow cheese. Because of that it makes a great lunch or snack because it is not likely to upset your stomach. However, it is more delicate than many other cheeses so plan to eat it in your first few days on the trail.

Shelf-Stable Cheeses

These long-lasting cheeses can boost flavor and calories in your recipes.

Powdered cheese is dehydrated and lightweight. It can be added to recipes that call for cheese like mac and cheese or alfredo sauce. Mix blue cheese into polenta, Cheddar into pancake mix or sprinkle dried Parmesan on anything.

Processed cheese has a mild taste but it has a high salt content, which, on the trail, isn’t necessarily a bad thing because you are sweating so much. Velveeta, Easy Cheese, American slices, and gourmet brands can last weeks so they are perfect for those 50-milers or longer trips like the Pacific Crest Trail, Appalachian Trail, or the Continental Divide Trail (the Triple Crown of Hiking). Blending during production helps “processed cheese food” stay creamy when melted (instead of separating like natural cheese). Stir 1/4 cup into two cups of cooked noodles for a rich meal, or add to soup mixes to increase calories.

So, when you’re planning your meals and snacks for your next backpacking trip, don’t be afraid to cheese it up!

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Oatmeal Breakfast for Backpacking

Oatmeal is an excellent breakfast when backpacking. It’s loaded with nutrition and is a warm, flavorful meal to get you going on a cool morning. The store-bought instant oatmeal packets are great for a breakfast on the trail; however, your flavors are limited and they contain high sodium, artificial flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives.

If you make your own at home, you can radically improve the nutritional value and the flavor possibilities are only limited by your imagination and your taste buds.

Kick Your Oatmeal Up a Nutritional Notch

Whole grain rolled oats (instant or quick) are well-known for their heart-healthy benefits. They are a good source of carbs and fiber, and are loaded with important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant plant compounds. They are among the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat, which is exactly what we want on the trail. Oats are also naturally gluten-free, but if you are particularly sensitive, choose oat products that are certified as gluten-free.

Chia seeds are a superfood, delivering a massive amount of nutrients with very few calories. A one-ounce serving contains 11 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, 9 grams of fat (5 of which are omega-3s), as well as calcium, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus, and a decent amount of zinc, vitamin B3 (niacin), potassium, vitamin B1 (thiamine), and vitamin B2. Yet, while they deliver a solid punch of nutrients, they bring very little in the way of flavor and virtually disappear into the mix. They are the ninjas of superfoods. You don’t know they are there!

Oat bran boosts the oatmeal mix with more heart-healthy fiber and will add a nutrient-rich creaminess to the oatmeal.

Sweetener can be customized to your personal preference. Use your favorite dry sweetener, including brown sugar, natural cane sugar, coconut sugar, dried honey, etc. Sweeten to your liking.

Non-fat powdered milk adds protein & calcium along with creaminess to the texture and taste of the oatmeal, and dissolves better than whole powdered milk. If you need to be dairy-free, you can omit the powdered milk or use powdered coconut milk or powdered soy milk.

Ingredients for a Single Serving Packet
1/3 cup rolled oats (instant or quick)
1 teaspoon chia seeds or ground flaxseed (optional)
2 teaspoons oat bran (or wheat germ/bran)
2 teaspoons powdered milk
1 to 3 teaspoons of your preferred sweetener
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/16 teaspoon salt (use less or omit all together)

Directions
Combine ingredients in individual ziploc freezer bags (not storage).

To Prepare 1 Serving of Hot Oatmeal
Add 1 oatmeal packet to mug or bowl. Pour in 2/3 cups boiling water and stir (amount of water may vary depending on dryness of ingredients). Let instant oats stand for 3-4 minutes to soften and thicken; stir, and they are ready to eat. Quick oats may need to soften an additional minute or two. I like to use an insulated bowl with a cover so my oats stay warm while they sit.

Adding Variety
For variety, I also add 2 tablespoons of dried fruit and 1 tablespoon chopped nuts. Average weight, including the bag, and additions of freeze-dried fruit and nuts, is 88 grams. Weight will vary slightly depending on how you customize.

Below are ideas to add variety. Feel free to mix and match and create your own flavors. Add the following recommended amounts to the above basic recipe.

Apple Cinnamon Maple: 2 tablespoons dried or 1/4 cup freeze-dried chopped apples, additional 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, use maple sugar for sweetener.

Apricot Ginger: 2 tablespoons chopped dried apricots, 1 teaspoon minced crystallized ginger.

Blueberry: 2 tablespoons dried or 1/4 cup freeze-dried blueberries.

Cherry Almond: 2 tablespoons dried or 1/4 tablespoons freeze-dried cherries, 1 tablespoon sliced or slivered almonds.

Cocoa Banana: 1/4 cup chopped freeze-dried bananas (dried banana chips not recommended), 2 teaspoons cocoa powder.

Cranberry Apple Walnut: 2 tablespoons dried cranberries, 2 tablespoons dried or 1/4 cup freeze-dried chopped apples, 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts.

Cranberry Orange Pecan: 2 tablespoons dried cranberries, 1 teaspoon dried orange peel bits, 1 tablespoon chopped pecans.

Mango Macadamia: 2 tablespoons chopped dried mangos, 1 tablespoon chopped macadamia nuts.

Peach Pecan: 2 tablespoons chopped dried peaches, 1 tablespoon chopped pecans.

Peanut Butter Banana: 1/4 cup chopped freeze-dried bananas (dried banana chips not recommended), 1 tablespoon PB2 peanut butter powder.

Pineapple Coconut Macadamia: 2 tablespoons dried or 1/4 cup freeze-dried chopped dried pineapple, 1 tablespoon freeze-dried coconut, 1 tablespoon macadamia nuts.

Raspberry Almond Vanilla: 2 tablespoons dried or 1/4 cup freeze-dried raspberries, 1 tablespoon almonds1/4 teaspoon ground vanilla powder.

Shelf Life

These bags may be made, tightly sealed, and stored for several months, depending on the shelf life of the ingredients used. These may also be stored in the freezer to extend their life further.

These are also great for taking to school or work for a quick, hot breakfast or mid-morning snack. Make your own at home and make it exactly to your liking. Be creative and invent your own favorite flavors.

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Categories: Backpacking | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Cheese Spread! Don’t Forget the Crackers!

We tend to burn a lot of calories on campouts. We’re playing and/or working hard. In addition to our 3 squares a day, at the end of the day, we’re looking for that bedtime snack to tide us over until breakfast. We call it a cracker barrel. It’s also a place to gather and talk about the day and share stories around the campfire.

For cracker barrel, we like to keep things simple. No cooking and no cleanup because who wants to be doing dishes late at night? Finger foods are the way to go and this make-ahead cheese spread is perfect. It’s simple to make (about 15 minutes) and brings an element of fanciness to a campfire cracker barrel. Folks just don’t expect it and that makes it fun to serve.

To learn more about the tradition of the cracker barrel or for more cracker barrel ideas, please read my blog post: “Evening Cracker Barrel and the Art of Snacking.”

This cheese spread can be made at home before you go. It can be kept chilled up to two days, so I would make it no earlier than Thursday night for a Saturday night cracker barrel. Serve it with crackers, sliced bread or crudités, which is a fancy French word for sliced or whole raw vegetables. I like to serve it with crackers because, growing up, cheese and crackers was one of my dad’s favorite snacks, and that’s a fond memory for me.

We’ve spread it on Wheat Thins, Ritz, buttery club crackers, and plain old saltines. There really isn’t a cracker this cheese spread doesn’t go with. My favorite is the Wheat Thin or some kind of whole wheat or whole grain cracker.

For serving, you can shape it into a ball or a log, or smush it into a shallow plastic container. A shallow container will give the spread more surface area for the chives, parsley, and peppers you’re going to sprinkle on top. You want folks to be able to get a nice combination of everything on their vessel.

I use a 25-ounce shallow Glad container that holds half a batch nicely and allows plenty of room to sprinkle on the toppings (pictured above). If I need to serve a whole batch or more, I use multiple containers. I transport the toppings separately and sprinkle on when I’m ready to serve.

If you’re making this at home for a holiday party or a family gathering, you can line a small, 6-cup Bundt pan with plastic wrap and press the mixture into that and chill for 1 to 48 hours. Unmold it onto a serving platter and cover it with the chives, parsley, and peppers for a festive looking wreath. Crackers, bread, and crudités can be arranged around the wreath or served in baskets, bowls or platters on the side.

This recipe calls for pickled piquanté peppers, such as Peppadew, which is a trademarked brand. Peppadews are hot, very sweet peppers that have been pickled. The heat is similar to a jalapeño and they are bright red, which gives the cheese spread a very festive look. Peppadew peppers are hard to find, depending on where you live. I have to order them from Amazon. In a pinch, we’ve used Mezzetta sweet cherry peppers, but they’re not quite the same. Whichever you use, I recommend removing the seeds because they are very hard. Leftover peppers can be added to the crudités or you can save them and add them to other dishes. They are great on a pizza.

Ingredients
1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups shredded firm cheese, such as Cheddar, Pepper Jack or Colby
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup pickled piquanté peppers, such as Peppadew, seeded and finely chopped
½ cup fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
¼ cup fresh chives, finely chopped
Crackers, sliced bread or crudités, for serving

Directions
In a food processor or a medium mixing bowl, if you’re mixing it by hand, combine the cream cheese, shredded cheese, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper until smooth. If you’re using a food processor, transfer the mixture into a medium bowl. Fold in all but 2 tablespoons of the chopped peppers.

Form the mixture into a ball or log and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Or, smush it into a shallow plastic container or a 6-cup Bundt pan lined with plastic wrap and cover. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.

At home, if you’re using the Bundt mold, uncover and invert the cheese mold onto a serving platter. If you formed it into a ball or log, unwrap and transfer to a serving platter (in camp, you could use a large paper plate).

In camp, if you’re using a shallow plastic container, you can serve directly out of the container. Sprinkle with the chives and parsley to completely coat the cheese mixture, and garnish with the reserved 2 tablespoons peppers.

Serve with crackers, sliced bread or crudités and you’ll need a knife or spreader.

Serves 16 to 20.

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Ramen Remakes

 

I may be going out on a limb here, but I believe most adults and youth know how to make ramen. Many of my backpacking buddies and scouts rely heavily on ramen because it is lightweight and cooks quickly in boiling water. In college, many of us lived on ramen (if we couldn’t afford mac & cheese). Some adults still live on ramen. Just sayin….

And, while we all love ramen as a quick, simple meal, it’s not a very well-rounded meal. That being said, it is a blank canvas for creating a great, nutritious, well-rounded meal.

For the photograph featured in this blog, I went to my kitchen to see what I could find. From the pantry, I pulled out a package of chicken ramen. I always have a bottle of sesame oil sitting on the counter. In the refrigerator, I found romaine lettuce, red bell pepper, baby carrots, green onion and a piece of leftover grilled chicken. I sliced the romaine and green onion, julienned the pepper and the carrot, and chopped the chicken.

I started the pan of water and added the seasoning packet and a couple dashes of sesame oil. From the fridge, I added a dash of lime juice, a dash of soy sauce, a dash of sriracha (okay, I’ll be honest; it was half a dash of sriracha). I also added a heaping teaspoon of miso paste and a little minced garlic. The leftover grilled chicken was heavily seasoned so I didn’t feel I needed to add any other seasonings. When the water came to a boil, I added the noodles, vegetables, and chicken, and let it all cook for 3 minutes.

As you can see from the photograph, I loaded my bowl. It was an awesome lunch for a typical cold, rainy Northwest day. For the first time in my life, I wanted to drink all the broth after I fished out all the goodies.

For my ramen fans, this would be so easy to do in camp and campers could even customize their bowls. At home before you go, prep a variety of vegetables (dice and julienne small so they will cook quickly), and decide on your flavorings and your protein (because they will influence each other). Pre-cook and dice your protein.

You could also make and pre-cook meatballs for a fun way to add protein to your ramen bowl. For meatball ideas, please see my blog post, “Make Your Own Meatballs.” Eggs are also a great protein to add to your ramen bowl. For ways to add an egg to your ramen bowl, please see my blog post: “Add an Egg to Your Ramen Bowl.”

In camp, set everything out and make your broth. You could further enhance your broth by using beef, chicken, or vegetable broth in place of the water. Each camper throws whatever they want into their bowl, including a package of noodles (folks will need good-sized bowls or you can break the ramen to make it fit). Get the broth up to a good rolling boil and then add a generous amount of broth to each bowl, cover the bowl, and let rest for 3 minutes. Done!  Such an easy lunch and it is nutritious and will sustain you until dinner.

For backpacking, you could use freeze-dried and dehydrated meats and vegetables. Some of the flavorings like soy sauce and sriracha can be found in single-serve packets. We also found powdered sriracha in the spice section of our local grocery store.

Below is a list of ideas. Mix and match to your liking.

Protein
Beef
Beef Jerky
Chicken
Egg (hard-boiled, soft-boiled, poached, fried, or drop)
Hot Dog
Pork (ham, bacon, etc.)
Tofu

Flavorings
Lemon or Lime Juice
Miso
Rice Vinegar
Sesame Oil
Soy Sauce
Sriracha

Vegetables
Bamboo Shoots
Bell Pepper
Bok Choy
Broccoli
Cabbage
Carrot
Celery
Corn
Edamame
Green Onion
Mung Bean Sprouts
Mushroom
Onion
Peas
Radish
Romaine
Snow Peas
Spinach
Water Chestnuts

Seasonings
Black Pepper
Garlic
Ginger
Salt

Ramen may be one of the cheapest foods in the grocery store, but with a little imagination, it can be one of the most versatile staples in your home and camp pantry, and makes a great launching point for some fast, easy, nutritious meals.

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Add an Egg to Your Ramen Bowl

We’ve been on a ramen kick lately. We love to make ramen noodle bowls with whatever we have in the house. Making ramen bowls in camp takes a little more planning and prep because you can’t just open the fridge and see what floats your boat.

For ideas on how to up your ramen game, please see my blog posts, “Ramen Remakes” and “Make Your Own Meatballs.”

In true Asian fashion, my daughter loves to add soft boiled eggs to her ramen bowls. The picture above is hers. Eggs are cheap, delicious, a good source of protein, and in most cases, can be cooked directly in the same pot with the noodles or the broth. Here are a few simple ways to do it.

Hard-Boiled Eggs
This is the easiest way to do it. Start with eggs in a pot of cold water. I add a little salt and baking soda (not sure of the science behind this, but it seems to help them peel better). On high heat, bring water to a boil, turn off the heat or turn it down really low and let the eggs cook for about 10 minutes. Have a bowl of ice water standing by and, using a pair of tongs, remove the eggs from the hot water and plunge them into the ice bath. Let them sit in the ice bath for about 5 minutes. Remove from the ice bath, peel, slice, and add to your ramen, or store in your refrigerator.

Soft-Boiled Eggs
These are a little trickier, because the timing has to be a little more precise. Gently drop the eggs into the pot after it’s come to a full boil, start a timer, and pull them out after 3 minutes for super-soft, or 5 for a fully-set white and semi-liquid yolk. I like to cut the eggs open and stir the yolk into the broth as I eat it. My daughter let’s her eggs go about 7 minutes because she wants a more solid yolk.

Egg-Drop
Lightly beat an egg in a small bowl. Once your noodles are cooked, swirl the noodles and hot broth gently around the pot. While the broth is moving, slowly drizzle in the beaten egg. It will create little wispy ribbons of egg that float in the broth and coat the noodles.

Poached Eggs
If you don’t mind an irregular shaped egg, this is an easy way to add an egg to your soup. Cook the noodles until they’ve just started to separate from each other (about halfway through their total cooking time), remove the pot from the heat, crack a raw egg into the center, place the lid on the pot, and let it sit for 3-5 minutes until both the noodles and eggs are cooked. Experiment until you get the egg poached just to your liking.

Fried Eggs
If all of the above sounds too complicated, you could just a fry an egg in a separate pan and lay it on top of your ramen, but it will require dirtying a second pan and you’ll need a second burner. We fry eggs in a small skillet, on medium-low heat, with just a little butter. I put a lid a on the skillet and let the egg cook 1-3 minutes depending on how hot my pan is (sometimes the camp stove is little twitchy). I give the egg a flip and let it go about 30 seconds more and it’s a perfect over easy to over medium egg.

So, the next time you make a ramen bowl, at home or in camp, add an egg to it. It’s yummy!

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Simple Swedish Meatballs

When we roll into camp on a Friday night, it’s all about getting our kitchen set up, getting our tents pitched, and getting our gear unloaded. Our Friday night dinners need to be quick and easy to get onto the picnic table with minimal clean up.

Meatballs and rice is an easy meal that we can get onto the picnic table in less than 30 minutes and we only dirty two pots. It’s a hot, hearty, and flavorful meal. This is also a super simple meal for young and/or inexperienced camp chefs. You can buy a bag of frozen meatballs or you can make your own at home before you go. For meatball ideas, please read my blog post: “Make Your Own Meatballs.”

So, this is our take on simply made Swedish meatballs. You can serve them over rice, like we do, or over noodles. To serve, just lay down a bed of rice or noodles, pile on some meatballs, and spoon on some sauce. Serve with a nice salad and you have a quick and easy meal guaranteed to fill your tummy.

Equipment
Pot for the rice and a pot or skillet for the meatballs.

Ingredients
26 ounce bag of frozen meatballs
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can beef consommé
2 cups rice, uncooked
4 cups water
½ teaspoon salt

Prep the Rice
In a 2-quart pot, on medium high heat, bring the water and salt to a boil. Add the rice, turn the heat down to low, and cook for about 15-20 minutes or until rice is done.

Prep the Meatballs
In a large skillet, on medium heat, add the meatballs, cream of mushroom soup, and consommé. Cover and cook 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally until meatballs are heated through. In the time it takes for the rice to cook, the meatballs should be done.

Serves 6

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Can You Believe it’s Been 5 Years?

Today, October 30, marks our 5th anniversary writing this blog. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long. Time flies when you’re having fun. I say “we” because I need to acknowledge all the family and friends who support me by editing my posts, brainstorming ideas with me, and, most importantly, volunteering to be my guinea pigs. Aside from my editor (the hubby), my guinea pigs are the most important. They willingly offer up their taste buds and they give valuable feedback, helping me make each recipe the best it can be before I post it.

Each year, our stats have improved with more subscribers, more visitors, and more views. If we could just get every visitor to click the “Follow” button, that would be amazing. If you’re reading this and are not yet a follower, please click the “Follow” button. You’ll only receive email notifications of new posts.

With every blog post we continue to break through the hamburger and hot dog barrier. We have made buttermilk biscuits, scones, and artisan bread in camp. We’ve made pizza and comfort foods like scalloped potatoes and meatloaf. We’ve made stratas, frittatas, and quiches in camp. We’ve made crisps, cobblers, and cakes. And, we’ve had a whole lot of fun along the way.

We’ve added new categories like “Under the Lid” and “Tales from the Cookfire.” Currently, the guinea pigs and I are working on building a collection of backpacking recipes. We’re still testing and tweaking and photographing, but I hope to start posting those soon.

And, I’m always on the lookout for something new to make in camp. If you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them.

Here’s to another 5 years! Get outside and cook some great grub!

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Categories: Cooking Outdoors, Tales from the Cookfire | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

Proteins
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.

Seasonings
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.

Prep
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!

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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!

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

Ingredients
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

Prep
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.

For more ideas, check out these blog posts: Ramen Remakes, Add an Egg to Your Ramen Bowl, and Make Your Own Meatballs.

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Categories: Main Dishes, One Pot, 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!

Equipment
12-inch Dutch oven, large skillet.

Ingredients
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

Prep
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

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

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