Dutch Oven Chili

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4 cups soaked pinto beans

1/4 cup mild chili powder

1 teaspoon of salt, add more if needed to season to taste

2 teaspoons ground pepper

1 pound ground beef

5 stalks celery, chopped

2 medium onions, diced

1 quart of canned tomatoes (ours are home-canned, but you could buy a 28 ounce can)

1 quart water

Brown the hamburger until no pink remains.  Add the chili powder, pepper, salt, celery and onions and salute until vegetables are tender.  Add the soaked beans, tomatoes, and water.

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There are several ways to cook the chili.

One way is to set the barbecue to 250 degrees and set the entire pot, including the Dutch oven lid,  inside of the barbecue with the lid of the barbecue closed.  This takes about 3-1/2 – 4 hours, or until the beans are soft.  You could also put the Dutch oven in the oven in the house at 250 degrees.

Another way to cook this chili is to simmer it over a fire in the Dutch oven for 1-3 hours, or until the beans are soft and the flavors are blended.  After the chili comes to a boil, you need to make sure it is not directly over a hot part of the fire, so it can simmer.  So, pull it out a little bit from the hottest coals and to the edge of the fire where it still gets to cook, but not over such hot coals.   You can cook it longer, but you need to add additional water if the chili becomes dried out so it doesn’t burn.  Of course, you could use a camp stove, or a stove in your house to cook it, as well.

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The chili can be served with cheese, onions, or any other toppings that are desired, or served plain.  Leftovers can be frozen for a quick dinner another day.  While camping, people are usually so hungry that leftovers are no problem!  This makes 10-12 hearty servings.

 

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Cooking a Crab

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Last week, Rob caught this crab on his fishing pole.  We couldn’t wait to eat it, but of course, had to cook and clean it first.  Here’s what we did:

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We kept Mr. Crab alive in a bucket and took him back to our campsite where we heated a large pot to boiling on our outside stove.  Rob added 1/4 cup salt to the water.  Some people add spices.  We just use salt.

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You can see that he started turning red immediately.  We brought the pot back to boiling and left him in there for about 20 minutes.  Some sources said to wait until he floated.  Then he was  plunged into ice water, as shown in the top photo.  We used the cooler.

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As you can see, the narrow band on the underside of the crab indicates that he is a male crab.  That piece is lifted up, and peeled back.  The insides follow right along and all of that is removed along with the top shell.  The crab is then broken in half and washed out, removing any remaining insides.

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And there you go!  1 crab, ready to put inside a Ziplock bag and store in the fridge until we are ready to crack it,  which we did the next day.  We laid newspaper out on the picnic table and used forks to crack it out, putting all shells, etc. onto the newspaper.   The crab meat went into a plastic cup.  When we were done, we rolled up the newspaper and burned the shells and paper in the fire and devoured the crab.  It was so good!

Rob’s Way of Campfire Cooking

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When Rob cooks over a fire, he builds it carefully, in a certain way.  First, he starts a fire, using kindling, as normal, and then adds larger wood chunks.  He lets that burn for a while, until coals start forming on the larger pieces of wood.  Then, he carefully moves the coals under the grate, and pushes the larger (still burning) pieces to the end of the fire pit. He then feeds the coals with small pieces of wood he has cut down, a few at a time.  He wants to keep the fire going, but he needs to keep the heat down where he is going to be cooking.  As he also feeds fuel to the larger pieces of wood as well, they generate more coals, which can then be pushed under the grate as needed.  This takes both time and patience.  Starting your fire an hour before you want to cook would not be too early.  You really want a good bed of coals to cook on so the food is cooked evenly and not burnt on the outside or raw in the middle.

He has an old rack from a discarded barbecue that he takes with us whenever he wants to do fire cooking.  It has a smaller distance between the grates, and doesn’t let food fall through as easily as the larger, provided rack does.  He also can raise and lower the rack to keep the heat even, using rocks and sticks.

We have even taken old cookie-cooling racks to use in the past, when we were backpacking.  Rob propped them up on rocks out in the forest.

Rob puts the grill rack onto the fire and heats it up.  Then, he cleans it off with newspaper.

Once everything is set up, and the coals are hot, you add the food.  If you are using skewers, you do need to soak them in water first.  Otherwise, they catch on fire.  He also keeps some water nearby to pour onto the coals to keep the temperature down, if needed, and to put out any burning skewers, etc.  If you have long-handled tongs to move the food around with, that is great.  If not, 2 sticks will work.  A pot holder is a handy thing to have on hand, as well.  If you were far out in the wilderness, a shirt or other piece of  clothing could be used.  BUT, you do need to use something to protect hands and fingers, especially if you are showing kids how to do this.  Clearly, fire cooking is done on a fire…….

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There are several methods Rob likes to use in fire cooking.  Kabobs can be cooked on skewers.  He makes chicken and other meat straight on the grill.  This chicken was marinated in a purchased marinade, then cooked over the fire.  Tin foil is another favorite method.  The potato that is shown was cooked in foil down in the coals the day before, and is just being warmed up for dinner.  They can be put directly in the coals, but the skins are more edible when wrapped in foil. The foil packet is a good way to do foil dinners and  vegetables.  It holds cauliflower in this picture.  He also uses foil to make a little “pan” when he wants to cook something delicate, like fish, that might fall apart into the fire.  Last, but not least, is the time-honored method of simply poking the food with a stick and roasting it over the fire.  That is the fastest, and most used method at our campfire!

Campfire cooking is a skill that takes patience and practice.  But, for us, it is worth the time and energy to gather around a campfire and take a step back in time as we enjoy our dinner outside, while also enjoying the sights and sounds of nature around us, and each other’s company.  You also can’t beat the clean-up!

What have you been cooking on a fire lately?

 

 

Camping at Detroit Lake Campground

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Detroit Lake is nippy at this time of year!  The snow is quite low on the surrounding hills. None-the-less, we enjoyed last evening and this morning camping there.  It was a great time to have a camper with a heater.  We went up for the night, before returning home for a 4H event today, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

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When we got to the campsite, and set up, it was still light, due to daylight savings time.  Lovana really wanted to roast dinner, but the hot dog buns were frozen in the camper.  I had other things planned for dinner, but was glad to change plans, since she was able to come with us.  Rob thawed the buns over the campfire.  It worked well.

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We cut up veggies, roasted hot dogs, and of course, s’mores.  It was very pleasant around the fire.

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Easy, quick and fun!  I’ll try to get some good pictures of the lake posted soon.

DIY Instant Oatmeal Packets at 4H Club

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At the last 4H meeting day, Rob had his kids in Outdoors class make home-made food for camping.  He showed them how to re-constitute freeze-dried peas and spaghetti and how to make DIY instant oatmeal packets.  He also had the ingredients for trail mix, but ran out of time.

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At the last meeting, we had them dry bananas, a little pineapple, and some apples.  We mixed the pineapple and bananas in one bag (pina colada), and kept the others separate as choices.  We also put out raisins as a choice.  Because there are so many of them, he divided them into teams and had them rotate through the stations.

At the instant oatmeal station, he gave them this recipe:  It’s simple.

Into a ziplock bag, put:

1/3 cup instant oatmeal (we got ours from Bob’s Red Mill)

Add the following into your bag, as desired.

2 teaspoons powdered milk (for the creamy oatmeal)

1-2 teaspoons dried fruit (he had them snip the fruit up with scissors)

2 teaspoons brown sugar

Seal bag and shake to mix.

Then he gave them a piece of paper with the instructions:

When ready to use, put 2/3 cup boiling water in bowl and add contents of packet.  Salt to taste.

This was a mixture of all the recipes we found on Pinterest, etc., made as simple as we could make it for the kids, since the range is from kindergarten-11th grade this year and the oldest ones are mainly in sewing at that time.  From all of the ideas we found, people add everything from coffee to chocolate, to freeze-dried fruit, chia seeds, flax meal, and on and on.

This would be an excellent item to stock your camper pantry with, to take backpacking or to even make up and eat at home, as some of the 4H moms were going to head home and do!  It’s much more inexpensive than buying the boxes, and more than one batch can be made in a bag to cut down on packaging for hungry teens (you know, the ones who want 2-3 packets each time).  The packets can be “made-to-order” and names written on the bag with a Sharpie so everyone can have their own way with no hassle.   As a mother of 8, that is important to me–camping should be fun and feel like fun–so I’m all about making everyone feel special and have choices, as much as possible.

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Stocking the Camper Pantry on a Budget

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Our camper is in the shop for warranty work.  It should be done soon. When it comes home, I will be ready to pack and organize it for this year’s camping season.  Everyone has probably figured out by now that we don’t wait until summer to camp We love to go all year ’round, but late winter and spring is a good time to re-stock and rotate the pantry so things don’t get too old.  Also, I noticed that on our last trip over Christmas, I had to get very creative with my cooking since some of the items I usually keep in there had been used up and not replaced.  So, I have a big pile of items that will go into the camper when it returns.

When we are camping, I have found that it is a budget-buster to go to the store frequently, if there even is a store near-by.   Sometimes, the stores near campgrounds do have food, but it’s really expensive.   I don’t want to buy ketchup, mustard, canned soup, etc., etc., etc. while I am camping.  I spend too much money and end up with a lot of duplicate items that I already own at home and were purchased on sale or in bulk for a fraction of the camp-store prices.  One reason we camp is to keep our vacations frugal so we can go more often.

This past summer, we went tent camping two times, once to the Redwood Forest, and once to Lost Lake, near Hood River.  The rest of the time, we took our camper.  I organized and planned the food meticulously for the tent camping trips, especially the one to the Redwoods since we took very little camping gear with us, just the bare bone essentials.  I have a lot more options when we are in the camper, so here’s what I do.

I stock the camper pantry with ingredients and cans of food similar to what I stock at home, but focusing more on quick-to-make meals and convenience foods so that I have less dishes to clean and more time to relax.  I start by thinking up a few meals and making sure I have the ingredients for those. Then I fill in the rest with as many all-purpose ingredients as I can fit in, such as cans of pineapple, tomato sauce, etc.  When we are camping, I don’t worry if I have all ingredients for a certain dish–if we run out, we use what parts and pieces we do have left.  No one will suffer if they need to eat spaghetti on curly noodles instead of long skinny ones, or tacos without tomatoes:)

I may not have all of these items at the same time.  If some get eaten, I might replace them right then, or just plan to eat something else until I do replace them.  Everyone’s camper pantry will look different from mine, but here’s what I do try to put in.

Spices and baking supplies:  I have tiny little Tupperware containers I label with the name of several common spices and re-fill from the bulk spice section.  That is much less expensive. I keep them in the camper in plastic baskets and refill when needed. I have little containers of soda, baking powder, cornstarch and white rice flour for thickening. I put gluten-free flour, sugar, brown sugar, etc. in zip-top bags or containers and keep a small supply in the cupboard.

Staples: I just put things like rice and noodles in small baskets from the Dollar Store and put them in the cupboards, basket and all.  The baskets are easy to pull out and sort through.  I label them with cooking instructions since they are from my bulk supply.

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Spaghetti:  noodles and jars of sauce, frozen hamburger in freezer or home-made meatballs that I make ahead and freeze

Tacos:  Frozen turkey or beef burger–either already browned and seasoned, or raw, canned re-fried beans, taco sauce and salsa, hard corn shells or tortillas, olives, cheese in fridge, lettuce and tomatoes.

Fire meals:  Meat and sausage, hamburger patties, hot dogs, chicken–usually protein that Rob can cook over a fire, which he loves to do.  Then, I make sure I have buns if needed, but don’t mind serving plain hot dogs or hamburger patties if I don’t.  My kids love to roast anything like S’mores, apples, and hot dogs, but especially plain marshmallows.  They will roast them for 3 meals a day if I let them.  We usually take firewood, too, from home, so we don’t have to buy it at the campground, but Rob takes care of all that.

Dutch oven meals:  These would include ingredients for stews, chicken and dumplings, soups, and any other recipe Rob wants to try.  We often take home-canned apple pie filling and he makes a crisp in the Dutch oven.  He has several cookbooks and if he wants to make a certain food, and tells me ahead of time, I take the ingredients.  He is in charge of his pots, since they ride under the camper in the storage compartments.

Canned and boxed goods:  I take as many items as I can fit in.  I buy in bulk, and on sale, and pay rock-bottom prices.  I like to take advantage of that, even when I’m camping.  If I have a wide variety of ingredients that are versatile, I can make many different meals from what’s in there.  I just mix and match according to what we are hungry for.  I usually put canned beans in the camper.  At home, I use dry ones and cook them up, but usually don’t want to do that while camping. I put some canned soups in there for the same reason, as well as boxes of mac and cheese, pork and beans in cans, and cup of noodles, instant mashed potatoes and other things you just pour hot water on.  I cannot tolerate even the slightest bit of gluten, so make sure I have plenty of choices as well.  I take home-canned fruits, green beans, relishes, pickles, etc.  I take a basket or box to put the washed, empty jars in when we empty them.  It’s not hard to do, and saves us a bundle.

Mixes: I put some gluten-free mixes in as well, such as cornbread mix, cookie mix, and biscuit mix.  They save time and dish washing.  I often make my own, clearly labeled with the directions.  The top picture is some pizza crust mix I had Lovana make up for the camper.  The second picture is a pizza I made from a mix from last year.  I like to rotate them to keep them fresh.  We have a small cookie sheet in the camper that will work in the tiny oven and we can do one pizza at a time.  I keep tomato sauce and paste in the cupboard as well as mushrooms, olives, pineapple, etc.  Any favorite recipe can be made into a mix.  The key to to clearly label it and to be sure to take all of the wet ingredients, such as oil, butter, eggs, or whatever it calls for to finish it off.  I also have some mixes I bought.

Freezer:  Beef, pork, chicken, usually at least 1 casserole I prepare at home and freeze, frozen vegetables from our garden, bread or buns (if room), 1 tray of ice cubes, 1 box butter, and some coffee.  I stuff this as full as I can since we often go for over a week and occasionally have friends and relatives “drop by.”  I love cooking for a crowd and like to have plenty on hand, even camping.  One time, we were camping with one set of friends and another family dropped by with their children (like 100 miles from home), and we were able to feed about 15-17 people between both of our freezers.   We were delighted that they had made the effort to come see us and served an eclectic meal. It was filling and everyone had fun.

Refrigerator:  Some things stay in there, such as mayonnaise, condiments, drink pouches or juice boxes for the kids (we rarely use those at home, just camping), spreadable butter, jam, etc.  Right before camping, I fill it up with produce, eggs, dairy products, lunchmeat, leftovers from our home fridge, usually 1 meal already cooked for the first night (such as a casserole or some soup because we usually arrive late in the day and can cook it on the stove or in the oven while we set up camp), cheese, etc.  (at our house, cheese gets its own category since some of my “mice” live on it).  I might make potato salad, or some other food as well, depending on how much time I have before we leave.

Other:  I usually take a bag of potatoes, some onions, cereal, and some drinks and snacks or chips.  I have real plates in the camper, but take paper products as well.  We use them when we eat outside, which happens a lot if weather permits.  I have baggies, saran wrap, foil, dish-washing soap, scratchy pads, and coconut oil to season the cast iron with.

I’m getting excited!  All of this organization is putting me in the mood to go camping.  I hope this helps with your organization.  If you have ideas, feel free to share them with the rest of us in the comment section.

Bacon-Wrapped Steak Cooked Over a Fire

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Rob decided to use one of his new products, Grandpa’s Fire Grill, to make some steak over the fire.  He wanted to see how it worked.

The first thing he did was to build a fire and let it burn down until there were some coals as well as flames.  He could have let it burn down even further, to an entire bed of coals, but he ran out of patience.  That is the kind of thing that often happens on a camping trip when our family is hungry from a day of hiking, fishing, swimming or just hanging around the campsite.  So, he thought he’d give it a real-to-life trial.

He cut a green (not dry) maple stick for a handle and sharpened it slightly on the end with his pocketknife.  He wrapped 2 steaks with bacon and put them both into the grill. He felt it would have been better to use only 1 steak per grill because he felt it was a little too heavy with them both in there.  He was, however, able to get a good result.  Then, he clamped it shut, and inserted the slightly sharpened stick into the handle of the grill and pushed it right in to the steak.

 

He held the steak over the fire, about 4-6 inches above the coals, turning often.  Rob cooked it for about 15 minutes.  If a more rare or well-done product is desired, the time should be adjusted to suit your taste.  It does take a little while for the bacon to cook on the outside before the steak cooks very much.

When he was done, he opened the latch on the end and removed the steak.  He recommends using a potholder to avoid burns.  The steak was done, and enjoyed.  We are already making plans to try the grill on other food items in the near future.  One thing we often do when camping is catch fish and cook them on a grill over the fire.  We are excited to see how fresh trout taste in this grill.  We hope that the ability to turn them over easily without them breaking apart will work well.  I may have to see if I have some frozen ones from last summer and have Rob try it out before our next fishing trip….IMG_5589.JPG