Dutch Oven Chili


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.


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.


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.


Triangle Lake


Triangle Lake was our stop last week as we continued our Summer of Adventure.  We were signed up to cook at a high school camp at Camp Eagle Cove.  It was only 43 miles from Florence, where Honeyman State Park was located, so we drove directly there from our camping spot.

Rob has a 2-pole fishing license, so just had to put his poles in the lake at least once.  And, that’s exactly how many times he was able to put them in–once!  The rest of the time, he was extremely busy cooking on a huge Traeger barbecue he brought with him to camp.  The kitchen at this camp is quite small and the Traeger was a life saver. He did not catch any fish during the short time he got to fish, but there were 3 fish caught by  a couple of guys who went out in a boat.


The first 24 hours, we fed staff who had come for meetings, set-up, and a little training.  So, it was only about 40-50 people.  Once the campers and the rest of the staff arrived, it was between 150-170 people.   The number varied as different staff members’ families came and went.

We were not the head cooks.  A woman named Maggie was, and she had it well organized and much of the food pre-cooked.  Much of it was warmed up in the Traeger, cooked on the grill, or done on griddles all under the tent.  The indoor kitchen is very small and ill-equipped to make enough food for that many people so Rob was everyone’s hero.  He grilled at almost every meal, until the end, where the huge, 2-sided grill was allowed to cool down so it could be cleaned for it’s journey home.  It is nice and large, and has to be towed behind a vehicle.  All dishes were done by hand, so paper products were used as much as possible.  Half way through the week, my sister and I went to the closest large town (about 1 hour away) and bought more produce and some other items that were needed.  That was a pretty big chore, but we enjoyed our time together.


All-in-all, it was a very good week.  It was fun to be around such a bustling hive of young people.  They had a great time–alternating between their meetings, meals, and free times, which were spent in the water or on the boat(s).  If I ever have another Summer of Adventure, camp definitely deserves a place in my agenda!

And, I definitely appreciated the multiple washing machines at the laundromat today, as we did the equivilent of 24 loads of laundry!  (That included all of J’s blankets.  She took them outside at camp and was convinced that there might be a bug or 2 or 10 or 20 in them, so really, really wanted them washed!!) Thank goodness for machines that can take 4 loads at once, and ones that can take 3.  So efficient!!!  And, now, we are settled back at my sister’s again–all cozy next to the garden until the next time that we take off on our Summer of Adventure!

GF Peach Upside-Down Cake in the Camper


We were hungry for a treat last week while we were camping at Champoeg.  I had some nice New Haven peaches from my sister’s orchard, and was trying to figure out something good to make that wouldn’t be difficult in the camper.

I melted 4 Tablespoons of butter in the bottom of a pan in the oven.  I added 4 Tablespoons of brown sugar to the melted butter and stirred it around and then arranged 2 peeled, sliced peaches over that melted butter/sugar mixture.  This pan is an old aluminum one I keep in the camper.  It is rectangular, but I’m sure any pan that is around 8″ x 8″ would work.

I then mixed up 1 batch of muffins off the back of the bag of Pamela’s pancake and baking mix.  It uses 1-1/2 cup of the mix, plus some water and an egg.  I did not add any optional fruit, or extra water, because the peaches are both fruit and juicy:)  Pamela’s makes several gluten-free baking mixes, but this one says it’s for pancakes and baking and contains almond flour as well as other flours, so it  was a good combination with the peaches.  If I was not gluten-free, I could have used any packaged muffin mix, such as Jiffy or Betty Crocker, etc.


I spooned the muffin mixture over the peach mixture and smoothed it out, but didn’t worry about the fact that it didn’t completely cover the peaches up.  It puffed up when I baked it.

I baked it for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees in my camper oven.  I’ll bet it could be modified for a Dutch oven over the fire, as well.


It turned out so well!  I cut it into 4 pieces, and then flipped each one over onto a plate because I do not have any platters large enough in the camper to turn the entire pan out on to.  If I really had wanted to, I could have lined my little cookie sheet with foil and turned it out on that.  The family devoured it.  It should have served 8, but it was downed by 4 this time.

Cooking a Crab


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:


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.



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.



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.


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!

Camper Cooking–Clam Chowder


We went clamming again and limited out!  That was fun.  In the end, I had quite a few clams to work with.  I decided to make clam chowder.  The last time we caught clams, and we fried them, they were quite tough.  Very chewy, in fact.  This time, I decided to mince them up in my mini-chop and see if that would help.  It did.  The chowder came out great.

Here’s what I did:

6 potatoes, chopped

1/4 white onion, diced

1 cup 1/2 and 1/2

1 cup milk

20 clams, cleaned and minced (about 3/4-1 cup clams)

salt and pepper to taste

Put the potatoes and onions in a large pot.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Start with a good sprinkle of pepper and about 1 teaspoon salt.  Put about 3/4-1 inch water in the bottom and cover.  Steam the potatoes and onions until tender, about 20 minutes.  (Start on high until it boils, and then turn down and simmer)

Add minced clams and cook for about 3 minutes.  Add milk and 1/2 and 1/2.  Turn on low.  Warm milk and 1/2 and 1/2 until nice and warm, but do not boil once the dairy products are added.  Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.  Put a pat of butter on top right before serving, if desired.

You can tweak this recipe according to what you have.  It is VERY forgiving.  If you want it runnier, add more milk. If you want more potatoes, use more.  If you have canned clams, use those instead, along with the juice that is in the can(s).  If you have milk, but not 1/2 and 1/2, use all milk.  For a lower-fat version, use skim milk.  If you do that, you may need to thicken it a bit with a small amount of flour.  The way I thickened this was steaming the potatoes with a small amount of water.  The potato starch was released into the water, and that was enough.  If it had been too runny, I would have used a small amount of sweet rice flour, since I am gluten-free.

The way I did it, it made about 6 servings.  It was great.

Meltdown Pasta Salad


I needed to make a salad for a birthday celebration for 3 of our girls on Monday night.  I came up with this pasta salad.  I’m still adjusting to cooking with limited ingredients in the tiny camper, but am making progress.  I was very pleased with how this came out.

I named it Meltdown Pasta Salad for several reasons.

  1. It was super hot that day.
  2. One of our freezers failed and melted down.   It was in Rob’s mom’s garage, and we discovered it and had to clean it up that morning.
  3. I could not find some needed ingredients for my usual pasta salad, having not put them into the camper–so therefore, they were in storage.  That was the straw that broke the camel’s back and I had a meltdown.

The salad came out great, and so did the evening.  It is gluten-free because that’s what I can eat, but it could be made with regular pasta.

Mix the following in a bowl.

1 box rice rotini, cooked and drained

1 can mushrooms, drained

1 can olives, sliced

1 red onion, chopped

1 cup spinach leaves, sliced into little ribbons

1 tomato, diced

4 basil leaves, sliced into little ribbons


1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

Several grinds of garlic/salt in a grinder

Pour some dressing on and mix.  Taste to see if there is enough dressing.  When you have reached the point where you like the amount of dressing, put the rest in a container in the fridge for another day.

This made enough to feed 8 people who took large helpings, and there was a little left over.  I would say 10-12 servings.



Last week while we were at Ft. Stevens State Park, we took the girls clamming.  Rob and I had not been clamming for many years, and the girls never had.  We had one clam gun and one shovel.  The clam gun worked the best, but we did get a few with the shovel.  It only took Rob and I a little while to remember what to look for–a little bump on the sand where the clam was getting its air from.  Sometimes, it was a little hole with no bump.

When one of these tell-tale circles was spotted, the person holding the clam gun quickly twisted, pushed and dug down with the plastic tube.  Then, her finger was placed on the hole at the top to create suction, and the tube of sand was pulled up.  When the finger was removed, the sand fell out of the tube.  Hopefully there was a clam inside.  Truthfully, more times than not, it took several digs to get one, and sometimes they escaped.


Sometimes they didn’t!

We got a total of 39 clams.  We could have had more, but it started pouring rain on our heads, and after all, there was only one clam gun and we had to take turns.  We were so soaked when we finally did stop that we had to go to the laundromat and wash our coats and clothing that afternoon.  We were having that much fun!!!


We followed the instructions on U-Tube and dipped the clams briefly in boiling water to easily remove the shells.  Then, we (mostly Rob) cleaned them out.  Frankly, we were not great at that.  We ended up with a lot of pieces, not the large, whole clams on the video, but still, we were satisfied.


The rules said that you had to take them all, broken or not, so we did.  The broken ones were especially sandy.  I washed them many times and finally trimmed off any parts that were so sandy I couldn’t get them clean.  I froze 2/3 of the clam pieces and saved out 1/3 to experiment with.


I made a gluten-free tempura batter from Bob’s Red Mill 1-1 flour (about 1 cup), 1 egg, some milk and a little seltzer water.  I dipped them, and then fried them in a shallow pan with oil in it.  I could have used more oil, but made do.


We then sprinkled them with Lowrie’s Seasoning Salt.  They were good, but were on the tough side.  I think I cooked them too long.  I thought I’d make bigger clam strips than what you get in restaurants, but I guess there’s a reason they are small.  I think it takes too long to get the larger amount of tempura to cook all the way through.  I also could have cooked them more quickly if I had owned more oil.  I want to try it again.  I also plan to make clam chowder with some of the frozen ones.

We will go clamming again.  Everyone had a good time.  We now have our shellfish licenses, so can use them all year.  It was very rewarding to catch so many.  The tide was very low, so we will try to find another day with a low tide and try it again the next time we are down at the beach.  We might even want to invest in another clam gun or two.  Then there won’t be so many discussions about whose turn it is……

The Summer of Adventure–May 23, 2016


The “Summer of Adventure” has begun!  We officially moved out of our house on Saturday and are now living in the camper until we find another house.  I’m so glad that we have finished phase 1 of that huge job.  Rob moved the camper over to my sister’s house on Friday, and we snatched a few hours of sleep before heading back over to our house to finish the big move.  All of our things went into storage.  The camper is loaded down, much too full, and we are already gathering things up to take out of there to the storage unit.

On Saturday evening, my sister gave us some turkey and rice she had cooked that day to eat for dinner.  I decided to make a quick stir-fry, as we had not been eating enough vegetables during the hustle, bustle and confusion of the move.

The garden my sister and I planted together has boc choi that is already bolting, because it hates long days.  I picked several plants and just used the good stems and leaves.  I also used 1/2 a red pepper, celery, some baby carrots, some mushrooms and an onion.  I have some travel packs of wheat-free soy sauce that I used for flavoring.  I also used some garlic salt that was in the camper cupboard.  I started with a little oil in the pan and 2 packs of the soy sauce.  I stir-fried the onion and carrots for a little bit (2-3 minutes) and then added the celery, pepper and boc choi stems.  I stir-fried for another 2-3 minutes.  Then the mushrooms went in and I tasted it.  I added more soy sauce and garlic salt until I liked how it tasted.  At the very end, I added the green tops of the boc choi and only cooked for about 1-2 more minutes.  It tasted great!  It was a great first dinner in the camper.

I’m already learning a lot about myself.  First, I’ve been surprised at how slow I am getting ready to go anywhere because I can’t find anything.  I’ve camped for years, but I clearly have so many things in the camper this time that I’m losing stuff:)  Lesson:  Take some of it out!!  Second, with all my routines broken, and the huge job of packing and sorting that I’ve been doing for months finished, I found myself wandering around in circles for a while today.  Lesson:  Make a list for myself tomorrow!!  Third, I am exhausted from all the activity and it will take a while to get rested up.  Lesson:  Put a rest period or nap on my list.  Fourth, don’t let a child pour milk while watching t.v.  It makes a really huge puddle and soaks the area rugs when she gets interested in the show and just lets the milk overflow the cup.  Lesson:  Either eat or watch t.v.  Not both:)

On Thursday, we head out for Ft. Stevens.  I’m excited!  This day has been a long time coming.

DIY Instant Oatmeal Packets at 4H Club


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.


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.



Mac and Cheese Hot Dogs


In the current issue of the Food Network Magazine, there is a recipe for macaroni and cheese on top of a hot dog.  Ja’Ana was extremely interested in this recipe and decided to make it yesterday.  She made up a batch of home-made macaroni and cheese, using the recipe provided, and pulled some hot dogs and buns out of the freezer and served it for lunch.  She loved it!

I have to admit, this was a new idea to me, and doesn’t fit into the way I can eat, but it got me to thinking about camping.  This is a great meal to take camping with a group of kids.  Any macaroni and cheese recipe, even some from a box made on the camp stove or fire, could be paired with fire-roasted hot dogs and buns.  Few paper plates would be needed, and, for the most part, the kids could carry the meal around in their hands.  Some baby carrots and/or apple slices could be added to make the meal more balanced and are finger foods, eliminating the need for silverware of any kind.

I’m all about easy cooking when I’m camping and it adds to the fun for the children when they get to try new things and eat in a more casual manner then they do at home.  I’m definitely going to remember this idea in the future!  For the adults who can’t or won’t eat such a carb-filled meal, it would be very easy to roast sausage or hot dogs on a stick, or cook a few freshly-caught fish over the fire to enjoy with the apples and carrots.