Striving for good food in the great outdoors- the pioneer way.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Great Food in the Great Outdoors

For Labor Day, we went camping in a state park which happened to be near where some of Matt's extended family lives. We had such a fun time with people visiting us at the campground and heading into town to visit some more.

We made 3 different Dutch oven recipes over the weekend- Baked Spaghetti, Pastel Chileano, and Easy Chocolate Cake. All of them were good (which isn't always the case when you are trying new recipes).

Baked Spaghetti

This was the first Dutch Oven recipe we tried over the weekend. It was super easy with few ingredients (always a good combo when you are camping). Next time we make it we'll make up some garlic bread to heat up over the campfire.

1 pound ground beef
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1/2 cup water
1 7 ounce package spaghetti (broken into pieces)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese

In 10" Dutch Oven, brown the ground beef. We used 93% lean ground beef so there wasn't any need to drain any excess fat after the meat was cooked. Then add the spaghetti sauce of your choice, the water, and the uncooked broken spaghetti. Stir this up as best you can (the stiff spaghetti makes this difficult.) Place the lid on top of the DO and bake using 14 coals on top and 7 on bottom.

After about 10 minutes, rotate the oven one quarter turn clockwise and then, rotate the like one quarter turn counter clockwise. Once you have done that, lift the lid and give the mixture a quick stir. The noodles will be softer and easier to mix in. Place the lid back on and cook another 20-25 minutes periodically turning the oven and the lid to prevent hot spots.

After you've let this cook an additional 20-25 minutes, stir in the Parmesan cheese and top with mozzarella. Place the lid back on for 5 more minutes until cheese is melted.

Pastel Chileano

We've started watching this show called Cowboy Flavor. Cowboy Flavor epitomizes "low budget" television- right down to the dummy that sits at the picnic table. If you can get past the hokey opening song and the main guy's huge mustache, you'll find a show that focuses on good cooking while in the great outdoors. Not all of the recipes are Dutch oven recipes, but many are. They post the recipes for each episode for a short time after the episode airs on their website at We saw this one last week and decided we needed to try on our camping trip.

We did, however, change it a little bit from their original recipe. Here is the recipe as we made it:

6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, sliced into tenders
1 large white onion, sliced
1 large green bell pepper, julienned
2 4 ounce cans diced green chilies
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Saute chicken until almost done in a hot 12" Dutch oven. Add everything else and continue until peppers and onions are tender and chicken is fully cooked.

Meanwhile, make the topping:

1 cup instant polenta
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/4 pound Parmesan cheese, freshly shredded (don't use the grated stuff in a can)
1 stick butter

In a sauce pan or pot, bring chicken broth and butter to a boil, add the polenta, stirring until almost done. Add the Parmesan cheese and mix well. Spoon onto the mixture in the Dutch oven to form a topping. Bake at 375° (we did 10 coals on bottom and 18 or so on top) for 35 minutes or so.

Easy Chocolate Cake

The third recipe we made this weekend was a chocolate cake. This recipe is unique because it doesn't require any eggs (which is pretty nice for camping). This cake was sooooooo good that this might be something we make on most camping trips from here on out.

Before you leave home, mix the following in a gallon ziplock bag:

3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cocoa

When you get ready to make the cake at the campground, lightly grease your 10" D.O. with a bit of shortening. Then, to the bag of mix add:

3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 3/4 cup water

Zip the bag up, and then with your hands mix the cake batter by squeezing the bag. Once mixed, pour into your Dutch Oven and bake it with 14 coals on top and 7 coals on the bottom for about 25 minutes (rotating the Dutch Oven and the lid periodically to prevent hot spots). After 25 minutes, test the cake for doneness with a knife. If it comes out fairly clean (it doesn't have to be perfectly clean, but still mostly clean), then you can go ahead and top it with:

3/4 cup chocolate chips
1 cup mini marshmallows

Put the lid back on and bake another 5 minutes until the marshmallows start to get a little golden. Perfect!

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