Thursday, June 28, 2007

Mexican Lasagna

Tacos are a favorite food and the kids could eat them everyday. Here's a dish that is a taco in a casserole. The ingredients are simple and the kids always want more. Perfect for a dutch oven or large skillet over the grill. Serve with blue corn chips or your favorite corn tortillas and an iceberg lettuce salad.

1-1/2 lbs of ground beef
olive oil
1 small onion (diced)
1 small can of chopped/sliced black olives
1 small can of tomato sauce (or your favorite jarred marinara)
1 pkg taco seasoning mix (add water according to instructions on package)
1/2 pt cottage cheese (or ricotta)
1 pt sour cream
1 bag of tortilla chips
grated cheese
2 T chopped green onions

Heat pan with oil. Add beef and saute until browned. Pour and drain the excess oil. Add onions and cook until wilted. Add black olives, tomato sauce, taco seasoning mix. Stir thoroughly and cook until liquid is gone. Take off heat. In a greased casserole, crush chips and distribute evenly on the bottom. Add a layer of meat mixture. Take the cottage cheese and sour cream and mix thoroughly. Add this layer to the casserole. Repeat the sequence with the 3 layers again. Add chips and grated cheese to the top. Bake at 350 degrees until hot and bubbly.

This is a favorite with the Scouts rafting trips. You can cool it down and cut into wedges and serve with cornbread, more chips or corn tortillas. Omit the chips and substitute layers of corn tortillas for a different texture. Or you can serve it piping hot and use it like a large Mexican dip while everyone's gathered after their day on the river.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Heavenly Hash - Dessert

Desserts are not hard to do when you're camping on a rafting trip. Because you can take practically everything you need, river trips are like car camping but on the water. Of course, baking requires a dutch oven and we have several recipes for brownies and pineapple upside down cake on our website, but here's a tasty treat that requires no cooking or baking at all. A welcome for the harried camp chef.

1 pt heavy cream (well-chilled; stored in the coldest area of the cooler)
wisk (or fork, but it will take longer)
1 T sugar
1 small can crushed pineapple
12 chopped dates
12 marshmallows cut into small pieces
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Whip cream in a clean glass or stainless steel bowl. (Make sure there is no oil residue in the bowl) Wisk the cream to thicken. Add sugar and whip until soft peaks form. Fold in the rest of the ingredients. Chill in the cooler and serve when ready.

Variations: sub dates for figs; omit pineapple and add fruit cocktail (drain first). You can serve the hash over ice cream. Or top a bowl of fruit such as bananas, peaches or figs. When we're camping, I like to place a store bought cookie or pound cake into a small bowl and top it with this mixture. Add fresh berries on top. It's so easy and so tasty. One year, we picked blackberries along the river and added them to the dish. Elegant and it looks like you've been slaving over the camp table all day.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Beef Stew and Camping

Here's a beef stew using all convenience foods. When you're cooking on camping rafting trips, sometimes you just don't have time to whip everything out from homemade ingredients. You can do this one while everyone's fishing in the late afternoon. Get this on the coals around 3pm and you'll have enough time for a nap in the hammock overlooking the river. Grab a book to read while you wait for this to cook. Three hours later, you'll have a hot piping stew. This retro recipe comes from great-grandma's cooking files.

1 lb beef (cut into 1" cubes)
2 T olive oil
1 can mushroom soup
1/2 pkg of Lipton's onion soup
1/2 cup red wine

Add oil into a dutch oven or heavy skillet. Keep coals evenly distributed at the bottom. Temperature should be medium-high. Sear the beef cubes until browned. Then add the rest of the ingredients. Cover. Add coals to top of the dutch oven. Simmer at low heat for 3 hours. (Move the coals off until you reach a simmer) Keep everyone away from the area especially the kids. Check every hour. Serve with crusty baguette or grilled toast and a simple salad.

Variations: add potatoes and carrots the last hour with 1/4 cup of water or stock. Add a variety of veggies (green beans, cauliflower, or chopped greens) the last 10 minutes for a fresh taste.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Olive Nut Bites

When you're camping and rafting, you have to encourage the kids to help with food prep and camp duties. The kids love to make this little appetizer before the dad's come out with the grilled foods. My child used to say that we were serving eyeballs on the river trip. We also used to make these during Halloween. We dyed the cream cheese blue to make the eyeballs look really gross. These are easy to make, so let the kids do this one alone.

1 pkg softened cream cheese
3 T of finely chopped toasted almonds
20 green olives w/ stuffed pimientos

Stir the cream cheese with a fork and mix with almonds. Take out the pimiento out of the olive and reserve. Stuff the olives with the cream cheese mixture and replace the pimiento into the hole. Arrange on a platter and chill for 10 minutes. Or cover with plastic wrap and place at the top of your cooler until ready to serve. They do look like eyeballs...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Grandma's Carrots

Everyone who's ever been to grandma's house will remember this dish from long ago. Something quite comforting about this old-fashion side dish. Sweet and savory carrots go great with bland meats such as pork tenderloin, turkey or chicken breast. I am copying this retro recipe straight from great-grandma's own recipe card. Pack this in an air tight container and place it in the cooler ready for the grilled entree on your next overnight rafting trip.

1 lb carrots (thinly sliced)
1/4 cup raisins (substitute dried currants, cranberry, or cherries)
1/4 margarine (or butter)
3 T honey
1 T lemon juice (fresh is best)
1/4 t ground ginger (or sliced fresh)
1/4 cup sliced almonds (toasted is even better)

Cook carrots covered in 1/2 cup boiling water for about 8 minutes. (Or just saute in a lightly oiled pan with 1/8th cup of water) Drain. Pour carrots into a 1 qt baking dish and stir in the rest of the ingredients. Bake uncovered in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 35 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Fried Rice

Day 2 on the river and you've grilled some chicken. Potatoes are an option, but you decide to cook up a pot of rice. Rice is inexpensive and grilled meats and vegetables go well with white rice, brown rice or wild rice. Add bouillon or herbs to the water to give the rice a great flavor. Make an extra pot while you're at it and get ready for day 3 on the rafting trip. You'll love the flavor of this quick fried rice.

1/4 cup vegetable oil (olive oil preferred)
1/2 cup of diced onion
1/4 cup of diced carrots
4 cups of leftover rice (white, brown, wild rice or a mixture of all)
1/4 cup of leftover veggies (broccoli, cabbage, snap peas etc)
1/4 cup of soy sauce
4 eggs (optional)
1/4 cup of frozen peas (optional)
1/4 cup of sliced green onions (scallions)

In a large dutch oven or skillet, add 1/8th (1/2 of the oil) of a cup of oil. Heat at medium-high heat. Add diced onions and brown. Add diced carrots and cook until limp. Push onion and carrots to the edge of the pan, slightly moving the pan's edge off the burner or coals. Add the rest of the oil (reserve 1 T) to the pan. Heat that oil until hot. Add rice. Stir quickly so the rice doesn't stick. (It will stick no matter what you do, but if you keep stirring, it won't burn) As the rice is coated with the oil, stir pan's ingredients together. Coat until the rice starts to brown. Add left over veggies. Add soy sauce. Cook until rice is brown and dry. Push all ingredients to the edge of the pan again. Push the pan's edge off the burner. Add the rest of the oil to the empty part of the pan. Heat. Add eggs. Scramble. Incorporate the cooked eggs with the rice and stir thoroughly. Cook until steam disappears. Add peas and green onions. Take off burner and stir again. Serve immediately or bring to room temperature.

I used to make this as a college student. Sometimes, all I had to mix in were onions and carrots. Just those two simple ingredients were enough to flavor a leftover pot of rice. Leave out the eggs, and it is a perfect side dish for a vegan. You'll never throw away leftover rice again.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Carmelized Onions

Speaking of condiments... the last post camping recipes was about roasted peppers. Another condiment ingredient for the camper or river trip chef is carmelized onions. Onions contain a lot of sugars and this sweetness becomes the highlight when you roast or carmelize them.

10 onions (red, yellow, hawaiian, valdalia, etc)
1/4 cup olive oil
paper towels

Cut each onion in half (in quarters if they are really large). Oil liberally by drizzling the oil and swabbing with a paper towel. Place on the grill. Rotate them until they are evenly shriveled and cooked.

Another method is to slice the onion into large pieces. Cook in a slightly oiled pan on medium-high heat. Cook slowly and toss. Add oil so the onions don't burn. Keep tossing until the pile becomes completely wilted and browned. Carmelization occurs when the sugars start to burn. That's why the onion becomes dark brown and sweet.

Top a grilled steak with the carmelized onions. That alone will give the steak a great flavor. Add cooled onions to a bowl of soft cream cheese and stir with a bit of salt and pepper. This dip will be gone in a flash or schmear it all onto a bagle with turkey or chicken. The kids like to add carmelized onions onto their burgers. They like it more than the addition of cheese!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Roasted Peppers

The addition of sweet, smokey, red bell peppers enhances many camp recipes. A plain sandwich comes alive with color and taste while a pasta salad becomes a true Italian delight. You've got the coals hot or the grill smokin'... just add a few peppers for a few minutes and you'll be rewarded with a grilled condiment that will surpass any other. This always impresses the rafting clientele on our river trips.

Roasted Peppers
10 red peppers (large or medium)
1/4 cup of olive oil (or less)
paper towels
large paper bag

Wash and dry your peppers. Decide if you want to roast them whole or cut them in half. Cutting them in half makes it easier to handle on the grill and also cuts the cooking time down a bit. You decide on this one. Place all peppers on a large baking sheet or plate. Take a brush or a paper towel and oil the peppers well; both outside and inside (if you have cut them). I just drizzle the oil over all of the peppers and then just take a paper towel and swab the oil over the entire bunch. (at home, just use your hands) Place each pepper cut side down or whole onto the grill. Watch them carefully as they will start to burn very quickly. Just rotate them around until the skins are blackened and shriveled. This should only take about 10 minutes or less.

The home method is to take the peppers and place them onto a large flat baking sheet and roast them or broil them in the oven at a high heat. Wait until one side is blackened and then turn them and bake some more.

Take the blackened peppers and quickly place them into a large paper bag. Wait about 5 - 10 minutes. Take one pepper out and with a paper towel wipe the black skin away. It should slip off the surface very easily. Proceed with the rest. If the skins don't fall off, put the peppers back into the bag and wait a bit more. If the skins still won't fall off, then you didn't roast them enough. Put them back on the grill and do it again. Hint: the skins need to be black and shriveled!

Slice the cooled and clean red flesh into long strips. To store, add them into a clean jar and cover with olive oil. It will keep up to a week this way and you can take them out to use on your favorite sandwich or add them to a pasta salad. The kids like to add them on top of homemade pizza or a broiled english muffin. I even like to eat them rolled up in a tortilla with leftover chicken and greens.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Camp Donuts

Mom's generation in the 50's was surrounded by convenience foods. These scientifically developed products made life easier for the homemaker and shortened preparation time. Out of the time-saving convenience of refrigerated dough came the rewards of almost home-baked goods. You could make fresh breads and rolls without the day long process. My mom used to make these donuts for us at least once a month. We could smell the dough cooking and the anticipation of fresh donuts was mouth-watering. You can easily do this one in camp, just be careful when heating the oil.

Camp Donuts
heavy frying pan or dutch oven
2 cups of vegetable oil
1/4 cup powdered sugar (divided in half)
2 T cinnamon
one container of Pillsbury dough for rolls

Heat pan to medium heat with oil. Take the dough container and give it the wack against the edge of your counter or camp table. Peel off each roll and place on a lightly oiled plate. Enlist the kids to poke a hole in each center of the dough. (You might want to help them stretch the hole into uniform sizes). Have the kids take the powdered sugar and divide into two bowls. Add cinnamon to one of the bowls and mix thoroughly. Pinch a tiny piece of dough and place it into the oil. If the dough just sits there, the oil isn't hot enough. If the dough is surrounded by bubbles and starts to rise, the oil is just right. Place donuts into the oil carefully (adults only). They will start to rise and turn brown. With long spatula or tongs, turn them carefully. Experiment with the cooking time depending on how you're heating your oil. They should be done in 3 to 4 minutes. Take donuts out of oil and place on a paper bag or paper towels. Sprinkle half with just powdered sugar. Sprinkle the others with the cinnamon mixture. Serve immediately or freeze for later use... though I doubt there will be any left.

Mom would sometimes take the dough, and instead of making the donut hole, she would leave the dough intact. Then she would pipe in a small amount strawberry jam through the edge of the dough. (In camp, use a sandwich bag and fill with jam. Cut a corner of the bag and then squeeze and use it to pipe the jam.) Another friend of mine likes to pipe in Nutella, the nut and chocolate spread. It's a donut to die for...

Caution: when heating any large quantities of oil on a rafting trip or in camp, be careful that the items you place into the oil do not cause the oil to overflow onto the fire or coals. Otherwise, you will have a fire like no other. Keep a fire extinguisher near any campfire or cooking area... even in your own kitchen at home!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Helper Monkeys

The kids are running wild. You're outdoors and it's time to get them to slow down and get ready for dinner. Enlist their help. You've been rafting all day and everyone's been paddling together. So, include them during the dinner prep. Have them make this hors d'ouevre while you prepare the rest of the dinner after the river trip.

1 pkg softened cream cheese
2 T gorgonzola cheese
tortillas (flour)
thinly sliced salami or mortadella
sliced dill pickles
sliced roasted red peppers
crushed black olives (or kalamata)
chopped Italian parsley

Mix cream cheese and gorgonzola until creamy. Have the rest prepared in advance. Two (2) instructions for the kids: 1) shmear the goo on to the tortillas 2) sprinkle the rest of the ingredients on top. Go do your thing (get the meat ready for dad's grill). Come back after 15 minutes and help them roll up the tortillas. Wrap in plastic and place into cooler for about 10 minutes. Enlist the kids to help pick small branches and wild flowers to make a table bouquet. Wash up. Take roll-ups out of the wrap and cut into 1/4 inch slices. Let the kids serve them on a plastic platter.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Nut Crust

This is a recipe that we modified for our vegan friends. A great staple for pie-making, freeze several so you're ready whenever you have an abundance of any kind of fruit. You can even make this on a multiple-day river trip and add apples for a real American pie.

1-1/3 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup finely chopped nuts
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 T rice or soy milk

Heat oven to 475 degrees. Or heat a large dutch oven (big enough to place a pie pan in) with evenly distributed coals. Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix wet ingredients in a cup. Add wet ingredients all at once to dry mix. Mix well. Roll dough out between parchment or wax paper. Roll out to fit a pie pan. Peel paper off one side of dough. Place into pie pan and carefully push dough to fit pan. Peel the second paper off the top. Flute edges with finger or fork. Prick with fork. Bake at 475 for 13 to 15 minutes.

Make several and freeze for later use. Add parchment or wax paper in between each pie crust and you'll be able to stack them in your freezer. This is a great base for ice-cream pies or fruit pies. Add your favorite apple pie filling and serve warm. Try cooked figs mixed with cream cheese and fill this crust. Heavenly!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Beet Salad

Beets are the messy vegetable that kids loved to cook. I remember painting with the juice on butcher block paper in our family's kitchen. We ate beets with everything, so I grew up to love their sweet taste. On your next white water rafting trip, add this as a side dish to that grilled chicken. Here's a savory salad featuring sweet beets.

cleaned, scrubbed beets or roasted beets in olive oil
olive oil
feta or herb flavored feta
arugula leaves
red onion (thinly sliced)
crushed toasted walnuts
cracked black pepper
splash balsamic vinegar

In a small pot, add water and cleaned beets. Cook low heat until tender. (If you cut them in half, you'll decrease the cooking time.) Rinse in cold water and set aside. OR roast your own olive oiled beets for 30-40 min at 420 degrees in the oven. Set aside to cool.

Add sliced beets into a glass bowl. Add feta and mix until beets are coated. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss again. Chill for at least 30 minutes. Serve with grilled meats or top your favorite green salad.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Lemony Green Beans

Fresh green beans used to be a luxury only afforded by the prolific backyard gardener or the affluent foodie. Now, with a farmer's market somewhere in town every day of the week, and high-tech flash frozen beans at the grocery store, you can make this lemony veggie dish any time of the year. I like Trader Joe's frozen green beans. Already prepared and ready to cook.

One bag of Trader Joe's frozen french green beans
large colander
running water
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup finely diced onions
3 cloves garlic sliced
1/2 lemon's juice
lemon zest
salt (to taste)
cracked black pepper (to taste)
1/4 cup toasted almonds (whole, halves, sliced...)
lemon peel (decorative)

Empty bag of green beans into colander. Rinse thoroughly in cold water. Let dry for 5 minutes. Rinse again in cold water. Set aside. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add sliced garlic and onions. Toss and cook until onions are partially browned. Add green beans. Add a drizzle of olive oil on top of beans and toss in pan. Add 1/2 lemon's juice. Add lemon zest. Add salt and cracked black pepper. Toss thoroughly. As soon as the beans turn bright green and shiny, take off the heat (about 4 min). Add almonds. Place onto a large platter. For a decorative touch, add a sprinkle of lemon peel on top.

You can take this dish on a camping or a rafting trip. Just put the whole thing in a ziplock baggie and put in the cooler. I love this dish cold or at room temperature. Add cooked leftover chicken to the dish and create a low-carb, one bowl meal.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Japanese Eggplant

Camping and grilling in the summer provides many of us with roasting delicacies that are hard to duplicate in the kitchen. One of my favorite side dishes goes great with roasted fish, sandwiches or just a bit of rice. Japanese eggplant is tender and less bitter than its Mediterranean counterpart. This is so easy and anyone can do it.

8 Japanese eggplants (slender, not round)
olive oil
sesame oil
grated ginger
soy sauce

Slice each eggplant lengthwise into 16 pieces. Drizzle olive oil onto the skins. Add sesame oil, ginger, garlic to the interior. Wrap in aluminum foil or place skin-side down into a dutch oven or heavy covered skillet. Place aluminum covered eggplant onto the grill until fork tender about 10-15 minutes. Or place dutch oven over the coals with a few coals on top for about 20 minutes on medium heat. When done serve as a side dish with soy sauce.

Another variation is to just wipe the whole eggplant with olive oil and roast directly over the coals. You will see them shrink and shrivel. When fork tender, open them up and add the rest of the ingredients. Add slices to a sandwich. Roasty, toasty, creamy good!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Man-Size Sandwiches

Sometimes a great sandwich is all you need after whitewater rafting. If you are on an extended rafting trip, this is a sandwich for day 4 on the river. Use all the leftovers still in the cooler in this one!

(2) day old baguette or slipper bread
1/4 cup olive oil
4 crushed garlic
4 T feta cheese (French or Greek)
1/2 lb provolone cheese
sliced leftover roasted meats or seafood
leftover roasted veggies ie, asparagus, brocolli, carrots, cauliflower, eggplant, etc)
2 roasted red peppers (sliced thinly; or use jarred sliced peppers)
2 carmelized onions (sliced and cooked over low flame with olive oil until carmelized)
crushed kalamata olives (to taste)
shredded cabbage
Italian dressing (or your favorite)

Take baguette and slice lengthwise into (2) halves. Smear all (4) halves with crushed raw garlic. You should hear a scraping noise! Drizzle olive oil over each half of the bread. Add sliced provolone liberally over halves. Add crumbled feta cheese. Close both halves and wrap with aluminum foil and grill over a low heat for 6 minutes. Meanwhile, slice all ingredients for sandwich. Open bread. Smear the provolone and feta together making a thick gooey spread. Add leftover meats. Add roasted veggies. Add sliced roasted red peppers generously over the mounds. Add sliced carmelized onions. Crush kalamata olives over the whole thing. Add shredded cabbage. Drizzle left over olive oil or your favorite Italian dressing. Close both halves of sandwich and slice into large pieces. Serve immediately. Or hold off on the cabbage and wrap sandwich up again in aluminum foil and place on the lowest heat of the grill. Add cabbage and dressing before serving.

Suggestions: if you are camping or rafting, cook more than you need each day and save leftovers for this sandwich. If you are at home, roast veggies once a week in a large quantity and save leftovers to be added to sandwiches and other dishes during the week. Same concept, just different location!

Friday, June 1, 2007

Ham Salad Dip

Kids are hungry and the hubbie is getting the grill ready. You're camping on the river and the chants of "I'm hungry... where's the food?" is getting a little old. Here's a quickie retro recipe spread to go with crackers and vegetable crudites. It'll keep them happy until the grilling is done.

1 container of ham salad spread
1 pkg cream cheese (softened to room temp)
3 T mustard (prepared)
2 tsp horseradish
1/4 tsp tabasco sauce

Blend all ingredients using an electric mixer or hand wisk. Chill and serve with plain crackers and/or cut carrots, cauliflower and/or jicama.

I like to have all the veggies cut and stored into a ziplock baggie. Add a wet paper towel in the baggie and the veggies will stay nice and crisp. Store in the cooler. Prepare the dip in advance for a time saver. Or have the kids whip it up with a fork in a small bowl. Enlist the kids to place the crackers and veggies onto a platter. Tell them they are in charge of the "presentation." By the time the kids are done, your dip will be done, too. You can change this dip by adding any of your favorites such as minced roasted red peppers, a bit of minced red onion or crushed black olives.