Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Barbecue Tofu

All you met eaters keep an open mind. BBQ tofu is one of my favorite things to make on an overnight camping and rafting trip. So easy to do that the kids will even enjoy the snack or meal if you let them help prepare it. Tofu is a great source of protein and can help enhance your diet. Besides, our vegan friends love it...

Barbecue Tofu
4 blocks of extra firm tofu (in water)
extra large zip lock bag
sliced green onions include greens/white (scallions)
1 head of garlic crushed/sliced
2 small bottles of your favorite bbq sauce
hot grill w/catcher below

Rinse blocks of tofu in fresh water. Slice into 1/4 thick strips (cut into a grid, then slice). Place into the zip lock bag. Add green onions, garlic, and bbq sauce to cover all the tofu. Marinate for 2 to 4 hours (or overnight). Place on grill and cook slowly over medium/high heat. Cook until edges are browned and starting to curl. Be patient, tofu is mostly water. You want to cook most of the moisture out leaving a tasty meat-like strip.

Variations: Add the strips to a bowl with a favorite dipping sauce as an hors d'ouevres before dinner. Or place them on a toasty bun and add the fixings of a hamburger. I like to eat them with brown rice and veggies. A truly healthy dish... but don't tell the kids that.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Grandma's Kabobs

This is a funny retro kabob that grandma used to make. You can substitute steak, chicken or shrimp instead of the bologna or salami... though, I love the retro flavor of this dish, it is definitely not one for the calorie counters. The kids love this one. Let the kids prep this for the first night camping on the rafting trip.

12 slices of bologna
12 slices of salami
3 dill pickles (cut into strips)
1 medium green pepper (cut into chunks)
cherry tomatoes
tiny pearl onions

Place slices of salami on slices of bologna so that edges slightly overlap. Fold around dill pickle strips. Run skewers through centers of meat & pickle roll and alternate with green pepper, tomatoes and pearl onion. Grill 10 minutes until meats are browned. Makes 4 kabobs.

Remember fried bologna sandwich? This kabob tastes like that sandwich without the bread. The first time I ate this was during a Mother's Day celebration with great-grandma. She put these on the grill. I thought it was weird. But after eating one, I ate another and another. Reminds me of my childhood...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Camping, Rafting and Herbs

Whenever I head out for a multiple day river trip, I always want fresh herbs. Most wilt pretty quickly and start to decompose after a few days. A few herbs that seem to stand up are rosemary, sage, oregano and tyme. I wash them and then let them air dry. Then I wrap them individually in paper towels. Then I place them into a zip lock baggie and use when I need them. The thyme and oregano will go first since they will deteriorate the quickest. But I had rosemary on day 7 on the Grand Canyon and it really flavored the potatoes and meats. Fresh herbs are such a welcoming flavor on long camping or rafting trips. And the number one flavor that will stand up to the end if kept dry? Garlic!

10 eggs
1/4 cup olive oil
4 T milk or water
diced onions
chopped thyme
2 T herb feta cheese (cream feta with herbs)

Break eggs into a bowl and stir with a fork. Add salt and pepper. Add 1/8 cup (1/2 the oil) into the eggs with a splash of milk or water. Mix well. In a large skillet or dutch oven, add the rest of the oil. Heat the diced onions until carmelized (browned and limp). Add eggs. Add thyme. Cook until soft. Add feta cheese and fold over until incorporated. Serve immediately.

Tips: even if the herb leaves deteriorate, you can pick them off the stem, throw the stem into your cooking ingredients and still pick up the flavor of the herb. Rosemary is number one for this. The leaves last a long time. The stems make a flavorful smoke. Make sure you bring a lot of rosemary and garlic. With the addition of onions, you have the main flavorings for almost any dish.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Wok in Camp

When we cook up stir fry veggies on our California river trips, we like to use a large wok. This is the biggest wok that I have ever seen. We purchased a few from a couple of local Chinese restaurants. They were throwing them out because the woks were old and had tiny little holes in the metal. Cooking over coals and fire, the small holes really didn't matter to us. You might want to go to a restaurant supply house and purchase a smaller one for your own camping needs. Just make sure it is all metal without wooden handles. While you're at the restaurant supply store, grab an extra long pair of tongs, spoons and/or chopsticks for cooking.

vegetable oil
diced onions
vegetables (broccoli, brussel sprouts, carrots, cabbage, etc.)
1/8 cup of soy sauce
1 Tblsp sesame seed oil
pinch of chili flakes
cooked white rice (or brown)

Use a well-seasoned wok. Add oil and place wok over coals or fire. The oil will get hot very quickly. Add onions and stir fry. Scoot the cooked onions to the upper portion of the wok and it will stay warm without burning. (Tilt the wok towards you, push the onions away from you) Add any of your favorite vegetables cut into similar sized pieces. If you are adding greens such as spinach or cabbage, add these in the last minute of stir frying. When veggies look bright, incorporate the onions back into the mixture. Add soy sauce, sesame seed oil and a bit of chili flakes. Stir fast and eat quick. Very yummy with fried rice or plain white rice.

Variations: add left-over cooked chicken, pork or turkey as the last ingredient and warm thoroughly. Without the meats, this dish will serve any vegan or vegetarian, and I would serve brown rice instead of the white. I also like to splash a bit of mirin (Japanese rice wine vinegar) along with the soy sauce as an enhancer while stir frying. Or you can use an oyster sauce instead of the soy sauce. Asian ingredients are so popular that most grocery stores carry the items in their international aisles.

Caution: use pliers, heavy tongs or metal hooks to lift the wok away from the fire. The metal handles will be very hot, so use caution. To clean your wok, just add salt and scrub with a ball of aluminum foil. (When I was on the Grand Canyon, we just threw sand into the wok and scrubbed it that way. Just don't toss the sand into the river. Throw it away in your garbage to be brought out of any river corridor.) Rinse and oil the wok before storing.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


I love toast. And toast in camp is the best. First I want to explain that I'm one of those that likes toast well-done where the butter is scraping across the blackened bread. I just love the crunchiness of toasted bread. The bread just tastes different when it's well done. Toast is not just for breakfast. A hearty bread toasted and schmeared with garlic and butter is a simple accompaniment to a great grilled steak. Save the leftovers, cube it and throw it in a green salad for instant croutons to go with the miner's lettuce you harvested around the river.

1 loaf sliced store-bought bread (or slice your own baguette, wheat bread, etc)
5 - 8 cloves of garlic
1 stick of butter
1/4 cup of herbs (finely chopped; mix rosemary, oregano and thyme together)

Get the grill hot and ready for the toast. Oil the grill well so the bread doesn't stick. Crush the garlic and rub over the bread slices. Mix softened butter and herbs together. Smear this over each slice of bread. Place each slice on grill with smear-side up. Toast until done and then turn. Toast to your liking. Serve hot with grilled vegetables and meat.

Variations: sprinkle parmesan cheese right before you take the toast off the grill. Add chili flakes to the butter-herb mixture for a spicy addition. Add grilled onions and steak on top of the toast for an open-faced sandwich.

Breakfast Variation: omit the garlic and just coat with plain butter. Toast as before. Mix cream cheese and strawberry jam together. Schmear a light coating over the toast and serve with breakfast. A sweet crunchy delight on your next rafting trip!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Fruit Salad

What's more refreshing than a fruit salad made with fresh California produce? Sweet and filling, a fruit salad can be made with just about any fresh fruit. On camping river trips, add a can of peaches in syrup to add a sweet retro flavor from long ago.

3 lbs of fresh fruit
suggestions: melons, apples, peaches, plums, nectarines, bananas, jicama, kiwi, oranges etc.
1/2 lemon (if you add orange slices, you won't need the lemon)
honey to taste
mint leaves
1/4 cup plain vanilla yogurt (optional)
1/4 cup raisins (dried cherries or dried cranberries or dried blueberries)
1/4 cup toasted almonds

Slice all fruit into bite sized pieces. Cut bananas, kiwis a bit larger since they deteriorate quickly into mush when you mix them. I recommend using firm bananas and kiwis. Add honey to taste. Add mint leaves whole or torn. Add yogurt, raisins, and almonds. Toss carefully. Serve immediately. This is a refreshing meal that includes your protein, carbohydrates and iron. Leave out the yogurt for the vegan friends. (Don't store long. The flavors become muddy and unappealing if left in the cooler too long. Best served fresh.)

Variation: add a can of sliced peaches and small marshmallows. This becomes a total dessert. Top plain vanilla cookies or pound cake for a more substantial dessert. Sprinkle toasted coconut on top each serving. I like to top ice cream with this fruitful concoction.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Stuffed Chicken Tenderloins

Most groceries carry frozen chicken tenderloins. These are fast and convenient when camping on an outdoor trip. They thaw quickly so they are always ready for a quick camp meal. Pound them flat and stuff them with your favorite mixtures. You can cook them in a dutch oven very quickly. On a rafting trip, these are a hit at dinner. Serve with a simple green salad dressed lightly with Italian dressing. I like to add a few kalamata olives on top of each serving.

20 chicken tenderloins thawed
round, smooth river rock (palm size)
plastic wrap
1 box frozen spinach (fresh, if you are at home)
1 pt ricotta cheese
2 pinches chili flakes
small jar marinara sauce
20 slices mozarella cheese

Thaw chicken in a large bowl of cold water while you prepare the mixture. Wrap plastic wrap around rock and set aside. Take frozen spinach (or you can saute fresh until cooked; cool, squeeze all moisture out and chop) and mix with ricotta cheese, salt, pepper and chili flakes. Set aside. Place each tenderloin between two pieces of plastic wrap or just place in a zip lock baggie. Throw a dish towel over the covered tenderloin. Pound flat with the covered rock. Take each strip of tenderloin and place a teaspoon or more of the mixture onto the center and roll. Secure with a wooden toothpick or just place seam side down in an oiled dutch oven. Pack the rolled chicken tightly into the dutch oven. Pour marinara sauce over the chicken and smear evenly. Place one slice of mozarella over each rolled chicken piece. Bake covered for 30-40 minutes with evenly distributed coals at the bottom and top of dutch oven. (Cooking time will vary depending on your coals) When chicken is thoroughly cooked, take dutch oven off the heat. Take lid off. Let cool slightly before serving.

Variation: place a thin slice of prosciutto onto the tenderloin first, before the mixture, and then roll. Cook as before. Very tasty!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Quick Canned Chili

You've been driving for 8 hours and you finally get to the put-in at the river right before dark. No one wants to cook and you're in the middle of no where. Everyone is starving and it's been hours since lunch. You dig out the extra large cans of chili to heat up for a quick meal. I like to add stuff to make it a bit more homemade. Cook a lot as this goes really quick with a hungry rafting crowd.

3 extra large cans of your favorite chili (or as many cans needed)
1/4 cup of chopped red onions
2 cans of corn
1 can of red kidney beans
1 can of black olives (crush them in your hand for a quick chop)
leftover veggies (optional)
leftover meats (optional)
cheddar cheese (grated or sliced; doesn't matter)
corn tortillas

Heat a large pot or dutch oven over the coals or fire. Add chili. Add onions. Saute until wilted and translucent. Add canned chili. Warm and then add corn, kidney beans, olives, and veggies. Heat until bubbling. Place one corn tortilla at the bottom of a bowl with a handful of cheddar cheese. Add chili and serve. Have extra tortillas or corn chips to eat with the rest. Hearty and satisfying... and very quick.

If the coals are hot, throw in a bunch of potatoes for breakfast the next morning. Just wrap in aluminum foil and place near the coals. Bank the coals to stay hot and they will cook the potatoes overnight. You'll be ready to cut them up for a quick breakfast with eggs and leftover chili.