The Unforgettable Panini

30/11/14 0 COMMENTS

IMG_9667

“Too few people understand a really good sandwich.” – James Beard

OK OK, I’ll admit.  This isn’t a very camp friendly recipe without some pre-planning.  However, with proper planning, this little Panini could make you the star of any camping trip.  One sandwich is a meal.

It has taken me quite a long time to perfect this combination to what it is now.  Finally, some friends demanded the recipe after I posted a picture of my sandwich on Instagram.  I knew I had to share it but was leery of the preparation time in a camping situation.  However, this sandwich, when cooked over a grill pan on a fire, is absolute dynamite.  It is fresh, filled with flavor, and actually pretty healthy for a panini.

Let’s jump in with the main meal and then I’ll give you the recipes for the two toppings:

THE GRILLED PANINI*

A happy sight

A happy sight

 

  • 1/2 C. Black or green olives (cut) – Let’s be honest, I do both types.  Yep, 1 C of olives!
  • 1 lb of mushrooms (sliced)
  • 2 Jalapenos (sliced)
  • 1/2 white onion (diced)
  • 1 Red Pepper (diced)
  • 1 artichoke (roughly chopped after being blanched) – I just grab the ones that I froze from our garden that are already blanched.
  • 1/2 C. cilantro (chopped)
  • 1 C. spinach (chopped)
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 4 Tbs. Avocado Oil
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp smoked salt
  • Sriracha Pepper Sauce
  • Sun-dried Tomato Aioli (recipe below)
  • Cashew Garlic Spread (recipe below)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Panini Process:

  • Add 1 tbs of the avocado oil to a cast iron frying pan – you may need more through this process depending on your cast iron pan (Avocado oil has a high smoke temp so it is great for this application).  When the pan is hot, add the onion and peppers.  Let them soften a little but not so soft that you can see through them.  Remove them from the pan into a serving dish.
  •  Immediately, add the mushrooms to the frying pan with the smoked paprika and smoked salt.  Let the mushrooms brown for a few minutes then remove them from the pan an put them into another serving dish.
  • Next, add the artichokes, olives,  and 4 whole garlic cloves to the pan and roast them until they brown up a bit. Remove them from the pan.  Slice the garlic lengthwise into thin but long pieces.  Put the Artichokes and garlic in the same serving dish.
  • Last, roast the jalapenos until toasty brown.  If spicy food ins’t a factor, you can add these to the onions and peppers but I usually keep them separate to keep all campers happy.
  • Heat your grill pan over the fire or camp stove.  Put a little avocado oil in it to keep it happy.
  • Take one piece of bread (home made is our favorite!) and apply some Cashew Garlic Spread.  Since it is sticky, all of your cooked toppings will stick to it.  Apply all toppings you desire to have on your sandwich.  In addition to the partially cooked toppings, the spinach, cilantro, salt, pepper, and Sriracha pepper sauce can be applied without preparation and to your tastes.  Salt and pepper to taste
  • When you are”done” with one side, spread the Sun-dried Tomato Aioli to the other piece of bread and top your sandwich.  Using a brush, brush some avocado oil onto the “top” of your sandwich.  Place the sandwich on the grill pan oil side down.  Then, while in the pan, oil the other side of the sandwich.  If you have a cast iron press to place on the sandwich, do it.  They will turn out much better.  If you don’t, find a plate and a rock (poor man’s method).
  • Grill your sandwich for 2-3 min on each side until brown.  Remove from the grill pan, cut in half and eat!
  • Recipe serves 5.

*could be done in a regular cast iron frying pan if a cast iron grill pan isn’t available.  Just compress the sandwich down and put a weight on it.

THE SPREADS

Sun Dried Tomato Aioli

Sun Dried Tomato Aioli

Cashew Garlic Spread

We use this spread in lieu of cheese.  With the other rich flavors in the sandwich, the cheese seemed to make this little sandwich into a bit of a gut bomb.  Yet, every panini needs something tasty to hold everything together.  This spread is not much to look at but it is sticky, kind of nutty (which is nice with the smoky flavors), and lighter than regular cheese -which throws off the flavors of the sandwich.

  • 1/4 C. raw cashews (soaked in water for several hours and then drained IF you don’t have a high powered blender)
  • 1 C. hot water
  • 2  tbs. + 1 tsp tapioca starch
  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove (minced)
  • 3/4  tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Mix all ingredients in a saucepan.  Constantly stir over medium to high heat until it clumps and gains a consistency similar to melted cheese (soft and stringy).  Remove from heat and pan.  Store in a plastic container.  This spread is also good on tacos and in quesodillas in that it adds a creamy texture.

Sun Dried Tomato Aioli

Honestly, this sandwich wouldn’t be nearly as good without this Aioli.  I could eat this everyday until I died.  Like any good Aioli, this can have a lot of fat in it.  However, if you’re looking for a lower fat option that, as far as I can tell, is exactly the same, use Veganaise instead of Mayonnaise.

  • 1 clove garlic (minced)
  • 3 Tbs. Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbs basil (Chopped)
  • 2 Tbs pine nuts or Almonds
  • 1/2 cup dry sun dried tomatoes
  • 1 C Mayonnaise or Veganaise
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Mix all ingredients, except the mayonnaise, in a blender and process until it becomes a thick paste.  Then mix together, by hand with a spoon, with the Mayonnaise/Veganaise.  Properly refrigerated, this topping can last up to 2 weeks.

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So, there you have the epic “squished sandwich” -as my daughter says.  They are a bit of up front work but man there is little that tastes better on a camping trip or a cold winter’s night.

Below, you’ll find a bunch more photos!

Until next time,

Mark

dutch oven

Cast Iron French Cooking

12/02/12 1 COMMENTS

 “In the state of society in which we now find ourselves,
it is difficult to imagine a nation which lived
solely on bread and vegetables.”

– Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826)

About 10 years ago was the last time I ate food in France.  As much as people make a big deal out of French cooking & techniques, I thought I’d give it a try.  I was in Paris for the 4th time, and I determined to eat some high-end french food.   I remember two things about my culinary adventures in Paris that day.

1. I loved eating outside on a main street in Paris.
2. After my high-brow French meal, I got a lemon crepe from a street vendor and it (boom, splat, splat, splat) blew my mind.

10-years later, I don’t remember the “amazing” French food I had at a trendy Parisian restaurant. Yet, a simple street-vendor’s crepe is still something I occasionally dream about (seriously, I dream about it at night).  Maybe it was an off day for my taste-buds or maybe I am happy with any old food.  Maybe that’s why I like camp food.

For the major french foodies out there, this may be a violating post to read.  My basic approach to these recipes is an attempt to answer one question.

“What if a french chef was forced to be a mid-1800s American cowboy?”

Yes, these are the thoughts that I have.  But seriously, this is camping not Paris, France.

One the Menu Today:

The first recipe I call the French Cowboy Cassoulet.  It is a classic french bean soup.  In fact, Cassoulet generally refers to a peasant dish made of beans.  This usually involves some sort of animal protein: beef, lamb, or duck but not always.  I’m choosing a lighter option by pairing this dish with a hearty dutch-oven-baked french bread.  If this doesn’t work for you, it is simple to substitute or supplement with some roast beef, lamb shanks, or braised duck.

French Cowboy Cassoulet

(10 inch dutch oven)

4 T olive oil
2 cup chopped carrots
1 Zucchini -cubed
1/2 white onion – chopped
2 cloves garlic
2 Tomatoes – diced
2 cans of White Beans
3 T chopped parsley
2 fresh thyme leaves
Salt & Pepper

In a cast iron pan, saute the carrots, zucchini, onion, garlic & 2 T  of the olive oil until the onions start to soften.  While the veggies are sauteing in the pan, preheat your dutch oven to 350 degrees.  When the DO and your veggies are sauteed, mix all ingredients together in the dutch oven with the remaining 2 T of olive oil.  Bake for 25-30 min.  Salt and Pepper to taste before serving over the Camp French Bread (recipe below) or the aforementioned animal proteins.

Camp French Bread

(10 inch dutch oven)

I like this recipe because it requires very few ingredients.  Thus, it is camper friendly!

1/4 C warm water
2 1/4 tsp of yeast
1 1/2 T sugar

1/4 C vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 C warm water
3 C flour
1 C additional flour (if needed)

Mix the  1/4 C warm water, 2 1/4 tsp of yeast, 1 1/2 T sugar and let sit to activate the yeast.

While the yeast is activating, mix the 1/4 C vegetable oil, 1 C of warm water, and the salt. Combine the two mixtures and mix well.  Slowly, add flour as you stir the liquids.  After 3 C of flour are added, you may want to add a little more flour.  The dough should be firm and not stick to your hands.

Pre-grease a 10 inch dutch oven with oil, vegetable or animal fat.  Place dough in a nice long loaf shape in the oven.  Let rise for 1 hour. After the dough has roughly doubled in size, bake at 400 degrees for 30-35 min.  Don’t peak at it until at least 30 min have elapsed.

After baking, remove the bread from the dutch oven (it will have shrunk from the sides shouldn’t stick at all).  Let the bread cool at least 20 min. before cutting (this is the hard part…patience).  Cut the bread and spoon the French Cowboy Cassoulet on top.  Eat with a fork.

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That’s all there is to it.  Now you can camp and enjoy some faux french/cowboy cooking.  Your friends will love you for this recipe and may give you a nickname for it…

Pierre? – the name of a dehydrated Frenchman.

Feast your eyes on these photos!

Cast Iron Pumpkin Breakfast

24/01/12 1 COMMENTS

“He unwrapped it gently, revealing a carefully wrapped scone”

Quoted from “Manly Hero” by Adrastus Rood

One of my favorite camping foods is the scone.  Maybe it is because I get to use fun cooking implements.  Maybe it is because the scone takes a lot of work and love to be successful.  Since we’re currently living in the dark times of the year (winter) and there is a great deal of snow outside, I thought I’d develop some recipes for next year’s camping season.  I’m starting this series of blog posts with Breakfast.  Since the Mrs. of my household loves all things pumpkin, this meal is inspired by her.

This meal has three primary parts.  I’ll start with the most complicated.

Pumpkin Espresso Scones

This is my first attempt at this recipe.  If you perfect it, please post your findings to be shared by all.

2 cups flour*
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 stick cold unsalted butter**
1  egg***
1/4 cup canned pumpkin purée
2 shots brewed espresso or extra-strong coffee – chilled
1/4 cup plain soymilk
1/4 to 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Preheat the oven and cast iron cornbread pan or 10” Dutch Oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl, mix together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt, allspice and ginger.

Cut butter into chunks. Add to flour mixture, mix until it looks crumbly or grainy.

In another bowl, stir together egg, pumpkin, 1 shot of chilled coffee and soymilk. When well mixed, add to flour and other dry stock. Stir around the bowl, until the dough is uniformly mixed & lumpy.  Don’t mix too much.  The more you mix, the tougher the scone.

Put the scone dough in the lightly oiled cast iron pan/Dutch oven in small rounds.  Bake 18 to 22 minutes, or until the scones are slightly browned and firm in their centers. Remove from the heat and let cool for 10 min before removing.

While they are cooling, make the sugar glaze. In a mug or small cup, pour the remaining shot of espresso.  Gradually add powdered sugar to the coffee, stirring with a fork, until the glaze reaches your desired consistency (note: I like the glaze on the thin side.  This way it fills in all of the rough spots on the top of the scone). Spoon the glaze over cooled scones.

Gluten Free Option – Click here to Use My Pastry Flour
**Vegan option – Use Earth Balance Soy Butter
*** Vegan Option – substitute 1/4 C Soy Yogurt or Applesauce

Mark’s Pumpkin Spiced Smoothie

A refreshing drink that has heart.  Serves 2

1 cup pumpkin puree
1.5 cups soy milk
2 bananas (if frozen don’t add the 1 cup of ice)
About 1 cup ice cubes
1 Tablespoon ground flaxseed
2tbs regular rolled oats
1tbs Maple Syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Blend It…Drink It…Love It.

 

Bruleed Grapefruit

After the previous two savory menu items.  This grapefruit gives a nice contrasting acidity that revitalizes the mouth.

1 Red Grapefruit
2 Tbs Granulated Sugar

Cut the Grapefruit in half.

Evenly distribute a Tbs of sugar on the top of each half

With a butane torch, slowly melt the sugar until it is lightly caramelized.

Eat with a grapefruit spoon.

 

Well that’s it.  It is a great breakfast.  The best part?  Leftover scones & glaze!

Here’s some more photos to feast your eyes on.

Christmas: Memories, Food, & Boodshed

26/12/11 3 COMMENTS
Photo by:  Dunbar Gardens

Photo by: Dunbar Gardens

“Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary.”  – Gandhi

In my grade-school years, I remember recess time more than anything else.  Sure I have some memories of classrooms, lessons, and teachers, but let’s be honest, the playground was were it was at.  It happened that the school I attended for grades 1-8 had a huge chestnut tree on the playground.  This tree was often the focus of the students for a number of reasons.

In the fall, the tree would drop it’s summer growth of leaves onto the ground in about 1/2 a day.  This left students about two feet of orange, red, and yellow to swim through at recess.  One had to be careful though because it was a chestnut tree.

The chestnut comes in a bristling case of spikes which, when thrown by school children, can draw blood.  This leads me to some of my favorite memories.  The more pedestrian recollections are of students with cardboard pencil boxes and bags collecting the chestnuts after first peeling off the formidable barbed exterior with their feet.  Collections of chestnuts could be found everywhere in the school.

My favorite memories are the short chestnut fights.  Although I attended grade-school in an era when students could bring squirt guns to class without being accused of being a 7-year-old member of al-qai’da or a serial killer, teachers still frowned upon students impaling each other with flying chestnuts.  As a result, the fights were short or just about the right length (depending on your role in the fight – Teacher or student).  As students, we never understood the teacher’s aversion to such violent activity.  Apart from the bloodshed, personal harm, and hard feelings, it was exactly like a snowball fight.  Wait…let me correct myself.  It was exactly like a snowball fight!!!  Little did I know that a few decades later, I’d be revisiting the chestnut while I looked at snow out my back window.

A few weeks ago I was listening to the radio when I heard, for the 1,467th time, “The Christmas Song”.  This song, of course, is one of the most obnoxious Christmas tunes because it tries to be everything to everyone and, in my opinion, simply fails to capture that “Christmas Spirit” (ironic, I know).  Apparently the 1,467th listening of this song can inspire the listener to actually think about the song.

“Chestnuts roasting over an open fire…”  bla bla bla

This line of the song assumes that people ACTUALY roast chestnuts over a fire at Christmas and, one would again assume, eat them.  This struck me as odd since my only experience with chestnuts involved whistling missile-like sounds mixed with the cries of children wanting to protect what was left of their faces.  So, I started looking for answers, made a purchase, and then embarked on an adventure when I ate my first brain….uh….chestnut.  I thought I had purchased chestnuts but after opening them up, I felt I had been duped.  Honestly, they look like squirrel brains or some sort of testicle.  Not one to give up, I decided that they could make easy camp food (like popcorn) and chose to roast them in a dutch oven.  Here’s my recipe:

Roasted but need to be skinned

Roasted but need to be skinned

Dutch Oven Roasted Chestnuts

Ingredients:

  •  1 lb of chestnuts
  • 2 tbs of canola oil

Score the outside of the chestnut with a knife so they have an easy place to pop open.  Roast them in a preheated and oiled dutch oven at 425 degrees (F) for about 25 min.  You’ll need to shake the dutch oven occasionally to keep them from burning.

When they are cool enough to handle, peel off the brown hard outer layer.  If you wait until they are cold, you won’t be able to peel this off.

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The Final Product

The Final Product

After sampling theses chestnuts, half of the family thought they tasted like turkey.  The other half of us thought they’d taste better if, instead of being made of chestnut, they were made of chocolate.

This experience has lead me to assume a few things about the first humans who ate the chestnut:

  1. The chestnut is ensconced in spikes
  2. Spikes are usually associated with weapons
  3. People who put weapons into their mouths are suicidal
  4. Therefore, the first person to eat a chestnut was trying to kill himself and instead discovered a Christmas treat.
After listening to “The Christmas Song” again, I only have two more questions….
What is a “Yule Tide”?
Can I eat a “Yule Tide” out of a Dutch Oven as well?
I guess we’ll find out next year.
Merry Christmas!

 

Historic Camp Cookery

27/11/11 2 COMMENTS
Rear of late 40s teerdrop trailer - David Quigley

Rear of late 40s teerdrop trailer - David Quigley

“Somebody told me it was frightening how much topsoil we are losing each year, but I told that story around the campfire and nobody got scared.”  -Jack Handey

The camping season has come to a close for us.  it is a sad time.  We spend time inside, close to each other for warmth of body and soul.  We watch the sun come up late and go down early.  We brace for 3-4 feet of snow.  We make holiday plans and cookies to go with those plans.  Even with cooler to cold weather outside, I still can’t stop wanting to go camping.  I spend time reading blogs about camping, watching National Geographic films about various natural wonders, and making plans for my next big camp trip.  This has brought me to scouring the internet in search of new and old camping information.

One of my favorite resources on the web is the US Library of Congress.  I was invited to the Library in 2009 where I met some geeky librarians (I love geeky librarians) who have shoveled information my direction for the past 2 years.  A lot of what they have sent me to sort through influenced the “Historic Camping and Teardrop Trailer” film and a lot of it I simply haven’t had time to look at yet.  In search of the next pictoral learning moment, I have spent considerable time looking at camp cookery on the Libary of Congress website (www.loc.gov).  In my browsing, I have made a short collection of my favorite camp cookery photos.  This collection has grown to such scale that I thought I might share it with my readers so you can enjoy seeing camp cookery from the past too.  The wonderful part of this is that these historic scenes are still played out across the landscapes of the world today.

It is nice to see something remain somewhat the same throughout time.  Sure the technology of cookery has changed but some of us are old school.  A fire, a cast iron pot and pan, and a healthy appitite.  Camp food is always the best because it is made with an infusion of love, nature, and sometimes personal trauma.  These are my thoughts as I sit comfortably in my house wanting to be hunkered over a fire pit like the people in some of these photos.

As a contrast, I have tossed in some of my favorite modern camp cook photos at the end just so we can see on one page, how little has changed.  Hopefully, you are now as inspired as I am to set a portion of my back yard on fire and start cooking over it.  Cheers!!

Camping party of men and women cooking at campfire and eating near tent in Indian Henry, Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington

Camping party of men and women cooking at campfire and eating near tent in Indian Henry, Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington. Between 1911-1920

 

Outdoor Kitchen. Stove in foreground and cooking utensils. Near Old Trap, North Carolina. July 1940

Outdoor Kitchen. Stove in foreground and cooking utensils. Near Old Trap, North Carolina. July 1940

N.Y. Nat'l Guard, 2/21/15 - camp cooking

N.Y. Nat'l Guard, 2/21/15 - camp cooking

Migrant worker cooking meal over campfire, Edinburg, Texas. 1939

Migrant worker cooking meal over campfire, Edinburg, Texas. 1939

 

African Americans cooking in campsite, deer hanging from tree and an antelope lying by tent. 1909

African Americans cooking in campsite, deer hanging from tree and an antelope lying by tent. 1909

Camp cook working over an open fire, cattle ranch near Spur, Texas. May 1939.

Camp cook working over an open fire, cattle ranch near Spur, Texas. May 1939.

The Way they cook dinner in camp. 1861-1865

The Way they cook dinner in camp. 1861-1865

Boy Scouts cooking over open fire at Camp Ranachqua. 1919.

Boy Scouts cooking over open fire at Camp Ranachqua. 1919.

Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone assisting two chefs by peeling potatos at a Ford-Edison camping trip. 1921-1924

Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone assisting two chefs by peeling potatos at a Ford-Edison camping trip. 1921-1924

Preparing the mess. 1861-1865

Preparing the mess. 1861-1865

Fort Sam Houston, Tex., 1911-1912: portable army bake shop in camp

Fort Sam Houston, Tex., 1911-1912: portable army bake shop in camp

"Hunting Deer." A deer hunt near Deadwood in winter 1887 and 1888. Two miners McMillan and Hubbard got their game.

"Hunting Deer." A deer hunt near Deadwood in winter 1887 and 1888. Two miners McMillan and Hubbard got their game.

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Cherries - Dennis Wilkenson

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Cherries - Dennis Wilkenson

Campfire Lamb - Chazz Layne

Campfire Lamb - Chazz Layne

Dutch Oven - Jon Osborne

Dutch Oven - Jon Osborne

Grilling French Toast - Will Merydith

Grilling French Toast - Will Merydith

Whole Grain Cinnamon Raisin Bread (in cast iron) - Susy Morris

Whole Grain Cinnamon Raisin Bread (in cast iron) - Susy Morris

Camping In Maine - Susy Morris

Camping In Maine - Susy Morris

fritatta - Amber Karnes

fritatta - Amber Karnes

Thanksgiving Dinner - summitcheese

Thanksgiving Dinner - summitcheese

la gran comilona - Paula Rey

la gran comilona - Paula Rey

 

 

“DO”ing Shrooms, Dude.

20/05/11 0 COMMENTS

“Falling in love is like eating mushrooms.  You never know if its the real thing until it is too late” – Bill Balance

A few weeks ago, I got home from teaching at the school and had an impulse to make some food in the Dutch Oven (DO) over a fire in the back yard.  I started this process by digging through the kitchen and pantry to find ingredients that I may be able to turn into something.  Then I opened the back door and reality fell from the sky.

SNOW!  Yes, the weather in the Pacific Northwest is about as predictable as Lady Gaga’s next outlandish outfit.  So, I adjusted my plan.  Dutch oven dish in the house.  Yes, it is cheating but, seriously, it was snowing.

Several months ago a fellow member of the camp-cook.com forum posted a link to a free camping cookbook (download it here).  I always collect new material so I downloaded it.  Inside its pages I found a recipe entitled “Baked Wild Mushrooms”.

Those who know me, know I am a sucker for mushrooms.  I can make mushrooms an entire meal.  Maybe this strange behavior is because I like the taste of a spongy, moist, earthy, tasting fungus. Or maybe it is because my diet is “not normal” since I was diagnosed with a wheat allergy.  It doesn’t really matter to me.  I love them.

Any kind, shape, style, method of cooking, I’m there.  They are kind of like little sponges for flavor.  Yet, they add their own earthy aroma.  I’m drawn to these pale little darkness dwellers like Anthony Bourdain is to bone marrow, brains, and intestinal sausages.

Here is my version of the “Baked Wild Mushrooms”

  • 1/2 lb mushrooms
  • 1/2 bunch chopped parsley
  • 2 bulbs garlic
  • 4 tbs miso paste
  • A handful of fresh basil
  • 1 C bread crumbs (rice bread)
  • 1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  1. Chop the mushrooms in half, mix with the olive oil, and add to a hot 10″ Dutch Oven.
  2. finely chop and mix the parsley and fresh basil.
  3. Press the garlic and add to the herb & mushroom mix.
  4. Mix in the Miso paste.
  5. bake for 15 min then add the bread crumbs.
  6. Bake another 5 min.
  7. Eat it!

I also made hasslebacked potatoes with a sea salt and olive oil rub.  I topped them with a spinach pesto that I made from scratch.

 

Baby’s First Camp

20/10/10 5 COMMENTS
Senior Management, The Cougar Bait, The Geek, and the Assistant to the Senior Manager

Mom and Dad do know how to throw a birthday party.  The little Assistant to the Senior Manager celebrated her 1 month old birthday on a camping trip in the jPod.  Since this family arrangement is new to us, Senior Management and I thought it would be wise to camp someplace near our home-base and someplace that had bathroom facilities.

We camped with the family and friends who have camped together every year for almost 40 years.  The group always changes in size, company, and story but it is always fun.  It also guaranteed plenty of baby sitters if we needed a nap or something.  Little baby did well.  She woke up once in the night and I, Dad, got to change a diaper in the jPod.  I am thankful for the Fan-Tastic roof vent that I installed when building the jPod.  It pulls enough air to make the windows whistle.  It also pulls enough air to flush the soiled diaper smell out of such a small space!  Without that fan, teardrop camping with a new baby would be too much of an adventure for us.

The first night we camped, the night’s sky was crystal clear and being away from the lights of the city, we could see stars that aren’t normally viewed by city people.  It was beautiful.  I shot a ton of long exposure pictures of the stars with varying success.  It was as if the entire milky way was rolled out before us like a giant cosmic sparkling blanket that turns in on itself.

We took advantage of the fire for our cooking by using our cast iron cookware & improvising recipes.  There is NOTHING like camp food cooked over a fire.  Food, Folks, Fire, and Fun with the little one on her 1 month birthday.

It was a great trip and reaffirmed many of the design choices we made with the jPod for our place in life right now.  Plus, there is little better in life than camping with your loved ones.  I also realized that there is little more fun to be had than camping with a cute daughter, taking her on walks, and looking at the stars together.

“My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.” ~Clarence Budington Kelland

Dutch Oven Deep Dish Pizza

19/10/10 1 COMMENTS
Close Up

When Dean Martin sang “When the moon hits you eye like a big pizza pie…That’s amore” in 1953, he was singing about this pizza.

Recently, I have cut back on the amount of dutch oven cooking.  My motives have nothing to do with the quality of cast iron food -it is the best food on earth.  I am training for a marathon (26.2 miles) and don’t want to carry the results of the dutch oven cooking along with me.  Dutch oven cooking is mighty good but it can involve more fat than the average meal (which is why it is so good of course!).

I had a hankering for some pizza and decided that I could break my DO fast just once.  I know that sounds like an alcoholic just before they crash but I did this several weeks ago and have resisted temptation since.  I decided to make pizza from scratch (short of growing the grains & grinding the flour.)

Here’s what I did:

The Caddy Pizza (14″ dutch oven)

Crust:

4 cups gluten free flour (1-1-1, Corn Starch, Sorghum Flour, and Rice flour) – or make this with regular bleached flour (same amount)
1 package active yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

Toppings:

1 batch of Mark’s Killer Pizza Sauce (see below)
1 lb. sausage (or meat substitute)
1/2 white Onion
1/2 c Greek Olives (sliced)
1/2 ball fresh mozzarella (sliced)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves

Preheat dutch oven to about 400°F.  In an electric mixer, combine the yeast, sugar and water and let stand 5 minutes until it foams up. Add the butter (softened), flour and salt and combine well, using the paddle attachment. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons water if dough is dry and not coming together. If dough is too wet, add 1 to 2 tablespoons flour. Remove the dough from the bowl. Grease the bowl with olive oil and return the dough to the bowl. Cover and let the dough rise until it doubles in volume (about 1 hour). Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide in half. Shape the dough into two balls, cover and let rest for 20 minutes.  Line a 14″ Dutch Oven with olive oil and Corn Meal to keep the dough from sticking.

Pat the dough into a circle and transfer it to the skillet. Press dough down into bottom of skillets and up the sides. Drizzle a little olive oil over the crust then layer the sauce, sausage, olives, onion, and mozzarella. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the crust is crust is golden brown. Remove Dutch Oven from coals and open top.  As the pizza rests (about 10 min) top it with the Parmesan and fresh basil.

Mark’s Killer Pizza Sauce

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 quart of canned tomatoes (& their juice)
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 green Bell pepper (chopped really small)
4 Roma Tomatoes (diced)
1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Salt & Pepper to Taste

Heat the olive oil in a small cast iron skillet. Chop or crush the garlic and add to the skillet, sautéing until golden. Add the tomatoes with their juice. Add salt, oregano and chile flakes, stirring well. Make a hot spot in the bottom of the pan and add tomato paste using a cookie cutter, allowing it to caramelize a bit before stirring it into the mix. Reduce heat to low and cook, uncovered, until the sauce thickens.

This is the best pizza I’ve ever had.  Eat your heart out Dean Martin.  I’ve found your fabled pizza.

Here are some pics of the process:

Adventure Film 02: Ocean Tears

30/06/10 0 COMMENTS


This is part 2 of the adventure film adventures at Ocean Shores, WA.  If you haven’t read part 1 yet, you can read it here.

Day 2

We awoke at about 9 am but didn’t want to get out of bed.  The rain landed on the roof of the trailer and the Assistant to the Senior Manager was very active & kicking in her mommy’s tummy.  I was happy to stay in bed, feel the baby’s little foot against my hand, and just enjoy the morning.  At some point in every camping adventure, Mother Nature make’s her call and eventually, all campers must answer. It was under these circumstances that I was finally inspired to get up and start setting up camp.

Senior Management and I made the very wise purchase of a Coleman Screen tent 2 days earlier. After getting up, we proceeded to set it up in a downpour.  After an amazing breakfast of potatoes, eggs, and fruit made by Senior Management, we started to explore & meet the other tear droppers. One or two campers had already left because of the heavy rain.  Slowly, we met & greeted each of the parties & shared stories.  Kevin, the gathering organizer, made t-shirts for the weekend and we each donned them with pride.

I have often said that I have an obsession with teardrop trailers (Senior Management heartily agrees).  Attending a gathering only pours gasoline on this flame.  It was great fun.

In the afternoon, arrangements were made for a potluck at 6 pm.  The campers were willing to show us their trailers & do interviews for the film.  Landon slipped into pro-camera-man mode & we heard the stories of building and adventures.  The experiences, world views, and philosophies of camping in this little group are a great example of the depth of the subculture of tear-droppers.

In the afternoon, we all went to the beach for a group photo and to hang out.  The weather had cleared out some by that point & it was a good time to visit the beach, see the kites, and explore a little.

The beach trip was cut a little short because we had to get some food ready for the evening’s potluck.  That evening, we ate more food than I thought was possible to eat. Each group made more than enough food.  Much of it was made in cast iron camp cookware.  We stuffed ourselves & hung out for some time.

I made camp spaghetti in the 10” Dutch Oven.  It was the first time I’d made it the way I had and it was really good.  I modified my recipe (see regular recipe here) to fit the ingredients which we had on hand.

The potluck was kind of broken up by some bad weather & so we retreated to our camp to clean up after the meal.  Landon and I did two more interviews with teardrop families & called it a night.

As the sun set, many in our group came to tour the jPod and to hang out.  It was a great end to a great day.

Read Part 3

Adventure: “Hey, BURN!”

23/06/10 1 COMMENTS

Recently, Nathan & Erin and the jPod crew left for a quick weekend of camping.  For convenience sake, we chose Heyburn State Park in the lovely state of Idaho.

According to their website: “Heyburn State Park is the oldest park in the Pacific Northwest. Created in 1908, it is comprised of approximately 5,500 acres of land and 2,300 acres of water.”

Heyburn was also a favored gathering place for the Coeur d’Alene Indian Tribe.  It is a beautiful park that has great hiking, a wildlife marsh that has a boardwalk out into the middle of it, and all sorts of wildflowers & other plants.  We didn’t experience this but they say, in the summer, they have mosquitoes which are larger and more numerous than a cloud of fruit-bats.  Basically, it is what camping should be.

Senior Management and I were able to camp with power in the jPod for the first time.  It was a novelty to crawl into bed and be able to see without a headlamp.  Since the trailer is small & the windows are big, we realized that we need some curtains so that we are not displaying our dainties to the world like the prostitutes in Amsterdam.  Senior Management is good at the color/design/sewing thing so the curtain improvement is up to her.

In the morning of our second day, we all decided to take a hike.  It was a great hike.  The cougar bait were running back and forth at our feet, and we saw lots of nature.  Canadian geese floated on the lake, wildflowers were in bloom, and Great Blue Herons flew & honked across the sky.  We went about 2.5 miles and then returned to camp because we saw some dark clouds in the sky & we were hungry.

After lunch, the girls & the cougar bait decided to take a nap.  Instead of napping, Nathan and I struck out like many other adventurous fearless men who have brazenly marched into the forest only to be disemboweled and mauled to death by bears.  Oh, sorry, really… we went for a hike and we came out of the woods alive -although I am typing this post with my only remaining finger (for the humor impaired: That was a joke, I actually have two remaining fingers and a pinkie stub).

We carried a simple map from the ranger’s station with us. I mean simple because later we got lost with the help of that same map!  Based off of that map, and the fact that we could see the nearest trail-head from where we were standing looking at said map, we chose to explore the horse trail.

After walking uphill a ways, we came to some railroad tracks and then rapidly tried to get ourselves killed.  Men are wired to think that machines are cool.  This is because machines ARE cool and men easily recognize this.  So, Nathan and I were distracted by the railroad & changed our hiking plans.  We walked out on the truss bridge on some planks suspended over a yawning chasm of empty space.  Heights don’t really bother me unless I’m not wearing a harness and tied into something.  So, I was a little bothered by our adventure out onto the train bridge.  I did notice though that if I were to fall, my fall would be cushioned by a busy 2 lane highway.  That was comforting.

After some time discussing engineering, we decided to walk the tracks for a ways.  The park map, showed the horse trail going in a loop.  Based on simple geometry, we knew that if we followed the tracks we would intercept the trail again.  Off we went.  As we walked, we found a second set of tracks which paralleled the first.  The rails were dated 1913, were smaller, and very historic looking.  This is when Murphy’s law of camping photography applied itself to our situation.

Nathan and I were going on a hike, possibly in the rain, so I decided to leave my camera back at camp.  Of course, doing this means that every cool photo-worthy site will be in its best form.  This was true of our death march…I mean “hike”.  As we walked along we found grease machines, a wrecked railroad car, a porcupine, and some old glass jar & porcelain tops which were batteries with “Thomas Edison 1912” stamped on their tops.  It was about the time we found the batteries, that we decided to turn back.

We didn’t find the horse trail like we had conjectured -until we walked back and then realized we’d walked right past it (“stupid map!”).  After getting home, I looked up the same railroad line on Google maps and have roughly determined that we walked about 8-9 miles on railroad ties (this is no exaggeration).  This means that we both were walking like stub legged pirates for 8-9 miles because the railroad ties are either too close together or too far apart for normal human walking.  This may also describe the debilitating soreness the next day.

About 4.5 hours later, we finally staggered into camp to find the Senior Management & Erin making dinner.  We ate, packed up the food, & started getting ready for bed -after Nathan made a fire so large that it could be seen from space.

As I was putting things away for the evening, I noticed some movement & spotted two raccoons in the shadows.  Like many other adventurous fearless men who have brazenly marched into the forest to find raccoons, Nathan and I did the exact same thing.  We actually treed them and then, while Nathan kept them in the beam of a flashlight, I shot them (Like many other adventurous fearless men who have brazenly… bla bla bla) with a camera.

The next day, we packed up our things, refreshed & ready for another week in “civilization”.  As we departed, I knew that someday I would return to this very spot.  And on that day I would bring my camera.  And on that day, it would end up raining & I would see nothing worth preserving in photo form.  This is Murphy’s law of camping photography but it won’t stop me from returning…IF I can find that very spot on a simple map.

Here are some pictures of this adventure:

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