Camping, American Style

            Tent sleeping in the moonlight, the smell of campfire at 8 am, braving out thunderstorms while exposed to the elements; this is the joy we call camping. It’s my favorite summer activity; I am even willing to forgive the massive laundry created by outdoor living, quite a testament I can tell you. We headed out fully loaded with snacks and supplies, ready for what Mother Nature had in store. This year I conquered a popular pinterest post, assisted as my hubbie grilled our dinner to the ever nearing rumbles of thunder, finishing up just in the nick of time to eat under the easy-up while the skies opened and washed the hot and humid air away, and put a twist on a fireside must have, pudgie pies. It was camp-tastic!

A cast iron griddle pan makes breakfast a breeze!


Pinterest Bacon Pancakes:
Ok, confession time.  I used a ready mix for my camping pancakes.  Traveling with eggs in the cooler is possible, and I have done from scratch pancakes with style in nature before, I just took the easy way out this year.  I did make sure to buy an organic product though with limited ingredients to stay as close as possible to what I normally use.
So I’ve been seeing this idea  floating around pinterest for awhile.  Bacon strips cooked right into pancakes? How cool is that?!  Well after serving the boys up a batch of deliciousness we all agree, it was a pretty neat and easy
way to eat our pancakes and have our bacon too.

Using cooked bacon strips, pour pancake batter right over. Wait for the magic bubbles to appear, flip and cook until golden. Serve with syrup and accept the applause!

Yay Pancakes!

Pudgie Pies:
What is a pudgie pie you ask?  Basically a filled, grilled sandwich cooked in the fire using this cool cast iron tool.


The pies of my childhood were all about one thing, pizza!  Pepperoni pizza is still the most popular with our friends and family, but since I live life sans tomatoes I decided to experiment a little.  My thoughts went to spinach artichoke dip and how I could make my snack taste like a chain restaurant while roughing it.

To make a pudgie pie you approach it like you are making a grilled cheese.  Butter the outside of two pieces of bread and place them into a greased pie iron.  Add filling of your choice, toast in fire flipping at least once.  It’s fun and tasty!

Pizza Pie Making


Spinach Artichoke Spread:
1 package frozen chopped spinach
1 can artichoke hearts in water
1 cup fresh parmesan cheese

Method:
Combine all ingredients in food processor.  Mix until smooth.


I used shredded swiss cheese as my glue and sure enough it tasted just like eating the popular dip.  This would also make an excellent grilled sandwich at home in the fry pan!

Do you love to camp also?  I’d love to hear about your outdoor food adventure!

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U-Pick Fruit Muffins

A week’s vacation in Michigan at the lake was blissfully relaxing.  Meal Planning on Vacation made kitchen work easy, so easy in fact we found time to make breakfast muffins!  After a hard day’s work picking fruit with the kiddies, we hit the mixing bowl and turned out tasty treats.  An overabundance of strawberries directed our fruit of choice, but most berries or stone fruit should substitute wonderfully.  Pick your favorite and whip up a batch of sweet muffins for the ones you love!

INGREDIENTS: 

    • 2 cups All Purpose Flour

    • 1 Tbsp Baking Powder

    • 1/4 tsp Salt

    • 1/2 cup Sugar

    • 1/2 cup Butter, melted

    • 1 Tbsp Vanilla

    • 1 cup Buttermilk

    • 1 Egg

    • 1 cup Medium Diced Strawberries mixed w 2 Tbsp Sugar

METHOD:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 and prep your pans (we made mini muffins in silicon pans)

  2. Chop your fruit of choice and mix with 2 tablespoons of sugar

  3. In a medium-large bowl whisk all dry ingredients together.

  4. In a separate bowl (I use a 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup

  5. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet mixture in. Mix until the batter is just moistened.

  6. Gently fold fruit and any juice created into the batter.  Be careful not to overmix.

  7. Bake 20-25 minutes (for regular sized muffins) or until muffins are lightly golden and springy to the touch.

  8. Allow to cool 10 minutes, then remove from pan.

Ginger Lemonade

Made this today for our week at the lake! Sure beats the pants off those powdered pouches!  Since my kitchen is tore apart from all the prep I am busy doing today, I’ll let Grandmother’s Musings deliver the recipe that is sure to beat the heat and delight the kiddies 🙂

Grandmother Musings

Refreshing lemonade to make at anytime of the year, but especially to cool off when the temperatures rise.

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup sugar (can reduce to 3/4 cup)

1 tbsp chopped, fresh ginger

1 cup water (for simple syrup)

1 cup Lemon Juice

4 cups Water, Cold to dilute

DIRECTIONS:

1. Make simple syrup by heating the sugar, adding a tablespoon of chopped, fresh ginger, and water in a small saucepan until the sugar is dissolved completely.

2. While the sugar is dissolving, use a juicer to extract the juice from 4 to 6 lemons, enough for one cup of juice.

3. Add the juice and the sugar-water to a pitcher. Add 3 to 4 cups of cold water, more or less to the desired strength. Refrigerate 30 to 40 minutes. If the lemonade is a little sweet for your taste, add a little more straight lemon juice to it.

4. Serve with…

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Meal Planning at the Lake

Summer Solstice is upon us and vacations are in full swing!  Lake houses are filling up, lightning bugs being caught, and fishing is all the rage.  From sunrise to sunset activities fill the hours; enjoying life has never been so much fun or so much work.  Serving up satisfying meals without sacrificing yourself to the kitchen requires some prevacation prep work, but it’s well worth it when you are busy, even if you’re doing nothing at all.

Every June my boys and I have the pleasure of spending a week at the lake with my niece, nephews, brother-in-law, sisters in-law, and father-in-law.  It is one of our favorite things to do all year.  I shop starting the week before we are scheduled to leave, sometimes earlier if I see something on sale that I know we’re going to be eating, i.e. bacon.  With a group of roughly 15 of us, it is hard to please everyone, all the time.  I usually start the menu off by taking suggestions (even the junk food ones loved by my nephews) and then shaking as much of it as possible into a plan that achieves a compromise.  It can be a challenge to keep a non processed lifestyle when with others, however no matter how nice I am trying to be, I will not buy garbage snacks for the kiddies.  So this year I will be baking brownie bites, mini chocolate chip muffins, and cake batter rice krispie treats to take along in order to offer the sweet snacks the kiddo’s want in a way that doesn’t make me cringe.  I also prep and marinade all the meat at home and freeze for the car ride. Last year we discovered a clean, well priced grocery store; I am going to take my chances and buy all the bread, dairy, and  fresh produce in Michigan.  Seeing as how in Chicago, Michigan fruits and veggies are sought after I hope to find some ripe delights!  What are some ways that you style your vacation food?

Here’s some great marinade recipes that pleases even picky palates:
Alton Brown’s Molasses Coffee Marinade for Pork
Jennirific Brined Grilled Chicken
Mojo Marinade – Great for Fajitas

Strawberry Ricotta Waffles

On the last day of school, I found myself talking with a group of moms while we waiting for our munchinkins to be freed for the summer.  As it happened the topic of food and what to feed the kiddies over vacation came up.  I told the ladies that King Waffle reigned over our breakfast table.  Crowned with fruit, syrup, or even peanut butter; homemade waffles are a cinch to make and a kid pleaser!

Today’s offering for the tummy is also a great step in cutting store bought items out of your freezers.  We all know the leggo my eggo ad campaign and I say that you should leggo any eggo’s.  They’re just junk food served in the morning.      Making waffles at home is deliciously easy and leftovers freeze great for future mornings.  Cut your homemade frozen waffles in half and pop them into the toaster, now that’s a breakfast that’s fast and full of ingredients you can pronounce and colors that come from nature.

INGREDIENTS:

DRY:
½ cup unbleached flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons sugar (optional)
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt

WET:
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk

METHOD:

  1. Whisk all dry ingredient together in a small bowl
  2. In a medium bowl, beat eggs and add vanilla
  3. Slowly add the melted, room temperature butter to eggs
  4. Stir in buttermilk
  5. Add dry ingredients into wet ingredients. 
  6. Do not overmix, you just want to pull the batter together, it can still be clumpy.
  7. Spoon into hot waffle iron
  8. Accept morning applause  😉

My waffle recipe is a variation of Alton Brown’s.  I miss Good Eats!  I cut his measurement by half and get about 5-6 waffles per batch

Strawberry Ricotta Filling

There isn’t too much to this and I don’t really have measurements.  Usually I just combine sliced strawberries macerated in sugar with ricotta.  Let sit a few moments to gel together, then spread onto waffle halves. Simple yet tasty!


 

Southwestern Chicken Chili

Busy weeknights are a common place occurrence at the Jennirific house.  Sometimes dinner makes it into the crockpot in the morning and sometimes it just doesn’t.  I am sure we all have those days. 
This recipe is a go to for me because it turns out wonderfully no matter which method I am able to apply to it, crockpot or stove top.  Packed with veggies, protein, and fiber this meal will keep the family fueled through all their activities!

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 fresh jalapeno chile peppers, seeded and chopped (you may increase amount to taste)
  • 2 medium chopped red, green, and/or yellow bell pepper
  • 2 15- to 15-1/2 ounce cans Great Northern, pinto, or cannellini (white kidney) beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 15 ounce can Black Beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 pot of Pot of Gold Bouillion
  • 1 lb chopped cooked chicken* (see note below)
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped.
  • Shredded Monterey Jack cheese (optional)
  • Broken tortilla chips (optional)

STOVE TOP METHOD:

  1. Add olive oil to a 4 quart or larger stock pan along with chopped onions.
  2. Sauté onions until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add garlic and jalapeno pepper and continue to sauté, 1 minute
  4. Add bell pepper, beans, cumin, salt, chicken stock, and bouillon.
  5. Allow to come to boil
  6. Add chicken, cover, and reduce heat to a low simmer.
  7. Cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  If chili seems too thin to your taste, remove lid while cooking to help reduce the liquid and thicken the chili.  The chili will continue to thicken after cooking, do not reduce all liquid.
  8. Stir in about ½ cup of chopped cilantro
  9. Serve, garnish with cheese and chips if desired.

Finished cooking and ready to serve!

CROCKPOT METHOD:

  • In a slow cooker stir together the drained beans, chicken, onion, sweet pepper, jalapeno pepper, garlic, cumin and salt. Stir in chicken broth.
  • Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 8 to 10 hours or on high-heat setting for 4 to 5 hours. If desired, top each serving with shredded cheese and broken tortilla chips.

*A note regarding adding cooked meat into recipes.
For this recipe I usually cook boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the same pot I will cook the chili in.  This allows the chili to soak up all the flavors left over from the cooked chicken.  That being said, you have to season the meat before cooking.  A simple sprinkle of black pepper, salt, garlic powder, and onion powder will give your meat a great flavor and ensure the dish you are adding it to also has a great taste.  Meat without seasoning equals bland food as an end result. 

Basic Vinaigrette

Use this simple dressing on salads, veggies, sandwiches, and even as a quick and easy marinade for proteins.  The accepted ratio of oil to vinegar is 3:1, feel free to substitute different types of oils (grapeseed, sunflower, peanut) and vinegars (red wine, balsamic) to achieve different flavor profiles. Be sure to check out the video below for a visual on making vinaigrette without a blender for those days when you don’t want to pull out the heavy equipment.

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/4 cup white-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon celery salt
  • a pinch of sugar
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

 

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together vinegar, dijon mustard, salt, pepper, garlic, and beau monde seasoning.
  2. Slowly add the olive oil, whisking until emulsified.  Other methods include shaking ingredients in a jar or using a blender.

Time to Make the Buttermilk Doughnuts

I woke up this morning to dreams of summer and Paul Bunyan doughnuts.  Warm, dense, and delightfully spiced these buttermilk confections have been making mouths drool for decades in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.  The opportunity to enjoy a fresh made doughnut at the cook shanty may be months off, but my desire to attempt to recreate this classic was today.

Get out your cast iron skillet and throw healthy breakfast concerns out the window, today we make doughnuts!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3½ cups all-purpose flour
  •  ¾ cup granulated sugar
  •  ½ teaspoon baking soda
  •  2 teaspoons baking powder
  •  1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  •  ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  •  2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla
  •  ¾ cup buttermilk
  •  ¼ cup sour cream (next time I am using greek yogurt!)
  •  ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  •  Vegetable oil for frying

 

METHOD:

  1.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk, and sour cream until combined. Add the melted, cooled butter and whisk again.
  3. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour the liquid ingredients into the well. Using your best kitchen tool, your hands, slowly fold the flour into the liquid center until the mixture forms a sticky dough. For better results, chill dough 20 minutes in the refrigerator before working with it.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a work surface lightly dusted with flour. Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour and pat it out until it is about ½-inch thick. Use two round cutters (3¼-inch and 1½-inch). Dip the large cutter in flour and press out the rounds. Dip the smaller cutter in the flour and cut out the center of each dough round. Arrange doughnuts and doughnut holes on the parchment-lined baking sheet, pat the dough scraps back together, and use them to make as many more doughnuts and doughnuts holes as possible. Chill the unformed dough while you heat the oil.
  5. Pour enough oil into a deep skillet to make a layer approximately 1 inch to 1½ inches deep. Slowly heat the oil over medium-high heat until it is 365 to 370 degrees F.
  6. Once the oil reaches temperature, lift the large doughnuts off the baking sheet with a fork or tongs and place them gently in the hot oil. Do not crowd the skillet – make no more than 3 doughnuts at a time. Once they have browned on one side (this takes 2 to 3 minutes), turn them over with fork or tongs and continue to cook for another minute or just until browned (the longer they rest in the pan, the more unwanted oil they will soak up).
  7. Using a fork, tongs or slotted spoon, transfer the doughnuts to the paper towel-lined baking sheet.  Continue to fry the rest of the dough until finished. The doughnut holes will cook faster (only about 1 minute on each side) and can be made in two or three batches after the doughnuts are done.
  8. Immediately after frying, quickly shake the doughnuts in a storage bag filled with cinnamon sugar mixture. If you like, you can also wait until donuts are cooled and glaze them with the flavors of your choice. Serve immediately.

    A simple glaze of Nutella warmed in the microwave for 45 seconds.

The Bird is the Word – Brined Grilled Chicken

Chicken dinners have been gracing tables for centuries, usually as a luxury or to mark special occasions. I’ve heard tales of proposals of marrige being made after a hearty roast chicken meal or grisly stories of eating an old feathered friend of the yard when their glory days had past.
Today, chicken is a everyday food enjoyed by the masses and we serve it in a multitude of styles. In short, we take it for granted and often deny the attention to details that a great bird deserves.  Let’s take the time and treat chicken like royalty today.  The results might just win you hearts and admirers!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 3-4 lb whole chicken
  • ½ gallon of water
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp dried tarragon
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • ½ tsp crushed peppercorns
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 head of garlic, sliced on the bottom to expose cloves
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup white wine vinegar

METHOD:

  1. Combine all brine ingredients in a large pot.  Bring to simmer to dissolve salt and sugar.  Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.  (You could also use your crockpot for this step)
  2. Add chicken to brine in large pot (or removable crock), weighing down with a plate over it if necessary to keep submerged in liquid OR combine brine and chicken in a 2 gallon freezer bag and refridgerate. (A gallon bag may work depending on the size of your chicken)
  3. Brine chicken for at least 12 hours, but no longer than 48 hours.
  4. Preheat/Start the grill.
  5. Remove from brine and place chicken on a v-rack with a roasting pan under it.
  6. Add 2 cups of water and 2 cups of the brine mixture to the roasting pan.
  7. Cover pan tightly with foil, cook for roughly an hour at high heat.  Check occasionally, adding water if needed, rotating bird, or moving pan to adjust for hot spots on grill.
  8. Cook the last 15-20 minutes with foil removed in order to achieve a nice golden skin.
  9. Remove from grill and allow chicken to rest uncovered for 5 minutes.
  10. Carve and enjoy!

Other methods of cooking can be in a preheated 450° oven following the grilling instructions OR in the crockpot on high for 4-6 hours with NO liquid added, just the chicken.  Don’t let that chicken carcass go to waste either!  You can store it in a sealed bag in the freeze and use it to make Stock from Scratch!