Monday, March 23, 2015

How to do Glamping Part II

If camping ain't easy, I don't want to camp.  So I spend my off-weekends, planning how to make each successive camp-out that much easier. It starts with planning, planning and more planning.Take a page from my years of experience to make your next camp-out a breeze.

This is my second post on how to make glamping easy.  Click here for other tips and tasty recipes from the post, How to do Glamping.

The easiest way to make your camp-out easy, if you ask this mom, is to make the meals and snacks as low-pressure as possible. When the food is easy, you can spend lots more time doing the fun stuff.

First, plan what you're going to eat for each meal. I have a meeting with my fellow moms and together we decide what we are going to eat and when.  We usually plan to eat as a group a couple times during the camp-out, typically we'll each make one dinner and one breakfast for everyone.  Then on the days we aren't sharing food, we still make similar things, like hot dogs, chips and fruit on the day we get there, because, really, who wants to cook after you've just set up camp.

Tin foil dinners are always a classic if you've got a spare night. Pre-pack each pouch before you leave with the meat, rice, veggies and seasoning, freeze them and store in a zip-lock bag to avoid cross-contamination.

My number one rule about cooking while camping is to prep as much food as I can while in the comfort of my home kitchen, then pack it away in ready to go pouches.  There are a number of reasons for this rule.

1-I don't want to clean while I'm camping.  This includes (especially) washing a bunch of prep dishes.  Ugggh.
2-Cooking is much more difficult in the wild outdoors.  Cook where it's easy.  I have camped with only a very small table before.  Can you imagine trying to chop onions and peppers and make meatballs with no prep space as most of the very small table was already being used by a water jug and a myriad other things. I learned a lot after that camping trip.
3-I'd rather be having fun, than cooking.

Dinner

You can take anything camping.  Imaging how easy it would be to take tacos.  Cook your meat, cool it and stow it in a plastic zip-lock bag, then freeze it to help with spoilage.  Then when you get to your campsite, you only have to thaw it and warm it up. Pre-shred your cheese. Chop some lettuce. Pour salsa in a zip-lock bag. A baggy of jalepenos, some sour cream and tortillas. Or, even easier, make a Dorito Pie.  Buy individual bags of Doritos, toss all your taco fixings in and devour, no tortillas needed.

An easy, dutch-oven dinner is giant meatballs and veggies.  Take some ground beef, bread cubes and salt and pepper and wrap meat around a Laughing Cow cheese.  Freeze them on a cookie sheet individually and once they are solid, throw them all in a zip-lock bag.

easy camping meals
Bunch of vegetables: I like potatoes, carrots and onions, a little pre-chopped garlic and already diced green onions for garnish.  Par-boil your potatoes and carrots.  Saute your onions in advance also.  Pack everything into a well-labeled zip-lock bag, everything in one giant bag, individually bagged inside the bag. I keep everything separated in their own individual bags to keep flavors from melding.

Time to eat: Make sure you have plenty of hot charcoal on the bottom of your dutch oven and plenty to go on top. Throw some oil into your dutch oven, once the oil gets hot, toss in your garlic, saute it for a minute and then throw in your meatballs.  Brown the meatballs, throw in your veggies and sauteed onions, add a can or two of cream of mushroom soup, let cook until the meatballs are cooked through and you have a nice, satisfying meal.

Rice Salad is always nice to take with because none of the ingredients will get soggy between when they are packed and when you want to eat. Pre-cook everything, the rice, the bacon, chop the pepper and olives all in advance, bag everything individually and then pack all the ingredients into a large bag. Click here for my rice salad recipe!  This is a great side dish for hot dogs or if you're just having sandwiches. And when you want to assemble the salad, everything is right there ready to go, and all that is needed is a large bowl and spoon for mixing.

Lunch

My go to lunch.  Because I want things low-fuss and I have a personal issue regarding soggy deli meat, I love the ease of peanut butter and honey tortilla roll-ups.  It means I don't have a loaf of bread to get squished and my kids and husband alike will eat these happily.

Chips. These make a good side-dish as well as an easy snack.

Breakfast

I always cook breakfast when we camp.  Do I always cook breakfast at home?  Hell, no!  Camping though, is special.

An easy way to store eggs is to crack as many as you'll need into a large-ish container with a lid. I've used a kefir bottle and it worked beautifully. It's kind of an adventure watching the egg yolks get sucked down into the bottle, you cross your fingers and hope there isn't any over-flow. Note I have labeled this bottle of kefir, eggs. 

Frozen, pre-cooked sausages. They are easy to throw on a griddle and I like having protein at breakfast.

Pre-assembled biscuit mix.  As you can see the proportions here are enough for two batches of biscuits, and yes, I bake them in one of my dutch ovens.

I drink a lot of kefir, obviously, but this kefir bottle has regular milk for my coffee and the water bottle with the initials, BM, ummmm, is butter milk for my biscuits. I could have bought a quart of milk, but I had the kefir bottle empty and felt I could polish off the gallon of milk I already had.

Ham steak.  This is so I can fry it up and serve it with my biscuits for breakfast biscuits.  Fresh biscuit with a slice of salty, smoky ham on it with a side of eggs.  Yes please!

I also always have pre-made pancake batter, butter and syrup as my kids and husband are always happy to eat pancakes while camping.

If you drink coffee or tea for breakfast bring it. I like instant coffee packets for their ease of use and cleanliness.  Don't forget the sugar and creamer if you take it. You'll also need a tea pot to boil your water.

Snacks

Whatever your kids like to eat.

Whatever your husband likes to eat.

Whatever you like to eat.  Learning lesson, the un-wrapped Reece's minis melted and became a giant mass of chocolate and peanut butter.  The M & M's and taffy worked much better as camping treats.  Bring more snacks than you think you'll need.  You're always hungry while camping.

Individually packaged cheese slices.  Genius.

Dessert

S'mores.  Every night.  These s'mores were made by sandwiching the marshmallow between an Oreo.  Yummy!

 You may be asking yourself, is all this work worth it?

Oh yeah.
Happy glamping!




Monday, March 16, 2015

My Mama's Lemon Pistachio Biscotti

Does your mother make biscotti?  Mine does and it is so good.  It's so tasty that when The Mister and I were on a date a couple Saturday's ago, we wandered into a coffee shop and he spotted their biscotti offerings and immediately asked if I'd make him some.

lemon pistachio biscotti
Now, if you've ever had to shell 1 cup of pistachios, you might understand my slight hesitation before joyously agreeing to make them.  Then, later that week, I may have mocked my beloved husband's childhood fear: clowns under the bed, demonic trees and pink sludge...and so, needing to repent for my cruelty, promptly made them as an, I'm sorry, my dear, clowns really are scary and I'll look under the bed to make sure there isn't one trying to drag you under every night for a month and I apologize a thousand times for teasing you.

p.s. shelling a cup of pistachios really isn't that bad.  Just get comfy and know the tips of your fingers might feel it a bit after you're done.

The reward though, is epic.  The sassy tang of lemon, the salty crunch of pistachios and the sweet smoothness of the white chocolate harmonize into a glorious song on your taste buds.  Seriously yum.

If you don't know much about biscotti, I'll give you a tiny lesson. In Italian it means twice baked.  K, I am going to break it down for you. Bi=2 and scotti=cooked...ummmmm...yup, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say scotti is cooked, so there's your Italian lesson for the day.  :)

Enough Italian.  To the cookies!

Lemon Pistachio Biscotti
1/3 C. Salted butter, softened
2/3 C. Sugar
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt
2 eggs
2 tsp. Vanilla
2 C. Flour
Lemon zest from 2 lemons
1 C. Shelled, salted pistachios, coarsely chopped.
1 C. white chocolate chips, melted

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In large mixer, combine the butter, sugar and baking powder and beat on high until creamed.  Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until smooth. Scrape sides as necessary.

Reduce mixer speed to low and add flour 1 cup at a time.  Do not over-tax your mixer, if it can't take the  workload, mix by hand.  Add the lemon zest and pistachios and mix until just combined.

Place parchment paper on cookie sheet and divide dough into 3 equal piles.  Shape each of these into an 8 inch roll.  Place rolls 3 inches apart and flatten until they are approximately 2.5 inches wide.

Bake for about 20 minutes until they are golden and the tops are just cracked.  Cool for 15 minutes until you can handle them without burning yourself.

Reduce heat to 325 F.

Using a sharp serrated knife, cut into 1/2 inch slices and place the cut-side down on the same cookie sheet and bake for 8 minutes.  Turn over each cookie and bake for another 8 to 10 minutes until dry and crisp.  Let cool completely.

Dip bottom of each biscotti in melted white chocolate and place, chocolate side down, on clean piece of parchment. Drizzle tops of cookies with additional melted chocolate, led solidify and eat to your heart's content.

The best breakfast imaginable, a cup of coffee and a couple biscotti.  Yes, please.

Mom, can I try a biscotti?  I love pistachios.
Sure, give them a try.

Ohhhh, these taste good.
I'm glad you like them.

Can I have another one?
Nope, one's enough, besides, Mommy has to have a couple for breakfast tomorrow.

I hope you make these and enjoy them as much as my family.

Thanks for reading!

Heather






Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Pot Sticker Stir-Fry and Fried Rice Dinner

The hardest part about making a stir-fry from scratch for dinner, is getting the timing right.  It's so easy to get overwhelmed if you don't have a game plan and prep accordingly.  I'm going to lay out the process, step by step, so you can have a tasty, healthy feast to present to your family, with everything done at about the same time. 

pot-sticker stir-fry
I can't say anything but YUM about my pot sticker stir-fry with fried rice dinner.  The really great thing about this meal, is that it's customizable.  Go with produce that's in season: cabbage in winter, asparagus in spring and squashes in summer.  If you don't have ham for the fried rice, toss in some turkey bacon like me, or go vegetarian.  It's all good.

Get ready, while it's not difficult, there's a lot of steps to get everything just right and at the table at the same time.  You must allocate at least an hour to cook.  Part of this time is for the rice, since I'm never on top of things enough to make the rice a day ahead.  If you are completely awesome, go ahead and pre-cook the rice.  This will save you some time, but remember, you still have to allow time to prep the rest of the ingredients.




Ingredients for Stir-Fry
1/2 onion, diced
pile of carrots, sliced into matchsticks (these are always in season)
Vegetables, a whole bunch of them: Mushrooms, Zucchini, Asparagus, Summer Squash, Broccoli, Cabbage,  Bean Sprouts, water chestnuts...sliced and chopped as appropriate (for my stir-fry, as it is March, I used a combo of winter veggies and early spring veggies: red cabbage, carrots, asparagus, bean sprouts and water chestnuts) but you can use whatever you like!
Veg. Oil
Terriyaki or Stir-Fry sauce of your choice
salt
Frozen Pot stickers 

Ingredients for Fried Rice
Rice, about 1.5 cups, uncooked
1/2 package of  frozen peas and carrots
other 1/2 onion, diced (see above)
2 eggs, whipped
Soy Sauce, to taste
Sesame Oil, to taste

Step1: Cook Rice according to directions.



Step 2: While the rice is cooking, cut all your vegetables!  I like to segregate them onto plates according to how long it takes to cook as you will add them to the frying pan in the proper order. Carrots, cabbage, broccoli and onions etc...need to be cooked first.  Asparagus, zucchini, muchrooms and bean sprouts etc... need to go in last. Cut as much as you feel your family will eat.  I cut plenty as I wanted enough for left-overs the next day. Set aside until needed.


Step 3:  Whisk your eggs and add a couple TBL soy sauce.  Set aside until needed.


Step 4: Dice up protein.  Ham, turkey bacon or don't if you're not going to use it.  Set aside until needed.


Step 5: Get out two frying pans.  One for your stir-fry and one for your pot stickers.  Prepare pot stickers according to directions.  And at the same time, add a couple TBL veg oil to the other, heat over medium and add 1/2 diced onion.  Saute until softened.  This will take about 8 minutes.


Step 6: Continue to cook pot stickers according to directions.  Turn on oven to 200 F. At the same time, as long as your onions are softened, add all the longer-cooking vegetables to your stir-fry pan, increase heat to about medium-high.  Season lightly with salt. To encourage faster cooking, you can throw aluminum foil over them.

Watch your pot stickers, as once they are done you will remove them to an oven safe plate and put them in your oven until the rest of your meal is complete. 


Step 7: After your pot stickers are done cooking and staying warm in the oven, continue cooking your stir-fry vegetables, stirring regularly.  At the same time, using the same frying pan as the pot stickers were cooking in (wash it if it needs it), add 2 TBL veg oil and heat over medium.  Add remaining diced onion.  It's fried rice time!  Cook until softened.  Watch your stir-fry vegetables.  They should be slightly softened.


Step 8: Here is where I failed you on pictures, saute your fried rice protein (ham or turkey bacon if you're me) with the onion.  At the same time, add the quicker-cooking vegetables to your stir-fry pan.  Then add the frozen peas and carrots to your fried rice pan.  Stir both pans regularly.



 Step 9:  Turn heat down to about medium, medium-low. Add your whisked eggs and soy sauce mixture to your fried rice pan.  Try and keep them slightly segregated from the rice mixture (it will be impossible to keep them completely separated). Once the eggs begin to cook, mix them in with the rice and them let fully cook.  Taste.  I almost always think my fried rice needs a bit more soy sauce.  Add a few dashes of sesame oil. Season to taste.

Step 10: Keep checking on your stir-fry.  Once the vegetables are nicely cooked, not over done with just a touch of bite to them, add your sauce of choice.

Step 11: Plate and devour!  Scoop a bit of rice, some stir-fry and top with your warm pot stickers (you can include the pot-sticker sauce as a condiment if you wish).

Nom, nom, nom. 

See, that wasn't too difficult and your family enjoyed a healthy, flavorful meal and all it took was a little careful timing on your part.

Thanks for reading!

Heather

 


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