Friday, July 19, 2013

Channeling My Inner Pioneer (Chef)

This week, I took the kids camping. It's our first vacation ... ever. So, I wanted it to be fun .. and memorable ... and memorable for good things, not for all the things that could have gone wrong.  Luckily, that's kind of how things played out. This post is a bit picture heavy, but it's a form of journaling for me.

As you may have noticed, food is kind of a big deal in our world. It's important to me that we eat well, regardless of the situation. This was kind of the guideline in my head as I planned our camp food.

Dinner the first night was pretty simple ... After all, everybody loves playing with fire just a bit, right?

Bratwurst or hotdogs were the menu option. The girls learned how to use toasting forks to toast their buns. The kids loved being able to roast their own food. M and I had sauerkraut on our dogs. L thinks it's poisonous and abstained ...

Because I caved to pressure and mixed up the homemade potato salad at home instead of at camp, that part of dinner was already taken care of ...

True, it's not plated beautifully, but it sure tasted good!

By the next day, I was ready to try actual cooking using a real fire. I'd brought my cast iron skillet and griddle along for the party.

Yup, those are the same pans I use on a regular basis in my kitchen at home. I was a little concerned about temperature control since I've never cooked for real over an open fire or its coals. Somehow, though, it worked out perfectly. I managed to have just enough coals in just the right spots to cook the bacon, the turkey sausage, and the hash browns perfectly.

The kids toasted their own bagels, topped them with cream cheese, and added all that stuff to a plate of fresh cherries and grapes.

This one's mine. The kids don't get all the fun ...

Both girls were so full that they sat happily in their camp chairs until things shifted enough to roast a couple of marshmallows ... in the middle of the morning ... with my blessing. 'Cause everybody needs a little junk food to chase the bacon. I'm just sayin' ...

When dinner time rolled around, I was feeling pretty confident in my abilities. (Don't worry! I know the saying about pride and what it goes before ... Luckily, this time it didn't.) So, we got a bit fancier.

Corn on the cob (I pulled the husks back, removed the silk, rinsed them with cool water, sprinkled them with a bit of salt and pepper, dotted with butter, pulled the husks back up, and wrapped them in about three layers of regular tinfoil.) was matched with asparagus and sweet potatoes. Five packets later -- one for each ear of corn, one for the sliced sweet potatoes (also dotted with a bit of butter and sprinkled with about a tablespoon of water so they wouldn't dry out or burn) and two for the asparagus (see sweet potato prep.)

After I tucked the packets in the coals, I popped the grate down and warmed up my cast iron skillet again. (I'd cleaned it that morning and seasoned it with some of the bacon grease from breakfast.) It's hard to tell in that picture, but those are lovely pieces of chicken cooking to golden perfection.

See what I mean? And, just because they were so pretty, I can't resist sharing another pic ...

Um-hmm ... That's what I'm talking about. Forty-five minutes or so after I tossed my foil packets in the coals, they were ready to come out.

The 9 yr old wanted to play Vanna White
 Pretty as the packets were all wrapped up, what was inside was even prettier.

Perfectly roasted corn on the cob

Sumptuous sweet potatoes

and Campfire Asparagus. (M said, "Mmm! Campfire asparagus. It's SO yummy I could die!")

Again ... Because I couldn't resist one more shot.

Dinner was a smashing success.

It's not plated all that prettily, but it was so tasty that the aesthetic aspect of things wasn't missed much.

As always, I really enjoyed my time in "the kitchen" even if that kitchen was a lot different than the ones I usually work in. It was nice to channel a bit of my inner pioneer. I learned that, at least now, if that were my only means of feeding my family, we wouldn't starve. We'd probably eat alright. I learned that I can try new things and, if I've built some basic skills along the way, I can easily adapt to new situations. Impressing my children with my new found abilities? That was a total bonus.

All told, I can't wait to try it again sometime.

P.S. I know that pioneers didn't use tin foil. I count myself fortunate ...


Steph said...

A- Confidence is not the same as pride-- you should feel confident in your cooking abilities and such-- you are awesome!

B- You are making Martha Stewart look bad, girl! Who eats such fancy stuff camping? Asparagus? So cool!! My kids were lucky if they got more than 3 days of hot dogs...

I use my cast iron skillet almost daily at home, and it's great that they work so well over a fire, too-- I think it's because they distribute heat so well. We usually try to do a dutch oven something or other when we go camping, but I prefer tin foil dinners because the prep, cooking and cleanup are so fast. Plus yum!

Looks like some good memories for your girls, too. Almost makes me want to go camping... Almost.

Jaymie said...

Aw ... thanks, Steph! We did have to try the hot dog thing. After all, who doesn't like jamming food on a stick and shoving it in a fire? The rest was mainly because I wanted to see if I could, and -- since it was the girls' first real camping trip -- I wanted it to be memorable, and that includes good food.

I love my cast iron. A dutch oven is actually on my list of things to purchase, but well ... it takes time. My dad's an amazing dutch oven cook, but I've never really tried it.

Foil dinners are great. Maybe next time we'll add those in. :)