Monday, July 6, 2009

Camping & Cooking - Hamburger Stew

One really simple way to have some yummy, healthy food is to freeze leftovers at home, take them with you (use the frozen food in your cooler to save on ice and keep other things cool), and heat it back up when you're ready for it. We did that this time with Hamburger Stew.

~Cooking on the campfire~

HAMBURGER STEW - recipe from

1 1/2 lbs hamburger meat - I used two pounds of local, pasture-raised hamburger
1/2 tablespoon instant minced garlic - I minced up at least 5 cloves myself
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
4 potatoes, cubed
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 (14 ounce) can carrots, undrained - I used fresh, organic carrots here (NOT canned!)
1 (14 ounce) can green beans, undrained - I drained mine
1 (14 ounce) can corn, undrained
1 (14 ounce) can peas, undrained
1 (4 ounce) can tomato sauce
2 (14 1/2 ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained -- For these last two ingredients, I didn't have them on hand. Instead I used up a couple cups worth of homemade ketchup (it is NOT like store-bought!!). It was a wonderful substitution.

~Since I was lacking all things fresh on hand, I did use canned goods when making this. If you wanted to use all fresh veggies from your garden or farmer's market I would say "go for it!". Just make yourself up some nice beef stock, and add some of that in to substitute for the lack of water from the cans.

To Cook -- Starting at Home!:
Brown your beef in a skillet, along with the the other first four ingredients. When it's browned, combine it along with the remaining ingredients in a nice stock-pot. Over a medium-high heat, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring occaisionally.
Obviously, you could make this while camping. If you were going to do so, I would definitely use fresh ingredients (picked up at the Farmer's Market on your way out!), and take along some pre-made frozen beef stock to add to the mix. If you're going to do it this way, you already know what you need to bring, so I don't feel a need to go through the steps.

We ate this for dinner one night at home, then I froze the leftovers. I find old yogurt containers really wonderful for freezing stuff for camping. Not the tiny ones mind you, no I'm talking about the 32oz (2 lb) containers. Freeze and label!
We take a small saucepan with us camping. This is one reason I like the yogurt containers - they're round and taller than they are wide. This allows the food to slide out fairly easily, and you don't have to worry about frozen, square edges that don't fit in your saucepan. If it's taller than your saucepan, it'll "melt" down as it cooks without making a mess.

To reheat for camping:
Get your coals going nice and hot. If you will notice in the photo above, we didn't use a grill over our fire for this. We often don't. We were able to balance this nicely on the logs, over the flames. Since this was a dinner meal, we had the bigger logs in there for to start building the fire for the night. Morning times you don't want as big a fire, it would be a waste of wood. Here it is all good.
You'll need to let this cook for about 15 minutes or so. I didn't have a watch (I was camping and relaxing, give me a break!), so I can't be precise. It will boil and sizzle, so stir it. It will take a little longer than you think to reheat this nicely. Do taste tests every time you stir it up. You don't want the bottom to burn before everything has had a chance to thaw.

This was definitely a nice dinner to have. Lots of veggies, great hamburger flavor too. I really liked the use of the homemade ketchup, but wouldn't dare substitute store-bought!! You can add extra veggies to this as you would like. To be honest, I wasn't too sure about the addition of green beans, but really liked them.
Try it and see what you think.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Camping & Cooking ~ Bacon Hash

For a lot of people, cooking while you're camping in the woods is a no-brainer but, for a lot of other people it seems you're limited to hotdogs, chips, and soda. Not necessarily bad things when you're camping, but not really GOOD things either.
I didn't grow up camping, and to my knowledge, never tent camped till I was in high-school or college (probably the latter). You can imagine my cooking skills DEFINITELY fell into the latter of the two sets mentioned above. So, here is my attempt to, very honestly, share some "Cooking While Camping" knowledge.
This is, hopefully, the start of a new special segment here. For this, I'm going to assume you're camping like we do. We usually camp fairly near our car, though without electricity or water hook-ups. We go to tent-camping sites, usually in local National Forests (we love Arcadia in VA). We're able to bring coolers and therefore prepare some things ahead of time. We ALWAYS strive to be as eco-minded as possible when camping, leaving the site the same or better than we we found it!!! You won't find paper plates here!
Now that we've got that cleared up, down to cooking. Let's start with the morning, because it is a good place to start. I found this recipe thanks to the ever-wise & inspiring Nick from Macheesmo. Here is the link for cooking this in the kitchen: This recipe was a perfect one for camping since Nick describes it as "There are some meals that were made to be eaten after a night out. This is most definitely one of them." I take Nick's word on things, and we definitely were going to be drinking the night before we would eat this.


For the recipe itself, I'm going to advise you to check out Nick's (see above link). Honestly, I forgot to take "prep photos" but his really kick-ass, so do yourself a BIG OLE favor and check it out.
We began prepping the ingredients Tuesday night. We cut up several small potatoes and let them sit in a bowl of water in the fridge over night. Wednesday (the day before we left for camping), I zapped them in the microwave (still in the water) for a couple minutes before draining them. Then I quickly chopped up the bacon, onions, and garlic to mix in with the potatoes. I poured a little roasted garlic olive oil over it all, to ensure cooking, and wrapped the whole shebang tightly in aluminum foil, labeled it, and tossed it into the freezer.

Some things I've found: 1)Cooking in foil is VERY convenient when camping, resulting in easy cooking and clean-up. 2)If you freeze your foil pack well enough, it will "hold it's shape" in your cooler as well as keep other items cool in there.

Here is the foil-pack of Bacon Hash, put on a small grill over the fire first thing Friday morning.

Here it is, flipped once and still cooking. It will hiss and sizzle and you will be sure you've burned it. You may blacken the edges, but fear not. Always flip your food if you can when cooking in a foil pack, and never assume it's cooked just because it sounds like it is boiling or sizzling.

Off the fire and opened up. You can see where the edges did get blackened a little, but that was the utterly delicious crispy parts. This is SO much better than Pop-Tarts in the morning!!!

The finished result. Justin had already eaten half his bowl by the time I could take this photo.

As you can see in the photo, we use some old enamel-ware bowls that were once my grandmother's, and we also bring our own utensils. It makes camping more pleasureable and clean-up really isn't that much more of a hassle. This dish came out wonderfully! The bacon didn't get dark and crispy like it would cooked in a skillet (which IS an option when camping!), but it was still yummy. It definitely hit the spot for first thing in the morning and made us very, very happy. Even if you aren't drinking the night before, this is still a yummy breakfast when camping.

1) Either put the aluminum foil in the trash, or save it for recycling when you get home. We often have two "trash" containers just for this purpose.
2) Fill up an old two-liter bottle (or something of the like) with water and a good squirt of eco-friendly dish detergent. If you want, fill up a second with just water.
3) Bring a good wash-rag from home. Put a little soapy water on it, and use it to clean off your plates, bowls, and utensils. If you brought clean water, feel free to rinse and repeat, but honestly, we skipped that the last couple of times with no ill side-effects.
4) Put your dishes away. We bring a "kitchen box" along, stocked with plates, bowls, utensils, etc. After we're done, they go back in there. If we're near the car we keep them in the car to keep any bugs out. This may evolve over time.