Cooking by the Camp Fire

I went all out at this year’s annual 4th o’ July camping trip. No, I didn’t stay up late, hooting and hollering over charades. In fact, I was in bed before the kids most nights. And no, I didn’t start my day with Mary’s and continue with beers/wine until sundown. Rather, I prepped and cooked my toosh off.

I made Jan’s cobbler, fried donut holes, made Schmitty’s chicken and taziki wraps and topped it all off with firepit pizza – which was by far, the biggest success. I’m still craving it.

Next time you go camping or have a craving for delicious cobbler, donuts or pizza, try out these recipes. They were a big hit!

Jan’s cobbler
* 3 cups blackberries (or combo of berries)
* 3/4 cup brown sugar
* 3/4 cup rolled oats
* 1/2 cup flour
* 1/8 cup grated asiago cheese
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 3 oz butter (chilled and cut into 1/4″ bits)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Lightly butter a deep pie dish (or you can double the recipe and use a 9×12 baking dish). Put the berries in the dish. In a separate bowl, mix the next five ingredients. With fingers, squash in the butter with the mixture until its course and crumbly.

Sprinkle the topping over the fruit and bake until top is golden brown and fruit is bubbly.

Let it cool before diving in. This travelled really well in the cooler and tasted great chilled.

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Schmitty’s Chicken Wraps
* 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
* 1/2 cup olive oil
* 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
* 1 TBSP dried oregano
* zest of half a lemon
* pinch of salt and pepper
* 3 garlic cloves minced
* pint of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
* 1/2 red onion, sliced in strips

Wisk everything together in a medium bowl. Reserve half the marinade. Out chicken in a ziplock bag with half the marinade and freeze if you’re going camping.

The night before heading out, put the tomatoes an onions and the other half the marinade in another ziplock bag and leave in the fridge.

Grill off the chicken over the camp fire and serve with wraps, taziki and the marinated tomato mixture.

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Camping Donuts
* 1/2 cup veggie oil
* 1 package of instant biscuits (you know, the kind that pops out of the canister)
* 1/4 cup sugar
* 1/8 cup cinnamon
* 1 brown bag and some paper towels

Put your sugar and cinnamon into the brown paper bag and set aside. Heat up the oil in a frying pan over med/low heat.

Break each biscuit into four pieces and roll into a ball.

Gently drop one hole into the oil. It should create bubbles instantly around the edges. Put the rest of your holes in the oil but don’t crowd the pan. You’ll need room to turn the holes over as they cook.

As soon as they’re golden brown, drain on paper towels and then drop into the paper bag. Give ’em a little shake and then watch them get gobbled up.

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Camp Fire Pizza
* 1 package ready-made pizza dough (you can handmake the dough if you’re motivated, just freeze it for better travel)
* 1 container of marinara (I got the stuff from the refrigerated section)
* 1/2 cup mozerella, 1/4 cup parmesean, 1/4 cup asiago – all grated
* olive oil
* dried oregano
* toppings (we did two pepperonis and one zucchini and summer squash) we obviously tripled the recipe
* disposable grate for grill

Get the coals ready.

Cut up any toppings really thin (they don’t really cook).

Roll out the dough – I just pulled on the sides until it was pretty even and rather thin.

Rub olive oil on one side and place the oiled side down on the disposable grill. Set this on the campfire grate and stand watch. It’ll bubble and get chat marks. It should be done in about 2-5 mins.

Remove from the fire and oil the top side. Flip the pizza and top the recently cooked side with sauce, cheese, toppings and a sprinkle of oregano. Top with a foil tent and place back on the fire. Cook for another 2-5 mins checking the bottom and rotating when necessary.

Pull it from the fire. Cut it up. And wait for the OMGs.

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Mexi Pie

This is a dish with a lot of memories. My Mom used to make this pretty regularly and taught me to make it by the time I was a tween. It’s soooooo simple and easy-peasey. As long as you’ve got a good can-opener, this dish could be made in 10 mins or less.

I know, I know, I said can-opener. I usually try to stay away from that tool but this dish is worth the extra sodium. Just keep it for special occasions, like a Monday!

Note: it is so much better the next day. So make extra.

Mexi Pie
adapted to be a little healthier than Mom’s recipe

* 1/2 can of black beans
* 1 Tbsp cumin powder
* 1/2 tsp salt and pepper
* 1/4 tsp chili powder
(Above ingredients replaced 1 can no-beans Hormel chili in Mom’s recipe)
* 1 can cream of mushroom soup
* 1/2 can of chicken stock
* 1/2 rotisserie chicken (or 2 “Dolly Parton” sized chicken breasts – as Mom would say, boiled)
* 1 can of diced green chilies (tiny can)
* corn tortillas
* flour tortillas
* shredded Mexican cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix first six ingredients. Shred the chicken. Slice the tortillas into 4″ wide strips.

Put a row of corn tortillas into a pie dish. Then a row of flour tortillas. Put half your shredded chicken then half your wet ingredients in a layer. Add a bit of cheese. Repeat, finishing with a lot of cheese (I didn’t put cheese on my half and it was still delicious). Cover with foil and cook for 30-45 mins. It’ll be bubbling. Let it sit, uncovered to thicken for 15 mins before serving.

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And remember to save some for the next day. The tortillas soak up the flavors and its delicious pan fried like this.

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Serve with avocado, cilantro and sour cream.

Enjoy!

Braised Chicken and Mushroom Risotto

It is so chilly on the West coast (I know, 49 degrees is not cold but I have never had “snow days” so I can complain about needing to wear a scarf and gloves). Nothing warms me better than comfort food – mmm, mashed potatoes, potpies, biscuits and gravy, stews. I’m already starting to feel my toes warm up just thinking about publishing this post.

Papa was in the mood for mushroom risotto for his birthday so…I took on the challenge. I’ve made risotto once before so I knew there was going to be a lot of stirring. Nana helped though and we paired it with a very easy braised chicken.

Braised chicken

Braised chicken

Braised Chicken and olives (adapted from Fifteen Spatulas)

  • 4 chicken legs, skin-on and bone-in
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced
  • 1/2 fennel bulb, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 handful of kalmata olives, pitted
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • zest of 1 lemon, julienned
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Salt and pepper the chicken legs. Heat up an ovenproof skillet over medium high heat. Add olive oil and the chicken legs skin side down. Cook for a couple minutes until the skin has browned. Turn over and sear on the other side. Remove the chicken from the pan. Reduce the heat to medium low and add the fennel and onion to the pan. Saute until translucent. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute.
  3. Add the white wine to the pan and bump the heat up to medium high. Simmer for 2 minutes. Add the crushed red pepper, olives, lemon zest strips, bay leaf, thyme, and chicken stock, and bring to a boil.
  4. Return the chicken to the pan skin side up and place in the oven to cook for ~ 40 minutes depending on the size of your legs (or until the juices run clear when you knife prick the joint between the drumstick and thigh). (While the chicken is in the oven, start the risotto)
  5. Turn the broiler on high, and cook the chicken for 2 minutes to brown and crisp up the skin (watch carefully).
creamy mushroom risotto

creamy mushroom risotto

Creamy Mushroom Risotto (adapted from Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook)

  • 2 quarts chicken stock or vegetable stock (the recipe says duck stock but I couldn’t find any. I bet it’s amazing with it though)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup shallot, leek or onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups risotto rice
  • 1/2 pound fresh crimini, sliced
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
  1. Pour the stock and wine into a pot and bring it to a gentle simmer.
  2. In another medium pot, heat the butter over medium-high heat and add the minced shallot or onion and a pinch of salt. Saute until it softens and turns translucent. Add the garlic, mushrooms and rice and coat with the butter. Stir often.
  3. When the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated, add a ladle of hot stock to the rice and stir well (I like to use a wooden spoon).  The key to making a great risotto is to constantly stir. Think of it as stirring the bottom of the pot. As each ladle of stock is absorbed, add another, then another. At some point, you’ll see that the rice isn’t absorbing the stock as quickly. Keep adding a ladle of hot stock until the rice is cooked through, but still firm.
  4. When you reach that point, add the grated cheese and a little more stock. Stir to incorporate the cheese into the risotto. Add the chopped parsley and serve at once with your braised chicken.
Together, braised chicken and risotto - comfort in a bowl

Together, braised chicken and risotto – comfort in a bowl

PS if you have leftover risotto, check out my next post on Arancini (or risotto balls)

Chinese Chicken without the headaches

I don’t know about you but I’m pretty wary of going out for Chinese. For some reason, the Chinese restaurants around me can’t leave the MSG out of their ingredient list. Me and MSG do not get along.
So, it’s either head to the city for some decent Chinese or cook it at home. With a little one at home, there really isn’t an option. Chinese Red-Cooked Chicken is served at the G Beach Bungalow.

Chinese Red-Cooked Chicken (adapted from the Williams-Sonoma Slow Cooking book)

  • 3 whole chicken legs (skin pulled off)
  • 4 strips orange zest
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1″ piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1 TBS packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • drizzle of sesame oil
  • 1/4 dry sherry
  • 1 1/4 TBS cornstarch

Put the chicken, zest, star anise, cinnamon, ginger and brown sugar in a Dutch oven on the stove top. Pour in the soy sauce and 1/2 cup of the chicken broth. Bring to boil over high heat, reduce to very low and partially cover. Cook about 45 mins flipping the legs halfway through the cooking time.

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Transfer the chicken to a platter and brush with sesame oil. Cover loosely with foil to keep warm. Add sherry to the cooking liquid. In a small cup, stir cornstarch and remaining 1/2 cup of broth until it’s dissolved. Stir the cornstarch mixture into the cooking liquid and cook over medium heat until the sauce thickens (about 10 mins). Remove and discard the zest, star anise, cinnamon and ginger. Pour the sauce over your red chicken and serve with rice and your favorite stir-fried veggies.

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This was a big hit with the family. It’s very fragrant and so I was worried the little one wouldn’t like it. I was wrong.

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Enjoy!