Tag Archives: dutch oven

Raspberry Chocolate Camp Cake
in a Dutch Oven, by Fire!

Raspberry Chocolate Camp Cake - using a dutch oven

I found this gluten-free chocolate cherry cake recipe and used it to make a raspberry chocolate cake in a dutch oven by campfire. Below are the basic steps re-written the way I did them. This was a good one to prep and fire up before dinner, and let sit and finish cooking while you eat the main meal.

Raspberry chocolate cake batter: before and after.
Raspberry chocolate cake batter: before and after.

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Campfire Cooking Methods

Before more recent whirlwind adventures to a wedding in Vermont, K____ and I took a brief respite to camp in the North Cascades National Park. The votes are in, and the top winning option for next blog post was Campfire Cooking Methods! Special thanks to Logistikris for the unique comment entry of ‘Campfire chocoraspberry cake.’ I’ll try to cover chocoraspberry cake next. We were only there a couple nights, or: “as long as my back will take tent sleeping,” and “that’s how long the giant cooler of ice and frozen meats lasts to a safe-ish temp.”

Packing bin of non-refrigeration items for high-maintenance car camping: cooking oils and vinaigrettes are quarantined in a brown paper bag.
Packing bin of non-refrigeration items for high-maintenance car camping: cooking oils and vinaigrettes are quarantined in a brown paper bag.

Method Part 1: Pack it!

If you were a compulsive planner like me, you might list what you’d like to eat on your camping trip, and portion out ingredients as you pack up the accompanying junk food (in my house any road trip merits a hiatus from healthier eating). This time, I had in mind..

  • hot toddies
  • chocolate raspberry cake
  • marshmallows
  • hot dogs
  • and traditional sausage-bacon-egg-potato breakfast foods

In retrospect, it was too much in one night’s work to prep everything and also make spam musubi, but yeah, that’s what I did (even with lots of help from K___). If you are NOT a compulsive planner like me, I leave it to you to wing it like you do (i.e. like a BOSS). Really, I only measured things out for the first two items listed there, and I cheated with box chocolate cake mix. It’s camping, not the Iron Chef. I also made a little mix of balsamic vinegar and olive oil which came in handy as dressing and marinade.

Method Part 2: Fire, not for backpacking -especially in high-fire-prone areas.

With the exception of marshmallow roasting, you want a low, even fire with plenty of coals. K____ and I treated fire-building like a team sport, with him as captain. We spread the logs out pretty wide for cooking, to make room for an even surface for the tools. Want more on this? Let me google that for you... Don’t forget to read up before you are out of cell phone reception zones. Obvi, if you are backpacking, all this “camping” is a whole different ball game.

Method Part 3: Tools
Here’s what the latest full-scale carried-a-little-too-far Wong Way of camping entails for cooking tools:

Tool 1: Cast Iron Skillet
-Needs: high temp cooking oil or butter, don’t forget the metal flipper!
-Good for bacon and all-purpose random cooking, especially when you snag the last possible campsite and it turns out to have no standard grill rack.
-Bad for open-flame potatoes.
-Obviously a bad idea for for light-weight packs.

Cast iron skillet in action! Served with a side of beer from a faraway place.
Cast iron skillet in action! Served with a side of beer from a faraway place.

Tool 2: Dutch Oven
-Good for making cake, probably good for a lot else too, like stew. It really holds the heat in.
-Bad for your back. This thing is so heavy. At least that means the squirrels can’t mess with it, only Yogi Bear.
-ditto on the backpacking

Tool 3: Aluminum Foil
-Good for..tubers, if you can get coals. Much better to wrap potatoes than expose them in cooking on a skillet. It was useful to shape handles on top of them for easier maneuvering.
-Also good for fashioning makeshift plateware and utensils, for that one time when you forgot sporks.

If you put the pre-mixed toddy ingredients in a glass jar you can heat it up near the fire to melt the honey before combining with water from the percolator.
If you put the pre-mixed toddy ingredients in a glass jar you can heat it up near the fire to melt the honey before combining with water from the percolator.

Tool 4: Percolator. Just add water!
-Good for coffee, tea, hot cocoa
Hot toddies (basically, pre-mix everything but the water and lemon).
-Easy mac & cup noodle.
-Thermos + raw chicken noodle soup to cook over time.

Surprise Winning Tool: Percolator?!
That’s right, folks. While I’m grateful for the delicious breakfast K___ served up via skillet, and the fully-baked cake thanks to how well the dutch oven holds heat in, the percolator was the one I was most grateful to have, both to stave off a caffeine headache in the morning with coffee, and to keep me really cozy in the evening with hot toddies. It also felt like the easiest, most versatile one with endless possibilities. Maybe my opinion is swayed too strongly by how precious having water was on this trip since they hadn’t turned on the taps on the North Cascades yet. Oops.

Second Runner Up: Dutch Oven! This one is getting googled some more for the next camping trip. I’d probably rather just cheat directly with hot cakes’ take ‘n’ bake for smaller portion sizes on cakes, but I think you might get a good stew out of the dutch oven instead. They even come with campfire directions!

Safety Notes: on meat thermometers and a giant cooler on wheels..
-It’s definitely good to not poison yourself (see: safe cooking temps for meat).
-Tried to store meats on the bottom of the cooler, separated by ziplocs for extra OCD-style care.
-Tried to cook the more salmonella-prone items first, like eggs.

Relaxing with a hot toddy after dinner before getting in that tent.
Relaxing with a hot toddy after dinner before getting in that tent. Salud!

Questions? Comments? As usual, post below!

Lamb Stew with Butternut Squash & Carrots

April can be a dreary time of year in the Pacific Northwest, when the reason behind the existence of a cozy coffee shop on every other street corner becomes apparent. This Sunday afternoon’s anticipation of spring warmth was salved with trying out this lamb stew recipe, with a side of netflix marathon. I don’t think I’ve ever tried cooking lamb at home, but starting with it in cubed stewed form seemed a good way to start. Got a chance to break in a recently acquired dutch oven (ostensibly bought for car camping cake purposes).

Lamb Stew with Butternut Squash & Carrots
Altered a minuscule degree from: Food 52’s Lamb Stew
Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 pound lamb shoulder, in 1-inch cubes
Salt
1medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups roughly chopped carrots (added more, I lurve stewed carrots)
2 4 cloves garlic, chopped (anything with 2 cloves of garlic, is worth making with 4!)
28 ounces chopped tomatoes (I cheated with canned. In the winter they seem to have more flavor than fresh tomatoes..)
2 cups beef stock
2 sprigs thyme 2 tsp dried thyme
1 sprig rosemary 1 tsp dried rosemary
2 cups cubed butternut squash (1/2-inch)
1/2 tsp butter

Ingredients marshalled: sear meat, set aside, saute other stuff, pour on tomatoes and herbs, simmer 2 hours, add butternut squash.
Ingredients marshalled: sear meat, set aside, saute other stuff, pour on tomatoes and herbs, simmer 2 hours, add butternut squash.

Procedure
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a Dutch oven or saucepan with a lid heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the lamb with salt, and when the oil is hot, brown half of the cubes on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove lamb to a plate with a slotted spoon and add more oil if necessary. Brown the rest of the lamb and then set aside.
2. On medium low, add butter, the onions, carrots and garlic to pot. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften.
3. Add the tomatoes, stock, herbs and the browned lamb, along with any juices that have accumulated. Bring the stew to a boil over high heat, stirring gently with a wooden spoon to get up all the brown tasty bits from the bottom of the pot.
4. When the stew comes to a boil, cover the pot and put in the oven. Cook until the lamb is just tender, 2 to 3 hours. Optional: in the mean time, cook some brown rice, and/or butter some naan and add garlic powder and bake. It took me about 2 hours for the lamb to start falling apart.
5. Stir the butternut squash into the stew, re-cover it and return the pot to the oven until the squash is tender, another 20 to 25 minutes. Optional: serve with rice or naan.

This was a nice way to try out the new cast iron dutch oven I got. Now all I have to do is lift some weights so it isn’t so heavy any more. It was pretty difficult to put away left overs without being able to lift it with one arm. I also cheated a bit, using dried herbs, and snagging a box of pre-cut butternut squash from Whole Foods rather than sawing through my own whole squash. Looking forward to being set for a main dish for the next day or two..or three or four. Three other ways I thought of eating this in leftover form, in case you have a skewed mouth-to-portions-available situation like I did:

  • add chickpeas, roll in naan bread toasted with butter and garlic,
  • pour on top of pasta and top with parmesan cheese,
  • saute some thickly-sliced zucchini and onions and mix it in (the tomato cuts some bitterness of the zucchini),
  • freeze in single portions for a day when you have time to defrost but none to cook and want a hearty meal
  • stuff some puff pastry with the stew and bake until golden.
3-4 hours later: stew complete!
3-4 hours later: stew complete!

Today’s Trial Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating:
4 of 5 stars.
Looks so familiar, but everything is slightly different! Orange you glad I tried it, just so I could make that pun?
Likelihood of Repeat: 70%
Mmm, nothing quite like filling your house with the smell of savory stew on a lazy Sunday. This is relatively low maintenance with darn high benefit/yield, so I definitely would like to make it again.
Lesson Learned: “2 to 3 hours” + “20-25” + prep = 3-5 hours of total process time?! Better get a full season of tv watching ready, or maybe a good book.