Monday, July 13, 2015

Wow-Long time and no blog

   I fell off the blog train.  Life got in the way- you know, job, kids, driving them all over for after school events.  A lot has happened in our camping life since the last blog.  The biggest change is that we became what we  use to call- "Wimpy campers."

Yes, we bought a travel trailer.
It's following us!

   I miss the tent.  I miss feeling like "Nature Woman" sleeping with the critters just beyond the thin tent walls. (The wild animal critters roaming the woods-not my kids.)

   But- I do not miss sleeping on the ground or on a cot for a week at a time.  My back isn't as young as it used to be and a real bed with a real mattress is really nice.

   And when it rains, I don't have to worry about the tent floor flooding. And it always rains when we camp.  My son attributes last years drought in Texas to us not camping as much as we have in the past.

   There are people in trailers that never seem to come out.  We are only in at bedtime and in heavy rain.  We aren't total camp wimps.

   Last trip, I made a new breakfast dish that was a big hit.  It was the last morning and I was running out of breakfast foods.  I always plan the meals tight so I am not bringing home lots of left overs.  I had a little bacon and a little sausage, so I cooked that in my cast iron pot with some sliced onion.  I added some hash brown potatoes (Simply Potatoes brand) and let them brown up a bit.  Then I poured in the last of the Egg Beaters (taking real eggs has never worked well for us) and let them scramble into the potatoes and meats.  I finished it by tossing in a handful of leftover shredded cheese from taco night and let that melt.  My daughter, the pickiest eater of our crew, loved it but picked out the onion pieces because they were too big.

   I may sleep in a camper, but I will always be cooking over my campfire.

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Our favorite recipes-Breakfast

As I've said before, we are camp food snobs.  We do not do hamburgers or hot dogs for dinners while camping.  Hot dogs at lunch maybe, but not as the main meal.  Most meals are cooked on the fire in a big cast iron skillet that my husband's grandfather made or in a dutch oven we got at a local sporting goods store.  Once those get seasoned just right, they are a joy to cook in.

The easiest way to break it down is recipes by meal time- Breakfast and Dinner.

In this blog I present Breakfast.

I always serve a fruit with breakfast.  Fresh or frozen.  We will have some kind of juice or milk (freeze a half gallon at home before you go-it will thaw as you use it.).  We also have the most important part of breakfast-coffee.  We splurged and got a Coleman camping coffee maker.  It works on a small Coleman stove and makes real brewed coffee-not instant. We each have our own coffee mug (the kids get hot chocolate) If you love that morning cup of joe, consider it.  


Nothing beats the smell of bacon in the morning.  The sizzle it makes in the pan will wake everyone up and get them going.  We've tried the already cooked bacon that you just heat up...once.  It just wasn't the same.  While the bacon is cooking, wrap some flour tortillas in foil and place them on the fire away from direct flames.  You just need to get them warm and pliable.  Once the bacon is done, wrap it in foil and sit it by the fire to stay warm while you cook up some scrambled eggs.
Put the bacon, eggs, and tortillas on the table with some grated cheese, salsa, sour cream, guacamole, etc. and everyone makes their own breakfast tacos.  Easy to substitute sausage instead of bacon-if you cook it like ground meat, just stir the eggs into the cooked sausage and serve. Another option- cook some potato hash browns in the skillet after the meat.  Wrap in foil and hold for taco making time, or add the eggs and cook it together.

Biscuits and gravy-

My husbands favorite breakfast meal.  It takes a little prep work, but is worth it.  The night before, while you are sitting around a campfire relaxing and thinking about the day, cook the biscuits.  I use the refrigerator biscuits-easy.  Put them in the dutch oven.  Put some hot coals under the oven and some on top of the oven. They will bake just as if you had them in the oven at home.  When done, take the biscuits out of the oven, wrap in foil and store in the car until morning.  In the morning, put the foil wrapped biscuits near the fire to warm up.  Make sausage or biscuit gravy and serve.  Best tip on making gravy- warm up the milk before adding to the roux.  It won't lump.

French Toast-

We don't cook this one often.  It's good, but seems to take so much more attention while cooking.  Beat together 2 eggs, 1/2 cup milk, 2 tablespoons sugar, and a pinch of salt.  Dip bread (8 slices) one at a time into egg mix and place on heated skillet.  Bake about 10 minutes or until golden brown.


This one is usually our last day breakfast.  It's done on the Coleman stove, easy to clean up after, and done by my husband so I can start cleaning up camp.  Easiest recipe- one of the plastic containers with mix that you just add water to and shake.

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

One Hot Mama

My husband is king of the grill at home.  When we are camping, I am Ultimate Supreme Ruler of the fire.  I let him help keep it going and he gets to cut and split all the wood, but the actual fire and cooking is my job.

The most important part of the campfire happens before you set flame to it.  It has to be built right-and with dry wood.  One time I watched a group try to start a fire with wet wood.  They had enough smoke to signal the entire text of War and Peace.  Always bring some wood with you.  They may sell bundles at the site, but you can't guarantee it is dry.  You can also always get wood at a nearby store.

I was taught the Tepee and Log Cabin building forms.  I tend to have fires built as a hybrid. A tepee shape in the center made of medium to small  sticks, kindling, and tinder with some decent size logs around the base. Tucked into the center of the tender is my family's secret fire starting method.  Well, not that secret, we taught it at every Girl Scout camp we attended and I've shared it with fellow campers.  And, it doesn't involve any of that smelly liquid stuff.

TaDaa!  Dryer lint in an egg carton covered in wax!

Everyone cleans out the dryer lint trap (or should!)  Lint is very flammable.  As I take it out, I pack it into a cardboard egg carton-the styrofoam ones do not work.  When it's full, close it up and pour melted wax over the top.  The carton and the wax slow down the burning a bit so that the wood catches.  My mom use to buy wax from the store and melt it in a double boiler.  I use melted candles and pour the wax over as the candle melts away.  If you use a scented candle, the scent sometimes can be smelt as it burns in the campfire.  Nice.

When the fire is built, light the cardboard carton and wait.  It will take a minute or 2 to catch the wood.  Don't rush it.  My daughter is learning the ins and outs of campfires.  I have to remind her that the fire is like a small animal.  You have to be gentle.  It needs air and food (fuel).  If you take away the air flow, the fire will put itself out.  Don't be tempted to shove newspaper in there to hurry it along.  I've actually stopped taking any paper with us because my husband suffocated too many fires with newspaper.

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Some more S'mores

Okay-face it.  Easiest yummy over a fire is a s'more.  The pleasure of sitting by the fire after a long day getting that marshmallow a perfect brown.  Or, plunging it into the flames so that it gets done faster.  The funny squeal and dance everyone does trying to blow out the flames no matter the age, the experience, the "cool factor" they think they have.

The classic s'more is perfect.  Marshmallow, chocolate, and graham cracker.  Delicious.  But, when you feel like you are in a rut, there are options... consider these combinations.

  • Sometimes those chocolate bars are not that convenient. In the summer (or spring, or fall, or some winter days here in Texas) they melt.  If you put them in the cooler and they get wet, they get soggy and watery tasting.  For ease or in a pinch, chocolate frosting works.  It doesn't have quite the same melt factor, but tastes the same.  This is also easier if you are making lots.   An adult not roasting marshmallows (you may have to assign someone this or take turns) can get a lot of "sets" ready to go.
  • Feel the need to add a little protein to the dessert?  Add peanut butter.  We use to call this a "Robinson Crusoe."  I don't know why.  I don't remember that being cooked on the island.
  • Girl Scout cookies instead of graham crackers and chocolate.  Our council has some they call "Caramel Delites."  In the old days when I sold them, they were called "S'mores."  Two of these cookies that come covered with caramel, chocolate and coconut smushed around a roasted marshmallow and you will order an extra case of cookies just for this reason.
  • Instead of plain chocolate bars, try peanut butter cups, chocolate crispy bars, Andes mints.  Be adventurous.  Try your favorite.   If you are industrious, a sliced 3 Musketeer or Snickers is pretty good.
  • After Easter, buy some of the Peeps on sale.  Even if you are not camping anytime soon.  They have a shelf life of forever and actually work better if they are a little stale.  The trick to these is patience.  If you burn them, the sugar burns and can be bitter.  If you toast them slowly, the sugar will caramelize a little.  It doesn't matter the shape or color-they all taste the same.
  • Craving the treat at home with no campfire?  Use the microwave.  Put a graham cracker on a plate, top with chocolate bar and marshmallow and cook for a few seconds.  The marshmallow will expand and the chocolate will melt.  Take it out and press the other cracker on top.  The toasted flavor will be missing, but if you are craving a s'more it works.
I know there are other ideas out there and would love to hear them.

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Monday, May 7, 2012

Let's go! Let's go! Let's go!

I mentioned before we can be ready to head to the woods in a couple of hours.  How in the world can that be done?  With kids?  Well, --I don't really ever unpack...

I have 2 plastic tubs- the big 5 gallon plastic things.  They are both the same color blue.  All of our camping necessities stay in those tubs.

Tub one contains all the cooking necessities:  spatula, can opener, fire/oven mitts, marshmallow roasters,  scissors paper bowls, paper plates, trash sacks, plastic cups, , plastic ware, plastic tablecloths,  a couple of dish towels, tongs, spoon, foil, napkins, mugs, cooking oil, skillet, and a small pot.  A note on top reminds me to toss in the lighter, salt and pepper, dish soap, and baby wipes/antibacterial wipes.  (Yes, I have a problem with keeping the table clean...)

Tub two contains other camping gear: bungees, , bird book, binoculars, rope, cards, clothes pins, plastic bags, plastic containers, a short water hose, and a sprinkler-I'll explain later.  The note on the top of it reminds me to toss in batteries, bug spray, sunscreen, flashlights, fire starter, and cast iron dutch oven.

Our sleeping bags are all together in a closet.  After airing them out I repack them with an extra sheet inside.  The camp chairs are in the garage near the truck.

The tent, canopy, and coffee pot (I must have my elixir of life-brewed not instant), cots, and small propane oven are all together in the attic.

Our first aid kit is always packed.  I use it instead of a cabinet in the bathroom.

So if we decide to head our for a quick trip, we grab both tubs.  I add the last minute items to it while my husband pulls out the gear from the attic and the sleeping bags.  He'll pack up his clothes and then start loading the car while I get the kids to pack clothes, a couple of toys, and grab a pillow.  The kids go out to help dad while I pack my bag.

We have a standard short trip menu/shopping list ready.  After we get to the site and unload, the kids and I set up camp and dad does the grocery shopping at a nearby store.

After we get home, I get all the gear cleaned up and repack the tubs.  If I  need to re-stock, I do so before putting the tubs back in the attic to await the next adventure.

Oh, the sprinkler...
One hot, humid weekend trip to Palmetto State Park we needed a way to cool down.  My husband ran to a store in town and brought back the sprinkler and hose.  We hooked it up to the spigot at camp and let the kids (and parents) play.  It wasn't long before all the kids in our little area were over playing.  We made some great friends that trip.  We were the "coolest" site around.

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Something to do--geocaching

Treasures inside a geocache to trade
We got hooked onto geocaching through a school project.  I needed to learn all the in's and out's in order to teach it to my students.  My in-laws gave me a geoMate and off we went--I thought.

It wasn't as easy as turning on the gadget and going on our happy treasure hunting way.  Our first trip out was a disaster.  We got lots of exercise, but found absolutely nothing.  Well, nothing except construction sites and a dead coyote.  The kids thought that was cool.

After getting home I went into the geocaching website, and did some research.  I found out that if I made an account, I could see the nearby caches and read the log books to see if the caches were still there.  The one we had looked for had been reported gone a year ago.  We found a couple using the geoMate and the website for research before we went.  Nothing spontaneous.

The next big leap in our geocaching expertise came when I upgraded to (as my daughter calls it) a real phone with 4g LTE and droid apps.  And I thought phones were for calling people!  Silly me!

I could now look up a cache on the phone and read the log at the same time-from anywhere!  Our next camping trip was to Lake Texana.  We hit the app button and off we went.  The kids thought it was great because we got to go off of the marked trails to find treasures.  And did we find treasures!  We carried our bag of trade items- McD's toys, pencils, cool erasers, mini puzzle books, etc.  We traded for Hot Wheels cars, a whistle (which I washed thoroughly in hot water), and wooden toys.  The kids were in heaven.  And my hubby and I got to hike and bird watch while they followed the compass directions-quietly too, but I don't know why...

So, My current best tips for geocaching with you kids on a camping trip:
1.  Carry water,snack, small first aid kit,  and bug spray. (duh!)
2.  Carry a waterproof bag with a pen and some small things to trade.  If you are traveling a distance, something about your home area would be a great trade.
3.  Make sure you have a watch.  You will lose track of time.
4.  Battery back up for the geocaching device you are using.  Sometimes the program seems to eat up battery power.

Speaking of that-I just got a solar cell charger for my phone for camping trips.  I'm using it almost all the time now.  Great investment.

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Sunday, April 1, 2012

A long time ago...

gypsum crystals
My first camping trip with my husband was to the Great Salt Flats in Oklahoma.  I was into collecting rocks and could dig for my own gypsum crystals.  We were both into bird watching.  Seemed like a perfect trip.

digging up gems
We found a great site and set up camp before hiking and digging.  The campsite had huge trees, plenty of space between sites, and a beautiful lake nearby.  As we pitched the tent, we noticed all the crawdad chimneys around the camp.  We joked that if we didn't have enough dinner, we could just dig up a few as appetizers.

After a full day of hiking and digging up gems, we had dinner.  My husband was so proud of the fact that we were having steak, grilled asparagus, and potatoes while the people around us had hot dogs and burgers.  He enjoyed watching the other men drool as the steaks cooked.  (Our camping food issues go way back.)  We sat around the campfire and watched clouds roll in before crawling into the tent for the night.

And then the rain started.  And then the lightening,  And then the flooding.

It was close to midnight.  We threw everything into the back of the car-a 2 door Saturn- and got out of there.  The poor dog, Sophie, was dripping wet and had no where to sit since the back seat was full of wet gear.  She sat on my lap as we drove 4 hours home.  4 hours I might add in one of the most extreme electrical storms seem in Oklahoma for decades.  We made it home and collapsed in bed.  We could clean up in the morning afternoon after getting some sleep.

What important camping tip did we learn from this?  Don't camp in an area covered with crawdad chimneys.  It will be prone to flooding.  And- it takes a long time to get the smell of wet dog out of a small car.

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