Thursday, July 30, 2009

How Many Ways Can One Cook Strata?

Skillet, Dutch Oven & Tin can.
How Many Ways Can One Cook Strata?
Another cooking in the Camping Fire Pit experience.

First lets set the situation. I made strata for dinner last week. I made too much and had to decide what to do. At first, I was tempted to just toss out the extra, but the mushroom, beans and cheese were begging for mercy. So I thought, we (Angel and I), we need to play with this.
So I loaded the small crockpot and stuck it into the Dutch Oven. This is not necessary, but I wanted to try it in the crock. I usually make the Strata directly in the Dutch oven and it always turns out really wonderful.
When the crock was filled to where I wanted it, I then put some in the empty Green Bean can. Then I put the rest on a cast iron fajita skillet.
I don't have a photo of the skillet cooking over the fire, but I put it on the Dutch oven. It sat on the coals that were on the lid. It cooked much like an omelet or scrambled eggs. The charcoal worked great- it heated the Dutch oven and the skillet. I did turn the strata a couple of times to make sure it all got the proper heat. This is the portion that Angel and I ate for dinner.
Oh, do you notice the cardboard wrapped around the skillet handle? That is the Make-Do hot pad I fashioned for the very hot handle. It worked great. I also used a folded in half piece of cardboard as a hot pad for the Dutch Oven wire handle. I ripped up a box from an empty box of Aluminum Foil, such a handy use of garbage.
The Green Bean can was filled 3/4's of the way. I then stuck it down in the coals without a cover. I think a foil lid would have been fine, but I was happy watching it bubble. I turned it quite often at first until the whole thing was bubbling. It cooked just fine too.

This is what Pilot ate when he stopped in for dinner. I put it on the cleaned off skillet so he could use that as his plate. He also got a new fork!! Lucky him!!
So then the last way we cooked was in the crock in the Dutch Oven. This worked out wonderfully. No mess in the Dutch Oven to clean up. I did put a piece of foil under the crock, but really didn't need it. I rotated the Oven in the fire/coals every 10 minutes or so. I didn't have a clock handy, and forgot about looking at my phone so I really don't know how long things cooked. I imagine the Dutch oven took about 45 minutes or so of baking.
The tin can took 25 minutes or so. The skillet about 10 minutes. But remember I wasn't counting nor did I really care. I cooked by watching, smelling and experience. I basically just let go of the conventional timer thinking and went for watching the food and decided myself when it was done. That was a lot of fun. A weird kind of Freedom! It felt great to be in control and not to question if the timer was right.
The Dutch Oven held the crock full of strata for a couple of hours at a nice warming temperature of around 145 degrees. I did drop it into the fire a couple of times to keep the oven warm. I love, LOVE, LOVE my Dutch Ovens~!!!!


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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookies Experimentation Using Bacon Grease

So it was cookie making time at my house.  
We were all pining for something sweet. So into the kitchen I went. I gently threw open my bread maker and tossed in some flour, sugar, stuff and more stuff and out came some cookie dough. I baked one pan and put the rest in a zip-lock bag into the fridge.
This photo is from another cookie dough moment.  This time the bowl came out sparkling clean.  But I just wanted you to see my 'dough maker bowl'.

I got these results:

Pilot- "I don't like your cookies mom, they taste weird." I asked him what was weird about them and he couldn't or wouldn't exactly say.
Angel- "I don't like your cookies either mom............., I love them!" I was headed into depression and then she blindsided me and I was elated. She is my picky eater.

I had to use Special Dark Chocolate Chips because that is all I have, and Angel emphatically says she hates them! I have her fooled, I use them when I have to, however I usually mix them with milk or semi-sweet. Don't tell her I did this or she will all the sudden hate them. LOL............ 

(I had Special Dark because they were on sale.  The store had ordered too many of them and no one was buying them but me.  I think they should have just given them all to me for next to nothing, but a dollar a bag was good too. I only bought about 6 bags, and they are all gone now.  boooo hoooo.......... I love Special Dark!)
Hubby- "They aren't your best, but there is nothing wrong with them either. I think they are good." He is a good diplomat. He knows what to say, but then after 16 years of marriage he'd better know what to say. The hard part is really knowing if he is telling the truth or trying not to hurt my feelings.
Me- I think they are definitely edible. They satisfied my sugar/sweet craving so that was excellent. They did have a small smell to them, but no one else mentioned it. There was no odd taste that I could find, maybe Pilot has strange taste buds? Noway......... he is not strange in any way.........................
OK to tell the truth-
I didn't exactly follow a recipe, exactly. I just sort of made them. I am putting the recipe on here for any one else to make these, but just to document what I did.
Warning/ Disclaimer-
If you were to make them, they should turn out OK. But they would be just regular nothing special cookies and there are plenty of other wonderful Chocolate Chip Cookie recipes to make and enjoy.
I am hoping that some might find this interesting and do a little experimenting with cooking themselves. I love just making things up, but they don't always work. But then you analyze, learn, redo and enjoy the journey to making things better. This is how we should live and do everything in our lives, not just cooking............... Just wanted to share........
Today's Cookie Experimentation-
Into the bread maker went:
3 cups flour
2/3 cups sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup soft but not melted bacon grease
2 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
Turn on the bread maker and let it mix. If it gets too stiff, dump it out into a bowl and stir with a spoon. I did help the mixer along a bit, but I'm not patient with things like this. I used my strong spoon type rubber scraper to help turn the dough.
Then I mixed in the rest of my chocolate chips stash. They were special dark ones and there was about 1/2 cup left, not nearly enough, but hey you use what you have.
From there I took my small cookie scoop and made a tray of 12 cookies. I put the rest of the dough in the fridge for later cooking. I decided to make only a few, to see how the bacon grease did. I figured if it was too overpowering, I would make bars and frost them. I knew that would work, but it did not come to that.
Oh....... Pilot updated his review. He came to me this morning with the leftover dough in his hand. "mom, can you cook these?"
"I thought you didn't like them," I replied.
"They taste fine this morning," he confessed.
I go in the kitchen, the rest of the cookies from last night are gone. Somebody thought they were alright.
So I baked three more pans of 12 each. So this recipe made 48 cookies.
Angel gets a plate out and starts filling it up. "Angel," I ask, "do you have enough yet?" She had 5 on her plate.
"No, they are too good. I have to give one to Pilot because I just ate one of his." She turns around and see me putting in another tray to bake, "Oh, you have more? I guess I'll take another couple."
I give her the look that says, yeh right, you need more? NO! I didn't have to say any words, and she didn't take any more cookies. But somehow they are slowly disappearing. I hope to hide a few in the freezer when I get through with this post.
I could smell bacon grease on them. One could have come to the conclusion that I grease the pan with bacon grease. The cookies did not taste of bacon at all. They were slightly different from just butter taste, but I thought it added a new dimension to the end result. 
I think that an experimentation with one great recipe would be better. I could make half the way the recipe reads and alter the other half to include the bacon grease. This would be a better way to taste test.  Maybe even add a bit of cinnamon, that would be good too.
I did learn that I could make cookies with bacon grease if I had too. I probably won't unless we have an earthquake or something that prohibits me from getting my butter. But I will keep on baconing in savory dishes. Like breakfast,muffins, cornbread, bread, biscuits, soups, stews (thickening w/ flour for gravy) and other things. And greasing my pans for strata, quiches, hashbrown and fried eggs.
Pilot just came out of the kitchen with a cookie in his hand, a bite in his mouth. "These taste weird again," he says.  "I think I like them either cold over night or hot from the oven. Oh and I like the ones you cooked that are a little more crispy."
Well, Pilot usually likes his cookies soft.  So why the change?  Don't really know.  But I did bake a sheet of cookies a bit longer for him, because he asked me to when I was baking them this morning.  I don't really think it matters.  To me they taste the same warm, cool or cold.  Pilot is just trying to be weird!  
I suppose I won't be making this particular recipe again.  However, the bottom line is still that everyone's still eating them.  So they can't be horrible!!!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Impromptu Cake Pans


I wanted to bake a delicious chocolate cake and I don't have any round cake pans. I usually do not make layer cakes. Most of the time I either use a 9x13 or a specialty pan. I have both a heart shaped pan and my 'nut' pan. The nut pan is in the shape of a nut from a bolt and nut. I love to use it and write things like:

Have a Nutty Birthday. 
You're Nuts! 
49 years - Are you Nuts? 
I'm Nuts over you....
Although it has been years since I have made one of these funny cakes. I made them mostly before I got married, (16 years of marriage now).
So I grabbed these:

These are my Make-Do cake pans. A pair of oval crocks. I greased them with my trusty bacon grease, did not flour them though. I used a cake mix because I was in a hurry.
I was in such a hurry, I didn't take a final photo. However, they cooked beautifully. I tried to get the first cake out of the pan too quickly/early and it broke up a bit. Or maybe I should use the excuse that I was talking on the phone at the same time I was trying to de-pan the cake and I was distracted, but I won't use that excuse, even though it is really true. I still salvaged it and used it as the top layer. Frosting makes good glue!!
I let the second one sit until the crock was still a little warm but not hot. Then I loosened it around the edges and used a spatula to go under the cake on the bottom. I turned it out and it came out perfect. I was a bit disappointed not to have any stuck to the pan, 'cuz I eat those pieces. Bad for me, good for the end results on the cake. 
Now that they worked out so good, I will not invest in cake pans. It was fun having a cake a bit on the oval side. A little unique, like me! I probably will put an oval of parchment paper in the bottom, though. That would make removing the cake a bit easier, in case it was just a fluke that the second one came out so easy. 
So again, I have more things on my agenda to experiment with. This will go to the end of the list, so maybe if I remember to read my list, I will get to it in November or December.


Thanks for visiting with me today and leave me a comment if you have the time.
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Flannel Blanket with Crocheted Edge

 I helped my mom make a baby blanket for our first great baby.  
Her great grand baby and my great niece.
My mom found this colorful flannel.  I then took it and hand rolled the edge and did a single crochet  along the edge about a 3/8 of an inch from the edge and 1/2 inch apart.  I used a very small metal crochet hook and poked it through the material and pulled the yarn through.  It was pretty easy.  Then I went around the blanket again with a row of single crochet.
It took about 3 hours to do.  I "watched" 2 movies while I was doing it.  Needless to say, if I really want to "see" those movies, I will need to put them back in and really watch them.  LOL.........
The movies were mostly for background entertainment.  I do that once in a while.
I crocheted around the blanket with out trimming any material.  It was cut almost perfectly straight and so I decided to make it as big as possible.  So it is about 42-45" square.
I very nice size to keep our new baby snuggly wrapped up in.
Hopefully she won't be kicking her feet out. 
This is my first Great baby- a niece!  I think she is beautiful.  I hope to meet her soon.
She is already over a month old....  Soon........
She lives in Wyoming and I am in Utah.  Not far, but far enough that we haven't met yet.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Hamburgers over the Fire

Hamburgers over the Fire

At our last campsite we had a wonderful round firepit. There was also a stand alone heavy metal grill. It was in good shape. But, I wanted to cook over the fire pit. I also did not want to have to clean the grill, not that it would have taken much, but I just did not want to do it. I would also have had to move hot coals up to the grill or started a fire/charcoal there. Noway! I had a lovely fire and tons of heat and so I was bound and determined to cook in the fire pit.

I did come prepared for fire pit cooking. We brought a grill plate from our home's gas grill. And I had found a wonderful planter pot holder ($1.00) made of heavy steal. So pairing them up, we had a great place to grill our burgers and anything else we would want.

Of course in any make-do situation, not all the pieces fit perfectly together. The grill has a bar that rests on top of the planter and so it can twirl a bit, but once you know this, you can make sure to keep it straight. I could even wire them together and there would be no more twirling/moving when I go to turn the burgers. However, the one thing that drew me to the planter was the double holes in it. I bet you could put two cooking pots in there and cook up soup and boiling water for corn. Or anything else..........

Also, here is my trusty fire tongs. My kids and Hubby know when I ask for fire tongs, this is what I mean. I had to add a make-do wire to hold them together, I guess the one they came with broke. I can't remember for sure, but I know I made the current wire slidy thing. I also had to wrap wire around the bottom joint as half of the rivet has come out and was lost. We lost the wire when this photo was taken, but I found it later and rewired it. I am going to put a screw in the joint one-of-these-days, then it will even be better.

The other great tool is my stainless pancake turner. I have written about it before, but not in a camping setting. I found it for .50 or .75 cents at the Thrift store and I love it! Easy clean up, heavy duty, strong, longer handle, and on and on and on......

I did grease my grill with my trusty bacon grease, and my pork/turkey burgers did not stick at all. They turned out fabulous. Very little cleanup to be done on the my grill- I have to love that!

The sad thing about this day was the hamburger buns. I had a package in the trailer fridge from our last campout. They looked fine, but boy did they have a smell. They must have soaked up something else's smell because they made the burgers taste/smell weird. I did not realize the buns smelled until I was putting the food away.

My Hubby said to please not make burgers with pork and turkey again, because he didn't like the smell. I was agreeing with him and thought it was the burgers smelled. I know the meat smelled fine when I made them, so I was a bit confused. But as I was cleaning up, I realized it was the smelly bun that he/we did not want to have repeated.

So someday, I will try the same burgers and we will decide then whether I can make them a third time. None of us died from eating the smelly buns, but we tossed them and used the new ones later. I also taught my kids to ask me to check the buns if they noticed a smell.

But as you can guess, they said they didn't notice a smell------------ "really?" I said, "you won't be in trouble......... this is a learning experience.......... are you sure you didn't notice anything?"
"Sure, we are sure mom............ really!" They both chime in. I can't read them, are they fibbing or it is the truth?
"OK, but next time, try to notice if something smells," I admonish.
"Yeah, OK, we'll check," they say.
"Yeah,............. right, OK." I am sure they will next time. It was funny, because neither kid said a thing about the buns. However my little Angel didn't want to eat hers. That day she was feeling vegetarian. Yeah, right................ well she does this once in a while. I think she was loaded up on snacks. That is like her................. 'nuf said.


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Monday, July 20, 2009

Keeping Pen and Notebook Together


Keeping Pen and Notebook Together

I hate it when my pen gets separated from my notebook!  So I had to take measures to prevent this from happening any more.

I grabbed the trusty Duct tape and fashioned a pocket to the front of my notebook.  It doesn't look so smart/snappy, but it works.  Everyone around me knows that if they borrow my pen from it's special pocket they must return it or it creates a Mommy Monster that they would rather not awaken~~!!!!

I also added ribbon book marks, they help me find my today's stuff really fast.  I usually mark my notes for camping and the page that I put my notes for the next trip on.  This past camping trip was really great, we only missed a couple of things that would have made the days away a bit better.  So I jotted them down and next time we will try not to forget them.  Things like Dad's pillow!  We shuffled things around and everyone ended up with something for their head.  (I am actually going to put a permanent pillow in the trailer for Dad.  This is the second time he has missed bringing his, this year.  It is on the list.  The kids each have one in there already.  I like to bring my favorite one from by bed at home.)

On my old notebook I put a pencil holder.  So far I have not had the need for a pencil in this book, but rest assured if I feel the need, I will add one.  Adding a pocket is Easy Peasy and so handy.

1. Get your Duct tape, scissors, etc. together.  I am working with Giant wide tape.  This is not as easy as working with the regular sized roll.  But it is what I had on hand and easily accessible.

2. Decide what size your pocket needs to be.   On a regular size roll, I am sure I would have had just the right width.
(For a larger item, you might have to overlap more than one piece of tape to get the size you need.)

3. Take a piece of duct tape and place it upside down- sticky side up. This piece will be the piece that sticks to your base.  It will need to be larger than the piece you had cut to fit your item, in my case my item is the small notecards.  (used to be business cards)

4. Then place the piece of tape that you cut for your item sticky side down- on the sticky side up piece. I left a tiny bit at the top that I folded down to make a nice clean, non-sticky edge.  I could have done a bit more trimming on both pieces before I put the pieces together, but for some reason I was not in perfection mode. 

5. Then I checked to make sure that everything looked right.

6. Tape pocket to your base, making sure to leave ample wiggle room for your pen, or object.  Not too much room that it will fall out, but enough that you can slide your object in and out.  Here I have just set the tape on the book for placement. 

7. I removed my notecards and then I smoothed down the tape and reinforced the top edges.

8. Enjoy the satisfaction that you will not/ should not loose your object, ever!  I wish I had some other colors of duct tape, but maybe some day.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Then make more as needed!!!


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