Sunday, January 31, 2010

Day 31: Poppy Seed Chicken

I have to say, I overwhelmed by the response I have had to this blog. When I started I thought I would have my family and a few friends reading it. I never dreamed that so many people would be interested in what I'm doing. Thanks for every one's comments, I am learning a lot from all of you!
Today's recipe is my 7 year old daughter's favorite dinner. Whenever I ask her what she wants to eat, its poppy seed chicken. This recipe also comes from the Relief Society cookbook. It was served at a women's meeting at church, and it quickly became one of my favorites.

Poppy Seed Chicken
12" dutch oven

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cut up in pieces
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 1/2 cup sour cream
1 cylinder of Ritz crackers, crushed
4 Tbs. melted butter
1 1/2 Tbs. poppy seeds

I cut each chicken breast in thirds, and fried it in my DO using about 25 coals. Then mix the chicken, sour cream and soup and put it in the DO. In a separate bowl, mix crackers, melted butter and poppy seeds; sprinkle over the chicken mixture. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. I used 8 coals on the bottom and 16 on the top.

The Finished Product
What I Learned

This is a really easy recipe. The only way to mess it up is to over heat it--which I did. Usually my problem is too little heat, but today it was too much. The gravy separated and was lumpy instead of creamy and smooth. Next time I will use fewer coals, maybe 14 on top, and it will be much better.

The Review

Even with the gravy separating, it still tasted good. I should have checked it sooner and I could have adjusted the heat better. It worked really well in the DO. I'll give this recipe an A-.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Day 30: Middle Eastern Chicken Casserole

I can't believe I have been doing this for a month. Other than it taking a lot of time, it hasn't been to bad--I would even say it has been fun! I have learned a ton! If I only did this on camping trips I would never have learned as much as I have. Consistency has been the key. I get to learn from yesterday's mistakes instead of trying to remember what I did wrong on last year's camping trip.
Many thanks to everyone for your comments on yesterday's biscuit attempt. It is really nice to feel like I am among friends. I have found a few other biscuit recipes that sound good, and I am in the process of trying them, and hopefully they will be successful. I do have one question for all of you out there in cyberspace, how long does it take for your biscuits to cook? The recipes all say 10-15 minutes, but for me it has translated into 30-40 minutes. Is that normal, or am I having more problems that I thought I was? Pipe up everyone--dish out your secrets--I certainly won't have any after all this is over! :)
Today's recipe is one I learned in a Middle Eastern cooking class I took last year. Talk about good food. I am combing the Internet for more recipes. Mediterranean cooking is just amazing. I have even learned to like feta cheese. Don't judge this recipe by the picture--please. The pic is terrible and doesn't do the dish justice. It is definitely worth trying.

Middle Eastern Chicken Casserole
12" dutch oven

4 chicken breasts, cooked and cut up
1 12 oz. pkg. medium egg noodles, drained
2 jars marinated artichoke hearts, drained
Parmesan cheese
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
2 onions, chopped
1 small jar chopped pimentos, drained
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup chicken broth
4 tbs. butter
4 Tbs. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
dash of pepper
4 cups milk

I boiled the chicken in my DO then cooked the noodles in the same water. In your DO saute the onions and green peppers until tender; set aside. I used about 25 coals. In the same DO melt the butter, add the flour to make a roux; stir for one minute. (At this point I would remove some of the coals so the milk doesn't burn.) Add the broth and the milk. Stir until it thickens. This takes about 10 minutes, and it doesn't get really thick. Just cook it until you notice a difference in the consistency. If it gets too thick the whole dish is dry. Mix the noodles, veggies, pimentos, chicken and artichokes together in a bowl. When the sauce is thickened, add the noodle mixture to it and stir well. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake for 1 hour. I used 10 coals on the bottom and 16 on top (it was cold outside). You will need to replenish the coals part way through.

The Finished Product

Seriously folks--the pic doesn't do this one justice.
What I Learned

This is the first dish that I have had to worry about replenishing the coals. I know--I'm a chicken. It was easy, I just had to plan ahead and have the coals ready on time. Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

The Review

This was one of those dishes that called for the ingredients to be layered, and I would have done it in my kitchen, but it didn't change the result to mix it all together. I only used about a jar and a half of artichokes because I wasn't sure if my kids would like them. It turns out they did. This was really good. The flavor was unusual, but not weird. This will go into our meal rotation. Grade: B+

Friday, January 29, 2010

Day 29: Dutch Oven Biscuits

So my charcoal hunting expedition to Home Depot was a bust. They only carry Kingsford and Cowboy lump charcoal. I am going to have to make a few more stops next time I'm out.
As you can see by the title of today's post, I finally got up the nerve to try some biscuits in the DO. Cooking breads in the DO is very stressful--especially with all of you watching. I have been putting it off as long as possible. I have to say, it wasn't too bad. They weren't great, and I know I didn't have enough heat because they took to long to cook and didn't rise like they were supposed to. But I should at least get an "A" for effort, right!? I am going to spend all next week practicing my biscuits and at some point they will turn out well. I will post the pics so you can watch the progress :).

Dutch Oven Biscuits
12" dutch oven

2 cups flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 tsp. cream of tarter
2 tsp. sugar
2/3 cup milk
1/2 tsp. salt

Mix the flour, baking powder, cream of tartar, sugar and salt. Cut in shortening, then add the milk. Mix well. Roll out to about 3/4" thick and cut out biscuits. I used 26 coals with 8 on the bottom and 18 on top. The recipe says to cook for 10-12 minutes, but mine took longer.
The Finished Product

At least I didn't burn them! :)
What I Learned
These were more stressful than they should have been. I have totally psyched myself out. I keep telling myself that I'm just adding heat to food. It shouldn't be that hard. I think it is all in my head. I am going to make biscuits everyday until I get them right and find the perfect recipe. So stay tuned!
The Review
Well, I didn't burn them, and they were edible, so that is a plus. They didn't rise very high and they were a pretty dry, but I think that was a product of the long cooking time. They also didn't brown at all, which surprises me because of how long they cooked. Next time will be better. The first time is always the hardest! I am going to keep working on them until I get them right, so I won't grade these until I do.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Day 28: Baked Ziti

Today's post was supposed to be dutch oven biscuits. However, it was not to be. I mixed up the dough, cut out the biscuits and got ready to bake. I set up the coals with 7 on the bottom and 16 on the top and waited. After about 10 minutes I went to check them, and the coals had gone out. I was MAD! All my anxiety over cooking anything bread like, and the coals go out. I don't know what happened, I did everything exactly the same as always, there was no wind, and it was almost 40 degrees outside. I am not liking Kingsford charcoal right now. So I went online to do some charcoal research. Apparently, Kingsford has changed their formula and it doesn't work as well. According to Kingsford, it burns hotter and longer--I beg to differ. I was mad enough that I ran over to my local Walmart and picked up a bag of Sam's choice charcoal since I am giving Kingsford the silent treatment. Well, guess what? The Sam's choice started just as well, and burned just as long, but it did burn hotter. I didn't have the heat problems that I have had in the past. So today, I am making the 30 mile trek to Home Depot and I am going to experiment with every brand of charcoal they carry. My online research tells me that there are 2 brands that are the ones to try--Royal Oak and Wicked Good. I found Royal Oak lump coals at Walmart, but I am not ready to try those yet so I will try to find their briquettes, and I'm not sure Wicked Good is even available in Utah. I will let you know how my experiments turn out.
On to a happier subject--the recipe. This is just your standard baked ziti recipe. It calls for layering the ingredients, but in the interest of ease and since the result isn't that different, I mixed everything together in my DO and sprinkled the cheese on top. this would be a pretty easy camping recipe, and I think I will take it to Yellowstone this summer.
Baked Ziti
12" dutch oven
1 lb. ground beef
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves minced garlic
1 jar meatless spaghetti sauce
1 cup chicken broth
1 tsp. oregano
1 16 oz. pkg. ziti pasta, cooked and drained (I used penne)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
In your DO brown the beef with the onion and garlic. I used about 25 coals. Drain any grease and stir in the spaghetti sauce chicken broth and oregano. Take away a few coals and simmer for 10 minutes. Mix the pasta 1 1/2 cups mozzarella and 1/2 cup Parmesan into the meat mixture. Stir well. Bake for 20 minutes using 8 coals on the bottom and 16 on top. Sprinkle with remaining cheeses and bake 10 minutes more.
The Finished Product

What I Learned

I learned that there is alot to learn about charcoal. I am going to do some experimenting and see what works best, and I may even have to apologize to Kingsford brand after I try some of the others. I thought it was just me that was the problem with heat, but it may be partly the charcoal. I'll keep you posted.

The Review

This was your average baked ziti recipe. I got distracted and used to much ground beef and didn't add more sauce and broth, so mine was a little dry. If you followed the instructions it would be moist and delicious. It worked really well, and like I said, I will make this when we go camping this summer. Grade: B

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Day 27: Quick Chili

One of the things that is a challenge with this little DO project is what to do on busy days. I had a million things to do and I got home late and still had to worry about what to cook. I found the perfect busy day and camping chili. It is almost all canned goods that you just dump in. I had dinner ready in about an hour--start to finish.

Quick Chili
12" dutch oven
1 12 oz. can kidney beans
1 12 oz. can pinto beans
1 12 oz. can black beans
2 14 oz cans diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1 lb. hamburger
1/4 cup diced onion
garlic salt to taste
1 12 oz. can green beans
1 pkg. chili seasoning mix
1 cup diced beef stick
1/4 cup ketchup
Drain and rinse the beans. In your DO, brown the ground beef, onions and garlic salt. I used about 25 coals on the bottom. Drain any grease. Mix the remaining ingredients in with the ground beef and simmer for 20-30 minutes.
The Finished Product
What I Learned
I learned that there is such a thing as a quick DO dinner. I got everything prepared while the coals were starting, and this came together really quickly.
The Review
This was really good, especially when you consider how short a time it cooks. It will be even better tomorrow when the sausage flavor has time to soak into everything. I added some frozen corn, and you could add any veggies you wanted to make this a really hearty soup. This would be an easy camping meal. This recipe gets a B+ for ease and taste.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Day 26: Gooey Cake

I thought it was time for a sweet treat DO style. I figure since all our New Year's resolutions have flown out the window anyway, chocolate was in order. I ended up having to make this recipe twice. The first time it was diagnosed with acute baking powder deficiency. The second time was much better. My seven year old daughter dubbed this "Gooey Cake".

Hot Fudge Cake
10" dutch oven
1 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
6 Tbs. baking cocoa, divided
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 3/4 cup hot water
whipped cream or ice cream
In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, 2 Tbs. cocoa, baking powder and salt. Stir in the milk, oil and vanilla until smooth. Spread in you DO. Combine the remaining 4 Tbs. cocoa and brown sugar. Sprinkle over the batter. Pour the hot water over everything, but DO NOT stir. Bake for 30-35 minutes with 7 coals on the bottom and 14 on top.
The Finished Product

What I Learned

First, don't forget to put baking powder in your baked goods. Second, this was really easy. It was a little warmer today, almost 40 degrees when I cooked it, and it made a difference. I didn't need to add quite as much heat.

The Review

When I need a chocolate fix, this is what I want. It was gooey and chocolaty and sweet and rich. I think I could eat it everyday. My kids have begged me to make it again tomorrow. It was really easy to put together and worked perfectly in the DO. I thought about adding some crushed peppermint candies for Christmastime or maybe with peppermint ice cream. This gets an A.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Day 25: Cheesy Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole with Rice

First on today's agenda--a big thanks to Mark for posting a link to my blog on the forum on the International Dutch Oven Society's website. I'm so excited to get some new readers and comments from "experts". I'll tell you, I am a bit intimidated by cooking for everyone. It is like having dinner guests every day! :) I'm just waiting to fall on my face, but I know all of you will help dust me off and pick me back up.
I love chicken cordon bleu, but I don't often have the time to make it, so I found this great casserole version on picky-palate. In my kitchen I would have used 3 pans, but the D.O. made it a one pot meal.

Cheesy Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole with Rice
12" dutch oven
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced (I left this out)
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 lb. diced ham
2 cups cooked chopped chicken
4 Tbs. butter
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 14 oz. can chicken broth
3 cups cooked rice
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
First, I boiled the chicken in my dutch oven (you could also fry it). Then I used some of the leftover water from the chicken to cook the rice. Set them both aside. Heat the oil in your dutch oven and add the onion and pepper. Cook until softened. Then add the garlic, ham and chicken; cook for about 5 minutes. Put the butter in the D.O. with the meat mixture and allow it to melt. When butter is melted, sprinkle the flour, salt and pepper over the meat and stir well. Pour in the chicken broth and stir until combined. Stir in the rice. Finally top with the cheeses and bake 25 minutes using 12 coals on the bottom and 16 on top.
The Finished Product

What I Learned

One pot meals are great! I would be willing to say that this was as easy to do in the D.O. as it would have been in the kitchen. I am learning to be more organized with my tools and ingredients, and that makes cooking outdoors a lot easier.
The Review
This was really good! It was ooey, gooey and cheesy. The rice added a nice texture and made it more hearty. It would be a really great weeknight meal. This gets an A for taste and ease.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Day 24: Chicken Tikka Masala

One of my goals for this dutch oven experiment was that I not change the kinds of food I cook, only the way I cook them. And so far I have mostly succeeded. The only thing that is different about my cooking now is that I am branching out with what I cook. Tonight's dish is Indian. I have never had any Indian food, so I had no idea what to expect, except that it would be spicy.
This recipe got rave reviews at My Kitchen Cafe, so I thought I would try it out. Her recipes never disappoint.
Chicken Tikka Masala
10" dutch oven
1 cup plain yogurt
1 Tbs. lemon juice
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. cayenne pepper (I only used one)
2 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger (I didn't have any)
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Combine all the ingredients in a Ziploc bag and refrigerate 1 hour. Fry the chicken in your D.O. using 18-20 coals until cooked through. When chicken is cooked, remove from the D.O., drain any liquid and make the sauce.
1 Tbs. butter
1 clove minced garlic
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. salt
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 cup cream
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Melt the butter in your D.O. I used about 15 coals on the bottom. Add the garlic and jalapeno and saute for about 1 minute. Add the spices. Stir in the tomato sauce and cream. Simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes or until the sauce thickens. I covered the D.O. and added about 7 coals to the top. Then add the chicken and simmer for 10 minutes more. Garnish with fresh cilantro.
The Finished Product

What I learned

I am getting the hang of simmering foods in a dutch oven. I have found it works best if I reverse the normal rule for adding coals. For a 10" oven I would use 14 coals on the bottom and 7 on top. I also learned that I like Indian foods.
The Review
I have never had a mix of flavors quite like this. It was not at all what I expected. The chicken was tender and it was nicely spiced. I cut the cayenne in half and didn't add the jalapeno. It would have been too hot for my kids. The flavor was amazing, and very unusual. The fam ate it up and there aren't any leftovers. It also came together really quickly and easily. If you are like me and have never tried Indian food, this is the place to start. I will definitely make this again. Grade: B+

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Day 23: Simple Perfect Enchiladas

Boy, have I learned a healthy respect for the pioneers! I don't know how they did it. Our weather has been terrible! We had at least 40 mph wind the last day and a half. Usually it wouldn't be such a big deal, I would just move my cooking operation into the garage. But thanks to the wind direction I couldn't even do that, it was blowing directly into the garage. So I had to commit the ultimate act of heresy. It is even worse than using my camp stove. I am so ashamed. I had to cook inside, in my oven. It didn't even feel like dutch oven cooking, and hopefully it won't happen again.
I'm sure I have mentioned my obsession for Mexican food. I am always on the look out for new recipes. Enchiladas are a tricky one for me since I already have the perfect enchilada recipe that I will post soon. Most other recipes leave me wanting. If I didn't have a favorite recipe already, this one would at least be on the favs list. It is another Pioneer Woman recipe.

Simple Perfect Enchiladas
12" dutch oven
1 Tbs. oil
1 Tbs. flour
1 28 oz. can red enchilada sauce
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 Tbs. chopped cilantro
1 1/2 lb. ground beef
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2--4 oz cans green chilies
1/2 tsp. salt
10-14 corn tortillas
1/2 cup oil
Additional Ingredients:
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 can sliced black olives
1 cup chopped green onions
For the sauce, heat oil and add the flour to make a paste. Cook for one minute and add the enchilada sauce, chicken broth, cilantro, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 30-45 minutes
For the meat, brown the beef and onions. Drain off the fat and stir in 2 cans diced green chilies and salt. Set aside.
For the tortillas, heat oil in the dutch oven. One by one, using tongs, fry the tortillas in oil until soft, not crisp--about 30 seconds per side. Place on a plate lined with paper towels.
To assemble the enchiladas, pour 1/2 cup of sauce in the bottom of the D.O. Dip each tortilla in the sauce and place in the D.O. Spoon meat, grated cheese, a few olives and green onions in the center of the tortilla and roll up. Place seam side down. Repeat until the pan is filled. Sprinkle any extra meat, olives and onions on top of the enchiladas. Pour in the remaining sauce and cover with cheese. Bake 20 minutes. I'm sure 14 coals on top and 10 on the bottom will work fine.
**When you assemble the enchiladas, just do it in the dutch oven. when it starts to get full, then set the dipped tortilla on top of the enchiladas to fill it. Then roll it up and put it in place.
The Finished Product

These will never come out individually. Just scoop them out like a casserole.
What I Learned
Nothing! Absolutely nothing! Except maybe that I hate wind!
The Review
These were pretty good, and that is saying something because my go to enchilada recipe is amazing. I am not a huge fan of ground beef enchiladas, so if I make these again I will use chicken or shredded beef. They were really spicy--too spicy for my kids, so I would cut the green chilies down to 1 can. The dressed up sauce was much better than sauce straight out of the can. I think they are a little involved for the dutch oven, and would be a pain to do entirely outside. Overall, these get a B.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Cleaning Your Dutch Oven--Another Method

I have been trying several ways to clean my dutch ovens. I want to find the easiest and most effective way to do it. I have read several D.O. cookbooks and spent a lot of time on the Internet. The last few days I have been using a large scrap of burlap to scrape out my ovens. This actually works pretty well. I was surprised. But it has a definite down side--it leaves little burlap hairs in my ovens that are hard to get out. To be honest, it grosses me out a little bit so I will save this method for the really stuck on stuff.
I have also tried boiling out my ovens. This works well too, but I don't like having to take the extra time to heat more coals and I have been to lazy to get my camp stove out every day. I will save this method for the stuck on stuff as well.
Really, the fastest and easiest way I have tried so far is the plastic scraper and the vinegar/water mixture. If I run across other methods I will review them as well.

Day 22: Pumpkin Crumble

What a yucky day to try and cook outside. It was wet, windy and snowy! A storm is in the forecast so I decided to do a dessert this afternoon, before it hit. It took me 20 minutes and just a little bit of gasoline to get the coals lit. But the dish cooked really well. I don't know about you, but I can never get enough pumpkin. I don't know what it is about pumpkin that I love! This would be a good camping recipe because the topping can be made ahead and kept in the cooler in a Ziploc bag, and the pumpkin mixture is really easy too! This recipe is adapted from "101 Things to do With a Dutch Oven".

Pumpkin Crumble
12" dutch oven
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 12 oz. can evaporated milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. allspice
1 1/2 cups pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
2 eggs
1/2 cup + 3 Tbs. butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/4 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup rolled oats
In a bowl, mix all the cake ingredients together until smooth. Pour batter into an oiled dutch oven.
In a separate bowl, combine butter, sugar, flour, baking powder , salt and oats until crumbly. Sprinkle over cake batter. Bake at 325 degrees using 8 coals on the bottom and 16 on top. Bake 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. After 30 minutes of baking, remove 3 coals from the bottom and move them to the top so the bottom of the cake doesn't burn.
The Finished Product

What I Learned

It is really hard to light the coals when it is wet and windy. I am going to invest in some lighter fluid for just those kind of days.
The Review
This was pretty good. The topping didn't seem very hearty, so I added the rolled oats and some extra butter. The oats gave it a nice chewy texture. I'm sure it would have been good without them, so you decide. I also was out of some of the spices so I only use the nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger and it still had great flavor. It would have been even better with the allspice and cloves. My kids were thrilled to have such a great after school snack and they ate the whole thing and were asking for more. Graded: B+

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Day 21: Chicken Spaghetti

This recipe came out of the Pioneer Woman cookbook. I love her site and her recipes. Most of her recipes are super fattening--lots of cream and butter--but this one wasn't to bad.

Chicken Spaghetti
12" dutch oven

1 cut up fryer chicken, cooked and cubed (I used 4 breasts)
3 cups dry spaghetti, broken into two inch pieces
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
2 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup finely diced green pepper
1 small onion, diced
1 4 oz. jar pimentos
2 cups chicken broth
1 tsp. Lawry's season salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
Cook the spaghetti until it is al dente. Be sure not to over cook it or it will get mushy. Meanwhile, combine the rest of the ingredients except 1/2 cup of cheese. Drain the pasta and combine with the chicken/soup mixture. Put in your dutch oven and top with 1/2 cup of cheese. Bake for 35-45 minutes. I used 12 coals on the bottom and 16 on top.

The Finished Product

What I Learned

Heat, heat, heat. I swear I am going to burn everything once the weather warms up! This took extra coals, but it was very wet and windy outside. Overall, this one was easy and worked really well in the D.O. This could have easily been a one pot meal. Boil the chicken, cook the pasta in the same water, use the leftover chicken/pasta water for the broth and finally mix it all in the dutch oven. I had to cook my chicken and pasta inside because of the wind, but next time I will do it the one pot way. 

The Review

This recipe was really good! I was worried at first because it was really runny. But the pasta soaked up the rest of the chicken broth and it was great. I would let it sit for 10 minutes before you dig in and it will set up better. I served it right away and it was a little runny. The whole fam thought it was delicious, and the leftovers won't last long. This makes a lot, so if you aren't feeding an army you will want to cut it in half. Grade: A

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Day 20: Cheesy Hash Brown Chili

What a day!! The transmission on my hubby's truck is finally finished so we went to pick it up. When we got home we noticed a antifreeze leak and ended up with a big mess on our hands that took most of the morning to fix. Then my #2 son was lucky enough to get braces this afternoon. So sorry for the late post. Trust me, you aren't missing anything by having this one be late! I'll explain more later on. On to the recipe!

Cheesy Hash Brown Chili
10" dutch oven
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 Tbs. chili powder
2 t. ground cumin
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 lb. ground beef
salt and pepper to taste
1 15 oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 lb. bag frozen hash browns
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
In your D.O. over about 15 coals, brown the beef and onion. Drain any grease and add the tomato paste, salt and pepper. Add the beans and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Remove a few coals and simmer about 20 minutes. In a large bowl combine the hash browns and the cheese. Spread over the chili mixture. Bake for about 35 minutes or until potatoes are tender and chili is bubbling. I used 10 coals on the bottom and 14 on top.
The Finished Product

What I Learned

This was really easy and wasn't much of a challenge except that it was sprinkling on me the whole time. Thankfully the coals stayed lit and it wasn't much of a problem. If it had rained any harder we could have had problems!
The Review
Honestly, this is a recipe I wouldn't mind never having again. My son loved it, but he was the only one. It is a Rachel Ray recipe, and hers are usually really good, but this was the exception. It had a weird taste and just wasn't good. This one gets a D.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Day 19: Heavenly Potatoes and Ham

Today's recipe is another one out of a Relief Society cookbook. (Relief Society is the women's organization in the Mormon church.) This particular cookbook is a favorite. The town I live in is very rural and the main industry is agriculture. We are a little behind the times in that most women I know still bake most of their bread, use dried beans instead of canned, and cook from scratch. I sometimes compare it to Mayberry, and there are plenty of "Aunt Beas" here. As a result, the cookbooks that are put together are amazing. It is nice to live where things move at a slower pace. We don't even have a gas station, and the only store-"The Mercantile" or The Merc for short--(and yes, that is what it was really called) closed several years ago. It is a great place to live. Anyway, back to the great cooks. This recipe is very easy and has great taste. I added a little bit of dill to the sauce, and I liked the results.

Heavenly Potatoes and Ham
10" Dutch oven
2 lb. potatoes, cubed
2 1/2 Tbs. melted butter
2/3 cup shredded cheese
2/3 cup cooked ham, cubed
1/2 cup sour cream
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 Tbs. green onion, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp. dill
1 1/2 Tbs. melted butter
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
Boil potato cubes until slightly tender. Drain and put back in dutch oven. In a separate bowl, combine the sour cream, 2 1/2 Tbs. melted butter, soup, cheese, green onions, ham, salt and pepper and dill. Mix in with the potatoes in the dutch oven. Mix Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs and 1 1/2 Tbs. melted butter; sprinkle over the top of the potato mixture. Bake using 14 coals on top and 12 on the bottom.
The Finished Product

What I learned

I am still learning to adjust the heat to cook foods properly. I started with to few coals and halfway through cooking I added a few more. So much of learning dutch oven cooking has been learning to adjust the heat according to the weather and the food you are cooking. This isn't something you can learn out of a book. It is mostly experience. Just get out an do it. If I haven't totally ruined something by now, then anyone can do it. Don't be intimidated by the coals. It is so much fun and so frustrating at the same time!
The Review
This was really good. It is total comfort food, and the dill was a nice addition. My family really liked it and it worked well in the dutch oven. Next time I will add more ham, maybe increase it to 1 cup. This recipe gets an A-.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Day 18: Taco Soup

I woke up this morning to the sound of slush on the roof. It doesn't bode well for outdoor cooking. But we really need the snow so I won't complain. And I do love the way the world looks covered in a blanket of fresh snow. My house is surrounded by orchards and fields and it looks so cool to see the baby cherry trees outlined with the snow. And, by the way, Happy Martin Luther King Day! The kids are out of school, so with that thought, LET IT SNOW! My #2 son always makes a snowman village Calvin and Hobbes style. They look half melted or are being chased by sharks or something. The kid is creative!
Now on to the recipe! I have probably made 6 different versions of this soup over the years, but this one is my favorite. I usually make this soup on busy days because it is so fast and easy. I have to admit, I used my camp chef stove because it was such a crazy night and I needed dinner fast.
Taco Soup
12" dutch oven
2 lbs. ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 4 oz. can diced green chilies
2 cans corn
4 cans stewed tomatoes
1 can pinto beans
1 can kidney beans
1 taco seasoning packet
1 ranch dressing/dip packet
Brown the ground beef and onion in your D.O. Drain the grease. Add all the remaining ingredients. Do not drain the corn or beans, just dump the whole can in. Simmer for 30 minutes. Garnish with shredded cheese, sour cream and chopped cilantro.
The Finished Product

What I learned

I learned 2 things. First, that using my camp chef stove feels a lot like cheating, and second, that I should have used my 12" D.O. instead of my 10". It completely filled the 10" and made it hard to carry into the house!
The Review
This soup is one that I know my family will eat. The hubby is not a huge fan, but he doesn't complain to loudly. The ranch dressing is a nice addition and adds an interesting flavor. It worked great in the D.O. and was really easy. This recipe gets a B, but only because I have made it a million times.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Day 17: Toasted Orzo with Peas

While I was out on the porch cooking dinner I made an amazing discovery. At 6:02 pm there was still just a trace of light in the sky! I love the first time I notice the days just beginning to lengthen because it helps me look forward to the warm sunny days that I know are coming. I start thinking about what veggies to plant in the garden. In exactly 2 months from today the peas, beets, lettuce and broccoli can go in (at least where I live). Fresh veggies just make my mouth water, and I can't wait to cook them in the D.O. I am always looking for new side dishes. We get really tired of the same old, same old. I have never made this dish before, and I didn't even know what orzo was until I found this recipe on My Kitchen Cafe. It is just as easy as Rice-a-Roni, but has way better flavor. In case you don't know what orzo is, it is a pasta that looks like rice. It is so easy to cook with and had great texture.

Toasted Orzo with Peas
10" dutch oven
2 Tbs. butter
1 small onion, chopped
3/4 tsp. salt
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 cups orzo
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
2 Tbs. fresh minced parsley leaves
Melt the butter in a 10" dutch oven (I used about 18 coals on the bottom for this) and add the onion and salt. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is softened. Stir in the garlic and cook until it becomes fragrant. Then stir in the orzo and cook, stirring often, until most of the grains are golden, it takes about 5-7 minutes. Stir in the broth and bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer. At this point, I covered the D.O. and used 12 coals on the bottom and about 7 on top. It took about 12-15 minutes to cook the orzo. Be sure you watch the heat and stir every few minutes or it will burn as the liquid is absorbed. When the pasta is soft, take it off the heat and stir in the peas, Parmesan and parsley. Let it sit until the cheese is melted and the peas are heated through. Be sure the peas are thawed before you put them in.
The Finished Product

What I learned
I am getting so much better at this. I feel pretty daring for trying this dish, and it turned out to be really easy. Just be sure you don't use too much heat and check it often.
The Review
Oh my, oh my, oh my!! This was soooo good. I can't remember the last time I found a recipe that made me want to lick my plate clean, not to mention the pot it was cooked in. The flavor of the garlic and Parmesan are the real stars in this recipe, and the orzo just soaked it all up. I doubled the recipe and I am so glad I did. I will be having this for breakfast and lunch and a snack and... I will need to find a good place in the fridge to hide it so no one else can find it. When spring comes I will make this again but with fresh asparagus from the garden. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Could someone pass me a napkin? Grade A+++.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Day 16: Glazed Mini Meatloaves

All this outdoor dutch oven cooking has made me really grateful for our modern conveniences. It is certainly much easier and quicker to cook indoors. But it just isn't as much fun. My ancestors came across the plains from Nauvoo, Ill. with the Mormon pioneers. They couldn't carry much with them, but you can be sure they had some kind of dutch oven. I'm sure one pot meals were the norm for them. I am learning a healthy dose of respect for the women of the "old days". I can also see why the dutch oven style of cooking has survived for hundreds of years. You can do anything with these babys! And the more you do it, the easier it gets. It is so nice to finally be getting a feel for all this, and I love doing it.
I am always on the lookout for a great meatloaf recipe. So many of them are heavy and dry and don't have great flavor. But I think I have found one that is a keeper. I found this recipe at My Kitchen Cafe.

Glazed Mini Meatloaves
D.O. size depends on how many you make
2/3 cup saltine crackers, crushed fine (I used Italian bread crumbs)
1/4 cup whole milk
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
3 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 large egg
1 1/2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 1/2 lbs. lean ground meat (beef or pork or a combination of both)
2 tsp. oil
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
4 tsp. cider vinegar
Stir cracker crumbs, milk, parsley, Worcestershire sauce, egg, mustard, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper together in a large bowl. Add the meat and combine until uniform. Shape meat mixture into oval loaves, you should get about 5 good sized loaves.
Heat the oil in your dutch oven. I doubled the recipe so I used a 14" D.O. and about 35 coals on the bottom. Add the meat loaves and cook until well done on one side, then carefully flip them over to cook the other side.
While the meatloaves are cooking, mix glaze together until it is smooth. When the meat is browned on both sides, drain off as much of the grease as you can. That was pretty hard with a 14" oven! Now spoon the glaze over the meatloaves and bake until cooked through. Mine took about 30 minutes with 9 coals on the bottom and 18 on top. I used new coals for the baking.
If I were doing this indoors I would put the meatloaves on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes.
The Finished Product
What I Learned
This was an easy recipe. I am amazed at how well things cook when you get the heat at least close. It just gets more and more fun to do this.
The Review
This is my favorite meatloaf recipe so far, and believe me--I have tried quite a few! So many of them are dry and tough and just don't taste good. This recipe was moist and had great flavor. The kiddos loved it and so did my hubby. Any recipe that everyone including the 2 year old will eat is definitely a keeper! This on gets an A.

Day 15: Chicken and Dumplings

Do you ever have one of those days where everything goes wrong? Today was one of those. I should have just stayed in bed and saved myself the trouble. The great thing about those days is that they do end--thank heaven--and we get to start over with a new day. All I can say is that tomorrow WILL be better! I have to admit that the disasters included cooking dinner. I certainly learned a few things about my dutch oven today! I struggled through the entire cooking process, but the recipe had nothing to do with the problems...that was all me. I think by the end of the day my brain had had enough and was not firing on all cylinders. And when you are only running on 2 cylinders to begin with...well you see the problem. :) Keep reading and you will see where I went wrong.

Chicken and Dumplings
10" dutch oven

1 1/2 cups cubed, cooked chicken
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped onion
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup milk
2 Tbs. melted butter
1/4 cup flour
2 tsp. chicken bouillon
Simmer celery and onion in chicken broth until tender. Next time I will also add some shredded or thinly sliced carrots to add some color. Make a roux with the butter and flour. Add roux and whisk until smooth. Add milk, bouillon and chicken. Cook until thickened. At this point I added some frozen peas.
1 tsp. salt
2 cups flour
1 Tbs. baking powder
1/4 cup butter
1 cup milk
chives or parsley, chopped (optional)
Combine salt, flour, and baking powder. Stir to blend. Cut in butter. Add milk and chives or parsley and stir just until moistened. Bring chicken mixture to a gentle simmer (just bubbling) and drop dumpling batter by spoonfuls on top of the soup. Cook uncovered 10 minutes; cover
and cook 10 minutes more. I would probably use about 18-20 coals on the bottom for this one.

The Finished Product

What I learned

This is the part where I have to admit just how little I thought about how this recipe should be done. In my kitchen I could have whipped it up with no problems right on my stove top. I would have never put it in my oven to bake--which is what I tried to do in my dutch oven. I should have cooked it like a stove top meal with all the heat on the bottom. Because I tried to bake it (I know--what was I thinking) it never thickened. So to clarify--stove top/skillet meal =bottom heat.
The Review
Even though I did everything wrong, this still tasted great. It would have been better if it were thicker and next time it will be now that I know what I am doing. I was really nervous making something in my D.O. that I had never made in the kitchen. Overall, this one was a success. First, because I learned a lot; second, because it was good. I will make this recipe again. Even with the problems this one gets a solid B+. I will try this recipe again and update the number of coals needed.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Day 14: Candied Chicken

I was thinking as I was on my way to get more charcoal that at the rate I'm going through coals, I'm going to need to take out a loan to buy charcoal. :) I'm kidding, but I really should keep track of how many bags I go through this year. I just opened bag #3. I hope as I get better that I'll waste fewer coals. Keep your fingers crossed for me! Anyway, I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner, and nothing I had planned sounded good. So, I went to the trusty cookbook put out by my church's women's group. The recipe is called candied chicken. I have no problem cooking anything with the word "candy" in it. This recipe didn't disappoint.

Candied Chicken
12" dutch oven
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenders
3/4 cup water
1 c. brown sugar
2 T. mustard
1/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup diced onion
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
Coat chicken in Italian bread crumbs and flour. (I used equal amounts of both.) Heat vegetable oil in your D.O. I used about 30 coals. You want the oil nice and hot so the coating on the chicken will be nice and crispy. Fry the chicken in oil until it is golden brown and crispy. Drain any excess oil from the dutch oven. While the chicken is cooking, mix remaining ingredients and heat until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over the chicken. (I took the chicken out when it was cooked, drained the extra oil and made the sauce in the same D.O. Then I put the chicken back in and turned it to coat it with sauce.) Bake for 30 minutes with 8 coals on the bottom and 12 on top.
The Finished Product

What I Learned

I've been talking to a friend, and I decided to try her method for coal placement. It is pretty similar to what I have been doing, but it seemed to make a difference. She uses the 2/3 rule. That is to double the size of your dutch oven to determine how many coals to use (12" oven =24 coals, 10"=20 coals, etc.), then put 1/3 on the bottom and 2/3 on top. I am still using the same number of coals, there are just fewer on the bottom and more on top. I'll keep trying it and see which method works best.
The Review
This recipe was fabulous! Just to look at the ingredients you would think you were going to make a meatloaf or something. Ketchup, mustard and Worcestershire are not what I would think to put over chicken. But I have to tell you---it worked! It was delicious and sweet and tangy. There wasn't one piece of chicken left, which is too bad because I think it would have been great on a salad the next day. The only change I would make is to add some garlic to the sauce just because I really love garlic. This one gets an A.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Day 13: Mountain Man Breakfast

Last night was a busy one! My 4 oldest kids all had activities with our church's youth group. I spent most of the evening running them around. Thank heaven for an easy dutch oven meal! This one comes from Mark's Black Pot. It is called Mountain Man Breakfast (in our case it was mountain man "brinner"). I love breakfast foods, and this one was hot, hearty and really hit the spot.
Mountain Man Breakfast
12" Dutch oven
sausage, ham, or bacon
potatoes, either peeled and sliced or diced or hash browns
onions, green peppers or what ever veggies you like
8 eggs, beaten with a little milk
salt and pepper
shredded cheese
Using 15-20 coals brown the sausage with the veggies. I drained off most of the grease. Then layer the potatoes and meat and veggies. Season with what ever you like. I used salt, pepper and rosemary. Pour the eggs over the meat and potatoes, they will soak through everything. Cook with 8-10 coals on the bottom and 16-18 on top for 30-45 minutes. Remove from heat and sprinkle with cheese. Replace the lid and let cheese melt. We served this with salsa, Tabasco or ketchup.
The Finished Product
Please forgive my dismal picture taking skills!

What I Learned

I learned that if you overcook eggs in your dutch oven they are terrible to get out. I didn't watch them closely enough toward the end, and the very bottom of the dish burned just a little. I also learned that boiling out your dutch oven is the perfect way to remove burned on eggs.

The Review

This is a really good recipe. It has great flavor. I used sausage, but next time I will use ham or bacon. It is all personal preference with the meat. It was quick and easy to put together (especially if you use frozen hash browns), and even with it being just a little too done on the bottom it was still great. The family loved it and there weren't any leftovers. This one gets an A.

Day 12: Honey Glazed Carrots

Wow! This post is late today--sorry everyone! We finally sold my hubby's snowmobile and we had to lovingly deliver it to it's new home. I hope it is very happy there. It is a good day and a day for mourning. Good in that now we can fix the transmission on his truck and bad in that winter goes by REALLY slow when you don't have something fun to do. But at least we are "over the hump" as far as winter is concerned. In my neck of the woods we have entered the time when the average daytime temperatures finally start going up. Bring on spring! And speaking of features my favorite spring veggie cooked dutch oven style. This recipe comes from "101 Things to do With a Dutch Oven" by Vernon Winterton.

Honey-Glazed Carrots
10" dutch oven
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 lb. baby carrots
1/2 cup honey
2 Tbs. brown sugar
Place butter in warm dutch oven and melt. Add carrots to melted butter, then pour the honey over the top and sprinkle with brown sugar. Cover and bake 30 minutes, or until tender, at 325 degrees using 8 coals on the bottom and 10 on top.
The Finished Product

What I learned
This one was really easy. I added a couple of coals to the top because it was so cold outside and mine took about 45 minutes. Other than that, it went off without a hitch!
The Review
Carrots are one of my favorite spring veggies, and there are very few ways that I don't like them. This recipe, however, was not my favorite. It had okay flavor, but it was really missing something and I couldn't quite figure out what. It was easy enough to do, but I probably won't make this one again unless I can figure out what it needs. This recipe gets a C.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Day 11: Chuckwagon Dinner

It is now day 11 and I am still having a great time cooking outdoors. I am learning patience and I love the challenge this brings. I have had a lot of people ask why in the world I would do something like this. No, I did not get the idea from "Julie and Julia". I just really needed a new challenge. With 7 kids I don't have time to go to school, or really even read a book so I decided to challenge myself with something that I have to do everyday anyway. Kind of a "kill 2 birds with 1 stone" thing. Since I have to cook dinner anyway, I might as well learn a new way of doing it. In 4 years (when my baby is in school) I will go to chef's school, but in the meantime, it was time to learn something new. So there you have it. On to the recipe. This one is from "The Beginners Guide to Dutch Oven Cooking".

Chuck Wagon Dinner
10" dutch oven
1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
1 onion, diced
1 can of kidney beans
1 can whole kernel corn
1 can pinto beans (I used black beans)
3 8 oz. cans tomato sauce
2 cups uncooked macaroni (I used egg noodles)
3 cups water or beef broth (go for the broth)
1 tsp. each of chili powder, oregano and basil
salt and pepper to taste
grated cheddar cheese

Brown the ground beef in the dutch oven with the onion. I used about 25 coals. Stir in the rest of the ingredients, except the cheese. Cover and cook with 8 coals on the bottom and 12 on top for 25-30 minutes or until pasta is tender. Stir occasionally, and add more moisture if needed. When done, sprinkle cheese on top and cook until cheese is melted.
The Finished Product

What I Learned

These kinds of dishes are getting easier. Other than making sure I have enough coals to replenish the ones that go out, this one was easy. 

The Review

I am not a huge fan of goulash type dishes, but this was pretty good as far a goulash goes. The dutch oven flavor really came out in this one. I probably wouldn't make this in the kitchen, but it was good in the dutch oven. This gets a B.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Day 10: Firehouse Chicken

Today's recipe is in honor of a reader named Wayne. He lives in Alberta, Canada and has been cooking in his D.O. in -15 degree weather. Now that is commitment and my hat is off to you. I am complaining about 25 degrees! I must be a real whiner! :) This recipe came from one of my favorite blogs, realmomkitchen . It was designed to be grilled, but I baked it instead. It is nice and spicy, but won't have you breathing fire. So without further delay...

Firehouse Chicken
12" Dutch Oven

6 thawed boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup Frank's Red Hot Sauce
3/4 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce
4 Tbs. melted butter
2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce

Place all ingredients in a 12" dutch oven. Cook with 10 coals on the bottom and 14 on top for about 45 minutes or until chicken is done. If you want to grill this one then marinate the chicken in the sauce for 1 hour. Grill the chicken over medium heat until done. Easy Peasy!

The Finished Product

What I Learned

I finally got the heat right on this one! Hooray!! Picture me dancing around (not well) and jumping up and down cheering. This cooked beautifully and it took about 45 minutes--about the same amount of time it would have taken in my kitchen. Now that I am getting the temps right, the next hurdle is to make sure I have enough coals to keep the temp constant and finish cooking. One triumph at a time!

The Review

This chicken is great. I can't wait to try it grilled this summer. I think I will use a little more hot sauce next time. It seemed to get diluted by the chicken juices. But it had a nice kick on the back end. Maybe I will marinate the chicken in the sauce before I bake it and add in a few slices of my favorite hot peppers as well. This one is a solid grade A.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Day 9: Secret Ingredient Chili

I love chili. It really warms you through on a cold day. I don't really have a recipe for it, I usually just dump in whatever sounds good, until it tastes good. This chili turned out to be my best ever. I made a huge pot and it didn't even last 1 full day. My hubby had 2 bowls for lunch and my kids had it as an after school snack. It was yummy! But I do have a confession to make. It is something that fills me with guilt. I cooked this chili on my propane camp stove. There, I said it. I thought I could keep it a secret, but I just felt too guilty. I still did it in my dutch oven, but it just felt wrong not using coals. I'm crazy--I know!

Secret Ingredient Chili
12" dutch oven

2 lbs. ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
2 quarts diced tomatoes
2 cans tomato sauce
1 4oz can diced green chilies
chili powder
2 15 oz cans kidney beans, drained
1 15 oz can chili beans, undrained

Cook the ground beef, onion and garlic until meat is no longer pink. Had I not cheated, I would have used 25-30 coals to do this. Then add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, green chilies and spices. I started with 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon, and ended up using just shy of 1 tsp. Simmer the chili 1 1/2-2 hours. Add the beans and simmer until they are heated through.

The Finished Product

What I Learned

I learned that cooking on my camp stove is exactly like cooking on my stove top, except outside. This was Lazy Person's dutch oven chili, and I am ashamed :p. But I also learned that putting cinnamon in makes an awesome chili.

The Review

This was amazing chili! Everyone asked what I put in it to make it taste so good and I said it was my secret ingredient. The cinnamon really adds that "something extra". I was amazed at the depth of flavor it gave. Even my picky eaters that won't eat anything with onions ate their share. This one was an A+.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Day 8: Dutch Oven Dump Cobbler

Oh, my goodness! We are sooo in need of a leftover night at our house! I don't think I could fit one more thing in the fridge. So today we made the classic D.O. treat--dump cobbler. I used to work at the local farm supply store (we live in a pretty rural area) and during spring the store would get VERY busy. There was barely time to take a breath, so someone started the tradition of making D.O. cobbler out on the loading dock. We would each take turns "sneaking" out to relax for just a few minutes and get a sugar rush to get us through the rest of the day. It was a lot of fun.

Dutch Oven Dump Cobbler
12" dutch oven

1 stick butter or margarine
1 large can fruit or pie filling (I used raspberry)
1 chocolate cake mix
1 can cola (no diet)

Preheat the D.O. and the lid. Melt the butter and add the fruit. Sprinkle the cake mix over the top then pour the cola over the cake mix. Cook 45 minutes with 10 bottom coals and 14 top coals. Other pie filling combinations could be peach, white cake and sprite or apples, spice cake and root beer. Any combination will work.
The Finished Product

What I Learned

I am getting closer to getting the heat right. When I hold my hand over the oven, I can tell when it is too cool. Having my ovens get too hot hasn't been a problem yet. I really want to start baking breads and such, but I better not put the cart before the horse. The recipes I have done so far have been pretty forgiving and have allowed me to learn without any real disasters (yet). Besides the heat, the other problem I am having is judging how many coals I will need. I start more than I need and keep some to start the new coals, but if I plan for a recipe to take 45 minutes and it takes longer I run out of coals. (Did that make sense?) Trial, error and patience are becoming my best buds!

The Review

This one is really good and will satisfy your sweet tooth. I had 2 cans of pie filling, and my kids begged me to use both, so I did. As a result, the fruit to cake ratio was off. If you want to use 2 cans of filling be sure you also use 2 cake mixes and 2 cans of coke. But other than that, the cake was moist and fudgy, just the way we like it. Definitely a success!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Cleaning Your Dutch Oven

I have made it through the first week! HOORAY!! It went by so fast and I have learned so much. I am still a little overwhelmed by what I am doing, but it has been really fun. I hope someone out there is cooking along with me and enjoying my recipes as much as we do.

I have been looking into ways to clean my dutch oven and I wanted to try several different ways, but what I have been doing is so easy that I don't really want to try any other ways. But I will. So far, I have been scraping my warm dutch oven out with a small, square plastic scraper. If anyone has used Pampered Chef's stoneware then you know the scraper I am talking about. It is small with rounded corners that are different sizes and can fit into the corners of almost any pan. With a little bit of elbow grease I can get almost everything out. After it is scraped and I have removed the excess food, I spray the inside of my oven with a mixture of 1 part cider vinegar and 4 parts water and let it sit for just a minute. If the oven is warm, it won't take long. Then I just wipe it out with paper towels. It is that easy. After the oven is clean I put on a light coating of oil. I have found a nifty tool that makes oiling your oven really easy and prevents using too much oil. It is a kitchen spritzer (see the picture below). This one is from Pampered Chef. I fill it with vegetable oil, pump air into it with the special cap and then just spray. It is like using Pam spray, but without the preservatives and propellants that can cause a sticky build up on your oven. It has become one of my favorite tools. I have also seen them at local big box retailers.

One of the other ways I have seen people clean dutch ovens is by boiling them out. I can see needing to do that on rare occasions, like when I char my first batch of biscuits--Ha! Ha!--but overall, it doesn't seem healthy for the oven to do it on a regular basis. Please correct me if I'm wrong. It also seems like a royal pain. I have enough problems with having the coals right to want to mess around making sure I have enough hot coals left to boil out my oven. I think I will skip this method unless I really burn something and it won't scrape out.
My kitchen spritzer My cleaning supplies
If anyone has a method they really like let me know and I will try it. Meanwhile, I will try something different this week.

Day 7: Mom's Lasagna

Cooking hasn't always been easy for me. Growing up, mom hated to cook. She cooked because we needed to eat to survive. As a result, I didn't learn much about techniques or spices or anything cooking related. When I got married, if it came out of a box or a can I could (kind of) cook it. I can't tell you how many refrigerator biscuits I burned. I didn't know the first thing about cooking from scratch. I was the one that could burn water. After a few years of tater tot casserole (yuck) I got my hands on a great cooking magazine. I slowly learned to cook healthier and better tasting meals. I realized how much money I could save by cooking from scratch. And in the process, I learned to love to cook. It is exciting to add new spices, try new recipes and modify old ones so they taste even better. I still have a lot to learn, and chef school is in the plans in a few years.

This lasagna recipe is a favorite of my family. Mom's original recipe was very basic. It used ground beef, lasagna noodles, pasta sauce and some cheese. Over the years, I have added to it and I think the flavor is very good. If you like a meaty, cheesy, hearty lasagna then this one is for you. I don't really measure the ingredients, especially the spices. I figure if it smells good it will taste good. So here goes....

Mom's Lasagna
12" dutch oven

2 lbs. ground beef
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves minced garlic
2 jars spaghetti sauce
lasagna noodles (oven ready)
1 lg. carton cottage cheese
1 egg
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Italian seasoning
Mozzarella cheese, shredded

In your D.O., cook the ground beef, onion and garlic until the meat is no longer pink. I used about 25 coals. Remove the meat to a bowl, drain off the grease and add the spaghetti sauce to the meat; mix well. While the meat cooks, mix the cottage cheese, egg, Parmesan and Italian seasoning; set aside. Put a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of the d.o. Put a layer of lasagna noodles next. I just broke them to make them fit in the pan. Next add a layer of cottage cheese, a layer of meat and a layer of mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers in the same order (noodles, cottage cheese, meat, mozzarella). Bake with 10 bottom coals and 14 top coals for 45 min. to 1 hour.
The Finished Product

What I Learned

I learned that Kingsford briquettes are the ones to use. I finally ran out of the store brand that I had been using and bought Kingsford. They light better, are ready faster (15 minutes instead of 30), and they hold their heat longer. I think the charcoal I was using has been some of the problem I've had with heat. I have also never cooked with charcoal until this month, so I didn't know what it was supposed to look like when it was ready to cook with. Slowly but surely I am figuring all this out! :)

The review

I have to confess, this recipe is one of the very few I have used in a D.O. before, so I knew it worked well. It is great with Parmesan bread sticks or rolls, which I will try in the D.O. next time I make this lasagna. The D.O. really adds to the flavor of this dish. This recipe is also really easy to reduce. I cook for an army, but it could easily be made in a smaller D.O.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Day 6: Dutch Oven Potatoes

I think I am overthinking dutch oven cooking. I am so worried about getting it right, that I am forgetting that the one thing that I am going to learn the most from is my mistakes. Trial and error is sometimes our best tutor. Today, I have to give a hearty thanks to Mark from Marks black pot. Mark site has become sort of a mentor for me. If you haven't found his site yet, be sure to check it out. He is creative, inventive, knowledgable and has a real passion for food and dutch oven cooking. Anyway, I was browsing his site and found a great post he made about dutch oven heat. He really brought it down to the basics of cooking, and that is that all we are doing is adding heat to food. I have no problem adjusting heat when I modify or create a recipe in the kitchen, so I just need to remember that I am doing the same thing when I cook outdoors. So, no more stress about heat. I will just follow the basic formula for using coals, and add a few more coals when a meal isn't quite doing what I want it to. The rest will just come with experience. So, thanks Mark for helping me de-stress and reminding me that cooking is really very simple.

Today's recipe is the most simple and "dutch oveny" recipe ever. It is the first dutch oven food I ever tasted. It was my father-in-law's specialty. It has only 3 ingredients plus salt and pepper, and they happen to be 3 of my favorite ingredients: potatoes, onions and bacon. So, here we go!

Dutch Oven Potatoes
10" dutch oven

10 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced (leave the skins on red potatoes)
1 onion, thinly sliced and separated into rings
1 lb. smoked bacon, cut into 1" pieces
salt and pepper to taste

I cooked the bacon first with 20 coals on the bottom until it was just beginning to crisp. Then add the potatoes and onions. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook until potatoes are tender with 12 top coals and 8 bottom coals. Stir occasionally.

The Finished Product

What I learned

This is a really easy dish. I still need to add more heat to compensate for the cold air temps. It took about 40 minutes to cook, which isn't bad. I am getting closer to figuring out how much heat to add. This was a morale booster for me.

The Review

How in the world can I say anything bad about a dish with bacon in it. It is fabulous just by virtue of the fact that it uses bacon. Honestly, this one has real sentimental meaning for me. My father-in-law has been gone 15 years. He was an amazing man, and this dish reminds me of him.

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