Monday, October 31, 2011


     Another traditional food served at Halloween in Ireland is a tea bread called Barmbrack.  Dried fruit is soaked in tea then baked into a bread batter using either baking soda or yeast as a leavening agent.  The name is derived from Bairin, or top, the yeast was originally skimmed from vats of fermenting beer, and Breac, meaning speckled.  The magical bread is used in fortune telling, often made with charms baked right into the dough.  Wrapped in parchment paper, a ring symbolizes marriage in the coming year, a coin represents wealth, a matchstick foretells an unhappy marriage, a piece of cloth brings poverty and a thimble spinsterhood.  Due to our recent cold snap, the dough was slow to rise and a bit on the wet side.  I should have formed it into a tighter ball before placing in my dutch oven as it spread more like a cake than a loaf but the end result was a lightly spiced, fruity, crispy crusted bread.  It was even better the next day.  In my 12 inch oven I baked it with 10 coals in a ring around the bottom and completely covered the lid with coals to raise the heat in the oven right away.  After 15 minutes, without lifting the lid, I removed the center coals and left two rings around the edge of the lid.  The loaf was ready in thirty minutes.  As a treat for All Hallow's Eve or any time of the year, this lovely bread is easy to make and loaded with history and flavor.  

2 cups strong black tea
2 cups dried fruit (raisins, sultanas, currants, candied peel, etc.)
1 cup milk, heated to 110-115 degrees
1 package active dry yeast
2 tsp sugar
3-3 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/3 tsp nutmeg
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp salt

     Place the tea and dried fruit in a bowl and let soak for at least one hour, preferably overnight.
     Mix the yeast, warm milk and 2 teaspoons of sugar together in a small bowl and set aside for 5 to 10 minutes to activate the yeast.
     In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar and spices.  Make a well in the center of the flour and add the yeast mixture, beaten egg, butter and salt.  Stir with a wooden spoon or electric mixer to mix the ingredients and bring the dough together.  Add a little more flour if the dough is too wet or a little more milk if it is too dry.
     Remove dough to a floured work surface and knead for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth but still a little sticky.
     Drain and pat dry the dried fruit and knead a little at a time into the dough until all the fruit has been incorporated.
     Remove the dough to a large, lightly oiled bowl.  Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and set in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
     Lightly oil or spray a 12 inch or larger dutch oven.
     Remove the dough, punch down to deflate and knead lightly for 2-3 minutes.  Form dough into a ball and place in prepared dutch oven.  Cover and let rise again until doubled in size, 30-60 minutes.
     Bake at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until top is browned and loaf sounds hollow when tapped.  Remove to a rack and cool.  Serve with butter and a cup of tea.

Let fruited dough rise for a second time in dutch oven

Bake for 30-40 minutes at 400 degrees

A light, fragrant, fruity teabread

The turkeys came running for a slice

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Did you ever eat Colcannon, made from lovely pickled cream?
With the greens and scallions mingled like a picture in a dream.
Did you ever make a hole on top to hold the melting flake
Of the creamy, flavoured butter that your mother used to make?

Yes you did, so you did, so did he and so did I.
And the more I think about it, sure, the nearer I'm to cry.
Oh, wasn't it the happy days when troubles we had not,
And our mothers made Colcannon in the little skillet pot.

      Many of our Halloween customs have their roots in ancient Irish traditions.  The Celts celebrated Samhain which marked the end of the 'light days' of summer and the beginning of the 'dark days' of winter.  They celebrated the end of the harvest and prepared for the cold months ahead.  The custom of carving jack o'lanterns sprung from an old Irish tale about Stingy Jack who cheated the devil and carved a lantern out of a turnip lit with a coal from the fires of hell to light his way.  People carved scary faces in turnips, potatoes and beets and placed them in their windows to keep wandering evil spirits away.
     Colcannon is a traditional Irish Halloween dinner of mashed potatoes and cabbage or kale.  Unmarried women would place the first and last spoonfuls in their stockings and then placed them on their front door, supposedly the first man to enter their household was destined to become their husband.  Coins are still wrapped in paper and hidden as treats in the buttery potatoes.  Some households even leave a small bowl with a mound of butter for the fairies and ghosts.  Colcannon was often cooked by the fireside in Bastable ovens, similar to our cast iron camp ovens.
     There are many recipes for Colcannon and like any popular dish passed down through generations, people's grandmothers and mothers probably made their favorite version of this hearty meal.  Depending on what part of Ireland you are from, some swear it is made with cabbage and others kale.  They all include potatoes, onions, leeks or scallions and a mountain of butter.  Many recipes require cooking the cabbage and potatoes separately but to simplify the process I decided to cook all the vegetables together at the same time.  I placed the diced potatoes in my 10 inch dutch oven, covered them with water then scattered the chopped scallions and cabbage over the top.  I placed the oven over a full compliment of coals and covered the lid with a generous amount of coals, enough to bring the water to a steady boil.  In 25 minutes, when the steam was pouring from the oven, the vegetables were tender and ready for mashing.  I drained the water, placed the oven back on the bottom coals, then added the milk and butter.  Light and fluffy, mashed together this peasant dish becomes positively elegant.  Add the finishing touch by making a well in the center of the steaming mash and filling it with sweet, melted butter and don't forget to leave a small saucer for the wee folk.

4-6 large potatoes, peeled and diced into 1 inch cubes
1 small cabbage, cored and chopped into 1 inch pieces
6 scallions, chopped
3/4 cup milk
6 Tblsp butter, softened plus additional melted butter, if desired
Salt and pepper to taste

     Lightly oil or spray dutch oven.
     Place potatoes in bottom of oven, add just enough water to cover potatoes.
     Sprinkle cabbage and scallions over potatoes.
     Place dutch oven over a full compliment of coals.
     Cover and place as many coals on the lid as needed to keep the water at a steady simmer.
     Cook for 20-30 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender and cabbage is soft.
     Remove lid from oven.  Using oven mitt tilt oven to drain water from vegetables.
     Return dutch oven to bottom coals.
     Add milk, softened butter, salt and pepper.
     Mash well with potato masher.
     Mound on platter, make a well in the top of potatoes and fill with melted butter.

Layer cabbage and scallions over potatoes and water

Simmer for 20-30 minutes or until vegetables are tender

Drain water from oven then return to coals and add butter and milk

Mash well until creamy

Fill with melted butter and don't forget to light your turnip to ward off evil spirits

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cider Cheese Fondue

     I have been dying to try making fondue in my dutch oven, what could be better than dipping cubes of French bread and slices of fruit into simmering cheese by the campfire?  I have fond memories of our family sitting around the dining room table dipping beef, shrimp and crusty bread into the fondue pot.  An eight inch dutch oven is the perfect size for melting small amounts of cheese.  There are more recipes than you can shake a fondue fork at however this Cider Cheese Fondue from Allrecipes is fairly basic and a good place to start.  The cider adds a lot of flavor without the expense of a more traditional Kirsh and the cheeses are readily available and come already shredded.  Place your dutch oven over a full compliment of coals, bring the cider to a boil then gently stir in the cheeses.  Once the cheeses have melted and are bubbling, remove most of the coals, leaving 4 or 5 under your oven.  You only need enough heat to keep the cheese hot enough to keep from clumping.  Turn your camp oven into a fondue pot and enjoy this retro favorite at your campsite, while tailgating or after an afternoon of raking leaves on a cool autumn day.

Cider Cheese Fondue
3/4 cup apple cider or apple juice
2 cups shredded Cheddar Cheese
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1 Tblsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp pepper
1 loaf French bread, cubed

     Lightly oil or spray dutch oven.
     Bring cider to a boil over a full spread of coals.
     Toss the cheeses with cornstarch and pepper; stir into cider.
     Cook and stir for 3-5 minutes or until cheese has melted.
     Remove coals from under dutch oven, leaving just enough to keep the fondue warm.
     Serve with bread cubes.

Bring cider to a boil over a full compliment of coals

Toss cheeses with cornstarch and stir into simmering cider

Heat and stir until cheese has melted and is bubbling

A great way to warm up and couldn't be simpler to make

Friday, October 28, 2011

Cowboy Oatmeal Bars

      I'd like to think these Cowboy Oatmeal Bars from Land O'Lakes are actually good for you, loaded with oatmeal, walnuts and chocolate, they'll definitely help fuel you for a long trail ride or hike in the woods.  Easy enough to make, mix all the ingredients together in one bowl then press into the bottom of your dutch oven.  The original recipe calls for baking them in a 15 by 10 inch pan so you could probably make them in a 14 inch dutch oven.  I used my 12 inch oven, with 12 coals in a ring around the bottom and 24 on the lid, they were golden brown in 20 minutes.  Cool them completely before lifting out with the parchment paper and cutting into squares.  I didn't have any peanut butter chips so used 2 cups of chocolate chips instead, they were soft, chewy and brimming with chocolate, you won't be disappointed with these dynamite bars.

Cowboy Oatmeal Bars
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups uncooked quick-cooking oats
1 cup peanut butter chips
1 cup milk OR real semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

     Lightly oil or spray dutch oven; line with parchment paper.
     Combine butter, brown sugar and sugar in large bowl.  Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy.
     Add eggs and vanilla; continue beating until well mixed.
     Reduce speed to low; add flour, baking soda and salt.  Beat until well mixed.
     Add oats; mix well.  Stir in peanut butter chips, chocolate chips and walnuts.
     Press dough evenly into prepared dutch oven.
     Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. 
     Cool in dutch oven.  Remove using parchment paper and cut into bars.

Press batter into bottom of dutch oven
Bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees

Crisp on the outside and gooey on the inside, yum

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Barbecued Worm Sandwiches

     If you're looking for the ultimate in gross party food, these Barbecued Worm Sandwiches from Pillsbury look like mounds of slimy earthworms piled on a bun.  They couldn't be easier to make, slice the hot dogs the long way, saute them over a full spread of coals until they start to curl then simmer them in barbecue sauce until they are hot and bubbling.   Double or triple the recipe if you are feeding a crowd.  Spoon them on a fresh hamburger bun with a slice of cheese and you've got the makings of a surprisingly good sandwich.  Scouts, kids and young at heart adults will love the yuck factor.  Great to serve at your campsite or Halloween party, fun to make and even more fun to eat, turn your dutch oven into a witch's cauldron with these slithering sandwiches.

Barbecued Worm Sandwiches
8 hot dogs, each cut lengthwise into 6 strips
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
8 slices American cheese
8 hamburger buns, split (toasted if desired)

     Lightly oil or spray dutch oven.
     Over a full compliment of coals, heat hot dog strips until strips begin to curl; 8-10 minutes.
     Gently stir in barbecue sauce until hot dog strips are coated.  Cover dutch oven if desired and heat until bubbly.
     Place cheese slices of cheese on bottom halves of buns.
     Top with hot dog mixture and cover with top halves of buns.
     Makes 8 sandwiches.

Saute strips of hot dog over high heat

Once hot dogs start to curl stir in barbecue sauce

Heat for 10 minutes or until sauce is bubbling

Delight the kid in all of us with these wacky sandwiches

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pumpkin-Cherry Upside Down Cake

     I was looking for a way to use up some leftover canned pumpkin puree and came across this recipe from Better Homes and Gardens.  The unique combination of cranberries, cherries and pumpkin give this moist cake the perfect balance of tart and sweet flavors.  The original recipe calls for using a 9 by 13 inch pan which usually translates into a 12 inch dutch oven.  I decided to try it in my 10 inch oven and I'm glad I did, it rose higher and had a more substantial topping.  Watch it carefully if you make it in your 10 inch oven as it rises quite high.  Check it after 15 minutes and move the coals if necessary to to prevent the center from burning. Mine baked for 30 minutes with 10 coals in a ring around the bottom and 16-18 on top.  The deep, rich, burgundy colored topping makes a colorful contrast to the pumpkin colored cake, a beautiful addition to your holiday table.

Pumpkin-Cherry Upside Down Cake
1 10-12 oz. jar cherry preserves
1 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1-1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup (one stick) butter, softened
1-1/4 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
3/4 cup buttermilk

     Lightly oil or spray 10 or 12 inch dutch oven; line with parchment paper.
     In small saucepan combine cherry preserves, dried cranberries and the 1/3 cup butter.  Bring to boiling, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Pour mixture into prepared dutch oven, spreading evenly.  Set aside.
     In medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice and baking soda; set aside.
     In large bowl, add the 1/2 cup softened butter.  Beat with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.  Add sugar and vanilla; beat until combined.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in pumpkin.
     Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk to butter mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined. 
     Carefully spread batter over preserve mixture in pan.
     Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool in oven for 10 minutes.
     Carefully invert onto a serving platter.  Serve warm. 

Bring preserves, cranberries and butter to a boil

Spread cooled topping in parchment lined dutch oven

Carefully cover topping with batter

Bake for 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees

Tart cranberries and sweet cherries glisten over a moist pumpkin cake

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pumpkin Scones

     I absolutely love making scones in my dutch oven.  Not only are they simple to make, there is something about baking them in the concentrated heat of a camp oven that renders them tender on the inside with just the right amount of crispiness on the outside.  Biting into these Pumpkin Scones from the Joy of Baking site will remind you of your favorite pumpkin bread.  I omitted the raisins and nuts but a handful of dried cranberries would probably be another terrific combination.  Also, I used the full half cup of buttermilk as I like my scones and biscuits a little on the wet side.  I baked these in my 10 inch oven with 10 coals in a ring around the bottom and the lid completely covered with approximately 24 briquettes.  Check them after 15 minutes, they do brown rather quickly.  For a real fall treat wash down these warm and spicy scones with a mug of hot apple cider.

Pumpkin Scones
2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup light or dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup raisins (optional)
1/4 cup toasted and chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
1/3 - 1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup fresh or canned pure pumpkin (if using canned pumpkin make sure there are no spices or sugar added)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Egg Wash:
1 large beaten egg
1 tablespoon milk or cream

     Lightly oil or spray dutch oven.
     In large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
     Cut the butter into small pieces and blend into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or two knives, the mixture should look like coarse crumbs.
     Stir in the raisins and pecans if using.
     In separate bowl mix together the buttermilk, pumpkin puree and vanilla; add to the flour mixture. 
     Mix just until the dough comes together, do not over mix.
     Drop dough by spoonfuls into prepared dutch oven.
     Combine beaten egg and cream; brush over tops of scones.
     Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Drop spoonfuls of orange  batter into well oiled oven

Brush with egg wash and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes

Moist, spicy scones taste more like warm pumpkin bread

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Bat Wings

     This recipe for Bat Wings from Mr. Food is great to make for Halloween or any time of the year.  This is the first time I have cooked chicken wings in my dutch oven, I was amazed by how juicy and tender they were, the meat fell right off the bones.  I used honey barbecue sauce and they were positively delicious.  Dry the wings well before placing in your dutch oven and try to arrange them in one layer.  You need to bake them for 30 minutes in a hot oven, I baked them in my 12 inch oven with 12 coals in a ring around the bottom and completely covered the lid with 30 or more briquettes.  After 30 minutes, using tongs, slather both sides completely with the sauce.  Bake for 30 more minutes or until they are lightly browned and cooked through.  If you're planning a party you might want to make more than one batch of these succulent wings, they will fly right off the plate.
Bat Wings
3-4 lbs. whole chicken wings
1 cup barbecue sauce
3 Tblsp yellow mustard
1-2 Tblsp hot pepper sauce
2 tsp garlic powder

     Lightly oil or spray a 12 inch or larger dutch oven.
     Thoroughly dry chicken wings and place side by side in prepared oven.
     Cover and bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes.
     Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine barbecue sauce, mustard, hot pepper sauce and garlic powder; mix well. 
     Turn wings over and generously brush with sauce.  Turn wings right side up and completely cover with remaining sauce.    
     Cover and continue cooking for 30 minutes.

Arrange wings in single layer in bottom of dutch oven

Bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes

Generously cover with sauce

Bake for another 30 minutes or until browned and tender

Make a double batch if you can, these will disappear fast

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Old Fashioned Skillet Ghoulash

From goulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night
Good Lord, deliver us!

     I always seem to crave goulash at this time of the year.  Authentic Hungarian recipes are not made with tomatoes but this quick and easy skillet version can be whipped up in your dutch oven in no time flat.  Brown the beef with the onion over a full spread of coals, add the tomatoes, soup, spices and water, bring to a boil then add the noodles and simmer until tender.  In my 10 inch dutch oven it cooked with 10 coals in a ring around the bottom and 18-20 on the lid.  Hauntingly good, the sweet tanginess of the vinegar, paprika and brown sugar give this easy one pot goulash a lift.

Old Fashioned Skillet Ghoulash
1 lb. ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
1 10 oz. can condensed tomato soup
2 14 oz. cans diced tomatoes with garlic, undrained
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp brown sugar
1-3 tsp paprika, to taste
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup water
3 heaping cups egg noodles
sour cream and/or chopped fresh parsley for garnish

     Lightly oil or spray dutch oven.
     Cook ground beef and onion over a full compliment of coals until meat is browned and onion is tender, stirring to break up meat.  Drain well.
     Add soup, diced tomatoes with their liquid, vinegar, brown sugar, paprika, salt, pepper and water; stir well.
     Move bottom coals to a ring around base of oven, cover with as many coals on the lid that will bring beef mixture to a steady bubble.  Simmer for 10-12 minutes.
     Stir in egg noodles, cover and continue cooking for 10-15 minutes or until noodles are cooked and liquid is absorbed.
     Top with sour cream.  Makes 6 servings.

Brown beef with onions

Bring tomato mixture to a boil then stir in noodles

Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until noodles are tender

A shortcut version of a comfort food classic

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pumpkin Chili Mexicana

 Double, double toil and trouble;
    Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.
     With Halloween right around the corner, this Pumpkin Chili Mexicana from Nestle is the perfect way to ward off evil spirits and keep your trick or treaters warm on a chilly night.  Spicy but with a hint of sweetness, you can't quite put your finger on the subtle flavor of the pumpkin.  Saute the garlic, onion, red pepper, and beef then add the rest of the ingredients, bring it to a bubble and in thirty minutes you'll have a rich, hearty and most delicious chili.  In my 10 inch oven I sauteed the beef and vegetables over a full compliment of coals then moved the bottom coals to a ring of 10 around the base of the oven, 18-20 coals on the lid kept it at a steady simmer.  Feed your hobgoblins a bowl of this somewhat out of the ordinary but very healthy chili. 

Pumpkin Chili Mexicana
2 Tblsp vegetable OR olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 lb. ground beef OR turkey
2 14.5 oz. cans diced tomatoes with Jalapenos (with juice)
1 15 oz. can pumpkin
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 15 oz. can black OR kidney beans, drained
1/2 cup frozen or canned whole-kernel corn
1 Tblsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 Tblsp brown sugar

     Lightly oil or spray dutch oven.
     Heat olive oil over a full compliment of coals.  Add onion, bell pepper and garlic; cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until tender. 
     Add turkey OR beef, cook until browned.  Drain.
     Add tomatoes with juice, pumpkin, tomato sauce, beans, corn, chili powder, cumin, black pepper, cinnamon and sugar. 
     Move coals to a ring around the base of the oven. 
     Cover with as many coals on the lid as needed to bring mixture to a boil. 
     Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until chili is bubbling and heated all the way through.
     Makes 6 servings.
     Note: If you can't find diced tomatoes with jalapenos use two cans of regular diced tomatoes plus one 4 oz. can chopped, green chilies.

Brown beef with vegetables over a full spread of coals

Stir in rest of ingredients

Simmer for 30 minutes or until heated through and bubbling

Amber colored chili, perfect for a cool autumn day