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Camping: Breakfast, s’mores, and more

We’ve been away from our computers, road-tripping through the west to run a couple of half-marathon races hosted by Vacation Races in Teton National Park in Wyoming and West Yellowstone, Montana. After what felt like marathon drives through California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, we got to spend a week with family in the hills, camping and touring the parks, fishing, and running.

It has been too many years since our last summer camping trip. So it was a great treat to start June with a week of camping in Island Park, Idaho. It was beautiful, if unseasonably warm, but that didn’t stop us from building camp fires, roasting marshmallows and cooking on coals and grills.

Our camp cooking included the essential s’mores, grilled fresh trout from the nearby Island Park reservoir and Henry’s Lake, a delicious breakfast for dinner cooked completely al fresco, and an occasional smokey reprieve from the darned mosquitos that drove us crazy most of the time.

The trout we cooked over the fire was delicately smokey. It was perfect all by itself, but a light squeeze of fresh lemon made it irresistible. Having just come out of the lake, it was as fresh and delicious as it ever gets! And it was made all the better eaten under the canopy of a pine forest.

As good as that trout was, the most memorable meal is a bacon, egg and potato breakfast we prepared exclusively over the open fire. Breakfast at any time of day is a treat. We eat breakfast for dinner all the time. After a day of running and driving around Yellowstone Park, we wanted something hearty and comforting. And as convenient as it was to have an indoor, camp trailer kitchen at our disposal, it was too warm to stand inside when there was a perfectly good fire pit with a grill and plenty of fire wood just outside. We opted for an outdoor cooking adventure.

Bacon and eggs never disappoint. We had potatoes, carrots and onions in the camper pantry, so we diced them up, seasoned them, triple wrapped them in aluminum foil (an essential camping implement), and tossed them onto the hot coals of the fire. The “hobo pockets” need to be carefully placed so as not to burn the crap out of the potatoes. Layers of foil should protect them from the harshest temperatures while the veggies steam in the pouch. If you get it right, the potatoes will be cooked and the rest of the veggies will have a tiny bit of caramelization and very few black bits.

Cooking bacon on the fire was a breeze. We placed a sheet of aluminum foil over the grilling grate on the fire pit, directly over the hottest part of the fire, and used it like a griddle. The bacon cooked perfectly. It did produce a lot of rendered fat which in turn caused some flare-ups that scorched the foil, but the bacon was unscathed.

Our nephew had the clever idea of creating little aluminum trays to cook our eggs. With a few easy folds, we had our egg “pans” which we sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. We sat them on the foil we’d used for the bacon, which added a needed layer between the eggs and the hot fire. The eggs turned out perfectly!

When we opened the hobo pockets, the vegetables were nicely cooked, with very little scorched bits. They were a complete success. We topped them with our “fried” eggs, helped ourselves to a couple slices of bacon, and sat out in the open air, tucking in to awesome camp food and washing it all down with a cold beer.

Our time in West Yellowstone included a volunteer stint at the s’mores table at the Yellowstone Half Marathon Expo. We saw a lot of toasted marshmallows that evening. There is no doubt of the s’more’s importance in the American camping experience, though there is some diversity of thought on the “proper” steps in the s’more ritual. We toasted our graham crackers on the fire grill with a piece of chocolate melting on it while we toasted our marshmallows. Our marshmallows are slowly roasted and tan, not extinguished torches, but we appreciate everyone has their own idea of the perfect fire toasted marshmallow, so no judgement. S’mores are best by a campfire. There’s no other way to get a smokey accent on that sweet mess. But there are endless ways to play with the idea of the s’more at home. More on that in future posts.

Happy Summer!

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Open Fire Fried Eggs and Bacon

bacon
eggs

For the bacon.

Spread a sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil over the grill of an open fire. Cook the bacon until crisp. Careful of grease fires.

For the eggs.

Use aluminum foil to make a little tray to cook the eggs, spray with non-stick cooking spray. More aluminum for lids. Cook to one’s liking.

Hobo Hash Pack

2-3 potatoes
1 onions
2 cups root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, etc.
2 tablespoons or more olive oil or melted butter
1 tablespoon dijion mustard (optional — especially for 10 year olds)
salt and pepper
cooking spray
Heavy Duty Aluminum foil

Cut potatoes, onions, and root vegetables into similar sized cubes, and add to a bowl, add the olive oil or butter, dijon mustard and salt and pepper. Toss to coat and set aside.

Tear 8 square pieces of heavy duty aluminum foil about. Place a cup to a cup-and-a-half of the potato mixture to each of four of the foil packs. Fold the foil over in half and each pack on another sheet of foil and fold it over the pack, so you are double layering the aluminum around the potato mixture.

Place the foil packs in the coals of a fire and cook for 30-40 minutes. Turning the packs every 10 minutes or so to keep from burning.

s’mores

1 box graham crackers
1 chocolate bars, broken into pieces
1 bag of marshmallows

Over an open fire with a barbecue grill, place two graham crackers on the coolest side of the grill. Careful not to burn the cracker. Place a small piece of chocolate on top and watch to keep from burning. You just want a warm cracker with just a barely gooey chocolate.

With a marshmallow or two on a stick, toast over an open flame to one’s liking. I prefer just a barely toasty marshmallow. Gooey on the inside and a light toast on the outside. This will take patience. Go slow.

Once the marshmallow is toasted. Put on top of the graham cracker with chocolate. Top with the other one and enjoy the gooey, yumminess.

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Monkey See, Monkey Bread

The first time I tasted Monkey Bread it was a disappointment. The pastry itself was very good, but when I heard the name “Monkey Bread,” I expected, well, monkeys, or at the very least some bananas or other tropical flavors. I’ve tasted a lot of versions over the years, some good, some not so good, and they’ve all featured the same cinnamon caramel flavors. No banana. No coconut. No monkeys. Monkey bread ought to have a little monkey in it, right? Goddamnit!*

Monkey Bread is a mid-century American classic of no definitive origin. It is typically made of sweet, yeasted bread dough balls that have been dipped in butter and rolled in sugar or coated with caramel. They’re piled on top of one another in a cake or bundt pan and served warm so that they easily pull apart. No wonder the name leaves us scratching our heads.

We’ve decided the time has come to monkey around with the recipe. By adding both fresh and dried banana, plenty of coconut (sugar, oil and cream), and a hearty kick of booze (in lieu of the monkeys), we’ve given a well-worn staple a tropical upgrade. The Graham flour isn’t necessary, but it does add a nice bite to the bread, and after all the sugar and booze it’s nice to know there’s a bit of nutrition in the bread.

This is a great breakfast or brunch treat that can be assembled ahead of time and baked just before serving.

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Banana Coconut Monkey Bread with Graham Flour

1/3 cup coconut milk
1 1/2 teaspoons dry active yeast
3 eggs
1 cup plus 1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup ground dehydrated banana chips
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1 tablespoons sea salt
1 cup graham flour
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoon coconut oil (solid form not above 77 degrees)
Nonstick cooking spray, for bowl
Coconut & Maple Butterscotch (see recipe below)
1 1/2 ripe bananas, pureed until smooth
1 cup dried banana chips, broken up
1 cup chopped pecans (walnuts, pistachios, and cashews are also good)
1/4 cup bourbon (or other booze such as Grand Marnier, Scotch, or Rum)

DIRECTIONS

In a small saucepan, heat milk until just warmed through. Transfer to a large bowl and add yeast; stir to combine. Let stand 1 minute until yeast is dissolved. Add 1 egg and whisk to combine. Add 1/2 cups flour and mix until well combined. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup flour over top of mixture; cover with plastic wrap and let dough stand in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Transfer dough to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Add remaining 2 eggs, powdered banana, coconut sugar, remaining all purpose and graham flours, and salt. Mix until dough forms a ball, adding more all purpose flour if necessary. Increase speed to medium and mix for about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add butter and coconut oil; mix until fully incorporated.

Lightly coat a large bowl with nonstick cooking spray and transfer dough to prepared bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until doubled in volume, 1 to 2 hours. Punch dough down and cover again with plastic wrap. Transfer to refrigerator until ready to use, up to 1 week.

In a large bowl, mix together 1 cup butterscotch and pureed bananas. Lightly coat 5 1-cup ovenproof dishes or ramekins with cooking spray; set dishes on a large rimmed baking sheet. Place one tablespoon butterscotch in the bottom of each baking dish. Sprinkle some of the soaked banana chips and nuts over the butterscotch; set aside.

Divide dough into 6 equal pieces (about 6-ounces each). Working with 1 piece at a time, roll into a 6-inch-long rope using your hands. Cut rope into 8 equal pieces, add pieces to bowl with butterscotch mixture and toss to coat. Transfer dough pieces to a prepared baking dish; repeat process with remaining pieces of dough. Sprinkle each baking dish filled with dough with more banana chips, nuts, and a drizzle more of the banana butterscotch. Cover baking dishes with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until spongy, about 1 hour. (Can also be frozen at this point. To bake remove from freezer the night before and place in a warm area overnight before continuing.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Brush tops of dough with more butterscotch mixture. Transfer to oven and bake, rotating halfway through baking, until golden and firm to the touch, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately with remaining butterscotch, for dipping.

Coconut Maple Butterscotch

1/4 cup coconut sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup coconut cream
1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cups Stout beer

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt both sugars and butter over medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil and gradually add the coconut cream about 1/3 cup at a time.

Continue cooking at a gentle boil for 15-20 minutes or until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add salt and vanilla; stir to combine. Add stout and stir to combine. Bring to a boil and cook for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and let cool. Continue to stir occasionally as it cools to keep from separating.

* No little monkeys were harmed in the making of this sweet doughy treat!