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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.

https://yourfoodchoices.com/2010/11/03/more-smores/

More S’mores

Because we didn’t go camping this year we weren’t able to have one of our favorite summer treats, s’mores.  As everyone knows, s’mores are as essential to the camping experience as camp fires and tents. It’s just not the same without them. I’ve been thinking about ways to bring the tasty treats inside and out of the woods. Why shouldn’t you be able to eat a s’more when ever you want, right out of the cookie jar? And why can’t the s’more become a cookie that’s meant to be enjoyed year round instead of just during the summer?

Breaking down the concept of a s’more cookie is fairly simple when you’re talking about three easy ingredients: marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate. But how many people do you know who make their own marshmallows and graham crackers? For a couple of years, I’ve been making incredibly soft marshmallows that are easy to whip up. With a little patience and chemistry these soft airy confections come out tasting like sugary clouds, putting to shame any commercially made bag of marshmallows from the grocery store. Even though they take time to make, once you’ve tasted these babies you’ll never want to pick up a store-bought bag again. I found this recipe in a Martha Stewart Christmas Magazine but it’s also on her site.

As for the grahams, I’ve been eyeing Kim Boyce’s graham recipe from her book Good to the Grain, a collection of recipes using whole-grain flour and a new favorite in our reference library. I picked up the book last spring. We’ve tried a few of Kim’s recipes with great success and the only thing holding me back from making her graham crackers was a shortage of retail sellers of Teff flour. I couldn’t even find it at the local super crunchy co-ops. A trip to Whole Foods was all it took.  Teff flour has a malty taste to it that compliments the earthy graham flour. The finished crackers taste exactly like the graham crackers I grew up on, only a little better.

While I might be a few months behind the rest of the country where people enjoy s’mores throughout the summer, including national S’more’s day on August 10, in my defense we San Franciscans are just getting our predictably few warm “summer” days. And even with the unusually warm weather this week we were a little too busy in the city with Halloween, the Giants winning the World Series and a parade that brought a million people to the streets celebrating San Francisco’s first series win. Congratulations Giants! So now we have to play catch-up with the rest of you. Let’s hope the warm weather keeps for another weekend or two. We think once you try these s’mores you’ll want to enjoy them at home year round.

Summer camp in a jar.

Marshmallows

Adapted from: Candy-Cane Marshmallows – Martha Stewart Holidays

Makes forty-eight 1 ½ inch squared marshmallows

Vegetable-oil cooking spray

2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 packages (1/4 ounce each) unflavored gelatin
2 large egg whites

Directions

  1. Coat a half sheet cake pan with cooking spray; line bottom with parchment paper. Coat the parchment with cooking spray, and set pan aside. Put sugar, corn syrup, and 3/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Stop stirring; let mixture come to a boil. Raise heat to medium-high; cook until mixture registers 260 degrees on a candy thermometer.
  2. Meanwhile, sprinkle gelatin over 3/4 cup water in a heatproof bowl; let stand 5 minutes to soften. Set the bowl with the gelatin mixture over a pan of simmering water; whisk constantly until gelatin is dissolved. Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla; set aside.
  3. Beat egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Whisk gelatin mixture into sugar mixture; with mixer running, gradually add to egg whites. Mix on high speed until very thick, 12 to 15 minutes.
  4. Pour mixture into lined pan. Using an off set spatula sprayed with cooking spray, spread out the marshmallow fluff into every corner. Moving the spatula in one direction at a time and not swirling it helps keep it uniformed. Spray another piece of parchment paper with cooking spray and place over the top. Allow at least three hour, or preferably overnight, to set up.
  5. Remove from pan; score marshmallow by 1 ½ inch squared and cut.

Grahams

From Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain

Dry Mix:

1 cup graham flour
½ cup teff flour
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Wet Mix:

3 ounces (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
¼ cup honey
1 tablespoon unsulphured (not blackstrap) molasses
1/3 cup whole milk

  1. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Whatever remains in the bottom of the sifter add to the bowl. (Kim discards what’s in the bottom, but I add it to the bowl.)
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together the wet ingredients. Add the wet ingredient to the dry ingredients and mix until formed, using your hands is a good trick. Form the dough into a square and wrap in plastic and chill for at least one hour or overnight.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two cookies sheets with parchment or silpat. Lightly dusting your work surface with flour, roll the graham dough into a square shape, rotating the dough as you roll to assure the dough does not stick. Roll the dough out to about 1/8 inch thick. Using a ruler or a yardstick, cut into 1 ½ x 1 ½ inch squares.  Transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheets.
  4. Bake the cookies for 15 to 17 minutes, rotating the pans after the first 8 minutes. The edges will be a little browner than the rest of the cookies but be careful not to burn the cookies or under bake them. The dark brown of the cookie dough can be a little tricky to judge at first. Allow to cool on baking racks until the marshmallows are cut and the chocolate is melted.

Finishing the S’mores

Place a rack on each of a two baking sheets and put 24 cookies on each rack. Place a marshmallow on top of each cookie. Drizzle the melted chocolate over each marshmallow cookie allowing some parts of the marshmallow to remain bare. Allow the chocolate to set up for five minutes and then place the rest of the grahams on top of each marshmallow.  The grahams may not  all be perfect, and neither will the marshmallows, so selecting the right cookie with the right marshmallow will make the cookies look their best. Allow the chocolate to set up before placing in a cookie jar.