Once it was to one of the beaches in Southern California to go grunion hunting at midnight; another time it was fishing at some little lake on the other side of the mountains, and sometimes it was to a nearby state park where we could hike. But it always entailed a lot of cooking out-of-doors.
Our days were full of short hikes before breakfast through peaceful woods, seeking new trails and naming the wild flowers along the way. Breakfasts were simple. Cinnamon toast was always a favorite. Simply butter both sides of slices of bread, cut diagonally, and then fry them in a pan until brown. Then drop the toast into a paper bag filled with sugar and cinnamon and shake!
DARN GOODS were another favorite: Mix 1 tablespoon of cinnamon with 2 tablespoons of sugar in a paper bag. Heat vegetable oil, 1-inch deep, in a skillet, on the grill over hot coals. Add 1/2 cup of water to 1 cup of Bisquick and mix until the dough is thick and sticky. When the oil is hot, drop by teaspoonfuls and fry until rich golden brown and puffy. Drain on absorbent paper, and then shake in the bag to coat with the cinnamon and sugar mixture. Makes about 12 puffs.
Baking hot bread on the Coleman camp stove is fun. Two well-greased foil pie pans serve as the “oven.” Have heat low. Mix a package of muffin mix and pour it into a pie pan, put the other pie pan on top, and clip them together with clothespins. Bake on the stove about 10 minutes, and then use the clothespins to turn the pan over and bake another 10 minutes.
And there’s always BREAKFAST KABOBS. Take cubes of ham or brown-and-serve sausages, whole canned apricots, chunks of pineapple and apple, buttered brown-and-serve rolls and interlace on skewers and cook over an outdoor fire.
After a day of hiking, fishing or swimming, children build up appetites, and eagerly await the dinner hour knowing they can help cook over an open fire. TEXAS SOMBREROS was always fun. Sauté 1/2 cup of chopped celery, green pepper and onion in two tablespoons of butter in a large skillet; add 1 pound of hamburger, 1 teaspoon each of salt, taco sauce and chili powder and cook until crumbly and lightly browned. Add a 1-pound can of tomatoes and an 8-ounce can of tomato sauce; simmer 30 minutes. To serve, place corn chips on plates, spoon meat sauce on top and sprinkle generously with chopped lettuce and shredded cheese. Serves six.
HASH OF THE WILDS is one they can cook themselves. Sauté 2 pounds of hamburger and 1 diced onion in a large pot until brown. Add 1 large can of kidney beans, drained, 2 cups of hot water, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook for an hour.
On one of the hikes find some long sticks and when returning to camp peel them.
Then make your PIONEER DRUMSTICKS by mixing 2 pounds of hamburger with 1 cup of corn flakes, 2 eggs, and onion salt and pepper to taste. Wrap each portion around the end of the peeled stick and squeeze it evenly in place. Make it long and thin. Cook slowly over hot coals, turning. Twist off the stick and serve in a roll. Serves eight.
Then there’s the STEW IN A COFFEE CAN. For each person you need a 1-pound coffee can with lid. In the bottom of each can place half a strip of bacon, then a meat patty, and on top of that arrange a layer of sliced onion, cubed potatoes, and sliced carrots. Salt and pepper to taste. Spoon canned tomatoes over all. Put 2 or 3 canned biscuits on top. Punch two small holes in the top of each lid, put on the lid, and wrap the coffee can in foil, then place on hot coals for 30 minutes.
How about ANGELS’ HALOS for dessert? Put a marshmallow in the hole of a glazed doughnut and put a skewer through the whole thing and heat over hot coals. Or cut wedges of angel food cake and toast over hot coals until golden brown, and then sprinkle with brown sugar.
To make cherry pudding in a skillet, melt 1/4 cup of butter, and then brown 2 slices of white bread, cut into cubes. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of sugar over all and stir until it dissolves. Stir in 1 can of cherry pie filling and heat through. Sprinkle with sliced almonds. Serves eight.
For another dessert, put 1 package of chocolate chips, 15 large marshmallows, quartered, and a 5-ounce can of evaporated milk in a pot and place over the edge of coals. Stir frequently to keep from scorching until melted, about 15 minutes. Keep warm, stirring occasionally. Skewer a variety of fresh fruit and dip in the chocolate fondue.
It will be with reluctance the kids will want to return home after an outing where they can participate so often. But you will all return with renewed spirit and vitality, remembering Thoreau’s words: “Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.”
HINT OF THE MONTH – Salads and vegetables are always an important part of a meal, even when cooking outdoors. A favorite with children is the “Walk-Around” or “Walking Salad.” Choose vegetables such as bell peppers, carrot and celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, scallions, and tender inner leaves of romaine lettuce, and arrange on a tray. Everyone simply picks up some of vegetables and nibbles as they walk about.
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Marian Platt's regional narrative cookbook of Washington’s Sequim Valley, From My Kitchen Window, can be ordered by sending cash, check or money order for $25 (includes tax and handling/mailing costs) to Marian Platt, 434 Chicken Coop Rd., Sequim, WA 98382. Phone (360) 683-4691
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