How To Pack and Cook For Camping

Hey guys,

Since I’m in the middle of prepping for camping at the moment, it seems like the perfect time to write about this. I am a tent camper, which means I don’t have a stove, fridge or anywhere to store food aside from my small cooler. This means I have very little space for cold food. This does not mean I don’t like to eat well while I’m in the woods though. Let’s go over prep work you can do before your trip, ways to store food and foods that take little to no effort to prepare.

Eva Blakeman – Camping

Before we get to food, I want to impress how important it is to store your food safely when camping in bear country. Dispose of food in bear safe garbage containers or burn them. Do not leave food unattended at your camp site as a vacant site with food is just calling for a bear to come by, and likely return again in hopes of getting more easy food. Coffee cups and juices also attract bears, so make sure your morning coffee isn’t sitting out with dregs, as a small amount of cream and sugar left in a cup is more than enough for a bear to sniff out.

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Store food in sealed containers and preferable inside your vehicle/ camper / trailer. If you are camping away from you vehicle, store food is air tight containers. Unfortunately most re-sealable bags are plastic, but they can be re-used many times before they are disposed of, so I would recommend re-using them as many times as you can before you throw them out.

Non Refrigerated Items

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While camping generally means eating less than clean, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy something other than chips. Apples, carrots, nuts, celery, bread, peanut butter, honey, etc, don’t require refrigeration and last over a week, which makes them ideal for camping. Not to mention how easy it is to eat an apple! No clean up.

Refrigerated Items

As I said, I use a small cooler, so in order to keep my items cold I use frozen water bottles. This way I have water and get to keep my food cool, saving space and weight. I limit the cool foods I bring to cheese, hot sauce and sometimes meats. If I’m bring meats I vacuum seal them and freeze them before packing them for a few reasons. The first is to make the meat last longer and keep the whole cooler colder as it is frozen, the second is to avoid a mess. A vacuum sealed meat can’t leak as it thaws. The third is that it takes up less space vacuum sealed than it doesn’t in it’s original styrofoam container. Not to mention it can’t attract wildlife if it’s air sealed.

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Junk Food / Snacks

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I can’t pretend I don’t bring junk food when I’m camping, so let’s get it out there. Again for space reasons, I tend to ditch the original containers and switch them to ziplock bags to save space and to give them a re-sealable edge, especially with chips. I love sunflower seeds and almonds, both of which often come in re-sealable bags that aren’t half air, so they get packed “as-is”.

Tin Foil Potatoes

I have a deep love for cooking with fire, as it is something I’ve been doing since I was a kid. You don’t want to cut potatoes more than a half hour before cooking, so I take the small potatoes, a pre-mixed bag of spices (onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper, cayenne and salt), some tin foil and a knife. Once your fire is good and hot you can cut your potatoes in half, sprinkle them with spices (you can add some olive oil if you have it with you) then wrap them up in foil, making sure there are no open holes in the foil, and throw them onto the coals at the edge of the fire. With 10 small potatoes cooking, it shouldn’t take more than 45 minutes for them to be steaming and soft. If you have a small fire or it hasn’t been burning for very long, it will take longer.

Cooking Meats

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I rarely bring meats but when I do, I also bring tin foil. While steak doesn’t turn out great in tin foil, chicken and pork can be pretty tasty when cooked this way as it steams the meat in its own juices. It can be tricky to get the cook times right, so if in doubt, leave the meat at home. If you are confident that you can see white meat and no red or pink left, then you are ready to eat.

KEEPING DRINKS COLD

Eva Blakeman – Camping

If you are camping near a water source, cooling your drinks will be easy as you can either net your cans and leave them in the water or dunk them in for a half hour before drinking them. If you are not near water then being as efficient as possible with cold space is important. The likely hood of ice you packed 4 days ago in a cooler still being frozen is slim, so you will need to keep the drinks themselves cool. Having a committed cooler for drinks with frozen water bottles is helpful as you won’t be opening your food cooler often, losing the chill for your other foods. Storing your cooler in a shaded place also helps keep it cool.

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All in all, food is the least impressionable part of camping, but underpacking and spoiled food can ruin a trip. My tip would be to focus on foods that don’t perish for at least a week that don’t need to be kept cool. If you have any tips you wan’t to share, I would be so happy to hear them!

Why Trying New Recipes Is Important

As you guys know, I love working in the kitchen. A group of my friends and I have been planning a “baking day” where some of the men can learn some new skills and us girls can drink some wine and teach them. We can’t do it right away but I’m hoping in a few months we’ll be able to get together to do it.

I think sharing skills and taking the time to help others learn is incredibly important. Though in this day and age we don’t often have canning days, I think getting together to help each other and to enjoy food and drink is essential. I would encourage everyone to try this whether you are the host, the teacher or the student. Please let me know if you have or will be doing this in the comments!

I’ve been thinking of how to teach when I realized that teaching how to make a recipe is not the issue. Teaching how to change a recipe to better suit you or the environment you are cooking in is. I thought about how most of the recipes I have written in my book aren’t actually how I make the food. As I work with a recipe I adjust it to better suit my taste, my kitchen ware and how I want the final product to come out.

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Minor changes are cook times and temperatures, but changing the process for Babka dough to make it fluffier or how to make a chunky chocolate spread into a smooth and creamy one can change the entire product.

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So I started asking myself how I learned to manipulate recipes to suit me better and I realized it came from trying new recipes so often. With each new meal, new cultural dish, new process comes more knowledge to draw upon. To be the best home cook requires stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new dishes. Experience also helps. You learn from your mistakes and most recipes don’t include a “absolutely don’t do this” section.

One of the simplest lessons I learned was not to fold warm chocolate into whipped cream as it ruins the texture. You have to let the chocolate cool before folding it in! My first time trying it the whipped cream became a soupy mixture that just wasn’t visually appealing. Lesson learned. Also learned that day that id you sprinkle a mixture of powdered sugar and cocoa powder over a complete chocolate failure, it hides it pretty well even though it can’t fix the texture problem.

The first time I made Babka, a chocolate bread dessert, I just couldn’t figure out why the bread was so dense and chewy. I saw the yeast bloom, I kneaded it for 15 minutes by hand, I did a twelve hour cool rest and I rolled it out evenly. The second time I made it I increased the temperature in the oven from 375 to 415 and the difference was incredible. I didn’t change anything else, just the temperature, but the bread was risen with a better crust and it both tasted and felt better.

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I think being able to trouble shoot your own cooking is important. Being able to look at what you don’t like in your finished product and be able to fix it makes you a better cook. Google can often help if you can figure out the specific issue, but it can be tedious to try and find the right answer online, whereas experience and dedication to bettering your skills can lead you down new roads.

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I don’t claim to be the best home cook. I still have a lot to learn and I look forward to a lifetime of experimenting and expanding my wheelhouse. This year I have focused more strongly on desserts. I learned how to Deep Fry Oreos, make a Cadbury Egg Cheesecake and how to make a selection of chocolate breads and dessert buns. Last year I focused on broths, steaks and perfecting roasted vegetables. I don’t know what will catch my eye this upcoming year, but I look forward to seeing what will catch my fancy.

Going back to the baking day we have planned I figured out what I’m going to do. I ‘m going to teach a N0-Knead bread recipe that can be customized to each persons preference that relies on the maker being attentive to humidity and dough moisture. I think this bread is a good starting point as it doesn’t require hand kneading (none of us own stand mixers) but does require adjustment which teaches flexibility in baking. I also want to teach how to make Babka, a more finicky dough that will render your wrists into angry stumps by the time you’re done kneading. This one will be to teach technique as well as how to roll out doughs nicely and how to seal the dough as not to let out the filling. The last items will be standard cup cakes with buttercream and whipped cream frosting. We’ll go over how to make the cup cakes, mix and colour the icing, how to load the icing bag and how to use different tips to create different effects. I would also like to show how to bake, stack and decorate a cake that we can all share. In the end, everyone will get two loaves of bread and a dozen cupcakes to take home (and possibly left over cake). For some of my friends this will be more instructive than for others, but it gives those who know more about baking the opportunity to help the others as we all work together to create a small feast.

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I hope it will be a good day for everyone and while I am a little more experienced than most of my friends, I think they’ll have their own cultural ways of preparing basic foods. As our group is culturally diverse it’s likely most of us grew up with different methods of doing things so we’ll all get to learn new techniques. Personally I have a French background which shows in my food.

I’ll write about it once we get to have our baking day and I hope it will go well. I would love if you would tell me about your own stories in the kitchen.

Basic Cooking Everyone Should Know

Cooking is by no means an easy thing to pick up with no experience, but it is do-able. Understanding the purpose of each ingredient makes it a lot easier for new cooks to shine in the kitchen and to experiment with more success than failure. Below is a combination of recipes and advice for new cooks. I truly believe with a little practice and courage everyone can cook.

How To Set Up For Success

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No one starts out with every kitchen tool, spice and gadget and in most cases you can improvise, but there are some things you just have to own to be able to cook. Depending on the cultural background of the foods, necessary kitchen-wear and spices will vary.

Recommended Kitchenware :

  • 4 inch (or longer) kitchen knife
  • wood cutting board (resists bacteria better than plastic and can be resurfaced)
  • stainless steel skillet (can cook just about anything)
  • baking sheet
  • saucepans of various sizes
  • wood spoon
  • spatula
  • measuring cups
  • can opener
  • bottle opener
  • tongs
  • whisk
  • steel or glass mixing bowls
  • cheese grater
  • scissors

Optional:

  • food processor
  • blender
  • thermometer
  • multiple kitchen knives of varying length
  • a bread knife
  • cast iron skillet (can cook anything that isn’t acidic)
  • 8×8 or 9×9 cake pan

Recommended Spices :

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  • salt
  • black pepper
  • onion powder
  • garlic powder
  • parsley
  • cayenne powder
  • dill weed
  • oregano

Preparing before cooking is the true key to success.

Planning your meals long ahead of time will not only reduce food waste, but ensure you are thawing out your meats the night before and will ensure you will have time to marinate them rather than be running them under water in the sink trying to thaw them out directly before cooking.

Cutting up your vegetables, having your spices out, putting out your tools and getting everything ready before the cooking begins will make everything down the line much easier. Having everything set up will help avoid burning foods and pots boiling over while you’re trying to get things together.

Another important thing to be aware of is cross contamination with raw and cooked foods. Raw meats should never be stored near other foods, and should be in air tight containers. A good option to avoid cross contamination while simultaneously avoiding freezer burn is to invest in a vacuum sealer. Due to the meat being vacuumed sealed, it shouldn’t be able to cross contaminate as it thaws in the fridge, provided it remains sealed. I purchased a vacuum sealer due to wanting to save money by purchasing meats in bulk but not wanting to thaw out 20 pork chops at a time. So I package my meats in sets of two and then freeze them until needed.


How To Cook Eggs

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Since eggs are some of the most commonly used ingredients and they are a fairly easy thing to work with, I thought we would start here and move towards more difficult cooking throughout the article.


Hot liquids will scramble your eggs if not tempered. In order to introduce eggs to a hot recipe without them scrambling and becoming lumpy. Start cold and slowly bring up the temperature of the eggs while constantly whisking them will help keep them from coagulating.

Poached eggs don’t work well unless the eggs are fairly fresh. In order to poach an egg you must fill a saucepan with enough water that the egg won’t touch the bottom of the pot. A couple inches of water minimum. Bring the water up to a simmer (not a boil, you want slight steam and bubbles but not rolling bubbles or heavy steam). Tip your egg into the simmering water and let it cook for about 2 minutes. Turns off the heat and let the egg continue to cook in the water for about ten minutes. Try to get the egg out without any water (a slotted spoon works well).

Frying an egg may seem like the easiest thing in the world, but if you want a runny yolk your egg should be under 149F but above 144F for a sturdy white. The minimum temperature for eggs to become solid is 144F. In short, if your whites have turned bright white and have a ting of browning happening, your yolk should be just at the turning point of being runny and becoming solid.

Scrambled eggs are a fairly easy dish to make, but it is essential that you add the salt once the eggs are done cooking or it can ruin them. If you like fluffy eggs, add a tiny amount of baking soda to them. If you like rich and creamy eggs, a knob of butter will do wonders. Make sure to mix the eggs often and ensure they reach a minimum of 150F to get them thoroughly cooked.


French toast for four people (assuming each is eating 3 pieces):

  • 5 eggs
  • 12 pieces of bread
  • 1/4 cup of milk
  • a dash of cinnamon
  • a teaspoon of vanilla.

The eggs, milk, vanilla and cinnamon should be whisked together in a shallow bowl. For denser French toast, let the bread sit in the mixture for a minute, allowing it to absorb more of the mixture. For lighter French toast, quickly submerge the bread. Fry the bread in butter at medium heat for best flavour.

French toast is also an egg heavy dish that can be cooked reliably simply by the look of it. Golden brown egg and bread on both sides is the sign of properly cooked French toast. In order to change the increments of the recipe, the general rule is one egg per person plus one, the milk, cinnamon and vanilla need only be increased or decreased slightly.


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How To Make Broth & Soups

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Broths are an incredibly easy thing to make, and they can be made with your food scraps. When you are cutting up vegetables, throw the parts you don’t plan to use (the stem of carrots, the root of the onion, the base of the celery, etc) into a ziplock bag in the freezer. These little scraps will help build your broth without spending a lot to make it.


The basic ingredients for a vegetable broth are carrots, onions and celery. After those three main ingredients the rest is up to you. Often garlic, neutral oils (like vegetable or canola) and bay leaves are included. For an easy vegetable broth recipe, click here. The basics of making a broth is simmering ingredients in a large amount of water for long periods of time to release their flavours, then straining out all solid pieces to leave behind a rich and flavourful liquid. As every culture and person makes their broth differently I would recommend looking into a variety of different recipes. Personally I think fresh dill in a vegetable or chicken broth is fantastic, while others say it wouldn’t be complete without garlic or rosemary. Really it’s up to you to find what you like.

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Meat based broths are often made with the bones and left overs the meat. Simmering them with a collection of the basic vegetables from above in water will result in a broth. The difference between vegetable and meat broths is the scummy layer of impurities that form when boiling them, this will take the form of white, foamy sludge on the top of the broth. Often the bones are blanched (boiled in water) before being added to the broth pot to remove impurities, but even then you will have to skim the pot.


Let’s talk soup. A basic chicken and noodle soup will require a chicken broth, black pepper, cooked chicken ( cooking it in the water will result in the scum), finely cut celery and the pasta of your choice. The important thing here is timing. You can boil the broth, vegetables and chicken for quite some time, but the pasta is what needs to be watched. Each pasta will have its own boiling directions on the packaging. Make sure to add it last and follow the instructions as if it were boiling in water.

Tomato soup and tomato based soups are prepared very similarly. It starts with either removing or processing the skins of the tomatoes (if processing remove the stem and throw the rest of the tomato it). It will also require some butter, vegetable stock and onion. Spices depend on the individual cooking, but salt is customary. In order to transform tomatoes from the raw flavour to rich and creamy, cooking them down is very important. This means letting them cook at a relatively low heat for at least twenty minutes. For an incredibly easy tomato soup recipe, click here.


How To Cook Meats

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Each meat has its “safe temperature”. As most people know, chicken must be thoroughly cooked, while beef doesn’t require being fully cooked through to be safe to eat. All juicy meats do better when seared, as it seals the exterior of the meat, keeping the juices sealed inside. In order to sear a steak, press each side of the meat to a very hot pan, it should hiss and sizzle, until a slight crust has formed.


Chicken must reach 165F internally to be safe to consume. The “white meat test” has been used for a very long time to ensure chicken is cooked properly, but some chicken will have a pink hue even when fully cooked. This is especially true beside bones. If in doubt, use a meat thermometer to ensure your chicken is fully cooked.

Commonly salt and pepper are used, but hot sauces, dill, cayenne, garlic and onion powders are great options to try out.

Mozzarella and Spinach Chicken

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 4 tablespoons fresh mozzarella cheese (pre-grated cheeses have coatings which ruins their melting)
  • 1 cup chopped spinach
  • a dash of salt
  • a dash of pepper
  • a dash of cayenne
  • olive oil

Pre-heat the oven to 375F. Rinse your chicken breasts in cold water then cut a pocket with a small opening in the breast (be careful not to cut through the other end of the chicken or the stuffing will come out as it bakes). Mix mozzarella, spinach and cayenne in a small bowl. Stuff each breast with the filling. Toss some olive oil onto a baking sheet ( I recommend lining it with aluminium foil to make clean up easier ). Ensure there is ample oil under where the breasts will sit. Place the breasts on the pan and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Bake them for 15 minutes, then flip them over and bake for another 10 – 15 minutes. Let them rest a few minutes before serving as the cheese will burn your mouth like hot pizza if you don’t let it cool a little.


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Pork can also cause health issues if not properly cooked. In this case a temperature of 145F is needed to be safe to consume. According to food scientists the meat should rest three minutes after reaching 145F before being consumed. Previously it was said that 160F was the limit for safe consumption, so don’t worry about going over the minimum. Pork also doesn’t give away its secrets with the colour of the meat. Often properly cooked pork will also have pink showing, so once again, use a meat thermometer. If pan cooking pork, try adding butter near the end of the cooking (to avoid it burning) and fresh herbs like rosemary to the pan to add flavour to the meat.

Beef is a constantly under and overcooked meat. Though you may of heard of a blue rare steak, you don’t want to eat one. Beef is also said to require 145F internal temperature to be safe to consume. The biggest issue with red meats is that it is very difficult to see worms within the meat, so it’s better to cook them thouroughly rather than get an infestation of worms in your digestive system. Ground beef should be browned (fully cooked) but for steaks you shouldn’t cook below medium rare to ensure safe consumption. To cook a great steak, let it marinate in garlic oil for a couple days before cooking it (make sure to pierce the meat with a fork to let it seep into the muscle) and the steak with be juicy as can be.

In order to cook a good steak in a pan the meat should start at room temperature. Dry the meat before introducing it to the pan to get a good crust. Sear the meat on a very hot pan with oil, then lower the temperature to medium to cook the steak without burning. You should have a dark exterior with no grey areas. Cooking time varies depending on the thickness of the steak, but it shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes from start to finish. For extra flavour it is common to season with a little salt and pepper before cooking and near the end of the cook time adding some butter to the pan can add some great flavour.


While we are on the topic of foods that are dangerous to consume without being cooked, raw flours can contain e.coli, eggs can have salmonella, potatoes with green in them can cause some nasty digestive issues ( to keep them from sprouting or becoming green, keep them in a dark, cool place), rhubarb leaves can cause a plethora of issues, elderberries can host cyanide, raw red kidney beans will cause extreme diarrhea and vomiting. Apple seeds contain cyanide, raw milk can contain salmonella, e.coli and a few other harmful bacteria. Raw lima beans also contain cyanide. Thankfully all of these foods can be rendered safe by cooking them thoroughly, though with the two beans, it is just safer to buy cooked beans. When in doubt, check before consuming!


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How To Make Salads

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Making a good salad that tastes great without using sugary dressings can seem daunting, but vinaigrette’s are easy to make, click here for some great recipes I have tried and tested.


Making a good salad includes a variety of textures for it to be fulfilling. Adding apples, strawberries, nuts, croutons, pickled peppers, etc. can make a basic lettuce salad a lot better. Arugula and spinach mix well in salads especially with citrus flavours added. Lettuce yields itself to almost any flavour, so experiment and try new things. An important thing to remember when preparing any salad is that you don’t want to inconvenience anyone with pieces they can’t fit in their mouths. Make sure to cut up pieces small enough to be easily fit in a mouth.

Fruit salads are a wonderful thing to serve and can be done in a lot of ways. A common way to serve fruit salad is to encompass it in jello. Make sure there aren’t any strong acids when using this method as the jello won’t set. For a fresh fruit salad, cut up all pieces to under an inch as to make them easier to eat. Oranges, apples, strawberries, pineapple and melons mix together beautifully. Experiment with your combinations! Fruit salads don’t need any dressing to be enjoyed, so they are an easy dessert to prepare, though drizzling a little raspberry dressing adds a little sour kick to the sweet fruits.


How To Roast Vegetables

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Roasted potatoes, carrots, asparagus are just the beginning with roasted vegetables. once you are comfortable with the roasting process you can experiment with all sorts of vegetables and try new combinations to find the ones you like best.


Oven roasting is by far the easiest way to roast potatoes. The general practice for roasting potatoes is to cut them into conveniently sizes for eating and toss them in a combination of olive oil, herbs and spices then to bake them, turning them over to ensure even browning.

Simple Oven Roasted Potatoes

  • 20 small potatoes cut into quarters
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • a dash of dried parsley

Mix the oil and seasonings in a mixing bowl then toss the potatoes until they are completely coated with the mixture. Spread them out on a baking sheet and bake them in a 400F pre-heated oven for 30-35 minutes. Flip over the potatoes half way through the cooking time. They should come out golden brown with a crisp outer layer and a soft core.


Roasted asparagus is a favourite and it’s incredibly easy to cook them in a pan. Make sure to cut off the bottom of the stalks (roughly 1 inch) before cooking. With a little olive oil in a pre-heated cast iron or stainless pan at medium heat, toss them in unseasoned. Once a darkened colour has taken to the stalks turn down the temperature a slight amount to give the interior time to reach a soft consistency without burning. Once cooking is done, roll them into a small amount of honey and salt and they will be delicious as a side.


Roasted carrots are undeniably yummy and also an easy baked item to serve. Carrots pair nicely with garlic and onion flavours and due to their sweetness, a little acidic kick can do wonders.

Oven Roasted Carrots

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder or 1 clove minced
  • dash of pepper
  • dash of salt
  • 3 large carrots cut into bite sized pieces

Mix the olive oil and balsamic (or apple cider) vinegar in a bowl with the garlic, salt and pepper. Toss the carrots in the mixture then spread them out on a baking sheet to bake in a pre-heated oven (375F) for 35-40 minutes, flip them half way through. Serve warm.


How To Bake Bread

EVA BLAKEMAN – NO KNEAD BREAD

Bread making can seem intimidating at first, but with a little patience it can be very rewarding, not to mention cheaper than buying artisan loaves. You don’t need a bread machine to make great bread, just your hands and a cake pan will suffice. For a great summary of how to make bread, click here to see a video by the creator of Binging With Babish on the basics of bread. Remember that when changing out the thickness of the dough, you have to keep a close eye to make sure it doesn’t burn.

Kneading dough can feel intimidating, but with floured hands and determination the sticky mound of dough will form into a workable ball. Try to avoid adding water or flour while kneading no matter how sticky or dry the dough may seem. Keep working it until either the stickiness has worn away or the flour has been integrated entirely.

When allowing dough to rise it is important that it is in a warm area as the heat allows the yeast to rise the bread. Cold rising just doesn’t work. Also, never forget to oil your bowl or you will have a sticky mess to deal with.

An interesting thing that you can do is alter the crust. If you brush the dough with egg wash before baking the crust will be shinny and dark. Brushing it with milk before baking will make the dough shinny. Brushing the bread directly after removing it from the oven with butter will soften the crust and add a richness to the flavour.


Crusty Round Loaf – No Knead Method (As seen above)

  • 400 grams all purpose flour (roughly 3 1/4 cups)
  • 1/4 teaspoon yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/3 cup room temperature water

In a large mixing bowl combine all ingredients until there is no flour remaining on the bottom of the bowl. If the dough ball absolutely won’t come together after a few minutes of mixing, add a couple tablespoons of water and continue to mix.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow it to rest in a warm area for 12 – 24 hours.

Shape the dough into a ball by pulling the dough underneath itself to give a smooth ball. Place the ball onto an oiled piece of aluminium foil (vegetable oil) and cover to rest for one hour.

Pre-heat oven to 400 F and place an oven safe container filled with water into the rear of the oven. It is important to do this during the pre-heat so that the water will be boiling while the bread is in the oven.

Liberally oil a cast iron pan with vegetable oil and allow it to heat in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove the cast iron and place the ball of dough directly onto the pan.

Bake for 15-25 minutes (you have to keep an eye on your bread as it cooks to ensure the crust isn’t burning).

Immediately after removing the bread from the oven, brush the loaf with butter. You can do this with a very clean paintbrush if you don’t have a kitchen quality one. This butter will often the crust.

Let the bread cool completely before cutting, usually about 3 hours.


I really believe that anyone can cook anything if they give it an honest try. If you have advice or recipes you would like to share please do in the comments. Though the form asks for an email address it is not required to put one in to comment, so please don’t hesitate to share your stories!

Eva Blakeman – BASIC COOKING EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW

Scrumptious Rum Balls From Scratch

Seems like my healthy diet has taken a hit these last two weeks. With Deep Fried Oreos, bowling alley pizza and admittedly, a late night McDonalds trip it has been a heavy cheat week. Thankfully most meals are still chicken or beef with a load of veggies or protein shakes/bars. So we haven’t been completely terrible to ourselves. Anyways, moving on, we have a going away party that we are attending this weekend and it is a potluck style so I thought of something that can travel well with a little boozy kick to it, and I landed on rum balls. When I was a child my mother made a batch of rum balls (with artificial non alcoholic rum) that I remember with fondness. Hers was made with chocolate graham crackers to make it a “no bake” rum ball, but I prefer make it with a chocolate cake base, as I feel they are more stable and travel better.

Ingredients

  • 1 2/3 cups white sugar
  • 2/3 cup softened butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups milk ( I used 3.25%)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • a dash of salt
  • 300 ml (1 can) condensed milk
  • 4 oz semi sweet chocolate
  • 4 oz white chocolate
  • dark or spiced rum
  • chocolate sprinkles

Let’s Get Baking

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 F.
  2. Mix butter, sugar and eggs together.
  3. Add milk, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and lastly flour. Mix until smooth.
  4. Pour your mix into a greased cake pan
  5. Bake 20-25 minutes (check with a toothpick, you should be able to poke and pull out a clean tooth pick if it is cooked through)
  6. Let the cake cool enough to handle, and crumble it all into a large bowl.
  7. Pour condensed milk, semi sweet and white chocolate into a microwave safe bowl. Melt in increments of 25 seconds.
  8. The rum amount is up to you. I used 8 oz of rum in my recipe, which is favourful enough that you know there’s rum, but you could use as little as 4 oz and as much as 12 oz. Pour your rum into the crumbled cake along with the melted chocolate mix. Fold and mix all ingredients together.
  9. Store in the freezer at least 20 minutes or until 30 minutes before serving

Creamy Chicken with Spinach and Asparagus

I whipped together this little number, adding a little this and that until I liked it, and considering how wonderfully it came out I thought I would share it with you!

This dish serves two people. To adapt it to one person, cut the chicken amount in half, but leave the rest of the ingredients as they are.

If you have read from this blog before, you know I jump head first into things, and cooking is no different. I was looking through my pantry and refrigerator while the man was at work, wondering what I should make out of the two chicken breasts I had thawing when I realized my spinach was going to go bad in a few days, so I whipped together this little number, adding a little this and that until I liked it, and considering how wonderfully it came out I thought I would share it with you!

Ingredients

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 3 cups of spinach (or more if you like)
  • 10 pieces of asparagus
  • 3 green onions
  • 3/4 cup of heavy cream or whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • OPTIONALLY, ADD PARSLEY, MUSTARD SEED, POULRY SEASONING

Let’s Get Cooking

  1. Rinse all veggies and shake off water. Cut asparagus into small pieces, dice garlic and green onions. Cut chicken breasts into small, bite sized pieces.
  2. Heat your pan to medium heat and pour in your broth and cream. Whisk together, then add your butter.
  3. Add your chicken to the pan, along with all of your spices and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes while agitating the chicken to prevent sticking.
  4. Add the rest of your vegetables to the pan. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring often.
  5. Remove at least half a cup of your liquid from the pan into a measuring cup or bowl. Mix the flour into the liquid with a whisk. Ensure there are no clumps. Mix the flour and liquid sauce into the pan, stirring well.
  6. Let the pan simmer until sauce is at desired thickness, stir often, serve hot.

I made this dish in a cast iron skillet for even temperature, though a stainless pan would also work.

If you liked this recipe and would like to share, please do so below in the comments!

Why You Should Buy A Cast Iron Pan

Save time cooking healthy meals using the right pan!

In the last few years as I’ve been growing a little older, I’ve come to realize how important eating right really is. Though I do love the taste of fast food, my body has been getting more and more insistent on telling me how much it does not appreciate the fried, salty food that doesn’t properly fuel my body.

I grew up cooking, though baking really is where my talents lie, so adjusting to cooking meals that properly fuel my body hasn’t been the greatest challenge. That being said, using stainless steel pans and aluminum pots hasn’t yielded the best results, as they lack the quality and diversity of metals like cast iron. With stainless pans I’ve found no oil can really create a stick free surface, and butter creates the most difficult to clean up mess I’ve ever seen.

But now, with my cast iron, my cooking has never been better. Getting a beautiful and flavourful crust on a steak is easy in this pan! Roasting potatoes and asparagus has never excited me before this pan. The flavour just seems to flow through the food better with this pan!

I’ve never really enjoyed vegetables, but I’ve come to love cooking chicken and spinach in this pan as a quick and nutritious meal. I guess what I’m really saying is this pan has made me fall in love with eating my veggies, because it’s so easy to make them flavourful without sauces or high sugar dressings.

Moving away from the food to the pan itself. Though initially you do have to take some time to season the pan, who doesn’t have the fifteen minutes to scrub it down, oil it and throw it in the oven? Once it’s baked for about an hour you turn off the oven and let it cool in the oven for a couple hours. I did google how to season my pan and it was very easy. So if you are intimidated by the initial seasoning, don’t worry! If I can do it, anyone can!

Cleaning the pan also seems to intimidate people, my man for example is terrified of killing my pan, so he refuses to use or clean it. It’s quite easy really. Some salt and a hard sponge will do the trick! Just make sure to really dry the pan! Any moisture could cause rust. The easiest way to do this is to clean it while it’s hot, then put it back on the element you were using to heat it a little to ensure any left over moisture evaporates.

In the end, the pan is easily cleaned, cooks food incredibly well and has inspired me to cook much healthier foods every day. All around a 10/10 rating as cooking tools go! And with every dish the pan gets better!

If you love cooking with cast iron or really don’t let me know in the comments! What’s your favourite dish to create in cast iron?

How My Love Of Cooking Began

I became a master of those cookies, but in the beginning my brother would have to help me a lot, I couldn’t even mix in all the flour by myself because I arms would get too tired.

When I was little my brother Bryce taught me how to bake chocolate chip cookies. Not just any cookies, our grandmothers recipe. I became a master of those cookies, but in the beginning my brother would have to help me a lot, I couldn’t even mix in all the flour by myself because I arms would get too tired.

That’s where my help ended. Neither of my parents were very good cooks and my father worked out of town a lot, so I started experimenting with food. It started with mixing spices into canned soups to give them more flavour, and soon after I was trying to make my own stews.

By the time I was in my early teens my father would let me do all the baking and a lot of the food preparation for events he would host at the house. He bought me a decorating kit so that my cookies and cupcakes could be prettier and I practiced making flowers over and over again until I could whip out a rose on the first try.

Then my mother and I discovered the greatest recipe for cheesecake we’ve ever had. Now I won’t disclose what it is, but we were low on cream cheese so we subbed out half of the cream cheese for something else and it has been my signature dessert ever since.

As I got older I was alone more and more in the house and I was becoming more aware of how badly I was eating, consuming mass amounts of ramen noodle and ice cream, so I started working more with fruit and vegetables. Making more fruit smoothies and vegetable based stews with less meat in them.

As an adult I put more time into cooking for others. This took a little adjustment as I love my food spicy and heavy with dill and I had become accustomed to cooking for one. These days I’ve been trying a lot of new recipes. Unfortunately for my man, I don’t actually follow recipes so it’s hard to duplicate results. I tend to take the idea of a recipe and play with it to suit my taste better. My poor man can’t keep up because I don’t often document what I add or take away, which makes it really hard for him to try to make the same dish.

I have begun writing down my recipes, which I think I will share on the blog at some point. But that’s how I went from a little girl amazed by my brothers cookies to a capable cook myself. I think passion is really what made me try, I enjoy cooking very much.

Please share your story in the comments!