Archive for April, 2017

Creating a Feather Stick

Saturday, April 22nd, 2017

I know you are wondering what a feather stick is. Well, it is a stick from a dead tree that has been split and shaved down to expose the dry wood inside. This is a wonderful skill to master and will help you start a fire in damp conditions.

To begin the process, one must first find the proper wood. While some individuals may feel a branch found on the ground may work, it will not. The reason for this is the fact that the wood has soaked up moisture from the ground. The best wood to use for a feather stick is one that is dead, and still on the tree.

feather.stick

Beyond being dry, the branch also needs to be between two to three inches in diameter. When it comes to the length of the branch, it should be between 11 and 23 inches long.

Once you have your branch, the next step is to split the branch in half and then in half again.  This can be tricky but is easily done if you follow these simple steps. First, take the stick, and place it so that it is standing on end. Next, take your knife, and place it on the top of the stick. To get the knife through, place a stick on the pointed end of the knife, and use it to push the knife through safely. Repeat this process with the two halves. You will now have four pieces of wood. After the wood has been split, the next step is to create the feathers.

The “feathers” are shavings of wood that remain attached on the stick. This provides tinder and kindling all in one.

To create the “feathers,” take one of your sticks, and rub your finger down the inside of it. You will notice that there is a groove on both sides where the stick was split. Run you knife along that groove to create a “shaving.” Top several inches from the bottom. As you continue with this process, you will find that the “shavings” create their own groove. Continue to cut along the groove to make more “shavings” until the stick breaks or you have made enough “shavings.” Now your feather stick is ready to use.

Using a Feather Stick to Start a Fire

Starting a fire with a feather stick is simple. Prepare your fire area by clearing it out of plant material, and lining up some sticks to create a platform. Next, put several feather sticks on top of the platform so that all the “feathered” ends are together or in a star shape. Now light the “feathers.” As the fire continues to burn, add more tinder and kindling until the fire has taken hold.

Campfire Recipe: Spicy Vegetable Tagine with Couscous

Monday, April 17th, 2017

A few years ago, a friend of mine from college came to visit. While he was in town, I suggested that we go camping for the weekend. As I was packing up my camping kitchen, he noticed the Dutch ovens. Through our conversation, he began to talk about a “tagine.” This term refers to a clay container that is used like a Dutch oven. It is designed to slowly cook meat and vegetables into a stew. While this recipe does not contain meat, the “tagine” cooking process can still be applied.

Ok, I know you are wondering how this dish came out. Well, I thought it was wonderful but the true test was going to be from my African friend. When my friend went up for seconds, I thought this was a great opportunity to ask his opinion of the dish. Without pausing, he said it reminded him of home. This was a five-star rating as far as I was concerned.

Campfire Recipe:  Spicy Vegetable Tagine with Couscous

Ingredients

Liquid or spray oil

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion

2 medium garlic cloves

2 large carrots

1 medium bell pepper

2 cups of vegetable stock or canned chicken broth

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 small cinnamon stick

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1 large zucchini

1 medium eggplant

¼ cup of golden raisins

3 Tablespoons of fresh cilantro

1 package of couscous 

vegetable.tagine

Steps

  1. Build fire to prepare the coals.
  2. Lightly grease a 12 inch Dutch oven.
  3. Place a grilling rack above the fire.
  4. Place greased Dutch oven on rack.
  5. Chop the onion, and garlic. Add to the Dutch oven.
  6. Slice the carrots, and bell pepper. Put in the Dutch oven. 
  7. Cook until the onion becomes soft. This will occur in about five minutes.
  8. Add the stock or broth along with turmeric, cinnamon stick, curry powder, and cumin to the 12 inch Dutch oven. Bring the liquid to a boil.
  9. Put the lid on the Dutch oven, and cook for 10 minutes.
  10. Cut the zucchini, and eggplant into chunks. Add these vegetables plus the raisins to the Dutch oven.
  11. Chop the cilantro, and add half to the Dutch oven.
  12. Top the 12 inch Dutch oven with the lid, and move to a heat resistant surface.
  13. Arrange 12 prepared coals in a circle. Top with the 12 inch Dutch oven.
  14. Add 20 to 22 prepared coals to the lid of the Dutch oven.
  15. Cook the vegetables for 25 to 30 minutes.
  16. While the vegetables are cooking, prepare the couscous according to package directions in another Dutch oven.

Once the vegetables are cooked, serve with the cooked couscous and top with remaining cilantro.

Camp Fire Recipe: Creamy Homemade Mac and Cheese

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

Ok, yes I have done the box type of macaroni and cheese. You know the kind I am talking about, the one with the powdered cheese. While it is quick and filling, nothing beats homemade Mac and Cheese. Yes, it takes a little time but frankly it is worth it.

Camp Fire Recipe:  Creamy Homemade Mac and Cheese

Ingredients

2 to 3 Tablespoons of butter

1 cup of cottage cheese, do not use the low on non-fat type

2 cups of whole milk

1 teaspoon dried mustard

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon of salt or to taste

¼ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper

1 pound of freshly grated extra sharp cheddar cheese

½ pound of elbow macaroni, uncooked

homemade.mac.and.cheese

Steps

  1. Build a fire to prepare the coals.
  2. Using a 10 inch Dutch oven, grease the inside well with softened butter.
  3. In a bowl or blender, combine the cottage cheese, milk, dried mustard, cayenne pepper, ground nutmeg, salt, black pepper, and all the cheese except ¼ cup.
  4. Mix or beat thoroughly.
  5. Add uncooked macaroni and gently stir.
  6. Pour mixture into greased Dutch oven. Top with lid.
  7. Move the Dutch oven to a heat resistant surface.
  8. Arrange eight prepared coals in a circle on the heat resistant surface.
  9. Put the 10 inch Dutch oven on this circle and cover the lid with 20 prepared coals.
  10. Cook for 15 minutes and then stir.
  11. Place the lid back on and cook for another 15 minutes for a total time of 30 minutes.
  12. Once the cooking time has passed, knock off the coals from the lid and remove the Dutch oven from the circle of coals.
  13. Remove the lid and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
  14. Allow to sit for 15 minutes before serving.

As delicious as this dish is, I do have a few suggestions. First, if you are a Mac and Cheese purist you know that black pepper will not do. To avoid the “little black dots” in your food, use white pepper. Another change can come from the pasta you use. If you do not have elbow macaroni in your camp kitchen, do not think you cannot make this dish. Any small pasta will work. Just adjust the cooking time for the size of the pasta. Finally, do not worry if you do not have enough of the elbow Mac and Cheese. I have fixed this dish and have simply cleaned out my camp kitchen’s bits and pieces. The night I did it, my camp guest thought the different shapes made it a “designer” dish, as he put it. No, I told him. It is what I call using up your pasta scraps.