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Monday, May 23, 2011

On my honor, I will serve mankind

Every summer, my husband and I load up the car with almost everything we own a travel-sized version of almost everything we own, to spend 9 days or so in the wilderness a campground. I truly am not exaggerating... our home away from home is a tent, our beds are air mattresses, and our dressers are suitcases. In lieu of a range, refrigerator, and kitchen sink, we have a stove, a dutch oven, ice chests, and dish pans.

It is roughing it without really giving up anything... just making the stuff all small enough to fit inside a car, and doing everything outside. Ideal, really. If there weren't these pesky things called a job for the adults around here and an education for the little guys, I might sell the house and camp year round. In that one place where it is summer year round.

While we are there, I spend the days relaxing, eating, tanning, swimming in the creek, eating, reading, hiking, eating, and drinking. In order for all that eating to occur I do spend a wee bit of time cooking. But in order for all that relaxing to occur, I try to make cooking pretty simple. 

One of our favorite meals comes from way back when my oldest brother was a boy scout, and it's called a foil dinner. Basically, you wrap some meat and potatoes up in foil and nestle it down in the coals of the campfire until it's cooked through. 

The other day I decided we didn't need to be camping to enjoy foil dinners. We went ahead and did them in the kitchen, and popped them in the oven. Although we weren't following up a day of hiking and swimming, or eating in the great outdoors, they tasted pretty darn good.

Tradtional Boy Scout Foil Dinner in a non-traditional setting:

First, you need to chop up your veggies into bite-sized pieces. The usual suspects would be potatoes, celery, carrots and onion. However, you can use whatever you have on hand. I, of course, used those veggies that came in the box this week.

zucchini, corn, bell pepper
fava beans, potatoes, leeks
(to prep the fava beans for cooking, read this)

Next, get out a sheet of foil for each person who will be eating. Place a patty of ground beef on each foil. The ground beef should be on the shiny side of the foil, so that when you fold it up, the dull side will be out. I am not sure why this is, but the boy scouts say to do it this way, and who is going to argue with a boy scout?

Next, let each diner select his or her vegetables. They should be piled on top of the ground beef willy-nilly. Then sprinkle it with salt and pepper.

Now, fold each dinner into a packet. This should be done carefully if you are going to be putting them into a campfire, so that you don't end up eating ashes. 

As you finish preparing each packet, be sure to have the diner write his or her name of the outside of it, so everyone gets the exact veggie combination they created. Or in the case of our family, I draw pictures of everyone. The kids love it. 

May I present to you, my lovely family:

So sorry the pictures look so bad. It turns out it is a little hard to photograph something that is wrinkly and reflective.

It's a good thing we all have distinctly different hair in my family. I am a terrible artist, so the faces look identical.

Once you have marked the packets in a way that will differentiate them from one another, it is time to let it all cook. If you have a good set of coals in your campfire, place the packet in them for about 30 minutes or so, depending on how much meat you use, the heat of your coals, and the air temperature. Feel free to check on them if you need to, as long as you wrap them back up again. If you are doing it in an oven like we did this week, heat the oven to 400 and cook them about 25-30 minutes on a baking sheet.

Here is the magic of it all. No matter which vegetables you use, no matter what the ratio of veggie to meat is, no matter whether you eat it with 40 boys scouts or your own family, no matter whether you are in the dining room or a campsite, it turns out absolutely delicious. Every time.