Friday, July 4, 2014

Outdoor Cooking!

We had an outdoor cooking night earlier this week, making a small fire in the fire pit at my parent's house. My husband started with the kindling and tender, then added in the larger logs. While we just helped this time, I wouldn't mind my older sons trying their hand at starting fires more in the future with supervision at first. They need to learn it somehow, right? If you're looking for outdoor cooking ideas, read our experiences below and check out my Pinterest Board on Outdoor Cooking.

I needed a few pictures for an article, so we were trying a variety of cooking methods using a fire, such as stick cooking, pudgy pies, and tin foil cooking. I had a few "ideas" of things that sounded good and then let people experiment on their own. There are lots of good options out there! Outdoor cooking can taste great!

I would say my favorite cooking method of the evening was the pudgy pie! I actually wouldn't mind a couple more Pie Irons as we only have 2 right now. With a family of six with extra kids around often, we could use more! The kids made simple grilled cheese sandwiches. One things I forgot to monitor closely was when the older kids were taking sandwiches out of the irons, they slightly burned a finger or two. Next time, we'll want to reiterate how to take out their pie without burning their hands. 

To make a pudgy pie, we buttered own side of bread and put the buttered next to the metal. We put our fillings inside and closed the pie iron, squishing the extra sides of bread inside. I've seen some people cut off the outside edges; however, I found that just tucking the crusts inside worked fine for us. 

Okay, so this was my favorite creation by far for the night! I had the kids grab a handful of mulberries from the trees nearby, put a layer of Nutella on the bread, and put a little strawberry freezer jam on top. Note I left the edges a little clear above, so the bread could seal together. I put the pie iron in the coals for about three minutes on each side, checking every so often. I find these to be a fairly no fuss way to cook in the open and people can individualize their pudgy pies however they like it according to their preferences. This combination was scrumptious! I made a similar pie with crescent roll dough as the outside with similar filling. I cooked this longer so the dough could get cooked as well. Let me say, there are SO MANY options on how to make the fillings--cream cheese and blueberries, pie filling, any type of sandwich, pizza toppings, apples and cheese, or ham, cheese and a raw egg. I'm looking forward to trying many more! 


One thing I found helpful was having a prep area. We just used an old outdoor stove nearby. Having a place to put things down away from the fire and in the shade was really nice.

As you can see, stick cooking was a hit! The kids liked their hotdogs. I also really liked smoked sausage cut into chunks--these are tasty! I am a little bit of a wimp and like meat we cook/heat over the fire on a stick to be precooked. It makes it easier to keep things "safe", though I did roast a baby pig's heart over a fire many, many moons ago and it was delicious! If I didn't have younger kids, I might try other meat options that needed more cooking. We had crescent roll dough that we baked on the sticks as well. I've always liked these "dough boys", but it takes a lot of turning to interesting angles to get it to cook properly. Another fun option was cooking a whole apple on a stick. The apple can then be carefully peeled (adults or teens) and then rolled in cinnamon sugar--yum!

It was nice we could have several types of cooking over the coals. I find that cooking over the coals work for most cooking types over the fire. Here we had our tin foil options, stick cooking, and pudgy pies all over the same fire.

Even the baby got in on the fun! Okay, not really, but he did carry someone's stick around. The older kids and cousins all made their own. I really like the longer handled sticks. I find them with wooden handles at a nearby salvage store for about $3--I should buy more! 

Here are a couple of the stick creations. One is a pig in a blanket. We just wrapped crescent dough around the hotdog on the stick and cooked it over the coals. My 5-year-old thought the crescent roll dough would be good over a marshmallow, so he commenced to make one like that. His older brother took the same concept and put it in tin foil for no tending cooking. He didn't leave much room for expansion, though, and it popped out by the end. Still tasted good.

Since we had a wide variety of options, my son felt the need to put Nutella, cinnamon and sugar, and strawberry jam on his creation. He said it was tasty. He took such great care with it all--he cooked it and had ownership over it. 

To try a few tinfoil options, I hollowed the top part of an apple, leaving the bottom intact. I kept the top "plug" to cover it during cooking. Inside the apple, I put a little butter and cinnamon and sugar. I double wrapped it in foil, watching my seams and left it in the coals for about half an hour. It tasted like chunky home made applesauce! Yummy! It was also easy to prepare and no fuss! The cleanup was a breeze as well. 

In our other packet, I put a bed of hash browns out, sliced smoked sausage, and chunks of sweet bell pepper. I double wrapped this as well and put it in the coals for about the same time. It was good, too, though maybe cooked too long on the bottom. I try to move things every little bit. 

Another option for outdoor cooking is Dutch Oven cooking. Read about our adventures at the Dutch Oven Gathering at Bonneyville Mill here. We need to revisit this again soon. :-) Here is the link to Outdoor Cooking on our Pinterest Board, too. What are your favorite ways to cook outside? Any favorite recipes or ideas? 

While I consider outdoor cooking to have enough nature to feature as a blog post topic, we also had some interesting nature as we were packing up! My husband saw a small rabbit hopping around near the deck. 

We caught him and looked at him up close for a little bit and then let it go again. It's exciting for the kids to see animals in nature so close and personal. 

We also found an interesting insect. I actually thought it was a type of beetle, but when I looked it up, it didn't sound like it is well liked! It looks like it is the Ailanthus Webworm, often associated with the Tree of Heaven which is highly invasive. We might need to check some of the nearby shrubs to see if they might be the Tree of Heaven and decide what to do to get rid of them.