Archive for the 'Let’s Eat! It’s Alimentary, My Dear' Category

Feb 19 2015

Chili: The Hot Meal for Cold Weather

A Chili Dish for a Chilly Day

Fast food is seldom good, and good food is rarely fast. This is bad news for skiers and snowshoers, who appreciate a hearty hot meal at the end of a long day on the trail. And it’s not exactly good news for spring paddlers, either, who’d welcome a quick and easy supper on their first night in camp. So… Fast food or good food: Which is it to be? This recurring dilemma confronts camp cooks in all seasons. The usual answer is a meal conjured up from some colorful box or shiny foil packet. Occasionally this yields a pleasant surprise, though this doesn’t happen often. But what’s the alternative? Where do you turn when you want good food, fast?

To your refrigerator, that’s where. Or your freezer. The strategy is simple. Bank meals in advance of need. Make a big pot of a favorite dish when time permits, eat what you want, and freeze the rest. Then, when a quick meal is needed at the end of hard day, just open the fridge, remove your already prepared meal, heat, and eat. Or if you’re headed out for a spring weekend, simply tuck the frozen meal in a pack. By the time you reach camp, it will likely have thawed and be ready to drop in the pot. Of course, winter campers can keep enough prepared food hard‑frozen to last right through a weekend — or even a week — provided that no unseasonable spell of warm weather intervenes, that is.

The bottom line? You can have have good food, fast, if you just make favorite meals in quantity. Then freeze them, and hold these frozen culinary assets in readiness until the need is greatest. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination, but you’re sure to have a favorite. And what’s mine? That’s easy: Hot Chili … Read more…


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Jan 22 2015

MUSH — The Sequel

Polenta to Go

This is the time of year when I inventory the food in my bug‑out box, removing anything that’s nearing its use‑by date and making a list of needed items. Winter is also a good time to try out new camp recipes and revise old favorites. So you can guess what I’ve been doing. And when, just a few weeks ago, I found an antiquated box of cornmeal that had somehow escaped my earlier clear‑outs, I took the opportunity to make a pot of polenta and cheese for lunch. It proved to be the perfect meal for a raw, wintery day.

If you’re a regular reader, you may remember that I wrote about polenta back in 2013. A northern Italian staple, polenta is essentially cornmeal porridge — mush, by another name. And it has a lot to recommend it as camp fare. It isn’t hard to make from scratch, even in a riverside camp, but it’s easier still if you have a couple of shelf‑stable “sausages” of the ready‑made article in your pack. (You can see a picture of a polenta sausage above.) Just peel back the plastic shroud, slice off rounds of the rather gelatinous contents — or dice the corn jelly into cubes — and sauté till crispy. Then embellish as strikes your fancy. Few main dishes come together quicker.


Anyway, my winter lunch reminded me that I’d gotten a fair amount of mail around my polenta column, and that I’d been more than a little remiss in passing it on. But it’s not too late for me to remedy this oversight, is it? And I’ll begin with a question that I’d ignored when I wrote my first polenta piece: How do grits fit into the picture? … Read more…

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Dec 20 2014

Bean Soup for Everyone!

Whatever your winter pleasure—whether it’s snowbiking, snowshoeing, skiing, or just splitting wood for the fireplace—you’ll burn a lot of calories, and not just because you’re using your muscles. Even the simple act of breathing takes its toll in winter. All that frigid air has to be heated up to body temperature, right? And warm clothes, as important as they are, aren’t the whole answer. After spending the day out in the cold, you need to thaw your inner self, and there’s no better way to do this than to sit down to a hot meal. But who wants to work hard at the stove after a hard day’s work? Not me. Luckily, though, there’s an easy way around this impasse. Just prepare your meal ahead of time. The good news? There are very few make-ahead meals better than 

A Pot of Hot Soup

Almost any hot soup will do—even canned soups, some of which are surprisingly good. But whenever there’s time to make a pot of soup from scratch, I turn to beans to fight the chill of winter days. Dried beans last just about forever in the pantry, so keeping some on hand isn’t hard. They’re versatile, too. And then there’s the nostalgia factor. I walked to school when I was a girl. Many kids did back then, even in rural towns, and even when the walk was a couple of miles or more. The school bus was for wimps and sissies. That said, there were winter days when I longed to join the sissies, days when the 30-minute slog back home seemed to last forever. How wonderful it was, on days like that, to open the door and be met with the delicious smell of something simmering on the back of my mother’s huge, wood-burning kitchen range!

Often that “something” was white bean soup. Why white bean soup? Well, beans are cheap, for one thing, and mothers of large families (those without a tiger in the house, at any rate) frequently have to make every penny count. And they usually don’t have time to fuss about in the kitchen, either. Bean soup is one of the easiest of quick-and-easy meals. Don’t be put off by tales of all-night soaking and similar alchemy. Sure, it takes time to prepare bean soup. But that’s stove time. Your active participation in the process is limited to assembling and sautéing ingredients, checking the soup now and then while it simmers, and stirring occasionally. All told, this adds up to about 30 minutes of your day. It’s time well spent.

Skeptical? I don’t blame you. To make certain that I wasn’t being led astray by wistful remembrance, I recently cooked up a pot of bean soup from scratch. The total time from assembling my ingredients to dishing up the first bowl was about three hours. That’s plenty long, to be sure, but I was tied up for only 30 minutes, tops. The rest was stove time. Still not convinced? Then give it a try yourself. Here’s my bean soup master recipe… Read more…

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