So much for daily blogging…but Tiger Mom took over the last few days to ensure there was enough food, clothing, water and fuel (not to mention sleeping bags and flashlights) for our annual fall camping trip. And, to tell the truth, camping is really glamping for our family and an arduous packing experience– especially for my sister Tina, whose campsite resembles the set in Out of Africa. Stoves, (she has an oven), cots, raised air mattresses, faux fur rugs and canopies are de rigueur for us. The campsite has facilities, a tent pad, fire ring and picnic table– did I mention I grew up in Washington, DC? My husband, on the other hand, prefers what our family calls “extreme camping”– no tent, just a tarp (Bugs!! Animals!!), hiking only with what you carry in your pack, breaking your own path through the woods, and no facilities. What is fun about that– especially the lack of facilities?
Then, there is the food. Punctuating the steady flow of hiking, pyrotechnics, s’mores and charades, are the meals. For years, my sister has divided up the menus where she provides dinner the first night and breakfast on Saturday; I provide lunch on Saturday and breakfast on Sunday and my BFF Grace who comes down from Manhattan for this trip every fall, makes dinner Sat night. No instant coffee or donuts for breakfast. We have teas, French-pressed coffee, hot chocolate, sausage biscuits and gravy (my son Ken’s favorite) and cinnamon buns (thanks to the oven). Since Grace comes down by train for this trip; I buy all the ingredients she needs to make kalbi and chap chae. After I pick her up from Union Station, we head back home where she preps the ribs to marinate in our cooler over night and makes the chap chae– it can be eaten at room temp, but it also warms easily.
My sister, a nurse who exemplifies that profession’s attention-to-detail-so-you-don’t-kill-someone-by-giving-them-the-wrong-drug obsessiveness, typically emails a spreadsheet with everyone’s to-do’s. This year, she claims to have sent one out, but evidently without the multiple reminders to complete the sheet since neither I nor Grace really had a clear understanding of who was bringing what foodstuffs. Grace kept emailing lists of things she wanted to eat, and I kept responding with “this is what I’m making.” It was seemingly arbitrary and I knew she was wondering if we’d have an abundance of graham crackers and marshmallows, but no lunch meat.
It all worked out in the end. I made a white chili with chicken and cannellini beans, and two snacking cakes– chocolate sour cream and apple caramel. The chicken chili recipe is a very new addition to my cooking repertoire, but I have made it three times over the last six weeks. My high school friend Jacki recommended it to me; it’s here online. It’s a very forgiving recipe from Cook’s Illustrated; what I like about it is that it’s flavorful (the lime juice is a must), and yet very low fat and healthy. We always go for the extra jalepeno ribs and seeds at the end, but you can adust to your own heat preference. Jacki says it freezes well (I have yet to make a freezer batch, ours goes so quickly); since it is her daughter’s favorite, she keeps it on hand for when she comes home from college for a visit. A true comfort meal!
The snacking cakes I made in two 9×13 foil pans with lids that I bought from the dollar store, instead of my usual metal pans. When I pulled them out at the campsite, both Grace and Tina asked me if I really made them because they looked store-bought! (NO, I’m just that good a baker)! I love these two recipes because no layers means no fuss. The recipe for the chocolate cake is here. I made the cake itself according to the recipe, but for the frosting, I didn’t need to boil the cocoa powder and butter; I just let it melt together then cool. Since I was using a thin foil pan, I started testing the cake before the specified bake time, but this shouldn’t be a problem if you use a regular metal pan. Make sure you let the cake cool completely before frosting. It’s a great snacking cake; I cut it up and wrap it in lunches for my husband and son. (I do have a recipe for the BEST chocolate cake with chocolate icing from my friend Minnie, but that’s for a later date).
The caramel apple cake recipe I found on Pinterest, but you can find it here. I followed the recipe as written; again, I needed to bake the cake a little less because of the thin foil pan. When making the caramel sauce, you can test the consistency (if you are worried about the “two minute” direction), by dropping a little of the sauce into ice water. It should hold together, be firm but squishy, NOT brittle. Poke holes all over the cake so the sauce seeps through; it’s a lovely cake. You will enjoy it immensely and it is so easy to put together.
We lucked out weather-wise on our trip; it was supposed to rain after Friday night, but we only had the lightest spritzing Sunday morning as we de-camped. We’re already thinking about next year’s menu…