Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cooking Challenge - "What is that THING?"

I know we've all been walking along in the produce department of the local grocery store, minding our own business picking apples, oranges and onions. All of the sudden, our eyes fix on something we've never seen before-- its leafy, misshapen or hairy body lying there while all the other shoppers go for the more common, more normal produce. Why does it just sit there? The mainstream population doesn't buy them much, so they get much smaller real estate. Think about it-- how many bins and how many square feet are there for the several variety of apples, oranges, onions, greens and potatoes, but how big is the bin for kale or kohlrabi? Growing up, my mother would make fruit pizza, a sweet pizza with a cookie crust and whipped icing sauce topped with fruits. She would buy star fruit and put slices on the pizza along with kiwi, strawberries and so on. It was one of the funnest things about winter.

Here's the deal:
In this challenge you're going to walk into the grocery store, head to the produce department, and pick out 2-3 types of produce that:
A) You've never cooked before
B) You've never eaten before
C) You don't know what it is
D) You had as a child, but didn't like it cooked a certain way.

Your mission is to create a dish that centers around this produce. No, it doesn't have to be vegetarian, but the meat should not be the star of this show, just a supporting actor doing a cameo to help launch an up-and-coming star.

Here's the catch- The recipe has to be original. Yes, you can Google the ingredients for ideas and instructions on how to cook them, peel them and prepare them. The point of these exercises are to expand your horizons and force you to think outside your cooking bubbles.

Write up your recipes and post them for everyone to see, then link back here in the comments so we all can see your amazing creations!

If you have a cooking blog or site, please re-post this for your readers to participate, and leave a comment below so we can follow this meme across the blogosphere!

Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Product Review - Ikea Favorit Grill Pan

First of all, I want you all to know that I love Ikea's products. Do I love being corralled from showroom to showroom just to get out of the store? Not so much. All rants aside, my wife and I were doing some Christmas shopping for ourselves and decided we needed new kitchen stuff, and I wanted some Slitbar knives, so we went to Ikea for some kitchen gifts to each other. We saw this grill pan online and wanted to check it out. I wouldn't review it here unless it was relevant to outdoor cooking, and since the pan is cast iron, it is very relevant.

First impressions:
The pan is light for being cast iron, but very sturdy. I wouldn't do any drop tests, but this pan is not going to warp or crack easily. I like the dual handles on each side, and the fact that it is square is kinda cool-- it has a hotspot right under a stove burner, but if you put it on a grill, the pan heats evenly. The grates in the pan make some nice sear marks, and let the fat drip off George Foreman style. I cooked sausage crumbles for a late night breakfast burrito in it, and the sausage was not greasy at all. The fats rendered off and stayed in the channels of the grates.

At first, I was eager to use the pan that I didn't follow package directions and cook some milk and lemon juice in it. I don't know why you'd need to do that-- it would make a plastic polymer called Casein. Gross. I don't want to eat plastic. I figured the pan was preseasoned, so I just oiled it and cooked pork chops. I deglazed the pan and tried to make a sauce, but it actually was pretty gross. Don't get me wrong, I don't think the pan was to blame, I think it was me. However, the first time it was hard to clean. I don't know if following directions would have helped. Over the last few uses, I've rinsed the pan immediately after use, and in all cases, the burnt on meat has come right off. Just dump in the water, and wipe down with a scrubby. Easy peasy.

Strong Points:
Size. The pan is perfectly sized for a burner, not too big for a grill, and fits in my cupboards. Heat retention. Being cast iron, the pan holds heat very well. I convinced my wife to bake the fish fillets for our fish tacos in it tonight, and when she pulled them out and we plated them, I took my tortilla shells and placed them in the hot pan to warm them up. It worked minutes later when I had seconds too! Weight. The pan is light for a cast iron pan, but the walls are thick and strong. Price. At $40USD, it's a bargain for how versatile it is. You can pan sear, fry meats, put it right in your oven, fry bacon on a grill, just about anything!

So is it my new "Favorit" pan? Absolutely. I use it every chance I get.

Ikea Favorit Grill Pan, $40USD

Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Dutch Oven - Curried Pumpkin Bisque

Normally, I don't really like squash-family vegetables, and I didn't really care for pumpkin-- not even pumpkin pie! However, when we planted our Jack-O-Lanterns this year, the seed company put some "Sweet" pumpkin seeds in the pouch, and a totally different breed popped up and gave us a few sweet pumpkins, so I decided I would put my reservations aside and actually learn how to cook a pumpkin. I had heard good things over on Mark's Black Pot about cooking pumpkins, so I went over there and read his articles on how to prepare the puree and how to make soups. I wanted to make it my own of course, so I changed up the spices a bit and used a curried flavor profile to give it some zing! The curry gave this dish a nice eastern feel and balanced out the sweet from the pumpkin.

12" Deep Dutch oven
450 Degrees
30 minutes
6-8 Servings

  • 6 cups Pumpkin puree
  • 1 tbs curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 cups poultry stock
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • olive oil
  • toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup pecans, crushed
  • sour cream
  • Cholula Chili Garlic sauce
Begin by preparing pumpkin puree: Slice a small "sweet" pumpkin into chunks about 2-3 inches squared. Pour 1 cup water into a 9x13 baking pan and place pumpkin slices in it, skin side down. Bake at 350 for 1 hour. Remove from oven and let cool. Slice skin from pumpkin using a fillet or boning knife. Place pumpkin chunks in blender with 1/2 cup milk per batch and pulse until finely pureed. Set puree in refrigerator to cool. Save seeds and toast, following directions here, but season only with a dash of kosher salt.Saute onion in dutch oven with olive oil. When onions have sweated, add stock, spices and pumpkin puree. Stir to combine. Raise to boil. If soup is too thin, create a roux by melting 1/2 stick butter in a saucepan and adding 1/4 cup flour cooking until golden brown. Add roux a small amount at a time, whisking to ensure an even blend, until soup is thickened to your liking. Serve with toasted seeds, pecans and a dollop of sour cream. Top with Cholula Chili Garlic for some extra kick!

4 Stars
Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Jello

When I was a boy, I had the idea to put plastic cowboys and indians in the Thanksgiving Jello to commemorate the pilgrims and indians' first dinner together. The first year I was married, we made this Jello for my in-laws, to the utter surprise of everyone, when they started to pull plastic men out of their mouths. We got such a reaction out of everyone that we hadn't done it since-- until now.

My platoon of soldiers wait for their surprise attack!



  • 1 large box Jello or similar gelatin, any flavor
  • 1 can cool whip
  • 1 bag plastic toys
Mix the gelatin to package directions and pour into a 9x13 pan. Place the plastic toys (we couldn't find cowboys and indians, so we used army men this time) in the gelatin and let harden overnight. Spread cool whip on top of the gelatin ensuring to cover any pieces sticking out of the gelatin. Serve chilled, and be prepared for the most surprised guests ever.

5 Stars
Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Turkey Part II - Deep Frying

After having a recurring nightmare of me burning down my in-laws house, I was really glad that A, it didn't happen, and B, it was prevented by the Masterbuilt Electric Turkey Fryer I won last year from Larry's Blog. He's got a great site, go check him out! Deep fried turkey has ruined all other turkey for me. I love the juicy warm soft meat, the crispy golden brown skin... Pardon me, I think I'm going to hit the refrigerator for a turkey sandwich. Ahem... 

I'm back. This is one thing you should definitely K.I.S.S., and you really don't need a lot of seasoning after yesterday's brine. Just rub it in a little pepper, but NO SALT! The bird will be seasoned well with salt inside the meat. Now Masterbuilt has well taken the house burning down out of the equation, but remember that the oil is at 375 degrees, and could kill a village if spilled, so keep little ones away from the fryer, and camp out until its done. Trust me, you won't be there long. If you can't stand just standing there, get a cool beverage, but stay focused. Every fryer ninja needs to defend his zone. Keep other people safe, keep yourself safe.

This potentially is the best food I've ever had, and it definitely is the best turkey I've ever had. The brining really locks in those juices, my fingers were literally soaked during carving. Just in case, if you don't know how to carve, learn from the best.

Masterbuilt Electric Turkey Fryer
375 Degrees
Deep Frying
3.5/4 minutes per pound


  • Brined Turkey
  • Pepper
  • 2 gallons oil
  • Masterbuilt Electric Turkey Fryer
  • Meat Thermometer
  • Leather Gloves
Preheat oil in fryer to 375. Pat dry turkey inside and out, then rub with pepper. Load into fryer basket and SLOWLY lower into the hot oil. Set the timer accordingly: 3.5 - 4 minutes per pound. In our case, the bird was 10 pounds, so I cooked it for 35 minutes and the thighs registered 170. Remove from oil and hang on lip to drain. When rested, move basket out to cool. When the basket is cool enough to handle, invert the bird on a cutting board, let rest and carve the turkey.

5 Stars
Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Turkey Part I - The Brine

I've wanted to do a brine for a long time, so I talked my mother in law into letting me deep fry a turkey for Thanksgiving this year. After doing hours of research on the web, I decided there was probably no "right" way of doing a brine, and there are countless recipes out there. I wanted to do this carefully and scientifically, so I chose Morton Salt's recipe and this is how it went down:

First, being a food scientist, I needed a graduated cylinder. Since I didn't have any in the lab that would hold a 10 pound bird, I decided to make my own. Luckily for me, a gallon milk jar became available after dinner and I snagged it. I measured to the top of the screw on lip, not all the way to the top. That became "my" gallon. Pouring in water into a new 5 gallon bucket and marking a line with a sharpie gave me the following:

After making the graduated cylinder, the brine was easy to measure. I boiled about a gallon of water and added the brine ingredients, until dissolved. Then I chilled it in the refrigerator for an hour. Pouring it in revealed a little over a gallon needed to be added to bring us to 2 gallons.

After the brine was properly mixed, I added the turkey, breast side down. This bird is 9.74 pounds, and displaced 1 gallon, so the density of the bird is 0.674632034632035 ounces per cubic inch, just in case you were wondering, and the volume of the bird is 231 cubic inches of potential energy that will be turned into chemical energy, creating an exothermic reaction and increasing the mass of the subjects, while acting as a mild anesthetic.

Here's some real science: Brining keeps the meat moist by a process called osmosis. Osmosis works by drawing fluids from the meat's cells to the stronger saline solution surrounding the turkey. But that's only half of it-- the water on the outside is diluted by the turkey's juices, and water can flow in and out of the meat stabilizing to equilibrium and pulling salt and seasoning into the meat. Then the brine changes the cellular structure of the protein, locking in the liquids into the meat, and won't dry out during cooking.

That's real food science! (Lab coats optional)



  • 1 cup morton kosher salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon peppercorns
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 2 gallons water
  • Ice
  • 5 gallon bucket

Begin by boiling about a gallon of water. Add the dry ingredients and whisk until all salt and sugar is dissolved. Once ingredients are combined, remove from heat and put in the fridge for an hour. Go watch Mythbusters on Netflix. Once the brine stops steaming in the refrigerator, take it out and pour it into the 5 gallon bucket, which you so smartly turned into a graduated cylinder above. Fill with water to the 2 gallon line. Remove thawed turkey from the refrigerator, taking out of plastic, removing any accessories that have been put inside the cavity, and if you are deep frying, remove any pop up timers. Place the bird breast side down in the brine ensuring that it is completely submerged. Fill bags of ice and place inside the brine. Place in cold garage near the door. Wait 8 hours, but I don't recommend watching 8 hours of Mythbusters in one sitting. Try sleeping. After the 8 hours, remove the turkey from the brine and thoroughly rinse off all the salt and sugar. Pat dry and let rest for 30 minutes prior to cooking.

Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thanksgiving Favorites Roundup 2011

Here at the Back Porch Gourmet, we love us some Thanksgiving. Food, family, food, football, food, sleep, and then leftovers. Yup, it's a perfect storm of good things coming together. So, I'm thankful for my sweet wife and awesome kids, my family (both in-laws and out-laws), good food, great fans, followers and facebookers. I'm thankful that God put me on this earth so I can grow and share my talents with the world on this fun blog. Thanks to all of you readers for your support and listening to my highs and lows in my outdoor kitchen. So now it's your turn. Take a look at this roundup and think of what you are thankful for. Sound off in the comments.

From my kitchen to yours,


1.  Deep Fried Turkey

When I was 8, my Uncle tried to burn down his aspen tree and remove Grandpa's eyebrows when he buried a stockpot in hot coals and dropped a turkey in hot oil, that had not been measured properly. Deep frying a turkey in my indoor Masterbuilt fryer takes the "burn down your house" risk out of the frying equation by using submersible heating elements and a measure-to fill line. I recommend it.

If turkey isn't your thing, get a spiral sliced ham and cook it up dutch oven style. Always a crowd pleaser. 

Nothing commemorates pilgrims almost starving to death and being rescued by the friendly locals than a good cranberry sauce. This sweet yet tart sauce gives you the pick me up on thanksgiving morning that you need, especially since you'll be listening to uncle Harold snore all afternoon. Enjoy your food coma.

Mmmmm... carrots, brown sugar- what else do I need to say? Carrots, the sweetest of the root vegetables. Except sugar beets. And sweet potatoes, especially when you put those little marshmallows on them and toast them in the oven. Pardon me, I need to go wipe the drool from my chin...

5. Pumpkin Pecan Pie

Face it. You've been cooking all day. Who wants to cook a pie? Not me. This no bake makes gluttony easy. Just add redi-whip.


Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Skookie - Gimme S'more Brownies

After cooking 2 amazing dishes that took a bit of work, I wanted an easy dessert. The Skookie pans are easy to cook with, and are very versatile- you can put them on a stove, grill or right in your oven. The preseasoned coating doesn't stick and the hot pads keep your hands from getting burnt. These brownies are a cross between S'mores and brownies and are perfect served ala mode. 

8" skillets
350 degrees
30 minutes
2 - 4 Servings


  • brownie mix batter
  • graham crackers, crushed
  • 4 tbs butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup mini marshmallows
    Mix brownie batter to package directions. Grease skookie pans or small skillets. Mix graham cracker and melted butter and press in bottom of pans. Top with brownie batter and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Add marshmallows and broil for 10 minutes, camping out next to the oven to prevent burning. Remove from oven when the marshmallows represent all that is perfect about a toasted marshmallow. Let stand 5 minutes and serve ala mode.

    5 Stars
    Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011

    Grill - Twice Grilled Potatoes, Fully Loaded

    I wanted an impressive side to coordinate with my pork tenderloin, so I came up with these potatoes. They're a cross between twice cooked potatoes and a loaded baked potato and they get the best of both worlds. Be sure the let the potatoes cool after cooking them, and grill them thoroughly to ensure the potato meat comes out easily. I started with a dozen potato halves, but only got 6 potatoes out of it because the other 6 tore too easily. Make sure you par boil them for at least 8 minutes. Then transfer them to the grill to get the crispy skins that make them so tasty.

    Medium Heat
    30 minutes
    5-8 Servings


    • 5-6 Idaho potatoes, cut in half
    • 1/2 pound bacon, cooked crispy and chopped
    • 1 tbs chives, chopped
    • 2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded

    Parboil potatoes for 8 minutes and remove from heat. Coat grill with oil and grill face down on medium heat for 10 minutes. Flip potatoes and cook for 10 minutes until done in center. Remove from grill and let cool. Spoon out the potato meat and mix with bacon, cheese and chives, reserving 1/4 cup cheese. Spoon back into potato skins and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Return to grill and grill 8-10 minutes on low heat until skins are crispy and cheese is melted.

    5 Stars
    Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!

    Monday, November 14, 2011

    Dutch Oven - Bacon Wrapped Citrus-Apple Pork Tenderloin


    A few weeks ago, Mark Hansen of Mark's Black Pot put forth another cast iron challenge. It called for apples, oranges, mint and meat. I was okay with everything but the mint-- how would it taste with mint in the other ingredients. It always seems when we do these challenges that there is one ingredient that seems hard to implement. I suppose that's a good thing, since it helps us push the envelope just a little further along the comfort zone spectrum. This meal took me 3 hours, used the most dishes in prep I've ever cooked before, and I know I say this a lot, but I learned the most cooking this meal. I was busy cooking the whole time, but never once let everything that needed to be done stress me out. It was literally cooking zen at its finest. It also helps that this meal was the best tasting I've ever had. The smoky flavor of the bacon combined well with the sweetness of the apples and the tart of the oranges. Then the zing of the mint kicked in and joined the party. The tenderloin cooked to perfection and there was only one hitch- I didn't tie the bacon down with chef's twine as I didn't have any, so it kinda exploded in the middle when the meat started to plump. I was able to cut a single slice with a perfect bacon wrap for a photo, so I'll definitely tie the meat next time. This was so good, even the leftovers were good!

    12" Dutch oven
    450 Degrees
    15 minutes prep time
    45 minutes cook time
    4 -6 Servings


    • 1 pork tenderloin pack
    • 1 pound thick sliced smoked bacon
    • 1 apple, cored and sliced
    • 1 orange, sliced
    • 2-3 sprigs fresh mint
    • 1 dash garlic powder
    • 1 dash celery salt
    • 1 dash ground black pepper
    • 1 dash paprika
    • chef's cotton twine*
    Wrap the entire tenderloin in bacon and press firmly. Secure with twine.
      Season tenderloin in garlic powder, celery salt, black pepper and paprika. Place mint, orange and apple in between the two tenderloins and reform into shape with your hands. Lay bacon down on a piece of aluminum foil in rows and transfer the tenderloin to the bacon in the center, rolling bacon up onto tenderloin and forming tightly with your hands. Tie with chef's cotton twine to secure. Rub bacon with black pepper. Preheat 12" dutch oven and lightly oil. Transfer tenderloin to dutch oven and bake for 45 minutes at 450, until internal temperature reaches 150.

      1/2 cup apple cider
      1 orange, cubed
      1 apple, cored and sliced
      2 sprigs fresh mint
      1/2 cup sugar
      1 tbs corn starch
      1/2 cup cold water

      Boil apples, oranges and mint in apple cider until juice is rendered from the fruit. Strain reserving the juices, press with a potato masher. Add sugar and dissolve until boiling. Mix corn starch and cold water and slowly stir into boiling sauce until glaze consistency is reached. Chill before serving.

      5 Stars
      Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!

      *I did not use the chef's twine to tie the tenderloin, and it expanded, bursting out its bacon overcoat. It still tasted good, though.

      Saturday, November 5, 2011

      Grilled Chicken Wings - Teriyaki & Buffalo Lime

      My wife and I were long overdue for a date night, so we planned to have a quiet night with the kids at Grandma's house, but my wife ended up taking my daughter to the doctor's for an epic sinus infection, so we didn't get our date until 8:00 that night. These sauces feature the Cholula samples that the Cholula company sent us to try. I've always been a fan of the Flavorful Fire, so it's been fun trying their other flavors. These wings would be great on game day, a holiday party, or just because.

      Yes, that's steak too. I couldn't decide between steak and chicken, so we had both!


      Medium High Heat
      20 minutes
      2 Servings


      • 1 dash house seasoning
      • 12 - 14 chicken wing pieces
      Coat wings in house seasoning and grill turning often until crispy and temperature reaches 165 degrees. Coat in sauces below.

      Teriyaki Sauce
      • 1 tsp olive oil
      • 2 cloves garlic, minced
      • 1 tsp chives, chopped
      • 1/2 cup soy sauce
      • 1/4 cup honey
      • 1 tbs Cholula Chili Garlic sauce
      • 1 tsp seasame seeds
      Saute garlic in oil, add chives, soy sauce, honey, Cholula Chili Garlic sauce and stir until boiling. Add sesame seeds and set aside to rest. Coat grilled wings in sauce, let rest, then retoss in sauce. Toss one more time right before serving.

      5 stars

      Buffalo Lime Sauce

      • 1/2 cup Cholula Chili Lime sauce
      • 2 tbs butter
      Melt butter in small saucepan, add Cholula Chili Lime sauce, set aside to rest. Coat grilled wings in sauce, let rest, then retoss in sauce. Toss one more time right before serving.

      5 Stars

      Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!

      Saturday, October 29, 2011

      Appetizer - Roasted Chili Garlic Pumpkin Seeds

      This one dish is probably my most favorite thing about Halloween. I think of my oldest brother when I make these- a few years ago, we visited them at their home out of state, and we stopped at the store, and the pumpkin truck was there. When one fell off the truck and cracked open, my brother asked the driver for it-- and was given it free of charge. We took the damaged pumpkin back to his home and toasted the seeds.

      I came up with this variant of the recipe with the Chili Garlic Cholula that was sent to me. It gives it a nice savory flavor with a touch of garlic. Don't forget to salt them just before roasting; you want them salty!

      450 degrees
      15 - 20 minutes

      Pumpkin seeds from 2 pumpkins
      2 tbs Cholula Chili Garlic sauce
      2 tbs butter
      House seasoning

      Separate seeds from pulp and rinse thoroughly in a bowl of water. Strain. Melt butter and chili garlic sauce in microwave. Preheat oven to 450. Pour sauce over strained seeds in a bowl. Give liberal shakes of house seasoning and toss with a spoon coating all seeds. Spread evenly 1 layer thick on a greased cookie sheet. Shake with salt if desired. Bake in the middle rack for 15 to 20 minutes, camping next to the oven. If seeds start to explode before time then they are done. Serve in a bowl or in soup.

      5 stars

      Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!

      Sunday, October 23, 2011

      Video - Bread Raising (Time Lapse)

      One of my other hobbies is photography, and I've been making a "DIY Intervalometer" which is a device that triggers a camera to take a photo at regular intervals. Today we went to my in-laws for dinner, so I packed up my bread making supplies and my photo rig and shot this video. About half way through, the camera decided to zoom out, so pardon that change. This is about 2 hours of raise time in about 9 seconds.

      Click here for recipe!

      Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!

      Monday, October 17, 2011

      Dutch Oven - Baked Pasta with Meat Sauce

      Baked pastas are really good, because they infuse the pasta with the flavors of the sauce, and the starches help thicken the sauce. However, they are tricky to do, because you'll either end up with dried uncooked pasta (not enough water) or soup (too much water). With the former, you can only go get takeout, but with the latter, you can add a thickening agent to the pasta to help bring it thicker. Tonight we ended up with soup, so I added the shredded Mozzarella and breadcrumbs, and it thickened the pasta to perfection. I noted that it reminded me of lasagne, so everything turned out great!

      12" Dutch oven
      400 Degrees
      40 minutes
      6 Servings


      • 1 pound ground beef
      • 1 pound sausage
      • 2 cloves garlic, diced
      • 1 pinch sage
      • 1 pinch oregano
      • 1 pinch basil
      • 1 package egg noodles
      • 2 cans diced tomatoes
      • 1 cup yellow pear tomatoes, sliced
      • 2 cans tomato sauce
      • 1 can artichoke hearts
      • 6 cups water
      Brown sausage and beef with garlic and spices. Add remaining ingredients and stir. Ensure that all pasta is below the liquid. Bake for 30 minutes then add:

      • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
      • 1-2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
      Serve immediately with cracked pepper, red pepper flakes, and shredded hard white artisan cheese like Asiago or Parmesan.

      5 Stars
      Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!

      Sunday, October 16, 2011

      Dutch Oven - Artisan Wheat Bread

      For the last little while, I have plateaued in my cooking. I have been playing it safe, not trying too many new things, and just cooking what is comfortable. I decided today that I was going to break the box I've been living in and bake a successful artisan bread. I did tons of research on the web, mostly from my friend Mark's website. Most of his breads required at least 24 hours, so I went back to my bread boot camp and adapted an existing recipe. I really wanted to create a "basic" bread, with no enrichments, just water, yeast, flour, and salt. I had read that adding a vitamin C tablet will aid in the raise, so I added that to the activating yeast. All in all, it turned out excellent. If I did it again, I would double the recipe to create a larger loaf. A big success was using the parchment paper to add the loaf to the pan. This prevented misshaping the loaf and losing the gasses that produce the pillowy crumb. For now, this is going to be my new "go-to" consistency to spring off from. Take the basic recipe below and add enrichments as necessary.

      12" Dutch oven
      350 Degrees
      30 minutes
      4 Servings


      • 1 teaspoon yeast
      • 1 1/3 cup warm water
      • 1 vitamin C tablet, crushed

      • 3 cups whole wheat flour*
      • 1 teaspoon salt
      Activate the yeast by combining warm water and yeast. Add crushed vitamin C tablet to aid in raise, if desired. (Yeast organisms thrive on vitamin C) Combine dry ingredients and activated yeast water in a large glass or plastic bowl. Combine with a non-metal spoon, as metal kills yeast organisms. Flour a table or counter and transfer the dough to the table and begin kneading. Knead until the dough passes the "windowpane test", where if you stretch a thin piece of dough into a window, it spreads into a translucent film instead of tearing. Form the dough in to a boule (ball) by pulling the top tight and tucking it underneath. Roll in flour and cut 3 slices 1/4" deep across the top of the boule. Place on a large piece of parchment paper, and let raise for 1 hour. Preheat a 12" dutch oven and using the parchment paper, transfer the boule to the hot oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until internal temperature reaches 180 degrees. Remove from heat, including top heat, replace the lid and let stand for 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and do not cut until the crust has completely cooled.

      5+ Stars
      Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!

      *Whole wheat flour can be purchased at the store, but the best flours come by grinding your own wheat. Don't use old wheat or old flour, it won't provide the same results as new.

      Saturday, October 8, 2011

      Appetizer - Creamy Spinach Artichoke Dip

      We made this appetizer with intentions to take it to my cousin's son's first birthday. Our kids ended up being ill that day and I didn't want to spread any germs, so we stayed at home and ate it while watching a movie. This is a great addition to any party, and next time, I'm going to double the recipe.


      10" Dutch oven
      350 degrees
      30 minutes

      2 cups mayonnaise
      1 jar artichoke hearts, chopped including liquid
      1/2 package frozen spinach, chopped
      1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
      ground pepper
      1 cup asiago or parmesan cheese, grated
      2 cloves minced garlic
      1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

      Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl, reserving 1/4 cup of cheese. Smooth into the bottom of the Dutch oven and top with remaining cheese. Bake with more heat on the top for 30 minutes until the cheese is melted and gooey. Serve warm with crackers, vegetable slices or corn chips.

      4 Stars
      Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!

      Friday, October 7, 2011

      Apples & Oranges - A New Dutch Oven Challenge

      My buddy Mark sent me a comment about a new Dutch Oven Challenge that he is hosting on Mark's Black Pot. Below you'll find the details from his challenge quoted from his site:

      "“You can’t compare apples to oranges!”  So the saying goes.

      Well, in this dutch oven challenge, we won’t compare.  Instead, we will combine.

      I got to thinking about these two fruits, and how much I love the luscious flavors of each one.  I started thinking how much I love to combine savory meats and sweet flavors together onto the same dish.  So, here’s the challenge, open to any dutch oven chef:

      Prepare a dish using the following ingredients:

      • Apples (in any form)
      • Oranges (in any form)
      • Any meat (some kind of meat must be included)
      • Mint (in any form)
      • Other ingredients, spices, and seasonings as you see fit.

      The dish should be as original as possible.  Go to the ‘net for ideas, if you wish, but try and make it your own.

      When completed, publish your finished dish (preferably with pictures) here in the IDOS forums, or at your own blog or website.  Then come back here and put in a comment with a link!

      Let’s see what we can come up with!-Mark Hansen,
      I'll be throwing my hat into the ring on this one in the next few weeks.  I don't want to spoil it, but I'm thinking smoking apples in applewood might be pretty meta...

      These challenges really make you grow as a chef. They force you out of your comfort zone and make you try things you never would have. When I do these, I also try to incorporate a style of cooking that I am not very familiar with. I challenge everyone to participate in these events and if you don't have a blog, send me some photos and a few comments and I'll post it up here as a guest contribution with full credit.

      If you have a cooking blog, please post this up with links back to Mark's Black Pot so we can spread the word about this challenge.

      Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!

      Thursday, September 22, 2011

      Grill - Fajita Chicken Salad

      Last night I came home to two things: a note from my wife telling me she had meetings and I was on my own for dinner, and a parcel nested in my broccoli plants on my front porch. In the parcel was my Cholula 4 pack sample that Cholula sent me to review here on the Back Porch. So over the next coming weeks we will be kicking it up to 11 with "the Flavorful Fire" with recipes featuring Cholula.

      I wanted to get started right away, so I grilled up some chicken breasts, sliced them into strips and then tossed them in Original Flavor Cholula, then laying them on a crisp garden salad. Unfortunately, the chicken was frozen, and I didn't have time to thaw them properly, so I thawed the outside, rubbed them in spices and threw them on the grill. This caused the spices to burn a bit, but the Cholula saved the day and the chicken tasted great!

      Medium heat, one burner only
      20 minutes

      2 chicken breasts
      Chipotle seasoning
      2 tablespoons Cholula Original Flavor
      Salad greens
      Ranch or blue cheese dressing

      Rub chicken in chipotle spices. Grill on medium heat until thermometer reads 165 degrees. Slice into strips and toss in Cholula. Let stand 5 minutes, retoss and serve on salad with tomatoes. Top with creamy dressing of your choice and serve immediately.

      5 stars

      Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Begin at Your Back Porch!

      Monday, September 19, 2011

      Plum Sauce

      Use this versatile sauce on everything from waffles to pork or chicken!

      1/2 cup lemon juice
      1/2 cup sugar
      3 medium plums
      1 tablespoon corn starch
      1/2 cup cold water

      Boil lemon juice in medium saucepan. Add sugar and dissolve. Cut plums in half and add to the pan including pits. Mash with potato masher until juice runs out and pulp is soft. Skim out pulp, rind and pits. Mix water and cornstarch and pour in a little at a time until thickened to syrup.

      Yield 2-3 cups

      5 Stars
      Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!

      Dutch Oven - Chipotle Pork Tenderloin

      Last night we had Mark Hansen of Mark's Black Pot and his delightful family for a Dutch oven gathering. Mark brought his amazing garlic potatoes and a swirl bread with a crumb so soft you could sleep on it! We all had a great time, just sitting on my patio shooting the breeze while dinner cooked and the kids gave my dog some much needed exercise. Mark and I have been friends since I was a boy and he is a giant among men. He is releasing a series of 4 cookbooks and we'll let you know when they hit store shelves.

      12" Dutch oven
      375 degrees
      30 minutes prep
      60 minutes cooking

      1 pork tenderloin pack
      Tone's Chipotle Southwest rub
      1 cup plum sauce, divided

      Roll tenderloins (there is usually 2 in a pack wrapped as one) in Chipotle rub. Heat an oiled dutch oven on a camp stove or propane grill. Sear all sides until browned. Remove from stove and put the oven on the charcoal. Bake for 60 minutes. Do not open the lid until 60 on the nose! Remove from heat, empty the coals from the lid and cover. While the pork rests, go make the plum sauce. Slice the pork into medallions and drizzle the plum sauce over the meat. Reserve half the sauce and serve on the side.

      5 stars

      Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!

      Monday, September 5, 2011

      Dutch Oven - Baked Chicken Marsala

      There's nothing I love more than a good Marsala. I know this really isn't Marsala, but it comes close. Adding the cream makes it extra, well, creamy. It was pointed out to me by my best friends that we have not actually had Dutch oven with them at all this summer. Looking back, we'd only done Dutch oven once in June. We'd met socially, but no cast iron parties. So I remedied that with this dish. I hope you enjoy it, it was quite fun to make.

      12" Dutch oven
      375 degrees
      60 minutes
      8 servings

      • 4 large chicken breasts, cut in half
      • 1 pint cream
      • 1 cup grape juice*
      • 4 tablespoons butter
      • 1 package sliced mushrooms
      • 4 cups chicken stock
      • 1 package pasta
      Saute chicken in butter until browned on the outside. Add mushrooms and saute until sweated. Add stock, grape juice and cream. Mix until blended. Add pasta and ensure all is covered. Bake 30-45 minutes until pasta is tender and chicken is cooked, while the sauce is absorbed into the pasta and thick.

      4 Stars
      Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!

      *As our religion doesn't permit the consumption of alcohol,  we substituted homemade grape juice for the wine. Your mileage may vary.

      Wednesday, August 24, 2011

      Backpacking - Cook a Fish Like a Neanderthal

      Stick Cooking
      20 minutes
      1 Serving


      • Trout, gutted with the mouth left intact
      • Stick, sharpened at one end
      • Seasoning (lemon pepper is my favorite)

      Clean fish and leave the mouth intact. To do this, cut a line from the fish's anus to just below where the gills meet. Then cut a line under the fish's jaw in the soft tissues that form a V under his mouth. Put your finger in the second cut and pull the entrails and gills out in one motion. Run your thumb along the "mud vein" along the fish's spine, cleaning out the dark fluid.

      Once the fish is cleaned, sharpen a stick long enough to be used for roasting. Poke the stick, sharp end first through the fish's mouth and pierce the flesh deeply toward the tail with the sharp end. If you did this part well, the fish shouldn't come off the stick. If it did, it usually is saved by the mouth. Roast the fish over the fire like a marshmallow turning often. After cooking, peel back the skin and eat it like this:

      Congratulations. You can survive like a Neanderthal.

      Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!

      Tuesday, August 23, 2011

      Backpacking - Egg & Ham Omelet

      On my recent backpacking trip to Wall Lake I decided to have an omelet for breakfast. I don't mind powdered eggs. They taste the best when fully cooked, so make sure there are no pockets of liquid eggs. They should have the consistency of an omelet at home-- firm, but not mushy. Make sure you take ketchup and salsa because it will make them tastier. Click the link in the ingredients below for instructions on making your own salsa packets.

      1 or 2 liter pot
      Backpacking stove
      Boil in bag
      10 minutes
      1 Servings


      • 6 tablespoons powdered eggs
      • 6 tablespoons water
      • Dehydrated ham
      • 2 salsa packets
      • 2 ketchup packets
      • Salt & pepper, to taste

      At home:
      Place the eggs in a quart sized plastic freezer bag with a zip top. Dehydrate the ham by cutting lean deli ham into 1 inch squares and placing on a dehydrator tray. They are finished when they break when bent. Add the ham to the egg mix along with salt and pepper. Prepare the salsa packets using instructions from the link above. Pack all ingredients in a labeled gallon sized bag.

      At camp:
      Mix water with egg and ham and smoosh the bag until well blended. Boil 2-4 cups water and add the sealed bag to the water. Boil until the eggs are firm and no parts are mushy. Serve eggs with salsa and ketchup and enjoy.

      3 Stars
      Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!

      Monday, August 22, 2011

      Spice Rack: Don't Leave Home Without It!

      I love backpacking, and I love cooking, but I don't love bland rehydrated food. I wanted to take spices with me to spice up the food I would eat, but I didn't want big bulky containers or messy plastic bags. These stacking fishing jars are perfect. Just add your favorite spice and screw it together. Since they nest with each other, you can take as many spices as you want. Make sure they are screwed on tight, and I'd store them in a plastic bag. (I have garlic powder in my food sack that I need to run through the washing machine.)

      Here's my 6 essentials:

      Garlic Powder
      Red pepper flakes
      Cinnamon & Sugar

      Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!

      Sunday, August 21, 2011

      Backpacking - Seafood Couscous Stew


      This weekend my brothers and father and I went backpacking to Wall Lake in the High Uinta Wilderness. I had hoped to have some fresh caught trout to add to this stew, but unfortunately we came back empty handed the first night. It wasn't until my oldest brother and his son went down and fished the pools in the stream that we caught much. He came back with a stringer full of 8 beautiful trout. Guess what I had for lunch that day? Not ramen noodles. This stew was put together in my head as I walked the aisles of the grocery store, and I was worried I'd be forced to eat something yucky. Boy I was wrong! This was one of my best backpacking meals yet. It would be good with some trout or maybe some steamed crawfish as well. 

      This photo doesn't do this dish justice, and I had eaten more than half of it before I remembered to take a photo.

      2 liter pot
      Backpacking stove
      15 minutes
      2 servings

      • 1 pouch Maggi "Crema de Mariscos" seafood soup mix
      • 1 pouch Knorr Vegetable Soup/Dip mix
      • 1 pouch tunafish in water
      • 1/2 cup Couscous
      • 4 cups water

      At home:

      Package the couscous in a plastic zip-top bag and put all the pouches in a labeled gallon size bag for convenience.

      At camp:
      Boil 4 cups water. Add soup mix and vegetable mix. Stir until thick. Turn heat to low. Add couscous and tunafish. Simmer 5 minutes until couscous is tender. Let stand 5 minutes and enjoy.

      5 Stars
      Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!

      Sunday, July 24, 2011

      Happy Pioneer Day!

      Here in Utah, we celebrate the Mormon Pioneers settling the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. For me, it usually meant parades, barbecues and picnics up the canyon. I think of my ancestors, who sacrificed and many died crossing the plains to reach the American West. They cooked in their cast iron pots every day, so the Utah State Pot is the Dutch Oven. Here's a round up of "Chuck Wagon" type recipes for you to try this Pioneer Day Weekend.

      10. Chuck Wagon Chicken

      Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!

      Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!

      Saturday, July 16, 2011

      Backpacking - Chicken & Vegetable Alfredo

      This weekend my wife and I hiked to a nearby mountain valley complete with lake, meadows and fresh cold springs. This really hit the spot after walking 3 miles! I have never had such great tasting backpacking food!

      2 liter pot
      Backpacking stove
      15 minutes
      2 Servings

      • 1 Knorr Fettucine Alfredo pasta mix
      • 1 Knorr Vegetable Soup/Dip mix
      • 1 tablespoon dried mushrooms
      • 2 tablespoons dried milk
      • 1 pouch Tyson Premium Chunk Breast Chicken
      At home:
      Mix all dry ingredients except milk in a quart ziplock bag. Add milk to ziplock bag. Put chicken and dry ingredient bags in gallon sized bag.

      At camp:
      Boil 2 cups water. Add milk and stir with spork until dissolved. Add dry ingredients and cook until noodles are soft and vegetables are reconstituted. Add chicken and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes and enjoy.

      5 Stars
      Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!