Thursday, October 31, 2013

Fall...My Favorite Season of All!



My original thought for the title of this post was "Fall...the most wonderful time of year!", but that's just not true. I reserve that title for Christmas! Each season holds a special place in my heart, but there is just something about autumn: the crisp air, football games, weather warm enough to leave your jacket at home but cool enough to bring out the long sleeves, cider (and donuts...a great combination that I realize may only be popular in my wonderful home-state of Michigan), and the smell of chili cooking in the crock pot all day. This post highlights some ways I celebrated fall in my home this year...

Home Decor


Decorating the home (or anything related to fashion, really) is not my natural gift. I make things work, but I don't have a feel for the "mood of a room". So when I do add an extra special touch, it's a big deal!

As I mentioned in one of my previous gardening posts, we grew corn this year -- albeit, unsuccessfully. I didn't want the crop to be a total bust, so I bundled the cornstalks to create a harvest centerpiece, if you will, on my front stoop with a couple pumpkins and some mums. Nothing too imaginative, but classic nonetheless.  [See picture above.]

We also have russian sage growing near our mailbox. If you don't know what this is, it's amazing! Small lavender flowers bloom from this bush and emit this wonderful, sweet smell. It appears to be a pretty hardy plant since we haven't killed it yet! I cropped some off a few weeks ago and arranged them as a centerpiece on my dining room table. Again, nothing fancy, but it's a big win for me.



Garden

I planted a few fall crops this year. Last year, I sowed some onions and garlic. The onions were a bust for some reason. The spring onions did really well, but I couldn't get the fall onions to grow. So, I'm giving it another shot this year. The garlic was a huge success, so I'm hoping for another good crop this year. The onions should be ready around late November, and the garlic will be ready in early summer.



Mesclun


Spinach

I've not grown lettuce before, so I thought I would give it a try. I planted mesclun as well as spinach. The verdict is still out...












I also harvested carrots this fall, and they are tasty! I shredded the carrots and made carrot muffins. I froze the remaining shredded carrots, and I'll use them in a savory carrot pie or make more carrot muffins this winter.



Apple Pie


Without question, pie is my favorite dessert. I like them all...blueberry, chocolate chess, lemon meringue, and the list could go on and on. However, apple pie holds a special place in my heart. If I had a "signature dessert", apple pie is it. This is one dish I vividly remember my mom and I making in my youth. She shared with me the secret to making the perfect crust, and we would peel the apples together over the sink. I'll even brag on myself and tell you that I won blue ribbons at the county fair for my apple pies when I was a young girl. 

One reason why I love fall so much is because of all the varieties of apples available. When there are crisp, sweet (or tart) apples around, delicious pie can be made. So, I capitalized on the apples this year and made a few apple pies. My family ate one pie and the rest went in the freezer (uncooked) to be enjoyed later. I'll probably pull one  out and bake it for our family get together over Thanksgiving. 


If this makes your mouth water, fear not. Next month's posts will include instructions on how to make pie crust as well as my apple pie recipe. Stay tuned...


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Hobo Pies


Skill Level: Beginner
Skills Attained: Campfire Cooking
Supplies/Ingredients:
  • Campfire
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Ground Meat (1/4 per person)
  • Sliced Potatoes (1 per person)
  • Chopped Onion (1/2 per person)
  • Carrots (as preferred)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Pepper (to taste)
  • Garlic (to taste)
  • Additional Seasoning (to taste)
  • Oil (1-2 tablespoons per pie)
  • Ketchup
My husband put a fire pit in our back yard this year. He did not mess around when putting in this stone masterpiece. Sure...you could just dig a hole in the ground or even buy a raised fire pit from the store. Apparently my husband believes you must "go big or go home", because this fire pit is serious. He did a wonderful job putting it in, and we look forward to spending time around the fire with our friends and family! I am excited to try different campfire recipes, but to initiate our fire pit, I prepared a classic campfire dish: the Hobo Pie. 

Many of you may be wondering, "what in the world is a hobo pie?" I realize it may not be the most politically correct name, but it's the only term I've ever heard to describe this dish. I first learned of hobo pies at church camp as a child. Each cabin would have their own campfire, and each camper would prepare their own meal in separate aluminum foil pockets. As a young girl -- and still to this day -- I enjoyed preparing meals with friends and family and eating by the campfire. So, I hope you gather your loved ones around the campfire and enjoy this meal. 

This post really teaches you a method to cook a meal on a fire. Get creative with your ingredients! I will show you my "classic" approach, and you can modify the recipe any way you would like. Also, this is a great way to get kids involved with cooking. I hope you enjoy this cooking experience as much as my family!

Here's a video that explains how I assemble the pies. I also provide more details below.



Start with two large sheets of aluminum foil. I like to use two sheets to help prevent the foil from tearing when flipping it over on the fire. You can make one large "pie" or individual-size "pies". I wouldn't make the aluminum pockets too large as it will be difficult to flip over the fire. 

Place the raw, chopped vegetables on the foil. In this recipe, I used onions, carrots, and potatoes. But as I mentioned, feel free to use any vegetables you like! I made a second pie that included some anaheim peppers for a little kick. Keep in mind the smaller the vegetables the faster they cook. 

Next, add your ground meet. I used ground beef in one pocket and ground turkey in the other. I have never made this with chicken or non-ground meet, but I assume it would work just as well. You simply want to make sure your meet is cooked through all the way if you are cooking chicken. 

Finally, add your seasonings. Again, get creative! I used basic seasonings this time around: garlic, salt, pepper, and a "grilling seasoning". Don't forget to add oil! This will prevent the food from sticking to the foil while it cooks. 

Now you are ready to create your pie. Add two more layers of aluminum foil on top that are the same size as the bottom layer. Fold over the sides of the foil all the way around to create a sealed pocket. This creates a enclosed chamber for the food to steam while cooking. You don't want the yummy flavors and juice to escape while it cooks as the food might become dry. 

Prepare a nice, hot fire. Preferably, wait to place the hobo pies on the fire until flames have died down and the coals are red hot. It's nice to have a rack that sits above the fire, but I've seen people make hobo pies by placing them directly on the fire. If that is the case, you may need to pay closer attention to your pie as the food may burn more easily when it's directly on the heat. Put your pies over (or on) the fire and let them cook. The cook time depends on how hot your fire is and how far away the pies are from the heat. Cook the pies until the meat is cooked through and the vegetables are soft. In my experience, this takes about 20 to 30 minutes. Flip them over halfway through. 


Take a look at this primitive delicacy. There is just something about a campfire that makes food taste good! I like to top this dish with ketchup, but you could certainly use any condiment or sauce you'd like. 


Please leave your comments and let me know if 
you have any tasty modifications you would make to this dish!


Recipe:

  • Aluminum Foil
  • Ground Meat (1/4 per person)
  • Sliced Potatoes (1 per person)
  • Chopped Onion (1/2 per person)
  • Carrots (as preferred)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Pepper (to taste)
  • Garlic (to taste)
  • Additional Seasoning (to taste)
  • Oil (1-2 tablespoons per pie)
  • Ketchup
  1. Tear off two equal size sheets of aluminum foil and lay both pieces on a flat surface. 
  2. Chop the vegetables and place them on top of both layers of foil. 
  3. Sprinkle the ground meat on top of the vegetables. 
  4. Add seasoning. 
  5. Drizzle 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil over the meat and veggies to prevent sticking. 
  6. Tear off two additional sheets of aluminum foil the same size at the bottom sheets and cover the food. Fold the foil over twice around all sides to create an enclosed pocket. 
  7. Place the "pies" over the fire and let cook until the meat is done and the vegetables are tender. Approximately 20 to 30 minutes. 
  8. Serve with ketchup or your desired condiment or sauce.