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Peaches, Pecans & Pig Candy: oh, my!

Camping is one of those things that you either love or hate. A good friend of mine refuses to go because there’s no where to plug in her curling iron. Me: I relish the idea of not having to wear makeup, and sleeping in the crisp, cool air in the middle of the summer.

Another thing I love about camping is cooking outdoors. I recently took up dutch oven cooking, and thanks to my father-in-law, a master camp chef, I’m on the road to becoming one, too. But for now, I keep to what I know, and that’s stovetop cooking. On a recent trip this summer, I made up this breakfast recipe on the fly, and did it work out! I had canned peaches handy, but you could easily change those up for any canned fruit, fresh berries, or both.

Sourdough French Toast with Peach and Pecan Caramel
  • Sliced sourdough bread (or bread of  your choice)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 – 15 oz can peaches (in fruit juice, not heavy syrup)
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • Bacon! (I’m a firm believer that you can never have too much bacon while camping, so gauge the amount to the size of  your party)

For the french toast, whisk together the eggs and milk, then soak the sourdough bread for about 5 minutes, or until bread has soaked up a good amount of the custard, then cook on a griddle until toasty.

For the topping, add the butter to a cast iron skillet over your camp stove, then add the canned peaches and with a spoon, chop the peaches into small pieces. Cook over low-medium heat while stirring for a couple of minutes, then add the brown sugar, spices, and pecans. Continue to cook over medium heat until the sugar caramelizes and thickens slightly. It should be the consistency of maple syrup. If too thick, add another tablespoon of butter.

For the bacon, throw that yummy pig candy in a skillet or griddle over the fire and cook until desired doneness. Make sure to pour a bit of the peach caramel over the bacon before devouring.

Stuffed House, Filled Cookies

My grandmother was one of thirteen children. Her sister, the eldest of the thirteen, had seventeen of her own. Needless to say, my mother’s side of the family is staggeringly huge. This resulted in Thanksgivings, Christmases, and Easters that were more akin to a theatre production than a family dinner. I can’t say how many ever attended. Of course, it was never all at one time, but my best guess would be close to forty relatives on any given holiday.

Christmas Eve, in particular, conjures the most memories for me. Held in the home built by my great-grandfather in 1909, then shared by my grandmother and her sister—both divorced, they raised their children there together—the cramped two-room ground floor of the house swelled at its fittings, holding umpteen brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, spouses, kids of varying ages, and presents for all, that spewed at least ten feet out from under a large freshly-cut Christmas tree.

My grandmother and great-aunts would work for weeks making candy and cookies for the festivities. Dinner was all homemade, from scalloped potatoes and farm-raised ham, to dinner rolls tinted with red and green food coloring, to my grandmother’s date-filled cookies, a crumbly, beautiful blend of vanilla sugar cookie and creamy, luscious date filling, that I can still taste to this day if I close my eyes and remember hard enough—although it’s probably been twenty years since I had them last. Read more

Sweet Little Bite of Mexico

Simple, elegant. I wanted a sweet treat to serve at a casual tequila tasting party, and these little cookies are a one-bite surprise of bittersweet cocoa, cinnamon, and ancho chile.

Once a month, our group of friends gets together for a wine tasting party. At least that’s how it started. After two years of blind tasting everything from a Chenin Blanc to a Ruby Port, things got repetitive, so this August we decided to try another juice: one from the Agave plant—tequila! So, since I try to always pair appropriate foods with whatever we are drinking that month, and I was having a major chocolate craving, these shortbread cookies were born.

I don’t eat gluten, so I adapted a common shortbread recipe to this gluten-free option, only by substituting my favorite GF flour: Namaste Perfect Flour Blend Mix (Couer d’Alene, Idaho) for standard all-purpose flour. The addition of ancho chile seemed natural for that Mexican kick, and since this cookie is only slightly sweet, a nice accompaniment is a fresh raspberry chutney, which adds layers of jammy and tangy flavors that enhance the spices in the cookies. (Recipes follow). Read more