Dutch Oven Cooking and Kayaking Adventure or Just Another Saturday in Arkansas

Today I visited Lake Poinsett State Park in Harrisburg, AR for a workshop on Dutch Oven cooking. Hold your horses now, I will take you through everything I learned.

                  So here is one of the awesome Park Rangers, Kathy, surrounded by examples of the different size–made for camping– dutch ovens. 8″, 10″, 12″, & 14″ are the ones we worked with today. Notice the flat lid which allows you to put charcoal on top as opposed to indoor versions with the domed lid. They are cast iron, usually pre-seasoned, and very versatile cooking instruments. (Note: Even if you have the “camp” style one, you can still use it indoors). Apparently the trick to dutch oven cooking is temperature. In this case, it’s all about how many charcoal briquette to use and where to put them.  Today we did mostly baking so we created a convection heating system by placing a small amount of briquettes on bottom and a larger amount on top. This helps save the the food on the bottom of the pan from burning. When cooking soup or stews, you could have an equal amount or more on bottom.   Another tip I learned today was to line your oven with parchment paper when making really sticky, messy things, like the chicken and rice or peach cobbler we made today.  This saves on cleaning time. Treat like any other cast iron cooking instrument and never clean with soap. Use only hot water to rinse, add oil etc to season and leave the lid cracked for air when you store.

I really enjoyed learning everything today, but honestly, everything, with the exception of frozen steamed veggies, was very unhealthy. As soon as we started to make the recipes I could tell yet again how come with my diet and healthy eating habits. I immediately started to think in my head how every recipe we made could be healthier. These are recipes that can be modified to use beyond the dutch oven and hopefully you can learn from the substitutions I make so you can start to make your own.

Buttermilk Biscuits

original recipe for a 10″ oven and what I would convert it to:

1 C low fat buttermilk

2 C self-rising flour  ->  2 C Whole Wheat Flour or Bread Flour + 2 2/3tsp

baking powder, 2/3 tsp salt

1/3 C vegetable oil ->  1/3 C Smart Balance Oil

Through in some delicious flax seeds, oats, or sunflower seeds

Mix everything together. Pour just enough oil in over to cover bottom. Pinch off dough into 3″ balls, flatten slightly, roll balls over once in oil then leave in pan. (It’s ok if they touch). Bake at 475F for 25-30min or until golden brown. Remember it matters the size of your oven so you have to make adjustment ie double this recipe for a 12″ and triple for 14″. The size of the over also dictates the amount of coals. Today on a 12″ we used about 5 on bottom, 7 on top.

Then as you cook, you tap the coals to knock off the extra ash, getting as much use out of them as possible, then you may replace or add new hot coals at least once more while cooking.

This is Vickie adding the coals to the oven. It is up on a fancy cooking table but it is not necessary to have one. You only need an old pizza pan to set your oven up on the ground.

Next was chicken with rice 10″ oven

2 C instant rice -> I highly recommend doing some trial and error on your cooktime and using wild rice or a blend with brown because white rice is NOT good for you!

3 boiled chicken breasts cut into pieces -> of course, I don’t eat chicken but for meat eaters out there you can put this in raw & let it cook and you can also use any other meat as well. I would omit or add meatless chicken cutlets.

1/2 package of Lipton onion soup mix

1 can cream of chicken soup -> to make vegetarian, omit this 1 & add a 2nd can of cream of mushroom

1 can cream of mushroom soup

3 C water

2 chicken bouillon cubes (dissolve 1st) ->can change to a veggie bouillon cube

I like to sneak in veggies whenever possible so I’d add broccoli, celery, carrots, or whatever veggie you like!

Mix all ingredients together and pour into pre-heated oven. Bake at 350F for 30min or until well heated. Line with parchment paper for easy clean up.

Easy Apple Turnovers 10″ oven

1 can crescent rolls -> I say if you’re already making biscuits, just use some of that dough 

1 green apple, cored and sliced, cut into 8 pieces

1/2 C sugar -> I would use just 1-2 Tablespoons organic or sugar in the raw

1 stick of butter -> Oh barf–that is too much! Cut that in at least half and consider smart balance or nature’s balance OR homemade butter–(scroll on down)

1/2 tsp cinnamon -> this you can’t have too much of so add liberally

80z can mountain dew -> just say NO to all sodas (diet as well) except ones made with Stevia–try the new mountain zevia . (I may accept all natural sodas made with cane sugar, but I personally believe sugar overload on your body if you down a whole one at once).

Wrap each apple slice with dough. Place in pan. Melt butter and mix in sugar and cinnamon. Pour mixture over turnovers then pour “mountain dew” over turnovers. Bake at 350F for 40 min.

Easy Peach Cobbler 10″ oven

1 can sliced peaches (20 oz) -> Use fresh, frozen or canned in water not syrup

1 box yellow cake mix -> choose any from the natural section of your market

2/3 Cup melted butter -> again too much. Cut this down to 1/3-1/2 C and use any of the butter substitutes listed earlier.

Line oven with parchment paper for easy clean up. Pour peaches in. Sprinkle cake mix over the top. DO NOT MIX. Drizzle melted butter over cake mix. Bake 375F for 45 min or until golden brown.

Homemade butter

Pour 1 pint of heavy whipping cream into a quart jar and add 1-2 tsp of sea salt if desired. Place the lid on tight and start shaking. In 10min or so you will see the butter form into a clump, separating from the whey and it’s ready!

I will totally be making my own butter now. (And still using Nature’s Balance Vegan spread as well). Bonuses: no preservatives other than your salt, no fake yellow food coloring, & good exercise. Making this is like using a shake weight! Yeah-tone those arms!

You can also add frozen or fresh veggies and spices to an oven to steam or roast.

Today I also learned how to start a fire with a piece of flint and steel. I have always wanted to know that! First you make your own “char-cloth” by putting cut up pieces of t-shirt into an old candy tin with a hole in the top. Then place over the fire and place a stick in the hole. When it stops smoking, remove from the fire and your char-cloth is ready. Place this over the piece of flint as you are striking it with the steel and catch the sparks and begin to burn! ooooo….exciting.

THEN Shain and I went out onto the beautiful lake to kayak for an hour for only $6. Great exercise, amazing scenery and countless turtles! I have a deep love cultivated since childhood for State Parks, and Arkansas. If you haven’t been—GO. Visit arkansasstateparks.com to find out more about the 52 The Natural State has to offer. The next dutch oven workshop at Lake Poinsett is a breakfast one on November 16th! I’ll be in NY, but you guys should definitely go and let me know how it is. Now onward– go and alter your own recipes for the good of your own health!

Countrygalcitygal is hitting the hay.


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