Easy Camp Chili

This is our go to chili recipe when we are camping.  We mentioned in our Sequoia-Kings Canyon post how simple it is and a good meal for rainy weather.  It is easy to throw together and is super filling.  We used to use a box mix (you can find a post on that here), but we were worried about cross contact with peanuts/tree nuts so we went back to this recipe.  The Boy has pretty sever allergies, so we have to be really careful with food.  There is minimal prep for this meal and you can make it vegetarian.  In the past, we have served it with corn chips, cornbread, cheese, hot dogs, ground beef, sour cream…the list goes on.   It is great for using what you have in your fridge at home!


Easy Camp Chili

1 can pinto beans (drained)
1 can garbanzo beans (drained)
1 can kidney beans (drained)
1 can black beans (drained)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 cup salsa
1 pound of meat (Optional and your choice.  We have used ground turkey, ground beef, and diced hot dogs.  Any will work.)

Additional toppings/sides:  grated cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips, corn chips, cornbread, muffins

1.  If you are using meat, brown the meat in a large pot.
2.  Drain the beans and add them to the cooked meat.  We do this at camp and just pour the liquid into a container for the next garbage run.  If you have a colander, you can rinse the beans but this isn’t necessary.
3.  Add the spices.  I usually pre-measure these at home and store them in a little container for ease.
4.  Add the salsa.  Again, we pre-measure this at home.
5.  Cook until heated through.
6.  Serve!  You can add fun toppings or eat as is.


Hot Bananas (with Chocolate)

One of our favorite desserts when camping is hot bananas.  We love to slice them open and stuff them with mini-marshmallows and dark chocolate chips (we like the Enjoy Life brand).  This is such a great camping treat because they can cook while you are eating dinner.  It is also a great alternative to S’Mores.  And I know this sounds like a completely bizarre recipe.  But give it a try.  It really is good.


Hot Bananas

Bananas (one per person)
Chocolate Chips
Marshmallows (we like the minis for this)

1.  Peel the bananas.
2.  Make a slice down the middle of the banana (long way), but do not cut all the way through the banana.
3.  Stuff with mini-marshmallows and chocolate chips.
4.  Wrap in foil.
5.  Place on the barbeque.  Indirect heat is best.
6.  Cook until heated through and the marshmallows are gooey.


Eating Our Way a Through Thanksgiving

Camping for Thanksgiving is something The Missus did a lot growing up. Camping at El Capitan for Thanksgiving, was a new experience for The Mister. To make it special we planned all our Thanksgiving favorites. We decided to cook as much as possible in cast iron and to clean up the meals a bit – just make them a little healthier. We can’t figure out why, but the food tasted amazing. We think it had to do with playing all morning at the beach and not spending time at an appetizer table. Because really – the food was epic. Here’s what we had:

Smoked Turkey
Dairy Free Cast Iron Cornbread
Dutch Oven Green Bean Casserole
Clean Cranberry Sauce
Canned Cranberry Sauce (Oh Yeah!  The Mister hates it but I grew up on it and have to have at least a taste every Thanksgiving.)
Campfire Sweet Potatoes
Stovetop Stuffing (a staple The Mister and Grandma could not do without!)
Dairy Free, Gluten Free Pumpkin Pie

Smoked Turkey:  We took a small smoker with us and smoked turkey legs and breasts.  The Mister made the brine using a generic recipe he found online.  We prepped a concentrated mixture at home and stored it in the ice chest.  On Wednesday night, we added water and the turkey and let it sit overnight.  We brought a separate ice chest just for the turkey.  I didn’t want to risk the brine leaking all over our other food and contaminating it with poultry juices. Thursday morning, The Mister put the turkey on the smoker and we cooked them low and slow.  When the turkey reached 165 degrees on an electronic meat thermometer, he took it off to rest.  The turkey was amazing.  Super moist and yummy.


Dairy Free Cast Iron Cornbread:  I can’t for the life of me figure out where I found this recipe, but boy was it amazing.  Slightly sweet and crumbly.  I used Bob’s Red Mill Coarse Ground Cornmeal.  We prepped all the ingredients right in camp.  We tried to cook it over the fire but it was too hot.  We ended up throwing it in my mom’s oven in her camper to finish cooking the bread.  I could have eaten a plate of this by itself.  It was that good.  It made great leftovers for breakfast the next day.


Cast Iron Cornbread

Dairy Free Cast Iron Cornbread
2 cups coarsely ground yellow cornmeal
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 egg at room temperature, beaten
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled (we used Earth Balance)
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt, at room temperature (we used vanilla flavored coconut yogurt)
4 tablespoons honey

Spray your cast iron skillet with non stick spray.  Mix ingredients together in a bowl and poor into prepared skillet.  Cook low on fire for 30 minutes or until bread is cooked through.

Dutch Oven Green Bean Casserole: This is a must have for The Mister.  He loves green bean casserole.  I am not a fan, but I actually really liked this.  I found the Healthy Green Bean Casserole recipe online and modified it a bit.  We cooked it in a dutch oven and had to use leftover Namaste Gluten Free Pancake Mix to fry the onions since I forgot coconut flour.  The onions weren’t super crunchy and they mixed well with the fresh green beans.  I cut all the vegetables at home, so we wouldn’t have to do a ton of prep at camp.  I fried the onions at camp so they would be crunch, although I don’t think they crunched up a whole lot.  As for coals and the dutch oven, we just guessed.  We added what we thought we needed on top and bottom and were pleasantly surprised that it cooked through.  It took about an hour to cook.

GreenBeanCasserole2  GreenBeanCasserole3

Clean Cranberry Sauce:  I am a huge fan of Danielle Walker and her grain free cook books.  Her food is Ah.Maz.Ing.  I used her recipe for the cranberry sauce.  I made it at home before we left and it kept really well in the ice chest.  The cranberry sauce had just the right tartness.  Oh my gosh it was good.

Thanksgiving Cooking

Campfire Sweet Potatoes:  I love sweet potatoes.  The rest of my family – not so much.  We made too many of these and ended up tossing out the leftovers.  I just wrapped the potatoes in foil, poked a few holes in the potatoes, and tossed them on the grill over the fire.  I cooked them until they were fork soft.  And that’s it.  Easy peasy.  I don’t put butter on mine, but you could if you wanted.

Sweet Potatoes

Dairy Free Gluten Free Pumpkin Pie:  I’m not sure why, but I didn’t get a picture of the pie.  I made it at home before our trip, and then my mom kept it in her fridge to keep it from spoiling.  I used Danielle Walker’s pie filling recipe and a generic gluten free crust.  We are a nut free household, I opted not to use her pie crust recipe.  The filling was great.  The crust not so much, but who likes the crust anyway?


Sweet Potato Salad

My mom had this recipe and wanted to try it for dinner one night while were at Antelope Lake (you can read about that here).  It was excellent! 

The night before we planned to make the salad, we wrapped the sweet potatoes in foil and cooked them on the BBQ until they were fork tender.  The next day we peeled and diced them before adding them to the salad.

I ended up making it on our playgroup camping trip (you can read about that here), but cooked the potatoes that day.  It was a hit with all the adults – especially our vegetarian friends.

Sweet Potato Salad

Sweet Potato Salad

4 large sweet potatoes, baked, peeled, and diced
3 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
1/2 cup frozen edamame, shelled and thawed (we just used an entire small bag)
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tbsp fresh chives, minced
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine onion, edamame, celery, parsley, and chives in a bowl.  Add diced sweet potatoes. Whisk together lemon juice ,mustard, and olive oil in a bowl. Pour over the potato mixture and gently toss. Serve immediately or chill and serve cold.

*To help with preparation, you can pre-chop your veggies at home before you set off on your trip.


Westy Country – San Simeon State Beach

We know of two places where Westy’s are pretty prevalent.  The Pacific Northwest and the California Central Coast.  We like to call these areas “Westy Country.”  For our eleven year anniversary we decided to make a trip to Westy Country.  Our plan was to stay in Santa Cruz, visit our newest niece, and hike in the redwoods.  We quickly realized weekend reservation were not going to happen.  We (of course) had no foresight to plan ahead. The Missus instead found us a Wednesday night spot at Henry Cowell Redwood State Park and three nights down the coast at San Simeon State Park.

11 Year Anniversary

We left after work Wednesday and headed to Santa Cruz.  We made great time and pulled into the park at 10:00 pm only to realize we were at the wrong place.  The campground and the day use park are in completely different places.  We had horrible cell coverage and no GPS.  Forty minutes later and a stop at a hotel for directions, we finally found the campground.  Boy do they need better signs!  A few lights might help, too.  We made a quick stay and were back on the road by 8:15 am.  We were excited to meet our new niece and start our adventure.

Henry Cowell SP

One quick night at Henry Cowell SP.

We had to take the Westy on Highway One on our way to San Simeon.  Talk about epic views.  We really enjoyed the drive, the smell of the coast, and our Westy.


After we dumped some gear at San Simeon State Park, we jumped back in The Westy and headed to San Luis Obispo.  This is a special spot for us.  We met here in college and have fond memories of Thursday night market.  We met the Mister’s parents for dinner (they were also visiting but staying in SLO).  The kids loved the market, the music, and the great people watching.  It was a bit crowded so we ducked into The Natural Cafe (one of The Missus’s favorite restaurants) and had dinner.



We lucked out with our campsite.  We ended up at the primitive Washburn camp.  It was a bit further away from the beach than we had wanted to be, but the site was large and had great climbing trees.  We woke up Friday to incoming fog, cool air, and that amazing ocean smell.  Absolutely gorgeous.  We spent the day at the beach.  The Mister’s brother popped in from Santa Cruz with his son.  The cousins were so happy to play in the ocean.


Back at camp we had tacos for dinner.  We invited, Sebastian, our kind camp neighbor over.  He contributed some amazing cherries to the meal.  The kids were more than happy and had the fingers to prove it!  Turns out he is an author.  He gave us a copy of his book on our last day at camp.

Taco Night

Saturday was spent visiting the elephant seals just north of San Simeon.  The kids thought they were really cool and spent a lot of time looking at them, asking question, and walking along the 1/2 mile observation boardwalk that runs along the coast.  We had a picnic near Moonstone Beach.  The kids were stoked to pop up the table in the Westy for lunch.  As we were leaving, we noticed The Westy was having a hard time starting.  The engine would turn over, but it took a couple of turns on the starter to get it going.  The Mister and I both commented on it and thought it might be time for a check in with our mechanic.

Elephan tSeals

Saturday afternoon we walked from our campsite down to the beach.  It was a short walk on a nice trail.  We played at the beach until dinner time.  We made dairy free/gluten free spaghetti for dinner with Adele’s sausage.  I think we were hungry because it was gone in record time.

Pasta Night

We packed up early on Sunday with plans to stay at the beach for as long as possible before heading home.  When we went to start The Westy nothing happened.  Oye.  We just knew this was going to happen.  Rick, our Westy loving neighbor who was camped across from us, came to the rescue.  The nicest guy.  He quickly took down his awning and broke up his camp site to offer us a jump start.  Who does that…? He didn’t even think twice about helping.  Too bad it didn’t work. We were pretty sure it was an issue with the starter.  After looking at engine and the wiring under the steering wheel like we knew what we were doing, we decided to try push starting it.  Rick and The Mister pushed The Westy up the hill (because if course we were camped at the bottom), and the neighbors helped, too.  As soon as we got a little speed we were able to start it in second.  Yahoo!  We could get home.

Work Westy

We decided to skip the beach and just head straight home.  We left The Westy our local auto shop to get checked out.  So sad.  The kids cried when we said goodbye.

Auto Shop

So is there a “Westy Country” where you live?