Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Recipe: The Definitive Margarita

This video recipe provides step-by-step instructions for creating the finest margarita you're likely to ever taste. Enjoy!

  • 3/4 of a blender ice cubes
  • 1/2 of a blender tequila
  • 1-2 inches of triple sec
  • 1/2 can limeade concentrate
  • juice from 3-4 fresh limes
  • Coarse kosher salt
Put it all in the blender, in order, and blend for 15-20 seconds. Serve immediately in salted margarita glasses.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Recipe: Alpine Macaroni (Camp Dutch Oven Method)

I first became acquainted with Alpine Spaghetti on a Boundary Waters canoe trip at Camp Widjiwagan when I was 13. It was a simple dish of noodles, parmesan, and oregano, but was quick to prepare and warmed us up after a rainy day of paddling on the lakes. 

25 years later, I found myself car-camping in Rocky Mountain National Park with the boys (ages 2 and 5).  With the sun setting and thunder booming through the valley, I was once again in search of something quick, substantial, and kid-friendly.

I had high hopes for a full night of sleep from the boys.  To increase the odds of that (by ensuring no one would wake up hungry at 5am) I added ground beef to my dish.  I also tossed in some finely chopped onion—adding sweetness to complement the salty / savory nature of the dish.

The result was a really tasty meal that both kids devoured.  Another plus is that the dish required very little oversight while the tent got pitched and the tarp got hung (just in time for a downpour, as it turned out).


  • 1 pound ground beef, buffalo, or turkey
  • 1 pound pasta (I used Tinkyada Gluten Free)
  • 1/4 onion, chopped medium fine
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • oil
  • salt
  • pepper

Begin by boiling your pasta in well-salted water. The water should taste like a too-salty soup before you add your pasta (remember, most of this salt stays in the water after the pasta has moved on to bigger and better things). I boiled pasta on the old trusty MSR Whisperlite... but you could of course do it in a well-seasoned camp dutch oven over the fire.

If using separate pots, while you're boiling the pasta, heat the camp dutch oven over your fire and cook the meat (more on that in a sec). If you are using the camp dutch oven for the whole shebang; boil your pasta water, cook your pasta, drain it, mix the pasta with oil to prevent sticking, and then set it aside to wait (preferably covered and in a warm place). Wipe or rinse out the dutch oven, and proceed to cooking the meat.

To cook the meat, start with a hot, shiny camp dutch oven. We were at a USFS campground, so I let the fire die down and then flopped the grill over it and put the dutch oven right on top of the grill. You could also clear a spot to the side of your campfire, and then lay down some wood coals over which you place your dutch oven. You can adjust heat by adding or removing coals... but you want your meat and onion to brown evenly and slowly, not burn.  When in doubt, lower the heat.  When the dutch oven is hot, add a splash of oil, the ground meat, and the chopped onion.

I find that the smaller the onion pieces are, the more kid-friendly the meal is... so mine were chopped to about the size of tic-tacs.

Stir the ground meat and onion around for 10-20 minutes until cooked through. While you are stirring, add salt, pepper, and granulated garlic to taste (yes, this means you should taste it as you go to make sure you get it right!).

When the meat is cooked through, dump in your cooked, drained pasta, and add the butter. Mix things around for a minute or two to melt the butter, and then do a final taste test to adjust seasonings.

Serve immediately!

Variations: I considered adding peas to score brownie points with the wife on the vegetable front.. but forgot them at home. They would have been a nice addition.  Parmesan would have been great as well.  You could certainly add herbs or other seasonings... oregano and thyme come to mind.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Recipe: Cast Iron Croutons

Cast iron croutons made with whole garlic cloves and olive oil

Cast iron croutons are really simple, and are light-years beyond anything you can buy in a box (especially in the gluten free world). You can of course make this recipe with regular wheat bread, and it'll be even more tasty.

The key to this recipe is the cast iron skillet, which provides even heat and a non-stick surface. This makes it possible to create croutons that are crunchy on the outside, but still slightly soft in the middle. Another important factor in this recipe is cooling your croutons on an un-covered plate, which allows moisture to escape.

Croutons are simple: bread, garlic, oil, salt, and pepper
While you can use any gluten free bread for this recipe, if you use Udi's Gluten Free sandwich bread, you'll thank yourself. Unlike most gluten free sandwich bread (which tends to resemble over-dry cardboard-filled fruitcake), Udi's would probably fool most wheat-eaters in a sandwich, and fools nearly everyone as croutons.

  • 2 slices of sandwich bread
  • 3 peeled garlic cloves
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
Heat a medium cast iron skillet on medium heat for 5-7 minutes to warm it up.  While the skillet is warming, cut sandwich bread into crouton-sized pieces.  When the skillet is warm, add enough oil to coat the pan well (it will absorb into the bread, which helps develop the crustiness).  You may need to add more oil if too much gets absorbed.  Toss in the whole (peeled) garlic cloves, and then sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.

Cook the croutons while turning them over every 2 minutes or so to avoid burning.  Taste a few croutons as you're going along and adjust seasoning as necessary.  When both sides are nice and brown, pull the croutons out of the skillet and let them rest for 5 minutes on a dry paper towel.

Toss croutons on your caesar salad, and eat!

Feel free to add other ingredients like oregano, onion, Parmesan cheese, etc. to take the flavor in a new direction.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Recipe: Pan-Seared Steak

It's hard to imagine an easier way to cook steak than in a cast iron skillet.  Fortunately, it's also one of the tastiest ways to cook a steak. The hot cast iron results in a nice browning on the steak, searing in whatever seasoning you may have applied.  I'm a bit of a purist with steak, and stick to just salt and pepper. You do whatever you like.

  • 2 ribeye steaks (bison or beef)
  • kosher salt
  • pepper
  • oil
  • butter

Salt and pepper your steaks generously.  Heat a medium cast iron skillet on medium-high heat until just smoking.  Add a drizzle of oil, and then a fat pat of butter, and slap the steaks down to cook. 

Once they've browned a bit (after maybe 4 minutes?), flip 'em over.  Continue flipping every 3-4 minutes until done.   You may need to adjust the heat downward as you go if you're cooking to medium or beyond. 

Because I like my steaks cooked to a perfect rare, I used an instant-read meat thermometer.  If you're winging it or basing it on cooking time... be sure to account for steak thickness, stove temperature variance, and planetary alignment. 

Remember:  You can always put an under-cooked steak back on the heat. Pretty tough to un-cook a steak.