I have a confession to make… until this week, I’d never started a campfire by myself! I know… crazy. Well, I’ve made some improvements, and to date I have started THREE fires… and not just fires… COOKING fires!
Back in April my husband built us a lovely fire pit in our back yard. If we wanted barbecue, this is how we did it. Traditionally, I would have a meal ready, he would come home from work, start the fire, wait for coals, cook dinner. Not exactly my favorite thing ever since I like having dinner ready when he gets home so he can relax.
The fire pit started out as an occasional way to have a BBQ treat, since we don’t often barbecue. As the temperature increased, we became less and less thrilled with cooking indoors in a home with no AC! You can imagine why! So, we started grilling a lot more often. Which meant more late dinners, more hubby having to cook after arriving home from work. Not ideal. But, at the same time, we were becoming better and better at cooking over a fire! Yea!
So! The beginning of this week I had a meal planned that would take a little too long to wait for my Mr. to come home. So… I mustered up as much courage as I had, built a wood tee-pee in the fire pit over some torn up egg carton, and lit a match! Eeek. But, check it out! It’s a pretty good first fire! And it was reduced to perfect coals by the time Mr. got home! I was so proud! And, yes, that’s a snow sled in the background… we use it to haul wood!
Even after building such a beautiful fire, I still wasn’t brave enough to cook with it. So, I left the grilling to the pro.
Fast forward a couple days, and I did it again. Built a fire, Mr. cooked dinner.
Fast forward to last night… I built a fire… AND I cooked dinner! This is where things get interesting! Dinner HAD to be Craveable Taco Dip, from the Costco cookbook. I was craving it. However… it was H.O.T outside… which, of course, meant it was around 84 in our house. Oven? Yeah, not a chance!
Okay, so we don’t have a dutch oven … technically (Update: Now we do and I Love it!). But, in case you don’t have one, if you have two cast iron skillets, one somewhat larger than the other you can make a “dutch oven”! Since we’ve been campfire cooking all week anyway, I figured why not branch out & do something other than grilling? Experiment a little… I experiment for a living (mom’s do that), and dinner is no exception in this home! Here’s what I came up with as a “dutch oven”…
Yep… it is actually two skillets one stacked on the other!
I set a few rocks up beside the fire, spread the coals around, stabilized the grill on the rocks, laid some foil out on the grill so as not to smokify my marvelous cast iron, and put the smaller pan on the grill on top of the foil. Then I stacked the larger pan on top, lined it with foil, filled it with coals, and timed it for 20 minutes! I looked at the clock seriously every 3-5 minutes, I was so anxious to see if it worked!
The whole time we were waiting for dinner, the kids were riding on their little outside cars. They’d come up to me every thirty seconds giving me pretend money and asking the “gas lady” to fill up their car with gas! So, I took imaginary money, and “Ffffffssssshhhhhh”ed my way all the way till the timer went off!
Finally it went off! I got some pot holders and practically ran to the pit. When I lifted my giant pan off the top of my “dutch oven”, I saw bubbling cheese all around the edges! Oooooo, was I excited… not just because I LOVE this meal, but mostly because I COOKED ON THE FIRE ALL BY MYSELF!!!!! Okay, I know that doesn’t sound like a lot, but to me, this is a huge milestone! I’m so excited!
So, here’s the final product. I give it to the littlest in a bowl with a spoon, and to the bigger two in a tortilla shell. Can you believe I cooked this in such a fashion!? Next time I’m trying pizza!
I just gotta say, I know this post is a little strange, but I’m just so proud of myself I had to share it somewhere. It makes me happy to know that I’m saving money by cooking outdoors, and it’s kind of empowering, in a weird sort of way, to know that I can cook the same outside as I can inside! With some creativity and improvisation, anything is possible! I only wish I had a real Dutch Oven so I could cook a cobbler! (We just planted our very own berry patch, so I have cobbler on the mind!).
One of my favorite bloggers is Kelly over at The Morris Tribe. She’s been blogging a lot lately about sustainable living, cooking outside, raising your own food, breadmaking!, and many other things relating to living more simply. We started our fire pit as a way to just have fun… but Kelly’s influence, and my own desire to spend less and not heat up the house, has made me think a lot more about the things we take for granted. What if my stove broke? What if natural gas was rationed in our country? What if the power went down & I hadn’t cooked dinner yet? It’s not only fun to explore other options, but now I’m seeing that it’s actually practical. It’s good for me to know that I don’t have to depend on someone or something else to prepare food for my family. I can do it with a fire pit and some scrap wood scavenged from construction site dumpsters! I can cook for free!