Foodbuzz 24-24-24:Fall, Family, Friends, and Food- Camp Cooking in the Mountains

If you have read this blog much you know that camping is a big part of our family life, and so when Foodbuzz solicited unique meals as part of their 24-24-24 promotion,it should come as no surprise that I thought a meal in the mountains would be just the ticket. Normally we are tent campers,but one of the cabins at Crabtree Falls Campground came available and my husband told them that we would take it - believe me, it was a decision that made all the difference. The end of October in the mountains is usually a little cool so we were prepared, packing layers, and our zero degree sleeping bags, getting ready for our part of the 24Meals, 24 Hours, 24 Blogs at Foodbuzz. Our friends were driving all the way from North Carolina (a six-hour trek for them) and we expected them to arrive between 10 and 11 PM. We settled in, unpacked, with the girls organizing and setting up the beds in the cabin, and we set up our friends' tent. We had some great cheese and a baguette, my husband made a fire and we settled in, enjoying the beauty of the woods, the babbling of the Tye River (at uncharacteristically low levels) and the changing foliage.

The 24 we weren't prepared for was the nearly 24 hours of rain that started about 8:30 PM on Friday. Starting as a spitting rain, it became a steady drip and then a downpour that chased us to the warmth of the cabin, where my husband conked out, and the girls and I played Pictionary Man with the rain beating mercilessly on the roof as we waited for Julie, Anthony and Lilly to get there. Finally they arrived and we convinced them to sleep in the loft of the cabin instead of unpacking into the tent in the rain (which was a deluge by this time!). Lilly, who is six,climbed in with the girls, and her parents settled onto an air mattress in the loft and after some giggling and joking, finally there was no sound but measured, regular breathing and the beating of the rain on the roof.

Saturday started with more rain, and so it was time to improvise. The cabin had a narrow porch with a bench, which became the sheltered place where I cooked breakfast starting with a big pot of coffee -I had bought a new Coleman percolator for this trip, and in the damp cold and steady rain, the sound of coffee percolating was a particularly welcome one. As if the weather wasn't enough of a challenge, a problem in the pumphouse meant that there was no water - for toilets, showers or washing dishes.

About midday, suffering a bit from cabin fever (literally!) we headed to Saunder's Brothers Orchard to get apples for my Foodbuzz dessert. We have visited there often on our trips to the mountains, but the kids were thrilled that they had farm animals and they took turns holding them while we shopped for some apples and local cheese. It was perfect break from the relentless rain for both the kids and the grown-ups. And with bags of apples in our car, as we headed up the mountain we saw something unbelieveable, and welcome... a patch of blue sky!!

Once we returned, I started preparing my Foodbuzz dinner. Now the most important part of preparing meals in the wilds is good planning. I selected the menu in advance - a Chicken Chili based on a recipe I found on the Whole Foods site, Cheese Cornbread baked on the top of the campstove in my cast iron skllet, and for dessert, gingerbread with apples and caramel. Since I was making a new recipe, I used the recipe to check that I had all ingredients as I packed. When you are 30 minutes up the mountain on winding roads from the nearest supermarket it makes sense to check and double check. I had never made a chicken chili before, but with both ground turkey and chunks of chicken thigh meat, lots of onions, pinto beans, corn and a variety of spices, this chili was a big hit with just the right amount of heat. Served with grated cheese, sour cream and chopped fresh cilantro and avocado, there were seconds all around and a big bowl sent up to Dave, the campground owner, who had worked all day getting the water up and running. The chili was just what the doctor ordered as the air cleared and turned cold.

Dessert is an old fall camping favorite, a great excuse to use Saunder's delicious apples, in a hot caramel sauce and whipped cream. I made the gingerbread in muffin tins and carried them with us, and prepared the apples on the campstove by lantern light. Spicy, sweet, rich and fruity- is there a better dessert?

Even with crappy weather, and a few challenges, there is nothing like a great meal with good company in breath-taking scenery, and our Foodbuzz dinner, served to the sounds of the now-rushing waters of the Tye River, and with the crimson and rust backdrop of an Appalachian October. No five star restaurant in the Michelin guide can even touch it!

Campfire Churkey Chili (Serves 8)

1 large onion chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 pound of ground turkey
5 boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into chunks
1 can of white corn drained
1/2 cup salsa (I used a medium salsa)
1 can of pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 can tomato sauce
1 chipotle chili, chopped fine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon bittersweet paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
Salt to taste (I used about 1 1/2 teaspoons)

Saute onions and garlic in olive oil, and add chicken and turkey to brown, breaking up meat and add spices. Once meat is brown add corn, beans, salsa and tomato sauce. Cook at a simmer for about 20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve with sour cream, shredded cheese, and chopped cilantro and avocado.


veron said…
Churkey! I have never heard that before. Looks delicious, I like it that it has chunks as well as ground stuff.
Tanya said…
It all looks wonderful! Sounds like except for the rain, it was a great time. That dessert looks yummy.
Deborah Dowd said…
Veron- This is a really good chili, a bit lighter in flavor and a nice combination of the spicy broth with the sweet corn!

Tanya- If you are prepared, camping is fun, no matter the weather, and the scenery was incredible!
Ben said…
Cooking in the mountain? Brilliant! I love to camp it is a great way to spend quality time with the family and it's better when you spend it cooking :D
Kristen said…
I always adore your camping posts... looks like so much fun!
Deborah Dowd said…
Ben-We started when our kids were young and we are hooked!But the food is great cooked inside as well!

Kristen- We always have fun and really enjoy each other's company. The food is just the icing on the cake.
Carrie Oliver said…
Deborah, this sounds just great to me, we love to camp (well, most of us anyways, there are bit scary banana slugs out there) and making a real meal is always fun and challenging. Your chili recipe sounds just great, will be trying it very soon.
A campout! How fun! I should try your chili when the weather gets colder.
Peter M said…
How wonderful to have a campout, camp fires and family all together catching and bonding over home cooked food (in the wild).

Congrats on a novel food idea for Foodbuzz and thanks for dropping my my site as well.
flowergirl said…

This trip takes the cake! It was cold in Maryland but I know the mountains would have been colder. Great post.
Glenna said…
Deborah, what a wonderful meal even though the trip was a little rainy. Yummmmmmmmm!
Good Food said…
That recipe looks amazing, I will try it and let you know how it comes out.
kristen said…
camping trips just aren't as fun unless something goes wrong! one of the last times we went camping, the power was out for the whole evening and into the night. we cooked our dinner on a campfire and played cards and games by candle light--one of the best times we had this summer!
Deborah Dowd said…
Carrie Oliver- I love camping, but banana slugs sound intimidating!

Diana@appetite for China- I hope you try the chili-it is a great cool-weather dish!

Peter M- While the food is great, it is the experience that is best!
Deborah Dowd said…
Flowergirl- The cold was not as bad as the torrential rain, but I know we will remember this trip for awhile!

Glenna- With good and good friends,there is always fun!

Good food-I can't wait to hear what you think!

Kristen- If you are prepared, it actually adds to the adventure to have a little hardship!
Lori Lynn said…
HI! Thanks for visiting my blog! You are my hero! Camping and cooking done well. Very cool. Such a neat 24,24,24!
C'tina said…

Had the pleasure of staying in Cabin #7 this past weekend! Found a really nice place near the base of Wintergreen Mountain for brunch called Sparrow's Cafe. It was a nice change from our camp-fare which consists of mainly "mountain pies" (sometimes called 'hobo' pies). Oh, another nice spot was "Basic Necessities" in Nellysford. I have to ask...what initially took you all the way up to Crozet besides the pizza? It's a goal of mine to make it there, but have not timed it right yet.....
Deborah Dowd said…
C'Tina- Hope you had better weather!Our bread and cheese the first and second night were from Basic Necessities- I brought some cheeses home with me! As for Crozet, since we left in the AM we would hit a place for lunch and when we couldn't get into Crozet Pizza we went to La Coccina del Sol. Another favorite is the Colleen Drive In for classic burgers and fries! We should camp together sometime!
Lick My Spoon said…
what a wonderful camping meal! i've discovered the joys of camping just over the past few years. my favorite first night's dinner while on the trail is quesadillas made with wraps :)