Healthy Campfire Cooking with Kaia

Hello everybody! It’s Kaia for the first time.

To me it is very difficult to eat healthy while camping, because lots of healthy foods need cooling. You can’t really bring ice in a cooler or it will melt and you also can’t really bring a mini fridge camping can you?! Another reason why it is hard to eat healthy while camping is because it is hard to find healthy snacks. Cooking and eating while camping are very hard. For instance, cooking big healthy meals can take a long time and you might not have all of the ingredients. You usually eat what you have and you might not have anything healthy to eat and the store is far away.

The reality of trying to eat healthy while camping is hard and probably won’t happen. When my dad and I went on a vegetarian diet for a week, it didn’t happen. We ate meat. What we eat while camping can be very bad for you because eating too much of anything is bad!

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My dad and I make a lot of food and come up with a lot of recipes. While camping I made a dessert recipe. I put a Twinkie inside of marshmallows and chocolate with crumbled graham crackers. Then I wrapped up all of it in a sweet dough and grilled it! This is not healthy, but it was delicious.

I know that many people can use more effort to eat healthy while camping. I’m sure in the future we can pack a lot of healthier things like potatoes, apples, and corn, instead of potato chips we can have kale chips.  

Kid Tip:

If you live with someone that does not eat that healthy and they like potato chips, you can open the bag of potato chips take the potato chips out. Next, put the kale chips in and reseal it (to make kale chips pop some kale in the oven and add salt).

Chopping on the Cheap, with a Little Help from Friends

Our initial shopping day was Monday last week, and we needed to make dinner…  After returning home from the grocery store, we dove right into cooking. We had worked up quite the appetite after our dance through Ralphs.

As soon as we cascaded through our front door I asked Kaia to turn on the oven. I grabbed the Vitamix – this is an incredible machine. It’s like a bullet blender, but a thousand times better.

We have an electric stove and oven that, for some reason, doesn’t hold the temp or remain consistent throughout cooking. I think it has less to do with the oven, and possibly more to do with Kaia opening the oven door every 30 seconds while something is cooking. I’m guessing your kids have that same heightened anticipation while waiting for the object in the oven to become edible! I almost didn’t sign our lease due to the electric oven/stove conundrum, but alas here we were, and I had asked Kaia to turn the oven to a higher temp than necessary so it would cook properly.

I was thinking chips and salsa, some rice and our tri-tip on the fly! As I mentioned, we were so hungry by the time we started cooking. Kaia and I talked it over and she concurred. This would be the fastest way we could feed our hungry faces.

With the oven heating and the Vitamix out, we grabbed our ingredients…

  • Tri-tip roast: seasoned with our home mixed dry rub and some liquid smoke, we wrapped it in tinfoil and tossed in the oven at 300 degrees for 45 mins
  • 5 roma tomatoes: combined these in the Vitamix with some shallots, garden fresh cilantro, jalapeno, fresh garlic and salt

**The above are things we purchased this week, the below are items we already had at home…  Remember we try to always work with what we’ve got!

  • Corn tortillas: we brought a pan of oil up to about 450 degrees and fried the tortillas
  • Basmati Rice: not really a traditional rice to go with a beef roast, salsa and tortilla chips; but we added some of our fresh cilantro and shallots to rice and allowed them to work their flavors in.

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Fast-forward to Wednesday and three meals were already consumed. Kaia and I made our way across town to her Godfather’s place. His name is Miki (pronounced like Mickey Mouse) and coincidentally he is also my bestie. He’s an amazing guy with an incredible family of his own. He has 2 kids under the age of 2, and a very patient fiancé. His brother, whom is also one of my dear friends, happened to be babysitting a 6 year-old named Max.

So our count was a little higher than usual…. we were up to 4 adults, 1 pre-teen, 1 first grader, 1 toddler, and an infant… by my count that’s a 7.5-er on the food-consumption-o-meter. Our group epitomizes the modern families that we see grace the small screen today. Every one of our stories is different, but those differences are what make us all alike. Miki is a camera operator and photographer. We had set up this date to shoot some food photos.

As our time together sometimes does, our evening turned into a family dinner for everyone. Kaia and I still had a number of our veggies from the initial purchase this week. Those coupled with some other things around our house from weeks prior made for a great shoot (for this blog!). After we talked about what Kaia and I could bring, Kila, Miki’s brother, decided to pick up some protein. A whole chicken and 2 extra chicken breasts were bought and paid for and BOOM! We had a well-rounded dinner planned and ready to be enjoyed by our families.

First shots were of some very pretty veggies:

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Generally with these impromptu family dinners we fly by the seat of our pants; spontaneity sprinkled with love become our main ingredients. Kaia and I took a look at what we had.

Red Potatoes
Green Onions
Red Onions
Shallots
Sweet Peppers
Kale
Roma Tomatoes
Jalapeno

We knew that the kale needed to be eaten, as well as some of the potatoes. Both Kaia and I said HASH! …slow down pot-heads, we are talking potato hash! We used a cast- iron skillet to cook the diced potatoes and small chopped kale. The first thing we did was use olive oil on a paper towel to grease the pan. We added some brunoised shallots to sweat in the pan. Then we added our potatoes, followed later by the kale. The kids kept asking for more. They ate all of it!

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As parents, we know how difficult the “eat your veggies” conversation can sometimes be. If you are looking for something delicious to feed the kiddos, this potato hash is your jam!

Next we utilized the dehydrated spring mushrooms by adding about 2 cup of veggie stock to a small pot with the mushrooms. These would become the base for a mushroom cream sauce. We let these rehydrate while we broke down the whole chicken.

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Finally we got to the chicken in its now broken down state. The smaller pieces make it easier (and quicker) to cook: 8 pieces, plus the 2 additional breasts Kila brought along with the whole chicken. We preheated the oven to 400 degrees (not our oven, so this is the real cooking temp). The potato hash was removed from the cast-iron. This not only gave us a pan to cook on, but one that already had some great flavor already on it. That’s what we call a win-win!

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Our goal was to blacken the chicken with the skin still on. Kaia used a mortar (grinder) to create a powerful rub. After searing the chicken skin down for about 5 minutes we placed the skillets in the already pre-heated oven. Toss some of the green onions on the top of the chicken before putting them in the oven for added plate filler and flavor. 20 minutes in the oven is ample time for the chicken to cook through.

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It sometimes seems that the importance previously placed on family meals and time spent together has almost completely disappeared. At least that’s how it feels these days – insert sad face.

Daddy Daughter Cooking wants to help remind everyone about the importance of family socials. The cooking bonds that were once forged by trips to Grandma’s or by going to Mom and Dad’s for Sunday dinner is seemingly a lost art. We need these interactions. For Kaia and I this time spent together and memories that we continue to make are shaping our future.

Thanks to all for sticking around and following us on our journey. We hope that these recipes strike a chord with you!

Watch our video here!

Golden Beets Soup and Grilled Cheese Sammies: Recipe

Hopefully you’ve made it to the store with the shopping list. Now it’s the fun part: time to get cooking! It’s Tuesday night, and Kaia and I are ready to grill up some sammies and create this delicious beet soup!

Follow along with us in our video here.

We have our bunch (or bundle) of golden beets. There were 3 in the bunch, and they probably weighed 1 lb. each. That’s a pretty good amount of beets. They also came with their tops attached, those are the greens on top of the beets. The beet greens (tops) are great for a blanching… that’s cook talk for tossing the greens into boiling water for a quick bath, usually 2-3 minutes. We’ll talk about this later when we start making the sammies.

We cut the tops (greens) off of the beets, leaving about 3 inches of greens stocks attached to the beet itself (that will become part of the soup, we are adding some carrots later too). We set aside the greens for blanching.

I used a paring knife to clean up the beet tops. Then we set these aside while we prepared the soup base.

We wanted to create a delicious base for our soup. We started with a large pot on the stove over low heat. Before putting the beets in we added smashed Garlic (garlic from the already pre-shelled bags – parents should lay the garlic on a cutting board and use their knifes’ side to smash the bulbs), olive oil (1/4 cup to coat the pot), Shallots (should be a small dice in size) and a couple peppercorns to sweat in the pot.

After a couple minutes of letting those oils and flavors mingle over low heat, we added the chicken broth and Kaia turned up the heat to medium (with my supervision).

Kaia and I took this time to talk about her Girl Scout cookie sales. We still need to drop off a few last orders this week to my friends who ordered. She sold WAY more cookies this year than in years past, and we have been running around at least one night a week trying to get them all delivered.

Back to the soup! It’s time to get the beets and carrots ready. Wash them really well. Beets are an earthy flavored veggie, but you don’t want actual earth in your mouth or on the rest of your food. Once washed, Kaia started to peel the beets. She used a potato peeler to take the outer layer of skin off the beets. The beets need to be peeled like an apple. Baby carrots don’t need to be peeled, just washed.

Once peeled and cleaned, Kaia and I cut up the beets into similarly sized pieces, about 1.5 inch cubes. They will be different in shape. Don’t worry, this is normal and does not have to be exact. We halved the baby carrots so they cooked at the same speed as the beet cubes. Once the beets and carrots were cut Kaia added them to the now boiling soup base, also called soup stock.

We wanted the beets to be completely submerged so we added about 2 cups of water. Once the soup came to a boil, we lowered the heat to a simmer for about 25 minutes.  

While the soup simmered we got the grilled cheese fixings ready. We bought the cheese in a block (because it tastes better to us) so we needed to grate it for the sammies. Kaia takes care of the shredding in our kitchen – she thinks it’s fun! If shredding is not an option, parents can slice the cheese as thinly as possible so it melts easily.

A flat iron is preferred due to its size and gives the space to make more than one sandwich at a time. If you don’t have a flat iron (which is most people, including us) you will want to use a cast iron skillet or a large sauté pan. The skillet or sauté pan should be large enough to have 2 slices of bread lay flat with a little space between them.

We cooked our sammies on thick sliced bread (usually close to an inch thick). Kids put the cast iron skillet or sauté pan on the stove. Mom or dad (or adult) should turn the stove up to medium heat and let the pan get nice and hot. Make sure that you are communicating. There is nothing worse than a trip to the hospital on an empty stomach.  

While the grilled cheese pan is getting hot, we went back to check that the soup is simmering. Ours wasn’t, so we adjusted the heat accordingly.

We assume you knew going into this dinner that aside from the beets soup, this meal is not “light”. Butter, cheeses and bread are what make up the next component. These are three of my favorites, and I am pretty sure my daughter loves them too. Remember we are sticklers for moderation. Too much of anything can’t be good. The portion sizes given are bordering on gluttony. However, it’s okay to indulge once in awhile.

We added about 2 tablespoons of butter to the heated pan, one on each side of the pan for each slice of bread. The trick here is to wait for the butter to melt before putting the bread in the pan.

We flipped the bread a little under 2 minutes then added cheese evenly to both slices. This creates a nice crust so that the bread doesn’t deflate and get too oily. Have you used this trick before? By heating the bread on both sides before adding the cheese, it creates a nice warm place for the cheese to melt.

Once we added the cheese, we covered the soon-to-be delicious cheesy bread so it melts evenly.

While the cheese was getting melty, we put the beets and stock (the soup) into our blender. If you don’t have a blender, you can improvise a way to mash everything using a fork or spoon, spatula, hand blender, etc. You’ll probably need to cook the soup a bit longer than the suggested 25 minutes so that the beets are softer, since the goal is to create a smooth and even texture, like a puree (if it seems to thick for your soup preferences, just add a cup of water and mix again). Once pureed, set the soup aside.

Remember those beet greens we cut off the top of the beets? This is where they come in! We added some water to the same pot we had used for the soup and brought it to a boil. In the interest of time (we were hungry!) we chose not to rinse our soup pot. You can do the same, or leave it as is and simply add water.

Once the water was boiling, we tossed in the beet greens to blanch. This only takes about 2 minutes once the water is boiling. Remove them and add to cold water/ice bath. We used a bowl large enough to accommodate the size of the beet greens without folding them. The ice bath cools them quickly to stop the cooking.  

We pulled the top off of the grilled cheese pan. At this point, you should be seeing an even melt, from the outside of the bread into the center.

Kaia pulled the beet greens from the ice water bath and patted them dry.  

I lowered the heat on the pan before Kaia layered the greens on each piece of cheesy bread. Then with a spatula, I flipped one half onto the other and cooked as a stacked sandwich for about 2 minutes. I flipped and cooked for another 2 minutes. The cheese should be thoroughly melted with the beet greens looking pretty in the middle. We removed the sandwich from the pan and placed on a cutting board.  

We were getting close to the finish line and we were HUNGRY! Kaia grabbed plates and bowls. Kaia poured the soup into the bowls with a little guidance from me. The cheesy grilled sammies can be cut however you want them to be. We usually cut them into triangles, because we think they taste better in a triangle!

We hope you enjoy this very comforting meal, and most importantly the time you have spent together.

Watch our video here!

Recipe: Makes 4 Sammies, 4 bowls of soup

3lbs. – Golden Beets with greens still attached
1 Qt. – Chicken or Vegetable stock/broth
4oz. – Baby Carrots
6 – Garlic Bulbs
10 – Peppercorns
2 Tbsp. – Sea Salt
2 to 4 cups – Water
½ loaf – Thick-sliced bread
4 tbsp. – Unsalted Butter
8oz. – Gruyere Cheese
4oz. – Sharp cheddar
4oz. – Other Cheese (we suggest Swiss or provolone, but you can get wild here)

Utensils:

Large Sautee Pan
5 Quart pot for the soup
Spatula
Blender – without a blender, it will be tough to accomplish the even texture desired for the soup.  However, you can get close by cooking the beets longer and smashing them
Cheese Grater – if you do not have a grater, just slice the cheese as thin as possible
Spoon for tasting
2 cup measuring cup. If you do not have a measuring  cup of any size, use a pint glass is it equivalent to a 2 cups
8 inch kitchen knife
Paring knife, or small blade
Soup ladle
Tongs
Large Bowl

All recipes written to cook with instructions for ADULTS (A), KIDS (K), and BOTH (B).

GOLDEN BEET SOUP

A: Cut the greens from the top of the beets (leaving about 3 inches of stock attached to the beets). Set greens aside for sandwiches

K: Put a pot on for the beets, low heat

A: Add olive oil, smashed garlic, herbs, peppercorns to pot to sweat

A: Clean the tops of the beets with a paring knife

K: Peel the beets

A: Cut the beets and carrots into smaller pieces

K: Add the chicken (or vegetable) broth to the pot with the herbs and spices.

K: Turn up the heat to a medium-high temp (Adults please be sure to supervise).

A: Add the beets and carrots into the pot to boil

B: Make sure to monitor the level of the fluid in the soup and cover with the additional water so that the ingredients are submerged.

A: Bring to a boil

K: Cover and simmer about 25 mins.  If you do not have the blender or mixer be sure to cook for an additional 10 mins to soften the beets further.  This will make them a bit easier to mash and mix.

A: Pull your bowls out of the cupboard

K: Grab the soup ladle or big spoon to serve the soup

A: Remove the pot and help the kids ladle the soup into the bowls

GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICHES:

B: Put your pan on heat (medium heat is recommended)

A: Portion the butter into 4 individual tbsp pieces

K: Grab the bread and set them on the counter next to the stove

A: Add 1 tbsp of butter to the pan for each slice of bread

K: Grate the cheese

A: If you do not have a cheese grater slice the cheese as thin as possible

K: Put all the cheese onto a plate for easy access

K: Fill you measuring cup with 2 cups of water and pour into your empty soup pot. Bring water to a boil

A: Make sure your kids aren’t burning themselves

K: Fill a bowl with ice and water

A: Place the bread on top of the melting butter in the saute’ pan

K: Lay the large pieces of Beet greens into the boiling pot of water

A: Use tongs to remove the Beet greens after about 2 minutes and place them into the ice bath created by the kiddo’s

A: Flip the bread slices and add the desired amount of cheese to the browned side of the bread

K: Cover the pan with a lid or tinfoil if you do not have a lid that fits the large pan

K: Once you begin to see the cheese melting in the center of the bread slices lay the beet greens on two of the cheesy bread slices.

A: Flip the cheesy green bread onto its mirrored slice and center each of the sammies in the pan

A: Flip them one more time for even cooking and cover

B: They will not need more than a couple minutes to melt thoroughly so be ready with plates

B: Enjoy the heck out of the respectively healthy meal you have created together