The great outdoors…the last frontier…mountain life. These are the places in East Tennessee that we take for granted as we hustle and bustle through our city lives. But this week, I enjoyed a few days camping in the Cherokee National Forest.
I will say that the experience was a little colder than I remember, and I greatly underestimated the lack of socks necessary for an overnight tent excursion. But overall, we enjoyed the campfire, views of beautiful Watauga Lake..and ate authentic Thai cuisine in Butler, Tennessee..who knew?
We hung in there for a few days with the cold, but ironically it was the meals that we looked forward to the most. Something about slowing down, cooking on a fire and just sitting around waiting to make s’mores seems so foreign to those of us who are so plugged in.
That was probably one of the hardest parts..unplugging. Between the hubs, teenager and myself..we managed to take tablets, phones and enough charging cords to probably string a clothesline up. And after the first day, the technology pretty much died. And I was really ok with that. No internet meant more time to just be.
And then the Tennessee Tornado hit the campground! If you read my blog, or know me personally, you know we lovingly refer to our toddler with that term. She’s great and was great on site. BUT the Mom in me freaked each time she went near the fire. Just a word to the wise, don’t read horror stories about campfire mishaps the night before you load up and head into the mountains with a toddler.
But she was really good, understanding the term “hot”. And so we left with no injuries, but lots of dirt and smoke. Ya know..pretty typical camping stuff…
Between the cold nights and frosty mornings, the fire became essential. And then the meals..we couldn’t resist breaking out the new Lodge Cast Iron Camp Stove. I mean, it weighed SOOO much..but I had no idea how much I would love it.
Cooking in the stove was so gratifying! It came “seasoned”..but I decided to add some flava myself. So I drizzled in a little Olive Oil from our pals at Olive Oil Divine in Johnson City, TN and it sizzled as it hit the bottom and immediately sent a wafting smell of yumminess in to the air. Their olive oil is truly divine!
The meal for the night was Cowboy Beans. I will tell you a secret and be transparent, I cheat on this recipe. OK..cheat is harsh, but I definitely put a semi-homemade twist on it. Full disclosure for my love of Bush’s Baked Beans, if there’s a bean out there better than Bush’s Brown Sugar and Baked Beans (made in Tennessee of course) I haven’t found it.
Of course, it wouldn’t be mine if I didn’t add a few things now would it? SO below is the recipe for all of ya. And to Brandye (my girl from way back) I think I knew I had a hit on my hands when everyone at your brother’s party fought over who finished the bowl.
COWBOY BEANS – MY TENNESSEE KITCHEN
- 2 Tablespoons of GOOD Olive Oil (see above)
- 1 pound Lean Ground Beef
- 1 Medium Red Onion Finely Diced
- 6-8 Sweet Peppers diced (equal to the amount of red onion)
- 2 – 16 oz Cans of Bush’s Original Brown Sugar and Bacon Baked Beans
- Barbecue Sauce to Taste (I always use Sweet Baby Ray’s!)
Heat your dutch oven/camp stove over med-high heat and add the olive oil. Brown the ground beef and add the onions and peppers and cook until soft. You’ll then add your baked beans and let it cook together for about 15-20 minutes until the peppers are softened. Add barbecue sauce to taste and mix.
I will traditionally let this cook a total of 30 minutes once it’s all mixed so that the flavors can really combine together. And if you want a little extra flavor, you may want to char the peppers before dicing and adding them. It really intensifies their sweetness and the char is delicious!
This recipe probably makes a double batch for a family of 4. But we use it as a side dish or sometimes I add a little jalapeno and serve it with cornbread in the winter for a main dish. On this particular camping trick it was a side to our crescent dough wrapped hot dogs cooked on the grill. Yep..my teen was even in the campfire cookin spirit as well.
There ya have it! Straight from my fire to yours. This weekend we’ve decided we’ll build a fire in our home fire pit and test out a few more. I tried to choose easy dishes so I could get used to the temps with the coals/fire.
It was really a lot of fun and I have to admit, I could be a camp stove junkie now! I’ve already promised the teen I’d create something for a sleepover for her friends this summer. Maybe all those camping pins on Pinterest will get used!
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