Saturday, October 31, 2009

Rebuild or retreat?

By Mike Anderson
Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:7-8).
One of the newest additions to the U.S. Naval fleet launched out on its maiden voyage two weeks ago. The U.S.S. New York, an amphibious transport dock ship, left Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding's yard in southeastern Louisiana for its official commissioning in New York in November.

While new naval vessels are built and commissioned on a regular basis, this one is different. What sets the U.S.S. New York apart is that 8 tons of steel salvaged from the wreckage of the World Trade Center towers was used in its construction. The ship was named to honor the victims of the terrorist attacks of eight years ago.

Following the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, about all that remained was mangled and twisted piles of structural steel. Those piles of misshapen metal became a symbol of weakness and vulnerability for our nation.

But now some of that same metal, re-forged and re-formed, becomes a symbol of strength and preparedness. Something useless became something useful. A painful reminder became a motivation for renewed effort.

It is possible that each of us may face times of devastation in our own lives -- times with the potential to leave us standing standing among the twisted wreckage, staring at smoldering piles that once were our personal hoped and dreams.

When such times come, we have a choice to make. We can allow the wreckage of life to become a monument that forever haunts us and reminds us of our defeats and failures or we can take remnants of the wreckage, re-forge them in the furnace of affliction, and use them to rebuild what Satan seeks to permanently destroy.

The time to make the choice is now, before difficult times come. In the heat of the moment, with tears of pain and grief clouding our vision, we may be tempted to give up.

So we must determine now, with God's help, to expose Satan for the terrorist he is and to refuse to allow him to defeat us. May we resolve to rebuild instead of retreat.

Mike preaches for the Placerville Church of Christ, which meets at 4120 Missouri Flat Road, Placerville, California, 95667. He also serves as one of the elders for the congregation.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Armed Forces Recipe Service link

I have repaired the link to the Armed Forces Recipe Service. It seems the U.S. Army plays with the URL every year or so.

The Army IT folks moved the file to a new folder that reflects the new Army food service organization. The organization is now called the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence.

The main AFRS link takes you to a searchable PDF file that's located on the U.S. Army Quartermaster School website.

If you prefer, you can download a ZIP file of the military recipe database. The link takes you to the food service publications page. Click on "Download Recipe Service" and follow the instructions to extract the file.

The Army food service publications webpage also includes a nutritional analysis of recipes in the AFRS.

The AFRS is also available on the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps websites at:
  • Marine Corps -- a PDF with a table of contents
  • Navy -- note that there's a problem with the Navy's security certificate

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Long lasting

I found this picture this morning while browsing through my collection of photographs from Deer Crossing Camp. This five-pound can of baking powder has been sitting in the kitchen since Sysco delivered it to the camp for the 1996 season.

What's amazing is that the can of baking powder had lot of staying power in it. I used it all summer and never had an issue with poorly leavened products.

Given a shelf life of three to six months, Deer Crossing Camp should purchase a new can each summer. While it's tempting to toss it and buy a new, much smaller can of baking powder, it should last another season or two.

At this rate, the Deer Crossing chef only has to purchase one large can of baking powder every 10 to 15 years!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

All wet

No one promised U.S. Navy culinary specialists that they'd stay dry! Life aboard a ship is an endless cycle of damage control drills, general quarters and working in the galley.

SOUTH CHINA SEA (Oct. 25, 2009) Culinary Specialist Seaman Dylan Smith, from St. Louis, Mo., and Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class Preston Rodgers, from Odessa, Texas, patch a ruptured pipe during a damage control Olympics event aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell (DDG 85). McCampbell is one of seven Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers assigned to Destroyer Squadron 15, and is permanently forward-deployed to Yokosuka, Japan.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Byron C. Linder.

Monday, October 26, 2009

What's a camp cook to do in his spare time?

"What's your weakness at a sale?" asked reporter Kathy Hay Khay. The Cornwall Standard Freeholder featured business owner Mike Logan on October 20 in the on-line article, "For Mike Logan, it's all about the food."

"The yard sale! Obviously," responded Logan, owner of Logan's Gallery & Gift Shop in Cornwall, Ontario, "I never buy art."

"Kitchen gadgets. How many spatulas do you have? I have 25."

Six hand-blenders and two Kitchen Aide mixers top the collection. Logan mixes paint with one of the hand-blenders.

His passion for collecting kitchen makes sense when you consider his earlier career in food. Logan managed a large delicatessen until 1990, when Logan turned his passion for wildlife photography and picture-framing into full time business.

Logan's passion for food (and kitchen gadgets) never left him. It seems to have started in August 1971, when "jumped ship" from camp counseling right into the kitchen at Camp Pioneer in eastern Ontario.

"The next year he was made the camp cook and went from preparing meals for 35 people his first day, to 250 by his last that summer," wrote Khay.

Logan's "passion for cooking caught up with him again in 2004." This time he came full circle and opened a tea room at the gallery.

My guess is that Logan put those blenders and Kitchen Aide mixers to work, making "eight-egg quiches and four-layer cakes."

"Kitchen stuff is nuts," said Logan in the interview. "It's crazy."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Don Mason's Dutch oven newsletter

Here's the latest edition of Don Mason's Dutch oven newsletter. Email Don to receive a copy electronically.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ugly drum smoker

It's always nice to put a name to a piece of equipment. Back when I worked at a large residential facility for the state, the kitchen staff enjoyed a picnic at Folsom Lake each June.

One of the sous chefs always brought his homemade vertical drum smoker to the park and smoked tri-tip. A package of six or seven Costco tri-tips fit inside the smoker. I'll post more of my experience with the smoker in a day or two.

I learned over the weekend that barbecue folks commonly call it an ugly drum smoker (or UDS). It may not be the best looking piece of barbecue equipment, but it produces some wonderful meat. (Here are instructions to build one from the California BBQ Association.)

In the photo, the meat was about 30 minutes from being pulled. The seven roasts took about three hours.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Livin' high on the hog at sea

About the time I savored smoked hog at Oinktoberfest, the culinary specialists of the USS Nimitz served roast pig to the crew.

INDIAN OCEAN (Oct. 13, 2009) -- Machinist's Mate Fireman Maria Cortez, right, waits for Culinary Specialist Seaman Apprentice Torrance Davis to serve her a slice of roasted pig during the 234th Navy Birthday celebration aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68). The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group is on a routine deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joseph H. Moon.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Where there's fire, smoke follows

There's more than one way to light a fire inside a smoker. John Chips, of Butte Creek BBQ, uses a built-in propane torch to light the fire inside the smokebox of his Gater Pit mobile smoker.

I took my family to the 2009 NorCal Bash & Oinktoberfest in Oroville, California last Saturday. A whole smoked pig that was smoked on site was the centerpiece of the event.

Leonard "Wagon Cook" Sanders organized the gathering for the California BBQ Association. Leonard is the chef-owner of Chuck Wagon BBQ Company in Oroville.

Smoked whole hog
The most important man of the event was Harry Stewart, owner of Great American Barbecue Co. in Alameda, California. "Harry took time out of his busy schedule to come up and smoke the pig and demonstrate technique," said Sanders on the CBBQA discussion forum.

After arriving around 10 p.m. Friday, Harry lightly seasoned the 65-pound pig with olive oil, dried thyme and black pepper. He didn't salt the pig because it draws out moisture and toughens the skin.

Sometime just before midnight, Harry stoked the fire and set the pig inside the smoker. Harry kept watch through the night, arising at two-hour intervals to check the temperature in the smoker.

"Manual pit with oven thermos to gauge temp, just like working on the railroad ...," explained Harry on the forum. His target was 225 to 250 degrees thoughout the night and morning.

Eighteen hours later, Harry rewarded event goers with the sweet, succulent flesh of a smoked hog. It's simplicity at its best, according to Harry.

"18 hours over Oak and charcoal, no injections just a simple rub and mop."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Smoked bacon log

Leonard Sanders smoked a bacon log for breakfast on Saturday, October 10 at the 2009 NorCal Bach & Oinktoberfest in Oroville. He weaved a pound of bacon (16 slices) together and cooked it until it was starting to crisp, but pliable enough to roll.

Next Sanders set a layer of deli ham over the bacon. He then topped it with a layer of shredded cheddar and jack cheeses. He smoked it inside his smoker after carefully rolling it.

Sanders said he didn't add a layer of ham the first he tried the log. Cheese oozed between the strips of bacon. In addition to adding a new flavor dimension, the ham prevented the melting cheese from escaping and making a big mess.

Once you've mastered the basic bacon log in a smoker or Dutch oven, try adding new ingredients. A third meat, like crumbled chorizo or sausage, will work, as will your favorite vegetables. Try adding sauteed onions, sweet or hot peppers and mushrooms on top of the ham.

Sanders also advised that you cook the bacon on top of a baking rack. This will let the grease drain from the bacon. (The picture doesn't show a rack because he forgot it Saturday.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Baking school

The quality of training for Navy cooks and bakers has improved in recent years. My ship mates and I would've welcomed training in the production of pate a choux dough from experienced culinary arts instructors.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (Sept. 4, 2009) -- Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Ganiu Jubrila shows strawberry and chocolate russe cakes made for the final exam of the Principles of Baking course at Tidewater Community College. Culinary specialists assigned to Naval Medical Center Portsmouth attending the culinary arts courses prepared desserts and puff pastry-encased meats, which were served to galley patrons.

Naval Medical Center Portsmouth culinary specialists prepared gourmet desserts during the final exam of a culinary arts course at Tidewater Community College.

U.S. Navy photos by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William R. Heimbuch.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Dinner's cookin'

Dinner's cookin'
Originally uploaded by SeabeeCook

Leonard's pot rack will hold up to 17 Dutch ovens when fully loaded. Here, the 24-hour coffee pot and three ovens hang over burning embers.

I took this picture a couple hours after the one posted yesterday. By 4 p.m., Leonard dropped the 16-inch Dutch oven with the chili verde to make room for my Dutch oven bread. The chili was done and only needed to stay warm.

Unlike the other pots, which only needed bottom heat, I added a large shovel of coals from the campfire to the lid. This provided even top and bottom heat to the bread oven.

Fifteen minutes later I dropped the bread oven to the ground and finished it with top heat only.

My basic Dutch oven bread recipe is posted here. It's written for the 14-inch deep Dutch oven.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Pot rack

Pot rack
Originally uploaded by SeabeeCook
As I noted Friday afternoon, I took my family to the 2009 NorCal Bash & Oinktoberfest in Oroville, California on Saturday. Upwards of 30 barbecue competitors, barbecue business owners and barbecue enthusiasts attended the three-day gathering.

Leonard "Wagon Cook" Sanders organized the gathering for the California BBQ Association. Sanders is the chef-owner of Chuck Wagon BBQ Company in Oroville.

Instead of driving iron rods into the earth and running a pole between them, Sanders suspends seven-foot sections of inch-and-a-quarter iron water pipe between "A" frames. He hangs coffee pots and Dutch ovens over the glowing coals of the cook fire.

Sanders constructed his irons in 7-foot sections so that he can tailor the length to the event. For Oinktoberfest, he set up two sections, but only used one section on Saturday. At other events, like the June 2001's Bash at the Ranch, Sanders used all three sections to feed 120 Navy veterans.

And with eight hooks to each section, Sanders can suspend up to 17 pots from the irons. He uses hooks that completely circle the cross-piece. He says the problem with "S" hooks is that they easily come off and fall into the fire.

Saturday afternoon, Leonard had the following pots working on the rack:
  • 24-hour pot of cowboy coffee for the overnight whole pig barbeque crew
  • Spotted pub rice pudding with raisins
  • Leonard's quick chili verde with leftover smoked tri-tip
  • Dutch oven bread fermenting in the pot to the right

Friday, October 09, 2009


I'm heading north to Oroville, California this afternoon for the 2009 NorCal Bash and Oinktoberfest. As the guest of Leonard "Wagon Cook" Sanders, chef and proprietor of the Chuck Wagon BBQ Company, my contribution will be limited to Dutch oven bread.

The event appears to be limited to members and guests of the California Barbecue Association.

When I talked to Leonard two hours ago, he was on his way to pick up a whole pig in Yuba City. That should make for mighty fine tastin' barbecue tomorrow for dinner.

Potluck sign-ups feature assorted local BBQ Sauces, a North Carolina vinegar sauce, Dutch oven cowboy potatoes with "various pork," smoked cabbage and Grandma's All American potato salad. The one dessert listed is sweet potato pecan bread pudding with Southern Comfort sauce. I'm sure there'll be much more food.

I learned of the event last weekend when Leonard posted a Oinktoberfest photograph on his Facebook site. I jokingly commented, "Will work for free pig ..." Leonard shot back two hours later:
Steve Karoly: If you would like to come to Oroville this Saturday with one single Dutch oven and make one loaf of bread like you made 6-1/2 years ago for my 50th birthday, we will feed you and your family all the pork that you can eat.
Not one to pass up free pork, my "one" 14-inch deep Dutch oven is packed in the truck with flour, yeast and fixin's for my basic Dutch oven bread. Since I can't pass up an opportunity to cook, I also loaded an extra 14-inch Dutch oven and 17-inch skillet.

Notebook and camera are packed as well. I'll report back with pictures and my thoughts on the pig fest during the week. This should be some seriously good eats.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

New reader ... sort of

One of the joys of writing a blog is that you occasionally meet one of your readers. Most find 'Round the Chuckbox through web searches or word-of-mouth as I don't expend a lot of effort marketing the blog.

Occasional Dutch oven cook Matt Allen (pictured, left) first found the blog some two years ago during a Google search for camping recipes. Matt enjoys baking sheepherder's bread and apple crisp in his Dutch ovens while camping.

However, Matt and I didn't meet in a culinary context as you might expect. He quickly jumped to the the El Dorado Western Railway blog. As a railroad enthusiast, he's followed the crew's effort to restore the Diamond and Caldor No. 4 Shay locomotive for the past two years.

We finally met Saturday at the engine house, where Matt quickly found a place as the railway pipefitter. He's agreed to evaluate and design the piping for the airbrake system for the Diamond and Caldor Railnus No. 10 at the El Dorado County Historical Museum.

Maybe Matt will agree to assist me next time I cook for the crew.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Call for the oven man

My culinary skills were put to work for the first time since joining the El Dorado Western Railway. Although my occasional meals please its volunteers, they're a side benefit. Demonstration railroads don't need a cook to renovate locomotives and rolling stock.

I was asked to check a standard home oven at the engine house last Saturday. Machinist Sam Thompson wanted to use the oven to pre-heat three cast iron valves for the Diamond and Caldor No. 4 Shay locomotive.

At about 9 a.m., I watched welder Harold Tilton wheel the oven into the engine house on a hand truck. He planned to plug it into the shop's 240-volt receptacle, which is normally used to power the electric arc welder.

Other than a mental note, the fact that Harold was moving the oven didn't register in my brain. Acquired several years ago, the oven hadn't been used to date. I have often though that it could be become the centerpiece of a shop kitchen.

"I had just sat down to preview photographs of the morning's activities when I heard my name.

Where's the oven man?" called Harold. "We need the cook."

I walked into the engine house and looked at the oven, which was set up in the narrow isle between the 39-ton locomotive and a tool cabinet.

"All I can do is to play with the dial." I explained to Harold that my next move has always been to call the kitchen maintenance man in to repair the problem.

As I walked up to the oven, I saw Bill Rodgers, the railway "kitchen maintenance" man, at work. Once we determined that the oven had no power, Bill quickly assessed that the wrong receptacle was connected to the 240-volt power supply.

Bill is our millwright, a jack-of-all-trades shop maintenance man. We've come to depend on his capability to repair almost any piece of shop equipment, including older General Electric electric ovens.

Once Bill repaired the oven, I asked Sam (pictured above, watching Bill repair the receptacle) what he planned to "cook" in the oven.

"As you know," explained Sam, cast iron cracks when intense, local heat is applied to the cold metal. Instead, Sam set the cold valves inside a cold oven. He then turned the oven dial to about 250 degrees.

Once hot, Harold removed each valve one-by-one and braized a layer of brass on each side of the valve. Sam will later machine the valves to the proper specification.

I may use the oven as long as Sam doesn't intend on cooking toxic compounds inside it. The oven and rangetop will come in handy this winter during inclement weather.

There's no reason we can't mix some harmless metallurgy with a bit of precision bread baking in the engine house.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Ann's chili

Ann graciously shared her chili recipe with me.

"Um, well, mine's pretty simple," said Ann. "I've developed this recipe over the years to suit my taste, and I got some of the ingredients from my sister. I've gotten pretty consistent with it."


Substitute 2 extra large cans of cooked pinto beans if you're in a hurry. Rotel brand diced tomatoes and green chilies add a little kick to the chili. You find them at Wal-Mart on the tomato sauce aisle, according to Ann.

The quantity of chili powder depends its quality and strength. "A good brand will be stronger than the cheap ones," said Ann. "I would say 6 tablespoons is the bare minimum for this big a pot." Use more if you want spicy chili.

1 pound dried pinto beans, soaked overnight and cooked for two hours with a couple of slices of bacon or salt pork
2 pounds ground beef, browned and drained
1 large onion, chopped
2 cans black beans
2 cans dark red kidney beans
1 large can of Rotel tomatoes and green chilies
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons mustard
2 teaspoons salt
1-2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2-1 teaspoons ground cumin
6(+) tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoons cayenne pepper (optional)

Dump it all together in a big stew pot. You can put it in a crockpot overnight, but you'd have to cut the recipe a little. Simmer it on a LOW setting for about 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

Makes 10-12 bowls (I like leftovers!).

Farewell to a Bosie summer

Close friends Frank and Ann Sexton moved to Boise almost three and one-half years ago. This gave Frank an opportunity to climb into management in the construction industry and move his family far away from the California rat race.

Ann began writing a weekly email letter to friends and family a month before their June 2006 move. She purposed in her opening letter to "keep in touch with the people I care about the most" and to motivate herself to write.

"It seems ridiculous that a woman who wants to be a writer can't make the time to write to the people she loves!" expressed Ann.

With over 120 letters to her credit, Ann's letter writing "campaign" has paid off. She graciously allowed me to share yesterday's letter, written on the heal of a Bosie summer that faded weeks ago.

Farewell to a Bosie summer

By Ann Sexton

October is no longer around the corner, fall is definitely come to roost for a while around here. It was rainy and cold last night and this morning I haven't so much as ventured a toe out the door yet.

It's 8:04 and still barely light, which means it's cloudy at the very least. The days grow shorter, even before the time change, and suddenly hot soup and a warm snugly afghan sound awfully good to me.

For the first time in many years (probably since childhood), I regret summer abandoning me. Usually I can't wait for it to scamper off and leave in its wake falling leaves and cold wind. I don't know, this year is different.

I enjoyed the summer so much, between my projects and walking every morning in the cool new air of a summer morning. I'm going to miss it.

I'm dreading the bad weather because that will make it much more difficult to get myself out the door for a walk ... yep, it's going to be a long winter. (I'm beginning to understand much better why Frank doesn't care for winter ... since he HAS to be out in it daily.)

Barely October and I'm already feeling hibernation mode kicking in ... stay home, stay in, eat, sleep more, snuggle. I will have to fight those urges if I'm going to continue my quest to get "fitter."

And I AM determined to keep on ... NOT give in, just because it's autumn. But still, I'm making a big pot of chili for lunch!

Friday, October 02, 2009

New Dutch oven cookoff in Colusa, Calif.

This looks like a fun cookoff and will benefit a great cause. And there's no charge to cook!

Don Mason