Monday, June 30, 2008

Camp 2008 -- Creamy zucchini basil soup

Even when midday temperatures reach the high 70s, I like to serve soup for lunch. It gives the campers and staff an alternative to the normal lunch fare.

This is the first year that I prepared zucchini soup with fresh basil. It's a nice in-season summer soup. You can serve it when zucchini is at its peak in the supermarket.

To puree the soup, you'll need a medium to large immersion blender. I used the camp's home-sized blender to puree the soup. It took about five batches, but worked as well. Just remember the immersion blender is a lot safer as there's less chance you'll to burn yourself from a blender explosion.

This recipe comes from the May 2008 issue of Sunset Magazine.

This picture shows the soup just after I placed the zucchini and onion in the stockpot.


Use extra sour cream (or crème fraîche) and basil leaves for garnish.

1/4 cup olive oil
2 pounds onions -- chopped
8 pounds zucchini slices
3 cups fresh basil leaves
3-1/2 quarts chicken stock
1/2 cup sour cream or crème fraîche
1 teaspoon chili powder

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add zucchini and cook another 2 minutes. Add chicken broth and basil leaves. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook 20 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, puree until smooth (or puree in a blender and return mixture to pot). Strain if desired. Add sour cream and chili powder and stir to incorporate. Season with salt to taste.

Portion into bowls and garnish (if desired) with some sour cream or crème fraîche, a sprinkle of chili powder and a few basil leaves. Makes 6-1/2 quarts or 24 (6-ounce) servings.

Camp 2008 -- Chicken tender sandwich with tomato-basil sauce

The first meal went off with few problems last night. Since I've written about the meal for the past few years, I won't discuss the meal in detail. Click the blogs about the opening night meal for 2005, 2006 or 2007.

I tried something different with the chicken tenders this year. Instead of serving the baked tenders with barbecue sauce on the side, I made two sandwiches using steak rolls from Smart and Final.

The first was served with barbecue sauce. To improve the sandwich, you can serve it with sliced tomatoes, onion and lettuce. About two-thirds of the campers took the sandwich with barbecue sauce.

I introduced a simple tomato-basil sauce with sauteed red and green bell papers. The sweet peppers adds a lively fruity element to the sauce. About 32 of the 135 campers took the sandwich. We'll definitely serve it next year.


Bake the chicken tenders in a convection oven until the breading is crisp and brown. This adds a crunchy element to the sandwich. Substitute a sauteed chicken breat if desired.

1/4 cup olive oil
2 large red onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 large red bell peppers, sliced
2 large green bell peppers, sliced
2 (28-ounce) cans chopped plum tomatoes in puree
2 bunches fresh basil
6-1/4 pounds chicken tenders
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
25 French or Italian rolls

Heat olive oil in a saucepan and saute onion and garlic until translucent, being careful not to burn. Stir in sliced peppers and gently cook until softened. Stir in tomatoes and basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer gently to blend flavors. Makes 2 quarts sauce.

Place pre-cooked chicken fillets on sheets pans. Using a convection oven, bake 12 to 14 minutes or until thoroughly heated in a 375-degree F. convection oven on high fan.
Briefly warm French rolls.

To build each sandwich, split open one roll. Set 2 tenders (about 4 ounces) on the bottom piece and spoon 1/4-cup sauce over chicken. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons Parmesan cheese over sauce and close sandwich. Make 25 sandwiches.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Camp 2008 -- Pre-chill tuna salad

Place canned tuna fish in the walk-in to jump start chilling. Even though my salad cook won't make tuna salad for sandwiches until Monday morning, I placed the three cans in the walk-in this afternoon. Pre-chilling canned salad ingredients helps you stay ahead of the food safety game. Pre-chilling the mayonnaise, tuna and pickle relish helps us ensure the tuna salad will quickly chill to 41 degrees or lower.

Camp 2008 -- Quiet Saturday night

We had a quiet Saturday evening at Daybreak Camp last night. In past years, most of the counselors (and their camper-children) came to camp for training Saturday afternoon. It was an evening full of camaraderie, fellowship and activity.

As a cost-cutting measure, the director decided to forgo the meeting. Instead, he conducted counselor training in several private homes in May and June. This works because most campers and staff live somewhere between the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento.

The result is a significant savings. Since we pay Daybreak Camp a set per person per night rate, the director will be able to use those funds elsewhere. The money may help provide another scholarship for a camper.

But the decision has a human cost -- at least for those who spent Saturday night at camp. The director and registrar both came and returned to their homes after working on last-minute cabin assignments, the budget and setting up for registration today.

I miss the companionship we've had each year with the kitchen staff and counselors. It's been a time to catch up on friendships, conduct food safety training and eat Round Table pizza. More than the food (after all, take-out pizza is take-out pizza) our pre-camp meeting was the best night of the week.

Camp was too quiet last night. Constant chatter from our four-year-old granddaughter did little to fill the void. After dinner on the Santa Cruz wharf, we returned to an empty camp. It was an out of place feeling.

By this afternoon the camp will fill with the sounds of campers running on the lawn and jumping over the gopher holes. The registration tables will be a mass of organized chaos as parents drop their children off. Haggling over t-shirt sizes, color of the camp bandanna and cabin assignments will be the norm.

Compared to the peaceful tranquility at Daybreak this morning, campers and staff will ramp up the decibel level. As the cool coastal air of morning turns to the midday heat of the Coast Range, you'll know that the 2008 Northern California FC Camp is in session.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Camp 2008 -- Goal #1: Reduce leftovers

The first goal is to reduce the volume of leftovers we serve on Saturday.

Although breakfast on Saturday is an impressive meal, it's too much food for our last meal. Most of the leftovers at tossed or packaged for home use by the cooks.

It's hard to convince 90 to 120 campers to eat all the camp's leftovers when they were up half the night eating pizza (a treat of the counselors). Home is all that's on their mind at this point in the week. Plus, many have planned off-camp gatherings at local fast food restaurants.

Since the camp's inaugural year in 2002, I've used creative ways to use camp leftovers. Repackaging has worked for some (see Thomas Jefferson frittata). I've billed Thursday as "Catch Up Day" on the menu for about three years.

Although it may be a challenge because registration numbers are down this year, my goal is to closely monitor the amount of food we prepare for each meal. For many meals I've purchased one or two cases or boxes less than last year. I'd rather cook less food than to be faced with excessive leftovers.

Unfortunately, registration numbers will likely come at about 5 to 10 campers less than the director's planning number. I may have too much food even though I trimmed my Sysco purchase by 20 or more cases. Time will tell.

To accomplish this goal, I plan to watch my instructions closely on the food production worksheet. I'll have more to say about this process in goal number 3.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Through the eyes of a cook

This photo is credited to a US Navy cook ...

GULF OF OMAN (June 20, 2008) -- The visit, board, search and seizure team assigned to the guided-missile destroyer USS Shoup (DDG 86) conducts a boarding of the dhow Sitara. Shoup is operating as part of Coalition Task Force 150 conducting anti-smuggling and maritime security operations in the Gulf of Oman.

U.S. Navy photo by Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Edward St. Pierre.

Camp 2008 -- Setting goals for camp

Each year I head to camp with several goals to improve the kitchen operation. Some are aimed at correcting problems from the prior year. Other goals target the efficient operation of the kitchen.

Although tempting, I've learned that I couldn’t develop an effective culinary operation in one year. Instead of tackling all issues in a single season, I limit my focus to two or three issues each year. This works well for my team when you remember that we only meet one week each year.
    An early goal was to train my cooks to competent in the use of commercial kitchen equipment, like the six-foot griddle at Daybreak Camp.

    In the early years, my goals served a more immediate need. I had to write a menu that would survive year-to-year, recruit and train a volunteer team, and set administrative systems (record keeping, inventory, cost control, for instance) in place to effectively manage the kitchen.

    Once these basic systems functioned as intended, I was able to turn my attention to the second tier – things that helped "kick" my operation up to the next level.

    I spend the 2005 season recording detailed notes on each recipe. Even though I used quantity recipes from the beginning, I neglected to note many important aspects of a good recipe.

    I wanted to improve my recipes and make more that a list of ingredients and the basic preparation methodology. To do that I needed to note the quantity that fit into the cooking pans (whether a sheet pan, hotel pan or Dutch oven). And I worked on other aspects of a quality recipe, like noting acceptability factors, developing variations and

    The motivation behind these goals is a mixture of self-improvement and crew motivation. Even while I'm working on self-discipline and improving my skills as a camp chef, I've used goals to raise awareness among the kitchen crew.

    It may be a simple as teaching food and energy conservation to the cooks. More complex issues, like how to plan a meal, also come up. The latter aspect of running a camp kitchen is important. Meal preparation is never as simple as cooking one portion per camper. The chef must consider the complexities of weather, camp activities and age-mix of campers when planning the menu.

    I have three goals in mind for the 2008 season at the Northern California FC Camp. They are:
    1. Reduce the quantity of leftovers that we serve at our closing meal
    2. Keep end-of-camp donations below five percent of total food purchases
    3. Watch food purchases closely due to a reduction in the number of campers
    I'll discuss these goals in the next two or three days. Stay tuned ...

    Saturday, June 21, 2008

    Dawson helispot

    Dawson Helispot
    Originally uploaded by SeabeeCook
    This one of those rare instances where I had a chance to record some helicopter action around my home. As I drove south on Missouri Flat Road Thursday evening, I saw Diamond Springs Engine 46 (from the Town of El Dorado) blocking the driveway to Dawson Oil's fuel facility at Missouri Flat and Pleasant Valley roads.

    I dashed home, grabbed my camera and returned five minutes later.

    In the photo, firefighter-medics from Diamond Springs Engine 49 and El Dorado County Medic 26 prepare to transfer the patient from the gurney to the helicopter stretcher as the REACH air ambulance stands ready to lift off.

    During the transfer, the pilot sat in the right seat with the rotor blades spinning. Two REACH air medics assisted with the transfer.

    Medic 26 transported the patient from the accident site at Mother Lode and Pleasant Valley roads the helispot. Diamond Springs Engines 46 and 49 supplied personnel to control the helispot and assist with patient transfer.

    Since Diamond Springs Assistant Chief 8101 was on site, I assume he directed the transfer.

    Onion relish

    I saw this recipe on the Food Management website earlier in the week. It came to the on-line trade journal for non-commercial chefs from the National Onion Association.

    Use the filler for my roast beef sandwich, as a salad topper or as a savory replacement for salsa.


    2 pounds onions, cut into narrow wedges
    1-1/2 pounds green, red and yellow bell peppers, julienne
    1/2 cup Italian salad dressing
    1-1/2 cups fresh basil, chopped
    1 tablespoon coarse ground black pepper

    Toss onions and peppers with dressing, basil and pepper. Marinate in refrigerator 12 hours or overnight. Makes enough relish for 24 sandwiches.

    Thursday, June 19, 2008

    15TH MEU 'mess men' run a clean operation aboard USS Peleliu

    By Lance Cpl. Tim Parish, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit Public Affairs

    USS PELELIU, At Sea (NNS) (6/16/2008) -- The mess decks aboard the USS Peleliu (LHA 5), open 24- hours a day, serve four meals a day without fail.

    The Marines and Sailors of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, dependant on the services in the mess decks, often overlook their fellow shipmates who enable the smooth flow of traffic through the chow lines on a continuous basis.

    'Mess Duty,' infamous for long hours and thankless in its responsibility, is known to most junior Marines and Sailors as a 30-day lesson on the laborious side of ship life.

    The up-side, according to Staff Sgt. Javier Hernandez, the mess chief for Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 15th MEU, is having a direct impact on the welfare of the Marines and Sailors aboard Peleliu by preparing and serving hearty, nutritious meals to fuel the continuous operations aboard ship.

    "[Mess duty is] not just about cleaning pots and pans," said Hernandez. "A lot of it is to maintain a very high standard of hygiene and sanitation.

    "An aircraft doesn't always have to fly, a Marine doesn't always have to go onto land to complete a mission and vehicles don't always have to roll out, but every single person on this ship will always eat. This mess deck will not shut down for any reason."

    Hernandez explained that in addition to providing sustenance, four squares a day with cold drinks and desserts, the Marines and Sailors serving on the mess decks of the Peleliu strive to create a welcome atmosphere and morale raising spirit.

    "We want everyone to be here together, I think it's good for morale," said Hernandez. "Food service is a morale booster on ship."

    "You know that one Marine who is working a long shift day, and he say's you know what 'I want to eat something that's hot, something that's going to give me nourishment,' and it might be that day with an ice cream social. They come in and say 'Wow, that's exactly what I wanted'," continued Hernandez, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y.

    The combined mess decks, one for enlisted Marines and Sailors E-6 and below, another for enlisted Marines and Sailors E-7 and above, one for officers and one for senior officers, prepare and serve about 2,400 trays per meal every day.

    On average, the Marines and Sailors of Peleliu consume over 1,000 pounds of meat or poultry during every meal and almost a ton of fruit and vegetables a day, according to Culinary Specialist 1st Class (SW) Martin M. Malana.

    "On this mess deck alone we serve at least 1,200 pounds of chicken for one meal," said Malana. "As far as beef, we break out, for one meal, at least 1,000 pounds, and for turkey we break out at 1,100 to 1,200 pounds.

    "For potatoes we use approximately 400-500 pounds a day. For fruits we usually break out a pallet to a pallet and a half a day, or about 1,800 pounds put together. We're putting it out 24-hours a day while underway."

    Malana also noted the quantities of food aside, the importance of a reliable food-service section aboard Peleliu is the hand-in-hand partnership between Marines and Sailors who serve daily on the mess deck.

    "In regards to the Sailors and the Marines, they're working as a team. They begin to appreciate people who they are not really exposed to, how they deal with their superiors."

    "Blending in both the Marines and the Navy, it gives them the opportunity, on both sides, to see each others work ethics. It's a matter of coordination."

    Mess duty, generally assigned to junior Marines of all the major subordinate elements of the 15th MEU, lasts for 30 12-hour days. The work does not stop when the sun goes down, however, as a second crew of mess men work through the night in preparation for the following day.

    Some duties of the night workers include cleaning and stocking as well as preparation of foods for the day crew, according to Cpl. Lazaro Hernandez, food service specialist, BLT 2/5, a night crew cook aboard Peleliu.

    The work at night helps facilitate the smooth operations during the first meal of the day and less work for the day crew in preparation of daytime meals swamped by the majority of those aboard.

    "Usually we help them [the day crew] with whatever they have to do during the day," said Hernandez. "I, as a baker, help them with whatever they are going to serve for lunch or dinner.

    "Every night we make bread, pastries and cakes - about five or six thousand portions."

    The night crew also takes care of the night workers of different sections throughout the ship with mid-rats, the first meal of the day for night owls, explained Hernandez.

    Collateral duties involved in the success of the mess decks include the bake-shop, where the ship's bread and desserts are created from scratch, and the scullery where Marines and Sailors wash and sanitize trays and utensils for use on the mess-decks.

    "Mess men help out the cooks by cleaning and helping with the food," said Hernandez. "It's a lot of work. There are about 2,000 people on ship, maybe more."

    "We don't have enough cooks. We have a lot of food going in and out and we have to move food around and we can't do that by ourselves, we have to have help."

    The Camp Pendleton, Calif.-based 15th MEU is comprised of approximately 2,200 Marines and Sailors and is a forward deployed force of readiness capable of conducting numerous operations, such as non-combatant evacuation operations, humanitarian assistance operations and a wide range of amphibious missions.

    The 15th MEU is currently deployed aboard Peleliu, USS Dubuque (LPD 8) and USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52).

    Tuesday, June 17, 2008

    Chili verde addendum

    I cooked my chili verde and Mexican rice pilaf last night for a potluck at work. Today was retirement for my manager, whom I've worked for over the past two and one-half years.

    While packaging the chili for transport to Sacramento, I discovered an error in my original serving calculation, where I said the chili recipe fed 20. It will, but only if you serve smaller portions.

    For many recipes, volume is the best indicator of yield in the number of services. The recipe yield is about 3 quarts, or 12 to 16 servings. You'll get 12 servings if you dish with an 8-ounce ladle and 16 with a 6-ounce ladle.

    "Man, that chili rocks," said one of the managers. Leftovers are chilling in the break room refrigerator. We're having a green chili fest tomorrow.

    Sorry about the fuzzy picture ...

    Sunday, June 15, 2008

    Roast beef sandwiches

    Each year I think of cooking a large Dutch oven lunch for the crew at the El Dorado County Fair. Instead, I opt to run out to the Union Mine High School's hamburger concession for lunch. The burger, french fries and iced tea are refreshing, and it gives me a chance to support a local school.

    While I never tire of a well-prepared hamburger, fair food doesn't really thrill me. It's expensive, even at the non-profit concession stands. And fair food lacks any real interest to me at all.

    This year I knew bringing a lot of cast iron into the museum was out of the question. Limited parking, transportation issues and the need to assist the railroad crew make cooking at the fair an impractical proposition.

    My solution was to cook for the crew of the El Dorado Western Railway at home. Given the hot weather (the thermometer topped 93 degrees in Placerville), I thought the crew would enjoy a menu of roast beef sandwiches, potato salad and fresh vegetable would.

    With a little planning, you can prepare this meal at home over one or two days and transport it to your project site. This gives you the opportunity to help with the work of the project. On-site meal assembly should take about 30 minutes for a crew of a dozen or so.


    I used two small tri-tip roasts for this recipe. To roast, place two seasoned tri-tip roasts (about 2 pounds each) in a 350-degree oven. Roast until the internal temperature reaches 130 degrees. Remove from oven, rest and cool completely before slicing for sandwiches. Allow for about 25 percent loss then roasting the tri-tip.

    3 pounds freshly sliced rare roast beef
    24 slices crusty sourdough bread (24 slices)
    1-1/2 cups horseradish sauce (recipe follows)
    4 medium tomatoes, sliced thin
    2 cups marinated red onion (recipe follows)
    2-1/2 ounces fresh baby arugula (about 3 cups loosely packed)

    When feeding a crew on an off-site project, roast tri-tip or top round beef roast two days prior. Prepare horseradish sauce, slice and marinate red onions and slice tomatoes the evening before lunch. Assemble the sandwiches that same evening or on-site (as I did) as desired. Pack the meal in an ice cooler for safe transport to the project site.

    To assemble each sandwich: Evenly spread 1 tablespoon horseradish sauce on 2 slices of bread. Layer 3 or 4 slices roast beef (about 4 ounces) on the bottom bread. Top with 3 tomato slices, 2 tablespoons marinated onions and 1/4-cup arugula. Sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper if desired. Cover with bread and slice sandwich in half.

    Makes 12 sandwiches. Serve with a zesty potato salad made with a herb and red wine vinegarette and a fresh vegetable tray.


    Use the onions as condiment for roast beef sandwiches, topping for a dinner salad or plate garnish for holiday turkey.

    2 medium red onion, sliced thin
    2 tablespoons kosher salt
    3/4 cup red wine vinegar

    In a small bowl, mix together the onion and kosher salt. Brine the onions for 20 minutes. Rinse with cold running water, drain and squeeze to remove excess liquid. Combine onions and vinegar and marinate overnight in the refrigerator.


    I find the 2 ounces prepared horseradish for each cup of the finished sauce is just right. The flavor comes through with overpowering your diners. This recipe makes enough for 12 or more sandwiches. Save any leftover sauce for other uses.

    3/4 cup mayonnaise
    1 cup light sour cream
    4 ounces prepared horseradish
    pinch kosher salt
    pinch white pepper

    Whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream, horseradish, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Refrigerate until needed.

    To prepare mustard horseradish sauce: reduce sour cream to 3/4-cup and add 1-1/2 to 2 tablespoons each Dijon-style and whole-grain mustard. Continue with recipe.

    Friday, June 13, 2008

    More like "haze grey and underway" chefs ...

    In-house competitions are fun, and they're a great morale booster for the cooks and crew ...

    PACIFIC OCEAN (June 9, 2008) Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Joseph Fidler, a chef assigned to the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), and Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Joshua Murphy, a chef assigned to the "Stingers" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 113, cut their cakes for judges during an "Iron Chef" styled baking competition.

    U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joshua Scott.

    Wednesday, June 11, 2008

    15 Coloma St.
    Phone 156
    Try our Southern Fried Chicken
    on full course dinner, $2.00
    Chicken in a basket with french
    fries, honey and hot rolls
    unequaled, $1.35
    Prime Ribs of Beef, au jus, with
    full dinner, $1.75
    Variety of menu with home made
    pastry and hot rolls, reasonable
    Hours: Sunday 12:30 to 8:30 p.m.
    Daily, 4:30 to 8:30 p.m.
    Closed Fri. and Sat.

    From an advertisement in the Mountain Democrat, April 6, 1950, page 8.

    Tuesday, June 10, 2008

    Bean pot

    Bean pot
    Originally uploaded by SeabeeCook
    Another old bean pot warms in the morning sun at the El Dorado County Historical Museum in Placerville, California. This pot has weathered the years in the museum yard and is in good condition.

    Careful rust removal and high temperature re-seasoning should give you an usage cast iron pot. You should be able to pass it on to your grandchildren.

    This and many other surplus items will be sold at a museum yard sale in August. I'll post the date of the sale as soon as it's made public.

    Saturday, June 07, 2008

    If there's a hole in the bean pot ...

    The picture of the rusting bean pot reminds me pot of beans cookin' over a campfire.

    Today, the bean pot warms in the morning sun at the El Dorado County Historical Museum in Placerville, California, never to be used again. It won't hold any more beans.

    I looked for missing piece this morning at the museum, but couldn't find it. I'd be a nice pot if you could weld the broken piece back onto the pot.

    A flower pot is about the only use you'll get out it now.

    This pot and many other surplus items will be sold at a museum yard sale in August. I'll post more information on the sale when it's released.

    Friday, June 06, 2008

    One man's hot dish is another man's hotdish

    A hot dish to me is one that's served hot, not cold. It's the generic term for any hot item. Thinking back, I can't really think of any specific application in my culinary vocabulary.

    But a discussion thread on the IDOS Forum on casseroles changed how my brain processes the term when I hear it.

    "I was wondering anybody had ever made a casserole the 7 qt. dutchie? Should I line it with parchment paper?" came Jen's query at about 5 a.m. Monday morning.

    The first three members who responded focused on the use of parchment paper to line a Dutch oven when baking a casserole. "I can't imagine parchment helping much with a casserole," said Benjammin.

    Then the thread took a turn just before 9 a.m.

    "I've done Tater-Tot Hotdish right in the oven with no liner and I think it really added nicely to the seasoning of the pot," interjected Tim, a Dutch oven cook from the Twin Cities area of Minnesota.

    Within five minutes Ranes of Lehi, Utah, came on board. Is Tim's recipe posted in the Internet, asked Ranes. He had just cooked mountain man breakfast in six Dutch ovens over the weekend. Diners favored the breakfasts made with Tater Tots over hash browns.

    I can't really say that the topic "exploded," but it certainly changed direction. Enthusiasm for Tater Top hotdish had captured the eye of the Dutch oven folks from the upper Midwest.

    After a quiet six or seven hours, Fant, from Rochester, Minn., posted this definition of hotdish:
    A hot-dish is just about any casserole you can think of, made in MN, with Tater-tots added on top. It is basically a local MN (and maybe other parts of the Midwest) creation. Go figure.
    "The recipe for TaterTot Hotdish can be found in any Lutheran church-lady cookbook worth it's weight in Lefse ...," added Tim later that evening. (Wikipedia says Lefse is a "traditional Norwegian flat bread made of potato, milk and flour.)

    I understood once I saw Tim's explanation of the basic hotdish recipe and realized that I'd made many hotdishes over the years, just without the obligatory Tater Tots.

    I'm a proponent the use of canned condensed cream soup as a binder and sauce in casseroles. My favorite is cream of mushroom. My mother often used cream of celery or chicken in her hamburger stroganoff.

    These soups work wonders in quick casserole dishes. Even Campbell's newer line of low-sodium, low-fat soups work well in casseroles.

    To make true Midwestern hotdish, brown ground beef and drain. Add chopped onions, your favorite canned condensed cream soup and some Tater Tots. Pour the mixture into a lightly oiled casserole dish or Dutch oven. Top with a layer Tater Tots and shredded cheese. Bake at 350 degrees F. until bubbling and cooked through.

    The topic had exhausted itself by late Monday evening. I suspect many hotdishes were served in Dutch oven homes throughout the country Tuesday night.

    Next time hotdish is used in my presence, I'll think of a dish that's certainly hot. But my mind will drift to a filling casserole made with canned cream of mushroom soup.

    Of course, I'll dig in.

    "Oh yea, I forgot the other defining ingredient in 'hot-dish,' cream of mushroom soup. That's it, anything you want, plus tater-tots and cream of mushroom soup," said Fant.

    Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

    USS Normandy holds Asia-American heritage month luau

    To Elizabeth: Here's another whole pig on a ship story (well, sort-of) ...

    By USS Normandy Public Affairs

    NORFOLK (NNS) (6/3/2008) -- Cultural presentations combined with leis, hula skirts and a roasted pig highlighted a fun-filled Asian-Heritage Month Luau aboard USS Normandy (CG 60) May 29.

    The featured speakers educated the crew on the history of Guam and the role Filipinos have played in the U.S. Navy; there was also a poem from a Sailor of Asian-American heritage that tried to capture the unique spirit of Asian-Americans.

    After the presentations, the crew dined on specially made Asia-American food that brought out the spices and flavors of the region in a number of dishes.

    "Something like this allows the crew to interact with different cultures in a fun way," said Chief Personnel Specialist (SW) Brijin C. Gaines, multi-cultural committee chair. "It also brings out diversity. It was obvious the crew enjoyed themselves while also learning something."

    A native of Guam, from Chamorro lineage, recounted the history of the island when Japanese took over during World War II. John B. Cruz, the guest speaker, relayed accounts from his mother, who wrote a book on the subject. The purpose of his focus on this period in Guam was to show how global circumstances affect people in different parts of the world.

    "The hardships that my mother endured were unique to the culture but at the same time shared by other countries that were held under Japanese rule," said Cruz, who retired from the U.S. Air Force as a staff sergeant and currently works for the service as a Department of Defense civilian. "I think it just puts in perspective the uniqueness and oneness of our cultural identities. I think it is important to celebrate that uniqueness, as the ship is doing today, while also being appreciative of the similarities we share."

    Chief Culinary Specialist (SW/AW) Fernando F. Fetalvero spoke about the role Filipinos have played in the Navy. He talked about how the Filipinos, when they first were let into the service, were only allowed to be stewards, people that served and cleaned for the officers. But with time, Filipinos were allowed to go into technical ratings – and have really excelled in the wide variety of naval career fields.

    "It was a privilege to be able to share with the crew," said Fetalvero, who joined in Subic Bay in 1990. "I am very proud of my heritage and just as proud to be serving in the U.S. Navy. I now hope the crew learned more about Filipinos like me. "

    On a perfectly sunny day, with music playing, the crew ate on the flight deck and made the most of the event. "It was a lot of fun and a good chance for us to show appreciation for the diversity in the Navy," said Operations Specialist Seaman Kendrick D. Killins.

    Wednesday, June 04, 2008

    Howdy From Cee Dub & Pen

    Howdy from Cee Dub & Pen:

    A lot has been happening, and there have been some changes around here since Pen and I arrived back home from our Northwest Tour in mid-March! We no sooner got the truck and trailer unpacked and it was time to pack up to teach our springtime clinics. 2008 marks the eleventh year we've been teaching Dutch oven clinics. In addition to the two-day clinics we've been teaching in years past, we held our first ever five day “Ranch Clinic.” It was a great success and we plan to hold more such clinics in the future. At the end of this newsletter we've included comments from folks that participated.

    Anyway ... more about what's been happening! Every once in awhile we would get comments or emails about clips of Cee Dub's TV shows being on the E! Entertainment Channel on a program called, "The Soup." Well, one day recently I got a call from one of the producers of the show, and was invited to fly out to LA to film a piece for an upcoming special. I flew out last week and had a fun time. The show we taped will be aired sometime in early July. I guess they enjoy not only the food, but also the down-home stories I sometimes tell on the TV shows.


    Cee Dub's Books On CD & A Just Scheduled Mid-Summer Clinic

    In a newsletter last fall, I mentioned a joint project we were undertaking with DVO Enterprises, of Alpine, Utah. Besides being just a little flattered, we were very excited when they approached us with the idea of putting our first two cookbooks on CDs in their entirety, and making all the recipes from both cookbooks available as an Internet download.

    One look at the number of their titles including The Betty Crocker Cookbook convinced both Pen and me it was a project that would benefit anyone interested in Dutch oven and outdoor cooking. With over a million copies sold of their "Recipe Organizer" software which features among other things, recipe organization, menu planning, and nutritional information, this project with DVO brings a hi-tech approach I never imagined would or could be applied to our cookbooks and Dutch oven cooking in general.

    It is an understatement to say I resisted the Internet/technology revolution! In the mid 1990's I banged out my first cookbook on an old hand-me-down IBM 286 in Word Perfect. The Internet was a place for nerds to spend their free time who didn't like to hunt or fish. But, seeing how the power of technology can benefit even a technologically-challenged person like me makes this project a tremendous resource for outdoor cooks everywhere and of any skill level.

    Just go to our home page to purchase the CD ( It will take a few extra days, but I can autograph the CD just as we would a cookbook. If you want to download all the recipes from the first two cookbooks, click on the link on our home page and it will take you to the DVO download page.


    We are pleased to announce that a recent schedule change has allowed us to add an extra clinic this summer. We've been teaching clinics at Old Depot Antiques for several years. It is a great facility ... a covered pavilion out of the sun and rain! Click on the link below to guarantee your spot. The clinic is limited to 15 participants.

    Clinic participants will be able to purchase our two DVD Set & Cookbooklet with thirteen episodes of Cee Dub's television series for 50% off the regular price of $49.95.


    Our plan was to have our new cookbook out by Memorial Day Week End. Unfortunately our production schedule has been extended by 60-90 days due to factors beyond our control. We'll let folks know when it goes to press!

    I don't have to tell anyone reading this newsletter about the impact of sky rocketing prices in the grocery stores or at the fuel pumps. The primary impact on Cee Dub's is that we'll be curtailing our travel schedule. When you deal in cast iron, you drive where you're going instead of flying. Fuel costs dictate that we cut the number of venues where we appear. We'll still be doing some travelling, but not as much as in past years.

    Another factor impacting our travel and appearance schedule is our new job. Shortly after we returned from our winter tour, we were hired to manage Las Piedras Ranch where we've been living since moving down from Idaho in the fall of 2006.

    As referenced above ... here is what a couple of folks said about their experience at Cee Dub's Ranch Clinic.

    "I do not think words exist that would convey the appreciation that I would like to express to you and Penny for the clinic. I would like to thank you for sharing your knowledge of cooking (in general) and especially the DO. I know the week I spent at LPR was the experience of a lifetime." D. Elliott

    "Words cannot express how much fun I had at the clinic and how much I learned from y'all and all the cooking. I think you have a great environment, a great product, and a great way of teaching folks how to cook with iron. You also instilled a lot of confidence in me and on how I had been doing some things....Here is a tag line for your clinics if you want to use it ... Cee Dub's Ranch Clinic, where the cookbooks come to life" F. Steele

    Keep Your Coals Hot & The Drinks Cold This Summer!

    Cee Dub & Pen

    Tuesday, June 03, 2008

    More on the M-59 army field range

    Stan, a US Army cook from the 1980s, left a comment Sunday on my blog post about the M-59 field range for sale on eBay. His experiences seem to morrow mine. As many of you know, I served as a mess management specialist with the US Navy Seabee Reserves from 1979 until my retirement in 1999.

    Here are my thoughts, Stan:
    As an Army cook in the 80's I used these units a lot. I forgot all about them till I saw the picture. One thing for sure ... you had to be careful or you could set the whole unit on fire and once in awhile the whole mess tent would catch fire.
    Safety was our biggest issue in Seabee field galleys. Many military cooks were burned over the 50 or 60 years these burners were used. I remember reading of a cook (in Bosnia, I believe) that stacked two lit M-2 burners on top of each other. The bottom unit heated the top unit to the point of explosion. Fire and the threat of burns was of little consequence when compared to the .223 M-16 ammunition that cooked off that morning in the mess tent.

    Despite the long, exhausting hours in the field, the leaders always had to enforce safety awareness.
    I couldn't begin to tell you how many gallons of GI coffee I made in those pots, or the gallons of green eggs I would deliver to the guys out at the remote sites on the frozen mornings. They didn't care what color the eggs were as long as the coffee was hot and you had enough food. We would stick slices of bread in the bottom of the mermite cans that carried the bacon to absorb all the grease.
    My basic formula for field coffee is this: Bring 12 gallons water to a boil in the 15-gallon stockpot. Remove water from heat and sprinkle the contents of a 2-1/2-pound can of coffee grounds over hot water. Let steep until strong enough for crusty, old Seabees. Sprinkle cold water from a #56 dipper over grounds and carefully ladle into a vacuum beverage jug. Make sure you save enough so the equipment operators can have there afternoon coffee in 120-degree heat at 29 Palms.

    Yes, I remember scraping greasy bread from the bottom of vat cans (Seabee and Marine term for mermites). Toward the end of a two-week exercise at 29 Palms in 1986, I saw a Marine field mess being set up on the perimeter of Camp Wilson. As a boot chief petty officer, I thought I'd walk over and meet the gunnery sergeant in charge of the galley.

    As I walked up to the gunny, I saw a maintenance tent with four rows of vat cans -- there must've been over 100 of the rectangular OD green cans in the tent. After quizzing the gunny, I learned the field galley was only feeding 200 Marines and Sailors in camp, all members of regimental headquarters.

    The gunny was feeding remainder of Camp Pendleton-based infantry regiment out of the vat cans. Chow was being trucked in the back to 2-1/2-ton trucks to battalion and company positions throughout 29 Palms. The thing you have to understand about Marine cooks is they toss the inserts aside when pouring the meal into the cans.

    But I will say this, at the four-hour mark, Navy corpsmen insist that the cook close the lid and return to the galley. They're not going to risk a case of the runs over old food.

    US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Eric McLeroy. It was taken at Camp Doha, Kuwait, circa 1998.