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Better Late than Never

Happy July 4th, even if it's a little late! If you use the logic of my two year old daughter telling random people Happy Mother's Day at the end of June, I'm right on time. We spent the week camping in the North Georgia Mountains, where we hiked a little, made several fortunately unsuccessful searches for bears, played in creeks and puddles, cooked, ate, explored some little towns, saw the Expedition Bigfoot! The Sasquatch Museum in all its glory (it really is worth the $8 admission, especially in the summer because the building is air conditioned), played card and board games, and just reconnected. Usually on holidays that exist because of true patriots, I think about some really good friends who are veterans, and the things they did and sacrifices they made that allowed me to do almost anything that I want to do. Freedom and liberty are often taken for granted, and it's easy to get caught up mundane tasks that other places see as luxuries. So, to everyone who has either volunteered to defend our freedom, or was voluntold to do it, thank you. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for protecting something so incredible, even when it isn't noticeable.

Our week in the mountains afforded me the luxury of not being chained to a device, so I don't have a lot of pictures. Camping food has lots of potential, and often lots of redundancy. I made a couple of things ahead of time to minimize cooking times - macaroni and cheese (go somewhere without this for a few days with kids...), pasta salad, grits, rice, chopped and marinated vegetables. A few tips I have learned along the way:

  • Cook as much as possible ahead of time, and store it in disposable containers.

  • Hawaiian rolls are great for burgers and sandwiches, eliminating one more thing to carry around

  • Kewpie Mayonnaise is incredible! I used it in pasta salad and on sandwiches and burgers. It's a subtle difference, but really good.

  • Replace water with chicken stock. It's a game changer. I do it with grits and rice, and a lot of other stuff.

  • Sometimes, redundancy is cool. Our last couple of meals were just leftovers.

  • Make good coffee. In all of my travel kitchen set ups, whether it's for catering, camping, competitions, I have a small propane stove (single eye), a kettle, and a Chemex coffee pot. It's a lot easier to transport, but involves a little more work.

When we're camping, I am usually up long before anyone else is. I take my dogs on a really long walk, and come back and make some coffee. I use a Chemex everywhere but home, because home is the only place time usually doesn't allow for it. I watch the internal temp on the kettle, pour, and let it drip for several minutes. Black Rifle Coffee Company has it figured out. I take it everywhere. Use good quality coffee and take your time with the process. It ends up being pretty peaceful, and yields a great result.

I have a steak competition coming up, so I did a practice run one day while we were there. I went through the entire competition process, including my cooksite setup, just to make sure that skills and muscle memory are still in tact. I don't really like the taste of the steaks with the competition rubs and marinades on them. I usually eat one bite to check the flavor and texture, and then mix it with something else. My most recent go-to has been fried rice with steak and vegetables. It's an easy way to get my kids to eat vegetables, and will last for a few days. I bought a Blackstone griddle a few years ago, and it has been a lifesaver. It's like taking a hibachi restaurant and a Waffle House camping with us.

From our family to yours, Happy 4th, Summer, and everything else. Let us know in the comments what your favorite meals for traveling are!

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