Posts Tagged With: outdoors moms

RECIPE: Steak Roll Ups with Veggies

Everybody loves a good campfire meal, and this one’s easy enough that you can take it camping, hiking, on a day trip, a picnic, or basically any other outdoors excursion. The easy part of this is that you pre-cook the hard part, and then flash cook the rest of it.

This is a fine time for me to complain a little bit about all those ridiculous recipes for foil-packet cooking. Sure, they’re awesome…if you start your campfire early and leave the packet in the coals for a few hours, and if you don’t mind all the food on the bottom being charred while the food towards the top is still barely room temperature. Throw in the fun of eating while holding something that’s going to leave soot all over your hands, and you’ve got yourself a winner.

Instead, the trick to this recipe (and all foil-packet recipes, if you’re just determined to do it that way) is to precook the things that won’t get soft over a campfire. What am I talking about? Take a look.

STEAK ROLL UPS

Some of them are a darker red because they're venison...the abundance of deer in our freezer is a story for a whole other post.

Some of them are a darker red because they’re venison…the abundance of deer in our freezer is a story for a whole other post.

These are just your basic cube steaks, marinated in either a liquid enhancer or a dry rub. In the middle, or the roll-up part, are some pre-cooked veggies. The whole thing is tied up with strips of green onion, but that’s only because I happened to have some on hand. Toothpicks would have worked just as well.

Lay out your cube steaks on a cutting board at home. I like to beat mine up a little bit with the rim of a coffee mug, just to make sure they behave.

Meanwhile, in a skillet on the stove top, saute some veggie strips. I happened to use squash and banana peppers in these rolls, but again, that’s because I had those handy in the garden.

Once the veggies are soft and a little bit charred, lay a few pieces of each on the edge of a steak, the roll it up. I tied mine with softened strips of green onion, as you can see.

The best part is you can easily make everyone’s day by mixing up the veggies. These trips are about family fun, aren’t they? Then it can’t be that fun if your kids are told, “Tough luck, I used zucchini.” If you know you have some particular food tastes, there’s no reason you can’t throw all the different veggies in that skillet to saute then make each person one or two steak rolls with just his favorites in it. Just separate them in the storage compartments so you can dish them out to the right family members at cook time.

NOW… you have to transport them. I love these Stanley containers (yes, the people who make the thermoses) because they’re going to hold up, and then they nest when you’re done. They’re easy to wash, and then they stack right inside each other for easy transport back home. That’s important if you’re just out on a hike and don’t want to carry a lot. If you have a food allergy in your family, you can even separate out the allergic kid’s food in one container and then pack it inside the largest container alongside your other family members’ foods. You can also place these containers next to a freezable ice pack to keep the meat cold while you move.

These great containers are very sturdy and nest together when you're not carrying stuff in them.

These great containers are very sturdy and nest together when you’re not carrying stuff in them.

Once you get to your destination, you’ve got to cook them. Whatever heat source you’re using–campfire, portable stove, portable grill, whatever–you can cook these either directly over the flame on a stick or by settling them in a mess kit skillet and turning them once. If you’ll be using the skillet method, you can even rub the outside with margarine or spray them with cooking spray before placing them in the storage container, eliminating the need to grease your skillet.

COOKED CARROTS

The trick to getting these carrots soft enough is to sprinkle them with salt while they're still raw, then let that cause them to soften while you travel.

The trick to getting these carrots soft enough is to sprinkle them with salt while they’re still raw, then let that cause them to soften while you travel.

These carrots are so easy, they’re not to be believed. Why is that? There’s a secret to softening them before you cook them… salt! Since you were probably going to salt these before serving anyway, why not put the salt on them before they’re cooked? As you hike/travel/etc., they’ll soften naturally as the salt breaks down the cell walls inside the flesh and lets the water leak out. By the time you’re ready to cook them, they’ll be mildly al dente. Just throw them in your skillet (you can even cook them at the same time as the Steak Roll-Ups, if you want) and serve! Mine have dill on them because it gives them a nice pickle-y flavor and yes, because we had some in the garden.

There are lots of different ways you can cook these steak roll-ups.

There are lots of different ways you can cook these steak roll-ups.

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DIY Gear: The Bug-Off Jar

There are a lot of great products out there to make any outdoors experience even better, but there are also a lot of things you can make yourself that will enhance the trip. This one, though, is a great item to have anytime you are doing something outside, whether it’s camping, picnicking, or even sitting at a ball park watching your child play any given sport.

Now, with my family’s history of skin cancer, I’m a sunscreen addict. We keep it in the car, we keep a face stick in my purse for emergencies or touch-ups, both of my daughters already wear a daily moisturizer with sunscreen, and I even subscribe to sunscreen on Amazon.com (yes, once a month a new bottle of sunscreen shows up at our house!). I realize that’s a lot of sunscreen, but a) we live in the South where summer lasts from April through November and b) we’re outside a lot!

What does sunscreen have to do with bugs? Not much.

But as much as I slather commercial chemicals on myself and on my kids’ skin, I can’t stand to spray them with bug spray. It’s a chemical with toxic properties (at least if you’re a bug), and I’ve already coated them from scalp to pinkie toe with a different cocktail of chemicals to protect them from the sun. I certainly don’t want them to get a bug-borne disease or just have their trip ruined by itchy bug bites, so we do what we have to do. I spray their shoes, their shorts, and the back of their shirts with as little bug spray as I can get by with, and I choose my brands very carefully.

In order to add an extra layer of protection–and quite frankly, just to make being outside more pleasant–I carry these with us.

IMG_0558

I call them Bug Off Jars. All you need is a good-sized container with an attachable lid. This one happens to be recycled from an organic rice container (more on why you must buy organic rice some other time!), and the lid screws on well.

Many of the annoying insects that we don’t like, including mosquitoes and regular old flies, have certain plants they don’t like. You probably know this, since that’s why bug products contain citronella. Other plants they don’t like include basil, mint, lavender, lemon grass, lemon balm, bee balm, and other great, easy to grow plants. So what do we do? Plant them! (Another hint: plant these around your property to keep down on bugs…they’re natural and pretty, they smell great, and they’re great to cook with!)

Of course, our backyard garden already includes many of those plants because we cook with them. So whenever we’re going on an outdoors trip, I grab this jar out of my stuff and pack it full of basil, mint, and lavender. I mean, I really stuff it down in there. I just fill it as I high as I can and put the lid on, then throw it in our kit.

When we’re out there (camping, picnicking, hiking, whatever) I grab some of the leaves out of the jar and we rub them on our arms and necks. They don’t leave a green tinge or anything, but they leave the smell on our skin through the oil. The rest of the jar sits on our table wherever we’re going to be eating; whenever we sit down to eat, I just take the lid off to keep flies away from our food. It actually works, and it makes even a simple picnic much more pleasant since you won’t be swatting at flies the whole time. Just be sure to put the lid back on whenever your not using it so the scent doesn’t dissipate.

It’s easy, environmentally friendly, skin friendly, and good smelling. When you get home, discard or compost the old leaves and just grab some fresh ones the next time you head out!

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