Posts Tagged ‘holidays’

4th of July Eats: Tasty Recipes from Across the Country

The smell of hot dogs is in the air, which can only mean one thing: Independence Day is right around the corner! We like to take advantage of July 4th’s warm temperatures and patriotic spirit by combining two of our favorite American pastimes, camping and eating. While there are many reasons we’re proud to be an American, the delicious regional cuisines found throughout the country is pretty high on our list. If, like us, you plan to spend the holiday weekend camping in the great outdoors, why not honor your American heritage by making these simple and tasty recipes taken from various corners of the USA? We promise, they’re so delicious your taste buds will want to put on their very own fireworks show!

New England
Sweet Potato Corn Chowder
courtesy of Dirty Gourmet

What screams, “New England!” more than chowder? The culinary mavens at Dirty Gourmet say this recipe is very forgiving, so feel free to put your own spin on it.

Image: Dirty Gourmet

Prep/Total Time: 20 min
Yield: 6-8 servings

1 tablespoon butter or oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large russet potato, peeled and diced
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 pound frozen or canned corn
1 Serrano chile, chopped, seeds removed
1 Anaheim chile, roasted and chopped, skins removed
3 cups vegetable stock, or equivalent bouillon
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 cup sour cream
salt and pepper, to taste
toppings, such as tortilla chips, avocado and green onions

1. Char the skin on all sides of the Anaheim chile by holding it over the flame of a camp stove or fire. Scrape off skin with a spoon. If too tough, cover the hot chile with plastic wrap for 5 minutes to steam and try again.
2. In a large pot, add butter or oil and sauté onion and garlic until translucent.
3. Add the potatoes and sweet potatoes and cook for 5 minutes.
4. Add the chiles, corn, and spices, and cook for 1 minute.
5. Add the stock and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.
6. Stir in the sour cream.
7. Serve with tortilla chips, avocado, and green onions.

Chicago-Style Hot Dogs
adapted from Martha Stewart

A few twists on the old classic makes a Chicago-style hot dog even more delicious than the original (believe it or not!).

Image: Martha Stewart

Yield: 6 servings

6 poppy-seed hot dog buns
3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
6 all-beef hot dogs
6 dill pickle spears
12 tomato wedges
Yellow mustard
Sweet relish
1 small white onion, finely chopped
6 sport peppers or peperoncini
Celery salt

1. Warm hot dogs in boiling water for 5 minutes; transfer to buns.
2. Arrange a dill pickle spear on 1 side of each hot dog and 2 tomato wedges on the other side.
3. Squirt yellow mustard over each in a zigzag; top with a dollop of sweet relish.
4. Divide onion among hot dogs.
5. Top each with a sport pepper or a peperoncino. Sprinkle with celery salt.

Black & Tan BBQ Ribs
courtesy of Chef Ron at CampsideChef

Image: CampsideChef

The genius and oh-so-generous Chef Ron at CampsideChef was kind enough to share this recipe for succulent BBQ ribs with us – delicious and perfect for honoring America’s heartland! While these juicy ribs certainly don’t need even a smidge of BBQ sauce, feel free to add your own if you so desire.

Pork ribs (whichever style is your favorite)
Guinness Draught
Bass Ale
Campside Chef Dry Rub I or II

Charcoal Grill
Hickory Mesquite wood chips 50/50 mix soaked in water for a few hours
Newspaper to light the briquettes
Lighter or matches to light the newspaper
Metal or heat resistant tongs
Container to hold ribs while marinating

1. Rinse and place ribs into a container.
2. Cover ribs with equal amounts of Bass Ale and Guinness Draught
3. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours, turning them over halfway through.
4. Remove from marinade and add dry rub to entire surface area of the ribs.
5. Empty and dry the container.
6. Place ribs in the container and refrigerate for 6 hours.
7. Light the charcoal until the briquettes are mostly gray.
8. Strain out the wood chips and place evenly over coals.
9. Add the ribs and cook low and slow at between 275-300° F (make sure ribs are not burning from flare-ups!)
10. After 3-4 hours the ribs should be tender and ready to devour!

Black Eyed Peas
courtesy of Dirty Gourmet

Image: Dirty Gourmet

We long for the days when a mention of black-eyed peas brought to mind southern comfort food rather than Fergie. This version is so mouth-watering, you’ll forget “Let’s Get it Started” even exists.

Prep/cook time: 10 min/1 hr
Yield: 4 servings

1 1/2 cups dried black-eyed peas, rinsed and picked over
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste or enough tomato powder and water to make 1 tablespoon
14 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
a big handful of cilantro, chopped

1. Cover the peas by 2 inches of water and soak them overnight. If you’re short on time, you can skip the soaking step, but they may take longer to cook.
2. Drain the peas and add about 4 cups of fresh water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the peas are cooked through.
3. Heat the oil in a separate large skillet and cook the onion until the edges just turn golden. Add the tomato paste and garlic, stirring to break up the tomato paste, and cook another minute. Stir in the tomatoes (with their juices), salt, cayenne, cumin, paprika, and pepper. Cook for a few minutes more, until the oil starts to separate from the tomatoes.
4. Add the tomato mixture to the peas. Cook, stirring occasionally, for another 10 minutes. Mix in the chopped cilantro.

Chicken Fajitas
courtesy of Mark Stephens at Adventure Parents

Image: Adventure Parents

Easy to make and fun to eat, these chicken fajitas are the perfect southwestern camping dish!

Yield: 3-4 servings

2 chicken breast halves, cubed or two 9 oz ez-open Swanson Canned Chicken Breast meat
1 Green bell pepper, sliced
1 Yellow bell pepper, sliced
1 Red bell pepper, sliced
1/2 Red onion, diced
(optional) 2 fresh jalepeños, finely chopped
12 flour tortillas
1 Pack of dry fajita seasoning (such as Mccormick’s)

1. If using fresh chicken, marinate in the fajita seasoning for a few hours prior to cooking
2. In a medium pot, cook the marinated chicken over low to medium heat
3. Add the vegetables once the chicken is cooked through, and let it all cook for a few minutes
4. Serve ‘em up on tortillas

Tips & Notes
Make Ahead Tip: Cube the fresh chicken at home and keep it in a doubled ziplock bag along with the fajita seasoning. Swanson canned chicken is another option. Cut the veggies at home as well. Whole wheat or corn tortillas are a healthier option.

Father’s Day Recipes for Every Dad

They work hard. They play hard.  They eat hearty.

They’re dads, and this is the time of year when we celebrate them.  We’ve compiled some father-friendly man-foods to make for your old man this Father’s Day, no matter what kind of guy he is.

For the Hearty Dad: The Meatball to Conquer Others

from Esquire
This is the kind of guy who like his “steak and potatoes,” the rich, meaty comfort foods that fill him up and raise his manliness points just by association. Chef Shane Solomon salutes this dad with his Philadelphia-style meatball, focusing on the specifics of ratio, shape, and filler to give your dad the perfect meaty treat.

Image: Philip Friedman/Studio D

Yield: 25-30 meatballs

Meat mix: 1 lb ground beef (80 percent lean/20 percent fat), 1 lb ground pork, 1 lb ground veal,
1 lb pancetta or thick-sliced smoky bacon, finely minced
2 whole eggsz
⅓ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
½ cup finely diced yellow onion
8 garlic cloves, minced
Herb mix: ¼ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, 2 tbsp chopped oregano, 2 tbsp chopped rosemary

Combine above ingredients and mix well, kneading the mixture with your hands like dough.

⅓ cup fine, dry unseasoned bread crumbs
about 4 oz (½ cup) whole milk
about 1 tsp coarse salt
about 1 ½ tsp ground black pepper

Slowly add milk to bread crumbs, stirring until the mixture has the consistency of wet sand. Immediately add to the meat mixture, season with the salt and pepper, and mix well. To taste for seasoning: Heat a small amount of canola oil in a small pan. When it’s hot — it will ripple in the pan — pinch off a bit of meat and fry in the oil. Remove with a spoon, taste, and correct seasoning, adding more salt if necessary. Refrigerate the meat mixture for about 30 minutes.

canola oil for browning
about 12 cups good-quality tomato sauce, kept warm over low heat
finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Shape meatballs, preferably using an ice-cream scoop (see introduction). In a large skillet, heat about a quarter-inch canola oil until very hot. Working in batches, brown all sides of each meatball.
As they finish, transfer browned meatballs to a deep, ovenproof casserole. Cover meatballs with tomato sauce. (Don’t skimp — they must be totally submerged.) Place in oven and bake until well done, about 1 ¾ to 2 hours. When done, they should feel firm to the touch, or an instant-read meat thermometer should read 160 degrees.
To serve: Spoon sauce over meatballs (2 or 3 per person), top with grated cheese, and pass crusty bread. Makes 25 to 30 meatballs. Serves 8 to 10 as an entrée, with leftovers.

Honorable Mention: Smothered Steak Burgers

For the Healthy Dad: Baked BBQ Onion Rings

from RecipeGirl
Just beca
use your dad is health-conscious doesn’t mean he doesn’t like traditional “man foods.”  Lighten up the calories without lightening up the taste with this delicious take on  a classic appetizer.


Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Prep Time: 20 min
Cook Time: 12 min

1 cup barbecue sauce
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups panko bread crumbs
2 large sweet onions, sliced into 1/2-inch rings
cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place two baking sheets in the oven and let those preheat too.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together barbecue sauce, eggs and flour.
3. Place bread crumbs in a separate bowl.
4. Using tongs (or your fingers) dip onion slice in the barbecue sauce mixture, shake the excess off and then dunk on all sides into the bread crumbs. Lay on a cool baking sheet. Repeat until all onion slices have been dunked.
5. Remove hot baking sheets from the oven and spray lightly with cooking spray. Move coated onions to hot baking sheets. Spray the coated onions lightly with cooking spray.
6. Bake for about 6 minutes, or until golden, then use tongs to turn each onion ring over. Spray the other side of the onions with cooking spray and bake for an additional 5 to 7 minutes. Watch closely to make sure they crumbs are not browning too quickly or burning.
Remove from oven and serve immediately.

*For barbecue sauce… I [RecipeGirl] prefer Sweet Baby Rays, but use your favorite.
*Panko bread crumbs can be found in your market’s Asian aisle. Regular breadcrumbs may be substituted.
*This recipe is GLUTEN FREE adaptable- use a GF bbq sauce and GF flour and turn GF pretzels or bread into crumbs to coat the rings.

For the Fishing Dad: Bluegill Parmesan

from Taste of Home
If Dad spent his special day out on the water and came home with some fresh fish, the perfect way to show your appreciation for his hard work (and his hobby) is to cook up his delicious catch. Here, we’ve used bluegill, but perch or crappie may be substituted in the same recipe.


Yield: 4 Servings
Prep/Total Time:
30 min.

1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 pound bluegill or crappie

Place butter in a shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl, combine the bread crumbs, cheese and seasonings. Dip fish in butter, then coat with crumb mixture.
Place in a greased 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 20 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Yield: 4 servings. 

Editor’s Note: Perch or crappie may be substituted for the bluegill.

Honorable Mention: Buffalo-style Catfish Strips with Ranch Dressing
*These have the added benefit of being a healthy alternative, too!

For the Hunting Dad:  Braised Venison with Chilli and Chocolate

If your dad brought down a beautiful deer, why not go the extra mile to make a truly classy meal out of it?  This rich venison dish is sure to show him how special you think he is.

Image: Crepesuzy and

1 kg diced venison
olive oil, for browning
1 medium onions, diced
1 carrots, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
1 parsnips, diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 dried chilies, crumbled
250 ml venison stock ( or stock made from bouillon cubes)
163 ml red wine
50 g dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 tablespoon red currant jelly
for the marinade
325 ml full-bodied red wine
2 garlic cloves
1 sprig fresh rosemary
8 sprigs fresh thyme
1 fresh red chilies, deseeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5 juniper berries, crushed
salt and pepper

Preheat an oven to 190°C/gas 5).
Cut the venison into 2.5cm cubes, removing large bits of fat or gristle. Put these into a double-layered plastic bag, along with all the marinade ingredients. Set aside for a day in the fridge, turning every so often so that all of the meat comes into contact with the marinade.
When you are ready to cook, remove the venison from the marinade, setting the marinade aside for later.
Heat a large casserole over a high heat until it is smoking hot. Pour in a tablespoon of olive oil and when it is very hot add the venison cubes, 6 or 7 at a time, so that you are not overcrowding the pan and thus bringing down the temperature of the oil.
Brown the meat on all sides for 1–2 minutes, letting the pan get hot again between each batch and adding more oil if necessary.
When the meat is all browned, set it aside while you brown the vegetables.
Add a tablespoon of oil to the casserole and sweat the onions for 5 minutes before adding the carrots, celery and parsnips. Cook for a further 10 minutes, allowing the vegetables to start caramelising without letting them burn. Add the garlic and cook for another 5 minutes.
Return the venison to the casserole, along with the reserved marinade and the rest of the ingredients. Bring up to a gentle simmer, stirring to melt the chocolate into the sauce. Cook in the preheated oven for about 90 minutes or until the meat is tender and falling apart.

For the Busy Dad: Slow Cooker Root Beer Pulled Pork

from RecipeGirl
If Dad wants to spend the day out and about, there’s no reason he can’t come home to a delicious slow-cooker recipe (with a unique root beer twist) that you’ve had simmering all day.


Yield: Serves 8 to 10
Prep Time: 25 min
Cook Time: 11 hrs, 30 min

1 (5 to 6 pound) bone-in pork shoulder/butt roast
1 envelope dried onion soup mix (or dehydrated onions)
salt and pepper
1 can root beer
2 cups barbecue sauce

1. Trim roast of excess fat. It’s okay to leave some on there– just get rid of the large, visible slabs.
2. Place roast on a work surface and sprinkle with onion soup mix. Use clean hands to rub the mix into the meat, reaching underneath to reach all sides. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Place seasoned roast in your slow cooker.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together root beer and 1/2 cup barbecue sauce. Pour over the roast in the slow cooker.
4. Place lid on the slow cooker and cook on LOW heat for 10 to 11 hours, or until internal temperature is above 190 degrees F. and meat is tender enough to pull away from the bone.
5. Remove roast to a cutting board and let sit to cool for just a few minutes. Pour out all but about 3/4 cup of the juices from the slow cooker. Use two forks to shred the pork, cutting around and discarding any fatty pieces. Place all of your pulled pork back into your slow cooker. Add about 1 1/2 cups of barbecue sauce. Stir to combine and place the lid back on. Heat on HIGH for about 15 to 20 minutes, just until pork and juices are hot and bubbly. Use this time to heat up buns and get the rest of your meal ready.
Scoop pulled pork onto buns and serve immediately.

*If you don’t wish to make such a large roast, you can use the same ingredients for a smaller roast too. You can likely cut down a bit on the cooking time, and use less barbecue sauce when adding it in at the end.
*For the most tender pulled pork, I do not recommend trying to short-cut the recipe by cooking it on HIGH heat. Low and slow is best!

For the Early Dad: Leftover Skirt Steak Scramble

from Matt Moore and The Art of Manliness
We can’t have a Father’s Day post without at least one steak recipe.  This one has the benefit of working for any meal—breakfast, brunch, or brinner (breakfast for dinner)—and can make use of any leftover grill escapades.


Yield: 1 Serving
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 Eggs
Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Pepper
Leftover Skirt Steak
 Green Onion Tops
 Crumbled Blue Cheese

In a non-stick skillet over medium heat, add a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.  Whisk eggs together until combined and frothy, season with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.  Add eggs to pan, waiting to stir until eggs have set.  Using a wooden spoon, gently lift the cooked portions from the bottom of the pan, allowing the runny portions to reach the heat.  Continue in this manner until no more runny portion remains, careful not to over-scramble.  Meanwhile, heat the leftover steak to temperature using a microwave or skillet over medium heat.  Plate eggs, topped with sliced steak, and garnish with green onion slices and crumbled blue cheese.  Serve.

For the “Hot” Dad: Hot Pepper Wings with Cilantro Sour Cream

from Tom Douglas and Esquire
OK, we know the term “hot dad” is a bit weird, but we’re talking about those dads that can’t get enough of spicy food, particularly on a classic chicken wing.

Image: Robin Layton

18 whole chicken wings
2 cups soy sauce
1 cup Dijon mustard
1 cup water
3/4 cup Tabasco sauce
1/4 cup garlic, chopped
2 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, chopped
2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
2 tsp fresh sage, chopped
2 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped

For the cilantro sour cream:
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tbsp heavy cream
2 tsp chopped cilantro
kosher or coarse salt
ground black pepper

To make wings: Whisk all ingredients except wings together in a large bowl. Reserve 1/2 cup of the marinade for basting and sauce.
Add wings to bowl with marinade, cover, and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to overnight. Turn occasionally to make sure wings are thoroughly marinated.
Caution: Never use a “raw” marinade — any marinade that has had raw meat in it — to finish a dish. That’s why we set some aside in this recipe.
Grill method: Remove wings and discard marinade. Grill wings over medium-low coals, turning often, until wings cook through, about 15 minutes. You want the wings to cook slowly so they cook thoroughly before the glaze burns.
While grilling, heat reserved marinade in saucepan and baste wings a few times while cooking. Cut into one of the wings to make sure no pink remains near the bone and remove.
Broiler method: Remove wings and discard marinade. Put wings in a broiler pan under a preheated broiler, 4 inches from heat source, and broil about 10 minutes per side. (If your broiler has a low setting, use that, otherwise watch carefully so the glaze doesn’t burn.) Heat reserved marinade in saucepan and baste wings a few times while cooking. Cut into one of the wings to make sure there is no pink remaining near the bone and remove.
To make cilantro sour cream: In a small bowl, mix first three ingredients together. Salt and pepper to taste. Yields 1/2 cup.

To serve: Top wings with 1 tsp of warm reserved marinade. Don’t use more than a drizzle, though — it’s really strong. Serve whatever is left on the side for heat lovers. Serve with cilantro sour cream.

For the Sweet Dad: Guinness Cupcakes

from My Baking Addiction
At the end of a long day, when supper is finished, there’s nothing better to Dad than a cold beer and a good dessert.  So we thought, why not combine them in this delicious cupcake?



For the Cupcakes
1 (12-ounce) bottle Guinness Stout
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa (I used Scharffen Berger Cocoa)
2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

For the Vanilla Bean Buttercream
1 stick salted butter – room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter – room temperature
1/2 cup shortening
1 tablespoon Clear Vanilla extract
1 1/2 pounds confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar, 10x)
4 tablespoons very cold milk

For the Cupcakes
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the Guinness, milk, vegetable oil, and vanilla. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Mix in the sour cream.
3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cocoa, sugar, flour, and baking soda. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet Guinness mixture.
4. Butter 24 muffin tins and divide the batter among the muffin tins.
5. Bake 25 minutes, until risen and set in the middle but still soft and tender. Cool before turning out of the tins.
For the Vanilla Bean Buttercream
1. Cream the butter and shortening in the bowl of an electric or stand mixer.
2. Add the clear vanilla extract and combine well. Begin adding in the sugar and mixing thoroughly after each addition.
3. After all of the sugar has been added and mixed thoroughly, begin adding the very cold milk one tablespoon at a time, combining very well after each addition (mixer on medium-high to high speed) until you reach the desired consistency.

Honorable Mention

For the handbook on what the manliest dads would want, we enjoy The Art of Manliness, which includes these helpful food articles (among many others!):
Mastering Man Food: Knowing Your Peppers
Mastering Man Food: How to Cook Bacon Properly
Mastering Man Food: Outdoor Cooking
Mastering Man Food: Skirt Steak Five Different Ways

Memorial Day Grilling Recipes: Easy, Healthy, Portable and Delicious!

Did you know that Memorial Day was formerly called Decoration Day? Since the Civil War, it has been a time when Americans gather to celebrate the memory of our brave soldiers and dear, departed loved ones. It’s also a time to celebrate a long weekend, family, and the beginning of summer, so dust off those grills and decorate them in delicious fruits, veggies, and meats!
For a weekend filled with picnics, pot-lucks, and pretty weather, we’ve rounded up a full menu of scrumptious holiday recipes that are easy, healthy, and portable. Whether you’re hosting a cook-out at your home, having a reunion at one of your state park’s pavilions, or breaking out the tent for the first time of the season, these seasonal eats will keep everyone happy and coming back for more.

Crisp Cucumber Salsa
courtesy of Taste of Home and Charlene Skjerven

Starter: While the charcoal is heating up, enjoy this refreshing appetizer salsa. This crunchy recipe is easy to make ahead, and it is packed with healthy vegetables to start the meal off right.

Image: Taste of Home

  • Prep/Total Time: 20 min.
  • Yield: 10 Servings

2 cups finely chopped seeded peeled cucumber
1/2 cup finely chopped seeded tomato
1/4 cup chopped red onion
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
4-1/2 teaspoons minced fresh cilantro
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1-1/2 teaspoons lime juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
Baked tortilla chip scoops

In a small bowl, combine the first seven ingredients. In another bowl, combine the sour cream, lemon juice, lime juice, cumin and seasoned salt. Pour over cucumber mixture and toss gently to coat. Serve immediately with chips. Yield: 2-1/2 cups.
Note: Wear disposable gloves when cutting hot peppers; the oils can burn skin. Avoid touching your face.

Packet Roasted Balsamic Green Beans and Peppers
courtesy of Eating Well

Side: Whether you have a home garden or attend your local farmers market, a foil packet and some herbs and spices can turn any combination of fresh veggies into an easy and DELICIOUS side.  Best of all, the foil keeps the vegetables from escaping through the grill grate. Get creative and mix your own healthy combo!

Image: Eating Well

  • Prep/Total Time: 20/40 min.
  • Yield: 4 servings

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 ounces green and/or yellow beans
2 bell peppers, thinly sliced lengthwise
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts, (see Tip)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F (or see Grill Variation, below).
  2. To prepare packets, start with four 20- to 24-inch-long pieces of parchment paper or foil. Fold in half crosswise. With the parchment or foil folded, draw half a heart shape on one side as you would if you were making a Valentine. Use scissors to cut out the heart shape. Open up the heart.
  3. Mix oil, mustard, syrup, garlic and salt in a large bowl. Add beans and peppers; toss.
  4. Place one-fourth of the vegetable mixture (about 1 cup) on one side of each open heart fairly close to the crease and leaving at least a 1-inch border around the edges for folding. Sprinkle with pine nuts.
  5. Close the packet to cover the ingredients. Starting at the top, seal the packet by folding the edges together in a series of small, tight folds. Twist the tip of the packet and tuck it underneath to help keep the packet closed. Place the packets on a large rimmed baking sheet (packets may overlap slightly). Bake until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Let packets rest unopened for 5 minutes. Drizzle the vegetables with vinegar just before serving.

Tips & Notes
Make Ahead Tip: Equipment: Parchment paper or foil
Tip: To toast pine nuts, place in a small dry skillet and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes.
Grill Variation: Cooking in packets is great for the grill, but it’s not safe to put parchment paper over an open flame, so use foil. To prepare packets for grilling, start with eight 20- to 24-inch-long pieces of foil. Layer two sheets for each of four packets (the double layers will help protect the contents from burning). Arrange the ingredients on one half of each double layer. Fold the foil over the ingredients and tightly seal the packets by crimping and folding the edges together. Grill over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the packets to another spot on the grill about halfway through to ensure even cooking.

Grilled Caribbean Steak with Tropical Fruit Rice
courtesy of Favorite Brand Name Recipes and RV Mama

The Main Event: Tired of the same old burgers and hot dogs? We think you’ll love this warm-weather-inspired alternative posted by camping enthusiast and blogger RV Mama.  It might require some prep time, but the marinade will be well worth it when you bite into this delicious dish, taste the citrus accents, and feel yourself transported to a sunny island escape of flavor.

Image: © Publications International, Ltd.

  • Yield: 6 servings

1 (1-1/2-pound) flank steak
1-1/4 cups orange juice, divided
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 can (8 ounces) pineapple chunks in juice
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 can (11 ounces) mandarin orange segments, drained


  1. Place steak in large resealable plastic food storage bag. In small bowl, combine soy sauce, 1/4 cup orange juice and ginger; pour over steak. Seal bag, turning to coat steak with marinade. Refrigerate steak, turning bag occasionally, at least 8 or up to 24 hours.
  2. Drain pineapple, reserving juice. Combine remaining 1 cup orange juice and pineapple juice in 1-quart glass measure; add enough water to make 2-1/4 cups liquid.
  3. In medium saucepan, combine juice mixture, allspice and salt to taste. Bring to a boil; stir in rice. Cover; reduce heat to low and simmer 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, remove steak from marinade; discard marinade. Grill steak 7 minutes on each side over high heat for medium or until desired doneness. Cut steak diagonally across the grain into thin slices.
  5. Place rice in serving bowl. Stir in pineapple and oranges. Serve with steak.
  6. Serving Suggestion For an authentic Caribbean touch, add 1 cup diced peeled mango to rice with pineapple chunks and oranges.

Grilled Strawberries with Limoncello
courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens

Dessert: Fruit is excellent served fresh, it’s true, but try grilling it instead.  You’ll be amazed at the subtle differences in flavor, especially the way a smoky strawberry will complement lemon sorbet in this tasty dessert, which can be prepared ahead of time or on the spot.

Image: Better Homes and Gardens

  • Prep Time: 30 min.
  • Freeze Time: 8-24 hrs.
  • Grill Time: 6 min.
  • Yield: 8 servings

2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups water
1 tablespoon finely shredded lemon peel
1 1/2 cups lemon juice
2 tablespoons limoncello
48 strawberries
1 cup powdered sugar


  1. For sorbet: In a medium saucepan, combine granulated sugar and the water. Bring to boiling, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Stir in lemon peel, lemon juice, and limoncello. Cover and chill.
  2. Transfer mixture to a 2- to 4-quart ice cream freezer; freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions. Transfer sorbet to a nonmetallic freezer container. Cover and freeze for 8 to 24 hours or until firm.
  3. On sixteen 6-inch skewers*, thread strawberries, leaving 1/4 inch between pieces. Dip strawberries into powdered sugar, turning to coat.
  4. For a charcoal grill, place strawberry skewers on the greased rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium-low coals. Grill about 6 minutes or until strawberries are heated through, turning frequently to heat evenly. (For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium-low. Place strawberry skewers on grill rack over heat. Cover and grill as above.) Serve strawberries with sorbet. Makes 8 servings.

Tip *If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for at least 30 minutes before grilling.

Watermelon Mojito
courtesy of Floyd Cardoz, Leo Barrera, and theKitchn

Finishing Touch: Who says that you have to limit yourself to classic mojitos or daiquiris if you want a summer cocktail?  Try a seasonally-inspired drink with the freshest ingredients.

Image: Nora Maynard

  • Yield: one cocktail

2 ounces rum (dark or white)
1 ounce fresh lime juice
1 ounce simple syrup
6-8 mint leaves
3 1/2 ounces watermelon flesh, cut into cubes

Muddle watermelon and mint in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass. Add rum, lime juice, and simple syrup, and shake well with ice. Pour (without straining) into a double rocks glass.

Earth Day Events at State Parks

Earth Day is right around the corner and to celebrate Mother Nature’s special day, parks across the country are rallying together to clean, protect and promote our environment. From beach clean ups to educational events, there will be plenty of ways to pitch in this weekend. Still not sure where to go? Peep our roundup of cool, Earth Day events or search through your Pocket Ranger® to find an event nearest you.

Courtesy of


Colorado State Park enthusiasts have their pick of eight planned activities (so far!) taking place at state parks across the state. All programs are free to the public, save for a nominal parking fee. Check Examiner’s coverage of Earth Day for times and details: CO Earth Day.


7th Annual Earth Day Beach Clean-Up at Fenwick Island State Park at Delaware Seashore

Saturday, April 21. 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Take part in a pre-season clean-up at one of the state’s most peaceful beaches. Meet at the main beach Bath House at the south end of Fenwick Island State Park bright and early. Everyone’s welcomed but large groups are advised to call ahead. Call (302) 227-6991 or visit DEStateParks.

12th Annual Earth Day Festival at Killens Pond State Park

Saturday, April 21. 10 a.m.- 3p.m.

Entrance fees are waived during the festival, as the Delaware Solid Waste Authority (DSWA) is happily picking up the tab for all who come meet Trash Can Dan and his friends, visit with exhibitors with important environmental information and participate in this fun-filled day event meant to bring people together to not only explore environmental topics but to enjoy the beauty of one of Delaware’s State Parks.


Global Youth Service Day at Country Village Park

Saturday, April 21. 8 a.m. – 1 p.m.

The volunteer initiate, coordinated in part by the Parks Foundation of Miami-Dade, the Miami-Dade Parks, endeavors to plant, paint and refurbish play areas within the park. More than 100 volunteers have signed up, what are you waiting for? Community members interested in volunteering are urged to call: 305-961-2781.


Earth Day at Chesterfield State Park

Saturday, April 21. 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.

There is no shortage of festivities at this annual Earth Day festival! Learn about repurposed products, browse recycled art and craft items and participate in a Guiness Book record item drive cosponsored by the Girl Scouts. For more information, call: (636) 537-4000.

North Carolina

Earth Day at New River State Park

Sunday, April 22. 11 a. m. – 4 p.m.

Celebrate Earth Day with a live music, ranger-lead environmental activities and organizations promoting earth-friendly products and information. Bring the whole family along for fly-fishing demos, sing-a-longs and more! For more information, call 336-982-2587 or visit Earth Day.


Every single one of Virginia State Parks is hosting its own Earth Day celebration, so visitors have their pick of where to go celebrate Mother Nature. For more information on what’s taking place nearest you, visit: Virginia Outdoors.

Rhode Island

All sorts of clean-ups are scheduled at a number of parks and beaches across the Middleton this weekend. Find out how and where to pitch in by visiting:

 Did we miss any? Comment below and let us know how YOU are celebrating.

Hiking Hits – President’s Day

Pocket Ranger®’s weekly song picks for those who enjoy a little musical accompaniment when hitting the trails.

No matter what your political affiliation we can all agree that being the President of anything let alone a country, is definitely not Easy.  While people may complain and say “Things Ain’t How They Used To Be,” let us relish in the wonderful things the great outdoors have to offer and remember how beautiful America is. So on this President’s Day, let’s be thankful for our forefathers since The Ghost of Them Lingers… even if you did not get the day off.

Check out the rest of this week’s President’s Day themed selections to get you breaking a sweat no matter the weather.

Park it on President’s Day

What better place to celebrate President’s Day than at a state or national park? All across the country a slew of parks are celebrating this most patriotic holiday with events, guided hikes and more! Not one for organized fun? Gather a group (or opt to go solo!), grab your Pocket Ranger® mobile tour guide and set off to explore a new state park. As a wise, America’s State Parks Youth Ambassador noted, President’s Day Weekend is a great time to take advantage of little traffic and lots of open space.

Below, we’ve rounded up some of what’s in store but, for the full scoop, be sure to download the Pocket Ranger® app ( and click through to the events tab to find out what’s going on at a state park nearest you.

Valley Forge

February 19

Lincoln Day

Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial, Indiana

Good ol’ Abe Lincoln’s eponymous memorial celebrates its 50th anniversary with a special reading by Robert Bray, author of the book Reading with Lincoln.

George Washington’s Birthday!

New Jersey

New Jersey State Parks is throwing several bashes for the first U.S. president. Here’s where to go to celebrate:

Allaire State Park, 1 p.m. (732.919.3500)
Rockingham Historic Site, 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. (609.683.7132)
Washington Crossing State Park, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. (609.786.6445)

February 20

Washington’s Birthday Weekend

Valley Forge National Historic Park, Pennsylvania

Join General George Washington and his wife, Martha for big birthday blowout including, music, cake and a special training session for the Continental Army.

Brandywine Zoo

Brandywine Zoo, Delaware

U.S. President’s have done a great deal for our country—and our animals! Come down to the Brandywine Zoo to learn all about our nation’s animal-loving presidents, Delaware’s wildlife and fun, arts and crafts.


Did we miss any? What’s going on at your nearest state park?

Hiking Hits – Valentine’s Day

Pocket Ranger®’s weekly song picks for those who enjoy a little musical accompaniment when hitting the trails.

Whether you currently find yourself Lovesick or with nothing more than a Friend Crush, Valentine’s Day can be complicated. Before you drive yourself crazy asking Why I Love You about a Shady Love, or wishing that someone was Thinking About You, get outside and fall in love with nature with inspiration from this extended Valentine’s Day playlist. Even if you’re Not In Love, these tunes will get you thinking about a True Love Fantasy  with the great outdoors, whatever your romantic situation.

Check out the rest of this week’s Valentine’s Day-themed selections to get you breaking a sweat no matter the weather.

Love in the Wild: Valentine’s Day Events

Surprise your outdoor-loving guy or gal with a visit to a state park this Valentine’s Day. With all the great deals and fun events planned at a number of state parks across the country, planning the once-dreaded holiday is bound to be a walk in the park—literally.

♥ Delaware State Parks

Take your romantic getaway to the state park with an overnight stay in a cozy cottage at Delaware Seashore State Park. Enjoy a slew of discounts when you book, such as Valentine’s Day chocolates, a gift card towards the purchase of dinner at the marina and more. The best part? The deal is good through the end of February, perfect for that procrastinating special someone in your life. Click to book.

♥ Kentucky State Parks

Take your Valentine’s Day celebration to the next level with an overnight stay at one of Kentucky State Parks’ resorts. Pick from a raucous dance party to an interactive murder mystery game, all paired with equally festive fare ranging anywhere from complimentary continental breakfast and room service to a multi-course meal. Click for a list of events.

♥ Missouri State Parks

Love is in the air at Dr. Edmund Babler Memorial State Park the weekend leading up to Valentine’s Day. Come join The Mating Game as the park’s wild inhabitants on their quest for a sweetheart. You’ll be amazed at the crazy antics! Sign up to play.

♥ North Carolina State Parks

Enjoy buy-one-get-one-free admission to Chimney Rock State Park February 9 through February 13 and celebrate early on a hike with your honey. Visit the state park’s site for more information. On the day of, opt for a guided hike or an evening under the stars with a movie by the lake. Click for more details.

♥ Pennsylvania State Parks

Because few things say “I love you!” like taking a stroll hand in hand, a Valentine’s Day stroll is mandatory. Kick start the celebration early on the Valentine Prediction Run/Walk at Presque Isle State Park. For another activity made better by a little hand-holding, there’s always a traditional jaunt around the ice rink at Parker Dam State Park (now through February 17).

♥ South Dakota State Parks

Strap on your snowshoes and head to Custer State Park for the Lover’s Leap Snowshoe hike. This guided snowshoe hike takes participants through a dense pine forest, meandering near Grace Coolidge Creek. Snowshoes are provided but it’s BYO date!

Super Bowl Outdoors: Recipe Interference

The likelihood of the bulk of us spending Sunday outdoors is probably slim to none. That is, unless, we’re grilling for the big game! (Did someone say Super Bowl?!) Whether you’re going for the Giants or the Patriots, there’s no better way to spend Super Bowl Sunday tapping into both your inner outdoorsman (or woman!) and budding couch potato with easy, than by partaking in some delicious outdoor grilling. Skip the expected chowder and check out these delicious recipes to keep you from playing hooky from Mother Nature.

The Perfect Burger

There’s no messing around here. Billed as the perfect burger, the Country Lady’s indulgent recipe is not only easy to customize for each guests but also packs a flavorful punch.


  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon mustard (regular or Dijon)
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 small onion, finely grated
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 pound medium ground beef

Optional stir-ins:

  • 1 tablespoon creamy Caesar salad dressing or 1 tablespoon Greek salad dressing
  • 1 tablespoon chopped sun-dried tomato
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream or 1 tablespoon yoghurt
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh lemon rind or 1 tablespoon lime rind
  • 1 tablespoon grated gingerroot
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup or 1 tablespoon barbecue sauce
  • 1 teaspoon lemon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano or 1 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon fresh herb
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon teriyaki sauce or 1 teaspoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 fresh jalapenos or 1 pickled jalapeno pepper, chopped


1. Lightly oil grill& heat BBQ to medium.

2. Whisk egg in a bowl& add next 6 ingredients.

3. Add any of the “stir-ins” that appeal to you.

4. Crumble in beef& using your hands or a fork, gently mix together.

5. Handle the meat as little as possible – the more you work it, the tougher it gets.

6. Gently shape (don’t firmly press) mixture into burgers about ¾ inch thick.

7. Using your thumb, make a shallow depression in the center of each burger to prevent puffing up during cooking.

8. Place burgers on the grill, close lid & BBQ until they are no longer pink inside, turning once, about 6 – 8 minutes per side.

9. An instant read thermometer should read 160F.

10. Don’t abuse your burgers by pressing with a spatula, pricking with a fork or turning frequently as precious juices will be lost!

11. Tuck into a warm crusty bun& add your favorite toppings.

Pigskin Sandwiches

With a name of apropos of the event, who wouldn’t want to make these yummy sandwiches for the big event? Assemble, set on the grill and you’ll be ready for kick-off before you know it.


  • 4 French rolls or 4 Kaiser rolls or 4 hoagie rolls , split
  • ¼ cup barbecue sauce, store-bought
  • 8 slices Swiss cheese, mozzarella cheese, provolone cheese or 8 slices colby-monterey jack cheese
  • 8 -12 ounces thinly sliced cooked ham
  • 8 slices bacon, crisp-cooked, drained and halved crosswise
  • Pickles (optional)


1. Fold four 18×12-inch pieces of heavy foil in half to make four 12×9-inch rectangles; set aside. Spread roll bottoms and tops evenly with barbecue sauce. Top each roll bottom with a slice of the cheese, rolling to fit if necessary; top each with ham slices. Top with bacon and remaining cheese slices. Place each roll top, sauced side down, over cheese.

2. Place each sandwich on a piece of foil. Bring up edges of foil to enclose sandwiches.

3. For a charcoal grill, arrange medium-hot coals around bottom edge of grill. Test for medium heat above center of grill. Place sandwiches on center of grill rack, not over the coals. Cover and grill for 12 to 15 minutes, or until rolls heated through and cheese is melted, turning once halfway through grilling. (For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Adjust for indirect cooking. Grill as above.) Serve warm. If you like, serve with pickles.

Turkey Chili

If it’s cold in your neck of the woods, a piping-hot pot of chili will keep your guests warm and satiated during the big game. Here’s a healthy take on traditional chili perfect for a Dutch oven.


  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium brown onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder*
  • 1 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoons red pepper flakes
  • 70 oz. canned stewed tomatoes with juices (that’s 2 big cans and 1 smaller can)
  • 2 15 oz. cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups of shredded, cooked turkey meat
  • 1 teaspoon sugar, plus more to taste
  • Toppings: shredded cheese, chopped red onion, sour cream


1. Warm extra virgin olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium high heat. Once the oil starts shimmering, add the chopped onion and green bell pepper. Cook until soft and slightly caramelized, stirring occasionally (about 5 minutes). Add garlic, chili powder, cumin and red pepper flakes, stirring to combine. Cook the spices for a few minutes, stirring often.

2. To the pot add stewed tomatoes with juices, kidney beans, tomato paste, chicken stock, oregano, kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and shredded turkey meat. Bring the mixture to a simmer then reduce heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, for an hour.

3. Stir in sugar then season to taste with additional sugar and kosher salt.

4. To serve, spoon chili into soup bowls and top with shredded cheese, chopped red onion and sour cream.

2012 New Year’s Resolutions: Outdoors Edition

2012 is almost upon us, and with that a whole slew of new and recycled resolutions. This year, we’re skipping all the tired and often-unfulfilled resolutions to get slim and spend less in order to focus our efforts on one special lady: Mother Nature. Find out how the folks behind Pocket Ranger® plan to fête the New Year with a little bonus time outdoors.

“My resolution is to work on speed training at the track, so I can get down to 4 hours (or less) for the NJ marathon in May 2012.”  – Leland, Interface Designer

“My outdoor-resolution would probably be something to do with horseback riding. I haven’t been since I moved to New York City from Florida. I’d like to make a point to go once a month or so.” – Jen, Researcher

“I  would like to take bicycle excursions to more of the state parks in New York City. I would also like to get upstate to go hiking more than once a year and maybe even go camping (I have to get strong enough to carry all that gear!).” – Stephanie, Research & Development

“My resolution is to use more eco-friendly products. I just got a book on making your own eco conscious household cleaners!” – Emily, Research & New Media

“Here’s hoping for 2012 to be chock-full of new outdoor experiences, including but not limited to camping and skiing for the very first time. My resolution to spend less time reading about the outdoors and more time enjoying it.” – Virginia, New Media Coordinator

“My New Year’s resolutions are to bike at least two hours each week and, on winter weekends, go to the park to feed the starving seagulls and birds. – John Melillo, PBN COO

“In 2012, I want to travel with my friends out of the city, camp, and explore state parks as much as possible. I also want to try staying overnight at a lodge.” – Catt, Interface Designer

“Next year I’d like to venture outside the city more and explore different trails with my dog.” – Brittany, Researcher

“My New Year’s Resolution, is to be more active outdoors, like go on more picnics. I plan on getting fat outdoors rather than indoors.”Jenny, Researcher

What’s your New Year’s Resolution?


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