Back in June, I took my kids, 13 & 18 years old, on their very first camping trip. The plan was to spend 8 days and 7 nights under the stars at Governor Dodge State Park which sits just 45 minutes West of Madison, Wisconsin.
Now I grew up camping in the mountains of California and the woods of Wisconsin. Being a divorced non-custodial parent, I know I need to make the most of the time I have with my kids. With my 18 year old daughter going off to college this fall, I knew that this trip had to be filled with as many memory making moments that I could pack into it.
I tend to be a bit of a rustic camper. Though they are extremely useful and my family has used them through out my life, I am not a fan of portable propane stoves. I like the challenge of cooking everything over or in an open fire. I like the flavor the smoke adds to every meal.
So this year with all this taken into consideration, I threw myself a curve ball. My son is a huge fan of the Food Network show Chopped and continually telling me I should audition for the show. Though I would fail miserably compared to the talent of the chefs on television, I wanted to give my son a taste of the show.
So I asked my friends and followers on Facebook to give me three ingredients they would like to see me use in one meal. I then gave that list of combinations to my kids for them to choose one combination each that we would attempt while on our camping trip.
We did our final shopping trip to get all of what we would need, but all I knew were the six ingredients we would be using – I had no idea which ingredients would be used together.
So on the second night in the great outdoors, I was faced with my first Chopped inspired challenge. My son’s selection sat before; chicken, ginger snaps and apples. Deep breathe and think. My mind pondered the possibilities and then it struck me. I would fall back on a favorite when my kids were really little. My twist on the classic chicken and waffles turned into ginger and sesame fried chicken with apple and ginger snap pancakes.
Unlike the real Chopped, I didn’t set a time limit on myself. Cooking over an open campfire is challenging enough. I didn’t want the pressure of watching the clock added on. And also unlike Chopped, I had a sous chef. I love having my kids as my sous chefs anytime I am in the kitchen and having them at my side while cooking outdoors was a no-brainer.
The ginger snap cookies, Gold Fish crackers and sesame snack sticks were pounded and crushed into near powder form. This mixture, along with a little ground pepper and chili powder to help balance against the sweetness of the cookies, would become our breading for our fried chicken fingers. Just a chef’s side note - If you have never used Gold Fish crackers or sesame sticks for fried chicken – you are missing out.
I cut the chicken breasts in about four or five pieces each so that they would cook evenly and thoroughly in the cast iron skillet. Of course having finger food while camping is always more fun.
For the pancakes, we peeled and cut the apples into just smaller than bite size pieces and mixed them with some of the ginger snap powder that we had set aside. I used a prepackaged pancake mix (yes I know sacrilege) and added the apples as we cooked the pancakes.
The end result would never have won me any prizes for plating by the Chopped judges, but for taste and creativity I know I got high marks. The only two judges that mattered to me were my kids who couldn’t get enough. When your kid asks for seconds, you know you are a winner.
Be sure to stay tuned for part two in this series of family camping specials. I will share the unlikely combination that my daughter chose.
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