Archive for July, 2010

Fun Food Fridays: Green Chili Pulled Pork

Back in January, I hosted a party and served Orange Sangria. In that article, I also mentioned that my main dish was Green Chili Pulled Pork. Since then, I’ve had several requests for the recipe!

Now, I make this in the slow cooker so it’s not technically a camping recipe. But, the next time I go camping, I’m going to try it in a Dutch oven! And, since it heats up well, I think it would be a great dinner to cook before you go and then just heat it up in camp.

Ingredients

  • Pork roast (not too lean, and if the fat is marbled through, it’s better)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic (my garlic is from my very own garden!)
  • No stick cooking spray (I use PAM)
  • 2 cans Herdez Salsa Verde

Ingredients

Peel the garlic cloves and cut each clove into 2 or 3 pieces, depending on the size of the clove. Make a few slits in the pork roast and shove the garlic cloves into the roast.

The farther in you shove the garlic, the better!

Just be sure you don’t make too MANY slits in the roast since the juice will run out through each slit!

Spray the slow cooker with your no-stick spray. Put the roast in and pour just a few teaspoons of water into the bottom of the slow cooker. Just enough so there’s a thin skim of water on the bottom but not so much the roast is sitting in water! Cook on high for 2-4 hours or until the roast is fully cooked.

Now comes the shredding!

Of course, cooking times will depend on the size of your roast and what “high” means on YOUR cooker. I don’t usually cook it on slow since I’m always in a hurry to get it done.

When the meat is fully cooked, remove it from the slow cooker and let it “rest”. When it’s cool enough to handle, shred the roast. You can keep or discard the fat, depending on your preferences.

That’s the part I HATE: shredding! I usually DO keep a bit of the fat for flavor but I discard most of it.

Drain the juice (and bits) from the slow cooker but keep it to the side since you might need a bit.

Return the shredded meat to the pot and add the Herdez Salsa Verde. I always use two cans! You might need to add a bit of the cooking juice back to the pot as well, depending on if the meat is dry.

The finished product!

Heat through on low or warm. Serve with flour tortillas, beans, and rice.

A Note About The Salsa:

There’s a reason I’m recommending a specific brand of salsa here. When I make this, I actually use home-made tomatillo salsa from my garden and the Herdez is the closest to my recipe. That’s because the Herdez Salsa Verde is made from tomatillos, onion, and serrano peppers and not a whole lot else. It’s got a great flavor without being knock-you-down spicy.

(My home-made salsa is all home-grown tomatillos, garlic, jalapenos. Blend and freeze!)

Set Your Hook

Bass Fishing For Beginners

Every time I do some research about bass fishing I encounter the exact same thing: ONLY enough information to be confusing! The authors of the best bass articles toss around terms like “crankbaits” and “fight of the fish” and “structure” and “going deep” as if they’ll mean anything to somebody just getting started in bass fishing.

Or, the article is for the every-day bass fisher but was written by an author who spends 95% of the time fishing in bass tournaments.

Largemouth bass

Let’s talk about just some general “rules” about bass fishing to begin with and in future articles, I’ll build on this knowledge for more tips or techniques about how to land bass.

1. When you’re just getting started, go for a lightweight rod and reel set up.

Yes, you are running the risk that it won’t be big enough to handle monster bass, but be honest: as a beginner do you really think you’ll be catching any monster bass at all?

The advantage to a light-weight set up is that you can really feel the way the bass hits the bait and how it fights. Because, at the end of the day, bass are fighting fish and the fun is in the fight!

2. Buy a selection of baits but don’t get anything too cheap or anything too expensive.

It’s better to buy several different types of baits so you can figure out what works best for the bass and what you like the best. I’d recommend getting a natural colored and a bright colored lure for each bait type and get at least three different types.

Smallmouth Bass

Remember that you will lose some lures and you’ll also spend money on something that you’ll never use. That’s the name of the fishing game! The idea is to spend your money wisely until you know what you really want to spring for.

Once, when I was fishing on Ashurst Lake, near Flagstaff, AZ, in high-wind conditions. Not willing to not fish, I headed into town to buy some new bobbers. (Bobbers will travel along the lake surface in the wind so you can see when you need to take out slack or re-cast.) I wanted to try a “new” type of bobber that was an egg shaped middle with a plastic point coming from the top and one from the bottom. And, of course, they were four times the cost of the regular round red and white bobbers.

Instead of loading up on them, I bought one package. After having tested them, THEN I went back and stocked up on sizes, colors, and bobbers with rattles in them.

The moral of the story: new tackle is good but spending money on the right type of tackle is better.

3. You’ve got to find the fish before you can catch them.

As with any game fish, finding the fish can be harder than actually catching them. Bass will follow their food source. Ask anglers who are catching fish where they were at — if they won’t tell you their hidden hot spot, try and find out what the water conditions were like.

  • How deep were the bass?
  • What types of structure was there? (Channels, drop offs, underwater islands, etc)
  • What type and amount of cover was available?

Another great way to find bass is to subscribe to your state’s fishing report. The report here in Arizona says what was caught (size & quantity); what time of day; what was used; and in most cases, where they were caught (deep water, shallow water, in cover, etc.)

And, at the end of the day, remember that learning a new style of fishing can be frustrating but to stick with it will pay off in some great fish-tales in the end!

Readers Weigh In:

  • What are your tips for people just getting into bass fishing?
  • Do you have any sure-fire bass tips?
  • What’s your favorite type of fish to go after?

Pitch Your Tent: Camp Containers

5 Uses for Camp Containers

Plastic boxes with lids have a ton of uses in the home and they’re very useful in camp as well. Here are my top five uses for plastic containers. These tips are good if your car camping, tent camping or have an RV. They also work for day trips!

When buying your plastic box, keep in mind how it will be used. Does it need to fit in a certain cupboard in your RV? What about in the trunk? Between a pickup truck’s wheel wells? When I’m buying more plastic boxes, I also look to see how well they stack on top of each other. If you’re camping with kids, you may also want to figure in how easy or difficult it is to remove the lid.

To quote The Queen Mother, “Don’t worry that you look dorky when you’re standing in Wal-Mart with your tape measure, measuring Rubbermaid boxes. It’s worth looking dorky knowing that they’ll fit in your RV or truck!” Plastic storage containers are sized by volume (quarts, gallons, etc) but there can be inches difference in footprint size or height for the same volume container.

1. Corral like items: batteries, games, tea, etc. The picture shows our game box- a Rubbermaid shoebox that holds our cards games, Scrabble dictionary, and other small games. In the trailer, I also have a box for all my teas, one for batteries, clothes pins and string, and another for pre-packaged seasonings like meat marinade.

Some things fit better if you take them out of the original packaging!

2. If you’re car or tent camping, a good sized plastic container works perfect to hold boxes of dry food mixes like ‘Quick Mix Baking Mix’ or packages powdered hot chocolate. It can stay outside or under the picnic table or trailer, and I don’t have to worry about rain or items blowing away. We still do this in the trailer because we can carry the entire box out to the camp kitchen at mealtimes.

Be sure to bring any boxes of food in at night- either into the RV or in the car. Squirrels are great at getting into things or, even worse, attracting a bear! Just because you don’t think there are any animals near by that might bother your food is no reason to tempt fate.

Measure your space before you buy containers! You need to make sure everything fits.

3. Pack your clothes in a plastic box instead of a duffel bag or suitcase. The plastic containers can stack in a corner of the RV or tent for more room. When we used to tent camp, we’d actually put all the clothes boxes outside at night. Of course, before you do this, you want to make sure that they are waterproof!

4. My favorite is an empty container by the front door of the tent or RV to hold shoes. That way, if your shoes are muddy or wet, or even just dusty, you’re not bringing that mess inside. Line the bottom with several layers of newspaper to keep the mud or wetness off the plastic. Snap the lid on to keep out rain and bugs, of course. I like to sit on the trailer step to put my shoes back on.

5. Create a separate ‘Grab-It-And-Go-Box’ for day trips, either from home or from the campsite. Ours has extra batteries, water bottles, dry jackets, a flashlight, large garbage bags, and snacks. The idea is to pre-pack anything that you might need in case of an emergency or sudden weather change. With a ‘Grab-It-And-Go-Box’ you know that if you forget sweatshirts and it gets cold, you’re covered. Just be sure to replace any supplies you used when you get home.

A variation on the ‘Grab-It-And-Go-Box’ is to have a box for specific purposes. We have one that has all our digital camera stuff (batteries, lens cleaning, memory cards, a pen and notebook, etc) so we can get out the door faster, knowing our gear is ready to go.

The need for tight-fitting lids:

ESP Boss was out hunting one fall when he was caught in a torrential rain storm. (The type where you can’t get the RV out and have to come back for it when the road dries out.) His containers were flipped over from the wind and bobbed around in the standing water but his stuff stayed dry- thanks to the tight fitting lids!

Readers Weigh In:

  • What do you use to corral your gear when you’re camping?
  • Do you have a favorite size or type of plastic container?

Find Your Geocache

Extreme Geocaching

Have you ever noticed the difficulty rating on geocaches? I mean REALLY noticed it? Most geocaches seem to hover somewhere between 1 and 3 for both terrain and difficulty.

But there are those geocaches out there that are not for the faint of heart: The EXTREME Geocaches!

Extreme (5 Star) Difficulty:

A serious mental or physical challenge. Requires specialized knowledge, skills, or equipment to find cache.

Extreme (5 Star) Terrain:

Requires specialized equipment and knowledge or experience (boat, 4WD, rock climbing, SCUBA, etc) or is otherwise extremely difficult.

Of course, since the cache owner rates the cache, the ratings might be subjective!

So, what does it take to go after an “extreme” cache?

1. Read the cache description carefully.

The cache owner will most likely give you lots of advice as to what is needed to complete the cache. This might be anything from special tools to special equipment.

2. Read all the logs!

I recently went after my most extreme cache to date (video coming soon!) but I didn’t do a good enough job reading all the available logs. The logs gave details about how the cache was attached and also outlined troubles that prior finders had experienced.

3. Remember this is a game.

If you don’t feel safe doing something, stop! There’s no need to risk life, limb, or sanity in the pursuit of a smiley face. It’s especially challenging when not only is the cache hard to get to (terrain 5) but is also so well camouflaged that it’s frustrating once you’re at ground zero.

4. Bring the correct gear.

Nothing is more frustrating than getting all the way to the cache site only to realize that you needed specialized gear to retrieve the cache! Examples would be a swim suit, SCUBA gear, climbing ropes, or a waterproof flashlight.

I've found a cache where a kayak wasn't a suggestion, it was a requirement!

5. Make sure your gear works.

So you’ll be doing a water cache, huh? Does your waterproof flashlight work? Is it firmly attached to your wrist?

6. Use the buddy system.

Not only tell a friend where you’ll be going and what you’ll be doing, but you might want to bring them along as well. A friend might not go with you on the climb to retrieve the cache, but he could make sure you get there and return safely. A lot of extreme caches recommend going in pairs for safety.

Caching for a lake find with another cacher -- he got REALY wet when his raft deflated.

7. Brag!

You know I’m a big fan of descriptive logs on geocaching.com. Extreme caches are the time to demonstrate all your creative writing skills! Give us the play-by-play and totally ham up your success. There will be a lot of folks that will only ever see the cache vicariously through your logs so spare no details of how you were almost eaten by an alligator, chased by a man-eating rhinoceros, and barely avoided the buffalo stampede. You don’t want to give too many spoilers, but don’t just say: “TFTC SL” for crying out loud!

Readers Weigh In:

  • Have you ever done an “extreme” geocache? Did you find it? Was the effort worth the find?
  • What has been the most difficult (terrain OR camouflage) that you’ve searched for to date? Did you find it?
  • Would you make a habit of going after the “extreme” caches?

Mystery Mondays: Happy Birthday!

If you’ve been reading my free weekly newsletter, you know I had two summer interns working on researching more states for EatStayPlay.com. Keith actually worked for me last summer and Gabe is brand new to the EatStayPlay.com team this year. During their 8 week internship they researched places to go camping and fishing in Montana and Texas as well as the State and National Parks.

And, they also turned 18!

Keith & Gabe

18 is one of those milestone years so instead of just getting them a card and a gift certificate, the EatStayPlay.com “Royal” Family decided to throw these two a surprise party!

The boys had a great time showing friends and family where they've been working all summer.

The boys had a great time showing friends & family where they worked.

Little did the boys know, not only had I arranged for The Queen Mother and ESP Boss to come, but I’d also contacted their mom’s and siblings to arrange work schedules to come and celebrate with us.

I shamelessly recruited next year's summer researchers.

I’ve never thrown a surprise party before (but had always wanted to) and I do have to say it was a total success. The Queen Mother whipped up a ton of grilled hotdogs on the Coleman Max and everybody chowed down. (The Queen Mother also made a to-die for birthday cake!)

(Just in case you’ve seen my stove videos, yes, the Coleman Max did a FANTASTIC job. Of course, it wasn’t windy at all!)

The Queen Mother grills a mean hotdog!

Let me brag a bit on my two “boy-ohs” so you can see just how fantastic it was having them work for me this summer.

  • Both graduated from Chino Valley High School in 2010
  • They’ve been friends for FOREVER (I think 6th grade or so)
  • In one summer they’ve added well over 1,000 NEW attractions to the EatStayPlay.com database
  • They are hard working, on time, polite and always on task

So, what’s up next for the EatStayPlay.com interns?

Gabe will be enlisting in the Army at the beginning of September. He’ll be taking August to visit family in Washington, do some physical training, and get in some fishing before he goes off to Basic Training.

Keith will be working for EatStayPlay.com through August. At the end of August, he’ll be moving to Flagstaff to attend Northern Arizona University. He’ll be sharing an apartment with his older brother, Nathan. (Nathan worked for EatStayPlay.com in Summer 2009.)

Congrats gentlemen! We wish you all the best of luck!

Fun Food Fridays: Crackers For Breakfast!

I know we all go camping with graham crackers for s’mores but honestly, how many s’mores can you eat in one sitting? Camping always leaves me with extra graham crackers and here’s how I eat them.

Graham crackers are one of my favorite snacks!

INGREDIENTS

  • 3-4 graham crackers
  • 1/2 cup milk

Break graham crackers into bite sized pieces and put into a bowl. Cover with cold milk and let crackers become soggy. Eat with a spoon.

This is one of my favorite summer-time breakfasts even when I’m at home! It’s perfect to eat on the back porch and enjoy the pretty summer mornings!

Set Your Hook: Video

Video: Sure-Fire Trout-Catching Setup

My Sure-Fire Trout-Catching Setup has been one of my most popular articles ever. And since it’s just the tip you need to fish for trout in weedy, rocky lakes, I wanted to illustrate just how to set it up.

Pitch Your Tent: Campfire Stories

5 Tips For Telling Campfire Stories

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I LOVE having a campfire. There’s something about campfires that just build camping memories for me!

Campfires are great places to build family memories.

Telling stories around the campfire is a tradition. I’ve found, however, that many families don’t tell stories, because they’re just not sure how. Movies always show campers huddled around a campfire enjoying ghost stories, but that isn’t usually what happens in real life.

Remember, anyone can read a story, but, when a story is told, listeners (adults or children) feel a bond between the teller and themselves.

5 tips to get the stories flowing:

1. Decide on your audience

Will a group of adults really want to listen to a ghost story? Is a ghost story appropriate for the ages of the kids you’re taking camping? The idea of telling stories around a

campfire is just that — to tell stories. It’s not necessary to tell scary stories to have a good time.

2.. Know your story

If you’re telling a ghost story, know the climax and know the scariest parts. If you’re telling a funny story you need to know your punch line.

3. Have a set “story time”

When I was younger, we didn’t actually tell stories around the campfire — by the time we got back to camp, had dinner and a s’more, it was time for bed. Our story time was on the boat, when the fishing was slow and I was bored.

The key for an effective story time is a quiet setting where you’re not likely to be interrupted.

4. Invite others to share

If you’re going to have campfire stories on your next trip, you might want to let the rest of the family, or group, know you’re planning it. That way, they can bring stories of their own, or at the very least, they will make time for you to share your story with a minimum of groans!

Comfy chairs, bug repellant, and warm clothes will make campfire story time more enjoyable. S'mores don't hurt either!

5. Story time doesn’t have to be made-up stories

It’s a lot of fun to sit around and re-tell favorite stories (ghost, funny, or just tall-tales) but it isn’t a necessity. You can also gather around the campfire to re-tell your favorite family tales too. Like the time your son locked himself in the outhouse or when your daughter caught her first fish.

The real heart of campfire story time is to reconnect with your family or friends and to participate in the ancient human tradition of telling stories. Even if you’re just sharing family antidotes, campfire stories should be a part of your next trip.

Readers Weigh In:

  • What are your favorite campfire traditions?
  • What is your favorite scary story?
  • Do you sing campfire songs?

Find Your Geocache

What Are Collectable Geocoins?

Rotary International collectable coin.

When I first started geocaching, I had no idea that there are actually TWO types of geocoins: trackable and collectable. It wasn’t until I doing research for the EatStayPlay.com Geocoin that I discovered the difference!

Back in April, I wrote an article all about what trackable geocoins are and how they work. But, since then, I’ve realized that many people might not actually know the difference between a trackable geocoin and one that you collect.

The difference (in a nutshell): A collectable geocoin typically does NOT have a tracking number on geocaching.com. While a collectable geocoin might move from cache to cache, its movements are not able to be tracked on geocaching.com.

This coin is non-trackable.

Some collectable geocoins DO have an ID number. That ID number is like when an artist makes prints of a painting and says: Print #127 of #230. While knowing that a collectable coin is part of a limited edition is really neat, I think that the ID number would cause confusion with people thinking that the coin is trackable!

Designs (and materials) vary from coin to coin. A standard geocoin is a minted, metal coin that can range in size from a dime to the size of a silver dollar. While most people think ah, “coin=round” that’s not necessarily the case. A “coin” can be in any shape and even be three-dimensional with raised portions.

4 Tips For Your Collection

1. Collect non-trackable coins.

There are a bunch of non-trackable coins available for personal collections. They range from minted coins, to wooden nickels, to plastic tokens, to signature items. (Not sure what a signature item is? Keep checking back, I’ll do an article about that soon!)

An example of a wooden nickel I found in a cache.

2. You should only collect unactivated trackable coins!

If the coin is already activated, then the owner is expecting it to move from cache to cache. Trust me, coin owners get really frustrated when their TRACKABLE geocoin ends up in somebody’s shoebox collection under the bed never to be seen again!

(I just found an article where the author said that any time she finds ANY geocoin in a cache, it goes into her personal collection. Not cool!)

Don't take a trackable item from a cache unless you're planning on moving it to another cache!

3. Collecting activated trackable coins.

I know I just said to only collect unactivated trackable coins. But, the exception to that is if YOU are the owner of the coin. ESP Boss has two coins from our original EatStayPlay.com Geocoin minting that he has kept. They are activated and he is the owner, but the coins remain in a frame on the office wall.

4. “Collect” the coin by discovering it.

Unlike finding a trackable item in a cache, taking it and moving it along, you can mark the trackable item’s number as “discovered” on your geocaching.com profile. That means that you are saying that you’ve seen the item but are not responsible for moving it along. I know of several geocachers who have an online “collection” of geocoins that they have found. This is perfect if you don’t want the responsibily of moving a coin or if you only cache occasionally. By discovering the coin, you can show the coin on your profile without getting angry emails from the coin owner when you haven’t moved it in 4 months!

Readers Weigh In:

  • What types of geocaching items do you collect? Coins? Signature items? Etc.
  • Have you ever had somebody “collect” your trackable?
  • Do you move trackable items or do you “discover” them? Which do you prefer?

Mystery Mondays: Bungee Cords & Washing Dishes

Happy Monday! I don’t know if you’re aware, but while I’ve only been writing The Outdoor Princess blog a short time, I’ve been publishing a newsletter since 2006! For today’s Mystery Monday’s article I wanted to share with you two tips from the Pitch Your Tent newsletter.

Like clothespins, bungee cords have a myriad of uses around the campsite. Here’s a tip called

The Art Of the Bungee Cord

The bungee cord is a handy tool that every type of camper can make use of. But, for this tip, I am talking about the Art of the Bungee Cord to secure drawers, doors, and other equipment in your RV.

Most RVs come standard with some mechanism to keep drawers and doors closed. They seem to work fine, as long as the RV never leaves the pavement. Have you ever come to your campsite, at the end of a long bumpy dirt road and find that your drawers and doors have opened, spilling the contents all over?

The perfect solution is the Art of the Bungee Cord! I prefer to use the bungees that are a loop with a ball on one end rather than the type with a hook at either end. Just wrap the bungee between two door handles so the doors can’t open! Make the bungee tight enough the doors (or drawers) stay closed, but not so tight as it puts strain on the handles.

Yesterday, the EatStayPlay.com “Royal” Family took a road trip near Williams, Arizona. We were looking for some places to film for The Outdoor Princess Productions when we wouldn’t be able to get by with our studio setup. (Like cooking or pitching a tent — stuff that HAS to be done in the wilderness!)

We found a few great spots but weren’t able to film because it was raining. In driving through White Horse Lake Campground and Dogtown Lake¬† Campground, there were about a million families out enjoying a weekend of camping.

I can live without my fridge, freezer and microwave when I’m camping, but the appliance that I miss the most is my dishwasher! Here are some tips to make cleanups easier:

7 Camp Clean-Up Tips

  1. Put a pan of water on the stove or fire while you eat so that the water will be hot and ready for cleanup when you are done eating. You want the water as hot as you can stand it — it will cool down quickly and the hotter the water, the more germs it will kill.
  2. Bring liquid soap for dishes. Consider finding something that is labeled as a low-water soap to make cleanup faster. Use small amounts, just enough to clean the dishes, so you don’t waste water on dish washing.
  3. Whenever possible, wash dishes outside instead of in the RV. This keeps your grey water holding tank from becoming full as quickly.
  4. Soak stubborn pots and pans while you’re scrubbing plates and silverware. By the time you’re done, the baked-on food should be loose. If you plan to leave it soaking, be aware that the standing water and food can attract bees, bears and other manners of beasties.
  5. Three words: plastic dish tubs. You’ll want at least two: one for scrubbing, one for rinsing. The goal is to minimize water usage (and time spent doing dishes!) and to maximize the cleanliness ofthe dishes so nobody gets sick.
  6. The soapy water-filled dish tub is great to wash hands in. Just dunk and rub! It’ll work even after the water gets cold.
  7. Keep dish soap in a bottle with a tight fitting lid so it doesn’t leak if it tips. The toggle-button bottles (like for shampoo) aren’t recommended since they can open during changes in elevation.

Do you want more great tips like these? Sign up for my free email newsletter at EatStayPlay.com/Newsletter

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