Monday, July 14, 2014

Camp Cooking #11: Not your Mamma's Cast-Iron Queso

I love cheese.  Sliced, shredded, melted - you name it, I'm a fan of it. With chips, with crackers, with wine or beer or all by its little ole' lonesome.  Yep, I'm a huge fan of all things cheesy (including jokes, like this one: Q: What do you call a cheese that doesn't belong to you? A: Nacho Cheese!)

All joking aside, this recipe is not you're mamma's basic cheese dip - this is a cast-iron, melty, hotter-than-Hades, good-stuff, kick you in the teeth kind of queso. It's not for the faint of heart!

First up, Gather your Ingredients!

1 lb Jimmy Dean HOT sausage
Cayenne, Chili Powder, Red Pepper Flakes, 
Black Pepper, Cumin (all to taste)
1 lb Velveeta
1 can HOT Rotel
1 can Black Beans, drained and rinsed
3 Jalapenos, diced
Chips For Dipping
Cast-iron Dutch-oven, wooden spoon, knife, can opener, strainer

As we get started, a quick note on serving sizes - RDB and I halved everything but the Velveeta - and still ended up with waaay more than two people could finish - that being said, the complete ingredient list makes plenty enough for a crowd, but if you're making it for a couple, you might want to cut it down to a quarter can of beans, quarter pound of meat and only half the block of cheese. 

Begin by browning your sausage in your cast iron skillet over medium heat.  I highly recommend cast iron for this recipe - nothing sticks, everything melts well, it helps to retain heat (you'll serve it straight from the pot) and clean up couldn't be easier. 

When your sausage is still slightly pink, add in your spices (and if needed, drain the fat from your meat).  I wasn't very precise on how much of what (I rarely ever am, much to RDB's chagrin) so for the most part, you'll have to feel it out for yourself.  So far as heat goes, the ingredients listed above are from from hottest to mildest and remember - you're starting with a spicy meat and are also adding in HOT Rotel.  Adjust to your camper's Scoville preferences.  

Cube up and add in your Velveeta - and from this point on, dedicate someone to continuously stir the pot.  Cast iron cleans beautifully, yes, but cheese also burns quickly!  While the cheese is getting gooey, open your cans, drain your beans, and chop your jalapenos.  Note: don't drain the Rotel - you'll want the liquid to help thin out the cheese enough to make it scoopable.  Yes, 'scoopable.'  (Spellcheck, leave me alone!)

Add your (un-drained) can of Rotel at any point once you've got everything else ready to go. And stir, stir, stir.

You'll want to save the beans for last - right before the fresh jalapenos - because you don't want to mush them to pieces as you continue to stir and blend your queso.  One you have a completed melted and smooth consistency, add the beans, give a stir, then as you're taking this whole delightful pot to the table to serve, fold in your fresh jalapenos.

RDB and I both recommend serving this with Fritos - the extra bit of salt just sets this off!  Oh, and thinking about setting things off - you may want to have a fire extinguisher (aka, beer) nearby, because a few bites of this cheesy deliciousness will set your mouth on fire!

Can't Wait... pick up this little cutie tomorrow!!

Our trailer, "Honey," has a new name tag!!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Numerous Naps

Who the heck calls it: "microsleep"?
I love naps. Intermissions. A snooze. A respite.  Camping provides plenty of opportunities to do just that: pause. Not that you ever need a *reason* to take a nap, but this past week RDB drove from Houston to Dallas to Alabama and back (and I just drove to Dallas).  The week before we terminated a 2-month-long saga into real estate - and I won't go into the details, but: 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, 1.2 acres,  3 negotiations with the seller, 2 different lenders, 2 appraisals that came in under value, 14 thousand documents signed and sent back and forth, one pool table, lift and John Deere mower, and a partridge in a pear tree.... 

Anywho, back to camping.

Yes, that is our F250 sans tailgate.  Somebody stole it in June.  Add that to the list...

We took a short trip over to Steven F. Austin State Park in San Felipe.  It was just a little over an hour from the house, we were able to get there early enough to have a decent choice of spots.  Headquarters at this campground has gone high-tech: they've got a huge LCD TV behind the counter showing what spots are taken and what's available.  I walked in and almost immediately the Ranger said: "Wrong shirt!" - I was wearing my Brazos Bend SP shirt.  Oops!

The campground is beautiful kept - lots of natural area between each spot, creating privacy. Huge old mature trees, and lots of moss/air plants.  We had deer in our site both mornings. It was fun to watch Diesel who was completely oblivious to them until they sprang off in another direction.  Needless to say, he's no hunting dog.

Saturday morning we got up (late) and dropped in at the San Felipe De Austin historical site (its less than a block north of Park Rd 38).  This was the location where Steven F Austin started his colony in 1823.  As RDB and I camp across the southern part of Texas, it's amazing to learn about the tumultuous times that surrounded our State's birth:

"After the fall of the Alamo, Gen. Sam Houston's army retreated through San Felipe de Austin. On March 30, 1836, the small garrison remaining at San Felipe to defend the Brazos crossing ordered the town evacuated and then burned it to the ground to keep it from falling into the hands of the advancing Mexican army. The terrified residents hastily gathered what few belongings they could carry before fleeing eastward during the incident known as the Runaway Scrape. " -

A little later, we made our way over to Sealy (two exits west on I-10).  They were hosting their 6th annual Sealy-bration, with live music, a BBQ cook-off, tractor parade and car show.  Ye-haw!  We missed the tractor parade, and I almost gave up after realizing parking the truck was going to be such a task, but then we found a spot and low-and-behold, it was right in front of where all the tractors were parked and the car show was being held!

We wandered around for a bit, but with the heat and humidity we called it quits pretty quickly and went back to the camper for a nap (or two. Or perhaps three, but who's counting?)

I made cast-iron queso for dinner (recipe coming shortly) and we turned in after a little bit of play time with Diesel outside once the sun went down - even though it was still 90* after sunset. The unfortunate thing about camping in Texas, in the middle of July, is that it's darn near too hot - even with the A/C and hard sides - to bear the heat of the day. Besides, that's just another reason (not that you need one) to take a seista!

This will probably be our last (and only) trip of the summer.  But soon enough, we'll be right back in the swing of things!

We were in site #1 at Steven F. Austin State Park - an easy pull-thru, a few trees perfectly spaced for a hammock, and facing out - so you're seeing the swing-set and the road heading in to the rest of the campsites.  It's right across from the camp hosts (who happen to share my maiden name!) but it's a hike to the nearest facilities.

For more camping photos, like this cute one of our napping pup, go here.