Girl Scout Hobo Packets and Cauliflower side dish


Girl Scout Hobo Packet

When I was a Girl Scout on my first camping trip, our Troup Leader – Ms Trapane, taught us to make these packets and s’mores as part of earning our cooking and camping badges.  I have made them ever since!  These can be made in the oven or on the campfire.

For each packet:

  • 4-6 oz ground beef formed in a rounded pyramid
  • 1 large potato cut up into 2 inch cubes
  • 2 carrots cut into 2 inch lengths
  • 1 rib of celery cut into 2 inch lengths
  • ½ onion medium cut in 2 inch dice and separated
  • 1-2 tsp butter or oil (optional – add for more juice if meat is very lean)
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Cut a piece of heavy duty aluminum foil about 18 inches long.  Place the meat in the center of the foil.  Surround the meat with the vegetables in one layer.  Bring the long ends of the foil together and fold down in 1 inch folds until formed around the meal.  Fold the remaining ends up and crimp forming around the meal.  Put in a medium fire until done or in a preheated 350°F oven for about 35-45 minutes.  Be very careful when opening packet as the steam will blast out – OPEN VERY SLOWLY!  Eat right out of the packet supported by a plate. Serve with a piece of toasted bread for soaking up the great juices!

Hobo Packet made with Chicken, Cauliflower, Sweet Potato, Red Pepper, Red Onion, Celery, Carrot, Thyme, Basil, Garlic, Salt, Pepper

Hobo Packet made with Chicken, Cauliflower, Sweet Potato, Red Pepper, Red Onion, Celery, Carrot, Thyme, Basil, Garlic, Salt, Pepper

Some recommended substitutions are steak tips, beef stew meat, chicken, green beans, cabbage, parsnips, cauliflower or mix and match depending on taste buds of dinner mates.  These can be made ahead and cooked later in the day after a day full of adventure!

Cauliflower Side Dish

These can be made in the oven or in a Hobo packet


  • 1 head Cauliflower cut into 8 pieces with stem as ‘handle’
  • 1 TBSP Olive Oil
  • 1 TBSP Balsamic Vinegar (optional)
  • 1 clove garlic minced (optional)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste


Remove leaves from base of cauliflower.  Cut the cauliflower so that the stem can be used as a ‘handle’ for each piece.  Place the pieces on a pan for the oven, convection or toaster oven.  Drizzle the olive oil and balsamic over the cauliflower and then salt and pepper to taste.  Flip over to distribute on both sides.

Top seasoned with Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper                           Bottom has Balsamic Vinegar added

Top seasoned with Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper                     Bottom has Balsamic Vinegar added

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes and then remove from oven and flip the cauliflower. Rotate pan 180 degrees and cook another 5-10 minutes.  The cauliflower will still be a little crunchy at 15-20 minutes and soft at 25 minutes.

Broccoli and cabbage can be cooked this way also or combined and cooked with the cauliflower.  This works well for asparagus, but should only be cooked about 15 minutes.

Hobo Packet

Hobo Packet

This side dish can be cooked in a hobo packet as well.  Taste great hot or cold!

Yellow Split Pea Soup – A Great Soup for a Cold Day

Yellow Split Pea Soup

(8-10 Servings or about 8 cups)

Winter went out with a vengeance here in New Hampshire yesterday leaving 16 inches of snow.  This soup helped warm us during the day after shoveling and cleaning snow off the Jeeps.


Yellow split peas have a much milder flavor than their green cousins and remind me faintly of corn in both size and texture.  They are packed with protein and cook quickly.  The soup ingredients are varied in color and make me think of Spring while  cooking.


This recipe is versatile and can easily be made vegan or adapted to use available pantry ingredients.  I originally made this during a cooking class with camping friends taught at the Culinary Underground Cooking School near Boston. That original recipe contained more salt pork and maple syrup.   Due to dietary restrictions, the recipe was adapted and those ingredients reduced when prepared yesterday – I liked it just as much.  The original amounts of bacon (or salt pork) and maple syrup are in parenthesis in the recipe.


  • 1 ounce of bacon, finely diced (4 ounces salt pork or bacon)
  • 1 Tablespoon bacon fat, or canola oil
  • 1 cup rutabaga or turnip, finely diced
  • 1 large carrot, finely diced
  • 1 leek, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1+½  cups split yellow peas (remove debris and rinse)
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 Tablespoon maple syrup (2-3 TBSP)
  • Salt and lots of black pepper to taste


In a Dutch Oven or soup pot, heat oil and fry the bacon until lightly browned.  Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve.  Remove any excess oil except for 1 TBSP.

Add veggies to pot, sauté until soft – about 3-5 minutes.

Add peas, water and salt.

Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover and cook for 25-30 minutes, or until peas are soft or the texture desired.  Pureeing the soup is an alternative if desired.  Thin with water if too thick.  If using a thermal cooker, cook for 1.5 to 2.5 hours.

Season with maple syrup, salt and pepper.  Serve with reserved bacon bits on top.

This soup makes me think of the sun!


Cooking Beans in the Thermos Cook and Carry Thermal Cooker


Beans are a valuable food for their fiber, protein and vitamins but very inexpensive for the money spent.   Hopefully the following information will aid in getting the desired results.  Beans are worth the wait and effort!

An experiment with variables of time and pre-soak and without pre-soak and was done. The results show the differences between level of doneness versus time and soaking method.  The temperature of the beans is shown versus time.  Due to the need to open the pot to check the temperature, the temperatures recorded are actually lower than if the cooking had not been disturbed.  The time to cook is similar to an electric slow cooker.


Three batches of pinto beans were compared:

  • Batch A – Pre-soaked for 8 hours in 3 TBSP table salt dissolved in 4 Quarts of water, rinsed well; After 8 hour pre-soak, they were boiled for 15 minutes and put in the thermal cooker (Cooks Illustrated Brining Method reference below shown in table)
  • Batch B – Quick pre-soaked by boiling 1 pound of beans in 4 quarts of plain water for 5 minutes and letting stand for an hour before finishing cooking (bean package); After 1 hour pre-soak, they were boiled for 15 minutes and put in the thermal cooker
  • Batch C – Not pre-soaked and boiled for 15 minutes and put in the thermal cooker

The full details of soaking, cooking and time are below.


Temperature, Time, Cooking Method and Results when cooking beans in a Thermal Cooker

Pre-soaking helps to tenderize the beans and minimize effects when using hard water for cooking and are less flatulent.

When dried beans first begin their rehydration, the little spot that connects to the green bean as it grows is the main source of water entering the bean.  As the bean begins to hydrate, the skin starts to soften and continues to do so when in water.

Data showing Cooking Time vs. Doneness for each batch type is graphed below.


Temperature vs. Time was recorded.  *Please note that the times are actually higher if cooking without opening the cooker for measurements.  Each time the cooker is opened, heat is lost due to experiment data collection.


Equipment used for measurements:  Scale, Instant Thermometer, Infrared Thermometer

The 4.5Liter Thermos Cook and Carry


Thermos Cook and Carry       Outer Pot on Left                                     Inner Pot on Right

After the Beans finished cooking, they were put into Canning Jars leaving 1.5 inches head space from the top of the rim to the beans.  These jars fit upright in most camper refrigerators or can be put in the freezer (head space as described necessary to prevent jar breakage).  When standing upright, they more efficiently fill the refrigerator space.   The rubber bands help reduce the bumps and rattles.  Labels are made from colored electrical tape using a Sharpie.  The labels are dishwasher safe and can be reused by simply peeling off and putting on the inside of a cabinet until needed again!  The plastic lid is made by Ball and available at good hardware stores or online, but are not for canning but great for freezing and pantry storage of (you guessed it) dried beans!

Rubber Bands help reduce bumps and rattles

Rubber Bands help reduce bumps and rattles.  Labels made using electrical tape and Sharpie

Bean Math*:

  • 1 Pound Dried Beans is $1.69 and makes 8 cups of cooked beans = 21 cents /cup
  • 1 can cooked beans is $0.99 and contains 1.75 cups cooked beans = 56 cents /cup
  • * Costs are only for the beans not the costs of cooking fuel, time, etc.

Good References on the science of cooking beans are:

  1. Cook’s Illustrated – The Science of Good Cooking America’s Test Kitchen, 2012
  2. On Food and Cooking – The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee 2004

Thanks for visiting!  Enjoy!!!

Thermos Bottle Cooking – They’re not just for Coffee Anymore

Over the past few months, I have been using a wide-mouth thermos to cook oats and pasta.  Rice or veggie soup using dehydrated vegetable with broth can we cooked this way also.  All of these are great to prepare ahead to have something warm on the hiking trail without hauling cooking stuff along.

With all of these methods, it is important to make sure that the food is still hot when removed from the thermos – above 145 degrees F for food safety – as measured with an instant read thermometer.  Cool and refrigerate promptly,

Thermos Bottle Selection and Preparation for Cooking

A Wide Mouth thermos is by far the best for cooking to reduce cleanup.  I use both a 17 ounce (»2 cups) and a 24 ounce (3 cups) making 1.5 and 2 servings respectively.  The general ratio of liquid to solid is 4:1.  Stanley and Thermos Nissan are both very good Thermos selections.  I have a dedicated thermos for food vs. coffee. It is best to size the desired serving to the thermos volume to maximize heat retention.

A stainless lined thermos is a must as internally plastic ones such as kids lunch box versions don’t hold heat well enough and glass lined have a tendency to break.

My favorite method for preparing to cook is to pour boiling water into the thermos, cap it and wait for ten minutes.  When all other ingredients are ready, pour the water out and replace with ingredients.  A crucial step is to shake and then lay the thermos with contents on its side to evenly distribute ingredients. An alternative method is to boil the contents for 10 minutes and put in thermos–this will reduce needed thermos cooking time.

Oats Great for preparing the night before

½ cup rolled or steel cut oats

1½ cup boiling water, pinch salt optional

spices such as cinnamon with nuts, raisins or dried fruits

honey, brown sugar or maple syrup to taste

Fill thermos bottle with boiling water, cap and wait 10 minutes.  Pour out water and put in new boiling water@212F.  Add ingredients and stir (I like using a chop stick).  Tightly screw on the lid to the thermos.  Shake the thermos a few times more to distribute the ingredients and lay thermos on side.  Wrap in a towel and wait 2 to 8 hours.  Oatmeal texture will be creamier the longer the oatmeal cooks in the thermos.  Add a little milk or water if too thick,

Cooking Pasta 

Prep thermos as described above. Add 1/3 by volume of pasta and 2/3 volume of boiling water to the thermos.  Add in seasonings such as salt, pepper, parsley, etc.  Cap, shake and lay thermos on side wrapped in towel for 30 minutes (any longer and the pasta gets mushy).  The pasta can be used for pasta salad or macaroni and cheese (don’t put cheese in thermos – but it can be tossed with pasta in serving bowl).  The added advantage is that the steam in our campers is kept to a minimum and reduces condensation and kitchen heat during summer months.

Play around with the thermos for some new flexibility for camp cooked meals. ENJOY!

Welcome to Camp Test Kitchen!

My name is Katy and I love to camp and cook!  I like to challenge myself to cook healthy (most of the time) and tasty meals while camping.  We live in New Hampshire and camp most weekends when the weather is cooperating.   I like to find and test new and alternative methods of preparing meals while on the road that compliment the unique needs of camp cooking.  While reading the camping blog of full-timer Andy Baird ( he had a recipe for Broccoli Soup ( that was prepared in the Thermos Nissan Cook and Carry.  Based on that find, I purchased mine about 5 years ago from Amazon and it still works like a champ.  I purchased another last week for my mother and tested it – it works just like mine! The size of the cooker is roughly 10 inches cube (the box is 11.5 inches cube) and comes in no frustration packaging.

One of my favorite recipes cooked in the Thermos Cook and Carry – a “non-electric crockpot”.  This thermal cooker or “fireless cooker” / “Haybox Cooker” as referred to 100 years ago is great for traveling, boon docking, and picnics.  The simple steps are to brown the meat and aromatics such as onion in the inner pot, add other ingredients just like you would when making a stove top meal and then bring the it all to a boil for 15 minutes.  Next remove the pot from the heat and insert it into the vacuum insulated container.  The food will continue to cook from the residual heat.  You can use your favorite  recipes without worrying about burning or overcooking.  The pot will stay hot inside for 8-10 hours (as long as you start with a basically full pot).  If it is not as hot as you want, you can always reheat. The cook and carry is great for cold things too, like potato salad, fruit salad for potlucks or as an ice bucket!

Tuscan Zuppa (Soup pot on stove version)

Makes: 6-8 servings


1 to 1.5 lb ground Italian sausage (sweet)

½ tsp crushed red peppers (more if you like spicy)

1 large diced white onion

4 Tbsp bacon pieces

2 cloves fresh garlic minced or 2 tsp puree

1 48 ounce can chicken broth

1-cup skim milk (or heavy cream)

2 Tbsp butter (don’t use if using heavy cream)

3 large potatoes cubed or 1 lb cauliflower or combination

1 bunch of kale torn into bit sized pieces (2 inches)

Salt and pepper to taste


1. Remove the casing from the sausage.  Sauté the Italian sausage and crushed red pepper in a heavy bottom soup pot.  Drain excess fat, refrigerate while you prepare other ingredients.

2. In the same pan, sauté bacon, onions and garlic for about 15 minutes or until the onions are soft.

3. Add the chicken broth. Cook until boiling.

4. Add potatoes or cauliflower and cook until soft, about half an hour.

5. Add milk and butter (or 1 cup heavy cream) and cook until heated.

6.  Stir in the sausage.

7.  Add kale just before serving. Delicious!

8.  Serve with Parmesan cheese and garlic bread.

Thermos Cook and Carry Version:

Prepare sausage as for crock-pot in the inner pot, drain off fat and set sausage aside.
Prepare onion, garlic & bacon pieces as for crock-pot in the inner pot. Add sausage and remaining ingredients except Kale and bring to a full boil on med high heat, lower heat and boil for 15 minutes. Place lid on inner pot, insert into insulated outer container, lock outer lid and set aside for up to 4-8 hours until ready to serve.

Add Kale just before serving.

Shortcuts and substitutions:

Use pre-cooked sweet Italian chicken sausage cut lengthwise and sliced thinly.
Use pre-cooked bacon cut into small pieces.
Use fresh spinach or defrosted, drained frozen spinach in place of Kale.

Note from Katy about the Cook and Carry:

For the Tuscan Zuppa you can leave it in the cook and carry for probably 8 hours, although cooked at about 4 hours.  If you open it and it is not quite as hot as you want, then just heat it on the stove (or any other heat source – campfire, BBQ grill, etc) until boiling and then put it back in the outer thermos sleeve. The main thing to remember when using the cook and carry is to initially boil for about 15 minutes before putting in the insulated sleeve (to kill bacteria).  If you cook less than a full pot, the temperature falls faster after insertion into the exterior thermos so you will have to heat it up after about 4 -6 hours for 15 minutes (check with a thermometer for temperature).  Specific instructions come with the cook and carry.

Websites related to this topic:

This website has many links to the open library (and Amazon if you wish to buy reprints) where you can look through recipe books and general information on “fireless cooking” from 100 years ago.  Interestingly this method of cooking was embraced because of the low amount of fuel needed, the reduction in labor to stand over a stove while cooking and the low amount of room heat generated while cooking – All the things we want as campers!

Two Amazon stores that I find sell the Thermos Nissan 4.5 Quart Cook and Carry are MV Trading and Get Prepared Stuff.  I have purchased from both via Amazon and been very satisfied.