Category Archives: food

How to make camp coffee that doesn’t suck: The French Press

This entry is WAY old and out of date. I updated it on my new website, so click here to head on over to to check it out.

I don’t sleep well when I’m camping. I never have, and I probably never will. When I go to camp, I don’t go so I can spend the whole time in bed. Oh no sir. When I camp, I like to be all full of piss and vinegar, and coffee sure makes an awful lot of piss.

To be honest, I had resigned myself to drinking terrible coffee at camp. Instant or percolated, it was always just terrible. Bitter, gritty, and acidic. I just accepted it and drank it anyway. Then, someone gave me a French press. After a scan of the instructions, I made my first cup of French press coffee at camp.

I took a sip.

It was GOOD.

The problem I was running into at camp was that I was relying on boiling water to make my coffee. There’s never electricity in a campsite, and even if there were, I wouldn’t drag my espresso machine into the woods. Boiling water has a nasty tendency to over-extract the coffee, which explains why I was so used to it tasting like bitter vinegar. Milk would help cut the acidity, but in the summer, storing milk just isn’t an option.

Enter the French Press.

1. Grind your beans to a coarse grind. This is crucial, because if your grind is too fine, you’ll get more and more grit at the bottom of your cup, and you’ll get it floating in your coffee. It’s nice and manly to spit out a wadful of coffee grounds, but let’s be honest. Grit blows. I follow the rule of 2 tablespoons of beans per 8 oz of water.

See those chunks of coffee beans? That means I need a new grinder. I’ll be getting a burr grinder.

2. Heat your water. Either boil it and let it cool for a couple minutes or use a thermometer to get it between 195-205 degrees. If it’s at a rolling boil your coffee is going to suck mad hard. Give yourself a couple minutes and let it cool. While it’s cooling, cover the bottom of the French Press with your coarse ground coffee. My French press will hold 5.5 cups of water, so we’ll do 11 tablespoons of coffee in the bottom.

It puts the water on the stove or else it gets the hose again.

3. Pour the ALL of the NON-BOILING water over the coffee.

If I have to tell you to be careful while you’re pouring hot water then you probably shouldn’t be playing with a stove. Moron.

4. Let it sit, stirring occasionally, for a full five minutes. After the five minutes, stir and really mix up the coffee with a non-metal spoon. Stir some more, maybe another minute. If you use a metal spoon, ninja kittens with tear our your eyes and feed them to goldfish as treats. If you’ve done the stirring right (and if you didn’t you will lose the approval of your father) you should have a layer of foam on top. This is good. This means that we’re on the last step.

5. Now comes the fun part. Put the top of the lid onto the jar portion of the lid. Push gently but firmly DOWN. When the screen hits the bottom, just pour and serve.

If you’re an ultra-light backpacker, it’s probably not the best route to take, but for someone who doesn’t mind a few extra ounces in their pack, it’s a GREAT way to make delicious, mellow coffee without the nasty vinegary taste of traditional camp coffee.

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Posted by on September 30, 2012 in camping, coffee, food, scouting



How to make coffee that doesn’t suck: Grinding your beans

This entry is way old and out of date. I’ve updated it on my new blog at  so click here to read it!

We’ve all been there. Someone offers us a cup of coffee and It’s. Just. Wrong. It’s vinegary. It’s gritty. It’s nasty and bitter. It’s (worst of all) way too weak. Bad coffee can reduce a grown man to tears. It can ruin marriages. It can even ruin your shot at salvation. God HATES bad coffee.

Bad coffee is bad news.

“But El Chris!” You’ll cry, “I’m no coffee nut, I just like drinking the stuff! What can I DOOO?” Fear not, dear readers, for El Chris will show you how to grind your coffee RIGHT.

The grind is a VERY important part of brewing good coffee. It makes as much of a difference as the beans you use. Today you’ll learn how to grind for a percolator, French press, drip coffee pot, and espresso maker. You’ll also learn what to look for on pre-packaged coffee. More on that later.


This is my grinder. There are many like it, but this one is mine. Without it, I am nothing. NOTHING.

Aside from being a delicious type of sandwich, a grinder is crucial. There are two types of grinders: a burr grinder and a blade grinder. Blade grinders use two blades shaped like a propeller to chop up the beans. Blade grinders are cheaper, simpler, and infinitely more popular, but they lack consistency in the grind. When I grind coarse coffee in my blade grinder, I’ll find some whole beans leftover that weren’t touched by the blades. A Burr grinder is a preferred grinder, but they veer toward the pricier end. I’m currently saving for one. I will be demonstrating with a blade grinder today. I love my grinder because it has markings on it to grind for each of these methods. If you REALLY like mine, you can get one here for about 15 dollars. I’ve had it for about ten years and it’s still going strong.

Percolator and French Press

This is a percolator, idiot.

This is a French press, or a Freedom Press if you’re a turd. You aren’t a turd, ARE you?

Percolation is one of the oldest modern methods of brewing coffee. It’s still used to make lots of coffee quickly, but it’s often done with drip-grind coffee, which is too fine.

The same issue happens with a French press. A French press, like a percolator, doesn’t use a paper filter. If your coffee is too fine, it will slip through the mesh filter and give you gritty sludge at the bottom of your cup. A mouthful of that will destroy everything you love. Properly ground coarse coffee should feel like kosher salt.

Coarse ground coffee, perfect for a French press or a percolator.

Drip Brewers

My awesome drip brewer. One time it killed a guy.

These are your Mr Coffees, your “Free coffee maker if you sign up for Gevalia!” and likely your office coffee maker. If you ever buy a bag or can of coffee in the grocery store, odds are it’s a drip grind. Electric drip brewers revolutionized home brewing because the temperature could be more precisely controlled and suddenly coffee tasted good. Boiling water is so hot that it over-extracts the coffee and makes really acidic, REALLY bitter coffee. Drip brewers don’t do that.
Drip brew coffee should be ground finer than percolator or French press. It should feel like sand.

Proper drip grind

Espresso makers

The espresso machine that makes me so awesome.

Camping espresso maker. Most scoutmasters have one of these hooked to an IV bag.

This one is tricky. Espresso is both a roast and a grind and that throws a LOT of people off. If you buy a bag of espresso at the store and it’s ground, odds are it’s ground for a drip brewer and NOT for an espresso maker. Starbucks and Caribou are AWFUL at this. This is too coarse for an espresso maker and will result in weak, watery espresso and an excruciatingly painful death. Even if it isn’t labeled as drip grind, you can tell it is if you read the instructions. If it says to use 1 tablespoon of coffee for 6-8 ounces of water, then it’s drip grind. You can actually grind any roast of coffee into espresso, but we’ll get to that another time. Well ground espresso should look like fine sugar. If it’s more like flour or powdered sugar, your espresso maker will clog and you’ll probably get cancer, so watch for that.

Properly ground fine coffee.

This week, I’ll teach you how to make coffee using each of these methods, plus a bonus method not covered here. Never again will you make a crappy cup of coffee. Remember folks, God HATES bad coffee.


Posted by on September 25, 2012 in coffee, espresso, food


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How to make the killer-est most face-melting guacamole EVER

Since my wife is quite a foodie and I’m a kick-ass husband, I bought her a molcajete for her birthday. I couldn’t just throw it at her and say “Have fun, woman!” so I manned up and figured out to make a killer guacamole. If you make this, women will throw their phone numbers at you so hard that your head will spin.

This is my wife’s molcajete. It took me 2 pounds of rice to season it, but that’s another post for another time.

You will need:

  • 4 Avocados
  • 3 Serrano Peppers
  • 1 Jalapeño Peper
  • 1 Bunch of Cilantro
  • 1 Onion
  • 1 Roma Tomato
  • 1 Skillet
  • 1 Molcajete
  • Another bowl
  • A tater masher

If you’re a real Minnesotan and can’t stand the spicy, use Anaheim or Poblano peppers instead.

1. Put your skillet on the stove on medium heat. Stab a couple of holes in each of the peppers and the tomato. That’s pretty important because if you don’t, your crap will explode and you’ll get spicy in your eye which SUCKS. Roast them by putting them on the skillet for ten minutes. Give them a turn every now and again, but other than that it’s pretty hands off. Don’t be intimidated by roasting. It’s the same as putting in the skillet and leaving them.

Roasting is seriously this easy.


They should look like this when you’re done. See why you turn them?

2. Once your peppers are roasted, cut the ends off and throw them away. They get nasty.

3. Now it’s time to skin the tomato. While it’s still hot, take it out and seal it in a container to trap the steam and soften it up. I put mine in the molcajete and put a pack of tortillas on the top. Let it sit in there for a couple of minutes and then just peel the skin off. Super easy time.

4. Once your tomato is peeled, it’s time to mash. Put the peppers and the tomato in the molcajete. Mash. You’re going to mash.

And mash some more.

And mash even more. Once it looks like salsa, it’s ready.

5. Now you’re going to mince your onion. You’re going to mince it and you’re going to like it. It should look like this.

Your minced onion should look like this. If your pieces are too big, the taste will overpower the rest of the guac.


6. Now cut and mash those avocados!

Cut it in half. Call it names while you cut it. Hurting it’s feelings will make it taste better.

Smack the seed with your knife, then twist. Out she comes.

Now scoop. Repeat for each avocado.

Throw in the chopped cilantro and mash away!

7. Now add the onion and dump in to the molcajete. Be gentle.

Stir. Mix. Whatever helps you sleep.

8. Serve to a lady. With chips. Ladies love chips.


Posted by on September 24, 2012 in cooking, food



How to cook chicken parmesan for 100 people without dying in the face

In which El Chris makes a turd of himself taking too many pictures of food.

This weekend, I went camping. More on that later. Naturally, I had my camera and I made certain that all the cooking staff KNEW that I would be following them. All four of the meals were made in dutch ovens, and they were so good that my face melted straight off.


The Food God and Goddess were there (you’ll know her by her apron) and spearheaded some sweet meals, including mountain man breakfast and a killer set of dutch oven sloppy joes. However, those couldn’t hold a candle to the chicken parmesan they served for dinner. It was like Heaven landed on my tongue and then exploded. It was like a thousand Golden Retriever puppies were giggling inside my mouth. And it followed a VERY simple recipe that can be scaled to serve over 100 people, which is what we did.

To make it, you’ll need the following for each dutch oven, which serves 4 teenage boys or 6 normal people:

4 Chicken Breasts
4 Baguettes
1 package instant mashed potatoes.
Two 14.5 ounce cans of Italian-style stewed tomatoes (or just a crap ton of tomato sauce)
1 clove garlic (optional-ish)
1/2 Teaspoon oregano
2 tablespoons of corn starch
1/4 cup of grated Parmesan
1 big-ass can of corn
3 lb rigatoni pasta
Bag of charcoal
Tin foil or Foil liner (super optional)

1. Line up your dutch ovens. If you have one, I guess that’s fine. The liners placed in each oven made cleanup a snap, so get a bunch right now because I said so. Make sure you have 1 additional pot liner, as we will need the extra later.

2. Heat the dutch oven to 350. For a 12″ oven, that means you’ll need 24 charcoal briquettes total. Since we’ll be roasting the chicken, put 12 briquettes underneath, and 12 on the lid. Make sure you arrange the coals on the edge of the lid and not in the middle. This will ensure that the lid heats evenly. Just trust me. Do it this way or you’ll screw it up and probably die or something.

Careful, they’re hot and if you touch one then you’re stupid.

3. Roast the chicken for 20 minutes. By roast I mean put the lid (with coals) on the pot and go drink some Shasta. It better be Shasta.

4. While the chicken is cooking, you’re going to prep the pasta sauce. BECAUSE I SAID SO! GOD! In a seperate pot, stir all the ingredients together. That means you take the oregano, 2 cans of tomato junk, corn starch, and parmasan and stir them all together. I don’t care how you do it, as long as you stir the bejeepers out of it. Cook over medium heat or so the sauce is hot to the touch but not bubbling. It will thicken, like your hipster buddy’s love for crappy music.

5. Mix the sauce and cook it like so: 

Here’s a 4th picture of the pot with the same stuff.

6. Now we start the real prep. The cooked chicken is now in the dutch ovens. That’s a hard win, folks.

At this point, you should have a guy named Brandon you can yell at.
Do it. “GO OPEN THE CORN!” you can scream.

7. While Brandon is opening corn, you can spoon the delicious sauce over the chicken. You can do it like we did below, as long as you’re generous. You will have sauce left over, which is perfect for bread dipping.

At this point, The Food Goddess was offered a sacrificial lamb
and we waited impatiently to see her reaction.
She simply stirred.
She stirred some more and declared the sauce
fit for consumption. There was much rejoicing.
Then we poured much sauce onto much chicken.

In which El Chris watches Brandon make so much corn that El Chris will poop corn for a week.

You can now have Brandon heat the corn and dump it into a heaty thingy.

8. With the corn, as long as it’s been heated, you can serve it up. I like to heat it in the can (the can WILL take the heat from the stove, as long as you ditch the label so it can’t burn.) and then serve it from the can. It saves on dishes, but the electric heaty thingy was way handy.

9. While the corn and chicken are doing their thing, make the package of mashed potatoes. Mince and add the leftover garlic. Mix in some corn. Cover with surplus sauce while serving. Make new friends.

10. At this point, all of the chicken should be in ovens, ready to rock. Since they’re all in 12″ dutch ovens, cooking them should be a simple matter of counting. Twelve coals on the bottom, twelve on the top. Stack. The top coals on the first dutch oven become the bottom coals of the next. Brilliant, right? Now stacky stacky (no more the 4 high, you’re not superman.) and cook for another 30-40 minutes. While this is cooking, slice the baguettes into manageable pieces. The bread should be used to sop up extra sauce.

I know we’re cooking with 9 ovens here, but if you just have one, twelve
coals on the top and twelve on the bottom will be just fine, sir, just fine.

Sometimes, make sure the Food God pokes at them to keep them cooking.
He likes to poke stuff that’s burning.

11. About ten minutes before the chicken is done cooking, you can start making the pasta. To cook pasta, you boil it in water for 8-12 minutes. Put some in your mouth. Does it feel right? Then it’s done.
You can also taste (right, like put the food in your mouth and evaluate the results) the sauce and see if you like it. You can add a clove of minced garlic if you don’t like it and your wife says it’s ok, otherwise leave it be.

At this point, you will have a table full of ordeal candidates who demand food NOW. They will soon be appeased.

Paul was so hungry that he made eye contact with the photographer.

Despite our best efforts, Eric seemed oblivious to commands like

Loads of newly elected ordeal MEMBERS lined up to get their first
solid meal in 24 hours

This is what all of the fellas signed up for. They have been waiting for this for EVER. It’s totally worth it. Make sure you douse their potatoes in sauce and give them bread to sop up the extra. Each oven will supply 8-10 half-breasts-of-chicken.

Got any other suggestions? I’d love to hear them! Leave them in the comments, a response is guaranteed.


The super easiest pineapple cake you’ll ever eat ever.

I have a recipe that I’m going to share with you. I decided that you are going to make it tonight. You’re going to make it and you’re going to love it.

You will need the following:

4 Tbs. butter 1 yellow cake mix
1 cup brown sugar 1 cup pineapple juice
8 pineapple rings 1/3 cup water
8 maraschino cherries 3 eggs
1/3 cup oil

1. Make the cake mix by mixing the eggs, oil, pineapple juice, water, and cake mix together. If it’s not yellow cake then you’re doing it wrong. It’ll say yellow cake on the box. Seriously. You can’t screw that up unless you really really try. Here’s a picture of what it looks like in case you’re really stupid.

See how mixy it all is? Make it mixy or terrible things will happen to kittens.

2. Heat the dutch oven over 12 lit charcoal briquettes. Like super hot. Melt the butter in the bottom.

3. Once the butter is all liquid, sprinkle the brown sugar over it. It’s super hard to screw up, so don’t screw it up.

4. Now that the bottom of the pan is prepared, you should cover it with a single layer of pineapple rings. In each ring, you should put a maraschino cherry. Make it pretty, because it’ll come back later.

See that? It’s pretty. Super pretty. If yours isn’t pretty then you’ll probably die.

 5. To bake, leave the oven over the 12 briquettes of charcoal and place 16 on the top. Make sure to put them up against the edge of the lid as I done did below. Rotate the oven counterclockwise and the lid clockwise 90 degrees every 15 minutes. Repeat for 45 minutes.

Placing the coals around the edge is crucial.

 6. After 45 minutes, pull the lid off, being careful not to spill the charcoal powder into the cake. It’ll look like my picture below and it’ll smell better than a kitten or something. Test it by poking it with a stick or fork or something. If it’s done, whatever you poked it with should come out clean.

 7. Stick a spatula between the cake and the pan to separate them. Turn the whole thing upside-down and get the cake on the lid. It should look nice and caramelly.

Flipping it over is super complicated so make sure there are two of you and one of you stands on the table.
See how chewy and heavenly that looks? Because it is.

 8. Give some to your boss. Tell him he has to eat it without using his hands.

He’ll be surprised when it’s good.

9. Serve with some ice cream. Or don’t. I don’t care, I’m not your dad.

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Posted by on September 8, 2012 in cake, camp cooking, cast iron, cooking, dessert, dutch ovens, food