The Summer of the Pie Wars

pie iron IBoots the Badass Coffee Babe here!  It’s nearly summertime, so I am thinking that it’s time to branch out into the Arena of Pie.  Campfire Pie.  You might be thinking: Pie out on the trail?  Yes, indeed! with good old-fashioned Pie Irons.  Check them out below . . . they are so much fun! I’m hoping that you find these Pie Irons to be as gadget-y and interesting as I do!  And so simple and magical, too.

I don’t know about you, but there are stories galore that come to mind when I think Pie — stories that are steeped in family tradition from childhood holidays and birthdays and stories that take me back to a time when I found myself in the midst of an undeclared Pie War.  I guess you could say that Pie is an Emotional Food that has the power to stir love, guilt, stubbornness, creativity, and forgiveness.   And I don’t think I can think the word Pie without reminiscing about an important personage from my past whom I will call Pie King henceforth.

Pie King was an old-timer for whom I worked a short summer season in a remote fishing camp located up in the high country.  The camp was in the midst of a roadless area that had with zero amenities, so you can imagine how beautiful and pristine it all was.  Pure silence and clean darkness at night.  No electricity, no running water, no telephone.  Camp was only accessible by trail or by float plane, so business was slow and spotty — thus allowing for time better spent rowing, swimming, reading, writing, roving, and just plain thinking.  And getting all of the chores done, too.

The chores that came with the job weren’t really all that bad: renting the occasional rowboat, bucking up some firewood, splitting wood for the cookstove, filling and trimming the kerosene lamps, doing a little bit of cooking, going down the hill to pick up mail from the Mail Boat . . . this sort of thing.  It all kept me pretty busy in an unruffled sort of way.  Pie King declared me Hired Girl #10 — a name that didn’t take a lot of figuring to figure out.  I was part of a Hired Girl (HG) lineage — #10 in a string of outdoorsy women who had come and gone before me, leaving the HG legacy with an imprint stamped with their virtues, their idiosyncrasies, and their imperfections — all defined and assigned by Pie King.

Pie King had a habit of using the other Hired Girls’ virtues as a way to get what he wanted.  He also had a habit of using the other HG’s imperfections as a way to get what he wanted. During the Pie War, I thought of Pie King as an Epic Manipulator, but now I would say that he was simply a Good Read of Human Nature.  Most people essentially want to Please, especially so in the radiant light of a predecessor’s Halo of Sainthood.  Pie King understood this Wishing-to-Please component of human nature.  I wouldn’t say that he exactly exploited it, but I also wouldn’t say that he didn’t.  After all, there are fine lines crackled and drawn all over life and, with enough backstory, I think the lines get a little blurred and sometimes even erased.

Mr. Pie King spent that entire summer trying to trick, guilt, dog, and wheedle me into making him a pie.  I was also soon to learn that Pie King claimed to have worked out his version of the Zen of Pie thing.  He said he could judge someone’s character based on their Relationship with Pie.   In fact, Pie was one of my interview questions — one that, with Pie hindsight,  I now know was the Weighing Grace as to whether or not I would become the Privileged Hired Girl who would be swamping this old timer’s boats, cutting his firewood, and laying his Morning Fire in the cold cookstove each night.  The interview question: Do you know how to make pie?  My answer: Yes.  His answer: You’re hired.

pie-vintage-image--graphicsfairy10Now I know what some of you might be thinking:  Let the Wookie win and just make him the damned pie.  But it was more complicated than this.  I knew — or maybe I should say intuited — that once I made that first pie, I was going to be chained to the cook cabin for the rest of the summer.  Which was NOT going to happen.  Not on Boots the Badass Coffee Babe’s watch.  And would you feel any differently?  Option A: spend glorious, pristine days working outdoors in the unspoiled high country?  Or Option B: spend the summer in a dark cabin peeling fruit, rolling crust, spicing filling, and baking the danged pie?  I don’t need to tell you which option I preferred.

It wasn’t so much that I disliked cooking and baking, but between hauling water, breakfast clean up, morning chores, and the mandatory chess game at lunchtime  — I wanted to be free to roam the great OUTDOORS.  At first Pie King made passive references when I was leaving the cabin for my daily-afternoon-off: Wouldn’t a slice of pie taste good right about now?  When that didn’t work, he wheedled.  Then he demanded.  He even tried pouting and giving me the silent treatment.  All for Pie.  I simply didn’t get it.

His was not a personality to give up a cause once he started to wave the flag.  Nor was mine.  I, being of sound and stubborn mind, body, and spirit, was not about to give in.  The thought of firing up the cookstove mid-day to a 400-degree oven on a 90-degree summer day was NOT going to happen.  If it had been the middle of winter?  Sure.  Why not?  But middle of summer in the high country?  No.  Mr. Pie King was just going to have to wait until October started to chill the air with the promise of day-long fires. Above all, given the stories of Glorious Hired Girls past, I wasn’t about to start a precedent that I knew I was not willing to continue.

camp at high lakeThe Battle must ensue!  Or so it seemed until one day when I was mucking out the barn.  I was digging through some old camp boxes when I came across some old rusting Pie Irons.  They were in need of a good clean-up, but they were certainly serviceable and a goodly remedy to our sparring match over pie or its lack therein.

That night after supper I got a good bed of coals going in the fire-pit down by the lake before surprising Pie King with the Pie Irons.  It was one of those beautiful high-country nights.  One with swallows and bats streaking and darting across the sky taking care of the mosquito population.  Stars pricked the canopy while a dry moon hung above us while we baked pies.  I kept the coffee hot above the coals while we baked pies in silence — a good earnest silence.   The kind of silence that marked a truce and that laid to rest any animosity that had been brewing in the weeks previous.

Pie King asked me to run up to the cabin and get his stash of Irish Whiskey.  We had nudges and we baked a few more pies to have for breakfast the next morning before letting the coals die down.  He surprised me by laughing and saying he had to hand it to me for sticking to my guns.  That I was skookum.  That I was the longest hold-out that he had ever had in the Hired Girl line-up.  And that I somehow still not only didn’t make pie but he made his own pie in the end.

I laughed, not really knowing what to say.  How do you say thank you after waging such a war-of-wills and then sort of winning.  Not the stuff of humility and grace.  But still.  I still think I read the situation rightly.  I guess there is something to be said for diligence and perseverance in the face of battle, albeit a battle waged in the Pie War.

He told me that he had almost married once to a woman named Lorna.  They had had a squabble over — you guessed it — Pie, among other things.  Their incompatibility had reared its complicated head over an incongruous list of baseball, whiskey, cork boots, and general lifestyle.  How Pie figured into it, I didn’t ask.  I didn’t mine for details and he didn’t offer much more than he thought that  Lorna was likely The One who had gotten away.

I wasn’t expecting any kudos for having been so damned stubborn to an old man who could play heartstrings like they were tuned on a fiddle.  It’s sometimes hard to feel any pride when winning a tug-of-war kind of battle.  But, looking back, I think he admired that I was willing to give as good he gave — and come up with a solution that suited us both in the end.  Maybe that is what he had hoped would happen with Lorna.

Maybe this is what life sometimes is.  A series of solutions that give as good as they take and that leave everyone feeling both pretty banged up and danged good in the end.  A happy ending?  I don’t know.  I’m not the one with the Pie Zen experience.

pie iron IVWe ended up having a few more Pie Iron shots of whiskey before the fire died down. The rest of the season passed without Grand Incident, and I packed up my duds in early October.  Times change and we with times but not in the ways of Pie Iron friendship.  I sent Pie King a home-baked apple pie up on the float plane each summer to commemorate a war well waged.  He never thanked me but he didn’t have to.  Sometimes you can let the Wookie win post-war.

Perhaps this story has gone for too long.  Back to Pie Irons!  Check them out . . . so much fun!  Pie out on the trail?  Grilled Cheese?  Breakfast sandwiches?  Fried potatoes?  Sloppy Joes?   French toast?  Yes to all of these great trail options.

So check out the fun products and cookbooks below!  I tried to find a good video for you . . . . and just wasn’t finding one.   I did find a blog with some recipes (Blueberry Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast and Stuffed Hash Browns) that sounded pretty though so I am sharing it with you below.

Click here to view the website: http://www.dirtygourmet.com/pie-iron-cooking/

And here is another site that specializes in Pie Iron cooking:

http://www.bestcamprecipes.com/pie-iron-meals/

And is there anything that goes better with Pie than Coffee?  (And Irish whiskey?)  True, you might say whipped cream, ice cream, cheddar cheese, or yogurt . . . but they don’t call me Boots the Badass Yogurt Babe.  I’m all about Coffee as you know, and I would contest that Coffee and Pie are the peanut butter and jelly, the peas and carrots, the wheat-grass and kale of the culinary world.  You can argue with me, and you’ll win.  After all, I’m an easy going kind of buck-a-rina, as evidenced by my summer of working out The Pie Accord with the Pie King.

Check out this super cool Classic Stainless Steel Yosemite 8-Cup Coffee Percolator — like the kind that Pie King kept going on the cookstove throughout the morning.  I love the sounds of a percolator, don’t you?  So retro, cute, and good!


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And for a blue-granite-ware camp experience:

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And in red!  I love this cheery color!


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And here are the Pie Irons!  A fun way to cook a meal and a dessert over the campfire! All for about $14 – $22 — what a deal!

Rome’s 1605 Double Pie Iron with Steel and Wood Handles

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Rome’s 1805 Round Pie Iron with Steel and Wood Handles


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Happy trails to all of you Pie Lovers.  Try out these Pie Irons and make a memory!

Life is a lively event.  Make pie, drink coffee, and get to it!  What’s stopping you?

xox to you, as always . . . Boots

Mobius Mitch, the Meal Mutiny, & Camp Muesli

camp at high lakeHowdy to all of you super-outdoorsy souls who are planning your menu for this summer’s camping, climbing, rafting, bicycling, kayaking, or hiking trip.  It’s a general truth that dehydrated meals are the way to go when you’re going to be carrying any kind of weight on your back  or in your boat . . . and it’s also a general truth that while some of these ready-made meals that you buy in expensive outdoor stores are pretty darned good, others are, at best, kind of mediocre.  Why not set mediocrity aside and start each day on the trail with a fresh and energizing cup of Bircher muesli?  It’s easy to make, it’s healthful, and it tastes great!

muesli IIBircher muesli is one of those meals that tastes good for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It is a healthy and creative choice that tastes good if you roughly follow the script of oats, fruit, coconut, honey, nuts, berries . . . you get the idea.  It’s made of good stuff that is easy to pack and you can prepare it in advance of the trip.  And the best part?  Muesli doesn’t require any cooking, which makes it an ideal choice for those trips that are going to include some dry camps.  Easy, healthy, tasty, and easy to prepare . . . you can’t get it wrong.

high lake camp.jpgI started packing my own version of Bircher muesli the summer that Mitch the Mobius joined the trail crew as Camp Cook.  This particular crew worked trail up in the high High Country so the work season was short.  We made summer base camp at one of the high lakes once the snow receded and the supply horses could make it up the trail. We  operated as Trail Rovers who did trail maintenance, cleaned up camp sites, and packed out a whole heck of a lot of annoying garbage from the High Country.  Depending on the destination, one might have to pack some overnight gear to cover the necessary miles — but, as a rule, we all generally did our best to return to camp each night to eat around the fire and sleep in our roomy, canvas wall tents.

pack horseWe actually had it pretty good in camp, as it was stocked at the beginning of each season with gear and supplies, compliments of Sam, Jim, and Katy — our much-appreciated district pack horses.  At the beginning of the summer, we had brief and glorious access to butter, eggs, cheese, and cream . . . and we even had an ice cream maker for our season-end Ice Cream Feed — the snowfields providing us with just enough “ice” to “freeze” the cream.  Albeit, the ice cream ran a bit on the soft side, but it was pure 100% wilderness luxury.

mobius stripMitch the Mobius was what you would call an Unknown Quantity.  He came from Havre, Montana, and was a self-professed jack-of-all-trades.  I don’t know about the veracity of his self-professing, but one thing we were quick to learn about Mitch: He was an Ace Bull Shitter who ruled camp with a Mighty Spoon.  What Mitch made, we were to eat . . . all according to the Rules of Mitch.  And that was that.  His was a simple system: Whatever we didn’t finishing eating the night before was added to breakfast.  Whatever we didn’t finish eating at breakfast was added to dinner.  And so it went.  This might not sound that bad, but think back to your past few meals.  And imagine combining them all together.  Trust me.  It’s a bad idea.

Mitch wasn’t that great of a cook to begin with . . . and then add to this fact Mitch’s Recycled Leftovers . . . well, dinner started to feel more like a punishment than a satiating pleasure.  Example: If you’ve ever had Montana chili added to your morning oatmeal, you’ll know what I mean. Think about it.  Do you add brown sugar and milk to the concoction?  Or Tapatio sauce and alfalfa sprouts?  Or do what we ended up doing and that was to add nothing at all and simply eat it for its value of mixed-media sustenance. It was always a tough choice, one that we didn’t feel we should have to be making.  I mean how hard is it to make a simple, decent, edible meal?

are-you-going-to-eat-that-funny-dogsNo matter how much complaining we did, Mitch stuck to his Zero Tolerance Policy of Leftovers.  Mitch added dinner macaroni to breakfast scrambled eggs, and he then added said macaroni-scrambled eggs to beef barley soup for dinner.  There was no end to the ludicrous chain of combinations.  Leftover Morning Coffee was used as the liquid ingredient for dinner cornbread –> coffee-cornbread went into the next day’s breakfast pancakes –> coffee-cornbread-pancakes went into dinner biscuits.  I think you get the idea.  You had the sense that what had been served as our first meal our first night in camp was still morphing itself in Mitch’s Petri Pot of Anthropological Proportions — resulting in an enduro of marathon indigestion that would only end when we ate our final camp meal in early September.

The more we complained, I swear, the more we were subjected to Mitch’s One-Man Campaign of Retaliation and he made even larger portions at meal time . . . meaning that even more Special Ingredients were destined to be added to Mitch’s next Mazy Meal.  And on it went.  We were caught up in Mitch’s Infinite Mobius Meal Plan of Frugal Retribution.  As I could see it, there was no solution to the dilemma other than to take up fasting.

muesli IVThis is when I started to make my own Bircher muesli.  I could guarantee that I was going to start my day right with food that wouldn’t sucker-punch my gut later in the morning.  And it was simple.  I would soak my muesli in my mess kit the night before and hang it in the bear bag.  Voila!  Instant healthful breakfast awaiting my morning.

The rest of the crew became privy to the Revelation of my Bircher meusli breakfast and, before you knew it, we were all hoisting Survival Quantities of muesli up the cable in the bear bag each evening.  The result?  We weren’t eating Mitch’s cuisine quite as desperately and Mitch’s leftovers started to back up on Mitch in a big way.  Even Mitch couldn’t think of what to do next with his Salami Corn Salsa French Toast Chicken à la King if we weren’t going to consent to eat it.

Plus, the side benefits of us planning on muesli for breakfast is that we could snack on some of the raw ingredients for lunch when we were out on the trail.  Muesli: a win-win choice.  And a big  Paleo Prize for us Rebels with a Righteous Nutritional Cause.

ice+cream+freezer+vintage+graphicsfairy5bwbgIt all came round right when the district’s horse wrangler came up the hill to pack our gear out for the season. It was Tradition that the wrangler would come bearing berries for pie and cream for the ice cream maker.  All of us were quite vocal, along with some strident cussing, that Mitch was not to lay the breath of a single fingerprint on our end-of-season Berry Pie a la Mode.  No, as much as we all knew the rules of the trail to respect Camp Cookie, Mitch was not going to throw a tangle into our Ice Cream Soiree.

Which just goes to show the power of Tradition.  We were willing to endure substandard, mean-spirited, frugal, gut-bomb meals for an entire season . . . but mess with our pie and ice cream?  We became a pack of mama bears protecting our beloved cubs.  The season was drawing to a conclusion, and we realized that we had somehow survived Mitch’s splenetic temperament and gastronomic combinations, for better or for worse.

I am happy to say, Mitch didn’t return to camp the following summer.  We heard that he fell in love with some gal from Missoula whom he met while grocery shopping in the meat department of Safeway and they were fixing to get hitched.  I wondered if she knew what she was getting into, what with Mitch’s extreme frugality and hard-line philosophy, but who can say what wins out in the ways of love?  And food to boot?  Certainly not me.  All I have to say is congratulations and best wishes to the couple.

All Mitch matters aside, here is one really simple recipe for Bircher muesli to make at home.  Once you read through the ingredients, you are going to see why there isn’t really any specifically-measured list of ingredients for this home and camp winner.  And I don’t know a lot about Gordon Ramsay, but I am thinking that he knows his way around a muesli recipe.

Bircher Muesli Recipe

A healthy breakfast from Food Network star Gordon Ramsay.

Ingredients2-1/3 cups rolled oats
1-3/4 cups low-fat milk
1 apple
1 tbsp runny honey
2/3 cup low-fat plain yogurt
Apple juice to taste
Fresh berries
Toasted walnuts
Directions

Step 1: Put rolled oats in a bowl and pour on milk (or enough to moisten). Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour, ideally overnight.

Step 2: Coarsely grate an apple over the oats, discarding the core and seeds.

Step 3: Stir in honey and plain yogurt. Add a splash of apple juice or a little more milk to loosen the mixture if it is too thick. Serve drizzled with a little more honey and topped with fresh berries and toasted walnuts.

Recipe taken from https://houseandhome.com/recipe/bircher-muesli-recipe/

AND . . . FOR YOU GOOD HIKERS, CAMPERS, GLAMPERS, RAFTERS, CLIMBERS . . . ETC.

If you are camping, hiking, etc. . . .

Don’t worry about the yogurt.  You can bring powdered milk or you can bring a container of almond, coconut, hemp, or rice milk in its stead.

Substitute dried fruits for the fresh fruit and brown sugar for the honey.

I make the oat mixture ahead of my trip and then add almond milk when I get to camp.  Muesli can be eaten by soaking it first overnight or soaking it when you are making your coffee or by eating it raw.  It’s your choice!  That is the beauty of muesli.

Here’s my general recipe:

  • rolled oats: start with about 2 cups and then go from there,  depending on how many other ingredients you add
  • nuts: walnuts, almonds
  • seeds: sesame, pumpkin, sunflower, hemp
  • dried fruits: apple, apricots, pineapple, golden raisins, cherries
  • coconut, shredded or flakes
  • quinoa flakes
  • puffed amaranth
  • cinnamon, nutmeg, and a dash of vanilla

Have fun with this!  And check out the containers below for carrying your muesli mix and for your milk of choice.


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As always, Boots here hoping that you will have happy trails and palatable meals to boot!

Life is a lively event.  Get out in the high country, drink coffee, and get to it! What’s stopping you?

Dutch Oven S’mores & the Misery of Hangovers & Hiking Out in Just Your Socks

Boots here to extol the virtues of Dutch ovens, S’mores, Guatemalan coffee beans . . . and to warn against the vice of imbibing too much Hooch and then finding yourself way out of your league when it comes to campfire games!

What you need for this twist on a campfire classic: A good fire?  Check.  Dutch oven?  Check.  Campfire coals?  Perfect.  S’mores ingredients?  Check.  Time to make some Dutch Oven S’mores!

This is a whole different take on making S’mores.  I know that 1) poking the fire with a stick is a whole lot of fun and 2) tempting the flames with a marshmallow at the end of a stick is even more fun.  Will it toast up buckskin tan or will it incinerate into a lump of carbon?

This Dutch oven recipe takes the wondering out of the equation.  And everyone can enjoy their S’mores at the same time once you lift the oven’s lid.  Also, making the S’mores this way eliminates that marshmallow-eating Chubby Bunny contest (a campfire game for amateurs, at best) that has a tendency to heat up between competitive cousins and liquored-up uncles.  [Spoken by the wrangler who has seen too many campfire scenes that cannot be unseen.]

This way, while your treats are baking away in the Dutch oven, you all can turn your attention to telling ghost stories or to playing a rousing game of Shoeking! instead and see who just might end up hiking back down the trail the next day in his stocking feet.  [Note: Now this game of balancing your boot on your toes and flipping it back over your head and not into the fire actually is  more fun with liquored-up uncles.]

I’ll never forget the summer I watched a whole troop of good ol’ boys — all of whom looked to be bearing the Divine Punishment — leaving camp The Morning After with most of them missing at least one shoe.   All I could think was Those damned fools were playing Shoeking!  There was something about seeing their hangdog expressions and the dust cloud that followed their shuffling sock-footed procession that still makes me bust a gut.

This shoe-less band of travelers, clearly having partaken in a goodly portion of Hooch the night before,  was in such rough shape when they doddered past the cabin that they hired me on the spot to saddle up Eagle to carry the heavier items from their camp down the hill.  I sympathized.  Of course I did.  But there was a part of me that was thinking that there was going to be a whole lot of footsore at the end of the trail along with all of the blame and cussing that I was sure to bear witness to.  One buckaroo kept saying over and over, “My Gawd, my Gawd.”  Whether he was intervening for his sole-less foot or for his soul-less quaff from the night before, I couldn’t tell.   The other guys kept telling him to Zip It, Chet! — knowing that maintaining low morale wasn’t going to help a single one of them get down the trail any sooner.

Chet couldn’t refrain from his mantra of misery, so the rest of the boys started to call Chet “Mr. Tenderfoot” and other such insulting monikers with additional colorful embroideries.  I tried not to crack up and just kept Eagle steered down the trail ahead of the shoe-less pack, thinking that there are some stories in life that you just can’t make up.  This was one of those stories.

I just don’t know.  Life is funny and it is strange.  And thank God for stories that entertain the Disbelieving Parts that dwell within.  I can’t really say that participating in this experience enriched my life in any way, but I did file it away in my mental folder labeled “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up.”  You know the stories.  The Fact-is-stranger-than-Fiction stuff.  The stories that cling to our memories’ heels through time for no apparent reason.  I would like to think that the things I carry with me have some edifying value from time past, but this particular tale?  It simply makes me laugh my ass off when I think back to that day.

Truth: laughter is its own medicine and these boys had given me a goodly dose as a result of their misguided and high-spirited Shoeking! folly.

But sorry stories aside, let’s get back to stuff that really matters like coffee, chocolate, and campfires . . . My coffee pairing recommendation for the sweet side of S’mores?  I am thinking a Guatemalan coffee for this particular sweet.  There is nothing like Guatemalan coffee paired with chocolate . . . although Arabian mocha beans are pretty great, too.  Check out this single origin Guatemalan coffee after you have stocked up on the S’more goodies.  You deserve good coffee with your campfire treat.  And what a cute bag that comes with it!


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Or how about this certified organic, whole bean, single-country-origin bean from Guatemala?


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Okay!  Now that you have your coffee, here is the recipe for the S’mores.  This recipe is taken from the Taste of Home Web site: http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/pot-of-s-mores
POT OF S’MORES
TOTAL TIME: Prep/Total Time: 25 min.
MAKES: 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 package (14-1/2 ounces) whole graham crackers, crushed
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips
  • 2 cups miniature marshmallows

Directions

  1. Prepare grill or campfire for low heat, using 16-18 charcoal briquettes or large wood chips.
  2. Line a Dutch oven with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Combine cracker crumbs and butter; press onto the bottom of the pan. Pour milk over crust and sprinkle with chocolate and butterscotch chips. Top with marshmallows.
  3. Cover Dutch oven. When briquettes or wood chips are covered with white ash, place Dutch oven directly on top of six of them. Using long-handled tongs, place remaining briquettes on pan cover.
  4. Cook for 15 minutes or until chips are melted. To check for doneness, use the tongs to carefully lift the cover. Yield: 12 servings.

It really is worth buying a Dutch oven.  You can make so many different recipes that benefit from its even heat.  You can use it hanging above the fire, in the coals, and in your oven at home.  I love this homely old cast iron pot that eloquently says, “Good Cooking!”  You won’t be sorry that you made the investment in something that is so versatile.

Boots, signing off and keeping my bootlaces tight!  xox

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Happy trails, good people!