Friday, September 4, 2015

Campfire Cooking in the Old West

In my current work in progress, WILD HORSES, my heroine sneaks off with a cattle drive, much to the heroes surprise. One of the most important parts of a cattle drive is the chuckwagon, the traveling kitchen that provides meals for all the cowboys on the way to the cattle markets.

As a living history reenactor, I’ve had plenty of experience cooking over an open fire, much like the cook driving the chuckwagon would. From slow cooked beans, cowboy stew to chocolate cake, all you need is a hot fire, the right ingredients, and a dutch oven. 

As we transition from summer to fall, we’ll be loading up the backyard pit for our weekend bonfires and bring out the dutch oven along with it. Here’s a few old recipes any cowboy would look forward to, whether he be in the old west, or a more modern day version.

Cowboy Stew


1 lb. ground beef
1 onion
3 potatoes
(all cans are about 15 oz.)
1 can green beans
1 can baked beans
1 can black beans
1 can tomato soup
1 can corn
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tsp Chili powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper

Cut the potatoes into 1 inch cubes and dice your onion. Heat the dutch oven over hot coals to 375degrees and brown the ground beef and onions together. Add your potatoes, all the can goods (with juices) and the spices. Cook until potatoes are tender, about 45 minutes, stirring often.

Dutch Oven Chocolate Pudding Cake
(demo in the video - full ingredients list below)


Cake Dry Mix (Bag #1)
1  Cup All Purpose Flour
3/4 Cup Sugar
3 Tbsp Unsweetened Baking Cocoa
2 Tsp Baking Powder
1/2 Tsp Salt

Chocolate Pudding Dry Mix (Bag #2)
3/4 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
4 Tbsp Unsweetened Baking Cocoa

Other Ingredients   
1 1/4 Cups Hot Water
1/2 Cup Milk
1/3 Cup Melted Butter
1 1/2 Tsp Vanilla Extract

The demo video used charcoal briquettes but we always use a ‘wood’ fire when we make this. Just make sure the coal are good and hot (glowing red) and sit the pot on top of the coals. Be sure to place some coals on top of the lid so it bakes evenly.

For more campfire cooking, look for my upcoming novel, WILD HORSES, book #7 in the USA TODAY Willow Creek Series. Sign up for my Newsletter for more information about this book and special giveaways.

About Lily Graison

USA TODAY  bestselling author Lily Graison writes historical western romances and dabbles in contemporary and paranormal romance. First published in 2005, Lily has written over a dozen romance novels that range from sweet to spicy.

She lives in Hickory, North Carolina with her husband, three high-strung Yorkies and more cats than she can count. On occasion, she can be found at her sewing machine creating 1800’s period clothing or participating in area living history events.

When not portraying a southern belle, you can find her at a nearby store feeding her obsession for all things resembling office supplies.

To see the dresses Lily has created, visit her Pinterest page.

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  1. Interesting, Lily. I'm not a campfire type, though, and prefer my kitchen range. LOL

  2. I've never owned a Dutch Oven but they always sound so appealing. I think the brand Cruset makes different sizes, called Dutch Ovens, but they are enamel on the outside. Even I know nothing can equal the value of a real cast iron Dutch Oven. It's like my very, very old big cast iron skillet. Some foods must be cooked in that old skillet. I've had to teach my husband--when he washes dishes-to please don't scrub the black off my skillet! An old rancher here in town took up cooking out of a kind of chuck wagon on a trailer bed to pull with his truck. He created a smoker and fire pit for his multiple Dutch Ovens and skillets. What did he do with this? Hired himself out during deer season to go along with some hunters who would camp out several days and hunt. He could make biscuits like you wouldn't believe. Being an old rancher, he also hired himself out for round-ups on ranches out near Marathon and Alpine. He has a blast doing this. Good for him.
    The cowboy stew looks very good! Thanks for the information and recipes...except I only cook for two people. I do make my own version of vegetable stew, though.
    Good luck with your new book! It sounds like another Lily Graison winner.

  3. The "idea" of camping and cooking over an open fire is appealing to me, but in truth, I'd rather watch sunsets from my deck and eat at restaurants. Now, if I had a camping crazed person with me, I might venture out there and give it a go. In my youth, I love Girl Scouts, camping, building teepees out of branches by a creek, and roasting baloney and marshmallows over a campfire. I'm 68 now. Walking a short woodland trail would be all I could muster. I give some of your recipes a try (on my stove) since they look very delicious.
    All the best to you, Lily.

  4. Dear Lily: thanks for the great recipes, esp. the chocolate pudding cake. We did Mountain Man reenacting and I would make cherry cobbler in the dutch oven buried in hot coals. What great memories. Sounds like you have a lot of fun too.


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