Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Dutch Oven Apricot Chicken

I made those snickerdoodle bars again, that same evening, at a campout for a dutch oven dessert cookoff. And because of all the extra heat in the fire pit where the ovens were, and because I didn't check on the cookie bars as early as I should have, I burned the bottom to a crisp. That having been only the second time I've ever cooked with a dutch oven, I wasn't too embarrassed or devastated or anything, I just scraped the bottom off and served the bars anyway.

I thought I was over it, and okay with it. But when I decided I wanted to plan a dutch oven meal to cook and eat this week, I kind of froze. Recipes I had looked at before and wanted to try suddenly looked too complicated, too easy for me to mess up. I was scared to try again. It took some facebook encouragement from my aunt and a couple friends to get me feeling okay again. I found a very simple recipe to try and wrote it on the menu calendar for today.

Then it rained all morning, and I thought I'd have to put it off until tomorrow. Luckily, by early evening the rain had stopped and the cement in the backyard had dried enough that I was able to go ahead and light up the coals.

I'm so glad I was able to get over my nervousness and give the dutch oven another try. This apricot chicken (again, from Dutch Oven Madness) was very easy to prepare and cook, and turned out very good. For one thing, it's just beautiful. And of course, the flavor is yummy - tangy, with bits of fruit from the jam and onion from the soup mix. I would not be opposed to making this again sometime.

Dutch Oven Apricot Chicken
12" dutch oven
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 cup apricot jam (I used apricot pineapple jam that my aunt made, super yummy)
1 cup catalina or french salad dressing (I used french, because the store I went to didn't have catalina in the generic brand)
2 tbsp. sugar
1 pkg. onion soup mix

Place chicken in your dutch oven. Mix remaining ingredients and pour over chicken. Bake at 350 for 1 hour. Easy peasy! I will say that my chicken didn't take the full hour to cook, it was done at about 45-50 minutes. Check for doneness before the full time has passed.

I served this over reconstituted potato shreds, the kind that comes in a food storage can. I was considering doing rice, but we've had chicken and rice a lot in the last few days, and wanted something different. Just in case anyone was wondering what that weird-looking stuff under the chicken is. :)

I used the Dinwiddie ring method for achieving the correct heat, coal counting works too if that's what you prefer. I had to add a few coals about halfway through as they got smaller. I thought that would be hard to figure out, but I just started more coals than I needed, kept the ones I didn't use right away all together so they would stay hot, and just tucked them in where needed. For longer cooking times, like several hours, I might start a new batch of coals partway through to replenish coals as they go out.

Mmm, look at that chicken swimming in all that tangy sweet sauce!

Linking to:
Think Tank Thursday
Link Party Palooza 
Strut Your Stuff Saturday

Friday, August 15, 2014

Dutch Oven Snickerdoodle Bars

We recently had our bi-annual family reunion. At these reunions, there is always a big auction, where everyone contributes items to sell and the proceeds go toward funding the next reunion. It's kind of a big deal in our family. I posted about this a few years ago here.

Anyway, Jeff and I had a lot of fun at this year's auction, and got all sorts of neat stuff. Our biggest purchase was a dutch oven. It's a 12-inch, 8-quart dutch oven that has obviously been properly cared for and beautifully seasoned. The thing is, I've never cooked anything in a dutch oven. So I've been reading everything online that I can find about how to cook with and care for dutch ovens, and I was finally ready today to give it a try!

This recipe came from a great blog for anyone interested in using a dutch oven. Toni decided that she wanted to try something new, so she committed to cooking in her dutch oven(s) every day for an entire year! Wow! Her first month or two of recipes include helpful tips of things that she was learning along the way, and she has a few other resources scattered throughout that were helpful and encouraging. Plus she graded almost every recipe so you know what was really good and what wasn't good at all. Most of the recipes rated either a B or an A. These cookie bars received an A.

Dutch Oven Snickerdoodle Bars
(from Dutch Oven Madness)
12" dutch oven
2 1/3 cup flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
Cinnamon Filling:
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tbsp. milk

In a small bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl beat the butter until creamy. Beat in the sugars until fully incorporated. Then beat in the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated. Add vanilla. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients.

Spread half of the batter on the bottom of a greased 12" dutch oven. Mix together the cinnamon filling ingredients and sprinkle evenly over the batter in the pan. Dollop the remaining batter in teaspoonfuls over the cinnamon filling. Don't worry about it not completely covering the filling - everything will spread out in the oven and have a great marbled look.

Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool completely, then mix together the glaze ingredients (adding more milk if it's too thick, or more sugar if it's too thin) and drizzle over the top of the bars.

There are different ways to get the dutch oven to the temperature you want. One popular method is coal counting - for a 12" oven to cook at 350 you would want 16 coals on top and 10 on the bottom. But this doesn't take into account the size of the coals - some are bigger than others. Toni at Dutch Oven Madness prefers the Dinwiddie Ring method, because it allows you to accurately cook with any size coals and makes it so you don't have to count. I chose to use this method and it was easy to figure out, and the bars baked up beautifully.

Dinnwiddie ring method - one ring of coals on the bottom, one and a half rings on top to achieve approximately 350 degrees.

Actually, my cookie bars were slightly undercooked, but that's because I jumped the gun and didn't actually test them for doneness with a toothpick. They could have used a few more minutes, but even underdone, they tasted incredible, and I'm so excited to try more recipes! I don't think I'll be cooking in the dutch oven every single day, but I can say for certain that my new toy will not be put away in a closet only to be brought out for camping. It's too easy and too fun to only be used once or twice a year!

Linking to:
Link Party Palooza
Strut Your Stuff Saturday
Think Tank Thursday