Outside In

    Carefully remove the lid to reveal buttery camp, goodness.

    Makes Sense

    There are lots of ideas as to why food taste better when eaten outside. Some think it has to do with the simplification of cooking out of doors. Since we generally eat better when we eat simply, the food taste better. Perhaps.

    Others think it might be that we engage all the senses on meals taken al fresco. Life outside is usually more dynamic that indoor settings. When we are out of doors, we tend to be on alert to more going on around us and this means using all our senses. This makes sense. (pun intended) In addition, outdoor elements can add to the intensity of a meal by breaking down food on a molecular level and increasing the aromas that make our mouth water. A fine line when serving potato salad, but I can see the logic in this.

    One theory that “neatly packages” all of these other theories into one bunch, is that eating food outside generally stimulates memories of foods eaten outside during childhood. Our fondest food links are most likely to be traced back to our youth.  Neighborhood block parties, preschool snacks on the playground, brown bag lunches at summer camp with friends and family camp trips have all created positive food connections in our brain that read delicious.

    Organic Ingredients

    This is more a testimony to nature & the company we keep than to the food. As tender youths, we used to eat cans of hormel chili and little beanie weanie’s with our dear adopted uncle, Jim, during our weeks long stays in the tiny Northeastern town of Troy, Oregon. His two room house in the center of town had a simple, wooden porch overlooking a green yard with a giant, shade tree. Those cans of chili still tasted good to me right through my college years. This, I’m certain, had everything to do with first eating that fare outside on a warm summer evening, and very little to do with the actual quality of the canned food.

    Eat Like a Local

    Fast forward to 2015 when Caleb and I are planning a three week dream trip to France. We felt encouraged by Rick Steves to picnic for most meals; reducing time spent at restaurants and minimizing expenses, while maximizing exposure to French beauty and the local food market experience.

    I found one of those nifty picnicking backpacks on Craigslist for twenty bucks along with a simple blanket that folds neatly into its’ own bag.  We set out to dine al fresco everywhere we ventured: the lush Loire Valley, on the sidelines of the Paris Roubaix cycling race in Northern France, throughout wine country in Burgundy and while exploring Paris. (In Lyon we mostly skipped the picnicking and dined in Bouchons. If you go there, you should too!)

    Of course, the food tasted amazing. We were in France. But, we can say that we got an entire sensory experience with every meal. From shopping the local markets, then preparing our daily picnics and selecting the scenic locale to sit and dine while watching France go by in all it’s glory.

    In addition, locals would pass by us, smile and say “Bon Appetite!” We felt like we fit right in and it seemed to us that the French were downright cheery. In fact, one memorable picnic in Burgundy ended with a local couple on an evening stroll inviting us to finish our epicurean experience with bottles from their personal cellar in the village down the road. They wanted to practice their English in anticipation of a trip they had planned to visit the United States in the coming months, and we wanted to practice drinking good wine in adorable French villages. A real win-win. The memories of the ancient grape vines, the sunset over the French country side, the spread of pate’ & cheese along vivacious Jean Pierre and Marie are stored tight in the minds of the entire group. Memories made possible by eating outside.

    Which leads me to butter. It’s probably true that everything taste better when eaten outside. It is a solid truth that everything taste better with butter. Ha! Here is a great way to eat more butter and it bakes beautifully outside. So eat it outside, with a child and start making some good, real food memories that last a lifetime!

    Creating positive food memories one bite at a time.

    Bon Appetite!


    Print Recipe
    French Style Gluten Free Butter Cake
    A lovely, easy to make almond butter cake that, with a little pre-prep, can be baked in camp.
    Prep Time 30
    Cook Time 25-30
    Prep Time 30
    Cook Time 25-30
    1. Cream together butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until sugar is dissolved and mixture is light in color. Tear a large piece of parchment and place flat on the counter. Using a rubber spatula, transfer the butter/sugar mixture to the center of the paper. Roll into a log and secure ends with a twist. Label with tape & marker. Store in freezer until packing cooler for camp trip.
    2. Measure dry ingredients into a ziplock type bag. Label with tape & marker along with any additional instructions you may want for camp. (temp & bake time for instance).
    1. Measure extracts and 2 TB of syrup into a small container with a tight fitting lid. Label with tape & marker. Be sure to account for enough eggs to make the cake, in addition to other eggs needed for camp. Select a syrup choice and store at least 1/2 cup for the cake in a bottle with a secure lid. Label with tape & marker.
    1. Remove butter/sugar log and eggs from the cooler. Ready twenty coals in charcoal chimney. While coals heat, prep cake batter. Tear a piece of parchment and set the dutch oven lid on top of it. Cut around the lid to create a paper circle. Line the bottom of the dutch oven with this circle.
    2. Using a napkin or butter wrapper, lightly coat the paper and sides of the dutch oven with butter.
    3. Add butter/sugar mixture to a bowl and mix with a whisk or rubber spatula. Add eggs. Stir as well as possible. There will probably be a few butter lumps, but your camping so don't worry.
    4. Add the flour mixture a bit at a time and stir well. Now add the extract/syrup mixture. Stir well.
    5. Transfer batter to prepared dutch oven and smooth down the top with the spatula or the back of a spoon. Secure the lid onto the dutch oven.
    6. Using heat proof tongs and on a heat proof, somewhat level surface, place 8 hot coals in a 10" diameter on the ground. Place dutch oven on top of coals. Add the remaining 12 coals in an even pattern to the top of the dutch oven lid.
    7. Bake for 25-30 minutes depending on wind conditions. Use a lid lifter to check for doneness. Should be firm to touch and will not brown on top. Gently move coals from the lid into fire ring and set lid aside. Remove dutch oven from the coals. Use a shovel to move remaining coals to fire ring. Let cake cool for about 10 minutes.
    8. Place a plate, tray or wire rack on top of the dutch oven. Invert the cake in one quick movement. Use gloves to protect your hands if needed. Remove parchment paper. Pour about a 1/2 cup of syrup onto cake and let absorb. Slice and serve.
    Recipe Notes

    This cake lends itself well to fresh or cooked fruit. Plums were in season on a recent Mt. Hood camp trip. So we pitted & chopped about six up and set in a saucepan with a bit of water and sugar. It took about ten minutes of simmering to get a lovely sauce to drizzle the slices with. Left over syrup found it's way to pancakes the next morning.

    Easy fruit topping on the stovetop.

    A variety of delicious uses await!

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    1. Yes, this cake you made on our camp trip was such a surprise! It was delicious too! I was quite surprised that you could bake a cake while camping. I actually pictured it not turning out, actually. That’s why it was such a surprise as it was beautiful, tasty and we devoured it in no time. I love camping with you as it is not the normal camp meals I was use to eating, while growing up. It was gourmet camping! 🙂