Friday, February 20, 2009

Beans Or No Beans in Your Chili Recipe

By Jim Wools

Chili with Beans? This is often a controversial topic. The mere thought of using beans in a chili dish brings up the ire of a lot of people. After all, chili is often referred to as Chili Con Carne (Chili with Meat) but rarely as Chili Con Frijoles (Chili with Beans). But just as there are chili recipes with no beans, there are just as many recipes that include beans that turn out very delicious.

So where did this "beans or no beans" controversy get started? To find the answer to this we need to take a brief look at the history of the dish.

According to the International Chili Society (ICS) ( the exact origin of the recipe is unknown. But many people feel the dish originated in the Southwest.

Reportedly, according to the ICS, there was a trail hand range cook, who would collect wild chiles and garlic along the cattle trail. Then at night he would cook it up with whatever meat was available and serve it to the rest of the cowhands. The "original" recipe may be tracked back to the early 19th century. This recipe contains only meat, onions, garlic, oregano and salt. And certainly no beans!

So if the dish originated with no beans, how did beans happen to end in the recipe? Well if you look around, it is easy to find chili recipes that have chocolate. It is easier to think that beans would end up in a chili recipe than would chocolate. After all, chocolate is for dessert. But I digress...

Chili with beans could have come about during the Great Depression as an inexpensive way to stretch out the dish, because by the 1950's, the controversy had began.

By the early 1950s the controversy of chili with beans or without beans had become so well known that it became the title of a book. In his 1952 book, With or Without Beans: An Informal Biography of Chili, author Joe Cooper, explored the biography of chili. In it he concluded that in all his accumulated material there was a preference for beans in chili. But in his book, Joe's provided his preferred chili recipe, which contained no beans!

Also in the fifties, chili with beans was on the mind of infamous columnist Westbrook Pegler. According to the International Chili Society, Pegler wrote, "...chili-con should be made with ground beef, beans, chili powder, tomatoes, onions and garlic..."

And so the controversy of beans or no beans was born and continues to grow to this day.

There are several good reasons why one would not include beans in chili. Tradition notwithstanding, people may not like the taste of beans or particularly the after effects. After all, beans are the "musical fruit" and this could create some uncomfortable circumstances in certain situations. And once beans are put into a chili recipe, they are not easy to remove.

But beans are an inexpensive and healthy addition to any chili dish. Beans are high in fiber, low in fat and have no cholesterol. For those on a tight budget, a pound of uncooked pinto beans is around a dollar or so. They are even less if you buy them in bulk. After cooking, a pound of beans can really stretch a chili recipe into many more servings.

If you don't have the time or inclination to cook beans from scratch, canned beans can easily be added to your chili. A large can of cooked pinto beans is not much more expensive than uncooked pinto beans.

So whether you fall into the camp of Chili With Beans, or side with the Chili With No Beans crowd, you cannot go wrong with a good dish of chili, beans or no bean.

Here is an easy chili recipe with beans. Try it and see how you like it.

Chili Recipe

The author is a native of the Southwestern United States and has been creating and cooking various chili recipes for over two decades.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Planning Your Camping Food

By Alison Stevens

Camping food for many people has come to mean granola, oatmeal, and more granola. Camping food can range anywhere from veggies or hot dogs – great for roasting over an open fire – to a steak-and-baked-potato dinner and one-pot meals. Freeze-dried camping food is great for hiking, backpacking, or camping meals because you don't have to keep it cold to avoid spoiling. Camping food such as Mountain House Brand or Backpackers Country brands can be a very convenient way to eat. Camping food benefits include your meals can be already. Camping food downsides include cost as meals can be more expensive, and you can lose your creativity for cooking while camping.

Camping Food Recipes

A search of the internet will turn up many online cookbooks and recipes submitted by people interested in camp cooking and are free for you to download. Things to consider when researching camp recipes include cooking for different travelers on different days, planning for large groups, planning for partial trip days, different guests eating different meals, large and small appetites, storage for ingredients, and much more.

Do not overlook soup recipes for camping and other meals that require only one pot or pan, so you can pack light, eat well and enjoy your camping trip.

You can create yummy gourmet meals with a little understanding of grilling and adapting recipes to the grill. You should learn how to adapt regular recipes to grill cooking, too, and you'll see that you can create some mighty tasty gourmet recipes that taste like you've spent hours preparing them.

Family Camping Food Ideas For Children

Children love to get involved, and the beauty of camping is that the recipes are usually simple, easy and fun. The kids will enjoy them even more if you let them modify the camp recipes and have some cooking fun. Before your next family camping trip, gather up some kid-friendly camping recipes. Camping dessert recipes are fun and easy for kids to make, and the whole family enjoys eating them.

Camping Meal Planning

Meals should be planned around the "core" entry but like buying a car it's the extras that make it more enjoyable. Meals should be made as simple as possible. Meals or soups in a cup are definitely convenient foods but they may be too bulky for many backpackers and campers. Meals take more time to prepare at the campground but it's also one of the jobs that everyone seems to want to help out with. Meals around the campfire are just as much the centre of camping life as meals around the kitchen bench at home.

Freeze-dried Camping Food

A quick search of the web turns up numerous companies producing freeze-dried foods for backpacking, including many vegetarian options. One of the best types of camping food is freeze-dried food or dehydrated food. Nowadays, people climbing the Himalayas, exploring the Poles, competing in offshore races, canoers and all kinds of travelers and globetrotters take very light freeze-dried food with them, which in extreme conditions can be made eatable by adding water acquired from snow or even sea water after desalination. Dehydrated or freeze-dried camping food is great for hiking, backpacking, or camping meals because it doesn’t have to be kept cold to avoid spoiling. Camping, backpacking, or hiking food that's freeze-dried or dehydrated can reduce weight by sixty to ninety percent. With a little creativity it's easy to make meals better-tasting and healthier than freeze-dried astronaut meals!

With some tasty camping food in your pack, you can make sure you won’t go hungry. Take easy to carry, high energy camping food to fuel your expeditions and outdoor adventures. If you're used to eating at gourmet restaurants, no matter what type of camping food you pack you'll probably be disappointed but you’ll still have fun. You'll also want to consider animal and/or bear resistant camping food containers especially if you're going to bear country. Please check the local area for suggestions on camping food storage and how to deal with trash. Good camping food is easy, light-weight, and served hot quickly.

Alison Stevens is an online author and maintains The Hiking And Camping Website to assist hikers, campers and backpackers to choose the right equipment and enjoy their outdoor adventure.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Family Camping Tents are bigger and better

By Jake Swingler

Back when I was a kid what we considered a family camping tent was a huge military surplus tent that was big enough for 25 soldiers and their equipment. It was olive green, poorly ventilated and very hard to set-up and stake down. The Idea of a family camping trip was not so fun for adults back then. Over the years though many improvements have been made to the family camping tent that has made life a heck of a-lot easier.

I think one of the biggest improvements is the actual size and ease of assembly of the bigger tents. The fact is the only tents that were really easy to set-up were the little four person pop-up dome tent. It took probably 5 min total to erect. Now these new family camping tents that can fit ten to twelve people easy are even easy to set-up. I own a 10 foot by 20 foot tent myself and my wife and I can get it fully set-up in about 10 minutes. It has four rooms, three doors and is well ventilated and waterproof.

These newer family camping tents also have shoe racks, removable room dividers, a rail to hang your clothes inside the tent and removable shelves. It is like not even leaving your home. Now these tents do have some draw backs. Some weigh about 25-30 pounds. Mine is in that category but it came with a wheeled case that is very easy to repack.

We have had this family camping tent that we call the Taj Majal for about five years and love it. It is still in very good shape even though we use it quite a bit. If you have been reluctant to buy something this big don't be. They are really not so bad to set-up and repack and the extra room is heaven trust me.

Jake Swingler owns an online wholesale camping equipment store, He also loves camping with his wife and kids. He tries to go once or twice a month during the summer. If you have any questions about Any other camping gear, sleeping bag or tents please feel free to drop him an e-mail at the website.