Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Dutch Oven Cooking

A few months ago I had the privilege of attending a training seminar called Wood Badge. It is leadership training sponsored by the Boy Scouts of America. Part of my training required me to set some specific goals that need to be met within the next 18 months. These goals are focused at improving you as as an individual and the groups that your are involved with. One of my goals was to learn how to cook in a dutch oven, so I have been experimenting with different recipes and methods. I have decide to share a small bit if this adventure with you.

First, what is a dutch oven? Well it as a cast iron pot designed to be cook with over many different types of heat sources. It can be used over open flame, in an oven, over charcoal, or any other imaginable source of heat. They can be fairly small or extremely large. For my experimentation, I am using a 12" diameter pot that is made in the deep style. My favorite heat source is charcoal. It may not be the fastest method of cooking, but I love the touch of smokey flavor that gets added to the food.

There is small fire pit in my back yard that is just the perfect size for my dutch oven. It is the perfect size, because I dug it that way. Here you can see the charcoal being prepared. It is important to make sure that the charcoal is well lit and burning or you can experience temperature control problem once you start cooking.

This particular meal is chicken and rice. I first sauteed some onions then placed all the chicken (spiced according to desire) in the bottom of the oven, I then pour uncooked rice over the chicken. Following the rice is some cream of mushroom soup mixed with some milk, water, mushrooms, and a little garlic powder, this liquid mixture is poured over the rice and the whole thing is then placed in the charcoal pit.

Notice how I placed some of the charcoal on top of the dutch oven as well. This is to help the oven heat evenly. Even heating is a key element in successful dutch oven cooking. Nothing is worse than food that is overcooked on the bottom and raw on top. The temperature can be controlled by the number of charcoals used. If you want more heat on bottom, then put more charcoal underneath. Each charcoal briquette will produce approximately 10 - 20 degrees. SO if you want to cook something at around 325 degrees, then you will need approximately 20 - 25 coals. These temperature will go up or down according to the size of your oven. A larger oven will need more coals and a smaller one less.

After everything is settled into the fire pit, it just matter of waiting until everything is cooked. In this case it takes about 30 -45 minutes for the rice to finish cooking. Try not to disturb the oven to often. Every time you lift the lid, the oven will lose some of its heat. One thing to remember, is that a cast iron pot will stay hot for a long time and whatever is in it, will continue to cook for awhile even after being removed from the heat, so remember to plan for this and avoid over cooking some things.

Now it is time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I am famous .... well, almost

Ok, Ok, I know it has been awhile since my last update, so here is a fun one.

I found a web sight that will scan the faces of any picture of a person that you upload and then match those faces to famous people.

I does require you register, but they will not sell your e-mail address, so it is safe, go ahead and have some fun. Load up pictures of yourself in different poses and you will get different matches.

Here is one I posted of us and the top three matches for our faces.

Shon's Top Three Matches:

1. Peter Andre - I have no idea who this guy is, apparently some pop singer from Australia

2. Oded Fehr - Remember that guy from the movie The Mummy that all the chicks went goo goo ga ga for, ya that's me.

3. Patrick Dempsey - That's right folks I am apparently a match for Dr. dreamy

Kee's Top Three Matches

1. Eva Longoria - All I can say is lucky me!! Va Va Voom

2. Tata Young - I have no idea who this girl is but, Oh yeah that's my wife

3. Katie Holmes - Uh huh, that's my wife too, life is good

Everyone have a Happy Thanksgiving, have some fun with this and let me know what your matches are.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


There are moments in life that sometimes make you take a good hard look at yourself and you realize just how insignificant you could be in the entirety of the world. This can be a bit frightening for some people, or it can be a grounding experience to help keep you from becoming to full of yourself. No matter how it effects you, you always come away from such an experience just a little bit different that you were before. Hopefully the changes in you are for the better.
A few years ago I had a chance to go scuba diving at a location in Grantsville, UT called Bonneville Seabase. It is a small body of salt water that is heated by geothermal pockets of water in the middle of the Utah desert. Many Tropical fish have been planted in the water and are thriving. It is very similar to diving in a tropical location, only you are in the middle it Utah.
I was very excited about this opportunity to use my new diving skills and left my hotel early so that I could be there just as they opened and maximize my dive time for the day. I was greeted warmly by the staff and informed that I would need to watch a small training video before they would allow me to enter the water. The video was enjoyable and informed me about the various types of critters that I could see in the water and how to treat them. There are lobsters, shrimp, various tropical fish, and a multitude of corals. I watched the video as the staff released a foot long nurse shark into one of the bay. I was going to be swimming with sharks, even if they were only a foot long!! I could barely contain my excitement. At the end of the video I was informed that I could purchase some frozen fish food from the snack bar and would be able to hand feed the fish if I wanted to. I made a mental note that I would definitely be doing that at some point today.

A small nurse shark being released into the water

Once the video was complete I was given the OK to dive at my own leisure. I changed into my dive gear as fast as I could and headed for the entry area. I had decided that I would take my first dive as an opportunity to explore the whole area. Seabase has 3 distinct dive zones, the entry area is known as White Rocks and has a dome covering over it to help accommodate diving in the winter months. From there, you can swim through a channel that connects you to an area know as Habitat Bay. Habitat Bay has a sunken ship to explore as well as an underwater air dome where you can swim inside and watch all the fish through windows while removing your face gear and talking to your dive buddies. The next area is called the Abyss, it is a deep water area going down as far as 67 feet. It is mostly used for training, but there are ledges you can stop and hang out on to watch some of the fish that prefer a little bit cooler temperatures.

A picture of the entry area known as White Rocks

I had my plan and entered the water. Immediately I was surrounded by a multitude of tropical fish with brilliant colors and unique markings from any fish I have ever seen in the lakes if Montana. I was captivated. There were angel fish, puffers, Jacks and Tangs. Fish that could only be seen off the coast of some tropical resort , yet here I was in Utah seeing them all.

Some of the fish that can be seen at Seabase

I made my way around all three bays taking in all the sights, and becoming familiar with the underwater terrain. Those first two hours absolutely flew by and soon my tank was getting to low on air to stay under water and I would have to have to go back to land, eat some lunch and get a new tank. It would be necessary for me to spend at least an hour out of the water so that my body could get rid of some of the extra nitrogen that builds up in your blood stream when you are under water. Failure to do this could result in a painful condition called the bends, if severe enough, it could even be fatal and I did not want to risk that.

The only thing I did not see on my first dive was the shark. I was really hoping to get a good look at him, but nurse sharks do have tendency to be a little shy, so I guess I wasn't to surprised. I asked the staff about him and they gave me some good ideas of where his usually hang outs were. I knew I would only be able to squeeze in two more dive today and I really wanted to hand feed the fish, so I decided to by the fish food for my next dive and then if I didn't see the shark, I would take my last dive searching for him.

I walked over to the snack bar and order my bag of fish food. I chuckled to myself as I discovered that the "fish food" was really a zip lock bag full of dead frozen guppies. The very same guppies I am sure that were abundant in the pools I just finished diving before lunch.

I put my gear back on and descended into the water for dive number two. As soon as the local wild life realized that I had a treat, I was completely surrounded by hungry tropical gluttons. They were darting all around, each trying to be first to zip in and grab a bite as I released it from the bag. I even had a couple over eager fish nibble the end of my fingers before I could reach back in to the bag and get another morsel out for them. Before I knew it I was in the middle of a feeding frenzy. Literally hundreds of fish now surrounded me each trying to get a bite of the meal I had brought for them. For a moment I wondered if maybe they would start eating me if I ran out of frozen guppies.

I tried to back away just a little bit from the growing school of fish in order to make a little more space for those that were showing up late for dinner. In the process of doing this, I caught a glimpse if some movement form the side of my mask. I turned to look, but whatever it was had already moved beyond my visibility in the water. As I turned back to deal with expectant group of fish I had in front of me, I realized what had made the movement I glimpsed earlier. It was the shark I had been longing to see!

Only this shark was not the foot long darling little fish I had seen in the video earlier, but it was an eight foot long behemoth that cruised through the water with startling elegance and efficiency. I considered myself to be fairly comfortable in the water and could swim with ease while wearing my dive gear, but it became very obvious to me that I was nothing more than a bungling incompetent mass compared to the obvious skill that this creature had in the water. In a flash, the shark swam under me and grabbed a guppy that had fallen out of my bag while I was distracted.

My mind instantly shut down and went into panic mode. I began to back peddle away from the giant of a fish, letting loose my bag of guppies while my mind was occupied only with my eminent demise.

Now those of you that are familiar with the nurse sharks, are probably getting a great laugh at my expense, as they are probably one of the most docile and harmless creatures that mother nature has ever graced the earth with. Soon my mind came to terms with this and I was able settle down and regain control of my actions, but for a brief moment in time I experienced a level of terror and absolute panic, that I fail to find the words to describe.

What was really lurking in the waters below

I enjoyed the rest of my dives after gaining control of my self, but when I left the water for the last time that day, I had a new found respect for mother nature and some of her creature of the deep. Hopefully I am a better person for it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The battle has ended ...?

For the past several weeks I have been at war. I have been vigorously defending my position and inflicting as many casualties upon the enemy as I possibly can. I will admit that I was perhaps not as prepared for my engagement as I had first thought, but I am a quick study and learned to take advantage of my enemies failings. I have taken a few losses, and sustained some injuries in my fight, but this has only aided me in strengthening my resolve to bring a very final end to my private war.

Never has an opponent brought out such feelings of absolute hatred in me. The thirst to kill has grown in me, springing forth from some unknown well buried deep within, urging me to continue the battle until a final victory is achieved. Perhaps a part of me has become twisted and I have reverted some sort of primeval state of being, because as I look upon the withered corpses of the defeated, a sense of euphoria washes over me. It may be that my grip on sanity has become tenuous, but any outcome less than victory, will leave me as only a husk of the man that I once was.

Before you judge me to harshly, and condemn me for the horrible beast that I have become, I would have you know that I did not choose to start this war. I was thrust upon me, against my will and I have been only left with two choices: Fight or surrender. I have chosen to fight.

This is the face of the enemy. While It may strike fear into your very hearts, be steadfast and strong, look him in the eye, and find the resolve within yourself to never surrender.

The battleground has been in my very own yard. We have had a large influx in the number of yellow jackets buzzing around the house. So, I set forth on a reconnaissance mission to determine the source our pestering, and discovered that we had three hives situated in strategic locations around our complex.

The first enemy encampment discovered was an electrical junction box that enters the house near our back garage door. There was a small gap around the perimeter of the hole entering the wall and a hive had developed in the wall cavity. My first attempt to eradicate the buggers was met with failure as it proved difficult to get the poison in the wall. It was only after risking life and limb by removing the junction box from the wall that I was able to get enough poison into the cavity to bring about their demise. Needless to say they were not very happy with my digging about.

Battle ground number two was an electrical outlet next to our patio door. There were similar difficulties with this one as there was with the junction box. I first attempted to fill the entry hole with a mixture of gorilla glue and wall paste, but the pests were very resourceful and managed to chew through the mixture and reopen the hive after only one day. It was then that I knew I was in for a serious battle. Finally after two cans of poison and some liquid nails to fill in the gaps, both of these locations have been secured for the time being.

The final battleground is still being contested, but I believe I have gained the upper hand. It is a ground hive underneath the corner of my driveway next to the main section of walk that goes from the front door to the driveway. It was in this battle that I received my most grievous wound. In order to get at the entry way to the hive it was necessary to dig out the gravel covering it. This was the front line of their greatest resistance, and where my resolve was greatly tested. At the first strike of the shovel they attempted to swarm me, I quickly batted away several dive bombing attackers and retreated to a safer distance to measure up their strength. As I was calculating my next move a lone scout managed to attach itself to my legs and began to plunge it's venom filled harpoon into me. It was only the protective covering of my trousers that saved me from an awful fate. I determined that this was not the proper time to continue my endeavor and that it would be better to flee and fight another day.

It was about a day after my first attempt to close the entrances to the hives that I discovered a serious flaw in my battle strategy. Upon awaking in the morning I discovered about twenty of the enemy soldiers lurking about our mess hall. We would have be on red alert for the next several days. It was during this time that I sustained my first injury. As my main sleeping quarters were currently in the process of being redesigned, I had been temporarily stationed in the fore room until completion of the project. It was while sleeping in this fore room, that a stealth fighter had penetrated our defenses and landed a couple of painful blows to my person. While deep in sleep I felt a searing pain in the back of my head, not quite awake, I raised my hand to examine the injury and discovered the offending unit still in my hair. I quickly latched onto him in order to further prevent injury to myself, but the fog of sleep still had hold on me and my grip was not as secure as I had hoped and I received a second stab in my thumb. The injury to my thumb was mild but it did have the effect of causing me to let go of my quarry. The enemy waisted no time in taking advantage of my error and immediately dropped to my arm and inflicted what would be his final stab into my flesh. Having become fully aware of my situation, I desperately struck out with a killing blow and ended my peril. The next couple of hours were spent wide awake as sleep would not return easily. The next day I was haggard by fatigue but I was still alive, and I would make them pay dearly for their attack.

After a recovering from my injury I set about preparing the plans for the final confrontation. I had requisitioned a couple of chemical weapons and readied them for use. My plan was simple. I would attack fast and furious, hitting them hard with the first chemical device. While they were in a state of confusion I would then move in quickly with some heavy equipment and extricate the stones that were sheltering the entrance to their last hold out. Once the stones were removed I would hit them with the last chemical device, hopefully penetrating deep into their lair and ending the last of their resistance. The plan was executed almost flawlessly. Almost I said, as you can see from the photo, one of their soldier, I am sure sensing his inevitable demise, took a kamikaze approach and managed to land a significant blow to my right hand. The swelling is quite profound, but I am sure I will be able to fully recover and return to my patrol on the front lines.

Ah, nothing quite as glorious like the look of victory on the battlefield.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Answer to Amy's tag

My sister Amy issued a challenge to us to take picture of things in our yard that bring just a bit of pleasure. Well here are a few of mine. Of course there are a lot more, but these would definately come in at the top of the list. Enjoy.

This is our new mailbox. When we first moved in, the old old one was broken and looking pretty sad, so I purchased a wooden barrel and we planted some flowers in it. Kee picked out all the plants and I really like all the different colors.

This is my old beat up BBQ. It is quite old and has been through a couple of rebuilds, but it works extremely well. It was my dad's before it was mine, so I am not exactly sure how old it is, but it sure has been instrumental in making a lot of fun summer meals for us.

With the current price of gas, I have taken to riding my motorcycle to work . It is a 1971 Honda. Almost an antique. but still runs pretty good, at least it did untill last Friday when it decided to stop. I think it needs a tune up, so I will have give it a little TLC this week.

I know your all looking at this picture and wondering what in the world is it? Well, its a valve covering for the sprinkler system in my yard. I absolutely love the sprnkler system, with out it I am sure that my lawn would be just aweful looking and be a terrible shore to take care of.

One of my favorite places to spend time now is in my garden. This is a picture of my pumkin plant. As you can see, it has really taken off and now occupies a large portion of the garden. We have give it the name of Audrey, after the plant from the play/movie Little Shop of Horrors.

Here are the first two items to get harvested from our garden. A green pepper and a red onion. Don't they look delicious

This green pepper is just calling out to me to make my favorite Fajitas for dinner!!

This little red onion may have been picked a little bit premature, but it was crowding with another onion plant and I needed to "thin" them a bit. I think it will go well on a fresh BBQ burger!!

My mouth starts to water everytime I look at the rasberry bushes

And this is why, look at all those lucious fresh berrys!! Just imagine a fresh warm rasberry crisp topped with a scoop of cold ice cream. Well you are going to have to imagine it, because I ate the last of it for breakfast this morning!!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Arise Sir Knight

This years day camp was an absolute blast, and as promised I have brought you some pictures. We tried to implement the theme of knights through out the entire camp. All of the various activities that the boys were involved in had some sort of theme element involved. For example, knife saftey was to teach a good knight how to take care of his sword. The area where day camp was held, became the kingdom of Cubablot ruled by the good King Akela. Akela was away at the time fighting and an evil lord named Mordred was harassing the kingdom and trying to take over. Mordred made a few menacing appearances during camp, but in the end Akela returned and set about searching for a great champion to vanquish the evil Lord Mordred. A champion was found, but it was detrmined that he would need help in his quest to restore peace to the kingdom. He set about to recruit more knights. The champion gave a list of the skills needed to become a knight (all the skills that cub scouts had worked on all week) and it was determined that all the boys in camp qualified and were therefore knighted. With that many knights in the kingdom the cowardly Lord Mordred fled to never be seen again.

This is the good King Akela and his Kight Champion
(yes, I am the knight and yes I built the armour myself out of fun foam)

This is one of my camp rangers enjoying a quick bite to eat.
I love the court jester costume.

At the end of camp each den of boys gets to perform a skit. In this one I am supposed to be a table. At the end of the skit they leave a full glass of water sitting on my back and then pretend to forget all about me and walk away. I am then left to try and get the cup of water off my back but enevitabley I get all wet. It is good for some laughs from the boys and on a hot day I really dont mind getting a little wet.

This was the games area. You cant see everything very well, but basically it was a relay race where the boys would joust a baloon, slay a dragon and rescue a fair maiden. One of the funniest things that happened here was at the end of one of the races one of the little boys was holding the fair maiden ( a barbie doll ) and yelled "What do I do next, I don't like girls!!"

There are a lot of BSA requirements that need to be conformed to when running a cub scout activity. Every year my staff and I go through the list and make sure that we are meeting or exceeding all the requirements. These are the inspectors that checked out our camp, what they are handing me is a flag and a certificate to show the we are nationaly certified. YAY!!

We had some strange visitors at camp this year. An odd french man with a pet dragon came to entertain us a bit. Kevin is the former camp director and a good friend of mine. It is aways nice to have him stop by for a few laughs.

It takes a lot of people to run a camp. I could never do it without the help of my wonderful staff. I am not sure what I am being told here, but I am sure it was very important.

This is my assistant camp director Micheal Butz. He was and is a tremendous help, and if anyone says camp isn't hard work I just show them this picture of him getting some well derserved bits of rest.

The leaders are not the only one who get tired after a day at camp.

When it is done and over, it takes a couple of days to clean things up and put everything away. This year, part of our clean up fell on Father's Day and the girls decided to surprise us with a couple of cakes. How sweet of them.

In addition to some cakes, we had a big fajita fry and celebrated the end of camp as well as a good Father's Day for everyone involved. This is our camp medical officer Donna Hare, I guess she didn't trust my cooking.

Ahh, another camp done, I am both happy and sad. At least I can start looking forward to next year. Pirates will be the theme so I better start growing my pirate beard now.!!

Monday, July 14, 2008

And the winner is....

A few months ago I took a poll from everyone to help me decide what picture to use for the new Day Camp patch this year. The results were very mixed. Some people like one picture better than others, but preferred the colors from another picture. There really was not a clear winner. So I took all this information and prcoessed it through a very scientific process and I believe I came up with a winning patch.

Actually, I am quite pleased with the winner. The company that made it for me surpassed all my expectations and the level of detail is incredible. If you ever need to order emboidered patches I would give Prism Patches a call. Just check this beauty out.