I spent this past weekend at Girl Scout Encampment with The Girl and her Girl Scout troop. I loved the idea of spending the time with my daughter outside on the beautiful Hood Canal, but I was initially reluctant to go for a variety of reasons 1. I'm always cold. 2. I like flush toilets and 3. how can I eat Paleo while camping and having many of my meals prepared for me by someone else?
I'm happy to report that I have figured out the right sleeping gear for me in the wild that allows me to remain warm enough and I got used to the Biffy (Bathroom In the Forest For You). :) But #3 was a challenge. During an encampment, many of your meals are provided for you by the kitchen staff at the camp. My registration form had me marked as gluten-free, but there wasn't an option for paleo, grain free, refined sugar free, legume-free, etc. So I went into the weekend knowing I'd have to be flexible and use this as my 20% non-paleo ration. I also had a discussion the other day with a friend about how I feel like stressing out over things I can't control (like the food at camp) or worrying about bringing all of my own food is releasing enough stress hormones into my body to negate all of the good I'd do by having better food on hand. So I decided to chill-out and go with the flow for one weekend knowing I'd jump back into my routine on Monday. I did take a number of fresh fruit items, larabars and trail mix to supplement what I was able to find in camp, but found it hard to remember to put them in my day pack every morning (had to lock them up from critters every night). So the meals I ate in the lodge were ok, but were not paleo. They contained rice, corn, soy and refined sugar I'm sure, but they didn't contain wheat (I think), which is the biggie for me. So I'm ok with it.
In order to cook these Chocolate Chip Cupcakes the girls had to make their own box oven. This contraption consisted of a cardboard box, tin foil, heat proof aluminum tape (found it in the hardware store) and a turkey baking bag.
How to make your own Box Oven
1. You will need a box that is about 2-4 inches larger in both dimensions than whatever cookie or cake pan you plan to use for baking. We used a muffin pan that holds 12 muffins. A sturdy banana box from Costco or a larger Amazon box will work well.
2. Cover the inside of the box with tin foil. You can cover the outside as well if you want it to look pretty. BE SURE NO CARDBOARD IS UNCOVERED INSIDE THE BOX OR IT WILL CATCH FIRE.
3. Cut a hole in the bottom of your box for your "window" (this isn't necessary but is pretty cool)
4. Cover the hole with 1-2 layers of the turkey baking bag and secure with aluminum tape making sure there aren't any holes.
In addition to the box oven you will need 2-4 aluminum or tin cans, 1 disposable aluminum tray to hold charcoal briquettes, Charcoal Briquettes, 1 rock about 2 inches tall.
To use your box oven
1. Mix up the cake, muffins, cupcakes, etc. that you plan to bake. Really you can make anything in a box oven that you can make in a regular oven. I've seen people make pizza in it. So I don't know why you couldn't roast veggies or bake some fish you caught or even bake cookies.
2. In the aluminum tray place your charcoal briquettes in a single layer. Each briquette will give you 40 degrees F when baking. So if you are cooking at 360F you will need 9 briquettes.
3. light briquettes and wait until they have turned light grey in color. When they have reached that color, place your aluminum or tin cans either inside the aluminum tray beside the coals or outside the tray depending on the size of the charcoal tray and the baking pan. (See the diagram below for placement options.) Then place the filled baking pan on top of the cans above the charcoal tray. Coals should not be touching the baking pan.
4. Cover the whole thing with the box and prop up one corner of the box with a rock for air flow. If the box is tight to the ground the coals will not burn. Fire needs oxygen to burn.
5. It will take about 15 minutes for the box oven to come to temperature. Your cooking time will vary based on materials, temperature outside, briquettes, etc. But you can assume it will be similar to your regular oven. Every time you raise the box to test for doneness, you will lose 25 degrees and 15 minutes from your cooking time. So don't raise the box unless absolutely necessary. (this is why the window is so nice!)
(picture of the Chocolate chip cupcakes I made at home in preparation for the camping trip. The ones made at camp weren't this pretty, but they tasted great!)