Fire to Plate: Cooking with the 3Campers
State Parks are slowly opening due to Covid-19. We had to cancel one trip in May but we have plenty of past camping excursions to write about so let us tell you about another gem of a State Park in northwest MN called Lake Bronson State Park. It is a short two-and-a-half-hour drive (141 miles) from Bemidji to Lake Bronson. Driving up to Thief River Falls through lots of farmland and prairie you think where is there a lake and a state park up here? Then it appears, you drive into a region that was without lakes due to the 1930’s drought that caused wells to dry up. Unable to sink deeper wells because of a layer of salt, it was thought the only solution for the future was to dam the South Fork Two River and create a sizable artificial lake. Dam construction began in 1936. Next a combination water and observation tower, beach and bathhouse were built. The dam and facilities were then turned over to the state of Minnesota and in 1937, the area became Two Rivers State Park. The park was renamed Lake Bronson State Park in 1945.
The park is a fine example of a transition area between prairie and forest landscapes and supports a variety of wildlife from the prairie-dwelling upland sandpipers and sharptail grouse, to the spectacular American elk. Lake Bronson is one of the few sizable bodies of water in the area and provides the visitor with an excellent swimming beach, good fishing, and enjoyable canoeing and boating.
We were pleasantly surprised to find a beautiful swimming beach, marina for your boat and a bike path that meanders through the park and around the perimeter. There is 14 miles of hiking trails that go through prairie and aspen forests and runs along the lake. We started out Saturday morning on what we thought was a 2-3 miles trail. Hours later, we had hiked about 7 miles and seen a lot of the park! There is also several miles of mountain bike and horse trails.
We all know breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day and it certainly is one of our favorites. We like to start the day with a hearty breakfast to sustain us while we hike the many miles of trails. There is nothing better than eggs, potatoes, toast on an open fire. Oh, and don’t forget the percolating coffee! From our early years of camping we always cooked our eggs, bacon, sausage and hash browns on a cast iron griddle. We still do but Karl has added several sizes of cast iron frying pans as well.
We’ve made many outstanding breakfasts over the years but some of our favorites are fried eggs and diced potatoes, Omelets in a bag and huevos rancheros.
Karl gets the right mixture of wood and charcoal ready for cooking. For our diced potatoes we cut up ½ inch dice of russets with onions, peppers and get them going in the cast iron pan. When they are just about done, we crack the eggs on top and cover with a lid. You can cook the eggs as long or as little as you want—depends on your preference. A nice hearty piece of whole wheat bread toasted is a nice accompaniment.
Omelets in a bag is an easy way for everyone to make their own omelet. We start by cutting up various ingredients from mushrooms (some that we have picked ourselves but that’s another blog), onions, peppers, cheese, meat of your liking. We have a metal bucket that we use to boil water for the omelets. Karl gets the fire going to get the water boiling in the bucket. He sautés the various ingredients and then you put a few tablespoons of your favorite ingredients in a sealed quart size Ziploc baggie. Add whipped up egg mixture and your favorite cheese. Seal the baggies and drop the baggies in the boiling water making sure that the bags don’t hit the side of the bucket. Let them boil for a good 10-12 minutes. They slip right out of the bag onto your plate. Accompany with some fresh fruit and toast and a good cup of coffee and you are ready for the day.
Another one of our favorites is huevos rancheros. We use refried beans, flour tortillas, cheese, peppers and onions and limes. Karl cooked eggs to order on the fire and sautéed various peppers and onions. We layered the tortillas with warm refried beans, peppers, and top them with a fried egg and finished with avocado, cheese and little squeeze of lime. Somehow the smokiness of the fire just adds the perfect touch to any breakfast.
Now we are ready for our daily excursions. Hopefully by our July blog the state and federal parks will be open for business but until then stay safe!!