I finally found the words that describe why I camp, cook, write, photograph, fish and hunt. They come, frankly, from John Eldredge, author of "Wild at Heart". In his thoughts about the changing of the wild west Eldredge writes:
."...and why I linger here still, letting the old bull get away. My hunt, you see, actually has little to do with elk. I knew that before I came. There is something else I am after, out here in the wild. I am searching for an even more elusive prey...something that can only be found through the help of the wilderness. I am looking for my heart."
~ John Eldredge "Wild at Heart"

As am I, John, as am I.

This recipe makes the simplest, tastiest  fajitas and seasoned refried beans.

Remember that the seasonings you end up preferring may be different than these, but this is a good place to start based on taste tastes (well, actually the way the young adults around here pack it away!)

But try this recipe as a start. You may want a spicier or milder or sweeter recipe. But start somewhere, make notes and experiment.

For beef fajitas, flank steak is the traditional the cut of meat. I have found though, that flank steak can be very expensive relative to other cuts such as an “asada cut” beef steak. Asada cut simply means it comes pre-sliced at about 1/8″ thick.  So try a different, less expensive cut.

To cook the beef I simply slice it into bite sized chunks cross grained and sautee in a skillet with medium hot olive oil until cooked. I might accidentally add some Worcestershire or A1 Steak Sauce.

For chicken, use the boneless, skinless breast or thigh meat. If you can get the pre-cooked chicken from the deli it makes it easy and flavored already. If not, here we goooo….  Slice in strips cross grained and sautee in medium hot olive oil, stirring frequently, until done.

For shrimp? Well…use shrimp.  You can cook them anyway you want to, just cook them before adding to the veggies here. Oh. Yeah, for you (non)masters of the culinary arts at T.G.I. Fridays?  Take the shrimp out of the shell before cooking in fajitas or other Cajun soups and stews.  I mean, really people?

Make the refried beans FIRST

Then mix the spices for the meat.

  • Fajita meat – 1 lb. of whatever you choose.
  • Bell pepper – 1 large
  • Onion – 1 med-large white or sweet (I really prefer the sweet)
  • Lime cut in half (a lemon will work just fine)


  • 1 tbls.        Sweet, smoky paprika
  • 1 tsp.         Chili pepper*
  • 1/2 tsp.    Cumino, ground*
  • 1/2 tsp.    Cayenne pepper* (this is my own personal twist)
  • 1/4 tsp.    Garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp.     Lemon or lime zest or dried peel
  • 1/4 tsp.     Ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp.        Salt

Whisk all of the spices together in a bowl. Place the mix in an old spice jar. I use one that has the perforated lid made to sprinkle the spices.

  1. Slice the bell pepper lengthwise.
  2. Clean out the insides and rinse.
  3. Remove the paper skin from the onion.
  4. Cut the onion in half from top to bottom.
  5. Lay the onion halves flat and slice across so that you end up with half rings.
  6. In a large skillet heat 2 tbls. olive oil over medium-high heat until really hot, but not smoking.
  7. Sautee half of the onions and bell peppers. While sauteeing sprinkle with 1 tsp. of the spice mix.
  8. When you feel the veggies are just crisper than you want, add a cup of meat and sprinkle with another 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. spice mix.  You may need to add some oil as well.
  9. Reduce heat, stir and heat the meat through.
    Squeeze lime or lemon juice over the mix.
  10. Serve with the beans, and tortillas.

Seasoned Refried Beans
If you really want the flavor throughout here are a couple of things you can try:

  • Mixing the seasonings really well with the sour cream before stirring into warm beans.
  • Make up an hour or so ahead of time for better flavor.
  • Make the seasonings and sour cream mix in the morning and let sit until ready.

Again, everyone has their own taste buds and preferences. This is just a starting point. Also, pay attention to the refried beans you are buying – they may already have a lot of seasoning, especially salt. I tend to buy the blander, fat free or low fat variety and spice it up myself.

1 – 12. oz Can of refried beans, unseasoned (it will have salt in it anyway) fat free or low fat
1/3 to 1/2 cup sour cream – I use fat free and it turns out just fine
2 tsps.        Paprika
1/2 tsp.    Cumino
1/2 tsp.     Chili pepper
1/4 tsp.     Salt or salt substitute

[Be the first to comment]

Easy Beer Battered Onion Rings

by Bart "Cookie" Gragg

Authors note – pictures to follow – we ate all the evidence.

People avoid onion rings thinking their must some voodoo involved. Not so. Easy.

What you need:

  • Onions – white, yellow or for the best – SWEET onions
  • Buttermilk – 1 quart
  • Flour – 1 cup
  • Beer – 8 to 10 ozs. more or less – choose a good beer, on the sweeter side
  • Salt – 2 tsp.
  • Pepper -1 tsp.
  • Personally I would add 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Cut about 1/4″ off of each end of the onion and peel the onions of the ‘paper’ skin. Then with a sharp knife test the next layer and if it is at all papery or leathery, peel it as well. Discard.

Turning the onion on its side slice it cross ways every 1/2″.  Discard the heart of the onion – those hard little tight rings in the center.  Separate the entire onion into rings by layer. If you break one no big deal. We’ll still use it.

In a bowl place the buttermilk and onion rings. Stir until the rings are coated. Stir every 15 minutes for an hour.

After the hour is up do two things in this order:

  1. Get your vegetable oil heated to 350F. Get it right up there and make sure it is there with a thermometer. You want about 1-1/2 to 2″ of oil in preferably a cast iron pot or very heavy sauce pan.
  2. And then use a different bowl to make the batter:
  3. Put a cup of all purpose flour in the bowl. Add the salt and pepper. Whisk the dry ingredients together.
  4. Add a cup of beer and whisk together until you get a consistent batter. Add more as needed to make a medium pancake batter consistency.

Now here’s the tricky part – you gotta keep that oil between 350 and 365F. Which means you are going to slip one ring at a time out of the buttermilk, dip it into the batter then slide it into the oil. After a few minutes the bottom turns a deep golden brown. Using a fork or tongs or chopsticks flip it over.

Once you are used to this you can do two or three at a time – but watch that temperature.

Drain on a napkin lined plate, or lay out on a wire rack or even drain them by just piling them on a cardboard egg carton – sans the eggs of course.


Easy and Moist Turkey Meat Loaf

This recipe is a culmination of things I have learned over the years about cooking ground meats. Turkey in particular is often over cooked, dry, crumbly and tasteless.  This is the solution to those problems.

Read the full article →

Easy Double Crust Chicken Pot Pie

Easily prepared and well worth the effort, this chicken pot pie is going to disappear almost as fast as you can take it out of the oven.

Read the full article →

REI’s Backcountry Cooking Class – Is it Worth It? Review

I asked hiking buddy Gil “Why are we driving two hours to Saratoga, CA for a four hour REI class in backcountry cooking on a Sunday morning?”  I mean “What are we going to do? Boil water for four hours and eat MRE’s for three hours?” Remember folks that I like that heavy cast iron […]

Read the full article →

How to Make Easy, Elegant and Tasty Navy Bean Recipe

I like to cook all kinds of dry beans from scratch, but often people want more from a recipe than just the bean and some flavor. Not so with Navy beans. With red, black or kidney I found we want loads of flavor – peppers, sausages, ham, Cajun spices, etc.  Navy beans, however, can be […]

Read the full article →