Fall is my favorite time of year––summer hangs on, but winter whispers in my ear. Maple trees turn neon yellow and orange, oaks a deep red. Last Saturday was one such gorgeous autumn day in central Illinois. We piled into the SUV with my grandson and headed for Champaign, IL. Our first stop was the Paxton train museum where the old volunteer enthralled four-year-old, Sean, and we adults with train stories and a tour of a caboose.
After an hour of trains, we continued south to Curtis Apple Orchard, a autumn tradition popular with U of I students and their parents. Admission is free, but the Curtis family covers the cost of the displays and entertainment by charging more than grocery store prices for apples and pumpkins. It’s worth it. Sean loved the many children’s activities and I loved watching him play. While he munched on apple donuts and apple juice, we listened to blue grass ballads, complete with banjo and bass fiddle. Sean picked his perfect pumpkins and we headed home.
My son had a blazing fire waiting for us in the fire pit. The coals glowed ember red. Our families had planned our dinner to be cooked completely over an open fire in the backyard. On the menu:
Hobo Casserole with corn bread in a Dutch oven
Cheese fondue in a bread bowl wrapped in foil
Apple pie in pie irons
Here’s the recipe for Hobo Casserole:
1 tablespoon oil 1 1/5 pounds ground beef
1 onion, diced 1 green pepper, diced
1 can of pinto or black beans 1 1/5 cup frozen corn
2 cans tomato soup 1 TBL Worcestershire sauce
1 packet taco seasoning 2 cans water
8 oz. of rotini pasta (or other) 1 small box of corn bread mix
(egg and milk)
Push burning wood to the sides. Put the oil and crumbled beef in the Dutch oven
and set on coals, 2-3″ deep. Cover. Monitor pot. Cooking times will vary depending
upon intensity of heat.
– When beef is browned, saute onion and green pepper until soft.
– Add remaining ingredients except pasta and corn bread, and heat until boiling
– Stir to prevent sticking, rotate pot to prevent hot spots. Use new coals, if needed.
– When mixture boils add pasta, and return to coals for 8-10 minutes, rotating pot.
– Stir to prevent sticking.
– Mix corn bread batter according to package directions. Spread batter on top of pasta
mixture. Do not stir in. Cover pot.
– Return to coals and place addtional coals on top of pot lid to create even heat.
– Bake for about 15 minutes; or more depending upon heat of coals and surrounding fire.
Serves 6 hungry people.
The secret ingredients are the smokey flavor. . . and a gorgeous autumn day. Enjoy.