Tyler State Park
February 29 - March 2, 2008

Regional BIG DOG Group Photo

Tyler State Park - Friday, February 29, 2008

We're off for a really exciting trip this time. We'll be attending our first ever Regional BIG DOG (Dutch Oven Gathering) at Tyler State Park. A regional BIG DOG is a gathering of many different chapters of the Lone Star Dutch Oven Society (LSDOS). Steve, my best friend, and I had recently joined the Prairie Dog Chapter of LSDOS. We were both excited at the opportunity to cook and learn from all the experienced Dutch oven cooks that will be there. From what we've been told by Bruce, our chapter advisor, the gathering could have over 100 in attendance and around 75-80 pots on the table for the main meal on Saturday.

Terry and I both took off from work on Friday so we'd be able to arrive at the park around noon. We didn't know how crowded the Black Jack Loop was going to be. We learned about the upcoming Regional DOG at the end of January when Bruce secured several sites for our group on the loop. We're sure glad he did since we found out that the loop was completely sold-out. When we arrived at the park, there were already around 20 rigs set up and backed in to the group camping circle. We saved a spot next to us for our best friends, Steve and Leslie. They were scheduled to arrive a bit later in the afternoon.

We got setup fairly quickly. There wasn't much to do except level and then hook up the water and electricity. There wasn't enough room to put the awning out. After we finalized our RV setup we fixed a quick lunch of hot dogs with all the fixin's. Yum, camping and hot dogs go together so well. After relaxing a bit after lunch, Terry and I started to setup our cooking pavilion. It's a 10' x 10' easy-up canopy that we arranged all of our Dutch oven cooking equipment under including our newly constructed "chuck box". Steve and I just finished it and were very proud of our accomplishment. The only thing we'd change in it's design is that we would have used thinner wood in it's construction. Why, because it was heavy, in fact very heavy! We then walked around and introduced ourselves to everyone and got the "lay of the land" as well as checking out everyone else's cooking setups and equipment. Boy oh boy, some of these folks have a lot of equipment. All Terry could see was money signs!

Our Cooking Area

Our 1st "Chuck Box" Tyler Cooking Area 0308
Our 1st "Chuck Box"! Our cooking pavilion all setup

Around 3:30 Terry and I starting prepping for tonight's evening potluck. Hopefully Steve and Leslie would be arriving in time to eat. Our contribution to the potluck was going to be an "Ol' Blue" recipe. ("Ol' Blue" is a good online friend of mine from Washington state. She's an incredible cook and comes up with delicious recipes.) For tonight's potluck we were preparing her "Creamy Cheesy Mexican Chicken Casserole." Below is the recipe, it's super simple to make and a great dish for potlucks. The dish can also prepared at home using a regular 9" x 13" glass casserole dish.

Ol' Blue's Cheesey Chicken Casserole's

Ol' Blue's Creamy Cheesy Mexican Chicken Casserole

Creamy Cheesy Mexican Chicken Casserole

Cut up chicken into bite sized pieces.

In a large skillet melt butter or margarine. Add cubed up chicken, garlic, onion, green bell peppers. Cook over medium-high heat until chicken is no longer pink and no liquid is left in skillet. Stir in soup, Ro-tel Tomatoes and finely chopped jalapeno pepper.

Reduce heat and cook until the cheese melts, stirring constantly. Place the cooked spaghetti in a greased 10" Dutch oven. Pour the cheese/chicken mixture over top spaghetti. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until heated through.

There's no way to describe all the aromas that were wafting through the Blackjack camping area of Tyler State Park. From the looks and "smells," we were going to have one heck of a potluck dinner tonight. Steve and Leslie arrived right at 5:30 just in time for dinner. As our dish was finishing cooking we helped Steve and Leslie get setup by taking care of Winston, their weimaraner. Winston is the perfect camping dog. In fact many of us call him CD1 (Camping Dog One). He's a great dog and very easy going around everyone. Steve and Leslie finished their RV setup just in time for dinner. They felt bad they didn't contribute anything to the potluck, but not to worry, trust me, there was plenty of food for everyone! In fact they could have invited 1/2 the population of Tyler and still had enough for everyone. Well, maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration, but there was a ton of food.

Evening Potluck

Steve & Leslie at our 1st Regional DOG Tyler Evening Potluck
Best friends, Steve & Leslie A great crowd for the Friday evening potluck

What an incredible potluck! There was a huge variety of dishes on the table and all of them we tried were scrumptious. We did a rough count. There were around 50 pots on the table and around 75 enjoying the meal and the fellowship at the pavilion. After dinner we cleaned up our Dutch ovens and cooking utensils and helped Steve unload all his equipment and get it setup under our cooking pavilion. By the time we had gotten finished all of us were totally pooped. We sat around and visited for a while before heading back to our trailer to relax for the rest of the evening. I could already tell it was going to be an early night for the two of us!

For the potluck breakfast tomorrow morning we were making caramel sticky buns. We needed to let the dough rise overnight. After completing preparation of the dough, Terry and I read for a while, watched the news and weather before turning in for the night. The weather so far had been perfect with temperatures in low 70's. Tonight it was supposed to get down to the lower 60's, perfect for sleeping. 

Tyler State Park - Saturday, March 1, 2008

I woke up around 6:45, showered, got dressed and headed outside to see what was going on. Steve was already working on his "Mountain Man Casserole" for the potluck breakfast. He had put a pot of coffee on for us to enjoy. There were all sorts of folks milling around and there was a blazing "community" campfire in the center of the group camping area. The campfire was perfect to take the chill off. We soon found out that several of the regular attendees were always up early to get the campfire started. Early mornings, when I'm camping, is my favorite time of the day. I love waking up early to welcome the dawn of a new day. Everything smells so fresh. And there's no better setting to wake up to than our beautiful Texas State Parks especially with the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and bacon cooking.

Leslie joined us around 7:30 and I went over to our trailer to wake Terry up around 8:00. She was already up, had showered and was getting ready to head outside and join us. She wanted to know where the coffee was. I already had charcoal started and was preheating our Dutch oven so we could cook the Caramel Sticky Buns. Again, all the smells throughout the campground were incredible. We were all starved and couldn't wait until it was time to eat. 9:00 finally rolled around and it was time to start the potluck. Oh my, what an incredible breakfast. We couldn't believe how some of the recipes were created in a Dutch oven. After breakfast we cleaned up and started preparation for the afternoon potluck that was scheduled for 2:00. It seems like we finished one meal and it was time to start getting ready for another one.

Saturday AM Breakfast

We also had a special visit from some dear friends of ours, Lee and Linda. They drove in from Wills Point for the day to spend some time with us and enjoy all the good food. They were not disappointed in the least. Terry and I are very blessed to have some incredible friends.

The Blackjack Camping Loop was totally full now. There were still lots of folks coming in to setup and cook just for the day. I could tell it we were going to have a busy day ahead of us. For this afternoons potluck we were making a very prep insensitive recipe, stuffed cabbage rolls or commonly sometimes called "gwumpki". "Gwumpki" has it roots in the Polish community. Kathy, Bruce's wife, who is Polish, was totally excited when she found out that we were making gwumpki. She was very impressed that we were taking on such a labor intensive dish for our first BIG DOG.

Afternoon Food Prep

Our Tyler food prep area - 0308
A busy food prep area! Terry answering questions during prep.
Terry busy making gwumpki! A cast iron pot of gwumpki!
Terry working on the gwumpki! Our pot of cooked gwumpki!

She came by to check on our progress and said she couldn't wait to try them. She started to give us some "tips and tricks" but decided that we were doing just fine on our own. There were lots of visitors coming by the pavilions asking questions about what everyone was doing and how cooking in Dutch ovens differed from cooking on a stove or in an oven. While Terry assembled the cabbage rolls, I talked to our visitors and shot lots of photos of the events that were happening around us. They asked lots of questions. I didn't know that much yet, but I spun a good tale about the art of Dutch oven cooking and what we were going.

Polish Stuffed Cabbage Rolls - "Gwumpki"

Remove core from cabbage. Parboil the cabbage in a kettle of salted boiling water 10 to 15 minutes, or until outer leaves are easily removed. Make sure the cabbage is cooked well enough so leaves will not break when rolled, but not so they will disintegrate. If you can't get enough leaves from one cabbage, parboil two. Cut the thick center stem from each leaf. Chop remaining cabbage.

Sauté onion in oil. Add meat (don't cook), cooked rice, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Place a heaping tablespoon or more on each cabbage leaf. Fold the stalk end over the filling; then fold the sides of the leaf over. Roll the stuffing and leaf from the stalk end to make a neat parcel. Place half the chopped cabbage in the bottom of a large Dutch oven. Put in cabbage rolls, join side down. Pack fairly tightly in pan. Cover with remaining chopped cabbage.

Combine tomato soup and water, mix until smooth. Pour over cabbage rolls. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce head and simmer for 1 1/2 hours in covered Dutch oven. Transfer the cabbage rolls to a warmed serving dish. Pour sauce over them and serve. Garnish with sour cream if desired.

Bruce and Andy, the two host chapter advisors, were stunned at the day's turnout. Everyone, including the visitors, were having a great time watching and learning from all the talented Dutch oven cooks that were working their "magic". Steve and Leslie made their famous "Chicken Enchilada Casserole with Hatch Green Chiles". It's an awesome dish. Of course it turned out perfectly as well as our Polish Stuffed Cabbage Rolls. For the 2:00 potluck there were over 80 black pots on the tables under the covered pavilion. There were WAY too many dishes to sample. By the end of the meal, everyone had very happy tummies!

Afternoon Potluck and Raffle

After the main meal was over, it was time to get down to the serious business of drawing for door prizes. There was a gaggle of prizes to give away including bags of charcoal, gift cards, Dutch oven accessories, and several sizes of Dutch ovens. Bruce and Andy handled the drawings for the door prizes. I ended up winning a Camp Chef Keg Roaster. I don't know if I'd every use the item but I accepted it graciously. After all the door prizes were given out, we shot a photo of the whole group. What fun!

For the rest of the afternoon and evening we sat around, relaxed and visited with everyone. Since this was our first Regional DOG to attend, we were getting to know everyone and learning much about the art of Dutch oven cooking. And we learned very quickly that cooking in Dutch oven's is indeed an art! The huge community campfire was lit and we all sat around enjoying the fellowship. What an incredible group of folks! They were all eager to share their knowledge and love of Dutch oven cooking. Around 9:00 Terry and I decided we were too tired to stay up much longer. We bid our "adieus" and headed to our trailer totally exhausted. It has been an exciting day and our brains were packed with lots of new knowledge. This Dutch oven cooking stuff was hard work! We watched TV for a while before turning in shortly before 10:00. We didn't even stay up to watch the nightly news. The two of us slept VERY soundly throughout the night barely stirring.

Out & About at the Regional DOG

LSDOS Bumper Sticker
Lone Star Dutch Oven Society!
Winson. Leslie and Kathy - Tyler - 0308 Leslie and Kathy - 0308
Winston, "Camping Dog 1" Kathy and Leslie in deep thought
Chef Eddy - Tyler - 0308 Steve holding "court" - Tyler - 0308
Chef Eddy Steve holding "court" at the DOG
One tired Dutch Oven Chef - 0308 Overview of the Tyler Regional DOG
One very tired Dutch Oven chef! Lots and lots of folks at the DOG
Chuck & Terry - Tyler - 0308 A gathering of good friends at Tyler - 0308
Chuck & Terry enjoying the day in Tyler A gathering of good friends!
Leslie - the photographer, 0308 Terry enjoying Sunday morning waffles - 0308
Leslie, the photographer! Terry with a very "happy tummy"
Steve showing off the chicken enchiladas Showing off the gwumpki

Tyler State Park - Sunday, March 2, 2008

I woke up at 6:30, showered, got dressed and headed outside. This morning we were having another potluck breakfast at 9:00. At 8:00 Steve and started getting ready to start cooking. Terry came outside a bit after 8:00 to "supervise" us. Steve was making biscuits and I preparing "sausage gravy". I was taking a shortcut by using Pioneer's Peppered Cream Gravy. It was so good and easy to prepare. I fried a pound of spicy hot sausage and added it to the prepared gravy.

Steve put on a pot of coffee for us to enjoy. While Steve worked on the biscuits, I started the charcoal. Steve's biscuits were "picture perfect". He did a great job making them. I think we're both going to eventually get the hang of this Dutch oven cooking thing.

Dale Haitt, another member of the Prairie Dogs, made crispy waffles on his Griswold "turn of the century" cast iron waffle irons. Steve and I were hooked, we had caught "cast ironitis" (a disease that "forces" you to buy and collect lots of cast iron). The two of us would never be the same again after attending our first regional DOG. The Dutch oven folks were awesome. All of them were so friendly and extremely helpful. They were doing everything they could to encourage us and teach us the art of Dutch oven cooking.

Dale Haitt's Griswold Waffles

Griswold 1908 Cast Iron Waffle Irons Dale Haitt making crispy waffles
Dales's 1908 Griswold Cast Iron Waffle Makers Two "customers" waiting on waffles, yum!

After breakfast we started cleaning and packing up. We all wished the weekend could have been longer. Lee and Linda, our good friends from Wills Point, showed up to help us pack the equipment up. That was so thoughtful of them. It's amazing how much equipment we had accumulated in such a short time, including our newly constructed "chuck box". My pickup truck's bed was completely full!. After we were loaded, we went around and said our goodbyes to all new friends. We pulled out at 11:00 arriving at Alamo around 2:30. Our next trip was right around the corner, RV Ranch in Burleson. It was going to be a small rally with lots of my RV.net friends. Steve and I were looking forward to the gathering. I'm sure we'll be doing some more Dutch oven cooking there as well. The two of us needs LOTS of practice!

Authored by Chuck and Terry Mencke

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"Tyler State Park - February 29 - March 2, 2008" was last modified: September 14, 2012
URL: www.web-connection.org/pilgrim/tyler_0308.htm

Chuck and Terry's Pilgrim 281 RB-S Adventures