Nuts to you! Woodland guests inspire camp fare

On Shabbat afternoon, PG&E sent tree trimmers to Camp Tawonga to remove oak branches that they felt were too close to their power lines. Among the fallen branches, was a little nest of 3-week-old tree squirrels.

My children waited several hours for the squirrel mamela to return for her kinderlach, but to no avail. After much convincing by the children, and Internet research, I borrowed a heating pad from the infirmary, cooked up a little squirrel formula (cow’s milk, corn syrup and Vitamin E), said a Mishebeirach and began nursing the babies. Two weeks later, their eyes are about to open, and they are an integral part of our lives at camp. In a few weeks, they will be brought to a wild-care center in Tuolumne County.

Campers, like squirrels, have their own comfort foods. Here are some more of our yummy dishes, including some delicious nut dishes, inspired by our newest camp family members. Enjoy the rest of the summer!

Bread Pudding with Apricots and Walnuts | Serves 8

1 1/2 cups chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup apple juice
5 eggs
4 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1 cup cream
3 cups milk
1 Tbs. vanilla extract
2 Tbs. melted butter
6 cups leftover bread cubes
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
powdered sugar for sprinkling

Place the apricots in a bowl and pour apple juice over them. Cover and let stand 30 minutes. Drain the apricots. Beat the eggs, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla until light-colored.

Warm the cream and milk, and combine with the egg mixture. Brush the melted butter inside a 3 qt. baking dish and add the bread. Sprinkle with half the apricots and nuts, then pour the custard over the bread. Sprinkle with the remaining apricots and walnuts.

Bake the pudding in a preheated 375-degree oven for 30 minutes, until set. Allow to stand for 20 minutes before serving. Dust with powdered sugar.

Sautéed Green Beans | Serves 8

3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, through the press
2 lbs. green beans, tips and tails removed
1/2 cup slivered blanched almonds
1 Tbs. fine sea salt
2 Tbs. chopped Italian parsley

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add the garlic, green beans and almonds. Continue sautéing for several minutes, until the beans are as soft as you like them. Toss the beans with the salt and parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Chicken Pot Pie | Serves 8

2 Tbs. margarine
2 Tbs. flour
3/4 cup soy milk
4 Tbs. vegetable oil
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
4 cups chopped, cooked chicken
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 sheet puff pastry
1 egg, beaten

In a small sauce pot, melt the margarine over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook until thick and smooth. Pour in the soy milk and continue whisking until the sauce is thickened. Set aside.

In a sauté pan, heat the vegetable oil. Add the celery, carrots and onion. Sauté until softened. Add the chicken and thyme, and toss well. Remove from heat and add the soy milk mixture to the chicken mixture. Stir well.

Pour the chicken into an oven-safe baking dish. Place the puff pastry sheet lightly on top, cutting if necessary to fit the shape of the dish. Brush the pastry with the beaten egg. Bake the chicken pot pie in a preheated 400-degree oven for about 20 minutes, until the pastry is nicely browned. Serve warm.

Rebecca Ets-Hokin is a Bay Area cooking teacher and food professional. Her columns alternate with those of Louise Fiszer. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to J. or to [email protected].