In summertime, the Cornett family cooks over a campfire as much as possible, including roasting pepperoni for appetizers and toasting marshmallows for dessert. Says James, “It wouldn't be camping without marshmallows.”

“I live 1/4 mile from the house where I grew up, on a small farm on the edge of the Appalachians,” says James Cornett of Bluff City, Tennessee. “My parents both love to cook, so my early food memories are of a house filled with the wonderful aroma of a pot of pinto beans seasoned with pork or the sizzle of steaks on a grill.

“My parents were always interested in trying different things on our farm. For several years we had about an acre of strawberries. When I was a teenager we had a large sweet corn patch that we picked and sold for a dollar per dozen...that was awhile back!

“When I was young my summers were filled with exploring the local fields and woods, and playing in the river that borders our farm, against my parents’ strict orders of course,” he laughs. “The area is still rural, but the population has grown, and many of the farms from my childhood are now housing developments.”

James and his wife Kristen have worked hard to keep their farm a farm. “Today we have about 25 head of cattle on pasture, 3 horses, and a flock of chickens for eggs. We raise enough hay to get our livestock

through the winter, and to sell locally. We try to can enough green beans and tomatoes to get us through the winter, plus grow sweet corn, which is excellent roasted on the campfire.”

Still, he admits, “My greatest joy now is watching my children ages 5 and 9 grow up. Lately I’ve come to believe that teaching them to enjoy life while respecting themselves and others might be the only accomplishment worth mentioning. Certainly the only one that will endure.

“My kids can still enjoy exploring, but obviously it’s a different world now and I try to keep them a little closer to home,” he says. But James makes sure they get to rove and romp along the rivers of his youth.

“My family loves to kayak, canoe and camp on the area rivers. So our summer cooking tends to be outdoors also. A meal cooked over a campfire is one of my favorite things in the world. Cooper, age 5, and Emaline, age 9, enjoy gathering wood and helping me stack up a teepee of wood to get the fire started. Our usual camping ‘appetizer’ is to roast pepperoni

slices over the fire. We never go camping without a grate to put over the fire for Grilled Fajitas (scroll down for the recipe) and a Dutch oven for camp chili or biscuits.

“The most memorable ‘camping’ we have done so far was right on our farm. One Saturday evening last summer we were all in the mood to camp, but it was too late in the day to pack up and go. So we just drove my pickup truck out into a field where we already had a fire pit.

“My wife and I built a campfire and cooked dinner while the kids explored and played. Once it got dark, we bedded the kids down with all their pillows, blankets and sleeping bags in the bed of the truck. They got to fall asleep under the stars. My wife and I sat around the campfire until late in the night, enjoying the outdoors and each other’s company. When it was time for the adults to go to bed, I just drove the truck back to our barn so the ‘campers’ would be out of the dew. Then I crawled in between the kids. The three of us slept in the back of the truck. I think it was their favorite thing ever! I KNOW they're going to ask to do that again this year.”

----As told to Emily Tyra

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Grilled Fajitas

James says, “The fajitas we make are easy, but very yummy. It’s all about fresh ingredients and a hot grill.”

  • 2 lbs. beef sirloin or boneless/skinless chicken breast, cut into strips or cubes
  • 1 tsp. plus 1/4 tsp. GRANULATED GARLIC POWDER (divided)
  • 1 TB. Worcestershire sauce, if using beef
  • 1 large onion, sliced into 2-inch strips
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced into 2-inch strips
  • 1 orange or yellow bell pepper, sliced into 2-inch strips
  • 1-3 jalapeño peppers, sliced
  • 2 TB. olive oil
  • 1/2-1 tsp. salt (to taste)
  • 10-12 flour tortillas

Preheat your grill to about 400°. If using charcoal it should be very hot. James uses a perforated grill pan on top of the grates so the small pieces don’t fall through. In a metal bowl, combine the meat, 1 tsp. of the GRANULATED GARLIC POWDER, CHILI POWDER to taste and Worcestershire sauce if using beef. Toss to coat and set aside. In a second metal bowl, combine the onion, bell peppers, jalapeños (to taste), olive oil and the

remaining GARLIC. Toss to coat. Spray the grill pan with non-stick cooking spray and add the vegetables in a single layer. When the grill is hot, place the grill pan on the grill. Close the grill and let the veggies sear for about 4-5 minutes. Then flip them and let them grill on the other side for another 3-4 minutes. The key is to get them well seared but still crispy and not fully cooked. Put the seared veggies back in the metal bowl, cover with foil and put the bowl to one side of the grill. This way the veggies will continue to cook while you grill the meat. Put the meat on the grill, using the grill pan (cut the meat big enough to not fall through the cracks if you don’t have a grill pan), in a single layer and close the grill. After 3-4 minutes, flip the meat and cook until done. Depending on the size of the pieces, this may only take another 2-3 minutes. While the meat is cooking, wash the first metal bowl. When the meat is done, add salt to taste, place in the bowl, cover with foil and set aside. Turn the grill to low. Place the tortillas on the grill to warm. Serve immediately with the toppings of your choice.

Prep. time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Serves: 6

Nutritional Information: Servings 6;
Serving Size 2 fajitas (288g); Calories 450; Calories from fat 150; Total fat 16g; Cholesterol 90mg; Sodium 690mg; Carbohydrate 37g; Dietary Fiber 3g.

Need any spices for this recipe?

Spice Price Quantity
Garlic Powder Granulated 1.3 oz. 1/4 cup jar $3.79
Regular Chili Powder 1.1 oz. 1/4 cup jar $3.99

Clam Dip

According to James, “This is a great appetizer, party food, or late night snack. My family always keeps some canned clams in the pantry for just this recipe. We like to eat this as a spread on crackers or celery stalks. A squirt of hot sauce on top of each gives it a nice kick!”

  • 2 6.5 oz. cans minced clams
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice (1/8 lemon)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 tsp. MINCED GARLIC
  • 1/2 tsp. PARSLEY
  • 1/2 tsp. MEXICAN OREGANO
  • 1/2 Cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp. salt, to taste
  • 5-6 slices white cheese (Swiss or provolone)
  • 1/4 tsp. SMOKED SPANISH PAPRIKA (for topping)
  • hot sauce to taste

Preheat oven to 350°. In a roomy skillet, heat the clams (and their juice) with the lemon juice over medium heat. Simmer while stirring for 5 minutes. Remove the clams from the liquid with a slotted spoon. Add the onions, bell peppers and MINCED GARLIC to the skillet and cook until the onions are just clear, 5-7 minutes. Add the PARSLEY, MEXICAN OREGANO and CAYENNE PEPPER and cook another 1-2 minutes. Return the clams to the mixture along with the bread crumbs. Taste and add salt if desired.
Put the mixture in a small casserole dish or divide among small ramekins. Cover with the slices of cheese and sprinkle the SMOKED SPANISH PAPRIKA over the top. Bake 20-30 minutes to heat through and mix the flavors. Turn the oven to low broil for the final minutes or two to brown the cheese if desired. Serve with crackers and celery with hot sauce on the side.

Prep. time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 20-30 minutes
Serves: 8-10

Nutritional Information: Servings 10;
Serving Size 2 TB. (56g); Calories 60; Calories from fat 25; Total fat 3g; Cholesterol 10mg; Sodium 200mg; Carbohydrate 5g; Dietary Fiber <1g.

Need any spices for this recipe?

Spice Price Quantity
Garlic Minced 1.2 oz. 1/4 cup jar $3.79
Parsley .1 oz. 1/4 cup jar $2.09
Oregano Mexican .2 oz. 1/4 cup jar $2.19
Cayenne Red Pepper Powder 1.0 oz. 1/4 cup jar $3.45
Smoked Spanish Paprika 1.0 oz. 1/4 cup jar $3.99