Archive for June, 2007

Port Isabel Lighthouse: Wartime Lookout

Friday, June 29th, 2007

Passport to Texas from Texas Parks and Wildlife

Only a handful of historic lighthouses remain standing; among them — the 155 year old Port Isabel Lighthouse on the Lower Laguna Madre. Perhaps you’ve been there… and as you climbed the spiral staircase to the top… wondered about the people who tread those same steps… more than a hundred years ago.

The lighthouse was used during the Civil War by the Confederate and the Union soldiers back in 1866.

Port Isabel lighthouse keeper, Gabriel Gildinas.

During the war, the light had been removed. The soldiers could use it as a lookout tower. The Confederate soldiers would be stationed upstairs and they would make sure none of the Union soldiers were moving into this area.

Removing the light wasn’t the only modification made to the lighthouse during the Civil War. The handrail was moved to the right of the staircase. Doing so gave occupying forces at the top… an advantage over those climbing the stairs.

The soldiers that would be upstairs, when they’re coming down, they want to be able to use their right hand [to shoot their guns], so if any soldiers [enemy forces] are going up to the top of the lighthouse, they’d be forced to have to use their left hand. It gave the soldiers that were stationed inside the lighthouse an advantage.

Of course, this assumes all soldiers were right handed.

Find a link to more information about the Port Isabel Lighthouse State Historic Site at

That’s our show for today…with research and writing help from Loren Seeger…

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti

Port Isabel Lighthouse

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

Passport to Texas from Texas Parks and Wildlife

For most of its 155 year history, the Port Isabel Lighthouse, like a lonely sentry, kept silent watch over ships that ventured into the shallow gulf waters of the lower Laguna Madre. One of sixteen lighthouses serving the state, this renovated structure is evocative of a bygone era; one that continues to capture the imagination of visitors.

A lot of people are fascinated with lighthouses.

Gabriel Gildinas is Port Isabel’s lighthouse keeper.

A lot of the visitors that we have are inland, so seeing a lighthouse is like finding treasure to them. It’s just an unbelievable site that they want to come, they want to experience this. It brings a lot to their imaginations. You just see the children. They’re just unbelievably fascinated with it. They just want to run up the stairs.

New technologies have made the need for lighthouses obsolete. But at one time – they were lifesavers.

Well, in the past, the use of this lighthouse was mainly to help the ships in this area. At the time, this was one of the largest shipping ports in the entire world. The lighthouses, they really don’t serve much of a purpose nowadays because of the GPS- global positioning system, but back in that time, lighthouses were like the GPS. The only way you could navigate and knows what’s in front of you is by knowing there’s a lighthouse right there.

Find a link to more information about the Port Isabel Lighthouse at

That’s our show for today…with research and writing help from Loren Seeger…For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti

Dutch Ovens — Seasoned to Perfection

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

Passport to Texas from Texas Parks and Wildlife

Cast iron Dutch ovens have been around a long time.

You may have seen something that your grandmother had –an old pot that she sat on the stove that was black.

Tim Spice is an education and outreach specialist at Parks and Wildlife. The ovens have changed little since great-grandma’s day, except some now come pre-seasoned.

You know, what’s neat is, in the last couple of years, one of the major manufacturers has come out with a pre-seasoned Dutch oven. And I swore as a purist I wouldn’t buy one, and I did get one, and wow – already seasoned – it was fabulous. Jump right in and start cooking.

If you prefer to season it the old fashioned way – use it.

And after you cook a few times it will be season. And what we mean by ‘seasoned’ is, as you cook, micro-layers of carbon build up on the cast iron, and gives it a non-stick quality.

You don’t have to cook alone. There are groups, such as the Lone Star Dutch Oven Society, dedicated to preserving this kind of cookery.

And, you can just do a search on your favorite engine, and you’ll find lots of different things. Some of these groups have ‘dogs’ is what they call them – Dutch oven gatherings – where they get together and they just all cook their favorite food, and have a grand old time.

Find recipes and links to Dutch oven groups at

That’s our show for today… For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti



Hello folks. It is easy to get started with Dutch Ovens cooking. Here are some simple and great recipes! You want to cook these over a 350-degree heat. And to determine that, place your hand six-inches over the hot coals and count — one Mississippi…two Mississippi….three Mississippi…. If you can keep your hand over the coals for three seconds, then you have a temperature of 350-degrees. TS


Heat your Dutch oven over the coals with 1/8 inch of vegetable oil. When it is hot (not smoking), carefully place a cut up chicken in the oil and brown the chicken on both sides. When the chicken is browned cover the chicken with stock, (I use pre-made stock from the grocery).

Dice half an onion, place in the pot with one Bay leaf and some salt and pepper. Simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes. Add potatoes, carrots and celery and continue to simmer until the chicken falls off the bone, approximately 45 minutes.

When the chicken is done, you may thicken the stew with flour or cornstarch.

For an added bonus, get some biscuit mix and make dumpling in a plastic baggie. Cut a hole in one corner and squeeze out golf ball sized dough right on the top of the stew. Cover and heat until the dumplings are done in the middle. Add a few more coals to the top for a golden brown dumpling.

NOTE: You can use this same recipe to make beef stew by just substituting beef for the chicken.


Nothing beats a hot cobbler sitting around the campfire!

Start with canned fruit. (Peaches for the traditionalist.) For a 12 inch Dutch, 4 standard size cans will do. I use 2 cans of fruit and two cans of fruit pie filling.

Drain the fruit and reserve the liquid. Place the fruit and a few dabs of butter in the Dutch oven along with brown sugar and cinnamon. (I have a big sweet tooth so I use up to a cup of brown sugar, you may use less or none at all.)

Next, take 1/2 a box of yellow cake mix and place it in a plastic baggie. Mix with the reserved fruit juice and water until it is a little thicker than cake batter. Cut a small hole in one corner and pipe the batter on top of the fruit mixture. Then take a handful of dry mix and sprinkle on top of the cobbler.

Place the Dutch oven on the coals and maintain a 350-degree oven for approximately 45 minutes. If the top is not browning after 30 minutes add more coals to the top.

If the fruit filling is not bubbling gently, add more coals to the bottom. Finally, 5 minutes before the cobbler is done sprinkle with pecans. GUARANTEED TO PLEASE!

Dutch Oven Cooking

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

Passport to Texas from Texas Parks and Wildlife

Cast iron is a durable metal with an outstanding capacity to hold and transfer heat. No wonder Dutch ovens are made from it.

A Dutch oven is a cast iron pot that pioneers used to cook their meals in over an open fire.

Tim Spice work for Parks and Wildlife in education and outreach. He’s also an accomplished Dutch oven cook.

I’ve done some stuffed Cornish game hens and quiche. Whatever you can bake in your oven you can bake in a Dutch oven.

For the new Dutch oven enthusiast, Spice recommends starting with a foolproof recipe.

Stews are easy. Liquid recipes are forgiving in a Dutch oven. So, I just tell people to start with that. Pick a great beef stew or a chicken stew and go after it. Vegetables, stock and the meat of your choice – and just let it cook away. And you’ll have a great meal in a short period of time.

If you’re worried about using your Dutch oven for the first time in the wide open spaces, Spice recommends, doing a test run indoors.

If I want to try something on a fire, I’ll get my Dutch oven out and I’ll cook it in my oven so I don’t have to worry about temperature control. I can focus on recipe adjustment. Let’s face it, when you’re out in the woods, camping – you’re trying to have a good time –you don’t have a full kitchen behind you. So, that’s what I do. I use it a lot.

Find Dutch oven recipes at

That’s our show for today… For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti

Dutch Ovens

Monday, June 25th, 2007

Passport to Texas from Texas Parks and Wildlife

Whether the Dutch invented the Dutch oven isn’t exactly clear. What is clear…says Tim Spice…is using one of these cast iron pots simplifies outdoor cooking.

And you can cook anything that you would at home, on a fire, outdoors, while you’re camping with your family or friends.

Spice is in education and outreach at Texas Parks and Wildlife. Dutch ovens are cast iron pots that have been in use since the 1700s.

Today the Dutch oven has legs on the bottom and a rim on the lid sop that you can put coals under it and on top of it and cook as you would in your oven at home.

The key to Dutch oven cooking success is temperature control. Without the luxury of a thermostat when cooking al fresco, you have to get creative – and daring.

You hold your hand six inches above the coals…thousand one…thousand two….thousand three…if you have to pull your hand away sooner because it’s uncomfortable from the heat – it’s hotter than three-fifty. If you can hold your hand longer than three seconds, it’s colder than three-fifty. And, since most food is cooked at three hundred and fifty degrees in the oven, that’s where you’ll want to start gaging your heat.

As always, you’ll find more information about this and other topics at

Don’t be intimidated by that Dutch oven. Grab one and take it home and practice. And then, take your folks out to the state park and spend the day and have a great meal at the end of a great day outdoors.

That’s our show for today… For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti

September 1, October 6 & November 3, 2007 — Mission Tejas SP — Dutch Oven Cooking — See what’s cooking as the Tejas Chapter of the Lone Star Dutch Oven Society meets in the picnic area of the park, or the Pavilion in case of rain. 9 a.m.-noon (936) 687-2394.