Guiso What?

Guiso What?

Guiso What?  The joy of cooking – over a fire!

Campers, holiday-makers, hostesses and hosts: what is your favorite table to sit around? Is it one that you decorate during the holidays with special napkins, plates, crystal or glass? Is it the one you congregate on outside in the summer months, moving slowly to avoid catching splinters in the aging wood? Is it a picnic blanket, or a rusty old pop-up? Whatever your table, if you’re like me, perhaps your favorite memories revolve around them as well. Which is really to say, our favorite memories revolve around food.

Sharing a meal with family, new friends or old, is my happy place. I look back with nostalgia on those times; like when my best friends got their first house together, we sat huddled on the floor, with mismatched plates, eating with our hands. I look back too on the decadence of the holidays: the heavy comfort foods, the dutch salads that never really contain anything green, the warm spices. And now, throughout summer, it’s all about BBQ parties around the grill: marinating and roasting vegetables, cooking burgers. But my absolute favorite method of cooking (and memory creation) involves none of the glamour of propane, gas, electric. It lies instead, in a good old-fashioned flame… and I am certain, if you give it a try, it will soon top your list too.

When I say I enjoy “cooking by fire,” most assume I mean camp-style cooking: searching the woods for sticks, roasting hot dogs or (accidentally burning) marshmallows for S’mores. And while those are welcome, nostalgic treats, I have found that cooking entire meals around a fire is not only simple and flavorful, but an event all in itself.

I would never try to talk you out of visiting Newaygo’s restaurants (in fact, if you haven’t visited all of them, do that first!). But sometimes wrangling children or family into submission of good behavior in public, is too much a feat to take on. So next time you decide to stay in, whether you’re in town camping for the weekend, have a cabin on the lake, are hosting a BBQ, or are just looking for a way to enjoy your evening with the family around your favorite table, get cooking! The following recipe is one that you cannot ruin no matter how hard you try and can be tweaked to anyone’s particular tastes (I’m looking at you, picky eaters, spice lovers, vegans and omnivores!).

It’s called “Guiso,” (pronounced ghee-so), and is a twist of traditional South American cowboy stew. My partner’s background is a touch more interesting than my Dutch-Dutch-German heritage that is so common to the River Country area. And while the Dutch know good (er…interesting) food, many of my favorites have a touch of Central or South American flair from his side of the family.

To make Guiso, you’ll need the following:

Large Cast Iron Pot

Cooking Oil

3-4 Onions

2 Heads of Garlic

3-7 Peppers (any type, depending on size)

4-5 Carrots

One Can Tomato Paste

One 1lb Box Shell Pasta

2-4 Tbsp Seasoning Salt (I prefer spicy)

One Gallon Water



1 Package Ground Beef

Spicy Peppers like Jalapeños, Anaheim, Habanero, Serrano

Any other veggies you fancy

To get started, build yourself a fire! After 30 minutes or so, once you have a decent coal base, grab that cast iron pot and set it down on top of the coals to warm. Chop all your veggies finely ahead of time, to make for an easy cooking session.

  1. Pour around a half cup of any cooking oil into your cast iron pot. Before it starts to bubble, add your onions and garlic, and stir until they begin to soften.
  2. Next add the peppers, stirring occasionally, until they soften. Then carrots. (If you’d like to add a package of ground beef, now’s the time).
  3. Add seasoning salt to taste, usually 2-4 Tbsp. We use a Brazilian brand called Arisco, but any salt will do. (At this point, give it a sample. The flavors will continue to come out while cooking, but if you want more spice, add peppers or chipotle seasoning, or more salt, pepper and garlic to taste.)
  4. Dump in the can of tomato paste now and stir until everything is well coated.
  5. Add 3 Liters of water (shy of a gallon). Wait until the water just begins to boil, then add your box of shell pasta.
  6. Leave uncovered and cook until pasta is soft. Don’t fret if you feel you’ve added too much water. The longer it sits, the more the pasta soaks in. Same if you feel the Guiso is too thick: just add more water! Once the noodles are cooked through, pull the Guiso out of the fire and let it stand for 10 minutes. No straining required. While the traditional recipes never call for it, feel free to add cheese, sour cream, or my favorite, cilantro, to the top.

While the food is amazing, it’s the process that matters. Sitting around the fire, watching the smoke rise and smelling the mix of spices in the air, surrounded by family or friends, IS the experience. So after your meal around your now-favorite table, take your time. Throw another log on, kick back… Perhaps now is the time to find those marshmallow roasting sticks and come full circle.


Our First Hike

Kelley and I had always dreamed on having a home near water when we retired.  A place where we could sink down solid roots and flourish after many years of working and building a life for our family in the Detroit and the Grand Rapids areas.  So, on weekends we’d go...

Newaygo: A Truly Magical Place

This truly is a magical place.Nestled on the banks of the Muskegon River in Newaygo County rests the nostalgic town ofNewaygo, MI. The historic district of this town still features all of the old world charm and design;restored vintage buildings, bustling...

Early Spring Hike Reveals Surprises

Spring fever had struck. I needed to hike and thought Loda Lake Wildflower Sanctuary would be a good place to explore and get my walking legs broken in. I didn’t think I would see many wildflowers, because even the daffodils weren’t up yet, but it was sunny and...

Freedom Fest

          When I grew up, it was a seemingly simple affair. We were a small family, myself an only child, and our extended family didn’t visit often. During the cold-weather holidays, we would always venture their way, with some dish wrapped tightly in towels and hot...

Power Paddle

            On Saturday morning at 10am, under sheets of rain, they sat waiting for the gunshot. The solo canoeists (known as C1), steadied their boats in the chop. The shot rang out, barely audible over the wind and rain meeting the lake; the racers plunged their...

A Tale of Shaky Legs

            “I don’t like it,” Ron says, smiling. I’m holding the board as close to the dock as I can, trying to steady it while he steps on. “I don’t like it,” he says again as I push it gently away, and hand him the paddle. (He’s still smiling, mind you). His legs...

How About a Walk on The Edge?

The Edge is a hiking and biking trail that runs along the Muskegon River on roads from Hardy Dam to Croton Dam. It's a slightly downhill stretch, so if you are running expect to have a fantastic pace per mile. I participated in a race a few years ago that started at...

Take a Walk – Art Gems in Fremont

When the weather and schedule permits, I walk to pick up my children from school. This gives us a chance to talk about their day without having to navigate after school traffic and attitudes. If we drive home, the ride is filled with complaints about car-sickness and...

A Branstrom Park Afternoon

With the sun shining brightly and spring in the air, one Sunday afternoon was the perfect day to hit the trails. I headed for Branstrom Park, in Fremont, to take a tour around the hiking trails there. The trails double as the Fremont Cross Country course, and the fun...

Birds of Newaygo County

In Newaygo County we’re lucky to have a plethora of birds to see and hear while exploring the trails and natural outdoor spaces throughout the region. It is true that many birds don’t stay in Michigan during the winter-yet even then we have many bird species. One...

Michigan-Made Syrup

Tapping and Boiling: A (Mostly!) Spring Guide to Michigan-Made Syrup The Tap I’ll never be one to complain about the coming of spring. Every year I look forward to the snow being replaced by morning frost, warming throughout the day. I look forward to the budding of...

Success at Dam to Dam 2018

by Carmen Faulkner At sunrise, the serious contenders went out. They walked or snowshoed or rode snowmobiles. Some carried ice shanties, others stuck true to what I would consider to be the ‘old school, torturous’ tradition of sitting on buckets in the wind and cold....

Acquiring and Operating Snowmobiles

By Samantha Breza There are no places to rent a snowmobile at in Newaygo County at this time. Snowmobilers have to own a snowmobile already or purchase one at David Allen Racing Motorsports on Maple Island Road. Winter clothes and goggles can be purchased at Dunham...

About The Author

Carmen Faulkner

Carmen Faulkner is an avid travel enthusiast who grew up in Newaygo County. When she isn’t on the road, she splits her time between her home in Newaygo and the mountains of British Columbia. Her love for all things outdoors is paralleled only to her appreciation of food, coffee, and craft beer. You can find her in our community kayaking down the Muskegon River, hiking the North Country Trail, or enjoying the small businesses of downtown Newaygo.