A Pioneer Dinner–Stovetop Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sometimes, you just have to turn life off.  Unplug for a moment.

Saving energy (and getting myself and the kids off the cell phone, tablets, and the TV isn’t always easy but it is totally worth it. Not only does it help our environment but it also helps save money, reduces power outages, and reduces emissions.

Each year we do a Pioneer Dinner–we unplug, unwind and relax. While we typically do this during the summer, you can also do a no electricity dinner during the winter too! Use an outdoor cookstove, or if you are lucky like us you can dust off that wood burning stove in your house and give the gas fireplace a break for the night. We love doing this over Christmas vacation when those dreaded “I’m boooored!” words seem to come back from their summer vacation hiding spot.

One of our favorite things about unplugging and enjoying a dinner together is that everyone wants to help participate. Here’s how we get our pioneer dinner started:

wood burning stove

1. Build the Fire: This sounds relatively easy but because of my track record with burning things, I opt to let my husband do this while I prep the dinner fixings. Besides, the one time I did try I forgot you have to open some flume thing and our alarm company called asking if we needed a firefighter to be dispatched to the house. I now get everything ready while the kids help my husband build the fire. Much safer. Sort of. Fires seem to bring out the younger pyromaniac side of him. The kids love getting to toss in bits of paper into the fire to help get it started. Note: Please watch for your one child that will “accidently” throw in his homework. It will save you a lot of explanation with the teacher later.

stovetop chocolate chip cookies

2. Get Cooking: Since I can cook right on the fireplace, it can present some challenges. The first time I cooked on it it boiled my huge pot of water in about two minutes. I wasn’t used to that! Let the fire die down a little bit before cooking on it. Roaring fire does not equal time to cook. I learned that the hard way. But I now empathize with the challenges that pioneer’s faced cooking. Our menu usually consists of Harvest Beef Stew, Skillet Bread from Baker Bettie,  and Stovetop Chocolate Chip Cookies. (recipe below).

stovetop chocolate chip cookies

3. Grab the Sleeping Bags: After a filling meal we opt to camp out by the fire for the night. We grab the kids sleeping bags and pillows and visit with them. We usually end up swapping stories about our relatives who came across the plains and settled in California or New Mexico. They love hearing the stories of my relative who was taken by Indians in her teens while crossing the plains to California. These stories are important to share and surprisingly grab their attention more than any story on TV does. It also teaches them that their life now is very simple. You can also remind them of this when you remind them how loooong it took you to cook  their dinner.

pioneer dinner

4. Sleep (Or Try Too): Cooking like a pioneer makes parents tired but kids seem to enjoy the sleepover. Someone will need to tend to the fire overnight and feed it but kids don’t seem to mind helping their tired parents. (Make sure kids are always supervised around fire). In the morning try some Cast Iron Skillet Cinnamon Rolls from Whisks and Words and bacon and eggs. Mmm! Remember you’re camping. Sort of. No calories, right?

Not up for an overnight camp out in your living room? 

There are many other great ways to save money and be more energy efficient. Here are a few to get you started:

And since it’s the season for giving, enter to win one of seven $100 Home Depot Gift Cards by entering the #PGEhome Instagram Photo Challenge Contest happening now to November 23. You can get all the details here. http://clvr.li/pgeinsta

Stove Top Chocolate Chip Cookies


  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar (can substitute coconut or natural sugars)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  • 1-2 tbsp butter, for pan


  1. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In another small bowl, stir together the egg and vanilla extract. Set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. (2-3 minutes if using a mixer and 4-5 minutes if stirring by hand).
  4. Add in the eggs and vanilla and stir until incorporated. Slowly add in the flour mixture, continuing to stir until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  5. Heat stove top to medium heat. In a cast iron skillet or other pan, place the 1 tbsp of butter. This was tested on a 10" skillet. You may need additional butter for larger pans. Allow the butter to melt, than swirl the pan to distribute the butter evenly. (If you are using a campfire or wooden stove, it should take about two minutes for the butter to melt. This will let you know that it's medium heat).
  6. Drop the cookie dough by tablespoons onto the pan leaving some space between. (We were able to do about six cookies). Flatten the cookies slightly with a spatula. Cover with a lid and cook for 4-5 minutes. Flip the cookies (this takes some talent. It's kind of like flipping a slightly undercooked pancake). Cover and cook an additional 3-4 minutes. Remove from stove and invert cookies onto a cooling rack.
  7. Continue cooking as above for additional batches until all cookies are cooked. You can also half the batch for smaller families.
  8. *Timing is everything, especially if you are cooking over a campfire or on a wooden stove. They can burn easily or take additional or less time. Be the judge!

Recipe adapted from Nestle Toll House. Cooking method adapted from Babble.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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