Tuesday, April 7, 2015


Call it a crime... 

This lifelong camper doesn't think a burnt hot dog (retrieved from the campfire embers) can compare to a decent meal.  Or even a half decent meal.  As a child, I developed a true distaste for hot dogs.  As an adult, I refuse to subject myself to this traditional "gourmet" camp meal.  Don't get me wrong, when a charred demon dog was presented to me by the angelic face of a three year old after finishing an hour long weenie roasting marathon; I wouldn't stammer before exclaiming "Its the best I've ever tasted." Truth is, with years of practice, I could fake a bite better than the rest of 'em.

At some point in my camping career (I call it that because I consider myself a pro now), I vowed never to be subjected to even an inch of a fiery foot long. Flash forward twenty years, and in my own mind, I've perfected the artistry of camp cooking.  Of course, it helps that I no longer have little ones to tend.  It also helps that my other half is smart enough to not complain about camp cuisine;  For he who sits back chilling and relaxing while others bust their hump...well, that would just earn him a "stupid" label, wouldn't it.

After the heydays of my park model existence gave way to tenting it once again, I had no choice but to simplify, reduce, and reinvent the extravagances of camp meals gone by.  So, it became almost a quest to come up with new meal plans for camping out.  Like many campers, our days are filled with activities away from the actual campsite. Unfortunately, wanting to be on the fast track of activities often equals repetitive dining out to save time and effort.  This is simply not an option for large families or budget minded travelers. So start off small and expand your menus. The key to successful meals at camp is off-site preparation, reducing actual cooking time, and eliminating cleanup.  Less packing means less repacking.  Its usually when you are breaking down camp that you realize just how much went unused.  Not that a camp stove isn't convenient, its just that over time we have developed techniques that eliminate the need for it. We try to use the campfire whenever possible (sometimes we use a wire grill over it).

Breakfasts need to be decent, and lunches light. Dinners need to be quick, but filling. Normally, this is hard to accomplish before 9:00pm (when the last of the summer's rays set upon our campsite and everyone hasn't already settled fireside with a beer in hand and no ambition). Try this meal plan the next time you camp!

Its breakfast time!  Wake up and put some water on to boil.  If you don't have a wire grill, place some rocks in the fire pit and balance your pot over the coals. 1-1 1/2 gallons should do. Use to make your coffee with and reserve the rest for "Omelets-in-a-bag".  Our morning coffee consists of a pre-made mixture of instant coffee granules, sugar and powdered creamer.  We keep this in an airtight container with a scoop inside.  2 scoops go in a paper/foam cup.  Add hot water second so no need to stir.  If you prefer cappuccino, try this recipe .  

Drop your pre-made sealed omelet bags into the pot of hot water for about 10-15 minutes.  We use 2 eggs, ham, cheese, onions, peppers and mushrooms. Each person can create their own mixture at home and write their name in the space with permanent marker. Store in cooler until you need. It cooks very quickly once the egg starts to set. You can slide out on paper plate or eat directly out of bag.  Use the leftover hot water for washing up before starting your day.

Lunches usually consists of sandwiches/subs. Make these ahead and wrap in foil.  Add some pretzel sticks and fresh fruit together in a ziploc(w/name).  Store in cooler. Everyone can grab as they get hungry.  Or stock the cooler with pre-made chopped salad and fruit cups.  Need a heartier lunch; add chicken, or a layer of tuna salad.

Supper will be a cinch, if you just take a few minutes before your trip to create foil packet meals.  Spread a generous piece of tin foil out and then layer precooked meat, potatoes or rice, and then a vegetable.  Add a dollop of gravy or creamed soup and seal into a packet.  Try one of these combos:
  • Sliced ham, rice and green beans
  • Chopped chicken breast, mashed potatoes and corn
  • sliced meatloaf, mashed & peas
Freeze ahead and store in cooler.  When ready for dinner, place on grill or towards the outside of fire pit (about 15 minutes).  Open and eat.  Scrunch and dispose. There is no limit to what you can cook in foil pouches.  Use your imagination.  More ideas for foil meals here.

Italian Chicken with marinara, onions and zuchini
Cubed ham, sweet potatoes, pineapple and peppers
Rosemary cubed steak, potatoes and peas

Why spend your supposed "down time" running around the campsite trying to get organized to cook?  Then scrubbing pots and dishes after dark! Do your prep before you go!  Nothing is worse then being on edge, and under pressure, trying to get a decent meal out to your troops. Just try this plan once....you'll never look back.  Who's really happy eating cold Pop Tarts, Lunchables and burnt hot dogs every camping trip?  Not me! ...and probably not you.  So do something about it. 

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