Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Top Ten Favorite Camping Foods

Glowing embers of a campfire melt the chocolate in this updated take on a S'more

Ah, the last long weekend in summer is over and school days are here again - well not for me; it's just the rest of you who have to get into a routine! August flew by for us, but it was bookended by two memorable trips into the country, the first one being a fantastic camping trip that inspired this post.
We were hesitant at first to try tenting with the little ones, but decided not to let that stop us and were rewarded with a memorable family experience that we hope to keep up every summer here on out. It wasn't just the food that was good (arguably the best part of camping, right?) but we had sunshine for at least half the time, successful mid-day naps in the tent, and no bugs to speak of!

I just have to say, everyone has a different interpretation of what camping is. For some it is merely hooking up an RV in a camp off of some major highway, sending the kids to the pool and watching TV with a 24 of beer close by. For others it may involve packing only the bare essentials in a backpack, hiking deep into the wilderness and sleeping under the stars.
Then there is the middle ground: backing your vehicle into a campsite in a provincial park, setting up a tent and using a combination of camp stove and fire pit for your cooking. This version seemed to suit us just fine when we joined a group of friends for a two-night camp-out on a small lake south of here.

No one can say one type of camping is better than the other. It's all about what suits your lifestyle, your physical aptitude, wilderness skills and how you grew up camping (or not) with your parents.
The same goes for camping food! While these ten items are camping 'must-haves' for me, there are plenty of people who are going to read this and say " Bannock? Huh? Where's the Kraft Dinner? The hamburgers?". Since my kind of camping when I was growing up was mostly of the wilderness sort, my camping menu items tend to reflect that influence.

Top Ten Favorite Camping Foods

1. Bannock

Classic breakfast camping fare. I mix my dry goods in a Ziplock bag at home, then add a little warm water to the bag at the campsite, mix in the bag and pat the dough into a cast iron pan. Biscuit like in texture, the bannock takes on the smoky flavor of the fire and is a nourishing start to the day! Batter can also be prepared a little thicker, rolled by hand into a rope, wrapped around a green stick and roasted like a hot dog over an open fire. This takes a lot of time and patience, as you need to cook it over low coals so it cooks evenly and the outside doesn't char. Only recommended when you have a lazy morning to kill, otherwise the cast iron pan works well.

2. Energy Bars and other energy-boosting dried goods

When we go hiking we are never with out a good trail mix and these delicious Clif Bars. With flavors like Cool Mint Chocolate, Banana Nut Bread and Peanut Toffee Buzz, these organic baked energy bars are the perfect pick-me-up whether you are bushwacking through the forest or smoking the opposite team in beach volleyball!

3. Dehydrated Soups

We weren't camping long enough to warrant purchasing instant soup for this trip, but we all have our favorite dried soup mix or cup-o-soup. Invaluable on a cold, drizzly day, it doesn't get much simpler than just adding hot water. And don't get stuck in a chicken noodle rut, there are some great flavors out there like Spicy Black Bean.

4. Cocoa and other hot beverages

Do not leave home without plenty of instant hot drinks, no matter how warm you think the weather will be! The temperature drops dramatically at night and sleeping so near the ground can be quite chilly. I brought this organic hot cocoa (from Marchés Tau), a dozen tea bags and lots of ground coffee, thinking I was 'over packing', but we drank everything. Of course, once word got out that we were making French press coffee over at our campsite, we had to share a little.

5. S'mores

The classic s'more is made with a toasted marshmallow and a piece of chocolate sandwiched between two graham crackers. I always found that was too much cracker and not enough of the good stuff, plus I like my chocolate warmed to the sticky stage, so I changed things up a bit to create this masterpiece. The cookie is a Belgian waffle cookie (purchased) and it is big enough to hold two marshmallows, i.e. twice the goodness! The 'mallows are toasted until golden, then gently pulled off the stick, leaving the insides behind. A square of chocolate is inserted into each of the hollow, molten marshmallows and both are placed on the waffle and topped with another waffle. (of course you can do one at a time, too, but this is pretty economical). I like to set the whole the whole thing down near the campfire's heat until the chocolate melts enough. Mmm. SO good.
I'm sure for some people, this is the best part about camping!

6. Pasta in a box

Go ahead, make your Kraft Dinner, I've certainly eaten enough of it on camp-outs, but if I can, I prefer something like this white cheddar pasta that actually tastes great and doesn't leave you with a stomach ache. Not only is boxed pasta super light to carry (for you backpackers), it's heavenly to enjoy a hot meal out in the bush, especially if you have wet socks.

7. Smokies or your favorite sausage
Let's face it, you gotta roast something on a stick over an open fire when you are camping. This is what ground meat encased in a skin was born to do. My Ukrainian heritage always points me in the direction of the garlic smokies, although there are so many different type of great sausages to choose from.
Directions: Skewer with a green stick. Roast over an open flame until the sides split and the juices run. Don't burn your mouth.

8. Baked Nutella Bananas

I'm sure people other than us make these all the time, but I have never seen it. Maybe you're about to learn something new today! Anyway, if you're tired of S'mores, another great dessert is to simply take a banana, peel back a small section and scoop out a little flesh to make a valley in the banana. Fill the valley with Nutella and, if you wish, a few marshmallows (minis work best, but I didn't have), and place the peel back over the hole. Wrap in tin foil and place in the hot coals of a campfire. Cook about 10 minutes, poke to see if banana is soft, and if it is, remove from the heat. Eat with a spoon. Yum!
Some people also replace the Nutella with chocolate chips and that's great too.

9. Potatoes baked in the ashes

Baking in foil is the best way to eat for camping: no clean up! Plus the food takes on an incredible smokey flavor from the fire that one can't duplicate at home. These potatoes are about the simplest side dish you can make, yet one of the best. Just scrub some new potatoes and cut them in half. Toss with a little olive oil and salt (I added fresh garlic and rosemary from my garden) and wrap up tight in foil. Toss the package onto the coals (never open flame) and forget about them for a half an hour or so. Tongs are useful to remove the packages from the fire when they are finished; just be careful of the hot steam when you open them!

10. Fresh Fish baked in foil

Similar to the potatoes, fresh fish needs no further dressing than to be rinsed, patted dry, seasoned with a few herbs and garlic and wrapped in foil. This fish cooked in about 10 minutes and needed to be turned a few times. It was moist and delicious, with all the juices contained in the foil.

So what's your favorite camping food? Come on, let's have it!


Angelica said...

I love the idea of going on a camping trip, but always get put off knowing the mosquitoes are in the woods waiting for me. My uncle is of a completely different opinion, and once brought five (5) kilos of new potatoes on a hiking trip in the Swedish mountains.

Ingrid_3Bs said...

I haven't been camping in ages! It was a lot of fun! The best part was the wonderful breakfasts my parents would make for us...YUM!

I loved your banana recipe...I'm going to try that at home!


the milliner said...

Mmmmmm....your version of smores looks great. I'll definitely be trying that!

One of our favorite dishes to make is a red thai chicken curry. Any one-pot meals work really well and the warmth of the curry is great for those chilly evenings around the campfire.

BTW, we were wondering what kind of tent you use with the family? We're planning our first camping outing with the little one (3 months old) later this month, and we'll have to upgrade the tent from our compact 2 person to something larger to fit the 55 lb dog and us three humans.

Anonymous said...

Just to add to Suzanne's comment, we're rather partial also to fajitas. Everything can be heated in the single skillet, veggies first and then strips of bavette. Assemble at will at the table.
This works well because, if there are any leftovers, you can cook up some bacon and eggs the next morning, add this to the veggies and have breakfast burritos. This ensures enough energy to go climb a multi-pitch cliff afterwards.

Anonymous said...

I love pancakes with homemade syrup, instant mashed potatoes, and oatmeal. Camping is actually the only time that I enjoy oatmeal(?)must be another one of those "anything tastes better over a fire". :)

kickpleat said...

I love camping! Often time we are bike camping, so we have to carry light so we shop for the day, but a bean chili and macaroni is always a good meal. As is grilled corn on the cob. Or a doctored up mac n' cheese. Yum!

Aimée said...

Hi Angelica- Your uncle sounds awesome.

Hi Ingrid- I think I like mornings and breakfast around a campfire even better than evenings. Kids are still sleeping, coffee is brewed and birds are chirping. The whole day is ahead of you!

Hi Suzanne- Curry sounds amazing! Our tent is a Coleman 6-man because it can never be too big! There's lots of room for the four of us plus all our gear and the best part? My 6'2" hubby can stand up in it!
Happy camping!

Hi Michel- Cool idea. Sounds like perfect mountain climbing grub. Throw in some wild mushrooms, too.

Hi Michelle- Noah had his oatmeal out there while we ate bannock. Sometimes I'll thin out the bannock and fry it like flapjacks, but now I am giving away my Yukon upbringing!

Hi Kickpleat- Chili! Wow, sounds great. I'd camp with you any day!

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Oh you're still too cool! Will definitely try nutella next time we bbq chocolate bananas, it's nice adding a little splash of rum too.

You've sold me on camping, something which I keep saying I'd like to do with the children but then chicken out. I really want to be a camp in the wilderness sort but I'm still so attached to beds and hot baths or showers...

LyB said...

Wow, that is quite the spread you got there! Everything looks delicious, better than most of the meals I've been making lately! Can I go camping with you next time? ;)

Cheryl Arkison said...

You are a brave soul - I am so not ready to camp with the kids.

The fish in foil brought back such good memories of salmon straight off the boat in Tofino many years back... We ate it for the entire week and didn't complain once.

abigail @ Paper and Cake said...

ask anyone and they will agree that i am certainly no camper (i have bug and dirt issues)... but your dishes and food ideas have me considering it!

if nothing else, we will try the smores in our own backyard.

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

My favourite camping food is anything in a foil pouch...chicken and veggies, burgers and veggies, corn on the cob... or hows about "kick the can ice cream":D

Anonymous said...

Someone left this recipe in my comments once and it sounds pretty fascinating. As I am not the camping sort, however, perhaps you will try it for me:

"You have the cast iron bean pot with the lid and it has 3 little legs on it. Put in it in this order: 1 can peaches, not drained; 1 yellow dry cake mix; 1 can lemon-lime soda pop. Stick it in the fire with some coals on top of the lid for about an hour, maybe less depending on altitude. that’s it! peach cobbler while camping."

Also, did you ever come across this article?


I'm very impressed by your bannock.

Anonymous said...

ok the bananna nutella marshmallow combo makes me want to go camping right NOW!

Tammy said...

Been a while since I lurked here. Gourmet camping - I love it. Even the fish almost looks good.

We haven't camped in a long while - and though smores are certainly a must have, a version of potatoes, onions, butter, salt and pepper is something we always had growing up. Yup, done in foil in the coals. Can't beat that.

Aimée said...

Hi Amanda- You're got it in you to be a camper, I know it. Welcome back to blogging!

Hi Lyb- Sure can, will you bring some of your cookies?

Hi Cheryl- I didn't think I was ready either, but then i asked myself "What's the worst thing that can happen? Hmm, I won't get any sleep" Well, that happens at home anyway, right?

Hi Abigail- Round up some firewood and there you go!

Hi Valli- You're awesome! How could I forget 'kick the can' ice cream! Do people still MAKE that?

Hi Michele- Sounds ghastly, yet somewhere in the back of my mind it rings a bell. I guess anything tastes amazing when you've been nibbling on trail mix for hours and hiking past the treeline.

Interesting article. She tries very hard not to like Annie, but I am not convinced. That was actually my first time to try Annie's Homegrown. Muh.

Wish I hadn't lost the 'recipe' to my bannock. It's floating around my kitchen/desk somewhere, probably on the back of a receipt or something.

Hi Miranda- and they were sooo good.

Aubrey Z said...

I recently went camping and it was a bit of a disaster -- So many bugs that we could barely eat, and ended up leaving a day early. But seeing these pictures makes me want to go again right now, just to try out some of your great food ideas! Thanks for sharing. I will definitely try some of those next time I decide to brave the great outdoors.

Emily said...

If I went camping, that is.

I like your s'mores better.
The banana idea is really cool. You could do peanut butter also.

Mandy said...

Makes me want to go camping!!! I love the idea for the thinner cookie for the smores - I always find graham crackers to be too dense as well. Superstore sells some cookies very similar to what you've used - I'll definitely have to try that!

Emeline said...

Brochettes (made ahead of time)
Naan bread pizzas...

The thing I DONT like about cooking over the fire is how long it takes, and how hard it is to do when you're nursing!!

GREAT ideas though, we're planning on going back before the end of the season and I'm DEFINITELY taking some of your ideas with me!

Culinary Wannabe said...

The nutella banana actually makes me want to go camping - and I hate camping! My idea of roughing it is staying in some cheap motel 6. :)

Aimée said...

Hi Tammy- Welcome back! Thought we had lost you for good. :)

Hi Aubrey- I hope I have inspired you! Thanks for stopping by.

Hi Em- Peanut butter, great idea. I'll have to try it.

Hi Mandy- It's not too late to go camping! Just bring a sweater.

Hi Emeline- Cooking while nursing? Sounds a little dangerous, girl. But then again we do everything else while nursing, so why not?

Hi Culinarywannabe- I see how one could encounter camping-like situations in a motel: bugs, hard beds, no hot water. mmhum.

Molly said...

I love your blog. Those Nutella bananas look sooo good!

Katrina W. said...

Thanks for some great new ideas! Love the new take on the s'more (will use it this weekend when we camp with our two little ones). Love the banana Nutella idea too.

We love "campfire stew" - ground beef, lots of fresh veggies (carrot or squash, onions, shallots, fingerling potatoes, etc. chopped), condensed cream of mushroom (or whatever) soup. Roll the foil up, double wrap and cook in the coals of the campfire. Everyone has their own "packet" and it's delish.

Anonymous said...

AAHH sigh great camp site photo with trees, smoke...
You top 10 was right on the money too. I'm finally just getting into your blog. I am loving it. You have some great promoters naned Josh & Laura!

TC said...

Michele, we have been making dutch oven cobbler that way for years. We use whatever fruit we have, fresh or canned, and Sprite or 7up, and a yellow cake mix. It is amazing. We also use a dutch over liner so we don't have a mess to clean up. Whenever we go camping, our friends and family always request this cobbler.


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