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June 2005

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Camping Foods for Families \

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CAMPING FOODS FOR FAMILIES

Article by Charli Mills, Valley Natural Foods
Reprinted with permission by Mix: A Twin Cities Natural Foods Co-ops Publication

I can still remember those dehydrated scrambled eggs my eighth-grade classmate served up on our school trip to Point Reyes—tasteless and terrible to swallow. I had already experienced much outdoor cooking at my dad’s summer logging camps in Northern California. Breakfast and supper were always prepared over an open campfire, and we celebrated my mother’s August birthday with a spectacular camp-style meal of grilled steak and lobster. The mere scent of campfire smoke evokes savory tastes and smells that will always linger around the memories of great meals. The thought of dehydrated eggs dulls in comparison.

If you are a parent and want to teach the kids a love of the outdoors, you know that safety and comfort are essential, not a luxury. Also, with today’s busy schedules, the process needs to be simple. For our family of five, we use four rubber boxes with lids. One holds the life vests and fishing gear; a second contains tents, bedding, canvas chairs and tarps; a third totes our paper goods and dry and canned foods; and a fourth serves as the camping kitchen (think of what you need for preparation, cooking, eating and cleanup). The tubs make it convenient to pack and load, keep everything dry and out of the paws of critters while camping, and store neatly in the garage upon returning.

So here’s the good part: camping food for families. Think in terms of perishables first, canned last. Your earlier meals can be more elaborate with fresh foods, but consider your cooler space, how long your ice will last and whether or not you want to replenish fresh foods and ice while camping. We allow our perishables to dwindle over three days. The fourth day is still tasty, just less fresh. Seal your meats and pack them frozen to help keep the cooler cold and clean.

Bring your first day’s lunch in a smaller cooler for an easy-to-grab picnic while traveling. Make sure everyone has a water bottle, and if you don’t want campground drinking water, bring enough for your stay. Replenish other water needs at your campsite. Prepare and pack meal ingredients in zip-lock bags for quicker camp meals. And, bring enough nonperishable snacks for the duration like dried fruits, nuts and a variety of snack items.

Hit the road early with breakfast as you drive, following this four-day menu:

Day one
Breakfast (on the road): all-natural cereal bars, bananas and a boxed soy drink for protein. Thermos of coffee or tea for parents.
Picnic lunch: premade French bread sandwiches (simply slice a loaf of bread lengthwise, smear with mustard and mayonnaise, and top with Muenster cheese, smoked turkey, lettuce and any other favorite toppings, then slice into individual servings), bag of your favorite Kettle chips, large Ziplock bag of baby carrots, radishes and celery sticks, and Pink Lady apples. Plan on stopping at a state park to eat, explore waterfalls and trails, and respectfully discard trash (most have recycling).
Supper: Campfire Chicken Fajitas (see recipe), boxed Spanish rice (follow directions), leftover veggies from lunch and marshmallows to toast (organic ones are available).
Drinks tip: Horizon Milk offers individual servings in packaging that allows for room-temperature storage. You can also bring frozen or powdered drinks to mix with water, herbal tea or cocoa packets. A warm drink is blissful after dinner.

Day two
Breakfast: Farmer’s Eggs (see recipe), mountain donuts (refrigerator biscuits rolled into balls, lightly fried in a Dutch oven, then dipped in cinnamon sugar), orange slices and hot beverage (cowboy coffee brewed in a percolator over a campfire is a must for us).
Lunch: Cheese and crackers, pickles, cherries, baby carrots and yogurt-covered pretzels.
Supper: Grilled steak (add lobster and a bottle of Merlot for any camp-side celebrations), sautéed mushrooms in garlic butter, garlic bread (wrap in foil on the grill), Dutch Oven Scalloped Potatoes (see recipe) and premixed green salad with vinaigrette dressing. If you don’t remember the marshmallows, the kids will.

Day three
Breakfast: Flapjacks (add-water-only pancake mix), strawberries (slice, lightly sugar and freeze before trip and they will be thawed for this breakfast treat)
and whipped topping, maple sausage links and coffee or tea.
Lunch: Instant cup-of-soup, fruit leather, crackers and peanut butter.
Supper: Tamale Bean Casserole (simply mix two cans of tamales with two cans of ranch-style beans, a can of sliced olives, a can of mild diced chilis and shredded cheddar cheese), canned corn, warm tortillas and S’mores.

Day four
Breakfast: Oatmeal (prepared with pumpkin pie spice, powdered milk, dates and pecans), applesauce, and coffee or tea.
Lunch: Peanut butter crackers, jerky (buffalo, turkey, beef or soy), fruit leather and the last of the snacks.
Supper: Plan on treating the camp-cook to dinner on the road or stop at a store for a quick picnic dinner of rotisserie chicken, three-bean salad and fresh grapes.

Switch it up
You can always alter this menu to fit your tastes, family’s dietary needs and any fish you wish to
add to the meals. The main idea is to plan, prepare or freeze fresh ingredients, and seek dried or canned options for the longer you stay. Blend your family’s favorite tastes into camping meals they will
savor for a lifetime. There is something so wholesome and satisfying about eating outdoors, as if the experience enhances our taste buds. Bypass those dehydrated eggs and go for the real deal: create delicious camping foods that will foster your family’s enjoyment of the outdoors.



Farmer’s Eggs

1/4-pound bacon, cut into chunks
1 bunch green onions
3 cloves garlic, chopped
One 8-ounce package sliced mushrooms
5 Yukon gold potatoes, diced with skins on
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
Cracked black pepper and sea salt to taste
1 dozen eggs
3 tablespoons milk (canned or powdered works as well as fresh)
One 8-ounce package cream cheese, chunked

Directions: Chunk and fry bacon, green onions, garlic and mushrooms until bacon is cooked through. Set aside bacon mixture on a paper-towel-lined plate. Fry diced potatoes and oregano, rosemary, basil, cinnamon and salt and pepper in bacon drippings until tender and slightly crisp on the outside. Mix eggs and milk until light and lemony in color. Pour over potatoes, add bacon mixture and cream cheese, stirring with metal spatula until eggs are scrambled and cheese is melted.



Dutch Oven Scalloped Potatoes

8 Yukon gold potatoes
1 can (or cup) milk
1 large can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 yellow onion, chopped
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Cracked black pepper and sea salt to taste

Directions: Peel and thinly slice potatoes. Mix milk, mushroom soup, garlic powder and nutmeg. Layer potatoes, onion, soup mixture and cheese in a Dutch oven. Sprinkle with pepper and salt. Bake in Dutch oven for 45 minutes (until potatoes are tender and mixture is bubbly).

Campfire Chicken Fajitas

Makes 12-16 fajitas.
Mix the following in a heavy-duty Ziplock bag:
1/2 cup lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons Mexican blend spices (chili powder, cumin, garlic, paprika and oregano)
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/4-inch strips
2 medium red onions, cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 cloves garlic
1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch strips
1 large yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch strips
To serve:
1 package 12 large flour tortillas
sour cream (optional)
salsa (optional)
sliced black olives (optional)

Directions: Marinate all ingredients up to all day, but no longer than 24 hours. Grill fajita ingredients 4-6 inches from coals for 8-10 minutes. Discard any remaining marinade. Scoop cooked fajita mix onto individual tortillas, fold bottom end of tortilla 1-inch over mixture, fold over left and right sides and fold down remaining end. Can serve with sour cream, salsa and sliced black olives.