I have been looking forward to writing this post for a while, because it delves into one of my very favorite aspects of camping: food! Me cooking for Grace has been a big part of our relationship from the beginning (she cooked for me once back in 2014 . . . I swear it tasted fine but we still laugh about how it was kind of a disaster). I cook at least some of Grace's meals every week, and I cook for myself about 90-95% of my meals. When we camp, I see it as a special and fun challenge to cook something different from what I normally would at home.
One of the first things I think about when booking a getaway is what type of cooking options will be available. They range from: no fire or grill allowed--must prep everything in advance; fire ring provided; propane or charcoal grill provided; or full kitchen (like when we rent cabins or other homes). The menu I decide on will be strongly influenced by what cooking setup I will be able to access.
I'm mostly going to talk about cooking with no access to fire/heat, cooking over a fire, and grilling in this post. Though I love staying in cabins and cooking fun meals there, it's not really "camping food" if you have a full kitchen! Below are some of my favorite meals I have made while camping; all the photos were taken on camping trips over the past couple of years!
The photo above is one of my favorite camping meals that I made earlier this year when Grace and I camped in a treehouse in Ojai. Foil packets in general are great for either cooking over a fire or grilling, as they reduce some of the unevenness that can come from cooking using flames. In this recipe, I simply took fresh shrimp, scallops, and mussels (be careful that these are live when you cook them--keep them super cold right up until cooking) and threw in some summer squash, corn on the cob, tomatoes, lemon and butter. I sealed up the packets and put them on the grill for about 20 or 30 minutes over medium heat until the seafood was cooked thoroughly and the mussel shells opened up. Grace and I were in heaven eating these. I paired it with some baked potatoes, also cooked over the grill, and champagne because why not. This one definitely stands out as one of my favorite camping meals ever. The only tricky part here is ensuring that your seafood stays fresh, but if you have a good cooler and you cook this the first night of the camping trip, it should be fine. Otherwise, this is so EASY! We loved it.
Excuse the poor quality photo, but it's the only one I have of this next camping favorite--pizza roll-ups cooked over the fire in foil. This particular camping trip, all we had was a few rocks to make a fire ring; no grate or anything to create a cooking surface. So for dinner, I spread out some foil and then some pizza dough. I topped it with sauce, cheese (vegan or non works just as well), and thinly sliced squashes and red onion. Then I rolled up the pizza into a log, covered it in foil, and just placed it right on the fire (carefully!). I left it for about 15 minutes and then unwrapped the foil and sliced it width-wise into little calzone-type bites! So good and simple. And, if you have more people, they can all customize their own.
This next camping meal is great for when you've been camping for several days and your cooler is no longer cold. The photo above is Mac N Cheese from the box, mixed with some simmered peas and onions. That's it! It is simple but comforting for a chilly night around a fire. I like Annie's and Earth Balance brands boxed Mac N Cheese. I just added a little less water than the pasta normally calls for and cooked the whole thing in one pot (my deep dish cast iron skillet--a staple on camping trips). The Mac N Cheese in the photo was cooked over an open fire, so it took a little longer to boil, but it was still pretty much as easy as it gets. I simmered the onions and peas in the same water as the pasta, and once all the water cooked off, I added in the packet of "cheese" powder and some butter. Maybe not the most nutritious meal, but a great option for day 3 or 4 of a camping trip.
These two photos show a before and after of a perfect summery camping meal. Using my cast iron skillet, I seared a couple of tuna steaks seasoned with some flaky Maldon salt and ground pepper. Beside the skillet over the fire I roasted some foil packets filled with chopped zucchini and summer tomatoes. I took everything off the fire and plated it, and it turned out so good! This is definitely something to cook the first night that you buy the tuna steaks--not a good idea to leave those in the cooler for too long. This meal was the first night of my 2015 California road trip with Grace, and it is still a memorable one.
I wrote a little bit about the meal pictured above in my Big Bear camping trip recap--I made it this past spring over a fire Grace built for me. It's one of the easiest campfire meals you can make; I'm surprised I hadn't thought of it sooner! All I did was roast some tortilla chips, cheese, and black beans in a cast iron skillet over a fire. Once it got good and melty, I took it off the fire, separated the chips between two plates, and topped with all the fixin's! As an appetizer, we ate avocados stuffed with baby shrimp salad. This was a truly delectable meal, and it came together in about 15 minutes (in addition to the time it took to build the fire).
In this blurry photo Grace is holding some no-cook tacos, a meal I made us on a trip where fire restrictions prohibited us from cooking over a flame. My toppings of choice were black beans, avocado, tomato, lime juice, and fresh corn cut off the cob. I love the sweetness and crunch of fresh corn. In advance, I whipped together some vegan mayo and hot sauce in a plastic bag, and at the camp site I snipped the tip off the bag and squeezed the aioli over the tacos. Though everything was room temperature, they were still delicious and filling.
In addition to these favorites that are more planned out, I never write off a good sandwich spread or simple picnic snack. Sometimes, you can't make a fire, or you don't have a lot of ingredients left in the cooler. Here are a few "simple favorites":
Some eggs over a fire and a kettle full of water for making coffee or tea. I tend to keep breakfasts simple when camping.
Another breakfast staple: oatmeal with some brown sugar and blueberries thrown on top.
A delicious, made-in-advance caprese pasta salad is perfect for a snack on the side of the road.
This setup might look messy, but it didn't matter when we were all hungry! I made this sandwich spread for a group of friends on a trip earlier this month. I set out sliced bread, deli slices of cheese and meats, homemade tuna salad, hummus, pickle slices, arugula, sliced avocado, all the condiments, and chips, watermelon slices, and cookies on the side. This was a no-cook lunch option that everyone could fix to their liking. You might not be able to tell from the photo, but this is in the back of Grace's car--we just opened the back hatch and I set everything out! Easy.
One last category I don't have many photos of: dessert. Not to make her sound demanding (because she's not, at all), but I will say that pretty much every night, Grace goes, "so what's my sweet treat?" Haha! She has a major sweet tooth that I never want to overlook when we are camping. The reason I don't have a lot of photos of camping desserts, though, is because it's usually dark by the time we eat them! That, or I'm in a food coma from our delicious dinner and don't remember to take a photo. Here's one favorite, though--sliced peaches with cinnamon and butter, baked over the fire in a foil packet:
This would also be great with apple. Most of the time, we just roast marshmallows (Trader Joe's are the BEST and they happen to be vegan) and eat them with some sort of chocolate. Another trick I recently learned is that if we cooked dinner on a grill, I'll place a layer of tin foil across the grill while the heat recedes, plop some slices of store-bought cookie dough down on it, close the grill and let them cook while we eat dinner. Such a yummy treat for after dark, especially if the air is cool and the cookies are warm :)
I'm feeling hungry from writing this post! Time to brainstorm a menu for our next trip--we leave a week from today!