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Good food makes for happy campers

Prairie Fare: Some tips and recipes to make cooking outdoors as enjoyable as the food itself

Grab your fishing pole, marshmallows and floaty, it’s time to go camping! I know, it’s hard to leave the farm, but taking time to enjoy summer with family and friends is important. Not only is it a good way to reduce stress, but it can build fond memories that will last a lifetime. With harvest fast approaching, now’s the perfect time to sit around a crackling fire roasting marshmallows and swapping fish stories with your family.

One of my favourite parts of camping is the food. From those tiny fun packs of cereal to fresh pickerel over an open fire, everything seems to taste better when camping. But getting there takes a bit of planning and preparation. Here are some tips and recipes to make cooking outdoors as enjoyable as the food itself.

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A good rule of thumb when planning your camping menu is to keep it simple and prepare ahead. Cooking while camping means limited pots, few utensils and minimal control over cooking temperatures. Now is not the time to get fancy!

One-pot dishes prepared and frozen at home are a dream once you’re at your campsite. Just think how easy that first night, when everyone is tense from setting up the tent or camper, will be when dinner is as easy as heating up a pot of chili, chicken corn chowder, spaghetti, mac and cheese or Cajun jambalaya. You can even freeze meat with your favourite marinade for easy, instant flavour.

Aluminum foil dinners or hobo packs offer additional low-fuss cooking and cleaning. They can be prepared ahead or made at the campsite. Use a large piece of heavy-duty foil or a double layer of regular foil, coat with oil and add your favourite combination of meat, sliced potatoes, veggies, onions and spices. Roll up tightly and place on hot coals (no flames) for about 25 minutes. For freshly caught fish, place your fillets, a few onions, butter, fresh lemon slices, salt and pepper in the foil pack and cook for 15-20 minutes.

Fresh air and all those outdoor activities can lead to big appetites. Pack plenty of healthy snacks to keep your crew satisfied between meals. Consider trail mix, homemade muffins or energy bars, cheese and crackers, hummus and pita wedges, peanut butter and jelly on crackers, apples, oranges, watermelon, roasted nuts or chickpeas, applesauce, fruit cups, popcorn, dried fruit and cut veggies.

Pre-made salads, especially ones with whole grains and pulses, wraps, canned tuna or chicken and cut veggies make great, no-cook lunch ideas that can be taken to the beach, on the boat or in a backpack.

Bacon and eggs is the breakfast of choice for my camping crew, but omelettes in a bag, homemade oatmeal packs, pre-made breakfast burritos, pancakes, bannock and jam, and egg and sausage hash are also favourites.

And finally, when packing, think about how you will keep food cold and out of the bacteria danger zone 4 C to 60 C (40-140 F). We freeze practically everything except our first night’s meal to extend cooler time. Plenty of ice packs, a full cooler, a shady spot and storing beverages in a separate cooler are other ideas to keep food cold. We also pack plenty of foods that don’t require cooling. Produce like potatoes, onions, carrots, apples and oranges travel well, while canned soups, meats and beans, provide full meal options.


The following are some of our favourite camping recipes.

Bannock

Here’s a basic bannock recipe to take camping or make at home. Add cinnamon and brown sugar, dried or fresh fruit, Parmesan or herbs for extra flavour.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup shortening or lard, cubed
  • 3/4 – 1 cup water

Instructions:

  • 1. Mix dry ingredients.
  • 2. Cut shortening or lard into the flour mixture until fat is equally distributed.
  • 3. Place flour mix in large plastic bag to which you can add water at your campsite.
  • 4. When ready to mix, gradually add the smallest amount of water and mix until ingredients come together.
  • 5. Knead the dough gently through the bag until soft, adding more water if needed. You should be able to handle the dough without it being too sticky.
  • 6. Take a small handful of dough and wrap around a stick that’s as thick as your thumb. Stretch dough evenly around the stick and pinch together edges well.
  • 7. Cook over hot coals (not flames) for 10 minutes or until outside is golden brown and inside of dough pulls away from the stick and moves fairly easily.
  • 8. Alternatively, roll or pat dough until about 3/4 inch thick and place in a greased pan. Cook over fire or bake in a 450 F oven for 10 to 12 minutes.
  • 9. Serve with butter, jam or cheese.

Yield: 8-10 pieces for sticks or 1 large pan

Recipe Source: GettyStewart.com

Zesty quinoa and bean salad

A colourful salad, perfect for lunch on the field, camping or a barbecue side dish. It offers complete protein and plenty of veggies that will hold up nicely.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup corn kernels
  • 1 cup cooked black beans
  • 3/4 cup chopped mixed sweet peppers
  • 4 green onions chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro or parsley

Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 3 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • Pinch cayenne pepper

Instructions:

  • 1. Place quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse well.
  • 2. Add rinsed quinoa, salt and 2 cups water to medium saucepan and cover with tight-fitting lid. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes until water is absorbed.
  • 3. Cool quinoa and set aside.
  • 4. In a large bowl, combine quinoa, corn, beans, peppers, green onions and cilantro or parsley.
  • 5. In a jar, combine dressing ingredients and shake vigorously.
  • 6. Pour dressing over quinoa, mix well and serve.

Recipe Source: GettyStewart.com

Herbed citrus marinated frozen meat pack

Easy to grab and go, marinated frozen meat packs are ideal for camping.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 1 orange zest and juice
  • 1 lemon zest and juice
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1 lb. chicken breasts, chicken thighs or pork chops

Instructions: In a small bowl, combine canola oil, garlic, orange zest and juice, lime zest and juice, lemon zest and juice, thyme and pepper. Mix well.

Place your choice of meat and marinade in large freezer bag. Seal and flatten bag, being sure to distribute marinade evenly. Freeze flat for quick thawing and easy storage.

Recipe Source: Canola Eat Well

About the author

Contributor

Getty Stewart is a professional home economist, speaker and writer from Winnipeg. For more recipes, preserves and kitchen tips, visit www.gettystewart.com.

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