OK. You’ve done your road trip. You’ve set up camp. You know it’s coming…
“Mooooooooom!? What is there to eat?”
Food while camping is incredibly important. It’s a vacation, after all. I don’t know anyone who goes on vacation, stays at a nice hotel… and is OK with eating crappy food. Camping shouldn’t be any different.
Now of course I am extremely organized, but I come by it honestly. My Uncle Chris (who found Markleeville 45 or 50 years ago when he was assigned there by the Forest Service during a summer job) always created The Menu.
The Menu was a grid he made on a piece of paper. He would take into account how many families would be in camp, what we were having for dinner that particular day, and would assign who brings what. He still does it on his sheet of paper with a pencil and a ruler. I use excel. (The times they are a’changin.)
While breakfast and lunch are kind of flexible as to who is doing what (Eat together? Eat alone?) dinner is a very collaborative Event.
At camp, almost everyone showers in the evening. You wash off the dust of the day (or the mineral water if you’ve gone to soak in the hot springs), you change into fresh clothes and meet up at Camp Central. There is always one camp that ends up being the hub where we all cook and eat dinner and where Cocktail Hour is hosted.
Cocktail Hour starts about 5:00. We take Cocktail Hour very, very seriously.
Our Martinis have olives. Our Margaritas have salt on the rim and floaters of Grand Marnier. Our Chardonnays and Pinot Grigios are perfectly chilled. Our Tecates have fresh lime wedges. I bring a few wine glasses from home because I don’t think wine from a plastic cup tastes as good. However, I bring just white wine glasses… my red wine glasses are too bulky don’t pack well. I can rough it for a few days while camping. (That’s a joke, btw.)
Conner holding my wine for me while I took pictures. (These kids live in their swim trunks and rash guards while we’re up there. I swear I don’t know why I even bother to pack any other clothes for them!)
Along with our cocktails, we have appetizers. These are fairly simple: chips and salsa, hummus and crackers, nuts, etc. But it really depends on who is bringing the appetizer for the evening. For example, my mom often uses her homegrown tomatoes and basil and has given us fresh tomato slices, topped with a slice of fresh mozzarella cheese, a fresh basil leaf and drizzled with Balsamic Vinegar. mmmm.
This year she made a smoked salmon dip with cream cheese, red onions and capers. She mixed it up at home before she left, tossed it in the cooler and it was ready to go for cocktail hour when it was her turn to bring the appetizer.
On opening night of camp, we always have Chili. Always. After driving 10 hours and setting up camp, the last thing anyone wants to do is cook. I make a huge batch of chili a few days before we leave on our trip. I freeze it and it becomes part of the “ice” in the cooler on the way up to the campground. By the time we need it, it has thawed a bit. We turn it out of its Ziploc bag and into a stockpot. It simmers during Cocktail Hour and is ready to eat when we are. All we need to do is add our toppings. Easy.
Everyone contributes at meal time. It is custom that each family bring enough of the entree for their immediate family (steak, chicken hamburger meat, etc.) It is all cooked together.
Bless his heart, my dad always takes orders as far as how people want their steak cooked. No matter what you tell him, you’re getting a steak that is medium to medium well. We’re gonna have to put him out to pasture on steak night for next year. Gonna have to pass the baton to a new cook. Or perhaps he just doesn’t get a second Martini until after he cooks the steaks…?
Handsome Hubby making cheese bread for Steak Night. (Please note that he is enjoying his Margarita while he works.)
This is a simple one: Slice a loaf of French bread lengthwise. Sprinkle both sides of the cut loaf with garlic salt, Italian seasoning blend and some fresh cracked pepper. (Yes, we bring a small pepper grinder – but it’s combined with the salt shaker, so shush.)Then drizzle both sides with olive oil. HH says he uses a (clean!) finger to “squee-gee” the oil into the bread. Layer sliced pepper jack cheese and reassemble into a loaf. Wrap loaf in foil, put over very low coals until the cheese is all melty and good and the crust is crispy. Cut into slices.
Chicken night. Everyone’s chicken gets marinated in fresh lemons and their juice, with cracked pepper. It is simple and delicious.
Later, leftovers from steak and chicken night are cut into strips and steamed together with some salsa. They are reincarnated as fajitas.
Fajita Night last year. This is usually the last night in camp. A great way to eat up leftovers.
Burger night is a favorite too. I realized that I only took a picture of Michael’s burger and that kid doesn’t know how to eat. (We’re working on that when he comes for dinner…) This is a pretty naked burger. This is wrong.
He didn’t even put ketchup on the burger, let alone get one of the good whole wheat burger buns…
In addition to all the different condiments, toppings have also included: roasted red peppers, grilled portobello slices, avocado, grilled onions, sauteed mushrooms and blue cheese crumbles. A few years ago on Burger Night, my Aunt Mary Kay was about halfway through her burger when she suddenly exclaimed, “Oh my gosh! I forgot to get a burger!” She had so many toppings between the buns and it tasted so good that she didn’t even notice there was no patty.
We usually camp for a full week. Our stay was the shortest we have had in a long time. Had we stayed longer, the menu would have also included Linguine with White Clam Sauce (as well as a basic red sauce for those kiddos), Idaho Delights (little foil-wrapped packets of steak and potato deliciousness, roasted over the coals) and Fry Night (which Handsome Hubby nicknamed “Cement Night” last year and we have realized that we should balance the fried foods with some fresh foods) This year it would have been Fish Tacos with a Chipotle Coleslaw.
With a little prep work done at home before you go, you can cook anything while camping. HH loves his Dutch Oven. This year he did roasted Parmesan potatoes (the leftovers made delicious hash browns the next morning).
What goes well with apple pie? Why ice cream, of course. We have a little ice cream maker that works by rolling it. The kids are responsible for the actual making of the ice cream.It takes about half an hour….
Of course we do the traditional roasting of marshmallows and s’mores. (Although this year, I used a thick fudge sauce and spread a little on the graham crackers instead of the thick, cold piece of the Hershey bar.) It tasted great and was easier to eat.
We also tried roasting Starbursts after I read about it on This Is The Year. Xazmin tried it and said although it’s counter intuitive, it is fantastic.
She was absolutely right and the kids loved it.