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Easy gourmet campout cooking

Posted: September 7, 2010 2:49 p.m.
Updated: September 8, 2010 4:30 a.m.

Graham with fellow campers

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Are you planning to sneak off for one last camping or backwoods-hiking trip to mark the end of summer?  I know I look forward to hanging with family, friends and new flavors during our annual camping trip to Rock Creek. The group campsite has to be reserved one year in advance.

Some years, we cram tents and trailers to accommodate 25 campers and a pack of dogs, while other years quiet down to 10 people and three dogs. No matter how many campers attend, the schedule is simple: fish, hike, eat and hang out at the crackling campfire. The routine is relaxed and flexible — the key to any great vacation.

Our camping culinary adventure is planned just a week before we leave. We exchange calls to decide which family will provide what group dinner. Inevitability, we end up with an international menu with one family choosing tacos while another picks spaghetti.

For the rest of the meals, we keep it casual. Campers can bring a dish to the group breakfast table or stay out and fish.

After making group dinner plans, we stop menu planning  and just buy basics at the largest grocery store near the campsite. Each year, I try to record a tips list with what to bring or buy. With just a little preparation, your campout cooking can be filled with fun and enjoyable adventures.

If travel isn’t on your calendar, why not enjoy a camping staycation in the comforts of your backyard!

No matter where you camp, these tasty campout cooking recipe ideas and tips will come in handy.

Simple, yet showy
A hardy breakfast is a must when camping! The crackle of sizzling bacon and the smell of vanilla nutmeg pancakes is always a campout breakfast menu hit. Here’s a unique and simple way to start the day!

Scrambled eggs stuffed in chiles with sweet potato hash
Stuff scrambled eggs into green chiles, top with hash brown sweet potatoes, and serve on a bed of seasoned black beans. Sprinkle with cheese, cilantro, and sweet red pepper, and dollop with plain yogurt. Easy enough.

Okay, maybe the sweet potato hash browns are more of a mystery. Start the hash browns 10 minutes before scrambling eggs by grating peeled two to three sweet potatoes into a few tablespoons of hot oil in a large frying pan, season with salt, and fry until toasty.

French toast with caramelized maple apples
For another simple breakfast, sauté sliced apples in a little butter, add three tablespoons of maple syrup, and heat for two minutes.

Add a half cup of apple juice, season with cinnamon and nutmeg, and cook until apples are soft. Serve atop French toast and dollop with a spoonful of vanilla yogurt.

A Merry tip: Start the apples 15 minutes before the French toast.

Delicious delegating
When another family is making the main dish, I have fun creating appetizers.

 Cooking with local products is dear to my heart, so the sight of a trout dangling on my fishing line inspires the culinary genius within me to scream, “Make mock crab cakes.” 

Here is the basic recipe. Feel free to add a few twists of your own.

Trout cakes
You will need three cups cooked trout. Simmer trout in a frying pan. Remove fish bones and skin, and flake into a medium bowl. Add to trout two teaspoons lemon pepper, one tablespoon onion, two tablespoons chopped celery, ½-teaspoon salt, one teaspoon lemon zest. taste and adjust seasoning.

Stir one egg into fish mixture, and form in patties.

Combine a half cup cornmeal, three tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, and one teaspoon salt-free herb seasoning in a separate bowl and set aside.

Press trout cakes in cornmeal mixture, turning to coat evenly, and fry in hot oil until golden brown on both sides.

A Merry Tip: Simmer and de-bone any extra fish the night before to save time!

Roasted potatoes
So easy in the fire pit, simply peel and wedge-cut potatoes, wrap in foil with a little oil and seasoning and bake until soft.

Our potato spears were done in 20 minutes over a very hot fire.

Ham and onion hash
With leftover potatoes in hand, I announced that evening, “I’m making ham and potato hash in the morning, Bring your own eggs.” Can you imagine frying and scrambling eggs-to-order for 25? Ugh.

By a simple act of delegation, we had a wonderful potato and ham hash with perfect eggs.

To make hash, sauté diced onions, cooked diced potatoes and ham in a few tablespoons of oil until nice and crispy, then season with salt and pepper.

A Merry tip: Pack a hunk of ham just in case you have extra potatoes!

Traditionally tasty
Confession: I don’t serve hot dogs when I camp. Outdoor cooking has too many other culinary opportunities calling my name.

One tasty dish I’ve been serving for 10 years is chicken and veggies wrapped in foil. Sometimes I add Italian salad dressing, another year it might be a honey mustard marinade.

Chicken & veggie pouch
Choose your marinade. Lay down sheets of foil, add raw chicken chunks, fresh vegetables, and one tablespoon each water and flour along with marinade.

Tightly fold the edges and place over a hot fire.

Turn foil pouches every five minutes and cook for about 20 minutes.

When it comes to cooking while camping, the time it takes is always a guess as altitude and the type of fuel vary so much. 

A Merry tip: Cross your fingers, pray, and take a peak – you will figure it out – or go eat with the neighbors.

Merry Graham is a Newhall resident, fantastic home cook and winner of numerous recipe contests. Vote for her latest recipe in the Cozy Shack “Switch to Cozy Shack” contest at http://switchtokozyshack.com/voteverification.php?id=328.

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