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Camping Gourmet: Dining Al Fresco

Dsc_0285_2 When I spotted the Lauro Kitchen’s recipe for Mussels in Cataplana in FoodDay this summer, I knew it had all of the ingredients for the perfect camping meal.  I clipped out the recipe hoping to use it on our second camping expedition this summer, but it wasn’t in the cards.  Meal prep for camping doesn’t require all that much preparation, but I wasn’t organized enough to create the meal on the fly.  We settled for salmon and pork chops instead.

Fast forward to this past weekend, and I seized the opportunity to test it out.  The night before our trip to Nehalem Bay, I cooked up the chorizo and veggies to make the sauce hoping that letting it sit overnight would give the flavors some time meld together.  That, and the fact that assembly at dinner time would be much easier.  At camp the next evening, I layered the sauce and some steamer clams in an aluminum pan, wrapped it in more foil and placed it over our fire.  We used steamer clams since it was the only thing available on the coast.  The result?  We paired it with a loaf of bread, a salad and some wine, and were amazed at how delicious and ridiculously easy it was to cook over the campfire.

Who cares that your tent is full of dirt and sand, or that the kids are covered in from head to toe in the great outdoors?  Eating and drinking under a canopy of trees in the fresh air cannot be beat, and when you’re eating well, it makes camping that much better.  The next evening JJ and I used our spare aluminum pan for sausages, peppers and onions.  We chopped up two packages of mango chicken sausage from Trader Joes, a couple of bell peppers, and a medium sized onion.  We wrapped it in more foil, and cooked it over the grill until the onions and peppers reduced down nicely.  Voila!  We had a second incredible meal that took little effort.

I’m sure there are many camping gourmets out there.  We want to know what are some of your favorite camping recipes?  Any meals that are sure to please and impress fellow campers? Anyone with a homey stew recipe that will sure to warm our bellies on our next camping trip?


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Not exactly gourmet, but we make chili and freeze it in tupperware. Then we toss the solid block of chili in the cooler and it keeps the freezer cool for days - then it thaws and we heat it up and eat. More a freezer trick thana gourmet meal, but I was so self-impressed I had to share.

I didn't grow up camping (because my dad couldn't possibly get TV reception in the wild!) but fortunately I married a good camper man. This summer was our first foray into family camping with our 2 year old and 3 month old boys. Good food is really important in our family so I agonized over what to make and prep on our 11 day trip.

I ended up buying a copy of "Campfire Cuisine" which is a nice little book with good, but fairly simple recipes. For a first time camper, the book has tips about what to bring in your camp kitchen, how to pack the cooler and so forth. http://www.gourmetsgonewild.com/ However, with a little camping experience under your belt, it's fairly easy to single out recipes that work well for camping.

One of my favorite hearty camping recipes is making Ina Garten's Chicken Stew with biscuits. http://www.recipezaar.com/202421 I make the stew in advance and freeze it flat in a gallon ziploc. For the biscuits, I use a recipe in "Campfire Cuisine" for campstove biscuits and prep the dry ingredients in advance and add buttermilk and an egg at the campsite.

I now love camping and agree that nothing is better than dining by a cozy fire under the stars.

My newest conquest and ultimately my family's favourite meals while camping have come from my dutch oven. Apparently it is the latest trend. Tryon creek state park even offers a class:

For recipes and info on how to use a dutch oven, check out these websites or just google 'dutch oven cooking'.

Hi, this has nothing to do with your post. But I am a new subscriber and read some of your past blogs that you use day care. I assume you are a full time working mom, I my self am about to embark on a life as a full time working mom. Any advice on how to juggle an 8-5 job and give the family the attention it needs??

Thank you and I really enjoy this blog.

Am impressed by people's creative efforts. We used to do a lot of backpacking pre-baby and would just pack dried foodstuffs for our meals - lighter and easier that way, when you're simply trying to cover as much ground in the time you've got as possible. Still haven't quite gotten the hang of car camping & not having to think about packing light all the danged time... But an easy salmon hash makes sense for coastal car camping - get yourself a fresh slab o' filet from someplace nearby and saute it up w/ potatoes, peppers & onions (do the vegies 1st; the salmon will saute very quickly & can go in last); season w/ some hot sauce. It's filling and quick.

So appropriate! We just returned from our first camping trip as a family. I grew up camping but my husband did not so we took a short trip to a state park and stayed in a yurt with our 4yr-old and 10mth-old for a few days. We are now hooked and are planning future trips but were concerned about cooking. Your suggestions are great and may I add that the library has cookbooks like "The leave-no-crumbs camping cookbook" that I will be testing. Hint: search camping and cookery in the catalog -- cookery is the subject heading for cookbooks. -- Your friendly librarian-mama

I love all of the links to camping recipes! Thanks so much for sharing. My husband just came back from a camping trip and was gushing over tales of making pizza and huckleberry pie.

The running joke for our camping excursions with other families is that what isn't eaten for dinner will show up in your scrambled eggs. We've done scrambled eggs with salmon, ribeye, and pork chops (not all three at once though).

Dining al fresco, better known as "out in the fresh air," has been standard operating procedure on much of the planet since the days when al fresco was the only ambiance available. In more recent centuries, of course, Europeans have elevated al fresco dining to an art form with their oh-so-chic sidewalk cafes.

Fortunately, this pleasant practice is at last catching on in America, and we've finally discovered the joys of outdoor dining without its labor-intensive companion, the barbecue. We've found out it's fun and refreshing to just have a bite or a meal in the sun-or-star shine. And that we needn't travel to France - or to a restaurant - to enjoy the experience. Whether it's morning coffee and croissants on the patio, lunch around the pool or a candlelight dinner on a card table set up in the driveway, most of us have the means to enjoy open-air dining.

The main objective of al fresco is pleasure for everyone concerned and that includes the "chef." For this reason, the menu needs to be a simple and easily moveable feast. A one-dish meal is the best possible choice, keeping one from running in and out of the house a zillion times. Pretty paper tablecloths and plates are a good choice as well, making cleanup as breezy as your surroundings. So don't fuss unless there's a super-special reason.

Breakfast (or brunch) is one of the best times to dine out of doors. Most of the bugs are still asleep, the air is the cleanest it will be all day, and it's just such an invigorating time to be out in the ether. Also, traditional morning dishes with ingredients like egg and cheese are perfect because they hold well and don't have to be served piping hot.

Every cook has a recipe for an egg dish you make the night before, but you'll find two more on these pages, one perfect for breakfast and the other made to order for brunch or lunch.

With all the bad rap eggs have gotten the past few years, these two yummy recipes from the American Egg Board take care to make up for the richness of their product by keeping the other ingredients low in fat.

Jack Harry

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Camping food can be gourmet if you plan ahead and have the right touch. Picnics, barbeques, hiking, camping, and dining al fresco

Angelina Jacob
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It was great to hear that recipe from you even I would like to try it in our next camping session.
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Salmon and pork chops, that is some fancy fare for dining. Not the typical camping grub but yummy nevertheless. Some wine would go real good with that.

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