Friday, July 9, 2010

A Can of Beans and an Onion Walk Into a Bar...

Seth: (Walks into the room and reads the title of this post) What's this post going to be about? Smelly stuff?
Me: Nope
Seth: Flatulence?
Me: Nope
Seth: Beans and Onions?

Well sorta. Camping season is among us folks and what's the hardest thing about camping? Planning out all the damn food. It's a pain in the butt and I know because I'm the one who does that sort of thing around here. Seth does the packing of the car and I do the menu. That's just how it is because it divides up tasks according to our respective talents and abilities.

Now planning a regular weekly menu is hard enough, but when you throw in the camping element, it's a whole different ball game. You gotta worry about stuff getting smashed, keeping things cool, eliminating tedious prep, making something fast and easy that your family will actually like. All of your typical tried and true recipes get thrown out the window and you're standing there clueless, frustrated, and stressed out.

Lucky for you I do a lot of camping. Over the years I've tweaked and sampled and experimented and now you get to reap all the benefits. Today you get to learn all of my camping food secrets to success.

Tip #1: Use tortillas instead of bread.

How many times have I packed a loaf of bread for sandwiches and it gets smashed? Every single time I've done it. It doesn't matter if it's packed into a food box or surrounded by a force field of magic. Not only that, but anytime you whip out a loaf of bread in a dry outdoor environment, it spontaneously turns into slices of  stale parched yuckiness. Who wants to eat that?

On the other hand, tortillas are already smashed. They don't dry out. They don't need to be refrigerated and they're great for lunches on the go. Plus there are some great recipes for wraps out there that'll make you feel like you're eating a gourmet meal in the time it would have taken you to make a couple smashed PB&J sandwiches. And there'll be no whining from the kids about the dry crust.

Tip #2: Pre-packaged shortcuts

When I cook at home I rarely buy ready-to-use pre-prepped ingredients (think chopped onions, veggies, pre-cooked meat, etc.). These things just aren't very cost effective to buy on a regular basis and generally don't taste as good. However, when you're camping, they're a real time saver. Some of my favorite things to buy are chopped onions (found in the produce section in a neat little container), shoe string or sliced carrots, pre-cooked grilled sliced chicken breast, shredded cheese, guacamole, and the list goes on. Definitely worth the extra money to save some time and add a whole lot of convenience when the family is starved. Plus when you're already stressed out trying to get everything ready for a trip, the last thing you want to do is prep work for your meals.

Along these same lines, there are a few easy camp meals and side dishes that I've found work really well for camping. Don't be afraid to let the kids roast hot dogs for dinner or make tin foil dinners. I like to bring things like Lloyd's BBQ Pulled Pork for pulled pork sandwiches. Just heat and eat! Buy premade potato or pasta salads in the deli or just eat potato chips or fresh fruit. I've found single serving pop-top canned fruit also travels well and doesn't require refrigeration. Yogurt is a good option for breakfast. Get creative! Camping is a time to have fun and try new things!

Tip #3: Bring the Right Tools

When you're camping you don't want to bring your whole kitchen with you. It takes up too much room and it's a huge hassle to dig through everything to find what you need. Want to make a recipe that requires measuring stuff? Pre-measure the few ingredients you need and bring them in baggies. Keep sauces or oils in squeeze bottles. All you need are a few key tools and you should be set for any meal you want to make. This is MY list of essential camp kitchen items:

  • Tin Foil (preferably the longer heavy duty kind)
  • Gallon Size Ziplock Bags (to save leftovers and ensure open packages don't get soaked with water in the cooler)
  • Can Opener
  • Small Cutting Board
  • Chef's Knife
  • Saucepan
  • Skillet
  • Tongs
  • Spatula
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Non-Stick Spray
  • Large Mixing Bowl
  • Whisk (usually a plastic fork will suffice)
*My Favorite Camping Meals*

Breakfast Burritos

This is actually an incredibly easy and fast breakfast. Even better than those shake n' pour pancakes because those darn pancakes never seem to cook very evenly on a camp stove. These work best if you've got a large rectangular skillet, but a normal round skillet will work just fine too. Plan for 2 eggs per person and at least 2 sausage links.

  • Burrito Size Tortillas (I like Mission flavored tortillas. Garden Veggie and Tomato Basil are my favorite, but Jalapeno Cheddar is also good).
  • Eggs (you can buy Egg Beaters which come in a resealable container or whole eggs that come in a Styrofoam carton. Do not buy eggs in a cardboard container... it will get soggy and fall apart in your cooler)
  • Pre-cooked Sausage (I like Farmland Premium Pork Sausage Links-Fully Cooked. It actually won the Cooks Illustrated taste test!)
  • Hash browns (Don't get the frozen ones, they won't stay frozen. I like Simply Potatoes. One bag is enough for 6 large burritos)
  • Shredded Cheese
  • Salsa
The hash browns and sausage basically just need to be warmed up, so throw em on a hot skillet sprayed with non-stick spray and cook for about 5 minutes or so. While they're cooking I crack all the eggs into a bowl, add salt and pepper and whisk together. Throw one large tortilla onto each plate and divide the hash browns and sausage equally. Scramble the eggs and put on top of the hash browns and potatoes. Top with shredded cheese and if desired return each filled tortilla back to the skillet for a final warming. I let everyone choose whether or not they want salsa.  

Creamy Guacamole & White Bean Wrap

I know. This sounds like a vegetarian disaster. But I swear you will love it. And it's so incredibly easy to make. Trust me on this one. Oh, and just to give credit, this is my camping version of EatingWell's Creamy Avocado & White Bean Wrap. 

  • 1 bottle spicy ranch dressing (or other southwesterny style dressing)
  • 1 bag coleslaw mix (by the bagged salads in the produce section)
  • 1 bag of shoestring carrots
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro
  • 1 15-ounce can white beans, drained
  • 1 package guacamole (I like Wholly Guacamole brand. Get the snack packs for 1-2 people, regular packs for families)
  • 8 oz. shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1 small container chopped red onions
  • 1 package burrito size tortillas (try the Mission Garden Veggie kind)
I mainly just put as much of this stuff on each wrap as I wanted. One can of beans makes 3 good sized wraps. You'll have a ton of all the other stuff left over. This isn't really an exact science, so just get extra of any ingredients you'll need more of for more people (probably just the guacamole and beans).

Buffalo Chicken Wrap

  • 1 package burrito size tortillas (try Mission's Tomato Basil)
  • 1 package crumbled Blue Cheese
  • 1 bottle Buffalo Wing sauce (in ketchup isle)
  • celery (1 large stick for 2 wraps)
  • 1 package coleslaw mix (salad area of produce section)
  • 1 package Tyson Grilled & Ready Chicken Breast Strips (any flavor) (1 package= 2 wraps)
 Once again just divvy the ingredients out onto each wrap as desired. 1 4 oz. package of blue cheese crumbles is enough for about 6 wraps. Make sure you look at the hotness level of your buffalo wing sauce, especially if you have kids. Also, I don't worry about chopping up the celery, just break it into smaller pieces with your hands.

For more great recipe ideas, check out and They both have a ton of different wrap recipes. Don't be afraid to tweak them to your liking and/or substitute ingredients. Also, don't feel like you have to come up with something different for every single meal. Chances are you'll only be camping for a couple days. Nobody is going to die if you eat the same thing for lunch each day. Especially if it's something delicious.

I hope you can use some of these tips for your camping trips this year. Let me know how they work out for you. And feel free to share any of your own cooking tips for camping!


Seth said...

Yeah... Karen seriously worked camp cooking miracles on our most recent trip. I loved the wraps -even the 'vegetarian disaster' ones- and the breakfast burritoes were just as good as the ones we have at home - possibly even better. What more can I say about my awesome wife? I always feel so spoiled to get to eat such excellent meals all the time and she doesn't miss a beat when we take our show into the great outdoors.

It's Me said...

I like all your tips. I love breakfast burritos. I haven't had them in a while. I might have to whip some up tomorrow morning. Did you know that Costco sells dehydrated hashbrowns. They come in a pack of six (in boxes that look like pint size milk cartons)You add hot water to the carton and let it stand for 10 minutes then just heat on the skillet. They taste just like regular hashbrowns. Each pint size carton makes 3 cups. The wraps sound good too. Maybe I'll try some tonight for dinner and see how they go.

So have you planned your meals for the family reunion?

Karen said...

Of course I've got my meals planned. Had them done a couple months ago. Ha! Just kidding. Of course I don't have them planned yet, I still have a couple weeks! I call dibs on Breakfast Burritos!

Collette said...

This will be VERY helpful...thanks, Karen!

Collette said...

P.S. I love wraps and burritos.