Camping recipes for a lazy mom?
June 25, 2011 12:54 PM   Subscribe

I am heading camping with about 10 people next week up in Vermont. I need help.

I'm in charge of this trip and have to figure out what to bring for food. There Is an outlet in the cabin but no supplies, fridge, etc.
I'm trying to figure out meals that require no pots and pans, etc and no serious refrigeration. We will have a cooler but I don't exactly trust a cooler with chicken, etc.
We will be with fifteen minutes of a store and am willing to head there for supplies but am still trying to avoid meals that require lots of utensils and cleaning up after. We'll only be cooking on the fire.
One meal I have planned is grilled steaks and grilling in foil trader joes teeny tiny potaoes(to avoid chopping,etc).

For breakfast I am thinking of bringing a toaster so we can have bagels, waffles and pop tarts.

This seems like a tall order but any ideas for meals that need little refrigeration and need no pans, etc?

Any ideas are welcome!

Also.. Bonus question. We'll be at button bay state park in Vt. Any must see things within an hour for two parents, five kids(3 to 10) and 2 grandparents?
posted by beccaj to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches should definitely be included unless you've got someone with nut allergies. Baked potatoes and corn on the cob are good for roasting in foil and they shouldn't need refrigeration. Fruits are good. Block cheese will last without refrigeration and can be combined with crackers or bread for a meal.

Also, if you pack a cooler with blue ice and meat that's frozen solid you should be able to count on having unspoiled carnivorous grilled meals for the first 3 days - or more if you're willing to go into town on the 3rd day and get a couple bags of ice.
posted by Quizicalcoatl at 1:33 PM on June 25, 2011

Best answer: Seconding Quizicalcoatal. Also, even though you said no pans, I would bring a cheap Griddle plate for over the grill/campfire-- Bisquick makes bottled pancake powder that you just pour water into and shake before pouring on griddle. You can save unused mix in your cooler for the next day. Also, buy some pre-cooked bacon- doesn't need to be refrigerated until the package seal is broken (You can heat that up right on the griddle plate, too).
posted by KingEdRa at 1:42 PM on June 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

No pots and pans? Why?

Is this a money issue?

If I was doing this trip, (car camping it sounds like?) I'd be bringing a propane stove, pans, etc, and a dutch oven (to name just a few things).

How long is this trip?
posted by Jahaza at 1:49 PM on June 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

When I went camping as a kid we always did "Hobo Dinners" for the first night. They were basically ground beef, chopped onions and potatoes wrapped up in foil. There are lots of recipes online with different variations. We'd prepare them at home and bring them with us in the cooler. Then as soon as we got to the campsite we'd build a fire and put the hobo dinners in the coals. They took a few hours to cook, by the time we had camp all set up and fire wood gathered they were usually done. We'd add ketchup to ours after they were cooked. You do need a plate and fork for those though.

When I go camping with my kids now we almost exclusively eat hot dogs and bratwurst, at least for lunch. We have roasting sticks and let the kids roast their own. Our three year old usually runs out of patience and lets Mom finish his, but the older kids love it. Add in potato chips and sliced veggies and you've got a whole meal. My kids are happy to have this for lunch every single day.
posted by TooFewShoes at 1:52 PM on June 25, 2011

If you're already going to Trader Joe's for mini-potatoes, stock up on trail mix(es) pita bread, naan,
hummus, baba-ganoush and tzatziki (sp?), cheery tomatoes, cucumbers, smoked salmon. Canned black beans and pintos, tortilla chips and salsa not to mention refried beans can be assembled into platters that have been known to keep Magic/Pokemon/Scrabble games fueled for hours.

All of the above will keep well and turn into whole meals before you know it.

In my experience, camping-eating is a grazing affair, unless you want to pull out the stops for those big banquet style barbecue dinners--you mentioned steak.

One other suggestion: before you leave, make a big pot or casserole of something--chili, lasagna--that everyone likes, so your first evening you have nothing to do. And salad, for the first night. After that, forget trying to keep lettuce alive and well. Bon voyage!!
posted by emhutchinson at 1:54 PM on June 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, I almost forgot. Freeze as many water bottles as you can before you go. Forget blue ice. They will be consumed and will keep meat and chicken fresh in a cooler. Trust me on this one.
posted by emhutchinson at 1:55 PM on June 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Why no pots and pans? (we'll be there a week)
Two issues. Time and space. I have to pack a minivan with 5 kids and equipment. We have a tent, camp chairs, screen tent, water toys, arts and crafts, food, clothes, 2 coolers, sleeping bags, towels, etc. We will be filled to the brim. I hated to think of stove, utensils, adding to the chaos. I used to bring things like a cherry pitter for cherries jubilee on my car trips since I love food and preparing meals but when your kids would rather a poptart than a frittata you kinda go with the flow.
We will be there for about a week but will probably have a few dinners, a couple breakfasts and a couple lunches away from the campground. Cooking for that many people is time consuming. I really want to spend my time with the kids instead of preparing and then cleaning up after meals.
It was one thing before kids but just getting all kids washed up, dressed, sunscreened, bug sprayed, and teeth brushed is time consuming. I just don't want to spend my time away at a spigot washing pots and utensils while the kids are catching fireflies.
posted by beccaj at 2:16 PM on June 25, 2011

Last time I went backpacking, we brought premixed tuna salad pouches (do not need to be kept cold), crackers, dried fruit, granola bars and those mostly cooked rice pouches that only need 90 secs in the microwave. We ate the rice cold out of the pouch but you could probably heat it over the fire in a pan with a little extra water.
posted by rachums at 2:35 PM on June 25, 2011

What about coffee? ya gotta boil water in something. So that gives you one saucepan. Now your options open up...hard boiled eggs...boiled , well boiled anything. There are myriad paper cups, paper plates and bowls that can be used, and the kids love to toss them in the fire afterwards. so now you got Mac and cheese possibilities...mac and cheese and hotdogs Yay! I love camping.
posted by Gungho at 2:39 PM on June 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Freeze things in bags (chili, chicken stew) in gallon ziplock bags (doubled) in the cooler for however many nights you want to eat at camp. Bring at least one pot. IMO, there's a huge difference between leaving home the cherry pitter and leaving home an essential tool like a saucepan. If your food is mostly packaged (by you), you can just reheat over the fire and there will be little cleanup. Grab a box of instant brown rice and egg noodles. If there's a store 15 minutes away you should be fine. The next step up is to bring a Dutch oven (there are many whole cookbooks devoted to camp cooking with this thing); I would consider a saucepan to be the bare minimum.
posted by theredpen at 3:04 PM on June 25, 2011

Best answer: In addition to the great suggestions above, don't forget s'mores! And trail mix! And hotdogs/sausages on a stick. Shish kebabs are fun, too, maybe on one of the "market" days when you have new/fresh chicken or beef, or you can try pre-cooked frozen shrimp and let it thaw in your cooler. Salami or other hard sausages to go with your cheese. Bags of pre-cooked edamame (you can buy it frozen) and good salt. Non-mayo-based pasta or noodle or bean salad can be made ahead of time and is great at room temperature, or you can just bring a bunch of cans of different beans/corn plus some limes and herbs and throw it all together there. In addition to PB&J, maybe some "gourmet" sandwich fixings (pesto, prosciutto, goat cheese, what have you) to keep things interesting for the grown-ups. Bags of baby carrots or other ready-to-eat veggies. Olives. If you're brave, Jiffy Pop!
posted by mauvest at 3:14 PM on June 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Have you ever gone the shake-and-pour pancake mix route? Our kids loved that last summer when we camped, it could make a quick dinner in a pinch (we use our trusty cast iron skillet right over the campfire). Cook bacon or sausage on a stick over the fire and serve some fresh fruit. Our #1 camping breakfast is a slice of homemade banana bread and some instant hot cocoa.

For main meals, consider baked potatoes (wrap in foil and put in the fire pit), corn on the cob (pull the ears back, pull off the silk, wrap the ears back up, soak in water, then grill), and canned veggie soup to have with sandwiches. I second the suggestion to at least take a saucepan, or maybe an electric hotpot for boiling water. It often gets chilly at night, and we always appreciate having hot cocoa in the morning. And if you have a rainy day or spend the day in the water, it's easy to get chilled.
posted by hms71 at 7:34 PM on June 25, 2011

Seconding a pot, but for oatmeal! Working at an outdoor camp taught me to dearly love plain, slow-cooked oatmeal.
posted by smirkette at 8:40 PM on June 25, 2011

I hated to think of stove, utensils, adding to the chaos.

You're bringing all that stuff already, so why not? I would at least throw a cast-iron skillet into the mix, because otherwise you're eating cold stuff or grilled stuff, and that gets monotonous. The skillet gives you pancakes, bacon, skillet biscuits, chili, etc. If you cook, make the deal that someone else cleans us.

One of my favorite outdoor meals is kebabs - marinate chunks of boneless chicken in a Ziploc in your favorite marinade, then bring cherry tomatoes, green and red peppers, red onions, button mushrooms, and maybe zucchini and summer squash, and some wooden skewers. Skewer everything up and grill away. Delicious and super simple.

Chicken will be fine in an icy cooler for several days at least.
posted by Miko at 9:53 PM on June 25, 2011

Consider taking some couscous with you. It's basically pasta, so even picky-eating kids will generally eat it, but you don't have to cook it, really. Take a ziplock baggie, put in a cup of couscous, just over a cup of water, and half a chicken bouillon cube, plus whatever spices compliment the rest of the meal. Leave it alone for thirty minutes, then use a fork to fluff the couscous up. It's best if you can toss a little oil on it at this point, but it's not necessary. Dead easy, takes two minutes of active time, and works with everything. Bonus: Couscous can be purchased from many bulk food stores for a buck or two a pound, so it's a pretty cost-effective way to feed people.

Possible variations on this:
  • Couscous with roasted veggies--tinfoil packets of veg+oil in the coals; when they're done, dump them atop the couscous and eat. A red pepper/zucchini/onion/garlic/mushroom combo is popular here--we rub them with olive oil and fresh thyme first, usually.
  • Breakfast couscous--skip the chicken cube and use part water, part juice to make the pasta, making it a bit soupier than usual. Toss in some raisins and cinnamon sugar, then consume.
  • Couscous stuffed apples--make couscous, core apples. Put a pat of butter, couscous, sugar, and cinnamon (or chocolate, if you have it) into the hollowed-out apple. Wrap in tinfoil, bake until apples are soft. (You can also do this with granola instead of couscous. Two meals for the price of one!)
  • Curried couscous--make couscous a bit soupier than usual, and include about 1Tbsp of your favorite curry powder per two cups of couscous. Toss in a handful of raisins and a handful of sliced almonds. Works as a side for many meats.
  • Couscous, black beans (from a tin), corn (from a tin), and green onions can be dressed with olive oil and lime juice for a salad.
  • More for adults than kids, but couscous, capers, chopped artichoke hearts, baby tomatoes, and some shredded hard cheese is a lunch staple for me.
What about things like stuffed veggies? Stuffed peppers or zucchini is easy enough--chop off the top of peppers (or hollow out a zucchini), then throw in bread crumbs, beans, corn, some canned tomatoes, and cheese. Wrap in foil and bake until soft. If your lot eats soy products, you could add either crumbled tofu or reconstituted TVP to this. Stuffed tomatoes would work, as well--I'm told that they're very tasty filled with tuna, corn, and cheese.

Burritos work well for things like this--can of either beans or refried beans, whatever veggies you have around, maybe some corn (either in a can or cut off the cob), plus some cheese, which will keep just fine for a week in the cooler, so long as you keep the cooler out of the sun. If people want hot burritos you can wrap them in foil and put them by the edge of the fire for a bit.

Re: Biscuits: You can actually cheat with these if you don't want to take a pan--make the dough (or pop open the can, depending on your inclination), roll it into a rope, and then wrap the dough around the end of a stick. Hold it to the fire like you'd roast a hot dog, and tada, biscuits. You can make pigs in blankets in a similar manner--put hot dogs on sticks, wrap hot dogs in biscuit dough (or, even better, put hot dogs on sticks, put a piece of cheese on the hot dog, wrap hot dog and cheese in biscuit dough), then hold over the fire until the biscuit's cooked.

Muesli might work for you, too--equal parts oats and water, left to sit for an hour or so. (You can do it overnight in a ziplock in the cooler, if that's easier.) When it's time to eat, top the oats with yoghurt (which, btw, will keep just fine in a cooler for several days) or a bit of canned coconut milk, plus some fresh fruit.

I'd like to second Miko's suggestion of kebabs, as well, but also to add that they'll work with pretty much *any* meat or vegetable. Even ground beef/lamb/chicken can be shaped around a stick and held over a fire to cook it. Also, cooking the meat and the vegetables on separate skewers will make it a lot easier to cook things effectively, getting the meat cooked without charring the veg.

Sounds like a fun trip--good luck!
posted by MeghanC at 10:32 PM on June 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: We went camping a lot when I was a kid, for many extended trips. My parents had a camping stove and my mom did usually bring her cast iron skillet and one sauce pan, and also a grill rack and foil that she could put right over the fire (propped up with rocks). That opened up a lot of options for us of course, but she didn't cook every meal while we were camping because like you she wanted to be lazy sometimes, avoid cleanup, etc.

So we usually had cold cut sandwiches for lunch. Cold cuts will keep just fine in a cooler packed with ice as will mayo, and since you're 15 minutes away from a store you'll have no trouble getting more ice if you need it. My mom would usually make breakfast one or two days, but the rest of the time we would have pop tarts, cinnamon rolls or donuts from the store, or cereal. Milk will also be fine in the cooler or whichever adult gets up first can run to the store and get it. My mom also kept OJ in the cooler for breakfast.

Also snacks. As someone stated above, grazing is the way to go on a camping trip. My mom would prepare a ton of trail mix before we left that she would put in a giant green tupperware bowl with a cover to take along. Also chips, salsa, bags of apples and oranges, crackers, veggies and dip, etc. You'll find that if kids have plenty of stuff like this to graze on, they'll require less hefty and complicated meals.

Plan on a couple of "treats". S'mores of course but there's also banana boats.

Foil packet cooking is great if you want to avoid pots and pans and the variations are endless. You could prechop some veggies at home and take them along in ziploc bags (mushrooms, green peppers, onions, squash, zucchini, potatoes, etc. You could even pre season them with some spice blends or whatever. Both beef and chicken should be just fine in a cooler well stocked with ice and kept indoors/in the shade, but if you're nervous about it, you can always get whatever meat you want for dinner each day at the store. Then just put them together in some foil and place over the fire or in the coals. You could prepare a large pasta salad at home and take that along in the cooler of course. Or you could just boil enough pasta for a week's worth of pasta salad, along with whatever else you like in your pasta salad (canned olives, hard boiled eggs, chopped celery, etc.) and pack it separately in the cooler, that way it'd take up less space than a completed pasta salad in a bowl. Then you could take or buy a container of mayo and make as much pasta salad as you needed for that day's dinner. Also green salad is good. The bagged salads would fit well in a cooler and non creamy types of salad dressings don't really need refrigeration, so just bring a bottle of italian dressing (also good for marinating meat and veggies).

Another thing that can help with clean up is to make each child a "mess kit" of their very own that they are responsible for. Get them a little mesh bag and put in it a plastic plate, cup, bowl, and utensils. Kids love that kind of thing and it won't be hard to convince them that they need to keep their own meal gear clean and together, and it saves you a little work.
posted by katyggls at 12:09 PM on June 26, 2011

« Older Help me help my son cope with frequent transitions...   |   Pack my socks, in what? What luggage to buy? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.