Tools, Tips & Tricks :

Camping tips: How to cook DELICIOUS ‘home made” meals when you’re away from your kitchen and civilization.

I am drooling after reading this post from Sarah on preparing great food while you are camping. She is a girl right after my own heart. I love great food and I love to camp. And I am absolutely going to by a camp oven this year. (Unless, of course, she wants to just come along with my family on our next camp out and bring both her oven and her amazing cooking/baking skills with her. No? Darn. Well, I HAD to try!)

My people have never been the hot-dog-and-burger camp food kind, and that’s not a bad thing—we just kicked up the camp food to a whole new level.  Camping is food for me: the planning of the menu, cooking over the fire, hot coffee on a chilly morning, icy cold blackberry margaritas…all while sitting by the Merced River or relaxing in a hot spring in Mexico.

There are several tricks and tips I’ve learned over the years that make camping easier and more relaxing.

First BIG tip: Prep as much as you can before you leave.  Marinate meats, clean and chop all veggies and salad fixins, pre-mix cocktails (store in large pourable containers), and freeze your meats like chicken and fish so they keep chilled longer in the coolers. Store as much as you can in reusable containers so you don’t create a bunch of trash. Always leave the site like you found it (or better) is how we roll.

Packing tips/tricks: Freeze water bottles and any other liquids you’re bringing, then place these in the coolers to help the ice last longer. Where we go camping in Mexico, we are 30 miles from any stores, so it’s a challenge to keep our food safely cooled for 3-4 days, as the temps get up to 95-100.  AND, those last cold beverages while packing to go home are a MUST. Another trick we learned the hard way is to crack all your eggs before you leave! We travel on a dirt road for 30 miles, and eggs in the shell do not like this road.

Necessary tools: I’ll admit I am a princess camper, so there is no sleeping on the ground for me. I bring nice sheets and down comforters for our queen size, double tall, blow up mattress. Then there is our tent which is grand enough that it has been nicknamed the condo.  The last necessity is my new camp stove/oven (yes I said oven!).This is vital for making fresh muffins in the morning and baking up some cheese stuffed jalapenos wrapped in bacon for appetizers. The biggest hit so far was when I baked up a batch of fresh cookies for the kids while they sat around the campfire; just pre-make your dough and it’s easy peasy.

Let’s face it: even with the best laid plans, camping is hard work. Our regular camping crew consists of 11 people: 6 adults and 5 kids. Making meals for a crew this big takes a lot of teamwork. We assign each family a meal and they’re in charge of bringing all the food and cooking it. To start each day Dean and Nicky spoil us with pounds of fresh cooked bacon, eggs, and pancakes, the perfect meal to keep us going while we hike up to waterfalls in Yosemite or Mexico.

One of our classic family dinner events is Carne Asada Taco Night courtesy of Camp Master Luis. Each trip he busts out a new grill that he has fabricated himself ahead of time, builds a real wood fire (no coals here), and stirs fresh made salsa–with a rock he finds at the site! His cheese stuffed chilies are to die for, as well as his cheesy beef tacos…and don’t get me started on the fantastic selection of salsas he and his beautiful wife Aida make to accompany all the amazing food they throw down for the whole gang to enjoy.

The kids in our camping group love my baby back ribs, so to please the crowd I usually have these on my list of meals for each trip. I slow bake the ribs at 200 degrees for 4-5 hours, cool and wrap each rack in foil, store in a zip loc bag, refrigerate until ready to roll. I serve this with corn on the cob: butter each cob with softened butter, season with salt & pepper and wrap in foil individually and place them in big zip loc bags. I would serve this with a green salad (make salad ahead of time, keep dressing separate until ready to serve) or baked potatoes (pre-bake at home in microwave or oven until done, and be sure to completely cool the potatoes before you wrap them in foil and refrigerate). All of the items can finish cooking over the fire rather quickly. Potatoes can be placed in the hot coals to reheat, ribs and corn on the grill. Slather the ribs with your favorite BBQ sauce as they are grilling over the fire…they won’t need a lot of time to get hot and DELISH!

So make some yummy food and get your family out in the wilderness this summer. Sleep in a tent, cook over a fire, swim in a cold river, you’ll be glad you did. Camping with great food and friends will create lifelong memories for you and the kids.

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