FOR “FOREST FOODIES”
photos by Ashlee Glen
What’s on the menu when you go camping? Are you content with a bucket of cold KFC for breakfast, lunch and dinner? Or do you prefer vacuum-packed, dehydrated veggies for an ultra-light soup? I’ve tried both extremes and honestly, the best option in my view is somewhere in-between. I like to make REAL nutritious food but without fussy recipes, perishable ingredients or a need for too much equipment.
Here are some of my favorites that you can try next time the woods are calling and you must go, whether it’s over a backyard campfire or on a backwoods trail.
Nachos roasted over an open fire are simply delicious! They turn super crispy and take on a smoky, wonderful flavor that can’t be beat.
This dish is geared more toward the “backyard camper” than the thru-hiker because you’ll need a cast iron skillet. Plus, nacho chips tend to turn into nacho crumbs in a backpack, right?
The key to success is to wait until your campfire has died down enough that it will not burn the chips before the cheese has melted. If you do that, you’ll be amazed how special this surprising campfire treat can be!
Cast iron skillet
Corn chips, about half a bag
1 1/2 cups cheese, grated
(cheddar or Monterey Jack is safe up
to 12 hours without refrigeration)
1 tomato, diced
1/2 cup black olives
(Kalamata tastes best), sliced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup spring onions, sliced thin
1 jalapeño, diced (optional)
Sour cream, for serving
(optional; requires refrigeration)
After your campfire has started dying down (embers only), position two flat stones on opposite sides of the fire so the skillet (or grate, if using) can balance over the embers. Prep the nachos by adding half of the chips to the skillet and sprinkle over 1/3 of the cheese. Avoid cheese falling to the bottom because it tends to burn. Add the second layer of chips and sprinkle tomato, olives, onions and cheese and cover with aluminum foil.
Cook over fire for about 10 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Keep checking under the foil because temperature is unpredictable! Serve with a few dollops of sour cream and plenty of cilantro!
Penne Alla Backwoods
This is our go-to meal for longer hikes because it’s tasty, filling and fast! It’s also reasonably lightweight and portable. The key to bringing prepared pasta sauce is to transfer it to a leak/crush-proof plastic container. Most camping stores sell Nalgene food jars and they are great. The jars only cost a couple of dollars and last forever.
For two hungry hikers:
Penne Rigate, three servings Water, in bottle or filtered from stream Alfredo sauce, one jar. My favorite brand is Newman’s Own. Fresh parsley, chopped or torn Salt/pepper, to taste
Well, there’s not much needed in terms of instructions for this meal! Set up your camp stove, boil the pasta and drain off the water. Add the sauce, sprinkle with parsley, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve! By the way, bringing fresh parsley and fresh ground pepper with you is easy and totally worth it.
Bring a glass of wine to make this meal even more special! Most grocery stores sell very packable “juice-box” wines, and some are surprisingly good!
Few foods fill up and sustain like oatmeal. This recipe is a great option for hiking since it doesn’t require you to fire up your stove like regular oatmeal, but will fuel you for a long day of hiking. Just be sure to soak the oats in water, rather than dairy, to avoid any health concerns. Adding some peanut butter creates the same creaminess!
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup water
1/2 cup berries, dried fruits and/or seeds
Salt, a pinch
Peanut butter, one single serve container
Mix all dry ingredients and water in a container that can be sealed tight enough to keep bugs out and leave overnight. Next morning, stir in fresh berries and peanut butter, if using it.
Trail Mix Balls
Trail mix (or granola bars!) is fantastic pocket-fuel for the journey, and it could not be easier to make. Mix some raisins, nuts and chocolate chips in a bag, and you have the carbs and fat you need on the trail.
This recipe for trail mix balls ups the ante a couple of notches, with fancier ingredients and upgraded presentation. Great for the “backyard camp” or paid campsite, but perhaps not ideal for the overnight hiker since they get sticky after a while.
1 cup rolled oats, old fashioned
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup honey
A pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
For rolling: sesame seeds, cocoa
Mix-ins of your choice
(should total 1 cup):
1/2 cup of seeds, such as flax, chia, pumpkin, sesame
1/2 cup of dried fruits, such as raisins, cranberries, dates, apricots or mangos
Make ahead and mix all core ingredients, plus any mix-ins, in a food processor for about 30 seconds, then scoop and shape. Roll each with the sesame seed or cocoa coating—or, if you prefer, dip them in chocolate! These Trail Mix Balls stay good for two weeks if stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You can even freeze them for up to 3 months so they are ready when you go for that camping excursion.
Baked Bananas with Chocolate
This was a favorite hiking dessert among me and my scout friends when growing up in Sweden. The name, “Baklad,” comes from combining the names of the two ingredients; banana and chocolate. It’s the perfect dessert after your camp dinner and essentially makes itself.
How’s this for easy:
1/2 cup chocolate chips (chips are less likely to melt during transport)
Aluminum foil, for roasting over the fire
With a knife, slit the “inner curve” of a banana from top to bottom, about 3/4-inch deep. Push as many chocolate chips into the slit as you can. Wrap in foil and place in the outer edge of the burning-out fire. Bake until very soft, up to 30 minutes if your fire has died down a lot, and eat with a spoon!