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Home Cooking in the Wild...

I hope this is the correct place to post such a question - here it is: I'll be camping for a few days this summer in a pretty remote location - and I've been tasked with creating a menu for 10-12 people for three days. I'll have access to a fire pit (if we make one) as well as one or (hopefully) two camping stoves.

We'll have to bring everything in and pack everything out when we leave - so I'm envisioning some big coolers for ingredients, etc. I'm flying out there at the last minute so prepping things before hand is sort of tricky (I may have one night to prep stuff). Ok, so the question is, does anyone have any good ideas for some meals I could put together in the middle of nowhere? One thing I've done before while camping is macadamia nut pesto with chicken - it's easy enough to boil water, pan sear sliced chicken, etc.

Do you good people have any other ideas or dishes you have tried while camping that I should take a shot at? Many thanks in advance for your ideas and inspiration!


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  1. If you are actually packing it in and not driving to the campsite, you should look into the freeze dried camping food. It is fairly expensive but a lot lighter than regular food.

    Make sure the stuff you do bring in coolers is special so that it is worth it.

    You could also try to military MRE (meals ready to eat) packages. They can be cooked right in the same packaging they come in.

    If you find that you are able to drive to the campsite or that someone will be bringing pack mules then I recommend bring a camp style dutch oven. These are cast Iron with feet and a sealable lid that you can put coals onto. They also have a bail to hang them off a rod.

    2 Replies
    1. re: tonka11_99

      Hey there Tonka, I was thinking about a dutch oven type of set-up - heavy but could be well worth it in the long run. I don't think folks will go for the MRE route, although if it was just my wife and myself, that would be a good way to go!

      We are packing it in, in a rather unusual way, basically loading all of our gear on a boat, then getting dropped off at a remote beach and swimming (probably about 50-100 feet) into shore and camping mor or less right on the beach. All gear is in dry bags, etc. Coolers just get swum/surfed in to shore.

      So we don't really have to lug things too far... which is good!

      1. re: jeexbit

        Swimming with a 12-15 pound cast iron dutch oven sounds like a shortcut to disaster. But if you are going to be on a lake. Try to plan on or at least bring the fixings for fish that you catch. Unfortunately, you have to have a plan for when you don't catch anything. There is nothing better than a fish fry outdoors especially in the morning.

        Use aluminum foil as much as possible. You can wrap something in foil and bury it in coals. It is easy.

        In fact, when I was a boy scout, we were very fond making a hamburger patty then putting onion, carrots and potatoes on top of it. Wrapping it in 2 layers of foil. In about 30 minutes, it's done.

        Taking a sweet onion and not quite quartering it from the top. Leave a little on the bottom that isn't cooked. put some butter in between the wedges. salt and pepper. If you like you can add some beef bouillon. Wrap in foil and put them in the coals for 45 minutes or so..... evil good.

    2. Are you cooking for friends/family or clients? What style of food is expected?

      1 Reply
      1. re: just_M

        This is a big family gathering - one vegan in the mix, she's great though, very flexible about "picking out things" she doesn't eat. So basically a low-key and fun group, but everyone is really into good food. :)

      2. If you're packing it in, that makes a huge difference. I'd go w/ Tonka's advice. If you're having it carried in (burro, horses, car, etc) that changes the get go.

        When we're camping (truck) it's:

        Breakfast is
        Eggs w/ bacon and fried potatoes
        Eggs and chorizo in tortillas
        Pancakes w/ fresh fruit

        Lunch is
        Sandwiches w/ chips
        Salsa and chips - maybe some refried beans
        Hotdogs and beans

        Dinner is
        Steaks on the grill w/ corn on the cob
        Leftovers from lunch / breakfast
        Stew in one of those cast iron skillets that have the lid on and you can put coals on top

        Of course there's always the roasted marshmallows and I've had apple crisp done in the same pan that I described above. Oh! And chili! And cornbread.

        Most of those can indeed be prepped prior - So let us know how you're packing things in and the CHer's will chime in.

        Now I want to go camping, even in the heat of the desert.

        3 Replies
        1. re: JerryMe

          Thanks Jerry, these are good suggestions - I'm digging it. I really like the idea of piling coals on top of a dutch oven or cast iron skillet w/lid. Good stuff. I've experimented with wrapping stuff in heavy foil before too (mixes of veggies, of course baked potatoes - even stuffed peppers/tomatoes) and just placing it onto hot coals - so that will be a strategy to consider as well. I guess I'm trying to figure out what to cook and *how* to cook for what seems like a pretty large group for a few days.

          But it's going to be a blast, no doubt! Thanks again for your menu ideas, it's helping get me motivated to figure this out.

          1. re: jeexbit

            Coals require wood...Is wood (supplied) part of the package? Or will you be left to your own resourcefulness?? ~~~ Has the site been used by others lately? If so sufficient amounts of wood of the size to produce coals may be in short supply ~~~~~ Two, two burner propane stoves and a 6 -pack of propane bottles might come in handy.

            Have Fun!

            1. re: Uncle Bob

              I think we're left to our own devices as far as wood goes - my guess is we'll be able to find something around there... Two stoves seems about right - we've got one (yet to be filed tested, need to get on that) and hopefully there will be another in the mix as well. With two stoves and a fire for coals, I'm hoping the heat element will be covered!

        2. Another thing you guys could cook as a group activity is this.. just keep coaching them, they won't believe it at first and you might want to rehearse at home once.

          I was a boy scout. I made bacon and eggs in a paper sack.

          Yeah, you can do it. Put two strips of bacon in a paper bag and hold it over the camp fire. The grease from the bacon melted and kept the bag from burning.

          When the bacon was about 3/4 cooked, I broke 2 eggs into the bag and continued to hold the bag over the fire.

          Another 5-6 minutes the bacon and the eggs were done. I took it to a camp table, ripped open the bag and ate my breakfast and then I rolled up the bag and threw it away.

          Our scout master taught it to us so there was probably 8-10 of us all learning how to cook bacon and eggs in a bag. It was magic!

          1 Reply
          1. re: tonka11_99

            That is insane! I'm going to trust you that it really works... :D

          2. Depending on where you're going you might be able to get away with some semi-perishables for the first couple of nights. If the temps aren't too high, I like to make a mix of bulgur, powdered goat milk, nuts, spanish chorizo, golden raisins, and saffron. I keep slivered garlic and butter in a separate container, and saute that before adding the other ingredients and some (filtered) water. The nice thing is that bulgur cooks so fast you can usually turn off the burner and cover once you get a boil. Depending on the altitude you may need to re-simmer a couple of times, but it is still a huge fuel-saver, given the ratio of calories/carbs to fuel. This works really well in pretty much all the PNW backcountry west of or in the Cascades, but obviously there would be concerns in the summer in other places.

            Either way, a group that size for that long? I would absolutely say an emphatic "no" to being fully responsible for the menu and/or cooking. A few consecutive menu failures in the backcountry and sh*t goes Lord of the Flies fast.

            1 Reply
            1. re: eight_inch_pestle

              I know, it's a little daunting - I've already delegated desserts to my sister. :)

              Now I have visions of Lord of the Flies in my head... "Kill the pig! Cut his throat! Kill the pig! Bash him in!"

              I'll look into bulgur, it just might save my skin...

            2. How many days is a few days? Do you have to pack water in as well or will fresh water be available? Since you're floating coolers in I'd suggest preparing some entrees and such in advance and freezing them. If you need to pack in water, freeze that as well, put it in the coolers with the food, and the whole thing should pretty well self maintain for several days. As appropriate, some of the frozen meals can be packaged in foil which then becomes the reheating vessel. A little more work in advance but a lot less on site, leaving you more time for fun! Oh yeah, to help the coolers stay cold even longer, find a shady spot for them if possible, bury them just up to below their lids, and cover the tops with a tarp or blanket, or even vegetation.

              1 Reply
              1. re: morwen

                3 days is the plan - i think that's a great idea to freeze some stuff and basically have it serve as ice for a day or two, keep everything a little cooler - this is a beach in hawaii in the summer time so...yeah, it's going to be hot - but there is plenty of shade and a river we can filter water out of (and put things in to keep cooler)... Thanks for the suggestions!

              2. I guess I am kind of a back woods kind of guy but my favorite meal when camping is "hobo stew." I recreate it on the grill at home we love it so much. Little ground beef balls, cut up potatoes, slices of sausage, baby carrotts or cut up carrots, celery, mushrooms, corn, beans, onions, and some butter. It you have picky people you can build your own foil packets with all the ingrediants cut out. fill your packet with the ingrediants you like, put a couple spoons full of butter on top, add spices like salt and pepper, lemon pepper, rosemary, any thing that you like with taters and throw the packets in along the coals flipping occasionally. The flavors from real spicy sausage add a lot to the stew. Just my two cents, my familys favorite meal when camping!

                2 Replies
                1. re: WaTriChowHound

                  This sounds delicious and easy enough to prepare, thanks! I could even envision getting all the various ingredients chopped/prepared and then having folks form a line and build their own packets, that could be fun!

                  1. re: WaTriChowHound

                    We used to do something like that called "hobo dinner" -- the simplest ones were nothing but hamburger patties, potatoes, carrots, and onions, garlic, salt, pepper, in a foil pack in the coals. Makes its own sauce and it's really good.

                  2. My question is how are you going to keep things cold after day one? Your ice will last overnight at best and your frozen food will be thawed after that point especially since you're going to be on a hot island.

                    That said, if you have access to a food dehydrator, I suggest using it to dry some veggies & fruit that you could later hydrate for use in your dishes. I've dehydrated onions, garlic, scallions, spinach, sweet potatoes, celery, carrots, etc. and apples, pineapple, lemon & orange slices, etc. Later you can add to a soup, rice, pasta, etc. dish and this way, you're load will be lighter. I'd prep things in advance, like slicing, chopping, making sauce, etc. and bag up...things that require multiple steps and where you'd ideally need a kitchen. I'm also a fan of the foil pack meals; you can do alot with those.

                    Off the top of my head, if you can find a grate or even some chicken wire, make up some pizza dough & freeze. Later you could roll it out and put it on your fire for quick pizza (don't forget the tongs). I'm the freezer queen (lol) so I'd also make ahead rice, pasta and any other dish I could then freeze. Don't know if you'd want to take along milk but if so, you can also freeze gallon containers (I do it all the time) otherwise you might want to take dry milk powder. And don't forget to pack your spices...you can use those little plastic zip top bags.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Cherylptw

                      Every year we pack in to a remote site on the shores of Lake Michigan and stay for a week. We also have to pack everything in and out and keeping meals interesting is my personal challenge. My favorite thing to make is Paella. I vacuum pack and freeze the chicken sprinkled w/ dried oregano, smoked paprika s & p and sausage (substituting brats for the chorizo and precooking it and slicing it before vacuuming and freezing) before we go. In the evening just sauté onion and garlic, brown the chicken and sausage slices, add a can of crushed tomatoes, some saffron infused broth, rice, and some dehydrated peas, cover and simmer away. Sprinkle with chopped fresh herbs before serving.

                      Remember, fresh air makes everything taste better.

                      Also, freeze water in milk jugs for your coolers. Big blocks stay frozen longer.

                      1. re: ajcraig

                        10-4 on the milk jugs, makes sense! Would love to do some sort of paella - definitely sounds like a challenge, but would be oh-so-tasty...

                        1. re: ajcraig

                          Do you have access to any dry ice? This would also help with keeping things cold/frozen until you need them. We brought a butchered antelope home from Montana to Oregon and it stayed frozen. You could have frozen meats, etc. and then take them out just long enough to thaw out for your meals.

                          1. re: boyzoma

                            No access to dry ice I'm afraid - good idea though! Definitely planning on freezing some meats and such to act as "ice" and thaw as needed...

                      2. This sounds like soo much fun! And what a location!

                        My two cents: If you're down with bringing lots of heavy produce along, how great would fire-roasted fruit (pineapple, peach, mango, starfruit, kiwi, pears and apples) be for an easy breakfast? Have a great time, and know we're all jealous :)

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: WhatThePho

                          That's a great idea, especially for the vegan factor! :)

                          1. re: WhatThePho

                            Love the fire-roasted fruit idea - could do them "kabob style" I bet - would be great for vegan/vegetarians too... :)

                          2. I make rice mixes when I go camping. They are light, keep forever and ensure we don't go hungary if the fish aren't biting. I take one ziplock bag and measure whatever amount of water I'll need and draw a line. Each bag (w/o water and dry of course) get's rice, boullion (I use about half what the container says to use to make broth) and a good scoop of dry vegetable soup mix. From there I customize. I've used dry mushrooms. Dried apricots and curry. Dried corn chowder mix and a little chili powder. They're all pretty good, but I think the mushrooms one is a favorite. The bulk section at the natural foods coverage has a lot of possibilities.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: corneygirl

                              Great idea, I think this would work - thanks!

                              1. re: jeexbit

                                We camp ALOT... A couple that camps with us often always brings Pita Pizza's. Pita Bread, spagetti sause in a jar, cheese, pepperoni, ground sausage. They cook the sausage, everything else goes on the table for each person to assemble thier own... Wrap in foil a couple times, a few minutes on each side they are done and oh so yummy. Can be done over coals or a grill. Im not educated on Vegan but maybe your Friend could tell you some items they would prefer and be set :) Ingredients for these are endless. Enjoy you trip :)

                            2. We head out tomorrow, thanks for all of the ideas y'all! Cheers.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: jeexbit

                                Have a great time. Please report back on what you decided to make and how it all turned out. Have really enjoyed reading this thread :-)

                                1. re: DMW

                                  Same here!! Hope you have a lovely trip!

                              2. Hey all! So we did the trip and it was fantastic! Three days on the north shore of Moloka'i in hawaii - Wailau Valley, right on the beach - it was great. Getting all the gear in there was a bit of a trick (a boat drops you off near the beach and we used a couple sea kayaks to ferry in all the supplies) but we made it...

                                Food prep was fun and pretty much went off without a hitch - we did macadamia nut pesto with chicken and a salad for the first night, beef/veggie kabobs on the second night and "greek style" chicken with rice pilaf and salad for night three. Hot dogs (and vegan dogs) rounded out lunches, with lots of cold cuts (including some killer ham and salumi), fresh rolls, fruit and whatnot. We put my vegan sister in charge of desserts which she absolutely rocked - chocolate "mousse", s'mores, great oatmeal cookies, and even a vegan birthday cake, which was a huge hit.

                                All around a terrific trip - thanks so much for all of the suggestions and words of wisdom! I have to say, the trip really rekindled my love for camping, but it was nice to get back to a real bed when it was all over and done with. :)


                                1. Here is a good food shot from the trip... :)

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: jeexbit

                                    Mmm, looks delish. Glad your trip went so well and thanks for the update!!