Camping in cabins for a week.
So, i am not much of a camper and my husband has arranged for us to go camping in south carolina for 5 days with his family. There will be 6 adults and 6 kids in the cabin. Apparently, it is quite large. I brought up the idea of having each family cook two nights for everyone, just to divide it up. I am not sure how well the kitchen is stocked and I am also not used to cooking for such a large group. Any suggestions of simple dinner or lunch ideas with not a lot of ingredients that taste great? As I said, I am not much of an outdoorsy person, so this is all new to me! Not having the comfort of my spice cabinet and herb garden worries me! I am coming from across the country, so bringing food with me is not an option. I could bring spices, or things like that. According to the state park website, the nearest grocery store is 15 miles away.
Bring some chicken breasts or skirts steaks in a marinade in ziplocs. They can be frozen in the marinade. When it's your turn to cook , take out to thaw that morning, then you just need a fresh onion, & tortillas or rice and a can of beans, make fajitas for everyone. Assuming you have a grill, which is really all you need camping, and bring a cast iron pan which can be used on a grill, fire pit, stove or oven.
For a crowd that big, I like spaghetti with a variety of toppings that anyone could add to make their own custom thing - marinara sauce, jarred pesto, olives, meatballs, cheese, peppers, etc.
If volume and weight of provisions is an issue, Barry Farm sells a lot of dehydrated vegetables and fruits online. They are good if you are making soups, stews, and stewed fruit.
Bring a variety of spices, garlic, salt, pepper--those things that would cost a lot to be individually for small amounts--and put those in your checked baggage in zip loc bags. That way, whatever is purchased--15 miles isn't that big a deal--you will have flavors to add to it.
You might not be able to get away with this with the airlines, although I have for East Coast beach vacations for the past 10 years. Pack at least one good knife, wrap it in towels and then in an article of clothing that you can roll up. Or ask one of the E.C. family to bring 'one along. Not having a decent knife is torture.
Escondido is right - dried herbs/spices in snack bags rule! and if you put one or two heads of garlic in a sandwich bag, and then that in a quart bag, you have fresh garlic, and 'not smelly' clothes.
Could you possibly ask the E.C. family to purchase chicken, skirt, etc., and freeze them for you? That would work well...
Lasagna, if you can get ingredients [pack a box of noodles?]. And again, this will probably have to depend on family for a pre-purchase, but pork butt in the East is frequently on sale, cooks simply and without much supervision and is always a big hit for a crowd. Our E.C. connection always makes pulled pork in advance and packs it in a cooler for several lunches. yummm
Bringing your own knife is a great suggestion and something I usually do. Once you plan your menus you can bring the rest of what you need in your luggage and carry-on and buy perishables once you are there. I would bring homemade cookies in my carry-on. Grilled chicken, watermelon and a good salad is always appreciated. I'm trying a recipe for potato and pea salad with chive aioli this weekend.
Make sure somebody is bringing mayo, oil, and vinegar for everyone. Perhaps someone on the EC is willing to do shopping for some basics and split the bill.
BTW our son once went on a camping vacation with another family. The teen friends were asked to contribute $20 toward food bill. Son was very disappointed that every night they had hot dogs.
+ another vote for bringing your knife. A french press w/ good coffee makes many people's day. Because I'm a recipe cook, I think through what I want to make, but I also bring a handful of printouts of low-effort odds & ends, so I can pull together cookies if I feel like it. If I were going to bring a single ingredient, other than spices, it would be a hard cheese. In my trips to South Carolina in the summer, I've bought wonderful, wonderful fruit from roadside stands; you might keep an eye out for that.
I've done trips like this before, and they can be really fun.
The keys are:
1. Plan carefully, and
2. Let go of your usual gourmet standards, and accept that this isn't going to be the finest cooking you've ever done. That's OK. This is the kind of situation that the term "crowd-pleaser" was invented for.
This is what I would suggest, based on many years of Girl Scout training:
1. Think of what two dinners you can make that are easy to scale up, and that don't use tons of different pots and pans. Do you have any good one-pot meals in your repertoire? Like a hearty chili or stew? Those are good bets. Or, as others have said, if you have access to a grill, a marinade for meat that you're fond of? For desserts, think brownies or bar cookies.
2. Make a shopping list of every single thing you need to make your meals, with quantities. Don't forget oil, butter, condiments, etc.
3. Ask the other families to make similar lists of their grocery needs. Have one person be the grocery list clearinghouse and make a single, combined list. (For example, if each of four chefs needs one stick of butter, then on the shopping list goes 1 lb. of butter.)
4. Have one or two people be the designated shoppers, using the combined shopping list. If there's anything you need that no one else does, like small amounts of spices, then bring them with you, as others have sugested.
5. Relax and enjoy improvising with your restricted resources! And remember that all that fresh air stimulates the appetite! Everything tastes good while you're camping! So don't worry too much about perfection.
Excellent suggestion about the designated shopper. Coordinating on the shopping will also prevent excess overlap. If everyone is ordering chicken breasts, it might be time to rethink some menu ideas.
I also love the one-pot meal approach. For lunch I'd suggest simple sandwich bar - lots of cold cuts with fixings and some simple sides like potato salad, slaw, etc.
It would help to know more about the kitchen facilities. If you have a reliable large oven, pork shoulder cooked low and slow might be an idea -- though a left coaster coming into NC to cook pulled pork might take some cojones!
Here are some things I pack in my checked bag(s) when self-catering and, local food supplies may be limited:
• A chef’s knife with a knife shield to protect it (always in my suitcase regardless of where I’m going to be honest)
• Extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar wrapped in the bubble wrap cases designed for wine bottles
• Kosher salt in a ziplock
• Head of garlic in a ziplock (or more depending on duration of our trip)
• Cayenne in a ziplock
• Dijon (in plastic bottle)
• Oregano in a ziplock (the only herb I prefer dry)
• Tea bags
• Peppercorns in a grinding dispenser (TJ’s and Dollar Stores sell these at a very reasonable cost)
Since we are morning coffee-lovers I always call ahead to find out what type of coffee maker is provided and then I’ll bring my own coffee (pre-ground if need be) and, filters. Nothing worse than waking up on day 1 to find there’s no coffee!!
With these basics I have a lot of flexibility in designing menus after doing “one shop” at the local market for produce, meat/fish/poultry and dairy.
Any kind of durable bread (texas toast, pita, etc),
Canned pizza sauce,
Stick pepperoni. cut into tiny rounds
Sliced deli ham
Block of mozza cheese.......
Canned 'shrooms, olives, hot peppers, perhaps?
Then rig a grate over some coals from the campfire and everyone toasts their own pizza!
If your cabin has an oven you could use the broiler. :-)
PS for dessert buy bananas, cut thru the peel and put some brown sugar or honey or raisins or choc chips inside, wrap in foil & warm them over the fire. mmmmmmmmmmmmm........