Thursday, July 12, 2012

"Cooking" While Roughing It

As part of our month of Camping and Traveling Food, I'm excited to introduce my first ever guest article!  My friend Rachel (of Island Chicken Sandwiches) was kind enough to respond to my request for someone more knowledgeable than myself to write on this topic.  Rachel's "crazy husband" takes her and their two kids on some pretty intense vacations in which they camp in a tent (or in the back of their van) and do tons of exploring and hiking.  Needless to say, Rachel is just the kind of expert I was looking for!  Oh, and for those of you who don't know Rachel, please note that when she says "crazy husband" she says it lovingly :) 

It is a little difficult for me to write to you about camping recipes.  Why?  Well, recipes require actually cooking.  My crazy husband doesn't usually factor in time for cooking or food prep or any of that crazy sort of nonsense while on our adventures.  He usually does not factor in "space" for cooking supplies and contraptions either.  (I only take a teeny tiny backpacker's burner.)  Yet he does still expect to eat! 

Our vacations go like this:  We pack up each morning, sight-see, hike, drive, explore, roll into camp (usually with no electricity) at night and pack up at the crack of dawn again the next morning.  Yes, I have fed my children Cheetos for breakfast at 5AM just to keep them happy while we pack up.  YES, it's true!  We lose weight on our vacations...eating is for survival purposes only.
Here are a few tips to survive this kind of vacation:

We actually will boil water on the burner, put it into styrofoam cups, and stir in a packet of instant oatmeal…and WALLA! Instant oatmeal without the microwave!

We eat lots of peanut butter and jelly, apples, granola bars and CheezIts. Lunch meat usually ends up being a soggy disaster in the bottom of the cooler so I’ve stayed away from that.

We do hot dogs on the fire, but I pack no condiments.  Instead, I usually splurge and get the tasty chedderwursts or something like that. These are good because if we happen to run out of time to build a fire, we can still boil them on the backpacker's burner as a back-up plan. We also take the soup-in-bowl Ramen Noodle type things.  Simply boil water and pour it over. They are already in their own handy bowl, so all you need is the water and a fork or spoon.  Oh, and I do happen to have two "recipes" of sorts that I use.  Mexican Skillet is super easy and can be made all in one pan (a must if you only have one burner!).  I usually make this the first night so that we are free from packing up all those cumbersome cans for the rest of the trip.  I make the sandwich filling for Hot Beef Buns (recipe coming soon) before we leave home and freeze it.  Whatever night it is thawed, warm it up on the burner and serve on buns.
I find that apples and grapes are the easiest fruits to take. Apples do not get over-ripe too quickly and do not have to be in the cooler. Grapes stay good longer than bananas and strawberries if you put them on the top of the cooler and keep them somewhat cool.
Veggies?  Are you kidding?  Obviously if I am handing out Cheetos for breakfast, health food is not number one on my agenda :)
A tip about ice and coolers:
Forget the frozen cooler packs (or whatever you call them).  Once they thaw, they are useless. You cannot get them back to re-freeze while on the road, so they just take up room in the cooler.  Instead, fill quart-sized freezer bags with ice. When they are melted, just stop at the gas station, empty the water on the ground and go fill up the bags with ice for free at the soda fountain machine.  Trust me, this works way better!  I usually treat myself to a large Dr. Pepper at this point as well...because I love Dr. Pepper, I usually need some caffeine to keep up with the crazy hubby, PLUS I don’t feel quite as dumb filling up my little baggies of ice.  :)

With a little planning...and a good sense of too can eat decent food on a crazy camping trip like this!

Rachel is a wife and mother who lovingly accompanies her husband on some pretty wild vacations.  She is super laid-back, and has learned to survive (and even smile, most of the time!) while on said vacations.  Camping out of the back of a minivan with two kids sure makes for a lot of great memories!


  1. Loved to read your adventures of camping!! I'm so glad my husband's idea of vacation is not the same as yours--I don't like having to give up electricity and a stove for camping. Having said that, I really AM eager to try your recipe...our family likes Mexican food, and even getting used to eating something as exotic as black beans.

  2. Loved the article, Think I am going to try this recipe too. I will have to wait for my grandchildren to jump on my tortilla chips first though.

  3. for condiments you can pick up packets of mustard and ketchup at fast food restaurants.