Creative campsite cuisine


With kids out of school, many family friendly trips are in the planning stages, if not already in progress. In Hawaii, it makes sense to consider a camping trip; we are blessed with mild weather, beautiful beaches and accessible campgrounds on our islands. These trips are usually within everyone’s budget, needing only a few basics.

Food can be budget friendly, too. Even if your experience of camp cuisine is limited to canned stew, bags of chips and hot dogs on a stick, it’s not hard to create interesting outdoor meals. Prepackaged convenience foods seem so out of sync with the surroundings of nature.

The following easy and delicious camp food options can be prepared in advance, so you can relax around the campfire. Just pack a few essentials for your camp kitchen: a nonstick frying pan, an oven mitt, resealable bags  and biodegradable soap for washing.

Let’s start with the evening meal. After you arrive at your destination, set up camp and gather wood for a fire (if permitted), everyone will be ready for dinner. Set out an assortment of cheeses, olives and crackers to start, while you prepare the entrée.

If you picked up a pizza or burgers on the way to the campsite so you wouldn’t have to cook the first night, that’s great. But a comforting bowl of camp-made soup will get everyone feeling warm and cozy and well-nourished. You can prep all ingredients the day before and refrigerate, then it all comes together quickly at the campsite.

Mexican chicken lime soup

Recipe from fabulousfoods.com; makes 4 to 6 servings.

1 small onion, thinly sliced

8 to 10 cloves garlic, minced

1 or 2 serrano or jalapeno peppers, seeded and thinly sliced

6 cups chicken stock

1/3 cup fresh lime juice

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin slices

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 medium Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced

1/3 cup chopped cilantro

Tortilla chips

Over a campfire or stove, heat oil in a large saucepan. Add onion, garlic and peppers; cook about five minutes until lightly browned. Stir in stock and remaining ingredients, except cilantro and tortilla strips. Simmer until chicken is cooked, about five to seven minutes. Stir in cilantro. Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle with tortilla chips.

Sausage kebabs with hot chili sauce

Here is an updated version of hot dogs on a stick. Make the marinade in advance and let the sausage pieces marinate, covered and chilled, overnight. When you get to camp, soak the skewers in water while the fire readies. Recipe adapted from Gourmet magazine; makes 4 servings.

3 large garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon anchovy paste

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

Two 2-inch jalapeno chilies, minced, including the seeds

Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

1 pound sweet Italian sausage links, cut into 3/4 inch-thick pieces

Eight 10-inch wooden skewers, soaked in water to cover for 30 minutes

In a portable bowl with tight-fitting cover, whisk together the garlic, sugar, anchovy paste, lime juice, jalapenos, salt and pepper. Add sausage pieces; cover and refrigerate overnight. When ready to cook, thread four pieces of sausage on each skewer. Place skewers on rack over fire and grill, turning frequently, until sausage is cooked through.

To accompany the sausage skewers, try one or more of the following vegetables, which you can prepare a day or two in advance. Pack them into jars, cover with vinaigrette (recipes follow), put on a tight fitting lid and chill until ready to use.

Marinated vegetables

Yellow squash and fresh dill:

Cut several small yellow squash into long halves, pour boiling water over. Drain and cool, then layer into jar with sprigs of fresh dill. For vinaigrette: Combine 1 cup olive oil, 1/3 cup tarragon vinegar, 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chervil and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary. Mix well, then pour into jar over squash and dill; cover tightly and chill until ready to use.

Minted baby carrots:

Cook baby carrots in boiling salted water until tender. Drain; chill in ice water. Pout carrots into jar, layering with sprigs of fresh mint. For vinaigrette: Combine 1 cup corn oil, 1/3 cup cider vinegar, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon grated orange rind and a dash of nutmeg; mix until thick. Pour into jar over carrots; cover tightly and chill.

New potatoes and scallions:

Cook new potatoes in lightly salted boiling water until tender but still firm. Drain; cool and cut in half. Put potatoes and 1-inch pieces of scallions into jar. For vinaigrette: Combine 1 cup olive oil, 1/3 cup red wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon celery seed, 2 teaspoons mustard seed, and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram. Mix well, then pour over potatoes in jar; cover tightly and chill.

Zucchini and orange:

Cut zucchini into thick diagonal slices; pour boiling water over. Drain and cool, then pack into jar with quartered orange slices. For vinaigrette: Combine 1 cup olive oil, 1/3 cup lemon juice, 2 tablespoons capers, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano. Mix well, then pour over zucchini and oranges in jar; cover tightly and chill.

Dessert over the campfire is a must: perhaps it will be as simple as hot chocolate and a cookie. Here is a make-ahead version of the ever-popular S’mores, without the hassle of messy marshmallow sticks. This also works great if you want the flavor but don’t have a camp fire.

S’mores bars

Recipe from Gourmet magazine; makes about 24 bars.

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted

1 pound milk chocolate

4 cups mini marshmallows

In a bowl combine the crumbs, sugar, salt and butter. Reserving a cup of the mixture, press remaining mixture into the bottom of a flameproof baking dish (13x9x2 inches). Bake the crust in a preheated 350 F degree oven for 12 minutes or until golden. Let cool in the dish on a rack. Meanwhile, in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, melt the chocolate, stirring. Pour it over the crust, spreading evenly. Sprinkle the marshmallows on top, pressing them lightly, then top with the reserved crumb mixture. Broil the dessert under a preheated broiler about 2 inches from the heat for 30 seconds or until marshmallows are golden. Watch carefully so it doesn’t burn. Let cool completely, then cut into squares. Store in container until ready to serve.

Many campers hope they can wake up at least one morning to the smell of bacon frying. Add some scrambled eggs and breakfast is ready. Here is an alternative — or an addition — to your breakfast menu. These sausage patties can be made ahead and frozen until ready to use at campsite. Great with papaya wedges, too. Recipe from Sunset magazine; makes about 16 patties.

Thai turkey sausage

1 pound ground turkey

1/4 pound green beans, ends and strings removed, minced

8 green onions, ends trimmed, minced

1 stalk (5 to 8 inches) fresh lemon grass, tough outer layers, stem end and coarse leaves removed, minced*

3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

2 to 3 teaspoons fresh Serrano chilies (two or three), stemmed, seeded and finely minced

2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce

1 large egg

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon sugar

About 2 tablespoons olive oil

In a bowl, mix turkey, beans, onions, lemon grass, cilantro, chilies, fish sauce, egg, cornstarch and sugar. Divide into 16 equal portions; shape into 16 patties, each 1/2 inch thick. Pour oil into a 10- to 12-inch nonstick frying pan over medium high heat. When hot, add a few patties, without crowding. Cook until brown on both sides and no longer pink in center, about seven minutes. Remove to paper towels; add more patties and repeat until all patties are cooked. When patties are cool, freeze in a single layer in a metal pan until hard, then seal airtight in plastic freezer bags. Transport to campsite in an insulated cooler. At camp, place frozen patties in your nonstick frying pan over low heat. Cover and cook until warm, 3 to 5 minutes; turn at least once. Serve hot.