Saturday, 20 July 2013

Food Prep For Our Culinary Camping

    This year's family vacation was camping.  It has been a few years since we've camped, and the kids really wanted to, and so camping it was.  I do like camping for a few reasons.  Camping really makes you focus, and relax.  It also requires a lot of prep work and packing!

    Normally when we camp every meal is pretty much boring... don't get me wrong everything always tastes better in the great outdoors, but I never really put a lot of thought into our meals.  That was then and this is now!  This year I really got organized, and that included our camping food.  Why should we have to eat boring food?  We don't!
    I sat a week or so before our departure date, pen and paper in hand, and planned.  Here is what my list looked like....

Lunch- muffins, boiled eggs, cheese, veggies and dip.
Dinner- Greek pork chops, salads, veggies and potatoes, veggies and dip.
Snacks-  Cookies, chips, marshmallows and hot dogs

Breakfast -Bacon, eggs and beans with bread and butter
Lunch - Hot dogs, veggies and dip and a brownie
Dinner- Tacos
Snacks- Chips, marshmallow, and hot dogs, Smores

Breakfast -Bacon, eggs, bread and butter, bananas
Lunch - Alphaghetti, veggies and dip 

    I didn't say that it was an ultra healthy meal plan, I said it was less boring, oh and delicious.  After I had put together my meal plan, I put together a grocery list.

    Saturday morning I began my day with preparations for Sunday.  The very first thing that I did was to fill an old ice-cream tub, a RubberMaid cereal saver, and two small ice-cream tubs with water and put them in the freezer.  Block ice keeps food colder for longer, but is hard to find, and it adds up quickly, especially since we were taking two coolers (one for meals, one for drinks).
    After the water in it's containers was safely into the freezer I began my meal prepping.  We rented a yurt which is really the only way to camp in my opinion.  The Yurts at the provincial parks come with a barbecue, this makes life so much easier.  Because we had a barbecue we did not need to pack our camps stove, and that allowed me to really specialize our foods toward the barbecue.  I love to cook food in foil packages on the barbecue, it's cleaner and it really seals in the flavours.
    Our first night's dinner was Greek pork chops, and veggies and potatoes.  I pre-boiled my mini-potatoes for five minutes, then I added the baby carrots and let them cook for five more minutes.  While the last five minutes were on the timer, I placed a sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil down and put an extremely generous pat of butter on it.  I added salt and pepper, and chives from the herb box in on my deck. 

    After the timer went I strained the potatoes and carrots, let them cool for a few minutes, then put about 2 cups of carrots and potatoes onto the centre of the foil, on top of the butter pat.  I added chopped broccoli to the top of the pile.  I then put another generous pat of butter on the top and more salt and pepper.

    Next I folded the centre together, then rolled it and scrunched it tightly.  I did the same at the ends.  I did not want any of the delicious butter and juices to escape and cause third degree burns on my legs (trust me when I tell you I know from experience that you do not want this).  I repeated the whole process three more times.  I then packed them into Ziplock bags.

    A few years ago we went to Christopher's cousins Ted and Heather's cottage with his sister Shannon, her boys and Christopher's Mom.  We had an amazing time.  When we arrived I began to unload from the cooler.  I had put all of our food into Ziplock bags.  It looked not unlike when the magician has that scarf that just won't stop coming out of his pocket, or when those clowns start climbing out of that tiny car.   Ziplock bags take up less room and allow things stack better, which means that you can pack so much more in your cooler.  It was on this trip that Shannon dubbed me the "Ziplock Queen".   Every time I pack things into large Ziplock bags I smile a little thinking about my title of "Ziplock Queen", it really is a good fit. 
    After I had done the veggies pouches, I boiled my bowtie noodles for the tuna salad, and cut up potatoes and boiled them.  I mixed together my greek marinade right in the Ziplock bag (if you want the recipe, it works great not just for pork, but also chicken breasts, here's the link to the recipe).
I mixed the marinade right in the bag, threw in the chops, and they marinated right there in the fridge and cooler, it was great.  I know that I am sounding like a broken record, and what I am proposing is not necessarily ecologically sound in terms of recycling the plastic, but I really LOVE Ziplocks.  It cuts down on so much mess.  It creates it's own serving dish (although not classy), it eliminates dirty dishes, and it really does allow you to fit so much more into the cooler/ fridge because it bends and adjusts to the space. 

    After I had prepared the first night's dinner, I began work on Monday night's dinner... Tacos.  I fried all the meat with the seasoning.  It would be so much easier and faster to just reheat it Monday night.  I chopped up my lettuce, and put it into a yes ... wait for it... wait for it... a Ziplock bag with a damp paper towel.  By putting the damp paper towel into the ziplock with the lettuce it keeps it crisp and stops the browning.  I use this technique when I have left over lettuce salad, because it really does keep it just as crisp, if not more crisp than when you made it.  I did not pre-cut my tomatoes because no matter what I have tried I just can't prevent cut tomatoes from getting that gross mushy thing they do from happening.  I grated cheese, and also cut it into bite size squares.
    Several hours later my back hurt, but I was done.  My downstairs fridge was full of Ziplocks of potato salad, tuna salad, chopped lettuce, grated cheddar cheese, boiled eggs, chopped veggies, marinating pork chops, cooked taco meat and cheese cubes.  I was ready, well no I still had to pack the
rest of our supplies, but the food was ready.

Do you see my Ziplocks filled with salads?
    I have to say that we ate like kings.  As usual I packed way too much food, and lots went to waste, but honestly I would rather waste than do without, and we never ever do without.  The food tasted amazing, not because of my mad cooking skills, but because everything always tastes so much better when you are camping.  I'm not sure why that is.  I think that somehow getting back to nature heightens all of your senses.  The colours are more vivid, the smells so much richer, and your taste buds are more alive.  
    By preparing my food before we left it allowed us to eat better, and play longer.  It was really a win win, and I will most definitely do it that way any time that we go camping!

Stay tuned for tomorrow's Camping adventures.....

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