What foods do you think of when you think of campfire cooking?
I totally think: hot dogs, S’mores, foil-pouch beef and veggies, bacon and eggs, skewered meat of any kind, and cold cuts for lunch. This was my camping cuisine repertoire pre veggie-based lifestyle. But I had to reinvent how to feed my family over a campfire pit in the woods if we were to survive our June camping trip. I wanted our meals to be satisfying and healthy (and meatless and dairy-less) while also being easy to cook and having sturdy ingredients that could be transported and kept for a couple of days without getting dented or bruised. We looked forward to a seven hour drive and had to live out of a cooler for three days so I didn’t want too many ingredients that had to be kept cold. Some of the preparations I made at home in my kitchen alleviated the anxiety of prep-work at the campsite. I packaged my meals in grocery bags with labels written on in thick, black marker: “Thursday Dinner, Friday Breakfast, Friday snack, etc.” One morning we simply had cereal for breakfast so we wouldn’t have to start a campfire to cook something lengthy when our goal was to get to the lake to fish right after dawn. That bag contained a shelf-stable box of oat milk and a box of cereal. Simple! Plus I left all of the bags in our van to keep the scent of food away from bears. So when we set up camp we didn’t have to mess with the food hardly at all. Some stuff was in the cooler, but I wrote those items on their prospective “meal bags” so I would know what to grab before even having to think about it.
I’ve shared a little about my organization and thought processes, so now for a couple of recipes that worked so well I just have to share!
These babies were something I had as a kid when camping with my family. We owned a long-handled sandwich press for grilling sandwiches over an open fire. You would just put a piece of bread in each side of the press, put a spoonful of some kind of filling on one side (in this case, fruit pie filling), push the two sides together and lock closed. After holding it over the fire for a while, you could open it up and easily pry out a golden-brown gooey sandwich. I do not own such a convenient device these days, so I had to improvise.
The bag for this snack-time delight simply contained a can of pie filling, a can of olive oil cooking spray, and a loaf of bread. The loaf of bread will only make about six servings (2 slices per sandwich) but the can of filling contains enough for almost double that. Although more expensive, I found that the blueberry pie filling from Comstock does not contain corn syrup even though their cherry filling does. (Of course my kids voted for cherry anyway!)
First things first: I hope you brought a can opener! (I forgot one on my first-ever camping trip with my husband and I vividly remember trying to open a can of Spaghetti-O’s with a sharp rock and then slurping the pasta and sauce out of a jagged hole) Open the can of pie filling and pour it all into a large plastic cup or baggie or something you have on hand. Then cut off the bottom of the can as well and rinse the can out well. (To avoid calling bears to your site, why not leave zero residue and just lick the can clean?) Set can aside.
Bring out the all-important cooking spray and spray the table-facing side of a piece of bread. Plop a spoonful of pie filling in the center of the bread (I know it’s tempting, but don’t use more than one spoonful or crimping the bread will be difficult) and cover with another slice, which you will spray the top-side of once placed on top of the filling.
Now use the emptied, hollow can as a cookie cutter and cut a circle through the bread, around the filling. Use your fingers to further crimp any spots that are trying to leak out filling.
Once you have made enough, set them on a cookie sheet that has been heated up and is sitting over your campfire. Flip once until golden brown on both sides. Serve and enjoy!
Macaroni & Cheese:
Use this link to grab the cheese sauce recipe: Mac & Cheese – Vegan Style
Now here’s how to do this EASY: Make the “cheese” sauce as per the recipe at home. Blend it up and put it in a plastic bottle. I used an old washed-out ketchup bottle. Store in the cooler. Pre-cook the macaroni noodles to a little firmer than you would want to eat them at. Rinse at home with very cold water and store in an airtight gallon-sized freezer bag in the cooler.
Now once you are at the campsite, all you have to do is shake up the bottle of sauce really well, and then pour it into a pot that you then place over the campfire embers.
No recipe needed!
This was an easy accompaniment for the mac & “cheese.” I grabbed two slices of bread and sprayed the outside of each piece with olive oil cooking spray.
Then I put slices of Daiya-brand “cheddar cheese” in between the two slices and threw the sandwiches on a pan that was already sitting over the fire, heating up.
A few minutes on each side or until golden brown, and you have ooey-gooey-melty sandwiches!
Root Veggie Stew:
This meal was a real “put some meat on your bones” dish, so to speak. I did not prep this stew before leaving our house. I could have cut all the veggies up beforehand, but I knew that the white sweet potatoes would start to turn that nasty brown and they would have to sit in a bag for two full days before we had this meal. So in this case, I ended up peeling and dicing on the small countertop provided to us in our rustic yurt.
The stew contained 3 medium-sized new potatoes, 1 large white sweet potato, 1/2pound of baby carrots, a large handful of fresh green beans, a turnip, an onion, and an entire head of garlic- each clove peeled but kept whole. I also brought a jar of concentrated veggie bouillon syrup, salt & pepper, and about a half-cup of flour in a baggie. (no need to measure anything- we’re camping!)
About two hours before dinnertime we built the fire and got it going. Then I went inside to do the prep work while the kids ran circles around the yurt. Literally. Because a yurt is like a big circle tent.
After the fire was hot, we filled our pot about halfway with water from the nearby pump and I whisked in the flour and veggie bouillon before adding the bag of veggies. Then I covered the pot with foil in order to cook the veggies without much loss of water due to evaporation and put the whole thing over the fire. Occasionally I pulled back a side of the foil to stick in a long spoon and stir the pot. Without stirring once in a while, the flour will settle to the bottom and you will have a thick burnt dough on the bottom and soupy water on top.
I’m not sure how long it took to cook because we were having fun playing outside, but it was surprisingly fast- I remember that. After the pot had bubbled over and then sat for another ten minutes, I pulled out a carrot, tasted it, and it was cooked through! It probably took about a half hour over the fire, but that’s a guess.
Campfire Cinnamon Apples:
Okay, people; this is the good stuff. The stuff my childhood memories are made of. The stuff that makes kids sit around the campfire looking longingly into the embers, waiting, drooling…
I grew up with these lovely baked delights. We had them on almost every camping trip and they were always my favorite- maybe besides roasted marshmallows, anyway. My parents would stuff green apples with cinnamon candies and butter, wrap them in foil and cook them in the embers of the fire until they were soft but not mushy. Firm enough to hold their shape but filled with a sweet red-candy sauce. (drooling)
My husband has an allergic reaction to the Red-Hots, and we don’t eat butter or added fat anymore, so I had to change the recipe a bit. I decided to simply fill the cavity of the apples with all natural cane sugar and some cinnamon powder. I wasn’t sure how it would work…
We went for a hike nearby the campground while our apples sat and cooked. We made sure there were no open flames when we left; just lots of embers. When we came back, we turned the apples and played around a little more before opening them up for a late dessert.
I can do it! I can eat all year in a way that is more friendly to nature, and still do so when communing with nature from a tent or cabin in the woods. Veggies aren’t scary or hard to plan meals with. I just had to be prepared and enjoy cooking with the flexibility since open-fire cooking is more unpredictable. And it all turned out yummy, so there was nothing to worry about!