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The Great Outdoors

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The weather is great and the urge to be outdoors comes to most of us this time of year. Our family likes to go camping; whether the trip will be to the ocean or mountains is the only decision. We refer to it as a time for recharging our batteries, when we can breathe in fresh air or have a change in our normal scenery that helps to clear our minds of all the troubles of the world. It’s a vacation for your health and mental well-being. Recharging your body and mind will help you think more clearly and energize your body. But to enjoy this time you want to make it as simple and easy as possible for everyone when it comes to the food. My advice? Plan ahead the food that you will be having during your time away, even go online to check out restaurants that may be close to the area where you will be staying. Try everything you can to make your tip relaxing.

My family likes to stay close to camp for our meals, so planning ahead is a must for me. I love to fry potatoes in the morning outside on a camp stove. So, I do some cooking but as little as possible. I have found some easy and quick ideas for meals that don’t take much time if you prepare them ahead. If you are going with a group of people, meal share. Get together before the trip and plan to have each family responsible for one of the dinners to share, or make the dinners potluck and share the responsibility. It’s fun entertainment and takes the pressure off others for a couple of evenings.

One of my favorite go-to meals for camping is pulled pork sandwiches. To make this an easy meal, two weeks before our trip I cook a large pork shoulder for ten hours in a crock pot.  

Pulled Pork 

Ingredients
4 pork shoulder roast or pork butt
1-2 cups red wine
5 whole cloves of garlic
Mydingr’s Shake (or your favorite barbecue rub)

Instructions
Place the roast in the crockpot fat side up, pour 1-2 cups of wine over the roast and generously cover with Mydingr’s Shake or your favorite barbecue rub. Add garlic, put the lid on and cook it all night, 8-10 hours on low heat. Turn off the crockpot and let the roast cool down completely, drain the liquid and shred the meat using two forks. Place the cooled meat in a freezer bag, removing as much air as possible and seal. Flatten the bag out as much as possible, placing it on a cookie sheet, then freeze.  

I use this process for all my meat so that it freezes faster and it’s easier to load the ice chest when packing. Label the bags so that you can easily identify them at camp. When putting these bags in your ice chest you can layer them or stand them up with the label on top for easy selection. Buy some nice rolls and don’t forget the barbecue sauce. When you’re ready to make your pork, put it in a pan and a small amount of water and heat until warm enough to serve. You can also make an aluminum foil pouch, place the pork and some water in the pouch. Throw it on the campfire and in about five minutes it will be hot enough to serve. We normally make pulled pork sandwiches with Mydingr’s Sweet and Spicy sauce and coleslaw on a roll. When traveling we use bagged slaw mix and a bottled dressing.  

My second make-ahead idea is taco meat. I usually make two bags of this for my freezer. Base the amount of hamburger meat you need on how many are going on the trip. This trip I bought four pounds of lean hamburger, one large onion, bell pepper and, of course, Mydingr’s Taco Seasoning.

Taco Meat

Ingredients
Makes 1 bag, double for 2 bags
2 lbs. ground chuck
1 large onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
3 tbsp. taco seasoning

Instructions
Brown the meat first, then add the chopped onion and chopped bell pepper and continue to cook until the onion and bell pepper are soft. Add the taco seasoning to taste. Drain and let cool before placing in your freezer bag. Freeze each bag flat on a cookie sheet in the freezer. Reheat the meat in a cast iron skillet and use it however you choose.  

We normally make tacos, beef burritos, a taco salad or nachos with this meat. If you’re making burritos, fill the tortilla with beans, meat and shredded cheese, then roll up the burrito. Wrap the burrito tight in heavy aluminum foil. Place the foiled burrito on your campfire for a few minutes until you think it’s hot enough to eat and the cheese is melted. 

Make ahead breakfast burritos are a favorite for the early fishermen at our site. The favorites here are pork sausage browned with onion, bell peppers and mushrooms.

Breakfast Burritos

Ingredients
2 lbs. pork sausage
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
10-12 mushrooms, thinly sliced
8-10 eggs
Shredded cheese
1 pkg. flour tortillas
Hot sauce if desired

Instructions
In a cast iron skillet, brown sausage. Add the onion, bell pepper and mushrooms to the sausage, continuing to cook until they just become soft. Drain and let cool. Whisk eggs in a medium bowl. Place in a warm non-stick pan, cooking until done. I like my scrambled eggs with some moisture in them. Take a large tortilla, add the sausage mix, then some of the scrambled eggs for each burrito you are making. Sprinkle with shredded cheese; roll it up. Wrap in aluminum foil and bag them in a freezer bag. Freeze on a cookie sheet in the freezer and add them to your ice chest on the day you’re leaving. At camp, each person can pull out a burrito, throw it on the campfire or in the oven and they can have breakfast before they leave for fishing and some of us can sleep in. Remember to take the foil off the burrito if you are using a microwave to heat up this breakfast. 

Next, I’ll make a pot of chili at home and freeze it to take with us. It is great by itself, as a side dish for a meal or even on a hot dog. Chili dogs are messy but good. It seems like every time we go on one of these adventures the weather likes to give us a little cold spell and sometimes rain. What better way to warm you up than chili? We love to add some grated cheese and a little chopped onion on top and it is done.

We are a barbecue-loving family, no matter if we’re on a trip or at home in the backyard. So, you will also find pre-made seasoned hamburger patties, seasoned steaks, sausages or some hot dogs in our ice chest. I like to pre-season my meat and place it in airtight bags to freeze for the ice chest. When you’re ready to cook on an outside barbecue or campfire you remove the meat and it’s ready to cook. Our go-to side dishes consist of potato salad or macaroni salad, baked beans, watermelon and corn on the cob. And yes, a tub of junk food to eat, such as potato chips and dip, candy, sunflower seeds, nuts, marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate.

In our camp, lunch time is fend for yourself. You can make sandwiches or eat leftovers but you are on your own; just clean up your mess! You will probably find me sitting on a rock next to a creek or lake soaking up the sun, probably with a fishing line in the water hoping to catch some fish for dinner. That’s a menu item I don’t bring with me but hope to catch on my own. Fresh trout is one of my favorites. Have you ever noticed how much better it tastes when you cook them outdoors and eat them fresh? Another suggestion to keep this tip as easy as possible is to use paper plates and plasticware for your meals and aluminum foil or aluminum trays for cooking. Then there is less cleanup of dishes. Just remember, whatever you pack in you must pack out and make sure all the garbage gets thrown in the garbage cans.

All my grocery shopping is done. My meal preps are in the freezer and my dry goods bin is full. Tomorrow morning, we will be packing our food in the ice chest and our drinks in another ice chest, loading them in the RV and hitting the road. This month my recipes are coming from my own camping spot and of course my famous recipe box. Stay safe, stay happy and enjoy the great outdoors.