My kids are wacky about camping. They beyond love it. And I have to admit I get how they feel. I still have fond (and funny) memories from all those camping trips my Dad dragged us on. The thing is, camping is not quite the same when you’re the grown-up packing the car (in 100-degree heat), clenching your teeth and trying not to fight with your spouse as you search for a campsite at 5 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, and setting up the extremely complicated new tent said spouse purchased the day before. As much as I adore camping — in theory — and know it provides great family bonding and messy, unplugged adventure for the kids, the reality is camping is a lot of work.
So, when it comes to camping meals, I like easy. Really easy. When I went on Outward Bound, they gave us this nifty cookbook of backpacking recipes, all of which involved flour (pizza dough from scratch), rice (rice porridge and curry), premeasured spices, and a team of laborers (that would be us) to create. We ate like kings (actually well-fed slaves) on that trip, which is good since we also carried 75-pound packs, but I remember thinking, Why can’t we just grill some hot dogs and get some sleep?
For us, camping is an escape from everyday life, so I throw most — but not all — of my food rules out the window. Some potatoes roasted in the campfire coals (with butter, wrapped in foil) suffice as a vegetable, and, yes, we make s’mores. I actually make a special trip to Safeway for the Jet-Puffed marshmallows and Hershey Bars (I do get organic graham crackers at Whole Foods; we’re already eating corn syrup and milk solids, we don’t need partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, too).
Read on for a complete one-night camp-out shopping list, plus a recipe we invented on the fly for the world’s best trail mix pancakes — which, by the way, would be just as awesome if they were made in the comfort of your home kitchen.
- Two packages Whole Foods brand organic chicken bratwurst. (My German friend at the farmer’s market would kill me for saying this, but these are pretty damn good.)
- One box Imagine Bistro Organic Cuban Black Bean Bisque.
- Potatoes (approximately one large potato for two people).
- Baguette of French bread (break into hunks to use as buns for the sausages)
- Salt & Pepper
- Marshmallows, Hershey Bars (I’ve tried making s’mores with fancy dark chocolate, and it just doesn’t work), and graham crackers.
- Plus: peaches (FINALLY in season here), cherries, cheese & crackers, and of course beverages (lots of water, and your favorite adult beverage might come in handy — I’m just sayin’).
Make your favorite pancake mix but add a little extra liquid to the batter (you will probably need oil and some eggs). Add 1 cup rolled oats, 1/2 cup chopped pecans, 1/2 cup dried cherries, and 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips. Cook. They are so delicious and chunky, you can eat them plain (no syrup needed), with your hands like toast.
I also suggest bringing Starbucks instant coffee, unless you have a camp coffeemaker, which we don’t. It just occurred to me that a list of car-camping gear (especially cookware) would be helpful, so look for that next week.