Ah, the sweet smell of summer.
Pine trees towering overhead, the fire crackling at your feet, campfire cooking, that snuggly feeling wearing socks and Birkenstocks ("socks 'n stocks" as we lovingly call it), and sipping on a hot whiskey apple cider. In our minds, camping is the epitome of summer. All year long, we anxiously await the season when we can pull out our cooler, Coleman stove, cast iron skillet, and sleeping bags.
Camping holds many deep traditions for Bre and I and we have been taking advantage of our Colorado mountain backyard since we were young kids. For us, camping as a kid is very different than camping as an adult. The wise adults that raised us did a good job of passing on the knowledge needed for spending nights in the wilderness, and learning the family camping recipes was a big part of that. As kids, our biggest concerns while camping were when we could eat the s'mores, how fast we could run as if we'd never been let out of the house, and being spooked after hearing ghost stories. As adults, we've had to learn how to start the campfire, set up the tent, wash the dishes, cook, and do all the planning.
We frequently ask ourselves why camping meals taste 75% better than cooking at home? Maybe it's the satisfaction of creating delicious camping meals over a campfire? It could be the rustic flavor combo of open flame and dutch oven or cast-iron skillet cooking. Or maybe it just tastes extra satisfying after hiking 15 miles during the day? Whatever the reason, eating while camping is our favorite thing. We find satisfaction in meal prepping, loading the cooler, and cooking outdoors. Below are some of our tried-and-true recipes that we've been cooking for years.
Why we love them:
> easy to share with friends
> a perfect meal after a long day of hiking and adventuring
> super simple to make
1-2 Bell Peppers
1/2 Sweet Onion
3 Garlic Cloves
1 Can Black Beans
1 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1 Can of El Pato Hot Tomato Sauce (with jalapenos)
1 Bunch Cilantro
4 Green Onions
In the cast iron or dutch oven, cook the onion and bell pepper for 3-4 minutes until soft. Cooking can be done on a portable stove or the campfire. Remove veggies from pan and set aside. Lay one layer of tortilla chips so that they fill the bottom of the pan. Then, layer cheese, black beans, and tomato sauce. If there's space in your pan or you're feeding a lot of people, layer chips, cheese, beans, and tomato sauce until full. Put a lid on to help melt all of the flavors together. After a few minutes of melting, add in the tomatoes and green onion. After the nachos are cooked (they should be sizzling), remove from heat and top with cilantro, lime wedges, and salsa.
These nachos would be easy to make vegan by substituting in vegan cheese. Or, if you're a meat-eater, you could add some ground beef or shredded chicken to the nachos. However, we feel that the beans and cheese provide adequate protein and make for a filling dinner.
Vegetarian Foil Packets
Why we love them:
> Meal prep can be done at home before your camping trip
> It is an easy camping recipe and can easily be modified to match dietary preferences
> Aluminum foil acts as your plate, meaning no dish cleanup!
Ingredients (Serves 2):
2 Cans of Cream of Soup (ie Mushroom or Celery)
2 Servings of Plant-Based Meat Crumbles (optional)
6 Garlic Cloves
1 Bell Pepper
4 Stalks of Celery
1/2 Head of Broccoli
Chop up all vegetables into 1 to 1-1/2 inch pieces. This step can be done at the campsite or at home, prior to camping, if you're looking to make cooking a breeze. In a bed of aluminum foil, place all vegetables and meatless crumbles and season with salt, pepper, and paprika. Then, add in one can of cream of whatever soup. Mix everything together and wrap completely with aluminum foil. Make sure that the packet is sealed really well so that the soup doesn't drip out onto the fire. Place the foil packet directly onto the fire grate. Cook and flip halfway through for 30-45 minutes or until the potato is thoroughly cooked. Open up the foil packet and enjoy!
Nine times out of ten, we don't include any plant-based meat in our foil dinners. However, it's an option if your belly is really grumbling. Also, any vegetables can be included or excluded in this recipe.
Southwest Frito Pie
Why we love them:
> Warm, cheesy, and spicy on cool summer nights
> Satisfying, delicious, and takes us back to our Southwest roots
1 Package Fritos Corn Chips
1 Can Vegetarian Bean Chili
1 Cup Shredded Cheese
1 Tablespoon New Mexican Red Chile Powder
1 Head of Romaine Lettuce
In a saucepan, saute the onion with olive oil over the fire (or stove) until translucent. Then, pour the can of chili (1 can per 2 servings) into the saucepan with 1 tablespoon of New Mexican red chile powder. Our favorite chile powder can be ordered online from a restaurant in Santa Fe called The Shed. Stir occasionally until hot and sizzling. In a bowl, combine a handful of Fritos, a scoop of chili, as much cheese as desired, and top with lettuce and tomato.
We don't recommend any substitutions on this one. We know what you might be thinking -- do I really need the New Mexican red chile? Yes! Yes, you do and you won't regret it. New Mexican red chile definitely adds some spiciness to your dish, but it is also downright deliciously earthy in flavor. Nothing you can buy at the supermarket will replace it. We use it in so many recipes while cooking at home.