With all other time constraints removed, we both love cooking.

Not as much as eating, but it’s up there.

So, while I’m sure some people would find vacation where you prepare every meal sort of tedious, we rather enjoyed it.  The only frustrations were the meals that didn’t come out quite right or quick enough, but Zliten loves to grill and I like making sides, so it was never like UGH I HAVE TO COOK AGAIN.  There were some challenges, but it was fun to try things that you normally wouldn’t think to eat in the woods.

Our setup was pretty great.  We had a sink with running water, and a cutting board that fit nicely over the sink (so you could use one or the other but not both at the same time).  We had a gas grill and a stove with two burners.  We had the potential to purchase wood to build a fire, but we never did.  We also had a microwave in the camper (from the previous owner), but we tried not to use that.

We brought about 7 bags of food total, which seemed like an INSANE amount while packing up.  We didn’t use all of it, but we did a pretty darn good job.  While I completely overpacked on the clothing aspect, I only slightly overpacked for food.  I might be a little less obnoxious about it here next time knowing there’s a convenience store a mile away, but for fresh produce it would have been a drive.  Anyhoo, the goal was to exist the whole time on the food we brought, and besides a beer run mid-week (camping = less booze, more beer), we did it.

Meals:

Meal #1 – Hot dogs.  Because it’s camping and you have to.  We cooked these on the gas grill the day we got there, and it was so late and we were so tired from work and packing and setting up that I think we just ate them with a side of beer (and were obviously too tired to get a good picture).  The specific dogs aren’t my favorite (the applegate NATURAL not organic like I usually get) but everything tastes better while camping.

Meal #2 – Bean and cheese breakfast tacos.  We took a can of beans and reheated it in a pot while toasting the tortillas on the stove.  We caved the next day and heated it in the microwave, rather than have to clean the pot again.  We ate these for breakfast on day 2 and 3, and then I think we ended up sleeping so late or had food left over that we didn’t dig into the second can of beans or eat protein bars until the last day.

Meal #3 – Fish tacos with coleslaw.  We made tilapia tacos twice, the first time with lemon pepper, and the second time with cajun seasoning (both with avocado oil and vinegar).  Fish was cooked PERFECTLY both times by our master griller on the gas grill and I prepared some fresh coleslaw and topped it with a sprinkle of cheese and hot sauce.

Meal #4 – Turkey sandwiches.  This isn’t super revolutionary, but instead of pre-made, I brought all the produce and cut it up from scratch.  It was kind of nice to have a non-grilling quick meal, but it was also sad not to have grill meat and it was a ticking time bomb because fresh deli meat goes bad quickly.

Meal #5 – Sausages and bbq beans.  This was kind of a mid-day snack meal after a big breakfast and a veggie snack, before a big dinner.  The beans were cooked on the stove and then we cooked the sausages on the gas grill (and the beans were cold by the time we ate).  We couldn’t figure out what to eat with these particular sausages, but our garlic mustard seemed to fit the bill.

Meal #6 – Dutch oven chicken and pasta with broccoli and cauliflower.  This was an impromptu thing when I realized that we had chicken, leftover pasta, fresh leftover veggies, cheese, avocado oil, fresh garlic, and seasonings.  We actually had the neighbors cook the chicken on their smoker grill egg thing (of love and wonder), and then boiled up some pasta, and tossed some oil, garlic, and fresh veggies in the dutch oven.  Combine with cheese, salt and pepper and it was worth the time even if I may have been extremely HANGRY waiting for it.

Meal #7 – Beef stew.  This was our experiment.  We did this from scratch as well, with 1 lb grass fed stew meat, fresh onions, potatoes, celery carrots and…well… a bag of frozen veggies.  At first we thought it was a fail because the beef was super chewy with the first bowl, but after giving it another hour, it was PERFECT.  So, two options next time: make with ground beef, or know it’s a 3-hour wait for this one.

Meal #8 – Burgers.  Because you’re camping.  We only brought two grass fed patties and ate them the second to last day with a side of veggie pasta salad.

One cannot live on main dishes alone, so here’s the support crew of snacks and sides…

Fruit.  I ate a bag of cherries in two days, and the rest of the days I noshed on plums and cuties.  The plums were a little too ripe and half of them went bad but I am just peeling the last clementine now.  Next time, I might pick some more HYRDRATING things like melon, but it was also nice to not have to refrigerate them.

Cut up veggies and hummus.  Since we had a ton of meals involving fresh veggies, the leftovers went to snacks.  Sadly, *some* of them went bad but I’m going to chalk that up to them being held hostage by the other (heavy) cooler on top.

Roasted corn.  Because, you kind of have to when camping, it’s the perfect grill veggie.

Veggie pasta salad.  This was the experiment.  I was going to prep it ahead of time but I got busy, so I legit just brought all the ingredients (5 different types of veggies, dry pasta, oil and vinegar, spices, two types of olives, feta, cilantro) and it took three days and three smaller Tupperware to make it, but on day four… it was worth it and was 3 servings of side-dish love.

Jerky, nuts, and protein bars.  Since I was missing my normal yogurt breakfasts, I felt low on protein all vacation.  This helped.

Julio’s tortilla chips.  Hint: avoid these.  They were so addictive that we went through 20 servings of chips in like 5 days (instead of those veggie snacks).  Then we looked at the ingredients and whaddya know, the third one was MSG.  My plan was to just bring a smaller bag of chips for both of us and next time I would try to keep it to that.

Smores. This was a challenge because we rolled sans fire.  We roasted one marshmallow on the propane burner and put one together and that was okay.  Then, I put together two smores and wrapped them in foil and put them on the grill.  Much better.

Avocado oil popcorn.  This may be one of the best things I have put in my mouth in a long time, and it was SUPER simple.  Avocado oil in dutch oven.  Two kernels.  Wait until they pop.  Put more in.  Wait until the popping slows.  Salt.  Serve.  Wonder where this has been all your life.

Fourth of july oreos.  Because it had pop rocks in the middle… duh!  I think we still have 2/3rds of them two weeks later.

For those of you who are interested in even MORE details, read below.  Here’s my entire packing list to keep two people fed well for a week.

Meats (all of these lived in the big cooler with all the ice and stayed at least fridge temp the whole time):

  • 2x package of 2 vacuum sealed chicken breasts (the ONLY thing left was two of these).
  • 2x package of 4 vacuum sealed hot dogs
  • 2 vacuum sealed burgers
  • 4x 1 vacuum sealed tilapia filets
  • 2x packages of 2 vacuum sealed sausages
  • 1 lb vacuum sealed stew beef
  • 1 lb of turkey (this stayed in the fridge)

Produce (and what I planned to use it for):

  • 1 big bag of potatoes (stew, potential snacks or sides we didn’t do, only used a few)
  • 1 big bag of onions (stew, sandwiches, burgers, potential campfire onion snacks we didn’t do, only used a few)
  • 1 head cabbage (coleslaw – I still have half of this but you can’t buy a tiny head of cabbage…)
  • 1 bunch of celery (stew, snacks, pasta salad)
  • 2 bags of carrots (stew, snacks – only needed one)
  • 4 heads of broccoli (pasta salad, pasta snacks, planned to grill some but didn’t – only needed two)
  • 1 head cauliflower (pasta salad, pasta)
  • 1 head of cilantro (pasta salad – needed just a little, the rest went slimy)
  • 2 tomatoes (burgers, sandwiches – needed just one, might have used both if the salad stayed good)
  • Bag of salad (sadly, this went slimy two days in or I would have eaten the crap out of this)
  • Cucumbers (never ate because no salad, but magically they stayed good and I’ve eaten them this week)
  • Bell Pepper (pasta salad, snacks)
  • Corn (side dish, only ate 2 of the 6 and the rest went bad)
  • Random leftovers from the fridge that had no place in the menu  – asparagus and green onions (used onions in the pasta salad but the rest of both went bad)

I am a condiment aficionado.  You might could get by with less, but I feel like the space was mostly worth it.

  • Seasonings: salt, pepper, montreal seasoning, garlic powder (and fresh), cajun, lemon pepper
  • Avocado Oil
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Honey
  • Dressings: coleslaw, lite ranch, italian (FYI, light ranch + red wine vinegar makes a better coleslaw dressing than coleslaw dressing).
  • Relish, mustard, ketchup, avocado oil mayo, hot sauce
  • Green olives
  • Pickles

The rest of it:

  • 2 cans refried beans (used one)
  • 2 cans bbq/onion beans (used one)
  • package of flour and corn tortillas (used half, used the rest at home)
  • leftover shredded cheese and a block of cheddar (used half, used the rest at home)
  • meant to bring feta for the pasta salad but got goat instead (used half, ate the rest at home)
  • pantry snacks: marshmallows, graham crackers, chocolate, oreos, chips, nuts, jerky, protein bars, jar of popcorn kernels (ate most of the chips and jerky, a little of the rest)
  • Nuun for electrolytes (which we didn’t really use)
  • Many types of teas (which we used three times)

And we tried to go minimal on dishes, here’s what we brought:

  • 2 bowls
  • 2 mugs
  • 8 plastic plates (but we only used two)
  • 2 forks, spoons, 1 butter knife, 1 steak knife
  • 1 big knife
  • 2 potholders
  • 2 spatulas
  • 1 small pot
  • Dutch oven
  • All the foil
  • Paper napkins and paper towels (probably could have just brought the latter).

All in all, I think we did REALLY well on our first trip out.  Here are the few observations and things I might change next time:

  • The meat situation worked out REALLY well.  I was worried, but the cooler kept things cold enough as long as we got ice every or every other day.
  • Next time we’ll rearrange things so the coolers don’t get stacked on top of each other so often.  I definitely reached for chips instead of veggies because they were more accessible.
  • I am impressed with the amount of produce we were able to get through, and how well it did for a week in a cool, protected, but not refrigerated or chilled place.  I honestly think I would have eaten most of it if it wasn’t for the hostage situation with the other, heavier cooler on top of it much of the time.  I will definitely make sure that each veggie is being used in at least two dishes plus snacks if it’s big (like the cabbage, broccoli, etc).
  • Buy all the produce the day before.  It will last longer (hi slimy salad).
  • We will definitely bring our charcoal grill too.  The gas grill was convenient, but it didn’t get very hot in the wind, and dutch ovens cook better with coals on top.
  • We need to not do meals where we cook on both the gas grill and the gas stove… unless we grill something like chicken and then toss it in something on the stove (in the dutch oven on top of pasta).  Even in the heat food cooled too quickly to do that.
  • My original thought on day 2 when I started cooking it was to prep the pasta salad beforehand, but it was kind of a fun challenge and it was one less thing to do before the trip.
  • Having minimal dishes made us have to do them right away which is a GOOD thing when you live in the same room as them.
  • Next time we’ll have to try at least one new thing!  I could easily replicate this whole menu now and have a great week of eating, but what fun is that?  I think next time I’d like to try and make a big pot of chili or maybe I’ll find another great dutch oven recipe out there.

Camping food is magic.  First of all, it tastes WAYYYY better than cooking at home.  Also, I ate and drank like a big piggie, and I didn’t gain any weight.  Magic!

Do you have a great dutch oven recipe or an idea of something great to eat while camping?  Hit me up!

 

 

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