Cooking at Camp

Adapted from Camp and Trail Cooking Techniques by Jim Capossela (GORP)

Tips for Hot and Cold Lunches

I can recall many a memorable camp breakfast. Once it was a seashore omelet which used up not only my leftovers but everyone else’s as well. It had two cut-up lobsters in it, vegetables of every hue, and God only knows how many eggs. Coming back to me, too, is more than one fabulous camp dinner. I recall baked lake trout, cooked just minutes out of the water, on a fishing trip to Hawk Lake, Quebec. Then there were creamy fish chowders with pink fleshed Maine brook trout, shish kebabs of museum quality design in Hampton Bays, hearty dutch oven pot roasts along Montana rivers, and fresh berry pies in the Florida Keys.

I can scarcely remember a camp lunch though, and maybe it's better that way. If when the wheel of fortune has spun you've been knighted camp cook, this, the midday meal, is where you get a little break.

A high percentage of campers are where they are for some particular reason: fishing, sightseeing, hiking, photography, mountaineering, swimming. Thus, lunch is the meal they will least have on their minds. There are two implications here. One, if you are in fact running the culinary show, you can promote the idea of each person seeing to his or her own light lunch. On the other hand, if you feel like making lunches, don't push them on people who have a lot of other good things to do between 10 A.M. and 5 P.M. Roll with the flow when it comes to lunches.


It's doubtful that people will descend upon your midday offerings if they consist of just cut up raw vegetables. But place a tangy dip in the middle and watch them fly away.

A wide range of vegetables can be used raw as crudites, but some of the best are: yellow squash, red (sweet) pepper, green (bell) pepper, cherry tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, endive, cucumber, carrot, yellow pepper, and snow pea pods.

Here are a couple of recipes.

Blue Cheese Dip

 4 oz. cream cheese
 1 1/2 T. finely grated fresh onion
 4 oz. blue cheese
 Salt to taste
 1/2 cup lowfat plain yogurt
 Dash of garlic powder
 2 T. mayonnaise

Get both cheeses very soft. Mash together with all other ingredients. Like most dips, it will be better the next day, but bring to near room temperature before serving. A dash of lemon or lime juice could be added. Finely chopped walnuts are a marvelous addition.

Guacamole Dip

Cut 2 small ripe avocados, remove the pit, then remove the pulp. In a bowl, mash the pulp with 1 T. lemon juice, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/2 T. finely grated onion (or a little more), and 1 small clove garlic, crushed and finely chopped. Taste and add additional salt if desired. A small dash of Tabasco sauce can also be added. Mix and let stand overnight. Bring to camp in a suitable vessel.


On a chilly day there's scarcely a better midday meal than soup. And it can be a meal by itself. I sometimes like to bake biscuits in the morning and put them aside to be served with soup at the lunch hour. Soup, bread of some sort, and a piece of cheese will revive the spirits on a wind blown spring or autumn day when the weather has been less than kind.

Jim's Stomachache Broth

 2 qts. spring or well water
 1 cup chopped carrot
 1 1/2 packets chicken bouillon
 1 cup chopped tomato (about 1 medium one)
 4 cups chopped potato
 1 cup loosely packed chopped parsley
 2 large wooden spoons of honey (about 3 to 4 T. total)
 1 cup chopped celery

Bring water to a simmer. Add all other ingredients and simmer for about 30 minutes, covered. Turn off heat and allow to steep another 15 20 minutes. Strain, discarding vegetables. Reheat broth to warm before serving. This very alkaline broth is good for an acid stomach.

Camper's Meatless Pea Soup

 1 cup dried split peas
 1 8 1/4 oz. can sliced carrots
 1 bay leaf (opt.)
 2 chicken bouillon cubes or packets
 1 medium onion, chopped small
 1/2 tsp. garlic powder

Rinse the peas in cold water, stirring vigorously. Drain. Cover the peas with 4 cups cold water and soak several hours or overnight. Do not drain. Add the bay leaf and onion and cook about 45 minutes or until the peas have fully disintegrated. Remove and discard bay leaf. Mash the carrots coarsely and add to the soup pot with the other two ingredients. Stir very well, cook 10 minutes. As with most soups, you can add water to thin or remove the cover during cooking to thicken—but the carrots provide thickening so add them first. SERVES 6.

Aunt Joans's Easy Chicken Soup Joan Cronin

 3 chicken quarters, skin removed
 2 ribs celery with leaves, chopped
 1 1/2 qts. water
 2 carrots, chopped
 3-4 chicken bouillon cubes or packets
 Pepper (opt.)
 1 onion, chopped

Any chicken parts totaling about 3 lbs. will be acceptable. Cover them with the water and add all the other ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer on low, covered, about 60 minutes. Use a large spoon to force some of the meat off the bone. Uncover and simmer about another 30 minutes or until "it's soup." Cool. Skim fat. ABOUT 5-6 SERVINGS.

Hard Times Turkey Soup

 Seasonings to taste
 1 1/2 - 1 3/4 lbs. turkey necks, backs, and thighs
 1 13  3/4-oz. can chicken broth
 1 onion, diced fine
 1 10 3/4 oz can Campbells Golden Mushroom soup, undiluted

Saute turkey pieces in butter until golden. Season as you wish (try a little Poultry Seasoning). Add soup plus 2 soup cans of water, broth, and onion. Add fresh or dried parsley if you have it. Simmer 75 minutes. Remove turkey pieces, pick meat off bone and reserve for sandwiches. Or, return now boneless meat to pot and serve in the soup. I made this soup for $2.89! SERVES 4.


Sometimes, a small bowl of salad and a hunk of good bread is nourishment enough to make it through those long afternoon hours. Any one of these good salads can be put out between high noon and 2 PM. First is an original from my sister, who makes the best green salads I’ve ever had.

Carolee's Salad Nouvelle

Break up, into bite size pieces, one small head of red leaf lettuce, one head of endive, and one cup of arugula. Wash, dry very well, and place in the cool er to crisp, preferably 4 hours or more. Serve with your favorite vinaigrette or try this fancy one: 6 T. sesame oil, 1 T. balsamic vinegar, 1 T. raspber ry vinegar, V2 tsp. salt, 5 turns of fresh pepper, 1 tsp. Dijon mustard, dash dry tarragon. Certainly, this dressing could be made at home and brought to camp. Add slowly to your greens as you toss—don't overdress the salad! My sister Carolee likes to add freshly shelled green peas to this salad. SERVES 6.

Ninety Second Cole Slaw

In a large bowl or pot, empty a 16 oz. bag of prepackaged cole slaw blend (often just a mixture of shredded cabbage and carrots). Add 1/2 cup each of mayonnaise and lowfat plain yogurt, plus 1/2 tsp. of salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper, add 1 1/2 tsp. each of sugar and celery seed. Stir well. Chill and let set 4 hours or longer. ABOUT 8-9.

Mom's Easy Tomato Salad

 2 large ripe garden tomatoes sliced 1/2 inch thick
 Salt and pepper
 Chopped onion to taste
 Oil Garlic powder
 Wine or tarragon vinegar

Place sliced tomatoes on a large plate. Sprinkle on finely chopped onion (red onion is ideal) and seasonings to taste. Drizzle on oil (about 1 1/2 to 2 T.) then vinegar. Allow to marinate for a few hours if possible, turning occasionally. Optionally, chopped fresh basil can be sprinkled over all. SERVES 4.

Ziti Garden Salad - Ronzoni

 1 lb. ziti
 1/2 cup pitted black olives, halved
 1 cup Italian salad dressing
 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
 2 cups broccoli florets, cooked
 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
 1 large red pepper, in thin strips

Cook the ziti according to package directions. Drain the pasta and rinse quickly with warm water. Combine with all other ingredients and toss well. Serve with additional cheese if desired. SERVES 4.

Jim's Unbelievable Potato Salad

 3 medium cloves garlic, finely minced
 3 T. fresh parsley, finely chopped
 1 1/2 tsp. sugar
 4 liquid ozs. oil
 1/2 tsp. salt
 2 1/2 lbs. baby new potatoes, (white skin)
 Freshly ground pepper
 1 - 1 1/2 T. vinegar
 2 T. finely minced onion

Let garlic sit in oil 20 25 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon and discard. Add all other ingredients to the oil except potatoes. Whisk or stir well. Wash potatoes. Lightly salt 2 qts. of water. Boil potatoes about 5 minutes. Remove from flame. Potatoes will continue to cook in the hot water. Test every minute until most of hardness is gone. Drain immediately and pour cold water over until potatoes are luke warm. Do not peel. Slice potatoes 1/3 inch thick. Small potatoes, which are best, will yield only 3 slices each. Potatoes must be luke warm, not cold. Pour batter over, stir well, and let sit 1 hour. Serve warm or at room temperature. Small red skin potatoes are an acceptable substitute. ABOUT 6 SIDE DISHES.

Main Dishes

Big appetites can occur at midday. Many of these recipes should stay the thronging pot lid lifters.

Kasha Stuffed Tomatoes - Wolff's Buckwheat Products

 3 large ripe garden tomatoes
 1/2 cup packed, soft bread crumbs
 l/2 cup chopped onion
 1/2 tsp. salt or to taste
 l clove garlic, minced
 1/4 tsp. pepper or to taste
 1/4 cup butter or margarine
 1/8 tsp. rosemary
 1 1/2 cups cooked kasha

Cut tomatoes in half crosswise. Scoop out much of pulp but do not pierce bottoms. Drain pulp well, and reserve. Cook onion and garlic in butter until onion is tender. To this, add tomato pulp and rest of ingredients. Fill tomatoes with mixture. Add 1/2 inch water to the bottom of your dutch oven and heat. Bake tomatoes about 20 minutes. MAKES 6.

North Country Stuffed Potatoes - Gibbs Wild Rice

 1 medium onion, chopped fine
 1 1/4 cups cooked wild rice or brown rice
 1 1arge carrot, chopped fine
 1/2 cup celery, chopped fine
 Salt and pepper to taste
 1/2 lb. ground beef, venison, or other game meat
 6 large green bell peppers
 8 oz. Cheddar cheese, shredded

Saute onion, carrot, and celery in butter or oil until soft. Push aside and saute meat until lightly browned. Stir all together, simmer on low for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and add rice. Stir well, season to taste. Wash peppers, remove tops, and dean insides. Add stuffing. Top with shredded cheese. Bake in dutch oven for about 35 minutes; or, wrapped in foil in the coals. You can soften your peppers by steaming them in a pot with a little water for about 10 to 12 minutes before stuffing them. This will reduce the baking time. SERVES 3-6.

American Style Chili

 1 medium onion, chopped
 1 16 oz. can red kidney beans
 1 medium green Italian pepper, chopped
 1 T. chili powder, or to taste
 Dash each Worcestershire and Tabasco
 3/4 lb. chopped beef or venison
 1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
 Salt and pepper to taste
 1/4 cup water

Fry onion and pepper in a little oil or fat. Push aside, then add meat and brown lightly. Add all other ingredients, stir well. Simmer slowly, uncovered, about 30 minutes. Serve over white rice or noodles. Toppings can include chopped scallions, shredded cheese, and sour cream. SERVES 4-5.


Most people drink at least some coffee and carbonated soda, but I doubt there are many who see either as something healthy to introduce to one's body. In coming years, I hope more cookbooks (outdoor and otherwise) will offer many more recipes for healthy beverages than has been the case to date. Here are three contributions to that cause.

Carob Milk

 4 cups milk or skim milk
 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (opt.)
 1 T. honey
 1/4 cup ground peanuts
 6 T. carob powder

Combine all ingredients in a pitcher or large bowl and stir or whisk vigorously. Serve as cold as possible. SERVES 4.

Dairy Free Cappucino

In a pot, combine a cup of brewed coffee (half day old OK) and a cup of plain soy milk. Bring to a full boil. Immediately pour into two mugs and top with cinnamon. Sugar may be added to taste. SERVES 2.

Sleepytime Nightcap - Celestial Seasonings, Inc.

 8 Sleepytime® tea bags
 1/4 cup plain or flavored brandy
 4 cups boiling water
 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
 1 tablespoon honey

Pour boiling water over tea bags. Steep 4 minutes. Add honey and stir until dissolved. Pour in brandy and lemon juice. Serve warm. SERVES 4.

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