11 Sep

Campfire Cuisine, by Robin Donovan (this is for you kitchen dwellers, too)

Honestly, I rolled my eyes when my husband handed me this book.

Four years ago, when we first started camping with the boys, I did a little research on ‘camping’ recipes. It wasn’t like I was planning on cooking over the campfire or anything…two babies on a campsite kept us busy enough without having to worry about open flames and charred meat. I was just looking for some tips for planning simple meals that traveled well.

I quickly found out that if you search for camping recipes you basically find recipes for stews or a combination of ingredients to throw in a foil packet. Neither of these categories sucked me in, so over the past three years I have developed my own way of meal planning for the road: I throw meat into marinades before we leave and then later grill it with lots of vegetables and fruit, I put everything over a salad, and I throw in a couple of crockpot favorites like pulled pork and white chili. In short, tasty yet uninspiring. I mean, I’m not impressing anyone here. I’m just serving solid, fresh, tasty food. Good, not brilliant.

Well, Campfire Cuisine inspired me to kick it up a notch this past summer. When I was skimming the recipes, I found myself wanting to try things for our everyday table, not just on the road. There is Indian-Styled Yogurt Chicken and Lentil Salad with Goat Cheese and Basil. There is a Jambalaya in lieu of the boring old stew, and Barbecued Peking Duck Wraps to replace your campfire fajitas. The book manages to offer up its ‘gourmet recipes’ without being obnoxious or ridiculous. You can actually skim these recipes and think, sure…we can do that.

For many of the recipes the author offers make ahead tips and prepping advice. The more I used the book, the more it reminded me of those 30-minute meal books, only with really great ingredients and imaginative recipes for people who like to eat well while camping.

My favorite things so far are the “Make-Ahead Mulitpurpose Baking Mix” which serves up thick, hardy pancakes or flavorful biscuits, and the various spice rubs which can be made ahead in plastic baggies and thrown on whatever cuts of meat you might happen upon on the road.

Campfire Cuisine doesn’t just appeal to me as a ‘camper’, it also serves as a great resource for weekday meal planning. Even if you are not now (or ever!) heading out in the RV, you could use the make ahead tips for the nights you have to get dinner on the table fast.

I’m certainly not one to want to be gazing at a recipe when I’m at a campsite with my family. But this book definitely tempts me to try new things even with three kids under four.

And that’s saying something.

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