Monday, May 12, 2008

Friends and Food in the Forrest

One of the few things I enjoy more than cooking is spending time with my loved ones, put those two activities together and I am as happy as can be. This past weekend I was fortunate enough to get to spend three days doing just that, cooking delicious food and catching and up with a handful of my nearest and dearest friends. This weekend of food and friends was made even more exciting due to the fact that there would be no kitchen or dining room table for us to gather around and not even a roof over our heads as we were to be spending our weekend outdoors and under the stars camping in the Cleveland National Forrest.

A handful of us drove up early on Friday afternoon thinking it might be handy to get an early start setting up camp while it was still light out. When we left San Diego the sky was overcast and gray so we were quite pleased to find that as we approached our destination the sky cleared and the sun came out to shine brightly in the sky. We pulled into the campground and drove around till we found our spot which sat on the edge of a big grassy meadow. We gathered our things and got ready to hop out of the car, happily anticipating the feel of warm sunshine but as we opened the car door we were surprisingly greeted with a strong gust of chilly wind. Not quite what we were expecting but that’s okay, we threw on a couple extra layers and started to unpack thinking soon enough the wind would die down enough for us to set up the tents. One hour later and the wind is still gusting just as strong and chilly as when we had first arrived if not even more so. We decided before attempting to set up the tents in the wind we should have a bite to eat so we broke out some crackers, chips and a bag of Trader Joes Gluten Free potato crisps for me and had ourselves a little pre tent setting up snack. The boys were drinking beer and I was perfectly content with my water until my darling Kate broke out the bottle of tequila she had bought for the occasion. We all decided it would be appropriate to mark the start of our camping adventure by having a shot straight from the bottle. The delicious chips filled our bellies and the tequila helped cut the chill of the wind and motivated us to get to work pitching our temporary fabric bedrooms.

An hour later our tents were up and the Ford Family had arrived with puppy dog Deezl in tow. Kelly being the fabulous gal that she is brought all sorts of tools and supplies for a weekend of successful outdoor cooking. By the time we had finished setting up camp the sun had begun to set and more friendly faces from San Diego had arrived. After exchanging lots of hugs and how are yous we decided it was time to start the camp fire, chop up some veggies and crissen our camp kitchen. Friday night’s dinner was to be a delicious smorgasbord of sausages, potatoes and peppers.

Chicken apple gouda sausages (sooo yummy!!) and spicy Italian sausages grilled on an open fire. Chopped potatoes, onion and bell peppers drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper, wrapped in foil packets and cooked on the fire for 20-30 minutes. Chopped yams drizzled with a Trader Joes Hard Apple cider I was drinking and sprinkled with cinnamon and brown sugar, wrapped in foil and cooked on the fire for 20-30 minutes. You want to make sure and flip the foil packets ever 5 minutes or so to keep the potatoes from charring too much on one side.

Dinner was incredibly delicious and particularly enjoyable considering all the hard work we had put into setting up camp earlier. The chilly wind continued to gust long after the sun had set so the hot food and cooking over the fire really helped warm us up. Even when we decided to call it a night and headed off to bed the wind shook the tents throughout the night. We also had some rowdy drunken neighbors that crashed the site next to us and were up till the wee ours of the morning causing quite the ruckus stumbling around the campground, being noisy and obnoxious and even chopping down trees in the forest behind our tents (grrr!!!). Lucky for me I had ear plugs and was able to sleep through most of the noise and our offending neighbors were kicked out first thing Saturday morning by the cute old couple that oversaw the campground (yay!!).

Unlike Friday, Saturday’s weather was quite pleasant. Warm, sunshiny and not windy at all. Once everyone was up and about we got to work preparing breakfast.

Ford made potatoes and yummy maple chicken breakfast sausages on the gas grill.

Kelly made eggs and I made my favorite breakfast item, oatmeal!

I cooked up two batches, banana nut and apple pie (the latter being for my bestest banana loathing friend Kate). I cooked these on the camp stove and then kept them warm on the fire.

Breakfast was scrumptious! Bellies full we decided it was time to get out and enjoy the beautiful day. Plus, we needed to do a bit of exercise if we wanted to be hungry for the dinner feast we had planed for that evening. We packed some water and a few snacks, slathered ourselves with sunscreen and headed out for a hike. We walked past the wooden fence that ran along the edge of our campsite and stepped out into the vast grassy meadow (which of course made me start quoting lines from Bambi).

The middle of the meadow had a spiffy cluster of boulders in the center of it that we stopped to climb on.

We also came across a heard of cattle. They were trying to intimidate us with their horns and angry cow stares.

After an hour we stopped in a shady spot and had some apples and pears, I planted my apple core in hopes that a tree might grow there someday. After another hour or so we were back at camp and plum tuckered out so we resigned to our tents for a little camp nap. When we awoke it was almost time to start preparing dinner, but not quite yet so to pass the time we made some smores!

Peanut butter cup + roasted marshmallow + cookie = yumers!!

I used a Nana’s Nana Banana cookie bar as my graham cracker replacement. I think this actually worked much better than a graham cracker because the Nana’s cookies are so soft that they don’t crumble to bits when you take your first bite. It was so delicious! I could have easily eaten another one (or 4!) but I limited myself to one because I wanted to save room for our Mexican feast we were going to be eating for dinner in a few hours.

I started making the tortillas first since they take the longest time to prepare. I mixed up the masa harina with water and then used my hands and a tortilla press my dad and brother brought me back from Ixtapa to make a bunch of corn tortillas. Kelly had brought a super spiffy gas grill that had a huge removable rectangular plate on it that was perfect for cooking 5 tortillas at once. Once the tortillas were done I set them aside to keep warm in my super fancy styrofoam tortilla warmer that I got at the 99 cent store just for the occasion.

Kelly got to work warming up some pork in a green sauce she had made at home in the crockpot while I warmed up some black beans I had slow cooked on Thursday night.

Kelly Orange had brought an abundance of delicious fresh fruits and veggies and chopped up some squash, bell peppers and onion to be sautéed with garlic and roasted on the fire.

Mikey brought some carne asada and more colorful peppers that to be grilled over the fire.

Steve, my official recipe taste tester gladly sampled everything and loved every bite.

As if dinner was not enough deliciousness for one evening we still had an amazingly delicious dessert to enjoy, a dessert which we will call…

Scrumptious Stuffed Bananas

Ingredients and tools

Peanut butter cups
Milk chocolate chips
Marshmallows (mini or big ones torn into mini sized pieces)
Heavy duty aluminum foil

Assembling the package

Leaving the peels on use a knife to cut a slit running lengthwise into the inner curve of each banana. You want to cut through one side of the skin and flesh of the banana and leave the opposite side of the skin intact. Stuff the slit of the banana with as much crumbled up peanut butter cup, chocolate chips and bits of marshmallow as you can then wrap the bundle in foil and put on the fire to cook for about 5 minutes or so. If you don’t have a grill over your fire you can put the foil packet directly onto some hot coals or rocks (if you do this you might want to double wrap the banana with foil). Once your banana is cooked grab a spoon, carefully open your foil packet and enjoy. You can eat this straight out of the banana peel with a spoon or I have been told that it is also extremely delicious spooned atop of a graham cracker.


After a long day of hiking, cooking and eating we all cozyed up around the warm fire to relax and enjoy our surroundings. Even though we had only been away just shy of a day being outdoors in the peaceful wilderness far away from the hustle and bustle of city life lightened our spirits and cleared our heads of thoughts of job obligations, alarm clocks and traffic jams. For most of us our days at home are jam packed with working, commuting, school, cleaning, taking care of kids and errand running and while our bodies and minds adjust to this fast paced way of life I think it is extremely important and healthy to take some time every now and again to slow down and enjoy a few peaceful, pleasant moments with friends.

After a much quieter night’s sleep we rose early in the morning, started a campfire and made a simple breakfast of tea, leftover oatmeal, foil packet roasted potatoes and peppers and hot strawberry chocolate scones (baked Friday morning before we left) warmed up on the fire.

It was a delicious end to a delicious trip and one that renewed my love of camping and inspired me to make plans to do more cooking and playing in the great outdoors.

Next camping adventure in the works, southern California beach camping, who’s in?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I always like cooking and eating in the wilderness. Here's another receipe to share with woodsey friends:

Cajun Camp Trout
Recipe Ingredients:

1 Laker, Brookies don’t work well
1 Onion
Some butter
1/2 bottle of Tabasco

Catch the fish. It’s ok to cheat and use live bait. After all, this is survival. It’s you against hunger and possible starvation! Gut and take the head off the Laker. Then stuff the cavity with some butter, 2 onion halves, and pour in the 1/2 bottle of Tabasco. (Don't be shy with the Tabasco.) This has to be done on a sheet of foil (or a foil cooking bag). Seal it in the foil and cook it on a grate over coals long enough to kill the d.Latum tapeworms. For a good sized fish it could take 20-30 minutes. The skin should stick to the foil; the meat can easily be removed from the top half, then the backbone and ribs in one piece, leaving the other half ready to eat as well. Don't forget to eat the onions. I usually fix this with tortillas warmed over the fire and several shots of Cabo Wabo. Both of these seem to help with the small bones that can’t be picked out. Be prepared for a "warm" reception on the John.

Yield: Depends upon the fish
Prep Time: Depends upon the fisherman
Cook Time: Depends upon the amount of tequila consumed