No crockpot? No camp??? NO WAY!

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It’s the crock addict again…

In a previous post, I mentioned that I’d give ideas for non-crockpot meals you can take on your camping trip, because I realize, A. not every campground or site offers electricity, and B. not everyone has or uses a crockpot. There are all kinds of meals you can bring with you that don’t require a crockpot or electricity.

We’ll start with the obvious: canned goods. We bring stew, soups and ravioli, and we just heat them up over the propane stove. It can be a bit messy but quick and easy trumps the cleanup. We also bring boxed macaroni and cheese (hence why I’ve mentioned a small strainer in a previous post). Very simple to do this over your propane stove.

Next up is your classic hot dogs over the fire. Just poke ’em with a roasting stick and hold ’em over the fire. Going one step beyond that is hamburgers over the fire. Now, I LOVE a good grilled burger… BBQed burgers are my favourite, but mark my words, there is nothing that tastes as good as a burger grilled right over a campfire.

I’m a planner, and hot dogs and hamburgers are no different. I save myself the work at the campsite, and I precut toppings to put on our hot dogs and hamburgers. Lettuce and tomatoes, unfortunately, just don’t survive the trip well. But, using small, zipper-topped bags to bag some diced onions, sliced pickles, hot pepper rings… it makes a big difference in meal enjoyment.

Roasted potatoes are another favourite of ours, along with corn on the cob. Corn can be roasted on the grate above the campfire, just be sure to turn them often so that they cook evenly, and don’t burn. Potatoes, for my family, get washed, pierced with a fork to keep them from bursting, and wrapped in foil, and I do this ahead of time at home. These can go right into the fire, just leave them on the outer edges of the fire, and turn these often as well. Check one for doneness before removing them all from the fire. Some pre-cut chopped green onion and a small container of sour cream dress these up nicely. And if you have any bacon leftover from breakfast… Wow is all I can say!

This year, I made an attempt at something similar to McDonald’s Egg McMuffin. I used one package of 6 English muffins, about 5-6 eggs, whisked with milk and S&P, processed cheese slices (no judgement please!) and some deli cooked ham. I cooked the eggs until done, and without toasting the English muffins, I laid one out on a sheet of foil, spooned some scrambled egg onto one side, topped it with ham and cheese before putting the other half of the English muffin on top. I wrapped it up in the foil, and went on with the rest until they were all done. These were frozen until it was time to leave for our trip. When we got up the next morning, we started a small campfire, and heated these up over the campfire grate, just flipping them back and forth until heated through. We had to test one first, but when it was fully heated, the cheese was gooey and delicious. Just add ketchup and a cup of coffee!

Premade & frozen, scrambled egg, cheese and ham on an English muffin

Premade & frozen, scrambled egg, cheese and ham on an English muffin

Muffins, cookies and breads, like banana bread, are all great ideas for snacks to be made and frozen ahead of time, pre-made sandwiches containing deli meats and cheeses all freeze surprisingly well.

What easy food items have you brought that has made your trip so much easier?

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Setting up Your Camp Kitchen

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This is probably my favourite part of setting up… I love getting everything organized for our meals together. The more organized your kitchen area is, the easier and quicker your meals with come together!As a big Pinterest fan, I’m always on the lookout for ways to streamline this important part of camp set-up, and for new and cheap ideas to make it home-y, keeping in mind, we’re trying to get away from it all 😉

I came across this blog page on Pinterest, and wow. The inspiration is incredible!

http://echoesoflaughter.ca/2013/08/organizing-camping-kitchen.html

Ideas I took away from this are the table solar light, a pretty basket for napkins and small things like S&P. I bought some pretty, coordinating oven mitts and dish towels, the S-hooks (a.k.a. “lifesavers”). The only problem I had with the solar light is making sure it was charged during the day. We camp in a campground that is fairly shaded and even sitting the solar light in the sunniest of areas, we had to keep moving it because five minutes later, the sunny spot was shaded too! But so handy to have this on at night!

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You don’t need to buy a camp kitchen (Coleman sells them) to incorporate these ideas into your own camp set-up. However, if you want to MAKE your own, out of PVC pipe, and a shelving unit, if you are creative and have some time on your hands. Even just looking at this, I’m excited and want to jump right into this project!

http://thewhoot.com.au/whoot-news/diy/diy-camping-kitchen

Of course, there is the hanging shoe organizer I mentioned in a previous post. It was so helpful to have this nearby, it truly felt like an extra set of helping hands, because it made everything so accessible.

kitchentent

Here are some important kitchen items to have while camping, that you may not even think about:

Can opener

Scissors
S&P
Foil, cling-wrap, zipper-topped bags, food storage containers
BBQ tongs and/or spatula if you intend to grill food
Table cloth
Disinfectant wipes
Dishsoap or camper’s soap
Paper towels

Mosquito coils (when those little critters find a way in, if you have one of these burning on the ground, it keeps them at bay)

We used to have a traditional kitchen tent, with the green and white stripes and the long, awkward poles… wow. That thing was such a pain in the butt to set up. You truly needed a TEAM of people to set it up properly. Since then, we have purchased A First-Up gazebo. You know, the ones that you can set up in about ten minutes, with maybe one other person? It reminds me of an accordion, the way the metal structure is, two people pull on opposite ends to expand the structure. Then you attach the top, secure it with the velcro loops, and raise it up to the height you want (there are three selections on ours). Lastly, you put up the screen walls, to “keep the bugs out”, but somehow they always find a way in… We also purchased a privacy screen for our gazebo. We put both up on the gazebo, and leave one or two sides open for ventilation, depending on how warm it is.

A kitchen “tent” is not necessary. I have seen many people simply put a tarp up, tying the corners to trees nearby, tilted on a slant so that if it rains, the slope will keep the water from collecting and pulling the tarp down. We prefer an actual tent because we like a little bit of privacy with our (my) bedhead while sipping coffee or cooking bacon. Plus it’s nice to hang stuff up and out of the way, and keep it there during the duration of your stay!

What helps you keep your camp kitchen area organized?

Not Without my Crockpot!

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I don’t know what it is about the great outdoors, but my family and I are ALWAYS hungry when we go camping.

If your campground offers electrical sites (usually these are for RVs and campers), spend the extra money and get one of these sites! Yes, you are roughing it, yes, I understand it’s considered ‘glamping’, but Benjamin Franklin wouldn’t object, and neither would I. Just do it! You won’t regret it.

The food part of your camping trip requires some planning and thinking ahead. I start putting together food items 4-6 weeks before our trip. I stock up on non-perishables, snacks, marshmallows, peanuts, drinking boxes, Koolaid Jammers, etc. and I freeze things like bacon and hot dogs. I’ll also package up enough hamburger patties for two meals.

We usually camp for 5 full days, so two of these meals I plan to have crockpot meals. You can plan one for every day if you want! The choices are endless, and even if you don’t use a crockpot at home, you should definitely have one for camping. You can do stews, soups, chili, lasagna… the list goes on. Whatever your family likes most, it can be adapted to the crockpot. There are two great reasons for doing your meals this way… one, it’s easy to just dump the contents into the crockpot and you’re set, but the frozen meals will also keep other things in your cooler, cold. Win, win!

crockpot

I buy two, whole, large chicken breasts, and line my little crockpot with a jumbo ziplock bag. I put the chicken in with a block of cream cheese, 1/2 cup Frank’s Red Hot Buffalo Chicken sauce, 1/2 cup ranch salad dressing, pepper, and half a cup each of diced onion, carrot and celery. I seal it up, removing as much air as possible, and I plop the entire thing into my freezer. I don’t know if you’re supposed to put the crockpot in the freezer or not, but I have never had any problems and I’ve had this crockpot forever. Freezing it INSIDE the crockpot ensures that when you want to cook it, it’s going to fit without having to fight with it. Set it on low in the morning, and go about your day. With so many things to see and do, it’s nice to not have to worry about cooking when you come back tired. When it’s time to eat, shred the chicken with two forks and serve on your favourite sandwich buns. This meal is my husband’s favourite.

Another meal I do ahead of time and freeze in the crockpot is meatloaf. I combine two pounds of lean ground beef (you could use turkey or chicken) with one package of onion soup mix, half a can of tomato soup (no water, do not dilute) and breadcrumbs if mixture is too sticky. Line the crockpot with a ziplock bag, and press the mixture into the crockpot. Seal, remove as much air as you can, and freeze. Same thing as the chicken, set on low in the morning. Serve with potatoes cooked in the fire.

I also like to make up Bisquick pancakes ahead of time and freeze the mixture in a ziplock, so it’s nice and flat for the cooler. When it’s thawed, snip off a corner and drizzle it onto a hot griddle.

This year I tried something new, and it required getting a morning fire going. I made up breakfast sandwiches (like McDonald’s egg McMuffin) and wrapped them in foil and froze them. When we wanted to eat, we put them on the grate over the fire and kept turning them, until the middles were warm and the cheese was gooey. It was seriously delicious! I’ll be doing those up again, for sure!

The trick to camping food is to do AS MUCH as you can at home before the trip. With limited resources, you want it to be as easy as possible. Cutting up veggies and fruits, baking muffins and cookies, all of these things will help your trip to be enjoyable because you’ll spend less time preparing food and more time enjoying your trip, which is how memories are made.

And of course, this doesn’t just apply to a camping trip… these ideas can also be used for road trips and tailgating!

I’d love to hear your ideas and tips! Please feel free to share!

Made With Love… To Enjoy Later

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Another of my favourite topics… FOOD!! So a couple of posts back, I talked about some ideas for food to bring with you when you go camping (RVing, road trips, etc; etc.). I have spent much time perusing the web and Pinterest for ideas for my own family, and I’ve narrowed it down to a few stand-bys. The crockpot is my absolute favourite tool when my family and I go on our camping trips. It is so handy and nearly anything can be adapted for the crockpot. Having said that, I thought I would share some of my recipes for things that I bring with us. Keep in mind, these recipes can be altered and ingredients swapped out according to your family’s likes and dislikes. My family doesn’t have any food allergies (although Tyler acts like he’s allergic to raw tomatoes), so pretty much anything goes with us!

So, for these recipes, my trick is to line the crockpot with a large zipper-topped bag, filling it, removing as much air as possible, and taking the crockpot with the bag still inside, and freezing it as is.

An alternate method is still filling the bag, but after removing the air, freezing it flat. This will make packing your cooler SO much easier, and as it thaws in the cooler, it will be able to mold to the shape of the crockpot.

Chili

When I’m at home, I make a huge pot (7qt) of chili, which I’ll make lunches with and freeze any extra for another time. When we camp, I have to downsize because the crockpot we bring is about half the size (3qt).

(You can right-click and save the image onto your computer, or left-click to save it as a .doc file on your computer.)

chili

Meatloaf

I cannot take credit for this recipe, it’s my mom’s, tried and true. I loved it so much as a kid, I begged her for the recipe when I moved out =)  I know there are some bad meatloaf recipes out there, I assure you, this is NOT one of them.

I usually add the entire can of soup to mine, but the reason I have it divided in the recipe is because my mom would say I’m doing it wrong 😉  She adds half the soup to the mixture, and the other half goes on top of the meatloaf when it’s about 30 minutes from being done. I add it all because the meatloaf can be messy enough without doing this, adding it on top before freezing it would just be a bigger mess. I also never use the egg because the whole can of soup is usually enough to make it stick together well. Serve with potatoes cooked in foil in your fire. Serious yumminess.

(You can right-click and save the image onto your computer, or left-click to save it as a .doc file on your computer.)

meatloaf

Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches

Oh my fellow moms, if there was ever an easy meal to make that fills you up, THIS IS IT. I like this recipe for that reason, as well as the fact that I’m able to sneak in some veggies and the kids don’t know!

(You can right-click and save the image onto your computer, or left-click to save it as a .doc file on your computer.)

buffalochkn

BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

If you’re not feeling so spicy, this is also delicious!

(You can right-click and save the image onto your computer, or left-click to save it as a .doc file on your computer.)

bbqchickensandwiches

Lasagna

If you’ve never had lasagna done in the crockpot, it’s a whole new world for you, my friends! I will warn you though… this MAY turn out better if you don’t make it ahead of time and freeze it. We did this one year and we found the lasagna was quite soggy, however, I’m not sure if it’s because of the oven-ready noodles, or if it was a combination of freezing it, having it thaw in the cooler, and then cooking it. It’s really quick and easy to make at the campsite, though, with minimal mess.

(You can right-click and save the image onto your computer, or left-click to save it as a .doc file on your computer.)

lasagna

I do have other food ideas for you that don’t involve a crockpot, and will share them in a later post.

How do you make your camp foods convenient?

8 Things to Not Camp Without!

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As I’ve stated before, each year I try something new… Pinterest is definitely my weakness and I’m always scoping out new ideas, or trying to adapt an idea from there, to the amazing world of camping in the great outdoors.

I have come up with a list of things you should absolutely not leave home for a camping trip without.

1. Wipes

Just like any well-prepared mom, you know that when your kids are little, not to leave home without the baby wipes. They are indispensible when you are out camping! They don’t have to be “baby wipes”, per se. You can get any kind of disposable wipes. While we do have a water jug, soap and a towel handy at our campsite, sometimes you just need something quicker. When preparing food outdoors, you can’t always go touching everything on your way to wash your hands… and this is where wipes come in handy. And of course, some things never change, your kids will almost always make some sort of mess, right?

wipes

2. Antibacterial Wipes

I’m listing this seperately because there’s clean, and then there’s antibacterial clean. When you’re handling meat, like bacon, or your pre-made, frozen crockpot meatloaf, you don’t want to risk contaminating anything else you might be preparing. These wipes will save the day! Another thing I like to do is wipe down the tablecloth on the picnic table before we eat. Those chipmunks and squirrels really DO get everywhere.

disinwipes

3. Hanging Shoe Organizer

This is huge for me, I was sooo happy with this when I set up our kitchen tent this year. Usually, we just toss all of our camping items in the totes and store them in the kitchen tent, usually under the ends of the picnic table. Then, when you’re fumbling around, in the dark, looking for those roasting sticks for hotdogs and/or marshmallows, you are digging through absolutely everything you’ve already used that day, plus making a complete racket. This invention is the solution to that problem.

kitchentent

I actually borrowed it from my oldest son, who was using it for some odds and ends in his bedroom (at the time of this post, he hasn’t replaced it, even though I’ve returned it to him… maybe it will go “missing”?) I packed the hooks it comes with, just in case they would work with our gazebo/kitchen tent, turns out, they did. I hung it up, and I had all kinds of pockets to sort all of our cutlery, wipes, cooking spray, paper towels, foil & zipper-topped bags… Anytime someone asked for something, BOOM! It was in front of them because it was soooo much easier to access.

4. S-Hooks

You can buy these at any hardware store, in various sizes. You can see in the above photo, I have bags hanging off to the side, some pretty, dollar store oven mitts, etc. They’re all hanging with S-hooks. LIFESAVERS!

5. Plastic Tablecloth with Seat Covers

I don’t have a photo for these, because every selection in every store is different. I bought a set, white-and-red gingham-patterned, for $4.97 @ Walmart, in the sporting goods department, namely, the camping area. You really do get what you pay for… this set was pretty cheap and thin, however, for $5, even using it for the 5 days we camped, it was worth it to me. And, it’s recyclable, so you don’t even have to clean it and pack it to come home. (For the record, I did, because I think I can get at least one more season out of it before getting rid of it!)

6. The Crockpot

Also known as “glamping”, as I’ve stated before, if you are lucky enough to get an electrical campsite, this baby is going to save you a lot of time in the wilderness. Prep and freeze all your meals in advance, store in large zipper-topped bags. Pop into the crockpot (minus the bag 😉 obviously), and set to high or low, depending on what your activities are for the day.

This is NOT to say that quick, easy and delicious meals cannot be made without a crockpot. Of course they can… but since we went electric, I seem to have forgotten most of them!

7. Your Tassimo/Keurig

Go ahead. Laugh it up. I’ll wait.

Finished? No? Okay… I’ll wait a little longer…

Okay, REALLY, that’s enough 😛

If you’re bringing the crockpot, you may as well bring your gourmet coffeemaker. People have laughed at us ever since we first started bringing it with us. We met family members for breakfast one morning, and offered coffee… while the kids sipped on their hot chocolates. There was some disbelieving giggles. The laughter ended quickly once they were sipping their drinks!

Think about it. These babies make everything. Tea. Coffee. Hot Chocolate. Lattes. Cappucinos. Heck, they even make iced tea and iced coffee. Why NOT bring it? Instead of packing coffee, tea and hot chocolate all seperately, you buy your favourite cups, bring one machine, and voila! I find it much easier to put all my Tassimo discs in one zipper-topped bag, and go.

As far as “glamping” goes, we’re well aware that this is the limit. =) However, there is something to be said for the people who bring RVs, fully loaded with air conditioning, WiFi, showers, the works. I’ll stick to my Tassimo, thankyouverymuch.

8. Disposable Dishcloths on a Roll

Got a greasy mess after cooking bacon and eggs on the griddle? The crockpot meatloaf left the dishcloth orange? Toss it into the fire, and grab a new one! Done!

washcloths

These items are definitely the most important ones to us… what can you NOT live without when you go camping?