This week is camping week.

I’ll admit I’m not a big fan of camping. Oh I like the outdoors plenty, I just have bad associations with tents and sleeping bags. Being the nerd in my scout troop I was always the kid whose backpack got filled with rocks, or who climbed into his sleeping bag only to find someone had put a hundred of those little restaurant butter pats inside. Hey, you try sleeping in 40-degree weather when you’re greased from head to toe, OK?

However very recently my eyes were opened to the potential of camp fire cuisine. Over the weekend Mrs. Pastry completed her training to be a Girl Scout troop leader, and her reports from the field were nothing short of astonishing. There are some truly inspired camp fire baking techniques out there. Most of them require lots of mixes, plastic bags and whatnot, but who cares? The science is sound. Maybe some of you trail-hardened outdoors people out there can weigh in with tips or suggestions?

29 thoughts on “This week is camping week.”

  1. Being an avid camper in my younger (pre-fatherhood) days, I loved some of the stuff you can do in a fire. One of my earliest memories was a group of us, unprepared as per usual, having to clean and cook in a hubcap (we had forgotten to bring any bowls/pots).

    But, to the point today – I always loved mountain pies (, to the point that I actually carried a pie iron on hike through the Smokies in my college days. Since almost any bread product can be used as the shell, and since any filling that you have the urge for can be used…. well, yummy.

    And biscuits. Gotta have biscuits.

  2. Had to laugh about the greasy bed. I never made it far enough into the girl scouts to do camping but I made up for it years later hiking around the Blue Ridge mountains and bits of the Appalachian Trail. I will say I missed my calling as a rainmaker. I used to swear a place could have a 10 year drought and if my friend and I went camping there…we’d make it rain. Can’t remember any great camping food (we mostly lived on ramen noodles and something mixed in) but I do remember making mac&cheese once in a dog bowl (it was clean!!) when I had no pots or pans and pasta at least seemed easy enough to make with limited supplies. Though that was bad but I have to say a hubcap sounds worse for a pot. Then there is the story about “spider water” but maybe that one is too graphic for some readers….

    I do love the outdoors and I really liked camping…but it always seemed to end on a soggy note. One good food memory is picking wild blueberries and eating those while hiking along Lake Superior on the Pictured Rocks Trail. Talk about a great find.

    1. Airing out tents is something else I don’t really care for, I have to say. They always seem to mold on the inside no matter what you do. And, of course, I’m allergic to that. Sigh.

      – Joe

  3. My step-dad was an avid hunter in his younger years. I will never forget some of his “cooking on the hunt” stories. One in particular stands out. They decided to roast a whole chicken with some veggies in a cast iron pot and dug a big hole, put the pot in and dropped a bunch of hot coals on top then covered it up. A while later (I’m not sure how long). They uncovered it looking forward to a tasty roasted chicken only to find a pot of ashes! They had gotten the pot sooooo hot that everything (including the chicken bones) had incinerated. They ended up eating beans straight out of the can that night! What’s my tip from this story? Well, I guess “watch your heat and bring a backup”!


    1. Ha! Thanks, Eva!

      I once saw something similar at a friend’s bachelor party, an overnight on a Lake Michigan beach. They didn’t quite charr it down to the bones, but the groom-to-be and cook (who was at the time one of Chicago’s rising star chefs) was more than a little embarrassed.

      Amazing how much heat you can built up in at Dutch oven!

      – Joe

  4. Went camping with my son’s cub scout pack this weekend and we had some yummy chili the boys cooked and peach cobbler. For breakfast we had baggie omelets. Each person put what they wanted in theirs in a freezer baggie, squished it up to mix, and then boiled in bag till done. We were skeptical, but they turned out good!

    1. Hey Denise!

      Thanks for the ideas. Mrs. Jo Pastry made those omelets over the weekend and said they were good!

      – Joe

  5. That full width banner ad that takes up a chuck of the bottom of my precise, tiny iPhone screen is really turning me off.


      1. Joe, the new one is Macy’s. It’s really in your face using a device like an iPad.

        1. Hey Linda!

          Yep, I saw that comment earlier. I had them remove it, but now it’s back. Grrr….

          – Joe

  6. Banana boats were a classic favorite when I was a Girl Scout. Split a banana in half lengthwise, add marshmallows and chocolate pieces, and wrap in foil. Stick that under the coals while you cook and eat your dinner and you have a mighty tasty treat come dessert!

    We usually went with pasta for dinner. Not exactly gourmet, but pasta aglio e olio will feed many a hungry tummy!

  7. Oh! Camping food! Fantastic stuff. In my college days, a group of friends (I made it out once) camped on Thanksgiving weekend. Canoe-in site (could only get there by boat). We managed to cook a turkey, sweet potatoes, cornbread, pasta carbonara, brownies, and mountain pies.

    You’re right about the mixes but I usually just make up my own mix before I go. I’m a huge fan of cornbread – dutch oven style – at the campground.

    Sunset has an ambitious roundup that includes brownies and cornbread –

    The only real tip I’ve got is to let go of good ‘timing’. When you’re camping, sometimes dessert is ready before dinner. Sometimes the ‘baked potatoes’ for dinner aren’t ready until 10pm. Also, there’s a reason S’mores are so popular.

    Have fun!!

  8. Have dutch oven, will travel…
    A former Girl Scout of my acquaintance turned me on to the the joys of dutch oven peach cobbler. I’m not sure you’re supposed to GAIN weight on a week-long camping trip, but I know I did. Other than that, I think the chili-mac was the runaway hit of the trip.

  9. I was so lucky as a Girl Scout. My troop had a leader who was into camping and all the outdoor physical activities. (I quit when we got a new leader of the sit-and-do-crafts variety.) Anyway, we camped at all times of the year, including once in the winter when it snowed! The activities I loved most were the inventive cooking ones. We made buddy burners and cooked on make-shift stoves made of large coffee cans (any tin #10 can cans to be used-found at restaurant kitchens), we baked in ovens of foil covered boxes and in and on the campfire in pots in or foil. It was a wonderful leaning experience. In retrospect, the most enduring lessons were the planning and preparation for each campout. Planning menus, reading recipes to adapt to feed our group and to pre-prepare shortcuts to make them more streamlined at meal time, the grocery shopping trips, the rotating duty charts so that we all got to experience the cooking process as well as what it takes to plan all aspects of a camping trip. I learned so much from this well prepared Leader and have forwarded this knowledge to my family when we went camping, which was often when my kids were young. It is a lot of work to go camping with newbies, but it’s an opportunity to do something out of the ordinary and learn and teach new ways to do things; plus it’s so much fun if you go with the right attitude. My kids are experts now and we the parents go along for the ride, these days! It’s still fun!

      1. I never do! I also edited out a couple little things for you!

        Thanks for the great comment!

        – Joe

    1. Tom – my father was a big fan of the propane grill – french toast and pancakes and such. I’d personally lean towards a dutch oven if possible, because that’s how I roll. 🙂

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