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Camp Cooking

July 09, 1987|JOAN DRAKE | Times Staff Writer

Great-tasting meals are a key element to any successful camping weekend. Our menu is meant to be cooked with a camp stove and open fire, but can be adapted to the more elaborate equipment in recreational vehicles and campers, as well as on many boats. A checklist of cooking equipment will ensure that even novices arrive at the campsite with the items necessary to cook these meals, which require a minimum of time and effort.

Starry nights, crisp cool air with the scent of pine, sitting around an open fire enjoying a delicious meal and glass of wine--these are just a few of the pleasures of a high-country camping weekend. If this doesn't come as a surprise, you're probably one of millions of Southern Californians that enjoy camping.

A decade ago, this writer laughingly said her idea of a weekend "roughing it" was staying at the Century Plaza Hotel. That was before a friend introduced me to camping. It didn't take long before I was hooked, and have been ever since.

Admittedly, this friend knew what she was doing. She made it look effortless and took things in gradual stages so as not to scare off the novice. Before I knew it, we were progressing from campgrounds with all the amenities to some considerably more primitive.

Since then, I've developed a style that another friend labels "yuppie camping." A van is used for travel and sleeping, and campgrounds with running water are usually chosen over dry camps. A two-burner camp stove and grill over the fire pit are the means for cooking, and a good-size ice chest provides refrigeration.

Although I enjoy all aspects of camping, it's cooking that offers the biggest challenge and the most fun. Figuring out meals that aren't too time-consuming and can be cooked with limited equipment may take a little thinking ahead, but today's weekend camping menu shows it can be done.

The food is cooked in a skillet, Dutch oven or griddle on a camp stove; or in heavy-duty foil or a pie iron over an open fire. In the case of dinners, the entree uses one heat source, the dessert another. That way it's not necessary to wash a pan between courses.

Many convenience items--heavy-duty foil, disposable foil pans, plastic bags--are suggested in the recipes. Some may want to adapt other non-disposable items.

Remember, though, the first rule of camping is to leave the campground either in the condition you found it or improved. That includes disposing of trash in proper containers or carrying it out if no containers are available. Also, when cleaning up after cooking, be certain not to use any dish-washing soap within 100 feet of lakes or steams. The same goes for disposing of the used wash and rinse water.

It's impossible to cover all the camping basics, but novices will find a cooking equipment checklist below. Camping supply stores have books with more general information.

Today's recipes were tested in Los Angeles on a camp stove and charcoal fire, so cooking times may need to be adjusted for other types of fuel and high altitudes. There should be no need for ingredient adjustments at higher elevations.

Those with more elaborate campers, recreational vehicles and boats will probably find most of today's recipes applicable to their equipment. Even people with limited kitchens and outdoor grills can utilize many of the ideas. The heartier foods chosen for chilly nights may not be appropriate for warmer weather conditions, but the same cooking concepts can be used.

MENUS FOR A CAMPING WEEKEND

(A star indicates the recipe is included in this section.) ARRIVAL DINNER:

Grilled Nachos

California Chili

Special Corn Bread

Freezer Slaw

Beer, wine, milk DAY II BREAKFAST:

Juices

Raisin French Toast/Syrup

Bacon

Coffee, milk DAY II LUNCH:

Pita-wiches

Beer, iced tea, lemonade, milk DAY II DINNER:

Pesto Appetizers

Dinner in a Packet

Italian bread

White wine, iced tea, milk

Peach - Blueberry Slump DAY III BREAKFAST:

Juices

Sourdough Blueberry Pancakes/Syrup

Sausage

Coffee, milk DAY III LUNCH:

Skillet Mexican Pizzas

Beer, iced tea, lemonade, milk DAY III DINNER:

Herring--pickled or in cream sauce

Pate

Crackers/flatbread

Bavarian Dinner

Applesauce

Pumpernickel Bread

Beer, German wine, milk

Banana S'Mores DAY IV BREAKFAST:

Juices

Anything Goes Breakfast Sandwiches

Coffee, milk SNACKS:

Fruit

Cookies

Trail mix\f7

It's only common sense that dinner on arrival night should either be prepared ahead or be very simple. By the time you get to the campground and set up camp, nobody has the energy to tackle an elaborate meal. California Chili, Special Corn Bread and Freezer Slaw can all be prepared well ahead of time and frozen. These thaw nicely if placed in the refrigerator a day before the trip, then packed in the ice chest for travel.

Grilled Nachos are fast and easy. They'll appease appetites until the chili is heated on the camp stove and the corn bread is warmed on a grill over the open fire.

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