Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bites of Heaven While Camping

Camping.  It brings to mind food like hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken. Baked beans, cole slaw and potato chips. Soda and beer. Sounds nice. But average. And I don't do average very well, as you can see by the other meals on this blog.

Never believe that you cannot eat like a king while camping. It only takes planning and preparation. Here is what we ate while camping.

We arrived at the campgrounds Tuesday afternoon. We set up camp and relaxed a bit. When it was time for dinner, I made pan-fried tilapia, a fresh tomato and feta salad, and a piece of home made whole wheat bread. And a beer (of course!)

I always keep an electric skillet in the camper and it was perfect for the fish. I brought along some tomatoes from the farmer's market and had baked a loaf of bread Tuesday morning before we left home. I just pan-fried four tilapia fillets in a teaspoon of garlic-infused olive oil. The beer was a new one for me. Velvet Chicken is a Belgian Trippel-style ale. Crisp and hoppy, slightly sweet and highly carbonated, it balanced the fish and tomatoes very well.

Velvet Rooster. Unusual name. Good ale.

Later in the evening, I make popcorn over the fire. I used one tablespoon coconut oil and six tablespoons popcorn in a campfire popper. Tasty! No need for butter when you use coconut oil. I seasoned it with a non-sodium salt.

Fresh and hot popcorn.

This is a nice fire but not good for cooking. It is mostly pine, and that eruption is the pine sap bursting out of the wood. Looks good, tastes terrible.

In the morning, I made pancakes and eggs. The recipe for the pancakes are here. They are protein pancakes and only have 1/2 cup oatmeal as grain in the cakes. I fried some eggs to go along with them and as usual I topped the cakes with Greek yogurt. Again, I used the same electric skillet from the evening before. Before leaving home, I made a package with all dry ingredients pre-measured. Then I only needed to add the egg whites and applesauce.

Breakfast prep.

My breakfast.

Tammy's breakfast.

After breakfast, we hit a few antiques shops in Door County, Wisconsin and found some milk glass and bar glasses for my collection. That was a lot of fun, but when we got back to camp, I needed to get a fire going for dinner. The plan was nice, thick rib steaks, sauteed broccoli, homemade bread with garlic-infused olive oil and grilled apples.

 Rib steaks, about one pound each, one inch thick. We don't normally eat steaks like this.
I wanted to splurge and make something big and marbled and juicy.

Remember how my plans usually work? Well, this time the plan got derailed when I forgot to pack the campfire tripod. And this camp only has a fire ring but no other cook equipment. No grates, grills, and anything else. So, in the spirit of multi-purposing, I seared and pan fried Tammy's steak in the electric skillet. I seasoned it simply with a salt-free blend that I made (black pepper, celery seed, mustard seed, coriander and a hint of crushed red pepper--sorry, no link to this so you can buy it.)

Mmmm, on its way to a medium finish.
Five-six minute per side.

Tammy's steak was going to work perfectly, but I wanted to try something different. And, with a nod to grillmaster Steven Raichlen, I wanted something a lot more primal. I seasoned mine with a lot of fresh cracked pepper and some coarse salt. And I made it caveman-style. What do I mean by caveman-style?

Cooking right on the hot embers! This is a good cooking fire.
I used all birch logs to build this mound of embers. 
That is an unpeeled onion at the top of the picture and two foil-wrapped apples on the right.

This is after flipping my steak.
I cooked it about four minutes on the first side, three minutes on the flip side. My goal is medium rare. (Warm but red in the middle, but with a crusty, charred surface on the outside.)

Tammy's on the left, mine on the right.

On my plate, with the grilled onion and some broccoli.

When I cut in, I found medium-rare!

So, what was it like eating a steak that cooked right in the embers? Abso-freakin-lutely delicious, juicy, tender and with flavor to die for. I brushed off the bigger chunks of ash when I took it off the embers, but not much was really sticking to it. The outside was crusty, and the inside was perfectly warm and red. I will cook steaks like this again!

The grilled apple, filled with crushed Fiber One cereal
and a bit of butter and Splenda brown sugar, and finished with whipped cream

Do we always eat like that? Actually, yes, we do. You should know that from reading this. But it still fits into our calorie budget. And we enjoy it. We like to eat good food.  

Remember, if you want to do this you need to plan ahead. Tammy and I sat down about a week before we left and planned out each meal. Then I shopped for everything as needed. We made this easy by packing each meal in its own plastic bag, so all I needed to do for each meal is pull the bag out of the cooler. Anything that needed to be measured was pre-measured and packaged.

And all the food fit into our budget. That huge steak was 14 ounces (after removing the bone) still fit into my calorie budget. (It helped that we only ate two BIG meals that day, but that was just because we spent a lot more time shopping than I expected.)

Don't be afraid to eat good food, at home, while camping and on vacation. Life is short. Enjoy it! I have a lot of good recipes here. Make them. Change them to meet your tastes (tell me about your adaptations--I like to read about different ideas.) And have fun.

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