Camping Culinary Experimentation

Let me start by saying that if you are looking to learn how to make an oven from a beer can or make coffee over an open flame, this post is not for you. Two of the biggest selling points of the T@G teardrop camper were the kitchen & being equipped for solar panels. I like nature and being outdoors but I am an engineer and I believe in taking advantage of all technology that can make your life easier. Plus it’s almost 2018 and I am not waiting on something as finicky as fire for my morning coffee. This is more about my attempts to make regular food in an outdoor kitchen. Now I know I could just eat canned food and I did back canned soup, but this is vacation, which is about good food. Also, if you are lookng for recipees with instruction and exact measurements, this will not be for you. My cooking is more akin to experiemtation.

One good thng I had going for me going into teardrop camping is years of cookng for just myself.  Cooking small or even single serving quantities is key when cooking with limted storage space.  Although you can make more than you need, you need to have a plan for that extra food and a way to store it.

One of the first things I bought after getting my T@G was my breakfast center. An all in one coffee maker, toaster oven, griddle. As I mentioned before, coffee was an essential and I knew from living in small condo where the using oven heated up the entire place, you can do a lot with a toaster oven. I haven’t actually tried the griddle yet but I’m sure it will get its use for grilled cheese & pizza sandwiches.

The first thing I made in the toaster oven was French bread. It had to be an L shaped loaf to fit, but that was fine.

The most important part of the breakfast center works great. I have seen people out in the morning starting a fire in the camp grill to brew coffee in an old school percolator. If you enjoy that, more power to you, but I would never get any of that before coffee, I need it to be able to think and function.

On my first trip out with the T@G I was feeling really enthusiastic and made muffins. One note on that, a 6 muffin, muffin pan is slightly too wide for this particular model of toaster oven but with a good pair of pliers you can bend the edges down and make it fit.

On my second trip out I went one step further with cinnamon rolls. Just easy, right out of the cam ones.

On my third trip out, I wanted to step up my breakfast game even more and add some bacon.  Yes, that is a non-stick skillet because it is light and well it’s name implies ease.

I decided to try some bicuits this time.  The challenge was that I wanted fresh biscuits every morning but I can only eat 2 at a time.  You can buy small serving size cans of biscuits and other bread items that are pefect for camping. The cinnamon rolls  I made on my previous trip came in a can of 5, but I am cheap and do all my shopping at Aldi when I can and all they had was a can of 8.  Turns out you can cook them a few at a time, they are just not quite as fluffy as right after you open them.  You can just take out the number you need and store the rest in the can in a ziplock bag in the fridge.  You can throw the paper with the instruction on it away.  All bets are off in a toaster oven, you just have to watch and use your best judgement.

A great staple camping (as well as petty much any other time you cook) is pasta.  It’s easy, good and feels like you really accomplished something.  I decided to go with chicken sausage for the meat since it didn’t require cooking and would eliminate a step.  I also used alfredo from a jar because it’s just as good as from scratch and takes up less storage space.

Since the toaster oven had been so great, on my third time out I decided to get really experimental and try out a lemon loaf.  It really didn’t go that well.  The mixing and preparation were not hard because it took simple ingredients and didn’t require a mixer.  The problem came in the baking.  The recipee called for baking for an hour at 350 degrees.  I have no idea what the temp of the toaster over is, but my guess is, much hotter. Within 10 minutes of turning it on, it started to rise and overflow the pan.  At that point the mess was made so all  could do was wait.

After about 30 minutes the top started to burn but I didn’t think it could be done. I checked it and it was. As a side note, this bread pan handles had to be bend down like the muffin pan to make it fit.

Since there was no room for the frosting on top I just had to put it in a plastic container and add it per serving. Although it was far from pretty and made quite a mess, it still tasted wonderful. In the future though I think I will just be sticking to half recipes when camping. I think less batter would have prevented this mess.

Another staple of camping is chilli.  It works well for cold weather and can have many susequent uses, like hot dogs and chili pie.  Since I knew it would get cold durng my trip I planned for 2 meals as chilli alone and 2 as frito pies.

The most common question I have gotten from other campers is “doesn’t all that make a big mess to clean up?” Well kind of, but the key is cleaning as you go and multiple uses for your pots and pans.  You can’t plan for meals that need multiple pots. Things like pasta work well because you can boil the pasta, cook the meat & combine it all in the same pan.

The biggest tip is to rinse things out right away.  Also, if you are in a T@G and you have to dump your used kitchen water from a bucket, you want to conserve it as much as possible.  Another way to do this is makng sure you dump all the excess food or wiping it out with a paper towel before “washing”them. Of course since you are in wilderness you can dump crumbs and leftover food on the ground but if you have a chunky butt, food obsessed dog, it’s best to do this over a trash bag. I made this mistake and when I her “leave it” about the crumbs she got this wild look like “why don’t you make me? You just threw people food on the ground, it’s fair game.”

The cold weather on my last trip also allowed me to test out another idea I had. I love hot tea for cold weather and originally planned to get a kettle. After assessing my available space I decided it should be used for other things.  The coffee pot however was a priority and I figured I could always use it to heat up water.  When it got cold I was able to make myself a not hot cup of tea before bed and it was ready much faster than boiling water. I went ahead and heated a whole pot but only about two thirds actually fits in my mug so I used the rest to pour in the sink to wash dishes.

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