Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Everything Tastes (and is) Better Camping

For Labor Day weekend, I went camping with a group of friends- Evan's guys plus their girlfriends (and a few stragglers). Prior to heading out for our weekend expedition to Fort Flagler, I was a little concerned about two things: the weather and the food. The forecast called for rain, rain, rain all weekend. And the food... not that I was dreading it or anything, but I've known these guys for a long time. BBQs at their house in college were always BYOF: Bring Your Own Food, and like Evan, they all think Chipotle and McDonalds are gourmet. Needless to say, I was slightly concerned.

The morning of our departure, I packed up all the food Evan and I prepared- everything we needed to survive if no one else brought supplies- secretly hoping to impress the group (and by impress, I mean bring the best food and get oohs and ahhs from everyone, of course). I brought LeAnn's Spinach Dip with crackers, chocolate chip cookies, and the fixin's for one of Evan's favorite meals (and a camping must-have) Girl Scout Packets. We grabbed the ice chest (also heavily laden with beer), and headed out into the rainiest day Seattle had seen in months.

I was expecting nothing but hot dogs and downpours. As usual, I was proven wrong. Other than a brief spurt of rain Sunday afternoon, we had blue skies and sunshine. And the food...not only did we have more than enough food, with everyone bringing loads and loads of supplies, but we also ate like we were in a five-star restaurant. Ok, not really (not at all), but everything tastes better when you're camping.

We started out Saturday with a lunch of campfire-steamed whole crab with garlic butter (courtesy of Dave and Nadia), which we ate standing over the picnic table, butter and juices running down our arms (camping brings out the heathen in all of us). We snacked on dip and chips, fresh veggies, two kinds of cookies, and of course, hot dogs. For night one's dinner, Mike and Mark took the helm at the cook stove, preparing a meal I would normally feed to the dog when no one was looking: Hamburger (and hot dog) Helper. I don't know what it is about camping, but I have to say it... that was some damn good Helper (I'm just happy it was dark so we couldn't see the neon orange colored sauce that we scraped off the pot the next morning). For breakfast Sunday, we made a sausage-egg scramble, with extra bacon and sausage on the side, washed down with French-press coffee and cream.

For lunch, we were treated to rain, and a surprise from Kyle. Little did I know, Kyle's mom used to own and operate her own Filipino restaurant in Port Orchard, and he worked in the kitchen for years. He had intended to make chicken skewers, but the brief rain shower put a stop to that, and instead we just had chicken cooked on the cook stove. Good enough for me!

Kyle's chicken was marinated in a soy/pineapple/garlic blend, and he cooked it up to gooey, crispy perfection on the Coleman. I think the whole campground was jealous of the delicious scents wafting out of our campsite!

After a long hike and exploration of the old (scary) barracks at Fort Flagler, I prepared the Girl Scout Packets. Girl Scout Packets are something I made years (and years and years) ago in Girl scouts, and have since made for Evan in our oven. The basic gist is to wrap meat and veggies in foil, and cook over the fire until everything is soft and almost stew-like in its juices. Our packets had ground beef, carrots, potatoes, onions, butter, and seasoning salt, double wrapped in foil. That simple.

The packets were delicious, with a smokiness you can only get cooking over an open campfire. We ate them straight out of the foil, with a side of fire-roasted garlic bread, followed by Chelsea's homemade apple pie. Such basic food, but for some reason, everything is always better camping.

LeAnn's Spinach Dip

This is a pretty basic, pretty delish dip! Mix together the following:

1 packet of dry ranch dressing mix
Equal parts mayo and sour cream (about 1 to 1.5 cups of each, can vary depending on your tastes)
1 can water chestnuts, chopped
1 box frozen spinach- thawed, drained, and chopped (be sure to wring out and get rid of excess liquid)

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