Healthy Campfire Cooking

by Kari Hartel, RD, LD
Program Coordinator, Cooking Matters, Operation Food Search

Even as there is still a chill in the air, you may be starting to plan your first camping trip of the Spring or Summer. Or maybe you are one of those hardy winter campers. Please clip this article and put it with your camping equipment so you will have it when the weather suddenly turns warmer and you experience the call of the wild.

Food Choices
Oftentimes, you’re limited in your food choices because you may not have a lot of cooking equipment available. Most people stick with the usual campfire meal ideas—hot dogs, hamburger, s’mores, etc. Unfortunately, most foods typically associated with camping tend to be less-healthy choices. However, it’s possible to cook more nutritious options if you do some planning ahead of time. Let’s foster some culinary creativity in the great outdoors.

Creating a Good Fire Pit
To create a clean-burning fire pit (essential for cooking), always use dead, dry wood.
Start the fire in a provided pit rather than on top of brush, which can potentially spread to unwanted areas. Use rock or dirt as your base. Use a pit that is dug deep in the ground to protect it from wind. This will help the fire burn slower for cooking. Grade the coals in order to have a level burning area and an area where the coals are smoldering.

Packing the Right Equipment and Ingredients
You’ll need a few basic items to ensure you have the right equipment and ingredients to cook up a few easy, nutritious meals. Be sure to pack an ample amount of aluminum foil as this will act as an excellent cooking vehicle. Gather a few basic utensils, including tongs, a knife (especially if cleaning fresh fish you catch and cook), oven mitts, and a couple large spoons and forks. Pack a few of your favorite herbs and spices, dry bouillon (cubes or powder), chopped vegetables, and canola/olive oil, to easily add tons of flavor.

Easy, Healthy Campfire Meals
Foil-Pack “Steamer” Pouches – double-wrapping moist foods in aluminum foil creates a beautifully-steamed dish. Lightly oil the bottom of a piece of foil, add a piece of fish, your favorite veggies (chopped and bagged before your trip), a squeeze of lemon juice, salt, and your favorite dried herbs and spices. Fold the sides up and roll it to seal it tightly. Cook it over smoldering coals until the fish is flaky, about 6 minutes.

Toasty Burritos – prepare taco meat and rice at home, freeze it, and let it thaw for your second day of camping. Add shredded cheese, cooked brown rice, salsa, and veggies, and wrap it in a whole-wheat tortilla. Wrap in aluminum foil and cook for 3 minutes on both sides.

Beef Stew – toss into aluminum foil some beef stew meat, potatoes, carrots, onions, bouillon, dried herbs, salt, spices, oil, and a little water. Wrap the foil tightly and cook for 30-45 minutes over smoldering coals.

Steamed Veggies – Simply toss together your favorite vegetables with some oil, salt, herbs, and spices, and cook for several minutes until tender.

Now didn’t this article on Campfire Cooking make you feel all warm inside? Your first camping trip will come sooner than you think!

Thanks to a generous donation from Shop ‘N Save, Operation Food Search is providing grocery store tours at local Shop ‘N Save stores teaching people how to shop and eat healthy on a budget. If you’re interested in participating in Shopping Matters, please call Christina Popp at 314-726-5355 ext. 12.

Please visit our booth at the Healthy Planet Natural Living Expo, Sunday March 10 in Webster Groves.