Roughing it? Not exactly

John and Nora Toftegaard of Glenville are camping aficionados, and they love to cook over the fire.

John and Nora Toftegaard of Glenville are camping aficionados, and they love to cook over the fire. “Both of us have fun with it,” John Toftegaard said.

They don’t slave over a propane-powered camp stove. They prefer to cook with a Dutch oven for quick and easy preparation and clean-up.

This is just one example of the camp kitchen. There are the camp stoves that simulate the at-home cooktop, but there are also cooking grates to put over the campfire, and special equipment like a pie-iron to help you cook over the open fire. Whatever the meal, there’s just something special about cooking food surrounded by the sights, sounds and smells of the outdoors.

Having good food, even when you’re “roughing it,” is a great goal for camping. “I think food is as important as gear,” said Mary Holmes, author of “Feasting in the Wild Country.” Holmes took dozens of recipes and adapted them for the trail, even making ethnic dishes part of her menu planning.

And camp cooking can be as simple (think hot dog on a stick) or as intricate as you want to make it.

The Dutch oven — a cast-iron pot with a lid — is a handy tool for versatile meals. Toftegaard shovels coals out of the fire, piles them together, puts the Dutch oven on the coals and then layers more coals on top.

Anticipating dinner

Then he and his fellow campers wait. “With a Dutch oven, you don’t have anything that’s telling you what temperature it is,” said Toftegaard, an assistant packmaster who also cooks with his Cub Scouts. “That’s part of the fun of it. It’s a lot of fun to sit around the fire and do it, because everybody’s anticipating,” he said.

There might be a casserole in the Dutch oven, or Toftegaard’s famous “peach” cobbler. The “peach” cobbler has become an inside joke in Toftegaard’s circles, because there might not be any peaches in the dish, which he often makes with apple or some other kind of fruit.

Regardless of the ingredients, the kids love his desserts from the Dutch oven. He also uses the Dutch oven hung on a tripod to cook a pot of chili.

Once the dish is eaten, the Dutch oven clean-up is simple. “You don’t have to use soap to clean it,” he said. “You rinse it, use a scrubbie brush, put some oil on it, and you’re done.”

Another quick and easy way Toftegaard cooks is using grill baskets over the fire. He puts chicken, pork chops, steak, fish or hot dogs in the basket and cooks them over the fire. “There’s no pans or pots. I take the meat out, and I hang the basket on the tree, and I’m done,” he said. No need to heat hot water over a camp stove for doing dishes afterward.

Putting foil to good use

Foil facilitates many campfire cooking dishes and does away with the need for pots and pans and subsequently washing dishes.

Foil packet or “hobo meals” are fun for kids to prepare, said Papillion, Neb., native Stu DeLaCastro, author of “The Big Book of Camp Recipes” and creator of www.camprecipes.com. Basically, you take two sheets of double-thickness foil and put anything in that you want to cook, For example, combining hamburger, diced potatoes, onion, a vegetable, seasonings and a bit of oil or butter into the foil package makes a meal. The foil packet goes right in the coals and must be turned over a few times to ensure even cooking.

Another easy dish to cook over the campfire is potatoes. They should be wrapped twice in aluminum foil and can be put right in the coals for about 40 minutes.

Ease of preparation in camp or on the trail comes from good preparation at home. To do her meal planning, Holmes compiles a list of dinners ahead of time, as well as a list of desserts, because she enjoys those.

If you’re looking for recipes, DeLaCastro has a searchable database of hundreds of camping recipes at www.camprecipes.com. He started it several years ago when he realized that there was no good web source for readers to share their camping recipes. “The Big Book of Camping Recipes” is an e-book and downloadable; DeLaCastro also has an iPhone app for camping recipes.

Holmes suggests trying out recipes at home ahead of time. “If you won’t eat it at home, you won’t eat it on the trail,” she said. She also advises people to keep notes about what they liked and what they didn’t, how dishes turned out, and how cooking could be improved.

Meal time will be quicker and easier if you start the preparation at home. DeLaCastro suggests taking food out of its packages, for example, a box of macaroni and cheese, and putting it in ziptop bags. You can use a marker to note directions on the outside of the bag.

You can measure out dry goods and package them by meal in plastic bags. Vegetables and meats can be cut up ahead of time, too. Freezing meat before the trip will help it to last longer.

However your camping meals come out, remember to enjoy the company and the outdoor setting. “The best advice I would have for anyone, is ‘What’s in the pot is not as important as what’s around the pot,’ ” said Toftegaard.

John’s Infamous Peach Cobbler

Recipe from John and Nora Toftegaard

1 can cherry pie filling

1 can crushed pineapple

1 box yellow cake mix

1 stick butter cut in chunks

Coconut

Chopped pecans

Layer the above ingredients in the Dutch oven. (The cake mix goes in dry.) Put coals under and on top of Dutch oven and cook 45–60 minutes until the fruit is bubbling around the edges and the top is lightly brown.

You can make any kind of cobbler with this recipe. Just replace the pie filling with any flavor and you can use another can of pie filling or crushed fruit. Then choose a flavor of cake mix.

Apple Pie

Recipe from John and Nora Toftegaard

2 premade pie crusts

10 apples, peeled and sliced

1⁄2 cup sugar

1⁄4 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons flour

2 teaspoons vanilla

Layer one crust on the bottom of Dutch oven, mix the ingredients and pour on top of pie crust. Then cut the other crust in strips and put on top. Put coals under and on top of Dutch oven. Cook for about 1 hour until bubbling and the crust is golden brown.

Orange Cup Scrambled Eggs

Recipe from www.camprecipes.com

2 navel oranges

2 large eggs

1⁄2 cup grated cheese

1⁄2 cup milk

1⁄2 cup cooked bacon, crumbled

Rinse oranges and slice in half, navel side out. Carefully cut the orange slices out and place aside. You should now have 4 empty orange cups. Mix eggs and milk together in bowl. Carefully pour the egg mixture into the orange cups and place over camp fire (on grill top for secure surface).

Stir occasionally until eggs are cooked. Sprinkle the cheese on top. Let it melt and then top with crumbled bacon. Serve the oranges on the side and you have a great breakfast with no dishes to clean up!

Teriyaki Chicken and Vegetables

Recipe from www.camprecipes.com

2 to 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken, cut into large bite sized pieces

Teriyaki sauce

Brown sugar

Assorted vegetables cut into chunks (We mix and match with: red and green bell peppers, onions, whole button mushrooms, zucchini, etc.)

This a recipe to make ahead, a few days before your camping trip.

Pour teriyaki sauce over a lump of brown sugar (approx 1⁄2 cup) until it dissolves sugar and is runny. Set aside. Put cut-up chicken into plastic storage bag and add teriyaki mixture. Let chicken marinate at least a couple hours and up to 2-3 days.

Bags of chicken can be frozen in the marinade at home to save the prep time. Chop veggies before you leave, and separate them into their own 1-quart storage bags, then put all bags into 1-2 gallon bags to keep all ingredients together.

At your campsite, using foil bags or your own foil packages, add ingredients until you have formed a ball about 5-6 inch in diameter. Make sure the foil is sealed well.

Place on hot coals for about 30-45 minutes (depending on size) until done.

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