The great outdoors beckons with the onset of spring in Florida. With nearby state parks, wildlife management areas and the Ocala National Forest just minutes away, planning a campout is not only easy but should be on everyone’s to-do list. Spend a day swimming in the springs, throw out a fishing pole, take a hike, hang out with friends and family, and enjoy a campfire under the stars.
If the thought of dining on s’mores and hot dogs has your stomach churning and you’re already reaching for some heartburn medicine, relax—with a little forethought and planning, your camp cuisine will be more like dining alfresco in a trendy pop-up eatery.
The key to camp cooking is “mise en place.” It’s a culinary term that means putting everything in place. In other words, have your meal prepped and ready before you head out on your camping adventure. This applies to any meal you are considering on your outdoor adventure—prep at home, seal in plastic Ziploc bags or sealed containers and store in a cooler of ice. If you are thinking of having chicken, place it in a resealable bag, with marinade and seasoning. Hankering for hamburgers? Premake the patties at home and wrap individually. Place in bags and store in cooler. Make sure to pack plenty of ice over and around your sealed and prepped food bags. Your food must be kept at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or colder to prevent the growth of bacteria.
Why use those bags? They will take up the least amount of space. Space is essential when you need to carry everything you require to your campsite. And when properly sealed, the bags will prevent the ice in the cooler from leaking into your food and watering it down, but you will be able to pack ice around them to keep the food chilled. Use a separate cooler with clean ice if you plan on using ice for drinks to prevent any cross-contamination. Also, be sure to bring some extra rags or a potholder to pull hot items off of your grill.
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Smoked Potatoes & Onions with Black Peppercorn
This recipe is from my mom and is one of many in my Southern Family Favorites cookbook (Amazon, 2016). She would make this for our family when we were grilling outside. Everything goes in metal pie pans. Wrap the pans up with foil and throw them right on the grill. (*Note: You will need to bring disposable aluminum pie pans and aluminum foil to your campsite for this recipe.)
- 4 cups potatoes, washed and sliced
- 3 medium onions, sliced
- Salt to taste
- 1 tablespoon fresh cracked peppercorn
- 1½ cups chicken stock (one can of broth from store travels well for camping)
- 1 stick butter
At home, slice the potatoes and onions and place in plastic Ziploc bag. › Add salt and fresh cracked pepper and seal bag. › Store in cooler until ready to use.
Preheat grill. › Transfer potato and onion mix from bag to a clean metal pie pan (two if needed). › Pour chicken stock over the potatoes and onions and top with slices of butter. › Cover pie pans with aluminum foil and place on grill for 30 to 40 minutes or until done. › Remove from grill and serve. Use caution when removing foil top, as contents will steam and be very hot.
Rosemary Beef Tenderloin & Cremini Skewers
No utensils are needed to munch on these skewers—and if you use wooden skewer sticks, you can burn the sticks in the fire afterwards, eliminating trash, space and washing up.
- 1 beef tenderloin
- cremini mushrooms as needed with stems removed
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 4 tablespoons rosemary extra virgin olive oil
- steak seasoning
Presoak wooden skewers in water. › Cut tenderloin into 1-inch cubes. › Place beef cube on skewer and then whole cremini mushroom, and alternate to fill the skewer. › Place finished skewers in Ziploc bag. › In a bowl, mix together the soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and olive oil and pour over skewers in bag to marinate. › Seal and store on ice until ready to use.
Preheat grill. › Place skewers on hot grill and season, then cook 4-5 minutes on each side. › Remove when done.
Grilled Tropical Pineapple
This grilled pineapple dish will satisfy your after-dinner sweet cravings. It makes a tasty snack and is healthier than your average s’more as well. This recipe will require aluminum foil at your campsite—only use it for the cooking process, not for storage.
- 1 fresh pineapple
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon butter, softened
- white coconut balsamic vinegar
Trim and peel the pineapple well, then cut in half and slice into long wedges, cutting around the core. › Place in bowl and fold in sugar and softened butter and place in Ziploc bag. › Seal bag and store in cooler with ice until ready to use.
Heat grill. › Remove the pineapple from bag, place into aluminum foil and wrap tight. › Place on grill and cook until you see steam coming out. › Remove from heat. › Open foil package, being very careful, as contents and steam will be extremely hot. › Let cool to warm temperature, then drizzle with coconut white balsamic vinegar and enjoy.
Pineapple or any stone fruit can also be skewered and grilled right on the grill rack for more flavor. Drizzle with olive oil while cooking and when finished, top with coconut balsamic vinegar.
A note on bears: Bears in the wild love dining alfresco, too—and they don’t mind eating those hot dogs and s’mores, either. Be sure to keep your food safely stored so you don’t tempt these unwanted guests on your camp outing.