FAIRBANKS — Everything tastes better on a camping trip, but that doesn’t mean camp food can’t be improved on. After spending last summer in a camp food rut, eating mostly couscous and hummus, I asked friends for inspiration for the 2015 camping season.
We could have done a recipe exchange. Instead, nine friends gathered for a competitive camp cooking contest this weekend. We held it under a tarp on a rainy Saturday night at the Granite Tors campground.
We assembled about a dozen dishes, from hanger steak sandwiches to bean and quinoa stuffed peppers to corn on the cob with butter and spice. All were tasty, but I’ll share the recipes for the most popular, based on our voting.
One suggestion for anyone else who tries to organize a camp food competition like this is to bring lots of tables. The picnic table at our campsite wasn’t easily covered with a rain fly, and workspace was soon in high demand at the three tiny camp tables we had.
Monte Garroutte had the most popular dinner entry: noodles with spicy peanut sauce, adapted from a recipe that appeared 10 years ago in Backpacker Magazine.
Our campsite was just a few miles outside Fairbanks and most people took advantage by bringing ingredients that are too bulky or heavy for backpacking. Monte got points in my book for picking a dish that could easily be made on a backpack trip. The sauce was spicy and rich despite relying on dried peanut butter.
Spicy peanut sauce noodles
1/2 cup peanut butter (chunky or creamy) (Monte used dehydrated)
2 tbs Tamari (Monte’s version skipped this and it tasted great)
4 tsp crushed garlic
3 tbs cider vinegar
2 tsp brown sugar
3/4 tsp dried crushed red pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or 1 tbs dried cilantro
salt and pepper to taste
12 oz soba noodles or your favorite pasta
At home: Mix together all ingredients in a bowl except noodles. Pack in plastic container or bottle (recipe makes 1 3/4 cups sauce). Note: Sauce will keep for 2 days unrefrigerated; the vinegar in the recipe acts as a preservative.
In camp: Cook noodles or pasta; drain 1/2 cup hot water into measuring cup, and discard the rest. Empty sauce into pot, add hot water, and toss thoroughly. Serves two.
On Sunday morning, Kristin Timm’s Pinterest-inspired muffin recipe got compliments for both taste and the presentation. She hollowed out a half-dozen oranges and used the peels as muffin tins for blueberry muffins. The recipe probably split the dessert vote with Kristin’s husband, Jake, who cooked a Dutch-oven cherry upside-down cake the night before.
The recipe came from the blog www.apronstringsblog.com.
Orange blueberry muffins
1 package blueberry muffin mix (Kristin used Krusteaz)
Cut oranges in half and scoop out insides to be used for orange juice or another recipe. Don’t worry about being too thorough in cleaning out the peels. The orange bits infuse flavor.
Mix muffins according to package directions.
Fill each orange half with prepared muffin mix. Put halves together and cover with aluminum foil. Put oranges in fire for about 10 minutes, rotating occasionally.
The Timm family also placed with their campfire baked potatoes. They tend to do well at contests like this. The potatoes were stuffed with ham, cheese and tomato and cut into bite-sized wedges.
One trick to this recipe was to pre-cook the potatoes, so they needed to re-heat but not cook entirely in the fire.
The recipe came from the blog www.echoesoflaughter.ca.
6 large potatoes (baked or microwaved at home)
6 pieces of bacon, cooked
6 slices of ham
2 medium tomates, sliced
1/2 pound of cheese of your choice, sliced
2 green onions, sliced (for garnish)
1 tiny Tupperware or other container of sour cream (for garnish)
salt and pepper to taste
Cook potatoes at home and cut into about six sections. Cut through the meat of the potato, but leave the bottom and sides of the skin intact. Fill the spaces with stuffings, season with salt and pepper and wrap in aluminum foil.
At camp bake potatoes in fire or campfire for about 20 minutes. Top with sour cream and onions.