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When camping with several teen boys that seem to be hungry all the time, what HEALTHY 5 ingredients or less, quickly prepared meal on an open fire can you suggest?

One extra large cast iron dutch oven pot with flat tight fitting lid, and a bag of briquettes are the main tools. Thanks for your ideas.

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Instant (which is the most commonly sold type) Couscous is very good base or side dish for camping: Very easy to do, very water efficient, all you need is hot water (and couscous), tasty. –  user2215 Jan 17 '11 at 5:56
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Spaghetti, tinfoil the meatballs/sauce, boil the noodles. Lots of mushrooms and onions in the sauce, maybe even peppers. –  zzzzBov Jan 17 '11 at 23:31
    
+1, As a scout leader, I love this question. I was just dealing with this last night for a campout this weekend. (Never fails, every menu's first draft involves ramen and pop tarts...) –  fire.eagle Mar 14 '12 at 21:50
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4 Answers

A friend of mine taught me a great camping recipe that's healthy, extremely easy to prepare, and can satisfy the very hungry.

Put the following into an aluminum foil pouch (don't even need the cast iron!):

  • Ground beef (or turkey, if you want to go leaner)
  • Chopped up vegetables:
    • Potatoes
    • Carrots
    • Onions
    • If you want to get creative, throw in some leeks, bell peppers, etc.
  • Herbs and spices:
    • Thyme
    • Oregano
    • Parsley
    • Salt and pepper

Fold the aluminum foil over the pouch so it's relatively sealed, and drop it into a cooler part of the fire (or on a rack over the coals). This is a very forgiving set of ingredients, so just make sure it's not going to leak, and make sure it's cooked through (and the potatoes are soft) before you eat it.

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This was called "hobo stew" when I was a scout, and it was always cool that we could make individual portions for ourselves. Definitely use heavy-duty foil if you can get it, or a double layer. And to answer the inevitable question--expect cooking to take about 20-25 minutes. Maybe a bit longer with a slow fire. –  bikeboy389 Jan 16 '11 at 16:46
    
I also endorse the foil pack meal. This was a staple of our campouts in the Boy Scouts. Good, easy to prepare, and easy to clean up. –  Sean Hart Jan 16 '11 at 23:39
    
Sounds like a hash. –  Orbling Jan 17 '11 at 2:33
    
When we made this we always formed the meat into a hamburger style patty and placed the vegetables on top. –  Ryan Elkins Jan 18 '11 at 15:15
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I can't top the foil pack for a meal, but if you're looking for a good dessert, try this: core out an apple, fill it with butter, sugar, and cinnamon, put the top of the apple back on it, wrap it in foil, and toss it in the fire. In about 10 minutes (give or take, depending on the temp of your fire), you will have a delicious baked apple.

If you want to get a little more advanced with your cooking, or you want to see some illustrations of how to cook outdoors, pick yourself up a copy of the Boy Scout Handbook. The recipes and cooking methods were designed to be done by kids aged 11-18, and they're certainly battle-tested.

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Love baked apples, reasonably common dessert in England. Works best with cooking apples, and is great with raisins and sultanas (golden raisins?) in the core with the sugar and cinnamon. –  Orbling Jan 17 '11 at 2:34
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Take a second pot so that you can cook potatoes, rice, or pasta. Typically you can make a pieces-of-meat in sauce in the dutch oven, then take it off the fire and put a towel on it to keep it warm for half an hour while you cook the carbs. This gives everyone more control of the carbs-to-sauce ratio (different kids will have different preferences) while letting you cook a larger total volume of food than the dutch oven will hold. (I've done week-plus camping trips by canoe with 4 adults and 6 children, and one pot doesn't hold enough food for everyone.) Pieces-of-meat-in-sauce might mean chicken stew, beef stew, chili, curry chicken (I add dried apricots, chopped up, into curry sauce), spaghetti sauce, etc etc. If you have a cooler than I guess you can use actual raw meat like you would at home. By canoe we use home-dehydrated meat, but we bring fresh onions and other veg that keep well.

You can also bring grocery-store dried food such as pasta-in-a-cheese-sauce or potatoes-gratin (much cheaper than from a camping store) and then add cubes of ham and other vegetables to make it more of a meal.

I also make both pizza and english muffins while canoe camping. If you have a car and a cooler, then bring lots of bagels or muffins along with cheese, peanut butter, and firm lunch meat (unsliced) like summer sausage or salami. That should "fill the holes" between meals.

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Ah, yes, the bagel ... one of the most versatile bread products when camping. (and it's harder to crush than most others) –  Joe Jan 17 '11 at 14:52
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I seem to recall the boy scout handbook having a cooking section, which might be worth consulting.

There's a few considerations when you're camping:

  1. Is it stationary or backpacking? (I'm guessing stationary, or you wouldn't be bringing cast iron)
  2. Will you have re-supply, or is it bring everything up front?
  3. How long will you be camping?

The problem is, most meats are heavy, and perishable. You either have to go with cured meats (beef jerky, summer saussage, dry salami), or with stuff that's been hard frozen, and kept in a cooler on top of ice (which does not work when backpacking ... unless you're backpacking in winter, but even then, gets a bit dicey)

Plan on plenty of starches; you'll want the carbs if you're doing lots of activities. For stationary camping, you can just scrub some potatoes (or as you're being healthy, sweet potatoes), wrap 'em in foil, and put them in a cooler section of the fire (or if tightly wrapped, bury, then put coals on top, and leave for a couple of hours, but you don't have good control to check on them, etc.).

Pasta's a good staple, but it's either messy when eating from a plate in your lap (long strands) or doesn't pack well for backpacking (too much void air space). The solution is orzo -- small, rice-grain shaped pasta. Rice packs well, too, but takes longer to cook, which means needing more fuel. I also know ultra-light backpackers who pack ramen; it's actually pre-cooked, and you can eat it like a cracker without boiling it first.

To keep it healthy, when I used to do longer trips, we'd do a lot of soups -- there'd normally be places to get water, and it'd help to cover up the taste of the iodine tablets (this was before the reverse osmosis filters and sterilization pens were common).

We'd typically plan for the first night to be made from fresh food, that we kept well chilled; day two (and maybe day 3 in winter) were from stuff that was frozen hard before leaving; later days were summer sausage, beef jerkey and the like.

So anyway, the 'healthy' foods:

  • baked sweet potatoes (in foil, in the fire)
  • arroz con pollo (chicken & rice ... don't use orzo for this one, as you need the longer cooking time for the chicken, particularly if it's been frozen)
  • orzo with vegetables (dice them up then either toss them in to boil with the pasta in the last few minutes), toss with a little oil (we always just brought tub margarine; more versatile) and maybe add some diced summer sausage. (if you render it first, you might not need extra oil)

As you're stationary camping, I'm also a fan of taking eggs -- if you can keep them cool, they'll last for a week. If it's winter, they'll freeze, though, and frozen eggs creep me out (it's hard to explain ... they go kinda seni-opaque, and um ... I don't want to talk about it) .. but you'd probably want to bring a griddle for that. I'm a fan of griddles or really large skillets for camping (my brother has one that's about 18" across) ... it make pancakes, french toast, eggs, etc. possible.

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