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Appetites: ‘Everything tastes better outside’

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Cooking over a campfire using pots and kettles.
Cooking over a campfire can be easy and tasty when you have the right recipe.
Flickr Creative Commons | Anne Worner

Naturalist Kelsey Olson loves cooking food outdoors. She also knows it can be a little intimidating if you haven’t done it much.

"Everything tastes better outside," said Olson, who works at Sibley State Park in New London, Minn. "You don't have to do some big, fabulous recipe. Just roasting something over the fire is fun and tastes great. Keep it simple and have fun!"

Here are a few of her tips for eating and cooking outdoors.

Hold the mayo

Bring food with you on the trail that has a lot of protein and energy, but doesn't require refrigeration, like nuts and dried fruits.

Stuff that could go bad on you is better off staying home.

“That meat and mayo sandwich might be good when you first start,” said Olson. “But a couple of miles on the trail or sitting around, it’s not going to be too good.”

Zip it

It’s irritating to be out on a trail someplace in the woods and then running across someone’s food wrappers.

Olson said she often sees scraps from corners of wrappers torn off by hikers and campers in Minnesota parks.

Instead, she says, repackage your food in a reusable zip-close bag so you can avoid littering.

Boiling is your friend

Your best tool for campfire cooking will be a pot of boiling water. Olson said she likes to bring along boxed stuffing, boxed mashed potatoes, powdered gravy in a bag, and chicken in a bag — it's pre-cooked and doesn't require refrigeration.

"All you have to do is boil water, add it to the stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy. Dish all those up, and you have a Thanksgiving dinner at the campsite," she said.

Olson also suggests eggs, some shredded cheese, your choice of veggies — or other favorite omelet ingredients — a zip-close bag and boiling water for her "egg in a bag" recipe.

Crack the egg and mix it and other omelet ingredients into the zip-close bag. Scramble it, seal it, and put the bag into the boiling water. After a few minutes, pull it out for a ready-to-serve breakfast.

Here are a few other recipes you can try on your next outdoors adventure, whether it's deep in the woods or in your backyard campfire.

Vegan s’mores

Vegan s'mores
Vegan s'mores
Courtesy by Magnus Nilsson

With a little advanced planning, everyone can have a chance to enjoy s’mores with this recipe from The Splendid Table.

Ingredients

  • 4 whole vegan graham crackers broken in half

  • 1/2 cup chopped vegan chocolate or 4 thin squares of vegan chocolate

  • 4 vegan marshmallows

You can find vegan marshmallows — which don’t contain gelatin — available at Dandies Marshmallows. Vegan chocolate and graham style crackers can be found at Vegan Essentials.

Prepare your s’more with the traditional “stick over the fire” or in heavy-duty aluminum foil.

Campfire potatoes

Campfire Potatoes
Campfire potatoes.
Photo courtesy of Peden + Munk

This is a great option for a side dish with a main course, or a stand-alone at the campground.

Ingredients

  • 16 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (about 2 inches in diameter), halved

  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 6 unpeeled large garlic cloves, smashed

  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

Instructions

Place potatoes in a large saucepan. Add salt and enough water to cover by 1 inch.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer potatoes until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain. Return to same saucepan. Add all remaining ingredients to potatoes; toss to coat. Let cool.

Arrange six 12-inch squares of foil on a work surface. Divide potato mixture among foil squares, placing 1 garlic clove atop potatoes on each square. Crimp foil to seal packets.

Do ahead: Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to high. Place potato packets on grill and cook, turning occasionally, until heated through and sizzling, about 15 minutes. Transfer packets to plates. Pierce foil with a fork to release steam. Open packets carefully (hot steam will escape.)

Camping (twist) bread

Camping (twist) bread
Camping (twist) bread.
Courtesy of Magnus Nilsson

Looking for a second use for that cooking stick? Add camping bread into the mix.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 2 cups weak (soft) wheat flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder (optional)

  • butter and jam, to serve

Instructions

Mix the salt, flour and baking powder, if using, together in a bowl. Add 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon water, little by little, until it is a quite firm dough.

To cook the stick bread outdoors, you will need to put the dough into a small plastic bag to transport it easily. Find five sticks that are long enough to hold over a fire. Divide the dough into 5 equal portions and shape into thin logs 8 inches long and 1/2 inch in diameter, then wrap the dough around them.

Cook the bread over the fire for about 10 minutes, or until they get some color. Remove from the fire and when they have cooled down a bit, remove from the stick and put butter and jam in the holes.

Have a favorite recipe for around the campfire? Share it with us here.

MPR News digital producer Matt Mikus contributed to this article.