A little bit of planning, thoughtful food sourcing, and the right equipment can take your camping food experience from blah to memorable.
Thanks to a few adventure loving friends and our generous sponsors, I recently had the opportunity to collaborate with Tina Dawson of Love is in my Tummy to create an inspired camping spread that will have you dreaming about your next wilderness adventure.
Clicking over food and all the beautiful, natural things – a story of kindred spirits
My favorite memories of camping have always included mind-blowing food. From the moment a camping trip is put on the calendar my mind goes to the menu – perhaps it’s the hopeless foodie in me, or maybe it’s my innate need to care for people through food – I can’t remember an outdoor adventure that didn’t include delicious, carefully planned out meals.
I’ve been fortunate in life to be surrounded by humans who are passionate about food, outdoor adventures (often involving dogs) and thorough enjoyment of the simple things in life. But I guess it’s true that we naturally gravitate towards those who share our passions.
Recently, I had the opportunity to combine my love of food and the outdoors by collaborating on a cooking and camping project with my talented Atlanta-based friend Tina Dawson, the creative mind behind the beautiful vegan blog, Love is in my Tummy. Tina and I made our first connection literally through food as contributors to The Supper Club Magazine, a publication dedicated to sharing food recipes from contributors around the globe.
After meeting in person last year for the very first time at the Everything Food Conference here in Utah, Tina and I decided a collaboration was definitely in our future. Kindred spirits that we are, we immediately knew our collaboration would include food, a wilderness experience, and cameras.
Joining us on our adventure was my dear friend Michelle. I first met Michelle when I became a volunteer photographer for her amazing organization, Heal Courageously, which gives patients and caregivers of life-threatening illness the gift of free professional photographs. Please check out her work and if you feel compelled to support her efforts, make a donation HERE.
While Tina and I decided on a suitable camping location, we planned out a delicious vegan meal menu (both Tina and Michelle are vegan and I tend toward a mostly plant-based diet).
Camping Menu Highlights:
- Potato and vegetable breakfast skillet featuring Idaho Potatoes (for the recipe, visit Tina’s blog
- Cast iron skillet pizza topped with kalamata olives, tri-colored mini bell peppers, arugula and a drizzle of sesame chilli oil (head to the recipe card below for this one)
- Lavender Honey Bee’s Knees cocktails featuring Jack Rabit Gin by Beehive Distilling (I’m including the recipe within this post, so don’t miss it)
- Dutch-oven berry cobbler (Tina found this amazing recipe)
Coffee is life…or something like that.
Early spring in Utah means heading south to the desert, where the weather is mild this time of year. With a small window for completing our project, we decided to keep our destination close. I consulted with fellow outdoor enthusiast and long-time friend Larry at Mindful Coffee Company for some suggestions on nearby camping, and he pointed me in the direction of The Wedge on the north end of the San Rafael Swell and it couldn’t have been a more perfect spot. Thanks, Larry.
Along with great camping advice, Larry sent us off with a few bags of his best coffee to ensure our camping got off to a good start (some people really understand the vital nature of a great cup of morning coffee to dial in the camping experience).
Larry and his wife Lori own Mindful Coffee Company, a micro-roastery located in Salt Lake City. My husband and I signed up for Mindful’s subscription service the minute it was available, and thanks to their timely delivery, we never run out of our favorite coffee, because that would be a tragedy I can’t even begin to ponder. Dramatic, I know.
By the way, if you’ve never used an AeroPress it’s time to experience the magic delivered by this simplest of coffee tools. Using a total immersion and rapid filtering system, this portable, lightweight coffee press yields a smooth, rich cup of coffee that’s surprisingly satisfying. It’s my go-to coffee tool for camping or when our fancy home espresso machine is on the fritz.
All that coffee making got us hungry for breakfast, so it was time to move on to Tina’s southwestern skillet hash. I don’t think I’ve ever had a better camp breakfast, and Barebones’ heavy duty 4-quart cast iron dutch oven was the perfect size for our three-person group (we had leftovers, actually). Visit Tina’s blog for the recipe.
Lunches are always simple when we camp. Pre-made hummus from Trader Joe’s with mini-bell peppers and crunchy veggie chips for dipping is an easy and portable option even if you’re out for a hike.
A little late afternoon cocktail never hurt anyone. That’s my motto and I’m sticking to it.
For the record, my husband is the cocktail maker in our household, but I usually come up with new recipes for him to try, whether they’re my own creations or some I’ve found. For Christmas last year I bought him a copy of the book Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, if you catch my drift (Who says that anymore? How old is she?)
I used Death & Co’s Bee’s Knees recipe for this popular gin-based, honey-sweetened cocktail, but rather than using lavender bitters (as the recipe calls for) I made a honey lavender simple syrup instead. Definitely take the time to prepare this simple syrup at home and then toss a jar of it in the camp cooler – you’ll thank me later.
Also be sure toss in a bottle of your favorite gin. Mine happens to be Beehive Distilling’s Jack Rabbit Gin (made right here in Utah). Beehive steeps its gin in fresh sage and rose petals to balance out the juniper and the result is an herby, floral spirit like none other. It’s a staple in our liquor cabinet.
Bee’s Knees + Lavender Simple Syrup Recipe:
First prep the Lavender Honey Simple Syrup at home
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 cup of water
- 1 Tbsp. dried culinary lavender
Place all ingredients in a saucepan over medium-low heat and bring to a simmer. Allow the ingredients to simmer gently for about two minutes and remove from heat. Let steep for about 30 minutes, strain into a clean mason jar. Cover and chill for later use.
- 2 ounces Beehive Gin (or your choice of quality gin)
- 3/4 ounces of fresh lemon juice
- 3/4 ounces of lavender honey simple syrup
Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled half-way with ice and shake for about 20 seconds. Pour into two glasses and garnish with a twist of lemon and or lavender.
Pro tip: we love our Stanley Adventure Hour Cocktail Shaker System for camping and outdoor concerts.
Cast Iron, Fire-Cooked Pizza is easier than you think.
So before you throw your hands up in the air and declare, “Who has time for camp pizza. This woman is cray, cray!” hold up! You will not be making fresh dough from scratch for this one. In fact, I haven’t made fresh pizza dough in forever, even when making pizza at home. Find yourself a pre-made pizza dough like the one from Trader Joe’s. One 16-ounce pizza dough yielded 4 individual pizzas when divided. Keep the dough in your camp cooler until about 45 minutes before you’re ready to start cooking.
As for tools, you’ll need a heavy cast iron skillet like this 10-inch one from Barebones Living. You’ll also need a lid for the skillet. We used the lid from the 4-quart Barebones Dutch oven to cook the top of the pizza once the toppings were in place. We were fortunate enough to have access to this fire pit by Barebones, but you can also look for a campsite with a firepit already in place.
Whatever you do, be mindful that campfires are prohibited in some camping locations. Also please keep in mind that if you bring your own pit you should avoid overhanging branches and leaves, and always make sure your fire is completely extinguished before abandoning it.
Before you begin cooking your pizza, you’ll want to allow your dough to sit out of the cooler in a shady spot for about 30 minutes. While the dough is resting, place about 30 coals in a fire pit, light them up and get them going so they get really hot. Once the coals are grey, place 10 coals on one side of the fire pit and place the skillet on top of these coals. Put the lid on the skillet and place the rest of the coals on top of the lid.
Once the dough has rested, oil your hands generously with olive oil and divide the dough into four balls. Place each ball on an oiled plate.
Take one of the balls and flatten it out between your hands until it reaches desired thickness (I get mine to about 1/4″ thickness). Using welding gloves, remove the lid from the skillet and set aside. Place a splash of olive oil in the skillet and give it a swirl so it coat the pan. Place your prepared pizza dough in the pan and cook until the bottom appears golden brown.
Flip the pizza dough and begin adding your toppings. We used Trader Joe’s ready made pizza sauce, vegan cheese (you can use shredded dairy cheese, if you prefer), sliced mini bell peppers, kalamata olives and Redmond Salt (also made in Utah).
Place the lid with its coals over the skillet and cook, checking frequently, until the cheese has melted. If your skillet doesn’t have a pour spout, you’ll want to angle the lid a little to release any steam and avoid a soggy crust. The cook time will vary based on the temperature of the coals. Once the cheese is melted, remove the pizza from the skillet and serve. We finished ours off with spicy arugula and a drizzle of sesame chili oil. Divine!
If food is a trigger for memories, I’m confident this is a camping trip I will not soon forget. From the delightful company, to the gorgeous location and the delicious meals we shared, I’m grateful for the experience and to be able to share it with you.
I hope you’ll be inspired to head into the wild prepared to indulge your senses with unforgettable flavors, smells and sights and sounds. If you make any of the recipes mentioned here, please come back and leave me a comment. I’d love to hear about your adventure. Happy camping!
Cast-iron fire-cooked pizza
- one 16 ounce bag of Trader Joe's raw pizza dough or other store-bought pizza dough
- olive oil
- Trader Joe's prepared pizza sauce or your choice of sauce
- one 8 ounce bag of Daiya mozzarella style shreds or dairy mozzarella of choice
- 1 small jar of pitted kalamata olives
- about 4 thinly sliced mini bell peppers
- fresh arugula optional
- sesame chili oil available at Asian food markets; optional
- Salt to taste
- Before you begin, you'll want to allow your pizza dough to sit out of the cooler in a shady spot for about 30 minutes. While the dough is resting, place about 30 coals in a fire pit, light them up and get them going so they get really hot. Once the coals turn greyish, place 10 coals on one side of the fire pit and place the skillet on top of these coals. Put the lid on the skillet and place the remaining coals on top of the lid. After the dough has rested, oil your hands generously with olive oil and divide the dough into four balls. Place each ball on an oiled plate.
- Take one of the balls and flatten it out evenly between your hands until it reaches desired thickness (I get mine to about 1/4" thickness). Using welding gloves, remove the lid from the skillet and set aside. Place a splash of olive oil in the skillet and give it a swirl so it coats the pan. Place your prepared pizza dough in the pan and cook until the bottom appears golden brown.
- Flip the pizza dough and begin adding your toppings to the cooked side, beginning with the sauce.
- Place the lid with its coals over the skillet. Most skillets have a pour spout, which is perfect in this case as it will release any steam and prevent the pizza from getting soggy. If your skillet doesn't have a pour spout, angle the lid a little to allow steam to escape. Check the pizza every so often until the cheese has melted. The time will vary based on the temperature of the coals. As soon as the cheese is melted, remove the pizza from the skillet and serve. We finished ours off with spicy arugula and a drizzle of sesame chili oil. Repeat this process with each pizza dough.