K’s Kitchen

Karen's Backcountry Kitchen


I. Love. Food.

I love buying food, cooking food, enjoying good food with friends and family, and then talking about that good food.

So you can imagine my disappointment when – a million years ago, on my first real camping trip with friends after they said “We totally have all the food taken care of, just show up with a sleeping bag and a tent.” – the camp food was not good… just pre-packaged whatever with a side of hot dogs. Every day. Ugh.

The next time I went camping with these people I took it upon myself to do a little menu prep and told them I would handle the meal planning just to “return the favor” (of course).

So it was on! I chopped, marinated, organized, and properly packed an amazing menu of food, with the proper wine paring and I just had so much fun preparing the food at the campsite with the challenge of cooking on a Colman stove and a fire. I was tickled with how amazed everyone was to be dining on grilled salmon with rice pilaf with toasted almonds and mushrooms and a side of marinated, grilled vegetables all done in foil pouches and on the grill. We finished off dinner with grilled peaches with brown sugar all poured over homemade biscuits to make a delicious shortcake. Maybe it was the fresh air or the location but the food tasted absolutely amazing.

As we sat in our camp chairs with contently full bellies and the warm glow of the fire on our faces we sipped on some hot chocolate and schnapps – I was in heaven and actually was thoroughly enjoying my camping experience. I vowed to never eat boring, gross, stereotypical “camp” food again.

And so it began…my love affair with camp cooking and the birth of K’s Backcountry Kitchen.

Here are some of the best of the best recipes and pointers for both backpacking as well as car camping. Many I have made up, others tweaked, and some just flat out stolen. ☺ I’ll keep adding recipes, tips, and photos as I find more gems.

I hope you enjoy these as much as I have over the years

Bon appétit.

CAR CAMPING RECIPES:

MAIN DISHES:

Beef Kabobs:
½ cup Dimitri’s Bloody Mary Mix
1 large (2-3 lb) chuck roast cut into 1” cubes (or larger if you prefer)
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 sweet onion
8 oz mushrooms – stems removed
1 TBSP olive oil

Combine Dimitri’s mix and chuck roast cubes into a large Ziploc bag. Marinate overnight or up to 3 nights in cooler. Prep all remaining vegetables and cut into 1 inch pieces and store in another large Ziploc bag and drizzle with 1 TBSP olive oil. At camp (this is a great opportunity to recruit help and make a speed competition out of it) after soaking skewers in water for 30+ minutes, thread vegetables and meat onto skewers, alternating meat with vegetables. Grill over medium-high heat rotating skewers until meat is desired doneness. (6-8 minutes for med rare – be sure to cut into the meat to check.)

Five-Spice Steak
1 TBSP brown sugar
1 TBSP Chinese five-spice powder
1 TBSP peeled and minced fresh ginger
1 tsp salt
1 flank or skirt steak (about 1 ½ lbs)

Mix the brown sugar, five-spice powder, ginger, and salt in a small bowl until well combined. Rub the spice mixture over both sides of the steak. Grill the steak over medium-high heat, 5 to 6 minutes per side, until cooked to the desired doneness. Remove steak from the grill, cover loosely with foil and let rest about 5 minutes. Slice the steak across the grain into 1/8 inch thick slices and serve immediately.

Chipotle Turkey Burgers
1 ¼ lbs lean ground turkey
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 green onions thinly sliced
2 seeded, mined chipotle chilis from a can of chipotles in adobo plus 2 TBSP of the sauce
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
4 oz sharp cheddar cheese grated
4 hamburger buns toasted.

Mix together the ground turkey, egg, onion, minced chipotles and sauce, cumin, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl or pot until well combined. Shape the mixture into 4-1 inch thick patties. Wrap in wax paper and freeze

At camp – by day 2 or 3 these will have thawed enough to not fall apart on the grill. Grill the burgers over medium-high heat about 5 minutes until browned on the bottom, Flip the burgers, top each with one-quarter (about 1 oz) of the cheese, and continue cooking about 5 minutes more until the burgers are cooked through and the cheese is melted, Serve the burgers on toasted buns and garnish with guacamole and salsa if desired. Great with the Black Bean salad recipe.

BBQ Salmon – Kodiak Alaska style
2 salmon fillets (2 ½ to 3 lbs each) or 4-5 lb salmon steaks, cut 1 in thick
¾ cup apple cider
6 TBSP Soy Sauce
2 TBSP Unsalted butter
1 large garlic clove, crushed through a press
Lemon and parsley for garnish

In small saucepan, combine the cider and soy sauce. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the butter and garlic and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until liquid thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. (about 20 minutes). Remove the marinade and let cool to room temperature. Pat the salmon dry and place skin side down on a rack. Brush the marinade evenly over the salmon and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Light the grill, oil the rack and place the salmon skin side down on the grill. Tent with foil and bake until the flesh is still slightly translucent in the thickest part – about 15-20 minutes. Also great done in a foil pouch for 15-20 minutes.

SIDES:

Black Bean Salad
Juice of 3 limes
1 tsp salt
2 TBSP honey
1 TBSP ground cumin
1 TBSP ground coriander
1 TBSP dried oregano
2 – 14.5oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 bell peppers (preferably a combination of red, yellow, or orange) seeded and diced
6 green onions, thinly sliced

Mix the line juice, salt, honey, cumin, coriander, and oregano in a large bowl until well combined. Add the beans, diced pepper, and onion, and toss until well combined. This one be made 2 days ahead and kept in the cooler. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Cucumber Salad – cool and refreshing, great with spicy meat dishes!
¼ cup rice vinegar
1tsp sugar
1 TBSP soy sauce
1 tsp Asian sesame oil
2 large cucumbers, peeled, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced.

Combine the vinegar and sugar in a medium bowl or pot, and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the soy sauce and sesame oil. Toss the cucumber slices with the dressing, and let stand 5 minutes before serving. I make the dressing at home and slice up the cucumbers at camp.

DESSERT:

Rum baked peaches
½ cup brown sugar
½ stick of butter cut into small pieces
2 TBSP dark rum
4 peaches, halved pits removed

Mix sugar and butter together in a small bowl or pot until the butter is in small clumps. Add the rum and mix until well combined. Place one peach half in the center of a square of foil, dollop one-quarter of the sugar mixture onto it and top with the other peach half. Wrap the foil tightly around the peaches, and place the packages on the grill over hot coals. Cook 15-20 minutes until the peaches are soft. Serve with homemade biscuits and crème fraiche.

BACKPACKING RECIPIES

MAIN DISHES:

“Thanksgiving “ Dinner
Stove Top Stuffing
Canned chicken or turkey – in foil pouches
Instant mashed potatoes
Gravy packet
Dried cranberries

At home: Place Stove Top stuffing, seasoning, and dried cranberries (if desired) in large Ziploc bag and instant mashed potatoes in another large Ziploc. At camp, simply boil water and add required amount of water to each large Ziploc containing the stuffing and mashed potatoes. While this is ‘cooking’ add the gravy packet to the remaining water in the pan and add the chicken or turkey. Heat through, dish up and pour gravy chicken/turkey mixture over mashed potatoes.

Curried Chicken Cous Cous
1 cup of cous cous
1 golden curry cube (sold in grocery stores, ethnic section)
1 pouch canned chicken
½ cup golden raisins
¼ cup blanched almond slivers
1 TBSP olive oil

At home: In a large Ziploc add cous cous, curry cube, raisins and almonds. At camp: Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan and add cous cous mixture, cover and remove from heat. Let stand 10 minutes, fluff with a fork and drizzle olive oil.

TIPS AND TRICKS

It all starts with the list: Seriously, your trip is so much better if you set aside a few hours and plan out your menu and packing list.

And then make sure you properly pack your cooler – be sure to use block ice on each end of a large cooler and pack from last day’s food at the bottom to the 1st day’s food on the top. I use large ziplock bags and keep each day’s food together and label it with the recipe (if needed) written on the outside in Sharpie. Keep frozen food, meat, etc. as close to the ice blocks as you can.

THE TEST TRIP

So the weekend we chose to document a camping trip officially had the WORST weather I have ever experienced camping. We drove 6 hours to what normally is a lovely camp spot in Pacific City on the Oregon Coast. And, well, Dawson’s face says it all….

We tried to stay positive….

But it really was awful…

During the night, there were 50 MPH gusts of wind and a torrential downpour. We awoke around 1am to a loud crashing, as our MSR Parawing shelter that was keeping all our gear dry came crashing down as the stakes were ripped up and out of the ground. As I was standing there; 6 months pregnant in my long underwear and a rain coat that wouldn’t quite zip over my belly, holding the pole as Nathaniel tried to tie the rope off to a tree; I looked up and with cold rain pelting my face I saw some warmly lit cabins way up on the hill. I couldn’t help laughing a little.

Dawson was the most hardcore of all of us – he could care less about the horrible weather and had the time of his life.

OK, maybe Zoe had the best time of all.

A stop at the Tillamook Cheese Factory on the way out of town seemed to make it all better.

Because scoops of ice cream as big as your head are awesome….

Some final rainy camping advice summed up in 2 words: Good gear. We were the only ones that weren’t bailing water out of our tent (love you Big Agnes!) and actually stayed warm and dry despite the horrendous weather. I can’t say that we will be out storm-chasing now looking for some rainy weather to camp in, but it sure is nice to know that if bad weather happens again – we are ready! And we are so thankful that the family that had never been camping had a last minute schedule conflict and couldn’t come with us. They probably would not be speaking to us right now.

- KAREN BLUE

Written by on Jan 16,2012 in: |

3 Comments »

  • Liz wright says:

    Karen,
    I love your site. You guys always have such great pictures. I am inspired by your camping logs and will try a few of your recipes next time we are out.
    All is well here. Dave is working hard as usual. He is happy to be finished with his cancer treatments and have some of his energy back. I do not think any of his employers have ever sent us somewhere like hawaii, lucky you.
    We are still enjoying spokane and being around family. The boys are five, seven and nine now and all doing well.
    That is all for now. Tell your hubby I said hello.
    Liz

    • karen Karen says:

      Thanks Liz!! So good to hear from you. Such a huge praise that he is done with his treatments – the Wagners have been keeping us in the loop. Glad to hear you are doing well in Spokane – I can’t believe the boys have grown up so fast!

      Take Care,
      Karen

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