Thursday, June 28, 2012

DIY Campfire Casseroles

Here in Minnesota, we're about to dive head first into summer as the temperatures reach 90+ degrees F.  That means one thing in our family:  camping season!

Growing up, both my hubby and I spent a lot of time in the summer camping.  And I don't mean with a big gorgeous motor home, or even camper
(not that I have anything against them, mind you), but usually at a state park or campground in a tent with a bonfire and sometimes a Coleman stove.  

I remember one year camping in Kentucky.  We had pitched our tent, gotten the "outdoor kitchen" all set up and things were going great when the sky suddenly darkened, thunder banged directly overhead scaring the bejesus out of all 5 of us kids, the wind came up and nearly knocked my baby sister into next week, and the rain started coming down in sheets.  It was useless to run to the tent for cover, so Mom and Dad hurried all 5 of us into our station wagon where we waited out the storm.

When it was over, the entire campground was under about 18 inches of water, our tent was completely blown down, and our little kitchen was destroyed.  We later learned that a tornado had actually gone through the park, so we were extremely lucky to have weathered the storm relatively unscathed with most of our stuff, although most of it was scattered everywhere.

That actually is a great memory for me, because even though it was pretty scary at first, we got through it as a family, and everyone in the campground helped each other rebuild their campsites.  It truly was a group effort, and it was a great thing for children to see strangers offering help to each other in a time of need.

I believe one of the greatest things ever invented for camping was the "hobo dinner."  If you've ever camped in your life, you know what I'm talking about.  Usually a hamburger patty, seasoned, with assorted veggies...potatoes, onion, carrot, etc., wrapped in foil then cooked over the fire.  They were fun, nutritious and delicious, and there have been a million different versions sparked by that first burger supper.  Potatoes with onions and bacon, AKA campfire potatoes, omelets in baggies thrown into boiling water over the campfire, you name it, it's been done.

Today, I'm going to share with you a version of that first hobo dinner, but mine's a little more hands on, and does require some advance prep on Mom's part, but the result is a wonderful supper, one that kids and adults alike will have a blast preparing.  I give to you "Southwest Style Campfire Casseroles."  Enjoy, and please let me know how yours turned out!

Southwest Style Campfire Casseroles

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 pkg. taco seasoning
Assorted fillings, such as:
     chopped onion
     chopped green pepper
     black beans or chili beans
     sliced green onion
1-2 cups shredded taco style cheese
1 can enchilada sauce
1 pkg. Jiffy corn muffin mix, prepared according to package directions.
Crushed tortilla chips
Mini Aluminum Loaf pans
Vegetable cooking spray


First prepare ground beef with taco seasoning as directed on package.  Place ground beef in covered plastic container, such as Glad Take Alongs. Place your prepared cornbread mix in a container as well.  (You can also prepare the mix at camp, but make sure you have the milk and eggs along too)

Next, and this is how I've discovered is easiest for my family, but it's purely your preference, place fillings in muffin tin, along with the cheese, as shown in the photo below.


My muffin tin has a lid with a handle, but if yours doesn't, simply cover with aluminum foil.

Now, when you're actually ready to prepare the casseroles, spray your loaf pans with cooking spray (each loaf pan will feed one adult or 2 children.  You may also choose to prepare them in aluminum muffin cups for smaller portions) Pass out the pans to each camper, and tell them to start adding ingredients, beginning with the ground beef, and finishing with crushed chips, if you have them.  I've numbered the steps in the diagram below:

You can see that the taco beef is first, then the onions, corn and beans are second, cheese is third, enchilada sauce is fourth, cornbread mix is fifth and crushed taco chips are sixth.  We used a half cup ice cream scoop for the cornbread mix and a small gravy ladle for the enchilada sauce, using one scoop of cornbread mix and 2-3 ladles of sauce, according to how moist you want them.  This should make about 4 mini loaf pans full.

Next, wrap your loaf pans in foil, leaving a little space at the top, then place them over indirect heat on your campfire or covered grill.  Watch them closely so as not to over cook them.  They should take approximately 20 - 40 minutes depending on the heat of your fire.  And that's it...have fun, and enjoy!

*Note*  You can also prepare these at home...they're great for parties or even for a fun family night.  Simply bake the mini loaf pans uncovered in a 400 degree F. oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.  Below, you can see the different steps as my husband prepared his.

Adding toppings:

Adding Sauce:

Adding chips last:

Experiment with different toppings, and have fun with these!

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