From the campfire to the picnic table

Adding a unique twist on classic campfire fare

JESSICA STEINBACHER/Sun-Gazette Shown above is the loaded camp cheddar burger made by Jessica Steinbacher.

Camping and eating campfire food have always been two of my favorite pastimes. In fact, they are so extensively synonymous with each other that one of my first thoughts while planning a camping trip is, “What are we going to eat? Breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert? Mountain pies! Hot dogs! Sausages! S’mores!”

Usually I love all those foods after a long hike in the woods but I was craving something different because this was a special occasion: the first family camping trip with our two dogs, Delilah Moon and Schala Kidd. That’s where “The Outdoor Adventure Cookbook,” published by the Coleman brand, came into play.

The first recipe me and my husband chose to make was the loaded camp cheddar burger with chive cream. The optional ingredients are the ones we did not use in the recipe due to personal taste. Instead of the ground sirloin and chuck we used 2 pounds of ground chicken, which provided a much lighter flavor than beef patties. My husband doesn’t enjoy spicy foods hence the jalapeno chiles were omitted. I’m not a fan of tomatoes, so we didn’t utilize tomato slices on the burgers. But if any of those ingredients sound right up your alley, I’d say go for it. Explore your taste buds! We also used a charcoal grill instead of a fire but either would provide an amazingly smokey, flavorful, fresh burger that melds with the spread perfectly.

Loaded camp cheddar burgers with chive cream

Hand-on: 30 minutes

Total: 30 minutes.

Serves 6.

1 pound ground sirloin (optional)

1/2 pound ground chuck (optional)

2 tablespoons finely chopped pickled jalapeno chiles (optional)

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup sour cream

1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh chives

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons olive oil (optional)

6 (1/4 ounce) Cheddar cheese slices

1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced

6 hamburger buns, toasted

Lettuce leaves

Tomato slices (optional)

Heat a camping stove to medium (350 to 375 degrees F), fit a grilling grate over the direct heat of glowing embers or warm up a charcoal grill. Combine the ground chicken, garlic and salt in a medium bowl. (We added 1/4 cup of finely sliced onions and 1 tablespoon of Amazing Burger seasoning into the mixture as well. The Amazing Burger grill seasoning we included consists of salt, onion, chili pepper, sugar, garlic, tomato powder, red bell pepper and paprika extractives.) Gently shape the mixture into 6 (4-inch) patties and season lightly with a couple sprinkles of Amazing Burger seasoning. Stir together the sour cream, mayonnaise, chives and lemon juice in a small bowl, and set aside.

Add three patties at a time to the charcoal grill, cover and cook until the chicken burgers are fully cooked at an internal temperature of 165 degrees F, flipping halfway through to evenly cook both sides. Top each patty with 1 cheese slice (we used smoked white cheddar cheese), and remove to a platter. Loosely cover with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Repeat the procedure with the remaining patties and cheese slices.

Toast the hamburger buns on the grill for approximately 2-5 minutes then place on a separate plate. Serve the patties on the toasted hamburger buns with slices of onion, lettuce, tomato (or omit) and sour cream mixture.

The recipe in the book calls for home fries as the side, which are essentially fried potatoes with seasoning such as salt and pepper, but we switched up the recipe to include the loaded macaroni and cheese bowls as the side dish. The recipe calls for mild Italian pork sausage and Spanish chorizo but we used turkey bacon instead. We also actually used a campfire for this one. This is a must-serve again type of dish due to the mingling of the smoky flavor of the mozzarella cheese and turkey bacon, the sweetness of the red bell pepper and the creaminess of the overall dish.

If you cook the pasta ahead, toss it with 1 tablespoon of canola oil and store it in a large ziplock plastic bag — this helps it from sticking together. For a vegetarian option, omit the sausage and chorizo.

Loaded macaroni and

cheese bowls

Hands-on: 20 minutes.

Total: 30 minutes.

Serves 6.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

6 ounces mild Italian pork sausage (optional)

4 ounces dry-cured Spanish chorizo, chopped (about 1/4 cups — optional)

6 ounces turkey bacon

1 1/2 cups chopped red bell pepper

1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion

5 tablespoons all-purpose flour

4 cups whole milk (or 2 percent)

8 ounces processed cheese (such as Velveeta), roughly chopped

4 ounces smoked mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)

1 teaspoon table salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 (16-ounce) package large elbow macaroni, prepared according to package directions

Heat a camping stove or grill to medium-high (about 375 to 400 degrees F), or fit a grilling grate over the direct heat of glowing embers.

Cook the turkey bacon ahead of time to personal preference.

Melt the butter in a cast-iron Dutch oven on the camping stove or grilling grate directly over the heat source. Add the turkey bacon (or sausage and chorizo if following the recipe to a T.) Add the bell pepper and onion, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender for about five minutes. Add the flour, and cook, stirring constantly for one minute. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly. Cook, whisking constantly, until thickened, about five minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the cheeses, salt and pepper, stirring until completely melted. Stir in the hot cooked pasta. Divide evenly among six serving bowls. Serve immediately.

Don’t get me wrong. We definitely followed up the meal with classic S’mores made with giant marshmallows, Hersheys chocolate bars and cinnamon graham crackers, but our adventurous hearts will forever lead us into new food territory.