The sloppier the better when it comes to Sloppy Joes

June 10, 2014 

I must admit that as I get older, there are certain things about camping that aren't as easy or appealing as when I was much younger. A trailer or camper beats a tent now, as one example, even though that sometimes limits camp site access, depending on where you like to camp. But one thing is for certain: my appetite while camping never seems to subside, and the smell of food cooking on an outdoor grill just can't be beat. (Well, okay, it can be beat by the taste of that food as you eat it!) I've already had the pleasure of one camping trip so far this year and plan several more. Here are some camp food recipes from my files that I hope you get a chance to enjoy.

Sloppy Joes

You can always just open a can of prepared sauce, but this is so much better.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup minced carrots (I substitute chopped bell pepper)

1 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped celery

2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

Salt, to taste

1 1/4 pounds ground beef

1/2 cup ketchup

2 cups tomato sauce

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons brown sugar

Pinch ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Pinch cayenne pepper

2 turns of freshly-ground black pepper

4 hamburger buns

1. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium high heat. Add the carrots and sauté 5 minutes. (If you are using bell pepper instead of carrots, add those at the same time as the onions.) Add the chopped onion and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally until onions are translucent, about 5 more minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for 30 more seconds. Remove from heat. Remove vegetables from the pan to a medium sized bowl, set aside.

2. Using the same pan (or you can cook the meat at the same time as the vegetables in a separate pan to save time), generously salt the bottom of the pan (about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon). Heat the pan on high. Crumble the ground beef into the pan. You will likely need to do this in two batches, otherwise you will crowd the pan and the beef won't easily brown. Do not stir the ground beef, just let it cook until it is well browned on one side. Then flip the pieces over and brown the second side. Use a slotted spoon to remove the ground beef from the pan (can add to the set-aside vegetables), salt the pan again and repeat with the rest of the ground beef. Note: If you are using extra lean beef, you will likely not have any excess fat in the pan. If you are using 16 percent or higher, you may have excess fat. Strain off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat.

3. Return the cooked ground beef and vegetables to the pan. Add the ketchup, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar and brown sugar to the pan. Stir to mix well. Add ground cloves, thyme, cayenne and black pepper. Lower the heat to medium low and let simmer for 10 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste. Makes 4 servings.

Camp-out hot dogs

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large onion, sliced

4 hot dogs (your favorite brand)

4 hot dog buns (potato buns are great)

6 tablespoons mayonnaise (approximately)

2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard, such as Gulden's (approximately)

4 tablespoons barbecue sauce

1/2 cup shredded white Cheddar cheese

6 slices cooked bacon, crumbled

1. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat, add onion, and cook until deep golden and very tender, stirring frequently, about 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, heat grill to medium. Grill hot dogs until slightly charred all over, about 6 minutes, turning occasionally. Add buns and grill, turning frequently, until warmed and lightly charred, about 3 minutes.

3. Spread buns with mayonnaise and drizzle with mustard and barbecue sauce. Set hot dogs in buns. Sprinkle cheese on top, followed by caramelized onions and bacon. Makes 4 servings.

Smoky beef and bacon chili

Prepare with grill or stove top.

2 slices thick-cut bacon, finely chopped

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 large garlic clove, minced or pressed

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef

1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika

1/2 teaspoon to 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

About 1 teaspoon salt

1 can (14.5 oz.) crushed fire-roasted tomatoes or regular crushed tomatoes

1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce

1 cup beer, such as India Pale Ale or pilsner

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 can (14.5 oz.) pinto beans, drained

Sour cream, sliced scallions, and grated Cheddar cheese for topping

1. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, cook bacon, stirring until it just begins to brown, about 4 minutes. Add onion, lower heat to medium, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 4 to 7 minutes. Uncover pan, stir in garlic, and cook 1 minute.

2. Increase heat to medium-high and add ground beef; break it up with a wooden spoon and stir gently until it loses its raw color, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in spices and 1 teaspoon salt and cook 1 minute. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, beer and Worcestershire sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover partially, and cook 30 minutes. (If grilling, move pan around to different areas that are hotter or cooler.)

3. Add beans and cook 10 minutes, uncovered. Season to taste with additional salt, if necessary. Serve warm, with toppings on the side. Makes 6 servings.

Campfire baked potatoes

4 medium baking potatoes

1/4 cup butter, softened

Suggested toppings:

Shredded Cheddar, Colby Jack or Monterey Jack cheese

Chopped chives or green onions

Real or vegetarian bacon bits

Sour cream

Chopped steamed broccoli

Sliced ripe olives

Vegetarian (or other type) chili

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

1. Poke each potato several times all over with a fork. Smear each potato with 1 tablespoon of butter, then double wrap in heavy duty aluminum foil. Bury the potatoes in the hot coals. Allow to cook for 30 to 60 minutes until soft.

2. When done, carefully unwrap potatoes, split open and fill with desired toppings. Makes 4 servings.

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