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Camp Kitchen: Cooking In Layers

October 1, 2004
Filed under Camping Breakfasts, Camping Recipes, Desserts, Main Dishes

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Presentation can be an exciting part of any meal, and layered dishes add elegance to all occasions, including a camping trip. These recipes offer good nutritional value and make for next-to-zero cleanup. Make and serve these goodies in large, clear plastic glasses to showcase their layers.

Chico Taco
This must be made immediately before serving so it’s hot and cold, crisp and juicy all at the same time. The different textures and temperatures makes this a real treat. Make large batches of the ground beef/onion/pepper/tomato mixture ahead of time and freeze it as a base for Sloppy Joes, chili and many other dishes.

For each pound of lean ground beef:
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 packet taco-seasoning mix
2 tablespoons tomato sauce or ketchup

Cook the ground beef in a hot skillet, stirring and breaking it up until it is no longer pink. Continue stir-frying while adding the onion, pepper, and tomato sauce. Reduce heat, cover, and cook until the vegetables are tender. Use now, or freeze or refrigerate for future use.

To complete the dish before dining, mix the packet of taco seasoning into the freshly cooked (or just reheated) ground-beef mixture. Set out large, clear plastic glasses and a variety of taco toppings, such as crumbled corn chips, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, grated cheese, chopped scallions, sour cream and taco sauce.

Layer in cups starting with the corn chips and the hot beef mixture. Add your choice of extras, and top it all off with sour cream. Leave enough space at the top so you can get a fork deep into the mixture. Pass the bottle of hot sauce.

Pisa Tower Pudding
Save dishwashing time by mixing the lighter pudding first. Then use the same container to mix the darker one.

4-serving package vanilla instant pudding
4-serving package instant chocolate or butterscotch pudding
4 cups milk
About 11/2 cups graham-cracker or vanilla-wafer crumbs
Hazelnut coffee creamer (liquid)

Set out eight clear containers on a table, propping them on a stick or folded towels so they sit at a slant. Make the first batch of pudding according to package directions and pour it carefully into the containers. Do not disturb while the pudding sets. After it has set, stand the cups or glasses upright. Gently sprinkle the crumbs on top of the first layer of pudding. Make the second package of pudding and pour very carefully over the crumb mixture. Let the cups stand upright until the second layer has set. Just before serving, float a thin layer of coffee creamer on top. Serves eight.

Breakfast Perk-Up
Use regular, fat-free or sugar-free yogurt, graham crackers and fruit. Crumble the crackers yourself or buy boxed graham-cracker crumbs.

10-ounce can pineapple chunks in pineapple juice
1 pint (2 cups) lemon yogurt
Approximately 1 cup graham-cracker crumbs
2 bananas
2/3 cup cherry-flavored dried cranberries (Craisins)
16-ounce can or jar applesauce

Drain the pineapple chunks well, adding the juice to your regular juice drink. Set out four large or six medium clear plastic glasses. Divide a cup of yogurt among them. Add half the crumbs, the banana layer, half the applesauce, the cranberry layer, the pineapple layer, the remaining applesauce and the remaining yogurt. Top with the remaining crumbs. Serve at once. Complete the breakfast with buttered buns or muffins, juice and hot coffee.

Big Megillah Salad
Serve this main dish in giant-sized plastic cups. It is a classic “overnight” salad, made in individual portions according to each camper’s taste. Be lavish with the lettuce, but add the protein with a lighter hand. Leave space at the top so diners can dig deep into the layers, mixing as they go. Make it the day before to unpack for a roadside lunch on the way to the campsite. Pressing lightly, layer the ingredients in the following order:

Shredded lettuce
Grated cheese
Chopped red sweet pepper or seeded, chopped tomato
Chopped hard-boiled egg or canned tuna, ham or chicken
More shredded lettuce
Chopped green sweet pepper, thawed green peas or sliced olives
More shredded lettuce
More grated cheese
Dressing: Mayonnaise (plain or mixed with bits of sun-dried tomatoes) and sour cream or yogurt

After completing the layers, whisk together equal amounts of the mayo and sour cream or yogurt. Spread about 1/3 cup of the dressing on top of each serving, being sure to cover each serving all the way to the edge of the glass for a complete seal. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for several hours or overnight.

Tuna Melt Tower
Use a rough-textured peasant bread to provide body and texture for this dish. For every three or four servings, use a 10-ounce can of tuna. You will have 2 cups of cheese sauce, or enough for six to eight towers.

Sourdough or coarse-textured white bread
Solid pack tuna, drained
6 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
2 cups milk
8-ounce package grated cheddar cheese

Tear bread into small, bite-sized chunks. Set out large plastic glasses. Add a layer of bread to fill each glass 1/3 full. Top with a generous layer of tuna. Set aside. Mix the cornstarch, mustard and pepper(s) in a nonstick saucepan and gradually stir in the milk. Cook the mixture over low flame, stirring constantly, until it’s thick and bubbly. Turn off the flame and stir in the cheese until it melts. Spoon the hot sauce over the tuna. Top the towers with another layer of bread and more cheese sauce. Serve at once.

More Layers
n Cut store-bought frozen buttermilk pancakes into bite-sized pieces and use in alternate layers of pancake bites, apple-pie filling and real bacon bits. Drizzle the top with maple syrup and vanilla yogurt. Serve for breakfast.
n Alternate layers of banana-bread bits, sliced banana, and whipped cream from a pressurized can. Drizzle the top with caramel ice-cream topping and serve for dessert.
n Make a deli stack. Layer potato salad, diced ham and coleslaw. Serve with sesame breadsticks for lunch.
n Gently press a layer of imitation crab flakes into a clear container. Continue with layers of chopped celery, green pepper, more crab, angel-hair grated cabbage, etc. Finish with a layer of ranch dressing. Cover and chill for an hour or more.
n Stock up on the full range of clear plastic glasses, including disposable stemware. Fresh berries layered with flavored yogurt in a plastic champagne flute make an elegant desert.
n Bring long-handled spoons for use in tall glasses.
n Make antipasto layers with cubed cheese, salami bits, diced tomatoes and store-bought caponata.
n Make couscous according to package directions and layer with sliced dried apricots, slivered almonds and drizzles of honey.
n Buy several types of Chex cereal and layer them with dried fruit, chopped nuts and cherry-pie filling. Drizzle with cream and serve at once for breakfast or a snack.
n For a campfire snack, fill big cups (big enough to fit your hand inside) with a layer of plain popcorn, a thin layer of French-fried onions, more popcorn, a layer of salted peanuts and more popcorn. Melt a stick of butter with a teaspoon of garlic salt and drizzle a little over each cup.

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