Campfire Cooking! My 5 Favorites

07/20/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Maria Rodale CEO and Chairman of Rodale, Inc. and book author

I was one of those naughty Girl Scouts who only joined the troop when it was about to go on the camping trip. I knew I would get some good food cooked over an open wood fire. I think we made some sort of hamburger stew in a tin can that was so yummy!

Now that I'm a grown-up, I've got my own campfire pit at my house, complete with an iron cooking grate I bought at Cabela's. What I love about cooking over a campfire is that you can really only focus on the fire and the food, so there's a good amount of sitting, with family and kids coming over to hang out. It's actually quite relaxing, if slightly strenuous. We are heading into prime campfire-cooking season, so here are my five favorite things to cook:

1. Organic hot dogs on a stick. Not just any brand, but Applegate Farms' The Great Organic Uncured Hot Dog, made from grass-fed beef. They're not fancy, but they're primal and so yummy. Plus, anyone can cook one.

2. Trout and potatoes and greens. Or any fresh-caught fish you can catch. But we all love trout here. I take my big roasting pan, lay down some olive oil, and place the trout on top of it. Then I boil some potatoes and put them in among the fish (they're already mostly cooked, so they just get crispy over the fire). I also add chard, spinach, or kale, chopped finely. Then I add butter. And salt and pepper, of course. There is no need for turning, just let everything cook until the trout is crispy on the bottom and the greens are wilted (and crispy where they met the butter). Double yum!

3. Buffalo Burgers. Sure, you can make regular burgers or steaks. But a good thick buffalo burger makes you feel like a true American. Don't forget to heat up the buns over the flame, as well. Serve with all your favorite fixins, but try not to eat more than two.

4. S'mores. I know, I know, so predictable. But I have figured out how to make them ALMOST all-organic. Most organic marshmallows don't melt quite right, so you still need to buy the air-puffed kind. Then get the Newman's Own organic chocolate bar of your choice, add some organic graham or cinnamon graham crackers, and voilà! See, I learned something at that Girl Scout camp.

5. Fruit, sugar, and butter in a cast-iron pan. Basically, take a cast-iron pan like the kind you can find in my store. Cut up any kind of fruit you like -- cherries, peaches, apples, or bananas work best. Sprinkle with sugar and butter, and leave it alone on the fire till it's all bubbly and browned. When the fruit is all caramelized, take it off the fire, and serve with some vanilla ice cream. Super yum!

One piece of advice, in addition to the usual fire safety tips (don't leave a fire unattended, clear the brush around it, have water handy, don't let kids near it, and so forth): If your campfire is not very bright, it's best to cook while there's still some daylight left. It can be hard to see whether the food is done or not when it's dark out and the fire is underneath the pan.

Happy campfire cooking! If you have any other good suggestions, I'd love to try them.

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