Make Ahead Camping Side Dishes

Make Ahead Camping Side Dishes

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One of the best parts of summer is going to an old-fashioned camping cookout. Friends and family gathered around a grill and a picnic table, playing games, going swimming, laughing, talking, and just plain having fun. It’s even better when the guests bring side dishes because then it feels like the whole community has gotten involved in preparing the meal.

Make Ahead Camping Side Dishes

But, because the fun is old-fashioned does that mean that the food needs to be old-fashioned, too? Absolutely not. With the influx of new cultural influences and a wide variety of available ingredients, there is no reason why your camping side dishes can’t be as good as your indoor meals.

When choosing a side dish to bring to a camping cook-out, one of the most important things to think about is how well will it travel. Also, does it need to be refrigerated until the last second, or can it sit out for a while? What are the main dishes? Will your side dish go with them? And, when choosing your side dish, are you going to vamp up an old favorite or go with something completely new?

We’re all familiar with the old camping cook-out stand-bys, such as potato salad, green salad, baked beans, and veggie dip. Why not impress your friends by taking an oldie but goodie and adding a twist to it that will blow their minds?

Upscaling the Traditional Dishes

Let’s try to be different when looking at Make Ahead Camping Side Dishes. Take potato salad. We’ve all had the version slathered in mayonnaise but is that really what we’re looking for in today’s health-conscious world? How about a Middle Eastern-style potato salad? After you cook the potatoes and cool them, mix in some sliced green onions, some grape tomatoes, minced garlic, 1/3 cup olive oil, 5 tablespoons lemon juice, ¾ teaspoon cumin, a dash of allspice, a dash of ground coriander and salt and pepper to taste. That takes blah to yum in a few easy steps.

To jazz up the green salad, start with arugula instead of iceberg lettuce for a peppery zing. Add some halved, pitted cherries and some crumbled Gorgonzola for a salad base that will really please. Then, instead of using a store-bought dressing, whisk together some red wine vinegar, olive oil, and some chopped, fresh tarragon.

As for kicking-up baked beans, let’s head south to Brazil. You can start with either dried black beans, which you have soaked overnight and boiled for an hour, or canned beans. Throw in some chopped onion, minced garlic, parsley, salt and pepper along with 3 cups of water, and boil until tender. Then add 1 (14 oz.) can of diced tomatoes and simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes until a thick gravy forms. This can be served over rice or sliced sweet potatoes.

But what if you want to go for something completely different? Something new and interesting that will still please the crowd no matter what age? The first and easiest thing you could do is ditch those tired old veggie dips and go for some hummus. Hummus is a Middle Eastern dip made from chickpeas and spices. You can find it at any grocery store in the refrigerated section or make your own in the food processor.

Enjoying a camping cook-out can evoke pleasant memories of childhood and days gone past. But, the food you eat at cook-outs doesn’t have to be from 1956 in order for you and your family to take pleasure in it. We have more resources at our grocery stores than ever before. Be adventurous. Be culinarily courageous. Shake things up and your family and friends will thank you.

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Make Ahead Camping Side Dishes – How To Choose

The first thing to consider when choosing a side dish to bring is the diets of the people you intend to serve. Are they vegetarian? Are there restrictions such as gluten-free or diabetic-friendly? What about those who are traveling with you? If someone in your party will have special dietary needs, choosing a side dish that meets their requirements will ensure there is at least one dish they are able to enjoy.

Also consider what kinds of containers you have that travel well in the car, and will keep the food fresh, and safe from spills. No one likes smelling potato sales three weeks later in a hot car.

Side Dish Things To Avoid

The next thing to think about is choosing a side dish recipe that travels well. This probably means avoiding anything that requires refrigeration. One traditional holiday favorite for many American families includes a Jell-O dish. While these may be a tradition, if you travel, don’t be the one to sign up for this type of side dish. You will likely arrive with a bowl of fruity gelatinous soup as heat ruins Jell-O’s consistency.

Other things to avoid are side dishes containing meat, mayonnaise, or raw eggs. All of these require refrigeration, making them hard to travel with. Easy side dishes are those that require little special handling–even salad greens will be affected by the heat inside a car, arriving wilted and uninviting.

Side Dish Items That Travel Well

Volunteer to bring items such as mashed potatoes or baked sweet potatoes. These can survive at room temperature, easily reheated when you arrive. Another good choice is salads made from pasta, chopped vegetables, or tabouli. These can have vinegar or lemon-based dressing, travel well, are not subject to the elements, and are better after they sit for a while.

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Other Side Dish Ingredients

Other possibilities include rice, pasta, or vegetable casserole side dishes. Most people love macaroni and cheese. (Check out 49 Ways to Take Your Mac and Cheese up a Notch) In the south, creamed spinach, or squash casserole are always on the menu. And of course who hasn’t had the famous green bean casserole with mushroom soup and crunchy fried onions? In some families, Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without it.

One other main ingredient to work with is beans. You can make a three bean salad days ahead and it will arrive delicious. Meat-free chili beans are great as a main dish for vegans and vegetarians who will pass on the turkey and ham. BBQ beans are a good complementary side dish if ham is on the menu.

One Side Dish For Almost Every Diet

One final side dish that works well for almost any diet is a frittata. You can make it with only eggs, vegetables, and cheese-like a quiche minus the crust. These are good for vegetarians, diabetics, low-carb diets, and gluten-free. They are easy to make, inexpensive, and great served at room temperature. They also make a nice presentation when sliced in wedges, and served on a platter with salsa as a dip. Leftovers are great for breakfast or lunch the next day.

Final Thoughts on Make Ahead Camping Side Dishes

Keeping these tips in mind when you need to bring a side dish and have to travel will help you make a delicious, easy traveling choice. Of course, if all else fails and you want to make it super simple, you can always sign up to bring a pie-just remember to avoid the ones with cream.

brown bread on gray tray

Make Ahead Camping Side Dishes FAQs

How far in advance can I make these side dishes before the camping trip? The optimal time frame for making make-ahead camping side dishes is usually one to two days before your camping departure. This timeline ensures that the dishes stay fresh and delicious while also reducing the risk of spoilage. Always make sure to store these dishes in airtight containers in the refrigerator to maintain their quality.

Can I freeze make-ahead camping side dishes? Yes, many make-ahead camping side dishes can be frozen for longer storage. However, not all side dishes freeze well, especially those with high water content (like cucumber-based salads). It’s best to avoid freezing these types of dishes, as they might become mushy after thawing. Opt for dishes like chili, stews, or certain casseroles that freeze and reheat well.

What are some safety tips for handling and storing make-ahead camping side dishes?

  • Always use clean utensils, cutting boards, and hands while preparing the dishes to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Store the dishes in airtight containers to maintain freshness and avoid any exposure to bugs or critters during your camping trip.
  • Keep the dishes at appropriate temperatures: refrigerate them until departure, and use coolers with ice packs to keep them cold during the journey.
  • If you’re reheating the side dishes at the campsite, make sure they reach a safe internal temperature before serving.

How can I easily transport make-ahead camping side dishes to the campsite? For easy transport, use sturdy, leak-proof containers that won’t spill during transit. Consider using stackable containers to save space in your cooler. You can also pack the containers in an insulated bag or cooler to keep them cold and fresh during the trip.

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