Camp Recipes for In-Season Vegetables – Corn Pancakes

As bright yellow cobs of corn weigh down their sturdy stalks in Ontario, I write this blog from a place of near-hallucinating exhaustion. I am longing for the days when I had time to make delicious hearty breakfasts before I decided I was woman enough for two jobs. Which I totally still am, by the way. 

The recipe below, for Corn Pancakes, is a great use of in-season fresh corn on the cob (or leftovers), but can be made from canned corn if no fresh corn is available. By the way, as the partner of a former corn-farmer, I am obligated to insert here that “there is no such thing as peaches and cream corn” and something about brainwashing, and that the all-yellow stuff is way better than ‘bi-color’. (Happy?) 

As a Dutch girl, I’m supposed to dine on chocolate sprinkle sandwiches and thin crepe-like pancakes filled with all things sugary and sweet for breakfast. I know this, yet I yearn for savoury. Don’t get me wrong – I make a mean pumpkin Chai pancake, but given the choice, most mornings I’ll pick bacon ‘n eggs over waffles.

This recipe soothes my savoury cravings, my corn-farming prince charming, and the grumblings of my ancestors (“Be still, you gorgeous blonde giants! It says pancakes!”). With the perfect amount of sweetness from the corn, these little beauties are great topped with sweet-chilli sauce, as a substitute for hashbrowns with bacon and eggs, or even as a ‘bun’ for egg sandwiches. 

Corn Pancakes – Serves 60 (as a side)

Ingredients:

30 eggs

4 2/3 C milk

1 3/4 C butter, melted

10 C flour

5 tbsp baking powder

5 tbsp onion powder (option to use green onions)

Corn from 2 dozen cobs of corn

 Directions:

1.     Combine eggs, milk, and butter.

2.     Whisk in flour, baking powder, and onion powder.

3.     Stir in corn

4.     Drop by large spoonfuls onto medium-heat flat top grill.

5.     Flip once until golden on both sides

 If you like what you see, and want to see more, check out our 3-Week Summer Camp Menu!

Summer Camp Favourites: Hearty & Simple Black Bean Casserole

A Camp Recipe to Please the Masses

 photo credit:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/greg_myers/14385614051/   CC NC SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/

photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/greg_myers/14385614051/  CC NC SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/

Here’s a recipe to feed 100 people, so you’ll need to find 99 friends or campers if you want to experience this flavor fiesta. It freezes well, so if you can’t muster up a crowd there’s no need to miss out on the party. Unless you have almost no freezer space because you sometimes hoard over-ripe bananas (...guilty); in that case, you should stick with the crowd option and consider some muffin recipes.

This vegetarian casserole is a favorite of mine for a few reasons. First – it's delicious. I hear this is an important factor in good recipes. Second – it’s outrageously quick and easy to put together. It's also flavorful, crispy around the edges, and a great use of cornmeal. I like to think cornmeal is an indicator that whatever you're making will be delicious. Oh, and it's cheesy – that’s a good sign, too. 

The downside is that I hate the word 'casserole'. It makes me think of gloopy, grey fat-free mushroom soup mix and dishes that are way too hard to scrub clean. Don't get me wrong - I don't actually hate casserole, not even mushroom-soup filled casseroles. I just hate the idea of a casserole. The only reason I ever ventured to make this myself was because it doesn't include mushroom soup, frozen peas, or cornflakes. (It does contain frozen corn though...)

Anyway, now that you know about my banana problem and word association issues, I present the finest black bean casserole recipe I have ever made. Which is one.

Black Bean Casserole

Ingredients:

1 C olive oil

16C onions, diced

14C yellow cornmeal

20C skim Milk

15C black beans, rinsed and drained

15C canned or frozen corn, drained

15C stewed tomatoes

16C shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. Don sombrero and spray sixteen 8’’x8’’ baking pans.
  2. In several large bowls, combine all ingredients except cheese. Mix well and pour into prepared pans.
  3. Top with cheddar cheese, and bake uncovered at 350F for 45 - 60 minutes, until firm and crisp around the edges.

This recipe is from the 3 Week Summer Camp Menu put together by CamphackerTV, which you can find here.

In Good Hands: Caring for Campers (and Staff) with Special Diets + Bonus Recipe

elana's pantry via photopin cc" >
 photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/elanaspantry/2631765638/

photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/elanaspantry/2631765638/

Before I let you in on my system of dietary care, I’d like to get a little story off my chest. I once had a counsellor on staff that was allergic to sulfates and sulfites. This was my first year as kitchen head-honcho and while I totally had the headscarf down pat, I had no idea what those were. The counsellor explained casually that they were ingredients in some processed foods. Well, I thought, you’re in luck! I’m banning processed foods!

I did not end up banning processed foods. Professionals, kind grandmothers, and angels may be capable of avoiding processed foods altogether, but I was none of these. I eliminated where I could, and humbly accepted that the occasional chicken nugget was a-ok if everyone had full bellies.

At some point, sulfates (or was it sulfites?) made their way to the table. I will never forget the moment our director came into the kitchen and asked “Were sulfates served at dinner?”. In the end, the counsellor was fine but I learned my lesson: I was responsible for people’s health, and I did not want to be responsible for anyone’s ill-health.

Now. You may ask “Why am I taking advice from a near-MURDERER!?”. While I ask you to recall she was fine, I should also tell you that this incident helped shape my fool-proof ‘keep people alive and let their parents know it’ system. The tricks are as follows:

Opening Day

Make yourself available opening day to meet with parents of campers with special diets. Be prepared to listen attentively and write things down, even if mama bear is describing to you in detail (with actions) the digestive disaster a slip-up might cause. If possible, it’s best to have the camper there, too. This helps you remember who’s who, and might make the camper a little more comfortable with you.

During this meeting ask:

  •  What their restrictions/allergies are, and how they usually manage them at home. Knowing how they manage them at home might give you a good indicator of how to manage them at camp.
  •  How the camper wants to interact with the kitchen. Are they willing and able to check in with the kitchen at meal times and get their special food if required?
  •  Did they bring their own replacement foods? If so, USE THEM. Nothing worries a parent more than picking their kid up at the end of the week and getting all their replacement foods back. (“Did little Phoebe eat cheese all week?!”). Keep this food separate and labeled.
  •  Be prepared to show them your menu for the week and answer a vast array of questions.

During the Week 

Have a whiteboard that you update each week with camper food needs, and include their name, cabin, and a counsellor from that cabin. Unless you have a rotating staff, you can usually make a staff needs list at the beginning of the season and keep it posted as well. While preparing every meal, go through the lists and make sure everyone has something safe and satisfying to eat. Don’t wait until just before the meal, you don’t want to draw attention to a camper because their meal wasn’t ready on time.

Depending on your staff and the number of special diets to account for, sometimes the easiest thing is to designate a competent staff member to be on top of special diet needs. Don’t forget that sometimes you can create one alternative meal that covers a variety of needs – rice pasta with a rich tomato sauce full of veggies can replace mac n’ cheese for vegans and those with a lactose or gluten intolerance.

Finally, check in with both the camper and their counsellor during the week to make sure your system is working and that the camper is being well-fed.

Closing Day

homemade sorbet at summer camp

Have all leftover replacement foods and the containers they came in together and labeled. When you see parents, unless you are absolutely sure you know who their child is and what cabin they’re in, do not wing it.  There’s no harm in asking for a reminder, but you can’t take back mixing up Dairy-Free-Alana with Gluten-Free-Maxine.

Finally, and I cannot stress this enough: thank them for their children! Parents and campers alike are aware of the potential burden of special diets. Even if little Phoebe had ferocious feedback about your homemade (undeniably delicious) sorbet, sincerely ensure each parent that it was no problem to accommodate their child and that you were honoured to make their experience at camp special.

Bonus Recipe: Homemade Sorbet

Forget ferocious Phoebe. This easy, refreshing recipe can be rapidly accommodated to serve any group size. Just remember to double the ingredients in this order:  sugar, water, fruit.  For citrus sorbet, double the sugar.  In the non-processed spirit, I’ve used turbinado, which can be replaced 1-1 with white sugar.

Ingredients:

  • 2 C Turbinado
  • 4 C Boiling Water
  • 8 C Peeled, Chopped, Seeded Fruit – any variety.

Directions:

  1.  Completely dissolve turbinado in the water, remove from heat and stir in fruit.
  2. Ladle mixture into several baking dishes filled no more than 1 inch. Freeze.
  3.  Cut frozen mixture into chunks and puree thoroughly in food processor. Serve immediately. 

[Note from Travis: If you like Meghan's summer camp recipes you'll LOVE her 3 Week Summer Camp Menu! Purchase it from our site right now.]

Bringing Camp into the Kitchen: Making the Kitchen a Programming Area

Cooking at Summer Camp Can Be Fun!

Food brings people together - we celebrate birthdays with cake, we reconnect with old friends over coffee, we teach children precision and patience while baking cookies. None of this is new, we’ve been breaking bread together since, well, since before sliced bread!

I have always loved cooking and baking. I love making a perfect meal or treat, visually appealing, delicious and creative. But let’s face it - when you are making meals for a hundred or so folks in a sweltering, bustling kitchen, 3 times a day, every day, some of the joy ebbs. On some days, there is no joy at all. There are aprons that used to have clever puns on them before they became battered and buttered, there is a pressing sense of urgency, and sweat. Unimaginable, I-didn’t-know-I-could-sweat-that-much amounts of sweat. Hot yoga amounts of sweat.

I think it can be hard for non-kitchen staff to understand how separate the kitchen can sometimes feel from the rest of camp. We get all the exhaustion without the rewards of seeing campers grow and giggle. On those days, we have to remember that we are a part of camp - we are a part of life-changing and magic-making. One way to remind ourselves of this is to bring programming to the kitchen.

The camp kitchen presents an untapped oasis of all the good things camp stands for - connection, learning, whole-person nourishment, wonder, and joy. Not only do camp kitchens offer a programming area that already exists, but bringing camp into the kitchen has all kinds of benefits for kitchen staff, too.

Programming in the kitchen takes a little planning and maybe even menu-tweaking, but if done well, it can help camp staff connect with campers, and can even reduce the workload. Not only does kitchen programming benefit staff, but all of camp. Campers gain a sense of pride and responsibility as they help feed camp, get to interact with the mysterious kitchen staff, and foster life-skills that will benefit them into adulthood. Below is a guide to developing the kitchen as a programming area, adaptable to any kitchen.

Time, Space, and Staff
Before developing your program, you’ll have to seriously consider these three things: time, space, and staff involvement. How much time can you dedicate, what kind of space is there to accommodate campers, and who will be running the programming?

First, you’ll need to consider how much time you can dedicate to kitchen programming. Maybe you’ll decide to open up to programming as a rainy-day backup plan, or maybe you’ll strive to get campers in the kitchen every day! Be realistic with your time - ease into programming with a few trial runs to get a grasp of time commitment.

Next, you’ll need to think about space. Is there enough space in your kitchen to accommodate a group of campers? Is there space for campers to work without interrupting other meal preparation? If your kitchen is too small, is there a clean space close-by to work in, such as a dining hall? Mixing bowls and ingredients can always be portable, even if the oven isn’t.

Finally, think about staff involvement. You may want low-involvement programming, like providing a recipe and instructions to a counselor and making yourself available for questions. Or, you may want higher involvement, working side-by-side with campers and counsellors.

Considering these factors will help you get a firm idea of how much you are able and willing to dedicate to programming - your schedule may seem full, but with planning, programming is possible in most kitchens.

Coordination
Another factor to consider is coordinating with the rest of camp. How can the kitchen fit into the existing camp schedule? This is a great time to get creative, as camp doesn’t often run on the same schedule as the kitchen. Many camps have schedules that they strongly adhere to and have done so for ages. A new program area may challenge this schedule, but be sure to vocalize the benefits to campers and staff when pitching the idea.

Safety
The kitchen may be the only place at your camp that could truly pass as ‘clean’. Its important to plan to keep the kitchen clean for food safety, but there are other risks in the kitchen to consider, as well. Knives, meat slicers, and even an industrial mixer can be a real risk to camper safety.

Think about how you can protect campers from safety risks. Perhaps consider a staff-only zone where dangerous equipment is kept, and tailor your activities to the ages of campers. A teen camper can probably handle a knife with supervision, but a pre-schooler is probably better suited to a wooden spoon. Diligent supervision and encouraging risk awareness are two great ways to ensure kitchen safety.

Activities
The programming activities in the kitchen can encompass any part of your job you wish to share with campers. Keep in mind that what may seem mundane to you can be exciting for campers - even an industrial dishwasher can be fun with a great playlist and timed challenges. How many plates can you effectively fit on a rack? How fast can you conquer this dish mountain?

Below are a few ways you can involve campers in the kitchen - but don’t let it limit you. Get creative!

  • Setting Tables
  • Preparing/Cooking a Meal- instructions, recipes, and guidance provided
  • Baking/Preparing a part of a meal - i.e. baking cornbread to go with chili
  • Baking/Preparing Snack for all of camp
  • Baking/Preparing Dessert for all of camp
  • Baking/Preparing a treat for their own cabin - think cookies and story-time
  • Birthday Baking - preparing a treat for someone with a birthday
  • Surprise baked goods for other cabins - have campers prepare a batch of cookies for another cabin and make a secret mission out of anonymously delivering them
  • Preparing the Salad Bar
  • Costumed Menu Announcements - picture campers dressed as chickens and corn on the cob
  • Illustrated Menus (Reusable Whiteboard)
  • Dish Duties
  • Garbage and Recycling Duties
  • Serving - either delivering food to tables or dishing out refills if appropriate
  • Meal cleanup

Feedback
Like any new program area, its important to set up avenues for feedback and be prepared to use it. Find ways of communicating with campers and staff about their kitchen experiences or open yourself to suggestions for new activities.

[Note from Travis: If you like Meghan's summer camp recipes you'll LOVE her 3 Week Summer Camp Menu! Purchase it right now]

Goldilocks and the Three Berries: A Fairy-Tale Worthy Porridge

Summer Camp Menu Plan... including great oatmeal

 Fresh fruit is a staple on our 3 Week Summer Camp Menu

Fresh fruit is a staple on our 3 Week Summer Camp Menu

I know what you’re thinking: how edgy, how risky - to claim that porridge can be anything but tolerable. I, too, was a porridge skeptic - never quite grasping how people so readily gobbled down that gluey, flavourless goop. Fear not, fellow foodies! This recipe isn’t even in the same category as instant oatmeal or boring stove-top porridge. This baked oatmeal recipe, featured in the CampHacker 3 Week Menu Plan, has been known to cause pot scraping and spoon duelling; a true fiber-filled fantasy.
Typically, porridge refers to any grain boiled in milk or water. Porridge made of oats is referred to as oatmeal. Now, I don’t know how many of you have ever made anything involving boiling milk in mass quantities, but it can be tricky. Without close attention, it can lead to scary fireside stories like ‘the cigarette flavoured pudding’. To avoid such regrettable legends, this recipe is baked instead of boiled.
There are many ways to tweak this recipe. I love the berries, but as you can imagine, it can be adapted to many flavours. I’ve included a few of camp favourites, but the possibilities are endless! In large quantities, this recipe takes quite some time to bake. To cut down on baking time, I use instant skim milk powder constituted with hot tap water instead of cold milk from the fridge. The results are identical, but use whichever you prefer!

Triple Berry Baked Oatmeal - Serves 20
Ingredients:
 9 C Quick Rolled Oats
1 tbsp Salt
4 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tbsp Cinnamon (optional)
1 1/2 C Brown Sugar
6 C Warm Milk

3/4 C Melted Butter or Margarine
1 C applesauce (optional)
2 C Frozen Raspberries
1 C Frozen Strawberries
1 C Frozen Blueberries
Directions:
1. Combine oats, salt, baking powder and cinnamon in a large bowl.
2. In a second large bowl, combine brown sugar, warm milk, melted butter, applesauce and berries.
3. Combine the two mixtures and bake covered at 350 in a greased roasting pan for 20 - 30 minutes. Scrape down sides and stir thoroughly, and bake uncovered for another 10-15 minutes, until slightly firm on top but still liquid-y below.
4. Stir thoroughly and serve hot. Easily re-heated in microwave with a little added milk.

Optional Adaptations:
Peach: A close second-favourite of mine. For peach oatmeal, use canned peaches in juice or water (syrup is too sweet for this recipe). Rather than berries, cut up about 3 - 4 cups of peaches, and add 1 cup of the canned liquid to the wet ingredients.

Apple Cinnamon: Double the cinnamon and scrap the berries. Use 4 cups of peeled, diced, firm apples, like gala or granny smith. Instead of adding the apples in at the beginning, add them in when you stir the oatmeal midway to preserve crispness.

Chocolate-Banana: An excellent use for over-ripe bananas and the chocolate may help encourage younger or more ‘selective’ diners to dig in. Replace the cup of applesauce with 2 cups of mashed over-ripe bananas and 2-3 cups of chocolate chips instead of berries. If you prefer chocolate chunks over chocolate melted throughout the oatmeal, stir in the chips right before serving.

[Note from Travis: If you like Meghan's summer camp recipes you'll LOVE her 3 Week Summer Camp Menu! Purchase it from our site right now!]

 

Beyond Ranch: Spice Up Your Salad Bar with Homemade Dressings

Homemade Salad Dressing for Large Groups

We’ve all seen it before: a child or camper surfs the salad bar and creates a mealtime masterpiece of lettuce, croutons, and bacon bits before smothering it with ranch dressing. It may not be the most healthy salad anymore, but give ‘em a break - I mean, there is lettuce somewhere under that mound of croutons.

So far, so good. They’re eating vegetables and perhaps even liking it - double win! But as many kitchen managers can tell you, salad dressing is actually pretty expensive...and mysterious. What kind of ranch exactly was this dressing lassoed on? A dude ranch? A buttermilk ranch? And how can ‘buttermilk ranch’ not contain any milk ingredients? (Hint: it’s probably not buttermilk). And those bacon bits? Two ingredients: soy and liquid smoke. Again - not a scientist, but since when was smoke a liquid?

Now, don’t get me wrong. Sometimes an unrecognizable ingredient is just one we usually call by a common name - like calling table salt ‘sodium chloride’. At times, we just don’t have the time to decipher these secret codes and count on the good folks making our food to know what they’re doing. Other times, however, you can avoid less-than-desirable ingredients sneaking into your menu by starting from scratch - you know just what you’re putting in.

Let’s return to the salad bar musketeer we discussed above. Why don’t we give him something other than boring old ‘buttermilk’ ranch and get our whisks dirty? Below are four recipes designed with simplicity and salad in mind. We’ll start with mayo - yes, you can make mayo, and you might never go back. Then we’ll move on to two mayo-based favorites and one vinaigrette.

If you love these recipes, and want to try more like it, check out the 3 Week Summer Camp Menu we’ve put together at CampHackerTV. Unlike the CampHacker Menu (purchase here), which has all recipes in 100 serving quantities, the dressing recipes below are in quantities for 25 people, as you might serve as part of a salad bar.

Mayo

(Or Mayonnaise for all you saucy sticklers)

This is my mom’s recipe from her time as a cook at a hunt camp. I should probably credit her with all my recipes as she taught me all I know (I got her good looks, too, if you were wondering).

Ingredients:

  • 3 C vinegar
  • 3 C water
  • 3 C sugar
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 6 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp mustard powder
  • 6 eggs

Directions:

  1. Gradually bring all ingredients to a boil, stirring constantly. Once a hearty boil is achieved, remove from heat.
  2. Keep covered in fridge, keeps well.

Note: This is a sweeter mayo; feel free to mess around with the ingredients but you do need enough sugar to balance the tang and help it thicken. Also, don’t be discouraged if you burn your first (or second) batch, I did! Believe in yourself - you are a mayo master.

Creamy Poppyseed Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 2 C mayo
  • 1 C vinegar
  • 1/2 C sugar (1 C if using store-bought mayo)
  • ~1C Water
  • 1 C Poppy seeds

Directions:

  1. Whisk together mayo, vinegar, and sugar until smooth. Slowly add water until desired consistency is reached.
  2. Stir in poppy seeds, allow to rest at least 1 hour before serving.
  3. Keep covered in fridge, keeps well but requires stirring before serving.

Creamy Chive and Roasted Garlic Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 2 C mayo
  • 1/2 C vinegar
  • 1/4 C sugar (1/2 C if using store-bought mayo)
  • ~1C Water
  • 2/3 C very finely chopped fresh chives
  • 6 cloves fresh garlic, peeled
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Note: Fresh chives make this recipe, but in a salad emergency, use 1/2 C dried chives.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Make a deep tinfoil nest for your garlic cloves, and nestle your garlic in there; add the olive oil.
  3. Pinch the tinfoil shut and bake until the garlic is totally soft and light brown. This is just for 6 lil’ ol’ garlic cloves, so if you don’t want to run a big industrial oven for such a small amount, feel free to pop them in the oven while another savory treat is already baking.
  4. In the bottom of a large bowl, mash your roasted garlic, then mix thoroughly into the mayo.
  5. Whisk in the vinegar and sugar until smooth. Slowly add water until desired consistency is reached.
  6. Stir in your chives. Let sit at least one hour before serving.
  7. Keepcovered in fridge. This recipe only keeps a few days as the fresh chives start to lose their colour.

 Honey-Sesame Vinaigrette

 My all-time favorite dressing, totally mind-blowing on a spinach salad.

Ingredients:

  • 1 C rice vinegar
  • 1 1/2 C sesame oil
  • 3/4 C honey
  • 1/4 C soy sauce
  • 1/2 C sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1 Tbsp ground dried ginger
  • 1/2 Tsp black pepper

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients, let sit at least 30 minutes before serving.
  2. Keep covered in fridge. Best used within a few days.

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