A Couple’s Guide to Camp Cuisine

This story was originally published on February 13, 2017, and updated on February 9, 2023. Scism says that not much has changed since it first appeared, except that she and David manage to have more date nights these days, and now nearly 16-year-old Bella has traded her hiking booties for more naps. 

My husband, David, and I are constantly searching for balance. We started our company, Good To-Go, 9 years ago, and it has pretty much swallowed up any free time that we once had to spend together. Sadly, the idea of a “date night” has gone to the wayside.

My idea of a great time together is sitting down to a wonderful meal at one of our favorite restaurants. I just love food, eating and the whole ritual of dining.  My husband’s idea of a great time together is hiking up multiple mountains in a day. Granted, I love to hike—I just love dining out more.

A photo posted by Good To-Go (@goodtogofoods) on

When David made it his mission for our little dog, Bella, to summit all 48 of the 4,000-footers in New Hampshire’s White Mountains by the end of 2016, I thought I could throw in a little of what I like to do too.

What tops dining out? Dining outside, of course! So I decided to make a great “date night” out of Bella’s last 4,000 footer summit, Mount Moosilauke. As much as I think it would be funny to dine on moussaka on top of Moosilauke, I realized bringing up a pan of the delicious Greek eggplant layered dish topped with a rich béchamel sauce would not be practical. This mission did get my creative cooking juices flowing, however.

What could I make as the best celebratory “date night” dinner for my sweet husband and me, including a few nibbles tossed to Bella as well? Light and compact was my goal (we were hiking, obviously, so everything had to be carried in our packs). Also, everything needed to be ready to go. No prepping food, cutting vegetables or slow simmering anything on the summit. I wanted to whip this meal together, at the top, in just a few minutes. A little more preparation in my kitchen at home made this easy-peasy out on the mountain.

I came at my menu two-fold: What would we like to eat, and how would I present it?  In all restaurants, as the chef knows, you first eat with your eyes and then your mouth. Being that it was fall in New England, I focused on hearty comfort food, and let me tell you, it was perfect. This was our menu.

Trailside Date Night

Hor d’ouevres
Wine, Cheese and Olives

Main Course
Herbed Potato Gnocchi with Brussels Sprouts and Bacon

Banana and Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread French Toast Sandwiches

This may all sound super difficult, but once I explain how to prepare it, you’ll also be able to make this on the trail with very little effort.

Equipment List:

Wine, Cheese and Olives

Photo credit: Jennifer Scism

This one is pretty self-explanatory.

  • Pour your favorite bottle of wine into a Platypus or other travel-safe bottle.
  • Bring three hard cheeses (hard because you can pack them tightly, and hard cheese is safe to eat without being refrigerated for several hours). I suggest a Spanish Manchego, an aged Dutch Gouda and a wedge of Grana Padano (reserve a piece for the potato gnocchi course).
  • To accompany the cheese, bring a delicious mixture of olives. Most local groceries sell olives seasoned with herbs and marinated in olive oil. I suggest double-bagging the olives to avoid the oil leaking in your pack.

Herbed Potato Gnocchi with Brussels Sprouts and Bacon

Photo: Jennifer Scism

This dish takes little more prep work at home but is very simple to cook at the top.


  • 1 small onion—cut into ¼” dice
  • 2 garlic cloves—minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ cup brussels sprouts, thinly sliced
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 sprigs fresh oregano
  • 4 tablespoons Grana Padano—grated (or other Parmesan-style cheese)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 lb. vacuum-packed shelf-stable potato gnocchi
  • 2.5 oz. fully cooked shelf-stable bacon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation at Home:

  • Cook the diced onions with the olive oil in a small sauté pan set on low heat until the onions caramelize.
  • Photo: Jennifer Scism

    Add the garlic and cook for a couple more minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Let them cool and pack into a small sealable food bag. Refrigerate.

  • Photo: Jennifer Scism

    In fancy cooking terms, chiffonade (aka thinly slice) the brussels sprouts. Pack into a sealable food bag and refrigerate.

  • Finely chop the thyme and oregano and pack into a a sealable food bag.
  • Pack the grated cheese and butter into separate sealable food bags.
  • The gnocchi and bacon are sold in bags and are already set to go.
  • I usually mix some sea salt and fresh cracked pepper together and bring that in a tiny separate bag.

On the Trail or Mountain Top:

  • Fill the sauté pan ¾ full with water and place on high heat.
  • Once boiling, add the gnocchi and cook on a moderate boil for 4 to 5 minutes or until they are all floating at the top.
  • I suggest bringing a slotted spatula that is held on the edge of the pan to strain the water off.
  • Photo: Jennifer Scism

    This is a one-pan dish, so leave the gnocchi in the pan and add the butter, cooking over medium-high heat until the gnocchi is lightly browned and crispy.

  • Add the onions and garlic.
  • Tear the bacon into small pieces and add them to the pan, cooking for a minute or two.
  • Photo: Jennifer Scism

    Add the brussels sprouts and a couple tablespoons of water, and cook until wilted.

  • Season the whole dish with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon out your delicious dinner into two bowls and top with the grated cheese.

Banana and Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread French Toast Sandwiches

Photo: Jennifer Scism

This is incredibly easy and so delicious.


  • 4 slices of your favorite soft bread—precut into 3“ rounds
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons chocolate-hazelnut spread
  • 1 small ripe banana
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Preparation at Home:

  • Photo: Jennifer Scism

    Using a cup or glass, punch 3” round holes out of each slice of bread. Discard the crust.

  • Pack the bread and the egg into a small container so they don’t get smashed.

    Photo: Jennifer Scism

  • Combine sugar and salt into a small container or sealable food bag.
  • Portion the chocolate-hazelnut spread into a smaller container if you would prefer to not pack the whole jar.

On the Trail or Mountain Top:

  • Remove the egg and bread from the container. Using this container, whip the egg with your slotted spatula, adding the sugar and salt.
  • With the sauté pan heat on medium high, melt the butter.
  • Quickly dip the bread rounds into the egg mixture and place into the pan, cooking until puffy and golden.

    Photo: Jennifer Scism

  • Remove French toast and set aside.
  • Slice the banana into ¼” slices (the peel works as a great cutting board).

    Photo: Jennifer Scism

  • Add the bananas to the pan and cook for a minute or two, slightly browning them.
  • Assemble each sandwich with one French toast round, half of the chocolate-hazelnut spread, half of the sautéed bananas and top off with another French toast round.

It might be a little extra weight in your pack and some preplanning at home but I can assure you, whomever you surprise with this special “date night” will be thrilled. And lastly, if you’re hiking with your dog like we do, save a slice of bacon for them!

Find more delicious recipes for your camping adventures on Uncommon Path.

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