Easy Fall Menu Ideas

We’re planning a late October trip to McCormick’s Creek State Park.  This is Indiana’s oldest state park and only my second time visiting.  Since this is going to be a very late season trip, we’re only able to stay a few nights, and there’s a lot I want to see and do, I’m keeping the menu simple with some of hearty no-cook meals. 

No-cook meals are a great way to reduce stress and the time needed for prepping and cooking.  I love planning no-cook menus for trips to new locations and places with lots to do and see.  I also love no-cook menus for late fall camping because the weather is often unpredictable, the nights can be downright freezing, and it gets dark really early. 

It does require a lot of prepping and precooking at home, which gets added onto your already long list of things that must be done before leaving.    I’ll be using some short cuts to help with the workload.  One will be purchasing a precooked chicken for my chicken salad and the other will be limited options with excessive quantities.  That means lunch and dinner is going to be the same thing for the duration of the trip. 

The menu for our October trip will be The Beast Chili for dinner, chicken salad sandwiches for lunch, and biscuits and gravy for breakfast.  Snacks will include homemade GORP (aka trail mix) and Nature Valley bars. 

Prep Everything at Home

As with any trip, prep as much as you can at home.  Chop all your veggies beforehand and store them in something airtight.  I like Ziploc baggies and mason jars. I’m planning to serve chopped onions with the chili, so I’ll chop up a whole onion at home and put in a quart sized Ziploc baggie. 

The Chicken Salad

To make the chicken salad a relatively painless process, I purchase two precooked rotisserie chickens, chop them up, then add whatever ingredients I want.  My favorite dressing is a lightly sweetened Helman’s Mayonnaise with lots of chopped onion and a little diced celery.   

I will prepare the chicken salad early the day prior to departure, place it in a glass Tupperware container, and save a little mayo dressing to add in the morning, as the contents will have absorbed some of the dressing, making the salad dry. 

Choose a tough sturdy bread for your sandwiches, as chicken salad is a heavy dense concoction.  Brioche buns, pretzel buns, and French bread are a few of my favorites.  Add some fancy packaged sliced cheese, provolone, or a sharp cheddar pair well, and a bag of cut lettuce.  Hearty breads make this a filling lunch option that’s extremely easy to throw together at camp. 

The Chili

The chili will be completely prepped and cooked at home in a big 20 oz. stock pot on the stove.  I’ll begin the process early the day prior, just after my chicken salad project is complete.  The chili will then spend a good amount of time simmering, and even longer cooling off.  Once the chili has cooled, I’ll pour it into as many one-gallon Ziploc bags as needed.   At camp, I’ll pour some into the crockpot and refill as needed, providing a never-ending source of warm hearty food. 

I make my chili with canned tomatoes and canned tomato sauce.  It’s super easy and delicious

Sides for the chili will include chopped onion, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, and chives.  Pre-chopped and stored in little plastic containers.  If you choose, you could use a crockpot liner and disposable bowls and spoons, leaving only a serving spoon for cleanup. 

If you don’t have electricity or a crockpot, simply reheat your premade chili, soup, stew or whatever in a large pot on your camp stove or over the fire.    

The Biscuits and Gravy

Biscuits and gravy is an absolute favorite camping standby.  Its easy to make, easy to clean up, and super hearty and filling. Use any standard Country Gravy Mix and follow the simple instructions to boil a cup of water.  Bob Evan’s sells a heat and serve premade gravy that includes generous amounts of sausage, but I have yet to try it so I cannot attest to its merit. 

I bake the biscuits in the oven in the camper. But before I had that luxury, I’d make them at home.  While not as delicious as fresh from the oven biscuits, they are still quite good beneath a steaming pile of hot gravy. 

Lisa’s Three Beast Chili

I love chili.  And I love the way these three meats meld together in a perfectly spiced chili sauce.  Chili is easy, delicious, warm and hearty.  Perfect for a fall camping trip.  Keep a constant supply at hand in your crockpot or warm some up in a big cast iron pot over the fire.  It’s to be a crowd pleaser with children and adults alike.  If you’d like try a less adventurous dish, simply omit the lamb and give the beef and bison a try.

1 lb. thin cut rib eye strips

1 lb. ground bison

3 to 4 small lamb chops cut into strips

2 large yellow onions

4 cloves garlic minced

2 12 oz. cans of Red Gold stewed tomatoes

2 12 oz. cans of Red Gold diced chili tomatoes

3 to 4 12 oz cans of Red Gold tomato juice

2 12 oz. cans kidney beans

2 tablespoons chili power

2 tablespoons smoked paprika

Brown all your meat together, starting with the beef, then bison, then add the lamb, diced onions, and garlic.  Season with smoked paprika.   

After your meat has browned, add all the contents into your big stock pot. Add all 4 cans of tomato juice or less to preference.  Add chili powder, to taste. 

Bring to a boil and simmer for an hour.  After its completely cooled, pour into gallon sized Ziploc bags for storage. 

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