Interview With Expert Chef Linda Larsen of Busy Cooks
- Linda, please tell my readers about your cooking background.
I started cooking when I was 8 years old, with a date bar mix. I ruined it by adding too much water, since I thought the filling wasn't going to come together. So I got an early lesson in following the recipe! I've loved to cook and especially read cookbooks all my life. I went to college as pre-med, but changed my mind my senior year. So I went back to college to get a Food Science degree a few years after graduation. I interned with the Pillsbury Company for the Pillsbury Bake-Off and worked for them for several years. I found About.com on an internet search and have been running the Busy Cooks site for 10 years. My agent found my there and I've written 27 cookbooks since 2004.
- What's your favorite meal to prepare?
My favorite meal is Spaghetti Carbonara, served with homemade French bread, toasted with garlic butter, a salad made of baby spinach and strawberries with a homemade cinnamon dressing, and roasted carrots and asparagus. For dessert I like to make Lemon Truffle Pie. You can find these recipes on my site!
- What camping recipes for kids would you recommend?
For kids, I recommend easy recipes that just involve combining ingredients. Sandwiches and salads are great choices, and if you use shelf-stable ingredients such as canned beans, dried fruit, and peanut butter you don't need to worry about refrigeration. Disaster Meal Recipes
- Is precooking meals prior to going on your camping trip suggested?
Precooking meals is a good choice as long as you have a reliable way to keep the perishable food below 40 degrees F. Put a refrigerator thermometer into the cooler and monitor it. If the temperature goes above 40 degrees F and you have no way of knowing how long the temperature was that high, you must discard the food. A cooler may not keep the temperature that low longer than 48 hours. Use blocks of ice instead of ice cubes since blocks melt more slowly and keep the temperature lower for a longer period of time. And remember that a cooler cannot cool food; it can only maintain a cold temperature. Perishable foods include meat, seafood, and dairy products. Remember if you're bringing perishable food to cook at the camp site, it must be maintained below 40 degrees F until it's cooked.
- You can certainly make a fruit salad beforehand and keep it without refrigeration if the salad doesn't have any dairy products. Cut up vegetables are delicious, and you can roast root vegetables like carrots and parsnips, mix them with an oil and vinegar dressing, and keep that at ambient temperatures. Make cookies ahead of time because they keep well. And any type of bread, including yeast breads and quick breads and muffins, are perfect for camping.
- For vegetarian campers, could you suggest some vegetarian meals/recipes?
For vegetarian campers, I like to recommend bean salads and sandwich spreads. If you're cooking over the fire, wrap potatoes in foil and put them in the coals. Cook for about 45 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife. Open them up and add cheese (kept in the cooler) and chopped vegetables. Quesadillas are also delicious, but you need a skillet or pan on the fire. Foil packets are a great way to cook a "casserole" type of meal. Just pile on the veggies, drizzle with some oil and lemon juice or a bottled salad dressing, wrap up the packet and place it in the coals. That cooking should take 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of the food.
- What quick and tasty dessert recipes can you suggest?
S'Mores are the best campfire dessert, in my opinion. And vary it. Chocolate chip cookies or other cookies are a great substitute for the graham crackers. Use different types of chocolate, such as chopped up candy bars or chocolate mints, in place of the chocolate bar. Skewers are another good dessert. Skewer angel food cake and fruit, then toast over the fire. Or you can make roasted apples or pears. Cut the fruit in half, cut out the seeds, and add brown sugar and cinnamon. Wrap in foil and put in the coals for 8-13 minutes until tender.
- What are some easy dishes you can prepare on the grill while camping?
I love foil packets for camping.
- How To Make Presentation Packets
- Father's Day: Dinner on the Grill
- Any food can be added to the foil packet and grilled. And there's no clean-up; just put the foil into your garbage to pack out of the campsite.
- If you are bringing a cast iron skillet, you can make any skillet meal, including scrambled eggs, goulash, and risotto.
- Skillet Meals
- Grilled or pan-fried fish is, of course, the classic campfire meal if you're going to be fishing. Make it easy by combining the dry ingredients for the batter ahead of time, so all you have to do is add water, dip the fish, and fry it. Or just coat the fish in seasoned flour and pan-fry.
- What are some diet conscious meals a camper can enjoy?
For diet conscious meals, load up on fruits and vegetables. Skewer vegetables on one skewer, perhaps along side some cubed chicken, and cook over the fire. Grilled fruit is a great side dish or dessert. Those foil packets are a great way to cook low calorie food, especially fish and chicken. Just season with some lemon juice and fresh herbs instead of an oil dressing.
Thanks Linda for the interview. Please visit her blog @ Busy Cooks !