Campfire Stew

Now that the Boy Scouts have decided to admit girls, there’s a big flap about whether girls are better off being traditional Girl Scouts or liberated girl Boy Scouts. Needless to say, this was a choice I did not have to make, and, even though I lived in three different cities and attended four different elementary schools between first and sixth grades, I did somehow manage to be both a Brownie and a Girl Scout.

I remember almost nothing of my Girl Scout experience, but recently I’ve been reading the letters my mother wrote to her mother when I was in fifth and sixth grades, and she frequently mentions my Scout activities. Apparently my troop made arrangements for all the girls to earn badges together, and the ones my mother mentioned were Sewing, Home Nursing, and especially Cook. For the last I had to try several recipes at home and put together a cookbook of the recipes. I spent so much time decorating the cover that Mother ended up having to type up the recipes for me so I could turn my book in on time. I don’t remember what any of the recipes were, though I have a vague memory that my grandfather’s Deviled Hamburgers may have been one of them.

I also remember a weekend at Scout camp and possibly a separate overnight campout. On one or the other of those occasions, we made Campfire Stew, which I recall as being composed primarily (or perhaps entirely) of ground beef and vegetable soup (or maybe canned mixed vegetables and water). I’ve adapted that basic recipe into one of our family menu staples.

There are numerous Campfire Stew recipes available online. Many involve actual fresh vegetables—a bit labor-intensive for the woods, if you ask me, and certainly for my kitchen—but the Taste of Home version and Mom’s Campfire Stew, though both more elaborate, are not dissimilar to mine in some respects. Mine is definitely the lazy cook’s version, however.

Campfire Stew Ingredients

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 (18.5 oz.) cans vegetable soup
  • 1 (14.5 oz.) can tomatoes
  • 2 cups uncooked pasta

Campfire Stew Instructions

  1. Brown ground beef in a large stock pot.
  2. Add soup and tomatoes and bring to a boil.
  3. Add pasta and cook for the length of time indicated on the pasta package (you can lower the heat and cover the pot).

Campfire Stew Comments

Ground beef: I get the 93% lean, so I don’t bother to drain it, but you may want to siphon off the fat if there is a lot.

Soup: This should be ready-to-eat soup (not condensed). I usually use Progresso; the specific variety depends on what’s available in the store. Many of Progresso’s vegetable soups already include pasta, and I try to avoid those. Some that don’t are Vegetable Classics Garden Vegetable, Vegetarian Vegetable with Barley, and Zesty Southwestern Style Vegetable. This last, which is all I could find the other day, has the advantage of being a “Light” variety, and it was very tasty.

Tomatoes: There’s a daunting variety of canned tomatoes these days—stewed, diced, petite diced, whole, crushed, etc. Pretty much anything will do. Many varieties include other ingredients that would change the seasoning of the stew: I used to be able to get an “Italian vegetable” soup and pair it with tomatoes with Italian seasoning. Be creative!

Pasta: Any kind of non-noodle pasta will work—shells, bowties, fusilli, elbows, etc. I like to use the colored kind. For myself and my husband, I use Wacky Mac Veggie Spirals (shown in the photos), but when the granddaughters come, I break out the Wacky Mac Veggie Shapes. (The batch of stew shown may have had more than two cups of pasta; it was however much was left after my daughter had used some for her girls, and I didn’t measure it.)

This dish is very quick to make, serves 4–6, and makes a hearty supper on a crisp fall evening.

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