It’s such a treat to relax after a long day on the trail, a cold drink in one hand and a tasty appetizer in the other. (Come to think of it, that sounds good just about any time!) With all that’s involved in preparing for a four wheeling event, happy hour sometimes gets overlooked.
Appetizers can be simple or complex. (Note that I use the word “appetizer.” I don’t know how to spell “hors-d’oeuvre.” ) Chips and salsa fall into the first category. How much simpler can you get? You also have a choice of hot or cold varieties.
Munchies can come straight out of a bag or jar. You can prepare in advance or buy prepackaged food. What you decide to bring is up to you. Feel free to discuss with others, or just bring what you like. Chances are they will help themselves. An empty stomach isn’t too demanding.
The end of the day is usually pretty hectic. Tents need to be raised, gear reorganized, and the fire started. The later in the day that we arrive at our camp site, the more chaotic the scene is to beat darkness. Chips and salsa (or some other simple item) allow participants to grab a quick bite while going about their chores. Unless we get into camp early—say, around 3:30—plan on a simple appetizer to start.
Remember the basics about food safety
Anything that needs refrigeration must stay chilled – especially any dips that contain mayonnaise. Eggs and raw meat are particularly susceptible to spoilage. For some items, you may consider cooking a big batch the first day. The leftovers, while requiring refrigeration, aren’t as sensitive as raw food.
Make sure you cook all food thoroughly. Any jars that are opened must be refrigerated. That’s why it’s a good idea to pack several smaller jars of an item. A big jar takes up a lot of space in the fridge.
Think dual purpose. Can a food item be used in multiple dishes? Most cheeses, for example, are good on crackers, burgers, and even in salads. This should make your grocery shopping more efficient and cost effective.
The basics of trail snack food
Because they’re so versatile, chips and crackers are the staple of any snack dish. Think about it: What doesn’t go with either chips or crackers?
Salsa and cheese spread are a given. Why not liven things up a bit? Try salami, kipper (herring that’s pickled and smoked), smoked clams or smoked salmon.
Here is a recipe from fellow ham radio operator Gabe, KK6ATH. He offers a neat twist on a basic snack.
Blue Cheese Crackers
Spread some Mascarpone cheese on a Breton Cabaret butter crackers.
Crumble some good Blue cheese on top of that, and drizzle with honey.
(Note that honey does not flow well below 30 degrees F.)
This snack is “definitely delectable with a good wine,” Gabe attests, adding that its “layers of flavor [are] appealing to even those with a less-sophisticated palate.”
Want to add a twist of Italian? Break out the bread and olive oil. Spike it with a vinegar dip made with garlic and fresh rosemary. Of course, that’ll have to be paired with a good wine. Consult your local sommelier for some suggestions.
Speaking of drinking, never mix alcohol and driving. Just because you’re in the wide open country, don’t think for a minute that you can’t get hurt or worse. Save the liquor for when you’re back in camp.
If you want to be more daring, you might consider meatballs, cocktail franks or sushi. One drawback, though minor, is that these (with the exception of sushi) must be heated. So this isn’t something that can be quickly served on arrival in camp. Make sure you keep the sushi chilled.
Veggie plates are nice, too, especially on hot, dry days. Purchase the veggies separately, and make up the serving tray in camp. The combo platter from the store is too large for most mobile fridges.
Slices of apple and other fruit are also a hit. They can be enjoyed during the ride and at the end of the day.
Other than that, remember to pack the necessary utensils and a cutting board/serving platter. It’s probably a good idea to have some water or Handi Wipes at the table. Some guys don’t bother to wash up before grabbing some eats.
I was trying to avoid a laundry list of snacks but if you are like me, I can never remember once I get to the grocery store. So a list might help.
Happy hour – Hors-d’oeuvres
- Salsa dip & chips
- Peanuts / mixed nuts
- Cheese & crackers
- Bean dip & chips
- Salami on crackers
- Cheese & salami plater
- Jalapeno stuffed olives
- Kippers & cracker
- Smoked clam & crackers
- Cream cheese & pepper jelly
- Bread & olive oil
- Grapes or apple slices with cheese plate
- Blue Cheese Crackers (Gabe’s special)
- Con Questa dip
- Hot Sauce & pepper jack cheese on beget bread
- Popcorn in Dutch oven
- Chili cheese dip (Hormel no bean chili & cream cheese – hot sauce) (KK6NXP’s delight)
Happy Hour The only ingredient missing is TOBASCO sauce for Tim’s Chili Dip Delight
(Click picture for a larger image.)
KK6NXP aka Tim’s Chili Dip Delight
- 1 can of Hormel no bean chili
- 1 package of Philadelphia cream cheese (experiment with this – I think it needs 1.5 packages)
- 1/2 oz. of TOBASCO sauce – or the normal cop out -season to taste
- Dump it all in a sauce pan at once – no need to cut up the cheese – stir until it is melted and blended
- Serve with chips
Appetizers play an integral part in every 4WD experience. Put a little effort in your happy hour meal, and you’ll be rewarded with a very relaxing snack at the end of a long day.