We know not everyone is as nuts about camping as we are. If you don't like dirt, bugs or not-exactly-hot showers, then sleeping in the great outdoors may lack a certain allure. But come camping with us, and you'll soon forget all that.

Here, settle into this comfy deck chair and have a sip of this smoky mezcal Negroni while we set up the tent -- or better yet, while we wheel this nice rental teardrop camper into place. (It has a well-equipped camp kitchen tucked in back. We had to pack in only groceries.) Care for some Marcona almonds with that Negroni? Briny olives perhaps? Or some bruschetta with grilled zucchini and harissa -- just to tide you over until the grilled rib-eyes with pistachio butter and asparagus are ready?

A Negroni cocktail with Zucchini and Harissa Bruschetta, and Red Lentil Hummus are served at the Casini Ranch Family Campground in Duncans Mills, Calif.,
A Negroni cocktail with Zucchini and Harissa Bruschetta, and Red Lentil Hummus are served at the Casini Ranch Family Campground in Duncans Mills, Calif., on Friday, April 18, 2014. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)

Yes, the quickest way to convert a reluctant first-time camper lies in two words: great food. Add camping cocktails and some easy hors d'oeuvres -- hello, store-bought hummus -- and even the most outdoor-averse people will melt like s'mores.

It may sound ridiculous to be dispensing appetizers when there's a tent to pitch and gear to unpack, but after traveling an hour or six to reach that state park or commercial campground, your car may not be holding happy campers. Tents get pitched faster when there are appetizers and cool drinks waiting.

A good camp cook needs a few key tools, in addition to decent cooking equipment and a grill or propane stove. It helps to have some killer camp-friendly recipes with a few components that can be made ahead. So the night before we headed off to Casini Ranch Family Campground on the Russian River, we mixed a batch of pistachio-arugula butter in the food processor, using a recipe from Sunset's fantastic new "The Great Outdoors Cookbook" (Oxmoor House, $24.95, 256 pages).

We toasted bread for bruschetta and mixed up a small batch of Negronis, using a recipe from The Cooperage, Lafayette's stylish new bar and restaurant. And we mixed a batch of batter for our family's favorite Blue Monkey Pancakes, inspired by the sublime banana-blueberry pancakes served at Palo Alto's Saint Michael's Alley. (Pancakes are best when the buttermilk batter is freshly made, of course, but even we, perky as we are, do not function well enough before coffee to measure baking soda properly.)

Then, because we are insane, as well as perky, we made our own graham crackers and marshmallows for s'mores -- mostly just so we could say we did. We didn't actually think the results would be so ridiculously, roll-your-eyeballs-back-in-your-head-good that we would never stray back to Jet-Puffed land again. Turns out the bragging rights for homemade s'mores are way out of proportion to the actual work involved. The graham crackers -- the recipe comes from Napa Valley's Cindy Pawlcyn -- are as easy to make as sugar cookies, and they taste great, even without toppings. But DIY marshmallows are like magic in a mixer bowl.

They're even more magical by the fire, with the stars overhead.

Campfire Dinner

Mezcal Negronis
Grilled Zucchini-Harissa Bruschetta (or store-bought hummus and pita chips)
Rib-Eye Steaks with Pistachio Butter and Asparagus or Turkey Black Bean Chili
Ultimate S'mores

Campfire Breakfast

Blue Monkey
Pancakes
Bacon
French-press coffee