In today's Weekend Agenda, longtime MiiR Ambassador Anna Brones shares some of her go-to camping (and backpacking, and bike touring, and empty cupboard make-shifting, etc.) recipes. Anna is a writer, artist, publisher, producer, and outdoorswoman, and she is no stranger to wanting to cook a great-quality meal while on-the-move. Join us as she shares some tips, tricks, and helpful considerations to keep in mind while planning your upcoming Fall adventures!
A Camp Cup is good for a great many things:
I have used mine for all of the above. But after coffee consumption, what gets my Speckled Camp Cup the most use in the outdoors is cooking: it’s the perfect measurement tool.
I recently went on a backpacking trip where I only had to cook for myself. For the first time in a very long time, I made things easy on myself and measured and packed out each meal individually. A bag of couscous, dried mushrooms, seaweed, and buckwheat noodles? Check. A bag of red lentils, toasted coconut, currants, almond, curry, and cumin powder? Check. The makings for delicious blueberry pancakes? Check and check.
This isn’t my usual strategy—normally I am a little more free-flow, packing a bunch of base ingredients and making recipes up as I go. That’s a method that’s a lot easier on trips where weight is less of an issue (see: car camping and bike touring), but there’s one essential part of all camp cooking that can make or break a meal: ratios.
Understand ratios and you’re already on your way to camp cooking success; then, you can basically master the art of what I like to call "No Recipe Cooking" (aka, ~The Wing It Cooking Method~). To ensure that you can do this, I think that the two most important parts of cooking outside is a proper spice kit and knowing how much water you are going to need to cook grains or anything dry.
That’s where the Camp Cup comes in. If you know the right water to [insert grain of choice] ratio, you’ve got the basics of pretty much any meal covered. And it’s easy to use the Camp Cup to measure as it works well for quantities for one- and two-person meals.
Here’s a basic ratio guide for cooking grains.
Couscous — about 3:4
Red lentils — about 1:3
Oats — about 1:2
Quinoa — about 1:2
Buckwheat — about 1:2
The trick is knowing approximately the quantity of grains you want to cook for your meal and measuring that in your Camp Cup ahead of your trip so that you know approximately what you will need to measure out once you’re cooking. I have cooked enough with my Camp Cup that I can eyeball the quantity, but you could always use a little tape on the outside of your Camp Cup to mark as a guide.
Here are the serving sizes that I usually go by. Yours might differ depending on how big or small you want portion sizes to be.
1 serving of dry, uncooked grains
Couscous: about ⅓ cup
Red lentils: about ¼ cup
Oats: about ½ cup
Quinoa: about ½ cup
Buckwheat: about ½ cup
Once you’ve got that down, you can pretty much create any grain-based meal you want, keeping in mind that you have to remember how long they all need to cook. I like all of the above grains because they cook pretty quickly and are all fairly forgiving. In other words...you can’t really mess them up. Couscous is obviously instant and just needs boiling water poured over it. Oats can be prepared the same, or you can add them to the water in a pot and stir which gives you a nice creamy consistency. Quinoa, buckwheat, and red lentils all take a little bit longer, but all you need to do is keep them simmering until they are the consistency you want them. Buckwheat and red lentils also do pretty well with just a couple of minutes of simmering, then removing from the stove and covering until they have soaked up the rest of the water. This gives them both a little bit more of a crunchier consistency.
And now you’re thinking, “but I can’t just eat grains for dinner.”
Well, you can, but where’s the fun in that? Here is a list of ingredients you can mix-and-match and make a meal out of.
Nuts and seeds: good on their own, or even lightly toasted in your pot before you boil your water.
Dried fruit: if you add dried fruit when you’re cooking the grains in the water, they’ll plump up too which makes for a nice texture.
Fresh garlic: everything is better with chopped garlic. Sautee them if you’re feeling extra ambitious.
Dried vegetables: toss those right on in when you’re boiling the water and grains.
Fresh vegetables: carrots, onions, red pepper, celery, kale…whatever you like to cook and eat regularly, don’t crush easily, and feel like packing with you.
Protein: mushrooms, tofu, tempeh, smoked salmon, jerky bits, or whatever items you like to have with you.
Olive oil: the solution to every meal.
Spices: remember that essential spice kit? Now is the time to put it to use.
A camp cup can be used for anything that needs a ratio and serves other excellent functionalities in the camp kitchen. I’ve used mine to measure out pancake mix, mix camp cocktails, and to rehydrate dried mushrooms (pour boiling water over them, let sit).
DIY Pancake Mix
Adapted from Best Served Wild
This is a mix that you can easily adapt with a variety of additions once you get to camp to make gourmet pancakes. Think: berries, pieces of chocolate, raisins, etc. I like to play around with versions that incorporate different flour combinations, like whole wheat or spelt. This will change how much water you will need to add to get the right consistency, and sometimes may change how well the pancakes hold together. But, it then just makes for an excellent opportunity for making Scrambled Pancakes instead.
Makes: about 6 to 8 medium pancakes
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon organic cane sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
Mix all of the dry ingredients together and store in a lightweight sealable container or plastic bag.
To turn the mix into batter, mix together about one part pancake mix to one part water. Go slowly so that you can get the right consistency; it’s easy to add in a little more water than it is to add in more dry mix. Mix together until smooth.
Place a frying pan over medium heat, with a little oil or butter. Place a spoonful of batter into the frying pan. Add any additional ingredients (berries, pieces of chocolate, etc). Once the pancake is firm around the edges and bubbles pop in the middle, flip it over and cook until done.
Camp cooking options are endless, you just have to dare to be a little creative. Now, get outside and start making food. Just don’t forget your Camp Cup!
*note: if you are adventuring in a place where you need to treat your water, be sure to only put treated water (filtered or boiled) into your Camp Cup