Thursday, August 18, 2011

Our Guide to Camping & Eating in Style

Last week a member of the FoodPair team ventured deep into the Marble Mountain Wilderness in Northern California for a 5 days and 5 nights of outdoor adventures. He returned with a ton of great ideas for culinary camping and the title of "pancake master."

Great minds are split when it comes to summer vacation- some prefer relaxing at the beach with a piña colada and others prefer roughing it in the great outdoors. As long as you're eating well, FoodPair supports all vacation destinations. For today's post we turn our attention to camping and explain how to eat deliciously without a kitchen, fridge or farmers market.

When camping and eating, there are a couple things to keep in mind. First, you'll be carrying everything in and out, so it's important to bring things that are light and don't create a lot of garbage. Second, you need things that won't spoil after spending days buried in the depths of your pack. That means you'll be eating a lot of dried and dehydrated foods brought back to life with purified mountain water. With all the exercise you'll be getting, you'll also need a lot of snacks to avoid bonking (aka running out of energy).

1. Breakfast and Coffee

First thing in the morning you'll want a nice jolt from coffee or tea. Our advice: treat yourself right by bringing the good stuff. Tea drinkers can grab a handful of their favorite tea bags- those things are super light, after all. Coffee drinkers can reach for a good-quality instant (which are all the rage in Europe) or bring ground beans from your favorite roaster. We found enough room in our bags for an Ethiopian blend from Four Barrel in San Francisco. Even at altitude we loved the sweet and crisp flavors of citrus in our cup. We brewed the coffee with an AeroPress, a high-speed coffee maker that uses pressure to create a tasty cup of coffee in seconds.

As for food, we always crave a hearty breakfast to power us through the morning. Our favorite options are Instant Oatmeal and Pancakes. The Oatmeal is super easy- just add hot water and serve. We like some of the flavored options, but prefer plain oatmeal topped with brown sugar and raisins.

Pancakes are harder to make and take more time, but are worth it for the flavor and fun. Make sure to preheat your frying pan on the camping stove and add a little oil for each pancake. For the pancake batter, just add water to the mix and stir it up. Add a couple scoops at a time to the pan and you're ready to go. Make sure your "trail chef" pays attention to the pan to prevent burning and sticking. Top with syrup or honey and you're in business!

2. Lunch and Snacks

You'll be eating lunch and snacks out on the trail, so it's best to keep them simple and easy to assemble. For snacks, we dig trail mix kicked up with premium dried fruits like blackberries and strawberries. For a week long trip, bring three different mixes because variety equals excitement. We went with one heavy on the nuts and dried fruit, one with chocolate and one with spice. We also had some individually wrapped cheese sticks and plenty of beef jerky.

For lunch we had Mexican-American fusion: peanut butter and jelly wrapped in a flour tortilla. Apples are also good for lunch and the more you eat the less you have to carry!

3. Dinner and Dessert

By dinner time, we're ravenously hungry and want things that are quick & easy to prep. The first night we went a little upscale and had chicken & veggie fajitas from a mix we kept in a cooler during the car ride to the park. After that, we had things that could be made in a pot of boiling water- Mac & Cheese, Spanish Rice & Beans and Pasta & Marinara Sauce. We loved punching up the flavor with Hot Sauce and Bacon Salt. All those dishes are easy to make, but the revelation came in the form of dehydrated refried black beans. You can whip them up with hot water in seconds and they're a hearty and tasty addition to most dishes. We even added some to our second night of Mac & Cheese and were very happy with the results.

Dessert on the trail ain't fancy, but nearly anything tastes good after all that hiking. We made Instant Pudding by adding water to pudding mix and powdered milk. The group's favorite flavors were Chocolate and Cookies & Cream.

OK, now it's time to hit the trail!

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