I don’t believe I am breaking new ground by saying that one of the best things about camping is the food. My best camp memories are all of bacon-infused skillets overflowing with scrambled eggs just begging for the chili in beans being heated right in the can. If you don’t have enough water to cook rice, no sweat, just add beer. And always add Sriracha. Add anything you want, it’s all fair game in camp cooking, the wild west of the culinary world.
A lesson we pushed to the limit on Dude Cruz. A 43 day road trip with five guys covering over 9,000 miles across 18 states and two Canadian provinces. Most meals where hot dogs, we always had plenty of frozen hamburger patties, and then pasta and Ragu sauce when we felt like being, and I use this term relatively, healthy. By the end of the trip the average weight gain was a little under 10lbs. pd. (pounds per dude).
But in Alberta, Canada we received a challenge.
“Why don’t you try eating healthy for once?” Asked Lee Tilghman, a vegan blogger, yogi, and mediocre bowler you may know as Lee From America.
I believe we gave the usual list of reasons: its hard, it takes time, its expensive, we’re too drunk, it doesn’t taste good. Standard stuff.
“Um, false. What’s your email? I’m sending you a recipe.”
Not without some ground rules. This is five dude camping, after all. We told Lee our dietary preferences (which she rightly ignored), the cooking utensils we had to use (3 or 4 pots and pans, a jet boil, a spatula and a few pocket knifes), our stock of herbs and spices (salt and Sriracha), and that she had to keep it under $25 for 5 people. Lee’s rules: everything we buy must be organic, and the recipe will be vegan and gluten free.
Within 15 minutes we had shopping list from Lee and we were off to the market. Now, if you’ve never been to Jasper National Park in Canada, stop reading this and plan a trip right now. It is breathtaking in every way. We stayed at Wapiti Campground which rests next to the gorgeous and powerful Athabasca River. You feel miles from any care in the world but are a mere 5 minutes from the convenience and entertainment in the city of Jasper and another 20 to the park entrance. In the fall there was an abundance of wildlife in the area. And to answer your questions, my Canadian friends, you bet your maple lovin’ ass they got a Timmy’s.
Not far from the Tim Horton’s, is a great local market with plenty of fresh produce and everything we needed for our meal. When teaching some newbie’s about healthy eating, it is always smart to start simple, and Lee did a great job with this recipe of mostly fresh veggies and easy to manage grains. This also helps with camping. Eating as many fresh veggies as possible cuts down on our waste, and they are still very friendly for our “just throw it in the skillet” style of cooking.
Armed with our ingredients and a new knowledge of what a chickpea is we headed back to Wapiti to throw our dinner together. One of our challenges to Lee was dinner had to be quick and easy, and thanks to a train in the middle of town (Canada, eh?) by the time we got back to our site the sun was going down. The photographer in me said a silent prayer to the Magic Hour Gods while we rushed to prepare our meal.
There really is something indescribable about cooking in the great outdoors. Maybe thats the Neanderthal talking, but it gives me a sense of calm and purpose. It is rare to feel so small yet so significant in the same moment.
We whipped together a delightful feast. A vegan and gluten free masterpiece of mainly quinoa, lentils, chickpeas, veggies and some lightly salted cashews. We made a few changes from Lee’s original, mainly using our own prepackaged and flavored lentils in order to keep the cooking time down. And it just wouldn’t have felt right if we didn’t add just a dash of beer when cooking the quinoa (so maybe not so gluten free?). All in all, while we dipped into our standing supply of food for 1 or 2 items, this healthy camping meal fed 5 very hungry mouths for $16.55 Canadian Dollars.. so about $13 in the US.
And the ultimate compliment to Lee Tilghman’s recipe? Not a single one of us reached for the Sriracha sitting in the middle of the table.
As it turns out, the magic of camp cooking isn’t in processed meats, stale bread, and canned chili. I think most chefs have something to say about how a good meal isn’t about what’s on the table, it’s about who’s around it, or something. Chef Trevor had this to say, “are you going to finish that?”
1 head swiss chard, kale, or another green
1 package lentil
1 jar tomato sauce
1.5 cups dry quinoa
1 can chickpeas
Cashews for garnish
1 tbsp olive oil
1. Place dry in a pot with 4 cups water. Bring to a boil. Let simmer for 15 mins or until fluffy and all water has absorbed. Place aside.
2. Cut onions, zucchini, and greens. Add 1 tbsp olive oil to pan over low-medium heat. Place onions into pan. Let golden brown.
3. Add chopped zucchinis. Simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Toss pre-made lentils and quinoa together. Toss in a few cups of tomato sauce until all quinoa and lentils are covered.
6. Add chickpea can to tomato lentil quinoa mixture.
7. Add your vegetables.
8. Add a few cashews for garnish!
Words by Michael Weybret
Coming from a long line of Journalists and teen angst, Michael Weybret is a traveling photographer, videographer, and writer from California.
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