Planning an adventure in the backcountry? Whether you’re camping for one night or a whole week, packing good hearty meals can be challenging, but it’s the first thing you regret not doing at the end of a long drive or hike.
Sure, we’ve all made small sacrifices for the pleasure of sleeping under the stars. Cheap packets of ramen, canned foods, and dehydrated meals often concentrated in sugars and sodium… Long a staple with nickel-and-diming outdoor enthusiasts, these affordable blocked meals are efficient. But as Andy, our Leadership Coordinator put it, “they suck”.To help make these outdoor meals more enjoyable and nourishing, we’ve asked the Outdoor Outreach team to share some of our favorite outdoor recipes, from curried cauliflower soup to backcountry pizza, to a mouth-watering apple-berry cobbler… Also, have you ever heard of a dessert called banana boat?
Make sure to also check out Andy’s Backcountry Cooking 101!
1) Curried Cauliflower Soup
Hanna, Youth Programs Manager
“My husband and I always like to make a few delicious soups the day before we leave for a camping trip, freeze them in a good tupperware and then use the soups as ice blocks in the cooler; they are partially defrosted by the time we go to heat them up on a camping stove for the next 1-4 nights. We love having hot, delicious, and hearty soups after a long day of hiking and when it’s cold at the campsite. If the soup is vegetarian such as one of my favorites below, we usually buy a few sausages and cook those up in a pan and have them alongside the soup. It definitely is on the more gourmet side of car camping, but it’s easy, generally really economical, fun to prepare the day before and is something delicious and healthy to look forward to after a long day of exploring or hiking.”
Curried Cauliflower Soup from Cookie & Kate
2) Quinoa Pesto Sausage Boil
Joe, Director of Operations:
“Every time a make this meal, I’m brought back to the magic of living and working in the Montana backcountry”
“I was first introduced to quinoa while working in Montana as a Backpacking Instructor at a wilderness camp for troubled teens. Each person on trek was given a pantry style food ration that needed to last 8 days in the backcountry. Quinoa was a favorite and nicknamed ‘fish eyes’ for its resemblance to translucent beady eyes when cooked. Instructors and students always got a good laugh when explaining to new students that we would be having fish eyes for dinner. When you spend half of your time in the woods you get really creative with your rations. My Quinoa Pesto Sausage Boil is a spin on an old favorite. The original dish would have included summer sausage and cheddar cheese but every time a make this meal I’m brought back to the magic of living and working in the Montana backcountry.”
Quinoa Pesto Sausage Boil
1c Quinoa (1 part quinoa/2 parts water
1 Pack Fully Cooked Chicken Pesto Sausage (or sausage of choice)
1 Clove Garlic
1/2 Red Onion
1 Red Potato
1/2 Block Feta Cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste
- Add 2 cups of water to fry pan/pot and bring to a boil. You can add more water for a more soup like consistency on cold nights
- Add whole garlic and diced onions- boil for 2-3 minutes
- Add Quinoa, Diced Potato and spices, reduce and simmer for 10 min
- Chop Sausages and add to pot, simmer for another 5-6 min adding more water as necessary to fully cook the quinoa.
- When quinoa is fully cooked stir in feta and serve hot
3) S’mores with a twist
Cuyla, Community Engagement Manager
“If I am going to eat a s’more, it has to have peanut butter on it, no questions asked.”
“If I am going to eat a s’more, it has to have peanut butter on it, no questions asked. Peanut butter makes everything better. Take two squares of graham cracker and spread peanut butter on both sides and a square of chocolate OR use one Reese’s peanut butter cup. Roast 1 marshallow over the fire until it’s lightly brown (or dark brown if you like it crispy). Slide the roasted marshmallow between both graham crackers and enjoy!”
4) Backcountry Pizza
Josh, Youth & Environmental Programs Coordinator
“After a long day of hiking and exploring the outdoors, sometimes all you want is a big hearty meal.”
Pizza provides a lot of variety, you can add any meats or cheeses or any toppings you want, and everyone loves some sort of pizza, so you can always personalize it to please everyone.
Sauce (pasta sauce or white sauce with tomato base)
1tsp. dry yeast
1/2 cup luke-warm water
(1/2 tsp. sugar)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup flour
fresh caught fish
bacon or ham bits
jack, cheddar, or mozzarella cheese (crumbled or thinly sliced)
“For yeast crust, dissolve yeast in lukewarm water with sugar and salt. Add flour and mix to stiff dough. Oil a fry pan, and spread dough in pan with oiled fingers to form a crust. Bake for 3-5 minutes on low heat then flip the crust. Turn up edges to hold sauce. Pour sauce over crust, and top with cheese and any other toppings. Cover and bake on a stove on low heat until crust is golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. Be sure to move the pan in round-the-clock rotations in quarter turns to bake all parts of pizza. Cut and enjoy.”
5) Backcountry Apple-Berry Cobbler
Andy, Leadership Program Coordinator
“After a long, tough day in the backcountry there is nothing quite as nice as warm, wholesome cobbler. This is a favorite because it packs essential calories after strenuous activity. While our frontcountry counterparts may be averse, fats like butter are the clean burning diesel fuels we require to stay warm and recover whether high in the mountains or cold coastal sea kayaking. Delivery of butter is up to your creativity. While in the high alpine on glaciers, I do a dollop in my hot cocoa to help me sleep through the night and avoid waking up cold. However, when time permits, nothing is quite as tasty as backcountry apple-berry cobbler.”
½ Two Tablespoons of butter
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup of oats
½ cup almonds or walnuts (crushed)
½ cup pancake mix or flour+milk+baking powder
¼ cup of water or milk
½ cup wild berries or freeze dried (reconstitute before cooking)
1 apple or cup of dried apple (reconstituted)
Pinch of salt
Generous sprinkle of cinnamon
Nutmeg to taste
- Prep all ingredients. I crush almonds with lightweight channel-lock pliers which I prefer as my backcountry pot-grips. Make pancake mix and reconstitute any freeze dried ingredients with boiling water and set aside.
- Melt butter, gradually stirring in sugar and spices. Add oats and nuts and simmer in cinnamon sugar butter. Add berries and apples, evenly distribute and pour in making mix, covering oats.
- Bake on low heat for 10 minutes. Note: This varies based on type of stove you are using or if you are cooking over fire. If you have a pan that has a lid (recommended), add a small LNT twiggy fire to give it some top-down heat.
Cobbler can also be baked Dutch oven style in a fry bake, the ultimate backcountry baking apparatus.
6) (The legendary) Banana Boat
Peanut butter (optional but highly recommended)
Toasty bed of campfire coals
- Carefully two long slits about 1 cm deep lengthwise through the peel of the banana making sure to leave the peel attached at the base.
- Pull back the slit peel and remove the top portion of the exposed banana so as to create space for toppings
- Stuff the banana, alternating between pieces of chocolate and marshmallows. Lather a generous layer of peanut butter over the toppings for extra goodness.
- Replace the peel and wrap in 2 layers of aluminum foil. Place your banana boat in the coals and allow the campfire to do its magic for 5 – 10 minutes, just long enough for the chocolate and marshmallows to melt and fuse with the warm banana underneath.
- Use fire tongs to carefully remove your banana boat from the fire. Unwrap and allow to cool for a few minutes before tucking in
- Reflect on how your life is now significantly better for having chosen the way of the banana boat.