Remember how I said we went camping in South Lake Tahoe? Well, one detail I left out is that we were camping in bear country. I know, a little scary, but if you are responsible about storing food in the bear lockers provided, you should not really worry about encountering a bear. We did not, and just in case we did, we had Counter Assault bear spray with us.
You could avoid attracting bears by not having any food in your campsite and eating every meal out in the local town, but for us travelers on a budget, that was not an option. (By the way, one week's worth of accommodations including two motel stays and 5 days at camp totaled around $350, which is less than a couple of nights at some hotels! We spent another $350 on food, fuel, and some new gear, for a total of $700 for a week long vacation for a family of 3. Plus the gear -- a beach shade and the bear spray -- we will use again and again. Not bad, I think!)
One way I wanted to make sure that we did not attract any bears was to limit our meal planning to foods that did not require refrigeration. Many campers bring along coolers and cook by the fire, but I didn't want to have too many scents lingering around our site that would make a bear want to visit us.
Below are some meals we prepared that did not require the use of a cooler. Each recipe serves two very hungry adults. By the way, these meals could work for backpackers or just about anyone who wants a quick meal. Believe it or not, we did have some fresh produce! (I used this list to find out which produce does not require refrigeration. This site also mentions that cabbage keeps pretty well for a short while without refrigeration.)
Chicken Curry & Rice
Ingredients: coconut oil, curry powder, can of chicken, can of coconut milk, one chopped green bell pepper, one chopped onion, and 2 servings of instant rice.
Directions: Sautee the peppers and onion in the oil. Add the chicken, milk, and curry to taste. (We use 2 heaping tablespoons of high quality curry powder.) Allow the milk to heat through before adding the rice. The milk should be enough moisture to re-hydrate the rice. Stir for a couple of minutes and enjoy.
Note: You can cook the rice in just water in a separate pot, but we like the idea of one pot meals. One less pot to wash.
Fish Tacos (adapted from here)
Ingredients: coconut oil, 2 cans of salmon, 2 limes, 1/2 packet of fish seasoning blend, one chopped onion, 1/2 chopped cabbage, and corn tortillas.
Directions: Sautee onion in oil until almost translucent. Then add the cabbage until just wilted. Add the salmon and heat through. Stir in the seasoning blend. Scoop into tortillas, squeeze some lime on top, and enjoy!
Note: We actually used tostadas instead, so we didn't have to deal with heating tortillas.
Poor Man's Pad Thai (adapted from here)
Ingredients: coconut oil, one chopped eggplant, one chopped bell pepper, one chopped onion, peanut butter, and rice noodles.
Directions: Bring water to a boil, remove from heat, add noodles to soak, and set aside. Sautee all the veggies in the oil until softened, and then add peanut butter to taste. Drain the noodles and add them to the pot with the veggies. Blend all the ingredients together, and add salt to taste.
Note: Don't be afraid to add more peanut butter. Next time I'd probably also add chopped peanuts to give it some crunch.
Vegan Greek Salad
Ingredients: can of kidney beans (drained and rinsed), can of olives, one large chopped cucumber, two large tomatoes cut into wedges (or several small roma tomatoes), one purple onion cut in slivers, olive oil, and apple cider vinegar.
Directions: Place all ingredients in a large ziplock bag, give it a shake, and enjoy!
Note: This is a typical Greek salad with no lettuce, plus beans in place of feta cheese.
No-Mayo Tuna Salad Sandwich (adapted from here -- serves one, so double for two people)
Ingredients: 1 tbsp rice milk, one avocado, one can of tuna, fish seasoning blend, one lime, salt, and sandwich bread.
Directions: In a medium bowl, mix all the ingredients together until well blended and creamy. Spread over bread for open-face sandwiches and top with sliced tomatoes.
Note: We each had our own bowl to prepare the tuna mix, so we could add more or less of the ingredients as we liked.
Of course, we did build a fire one night so we could enjoy some S'mores. What are your favorite camping meals?