One of this summer’s missions was to get camping, finally. We started getting into it with our first born, but then we had a second and life happened and and and… And, we did it! We got back camping this year. First car camping a bit, then we streamlined and planned for a bike touring trip that turned into a wonderful bikepacking trip in our own back yard, check it out!
Then we did an overnighter backpack trip and I slipped and fell on the way out and have bruised up my knee quite nicely so I’m outta commission for a week or two (fingers crossed). But, we still have three more camping trips planned for September, alone, two of which are bikepacking and I’m going to physio and keeping my fingers tightly crossed.
Packing “light” (read: packing as light as possible)
When you’re a family of four and one kid isn’t mountain biking yet, that means you’re carrying gear for four, plus over 36 pounds of preschooler goodness. Plus, we use longtail cargo bikes with all of their awesome accessories: The Edgerunner clocks in at around 60 pounds with accessories, and the Haul-a-Day is around 33 pounds naked. And, sometimes the 46 pound almost-6-year-old hops on with her 20+ pound bike (including accessories). Ha! It’s all quite comical. Really.
Needless to say, we’ve been upgrading our camping gear to as lightweight as we can afford and/or justify with two young kids (if you have lightweight gear you want me to test for, ahem, durability…I’m your woman).
One place to shave off weight is by picking lightweight but nutrient dense food that the kids (and us) will love, devour, not waste, and successfully fuel our bodies. Now that our eldest has gears she can cover a lot more ground which means she’s needing a lot more calories out there! I have a slight fear of not having enough food for the kids, so I started asking around for backcountry food ideas.
Camping food classic: rice & beans
This is one recipe that I came up with that has been a great, lightweight hit: One-Pot Southwestern Beans & Rice, and it was wholly inspired by Calgary’s own awesome dietician, Sarah Remmer, and her recipe for “One-Pot Southwestern Chicken and Quinoa Skillet“. I had her recipe link saved in my Facebook profile for a few months and finally got around to trying it; this variation (below) has since been featured in our backcountry camping meals, so far.
You can easily make it vegan/vegetarian or carnivorize it! We have had it with and without canned chicken; I prefer it with, but it’s perfectly good without. It’s a great, fast meal for home, too, and can be eaten as a bowl meal or you can use it as a filling in a wrap with sautéed veggies, etc. I’ve made it for dinner tonight and am serving it with some fried cod, red bell pepper, and cabbage in a wrap. Toasted pumpkin seeds are a nice addition. Fresh chopped chives from the garden. Chopped cilantro. All good options. One big change alteration to the recipe is that I have swapped quinoa for rice; I can’t seem to eat quinoa, it kills my guts, don’t know what it is; plus, rice is cheap.
I vary the spiciness of the recipe by using all marinara sauce to a mix of marinara/salsa, although I’ve yet to try all salsa as indicated in Sarah’s recipe – I’m sure it’s awesome, but I haven’t trained my kids spicy tastebuds very well, yet! FYI, I use Aimée Wimbush-Bourque’s marinara sauce found in her first cookbook, Brown Eggs & Jam Jars.
Southwestern Beans & Rice
Serves two adults and two young kids, twice
Time: 30 minutes, plus 3-5 hours dehydrating time
Rehydration: cover with water and a little bit more, let sit for 30-45 minutes while you set up camp, cook for 5-15 minutes to absorb extra liquid.
An awesome, quick one-pot meal for home or easily dehydrated for a satisfying backcountry meal.
Recipe by Lindsay Bliek, inspired by Sarah Remmer’s “One-Pot Southwestern Chicken and Quinoa Skillet”
- 1-2 T olive oil
- 1/2 onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, pressed or finely chopped
- 1 c basmati rice
- 1 c frozen corn (or 1 can niblets, rinsed)
- 1 c cooked black or pinto beans (or 1 can, rinsed)
- 2 c chicken (or veggie) stock (homemade or concentrate)
- 1 c marinara sauce or salsa (or a combo or the two to make 1 cup)
- 1/2 tsp Ancho chili powder
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- generous fresh grind of black pepper for a bit of kick
- salt to taste (depending on your stock’s saltiness, and remember you’ll be adding cheese unless keeping it vegan/forgoing vegan cheese)
- 1 T freshly minced chives (or 1/4 c chopped green onions)
- 1 T freshly minced cilantro, optional
- Heat olive oil in a large pan with a lid.
- Add onion and cook until translucent.
- Add garlic and cook a few minutes more (but don’t brown the garlic).
- Add everything else, except fresh herbs and cheese.
- Stir, bring to boil, cover with lid, turn down to gentle simmer and cook for about 30 minutes (until everything is tender and moisture is gone).
- Add fresh herbs.
- Optional: Dehydrate for 3-5 hours, depending on your machine. Store in freezer in a zip bag with air squeezed out (label & date it). Rehydrate by covering with water and a little bit more, let sit for 30-45 mins while you set up camp. Cook for 5-15 minutes until any remaining water is gone.
- Stir in cheese and chicken or other meat, if using.