Archive for the ‘food/meals’ Category

Backcountry Quesadillas – A New Recipe

So you’re looking for another recipe that you can eat on a backcountry trip?  Here is one that we tried out on our Algonquin canoe trip this summer and it was a big hit!




dehydrated black beans

dehydrated chicken or turkey (optional)

cheddar cheese

oil or powdered shortening


avocado or dehydrated guacamole


Rehydrate the dehydrated ingredients.  Assemble by layering black beans, cheese and meat between two tortillas. Heat up pan over fire or stove. Put oil or shortening in pan and fry both sides of your quesadilla until crunchy and cheese is melted. Serve with salsa and guacamole.


OLD LIGHT cheddar keeps for a super long time and doesn’t ooze oiliness the way regular full fat cheddar does.

Buy a commercial soft taco KIT. The tortillas have unnaturally long expiry dates and are still soft after months of storage and the kit includes a packet of salsa so you don’t have to worry about glass jars or refrigeration.

A half-ripened avocado will ripen in your barrel and can be eaten days into your trip or buy a commercially prepared dehydrated guacamole instead. That will mean you can eat this meal on any day of your trip.

Short on time we had to settle for black bean humus instead of just plain black beans, and it tasted great!

Kids LOVE this meal 🙂

Pesto Penne with Black Olives

Coming up with tasty food to eat on day one of a trip is easy.  We traditionally make steak, couscous and corn on the cob to use up the perishable meat and heavy corn.  What tasty meal can be prepared as easily on the 20th day as on the first?  This is our go-to gourmet meal for any day of your trip.

The ingredients list does not have exact measurements because you just plain don’t need them.  The kids love this meal but do pick out the olives 😉

Pesto Penne with Black Olives

one box of penne (or enough to feed your crew)

pre-made pesto (or tomato pesto)

black olives

ready-made bacon (does not require refrigeration)

parmesan cheese

It’s pretty self-explanatory… boil water and cook pasta until done to your liking. Stir in pesto and whole or sliced olives. If in strips, fry bacon until heated through and crispy… if in bits, simply throw in at the same time as the olives.  Drown in cheese. Serve 🙂

To try out some other recipes, check out the Campfire Recipe Link-Up at!


Here is a little something that I wrote on my way back from Pukaskwa National Park a couple of days ago.

Please sir, I want some more…


It’s amazing how accustomed we become to what we consider basics. Food on demand, a roof over our heads, a safe warm place to sleep. We forget to be thankful for these things until for a time, however short, we are without them.
Making our way home from Pukaskwa in the driving rain makes me thankful that we came off trail last night instead of later this afternoon as planned. Had we stuck to the original plan, we’d have slept in the rain and awoken to a downpour. We’d be huddled under a tarp in temperatures not too far above freezing and eating oatmeal…again. We’d put on slightly damp gear and head out with heavy packs for a long days hike.
Instead we are warm and dry inside our Jeep in search of bacon and eggs and an inviting diner. We are not swatting away black flies or concerned about bears. We are anticipating heavily sweetened coffee and cell phone service.
I hope that this feeling of utter unabashed gratitude doesn’t fade too quickly. It’s good to recognize our blessings while we’ve got them and not have to wait until they’re gone to lament what we’ve lost.

Spider Dog, Spider Dog…Does Whatever a Spider Dog Does

Have you ever had spider dogs? I hadn’t either until about four or five years ago when we had a huge family gathering at Presqu’ile Provincial Park. My sister-in-law’s family was there cooking up a storm and they were shocked that we’d never heard of them.

Well I wouldn’t want anyone to miss out on the opportunity to enjoy this super easy way to make hot dogs taste incredible. Kids and adults alike can’t get enough of them, so bring more dogs than you think you could possibly consume. You can thank me later…


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Of course spider dogs are perfect served with a side of mac and cheese…no veggies allowed. I also suggest pairing them with iced tea or Tang to bring out the smoky flavour of the dogs. Bon appetite!

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For Muskrat?

I just read a cool tweet a couple of days ago and I feel inspired.  I follow Parks Canada on Twitter and they announced that they have a new app.  It is called “Parks Canada Heritage Gourmet”.  It is Parks Canada’s first official app and my first impression is that it is a good one.

screenshot of Canada Parks Heritage Gourmet app

It’s sort of an historical Canadian cookbook.  The recipes in one way or another represent or were influenced by, one of Canada’s national historic sites.  They are arranged by course, menu, region or period and each recipe is accompanied by the story of its inspiration and a link to the site that it represents.  There is one that I’ve already got the ingredients for and I’m definitely going to make this weekend.  Corn bread…mmm.  My mom used to make corn bread for breakfast, although she called it Johnny Cake.  I can imagine us all digging into this warm delight on cold fall and winter mornings, having drowned it in maple syrup. Sounds pretty Canadian to me!

There are other less familiar offers like the fried muskrat and eel stew.  Who knows though, maybe I’ll make it a mission to work my way through the more than 70 recipes.  I’ll try to hold back my scepticism at the more obscure fare, as the School of Hospitality and Tourism at Algonquin College has tested all of the recipes and revised them as necessary to make it possible to achieve tasty results.

I think that maybe I’ll concoct some recipes of my own inspired by Ontario Provincial Parks.  I’ll keep ya posted on the results of both. Oh, I almost forgot.  If you don’t have an app friendly device, Parks Canada has a bunch of the recipes on their website and promise to have all of them soon.  Happy eating!

To Eat or Not To Eat

I’m going to be candid here.  Plain and simple, I don’t like freeze-dried food.  Okay, now that it’s out there, lets talk menus.  Of course

zach enjoys his breakfast from a mug

there is a time and place for freeze-dried meals.  For example, on this epic trip next summer, there is just no way that we have enough room, nor can we carry the weight of “regular” food.  There is also the problem of fresh foods going bad before we get a chance to consume them.  As a general rule, we plan meals that will keep until the day that we need them.  There is a strict menu, and every meal must be eaten on the preplanned day.  We always have steaks, couscous and corn on the cob the first night.  It’s a rewarding meal after a long paddle.  The obvious drawback to meat is that it will spoil.  If frozen before you leave, it is thawed and ready for the first night.  The next morning, Fraser makes his traditional breakfast of croissants with cheddar cheese, bacon and fried eggs.  Fabulous.

hot breakfast cereal?

There are a ton of tasty foods that keep well for days, and there are a couple of tricks to keeping those not so ideal foods fresh for a couple of nights.  In terms of bread products, look for dry pita (not that nice squishy pita that goes moldy), bagels and croissants.  They can get a little squished if not protected in your pack (a food barrel is better for this) but taste great all the same.  If you’re adventurous and have the time, you can also bake bread at the campsite.  Bannock bread for example is a simple mix of flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and water.  You stir it all up and put in your pan, flipping it when the bottom is browned.  Try adding fruits for a breakfast bread.  It’s always nice to have some stick to your gut warm food on trip.  Or how about using an Outback Oven?  This handy contraption turns your pan into a little oven to properly bake prepackaged foods.  The cost of buying pre-packaged mixes can add up, but I have to admit that they make some really good ones.  I’ve been known to bake up a batch of coffee cake in the backyard from time to time.

Breakfast time.  After the luxury of fresh eggs for the first day, you can turn your attention to powdered eggs.  These are good for making omelets or adding to other ingredients in recipes that call for eggs (pancakes anyone?).  They are kinda gross on their own,

breakfast with a view

but throw some veggies and cheese in there and sandwich it in a croissant or a bagel, and you’ll hardly notice.  Cereal is always good.  Dried cereal without the milk (or powdered milk reconstituted), granola or hot cereals like oatmeal do the trick.  There is a product we love to take on trip that came onto the market not that long ago.  Ready Crisp is a precooked bacon that is flat packed and doesn’t require refrigeration.  No, I don’t know how they manage it, and no, I don’t really want to know for fear it will scare me off.  Suffice it to say, I’m pleased as punch that it exists because it is a luxury to have meat products that taste sorta fresh-ish two weeks into a trip!

On the topic of meats, there are also pepperoni and sausages that are cured and don’t require refrigeration.  They are usually referred to as “European”.  If you can find it on a shelf at the grocery store rather than in the cooler, you’re pretty safe.  They are good just to chew on for snacks or lunch with a pita and some humus, or why not slice them up with some pasta for dinner? And of course jerky!  We LOVE jerky at our house.  You can get all sorts of jerky, not just beef.  Try salmon and bison along with dozens of others. Cheese sprinkled on anything makes it better.  Look for hard cheeses like parmesan that will keep.  Oh!  and here’s that tip for keeping cheddar for a couple of days…put it in a waterproof container (like a freezer bag) and put it and anything else you’d like to keep cold into a mesh stuff sac.  Tie a cord to the sac and drop it into the lake.  The water is always cooler than the air and helps preserve the perishables.  Of course there are times when the water is bath warm and it won’t make a huge difference, but it’s better than nothing!  Don’t forget to haul it in and add it to rest of the food when you hang it at night.  You all hang your food in a tree at night right?  I’ll get more into that in a later post.

hanging the food pack

Not big on meat?  If you are vegetarian or concerned with meat spoiling, there are plenty of options.  One of our go-to meals is penne with red pepper pesto, black olives and parmesan cheese.  Mmmmm.  It tastes like a restaurant meal.  Pasta is a great food for the outdoors.  While we love our mac and cheese, you don’t have to resort to that if you don’t want to.  You can buy dried ravioli and tortellini in any local grocery store.  The smaller the pasta, the faster it cooks, so angel hair and spaghettini are good choices.  This will save time and fuel (if you are using a stove).  Sundried tomatoes perk up pasta quite nicely, or you can use a dehydrator to

lambie cooking herself up a spider dog

condense tomato sauce down to a fruit leather type consistency.

Stews, soups, chilli, casseroles…the sky is the limit.  Don’t be intimidated by meal planning.  A food dehydrator is a great investment and will save money, but you must plan ahead.  It takes time to stockpile home dehydrated food, but properly dehydrated food should last upwards of a year in an air tight container. Buy prepackaged meals from a camping store if need be, and try not to keel over at the cash register.   Troll the shelves at the grocery store.  Ignore that advice that mom gave you about only buying food around the perimeter of the store (fresh fruits, veggies, cheeses and meats) and get inspiration from all the weird and wonderful stuff in the middle 🙂  Pick out a fruit that will travel/keep well like oranges.  Oh yeah, as mentioned in an earlier post….SNACKS, SNACKS, SNACKS.  You will power through snacks at an unbelievable rate.  Stock up at the bulk food store.

Explore new recipes and test out all cooking equipment at home BEFORE you rely on them for sustenance in the field.  And for goodness sake, have FUN!  That’s why we get out there.  Involve the kids in meal choices and prep so there is less complaining and more participation.  So much of a trip revolves around making, eating and cleaning up food, so give it the attention that it deserves. .  Yay food!

What Age Is The Right Age For Backcountry Camping With Kids?

So let’s start at the beginning.

getting a lift from daddy

What age is the perfect age to start backcountry camping with the kids?  Of course there is no right answer here.  Every kid is different and so is every parent.  But I do know that kids take their cues from you.  If you are nervous about going on the trip, so are they!  Plan to start with a one nighter, keep it fairly close to where you’ve parked in case you need to bail, and make sure there are at least two adults to wrangle the kiddies.  Fraser and I decided that single parent trips would have to wait until Luke was old enough and responsible enough to handle an emergency if something were to happen, but I’ll address this further in another post.  When you have done your research, planned your menu, bought or borrowed your gear and feel that you are sufficiently confident to meet the challenge, grab your backpack and the baby wipes…it’s time to hit the trail!

Getting ready to board the boat for the 1st time

Car camping started when Zach and Luke were one and four respectively, but we put off our first backcountry canoe trip until one year later.  From personal experience, I can tell you that toddlers are tricky and take an extra amount of patience on your part. Think carefully about what it’s like at HOME with your toddlers.  Do they do what you ask of them as soon as you ask? Can you imagine situations in the backcountry when you’d need your kids to do what they are told as soon as they are told?  How about “don’t go near the edge” or “don’t put that in your mouth”, “don’t touch that plant”, “don’t leave your cereal on the ground!”.  What if it’s raining?  Will they happily play outside in the mud or play quietly in a small space (like the tent)?

Toddlers are natural explorers but aren’t quite capable yet of following directions or understanding consequences.  Again, this is a tricky time for the backcountry.  I’m not trying to discourage you from trying but rather preparing you for a somewhat less relaxing trip than you may be used to. You must keep your eye on them at all times (two adults definitely come in handy here). It only takes a second to fall in a lake or gather up a poison ivy bouquet for mommy. Yikes!  Take note that I ended up leaving PDFs on the kids throughout MOST of that first toddler canoe trip. In the boat AND in camp!  What I remember most about that first “real” backcountry trip was picking up Zach off the ground constantly.  He wasn’t quite coordinated enough to manage the terrain and was constantly tripping over rocks and sticks and roots, or just plain falling down because of the slopey nature of the site. He cried a lot on that trip, but he loved it all the same.  While the memories are priceless,  I have to admit that we opted out of any more backcountry trips with the boys for a full year after that.  It gave them a chance to mature and us a chance to recover!

Common sense must prevail when tripping with little ones.  You can’t expect too much of them.  They are out of their element and their routines will suffer as a result.  Expect no naps (unless they collapse from exhaustion!) and a later bedtime than usual.  They are all hyped up and you will presumably be camping in the summer, so the sun will still be shining far past bedtime.  I’ll address camping in shoulder seasons (spring and fall) and in the winter in later posts, but needless to say, these are not ideal seasons for little ones.  The challenges of unpredictable weather and a toddlers inability to regulate body temperature adequately,  make it inadvisable to start them off too young.  In the cold weather, consider day trips instead.  Or maybe plan a stay in a yurt!

Enjoying tent time

The beauty of a tent is that it acts like an over-sized playpen.  You may be able to convince junior to sleep if you lay down beside him, and goodness knows you’re gonna need the rest too!  Plenty of times I’ve laid down to coax a nap or bedtime and woken up hours later, or even the next morning!  You might not normally co-sleep or lie down with your little one as they fall asleep, but your presence will reassure them.  If you have more than one child with you, it also discourages “fooling around” when they should be getting to bed.  One piece of advice though… make sure that you tell kids that you are only lying down with them until they fall asleep.  Be sure they understand that you will be leaving the tent for some grown-up time and that if they wake up and you’re not there, you are just a stones throw away.  Don’t let them wake up thinking that a forest creature has stolen you away and they’ve been left alone to fend for themselves!  Of course you will be spending the night in the same tent.  You are going to need to be able to watch over them and make sure they are not too hot or too cold.  If your babes are out of diapers, you are going to need to be able to unzip the door so that they can go to the bathroom.  Keep a flashlight or a headlamp and some slip on shoes easily accessible for late night bathroom trips.

Check out Zach’s ear…yes that is cereal

I will make a list in a later post about fundamental campsite rules, but two of them are so important that I’ll post them here as well.  ABSOLUTELY NO FOOD IN THE TENT!  and ABSOLUTELY NO FOOD LEFT LYING AROUND YOUR SITE!  This is a particularly difficult one with snacks and messy toddlers.  Food attracts animals and you don’t want that.  Animals as tiny as chipmunks can cause a lot of damage and scare the pants off you in the middle of the night.  They sound HUGE in the dark! Consequences can range from stolen food and damaged gear to far more serious results like bears in camp.  Do not take a chance on this.  When my boys were little, I passed on the oat ring cereal that they normally ate for snacks and breakfast,  and opted for the fruit ring cereal.  There were two reasons for this. One, the anticipation of having a normally forbidden snack was thrilling to them.  Two, we could SEE the cereal when it fell on the ground, it’s unnaturally fluorescent colours glowing like little warning beacons.

Packed full of sugary goodness


While we’re on the subject of food.  Including other normally taboo food in the menu really gets the kids excited about going camping.  Go ahead indulge them in fatty sugary food (if you’re worried about nutrition, this could include dried fruits and nuts which are loaded with healthy fats and natural sugars) and provide lots and lots and lots of snacks.  They are going to need the calories and energy to fuel paddling, swimming, hiking and tree climbing!  We always visit the bulk food store and load up on bags and bags of snacks!  Why not include all of those old-school camp meals like mac and cheese and hot dogs.  We have traditional trip meals that we rarely skip.  It just wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t have spider dogs!  Don’t worry, I’ll do a full post on menu planning  🙂

I guess what I’m saying is, I’m glad that we started our boys out tripping as early as we did.  While it was a lot of work in the beginning, they can’t remember a time when we weren’t planning or participating in a trip.  They have grown into confident and competent campers and are always thrilled with idea of a new adventure on the horizon.  They couldn’t wait to be old enough for longer and more ambitious expeditions.  They couldn’t wait to be strong enough to carry full packs on portages and hikes…and neither could I.

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