Story and Photos by Tara Alan
Where I live, in the Green Mountains of Vermont, the first yellow, orange, and russet leaves are beginning to appear scattered upon the ground. Nights are becoming cool enough to wear a jacket, and the scent of wood smoke is apparent on the breeze. It’s clear that autumn is just around the corner!
What better way to spend these glorious end-of-summer days than in the woods? And what better way to end them than with an evening of camping? On chill nights like these, I want a supper that’s warm and cheesy, quick and easy: macaroni and cheese.
As far as I’m concerned, there’s a spectrum of macaroni and cheese. On one end are those blue boxes containing a handful of elbow noodles and an accompanying “cheese” packet. The resulting dish is neon-orange, and of dubious nutritional value. On the opposite end of the spectrum there’s pasta with an unctuous cream sauce and pockets of oozing melted cheese under a burnished top. Think four cheeses melted together with bacon, chili flakes, and caramelized onions. Or how about mozzarella and ricotta with chunks of fresh tomato?
So, what do we do when we want the cozy, comforting dish of mac and cheese while on the trail? When we want the simplest of dinners, but we want it to have ingredients we recognize? When we want that delicious, cozy treat, but we don’t want to pack a ton of items to make it? We make it ahead of time and carry it along, of course!
Below, you’ll find my recipe for a version of macaroni and cheese that falls somewhere between the two extremes of the spectrum, closer to the ease of blue-box side. It’s a cinch to assemble and pack for the trail, and it’s quick to cook once you’re out there. It also makes a great base for improvisation. See my suggestions below the recipe for ways to jazz up your mac. Read More →
Story and photos by Laurel Miller
A creek-chilled beer (or beverage of your choice) is a just reward at the end of a long day on the trail, but what to do when you’re craving something sweet that doesn’t come from a bottle (and no, Gummi Bears don’t count)?
Summer and early fall are the best times to bust out a backcountry dessert because at no other time is the array and diversity of seasonal fruits so abundant and appealing. Depending upon climate, space, and other logistical considerations, trail desserts can be as simple as fresh berries with store-bought biscotti, to grilled stonefruit with vanilla syrup, and mascarpone. In previous posts, I’ve provided details on how to curate and stock your backcountry kitchen, but the beauty of dessert is that it can be prepared at home, and doesn’t require special equipment or a strong back. And that, quite frankly, is pretty sweet. Read More →
Though it was early September when my husband and I were cycling through the Po River Valley region of Italy, the summer sun still blazed, dry and scorching, lending a golden light to an already golden landscape.
As well as being oppressively hot, the afternoon was also deathly quiet. We were used to this Italian riposo by now, that time between about two and four in the afternoon when shops closed, the buzz of activity at the local café dwindled, and the wooden shutters on everyone’s homes were shut tightly against that flaming sun. Read More →
Story and Photos by Laurel Miller
I grew up in a family that embraced the convenience of freeze-dried meals and deviled ham when it came to camping trips. It wasn’t until a college spring break trip to Baja’s Bahia Concepción that I discovered it’s possible to actually, you know, cook while camping. We’d procured some scallops from the bay. My friend Caroline, an avid cook, sautéed them with garlic and chili flakes, adding a splash of her beer and a squeeze of lime to finish. I was gobsmacked—left to my own devices, I’d been subsisting on canned frijoles refritos and tortillas. That pivotal moment not only inspired me to go to culinary school; it redefined what I thought of as camping fare. Today, there are certain ingredients that are staples in my home and backcountry kitchen. In a previous post, I addressed how to curate a camp kitchen. Here, I tell you how to stock it.
Tip: I love trying regional foods, and when I’m traveling domestically or abroad, I explore markets for staples like spices, cheese, bread, olives, dried or fresh fruit—anything adds to my portable pantry. Here’s to a summer season free of freeze-dried.
5 Essentials for the backcountry kitchen Read More →
Story and photos by Laurel Miller
Even if you’re content to subsist primarily on reconstituted meals in the backcountry, there’s always room for improvement (it’s amazing what a dash of soy sauce or dollop of peanut butter can do, for example). If you genuinely enjoy the challenge of creating healthy, delicious fare while out in the back of beyond, having a well-stocked portable kitchen will serve you well.
The first consideration, of course, is keeping your kitchen kit lightweight and compact. I’m a fan of stashing things in labeled Tupperware containers, which necessitates organization and renders your supplies durable and (mostly) waterproof. If you’re going to be on the river or in a clime with high humidity or rainfall, stashing your kit in a dry bag is a good extra precautionary step.
Of course, you can buy handy kitchen kits with specialized camping utensils, so my advice is to purchase one, and then add to it. Why bother? Because, just as with a first-aid kit, you’ll want to personalize it to your needs.
The following are tips on storing, stashing, and stocking your backcountry kitchen. I’m not going to address cookware, as what you carry depends upon the type of trip, destination, and your personal preference/weight-bearing capabilities. Read More →
Video and words by Dave Anderson
To participate in most outdoor activities you need some type of equipment. The gear could be as simple as a pair of trail running shoes or as complex as a carbon fiber mountain bike. The more the equipment helps you enjoy the experience the more you become attached to that piece of outdoor gear. As a result of this sentimental bond of shared experiences, a mountaineer’s ice axe or kayaker’s paddle might be kept around long after its utilitarian function has been played out.
This past fall, while waiting out the rain and snow on a climbing expedition in the Siguniang Range of Western China, I brewed up pot of tea. I stared at the slightly dented MSR Titan pot and tried to remember when I purchased it. I spent the rest of the morning lost in reflection about all the amazing places the pot and I had travelled together during the last twenty-five years. When I returned, I made this video and shared it with MSR.
Dave Anderson is a filmmaker, photographer, writer and explorer based wherever his van, Magic, is parked. Anderson has been climbing for 33 years and has established new routes in 10 countries on five contents. His 2013 ascent of Dayantianwo in the Siguniang Range of Western China was nominated for Poilet d’Or. When not shivering during an unplanned bivy or editing his latest video in Magic, Anderson can be found leading climbing and trekking adventures in Asia with his partner Szu-ting Yi through their company LittlePo Adventures.
A life of travel and adventure on the open road sounds downright romantic, but in truth, it is usually far from glamorous. At least, that was my experience when my husband Tyler and I decided to spend two years on the seats of our touring bicycles.
Sure, there were days when the sun was shining and a gentle tailwind urged us onward, through quaint towns filled with kind, curious people. Read More →
Story And Photos By Laurel Miller
It’s a well-documented fact amongst my family and friend that I’ll eat anything, as long as it makes for a good story or I’m getting paid (aka “working”). I’ve eaten everything from dog to witchetty grubs in the name of travel and research, and frankly, I don’t understand why people make such a big deal about the Donner Party’s diet.
I draw the line, however, at freeze-dried backpacker meals. I was a seriously picky eater as a kid, and the two lingering scars are the aforementioned- what I like to refer to as “crap in a bag-” and airline food. I know people who actually think both are tasty; as someone who’s eaten man’s best friend, I’m certainly not in a position to judge.
I used to consider a jar of peanut butter and loaf of bread adequate camping fare, but these days, if I’m doing anything outdoorsy that requires cooking, I prefer to think up healthy, inexpensive meals that feel indulgent, but add little in weight or bulk to my pack.
This beyond-easy pasta is a good example. The tuna adds protein and Omega-3 fatty acids; the key to the success of this dish is using a high-quality brand of albacore or yellowfin (often labeled “premium or premium white meat”). You want fish that’s not only mild and sustainably-caught (longlining is the most common method), but solid-packed, which will yield a better final dish, texturally. The olive oil acts as a preservative, as well as yields a richer texture. Read More →
Story and Photos by Tara Alan
As much as I love the invigorating excitement of trying new flavors as I travel, sometimes what I really want are the familiar and comforting dishes of home. It doesn’t matter where I am, or how long I’ve been on the road, I’m bound to get homesick for good ol’ American food once in a while. When my husband Tyler and I were cycling through France, three months into a two-year bicycle tour, we experienced just that.
Nevermind the fact that we were in one of the most gourmet countries in the world, home to escargot and fois gras and a dizzyingly delicious array of artisanal charcuterie. Nevermind the fact we could eat crusty loaves of bread any time we wished, could gorge ourselves on delicious smelly cheeses, and could delight in the sheer bliss of a buttery, shatteringly flaky croissant. Read More →
Story and Photos by Laurel Miller
American gastronomy has been responsible for some memorably mediocre finger foods (or canapés, hors d’ouevres, or appetizers, if you’re so inclined). Despite this, we’re all familiar with the ubiquitous cheese ball, spinach dip (served in a hollowed out loaf of sourdough) pigs in a blanket, and, if you’re of a certain age, rumaki.
Having inhaled my share of spinach dip in this life, I’m not trying to be an asshole. But it is possible, even in the backcountry, to create starters that are easy, on-trend, and free of processed ingredients. The point of appetizers, as the name suggests, is to stimulate the appetite. Providing a balance of flavors and textures is the key to making them work, as are good-quality ingredients (which don’t require much in the way of prep to make an impact). Read More →