If there's one thing that I've most resented about this summer spent primarily prepping for and taking the bar exam, it's that it was August before I could finally go camping. But camp, we did-- a brief but much needed trip up the steep, winding, gravelly road to Deer Park in Olympic National Park.
Our love of outdoor activities is well-recognized among friends and family with gift certificates aplenty to REI, so over the years, we've steadily acquired a good collection of fat man camping gear. Among the headlamps, thermarest chair converters, camp chairs, and several stoves (2 backpacking and one Coleman 2 burner), by far, my favorite piece of gear is our Binto Box portable kitchen:
Why yes, those are collapsible, plastic wine glasses. What? It's not like we spent the money on the stainless steel chopsticks or little martini shaker... yet.
This baby comes with 3 storage containers for pantry items, plates, cooking pots, etc. as well as pouches for storing wooden spoons, a spatula (and yes, a whisk!) and can unfold to create an upright counter for chopping stuff. It's made camp cooking almost a luxury, allowing me to expand our camp meals beyond just mac n' cheese and canned ham... although admittedly, that's amazingly delicious after a day hiking around Zion National Park. But thanks to the counter, I'm actually able to set up a mise en place:
(Note the Purell-- another camp kitchen necessity.)
Even though there are plenty of great camp cooking recipe resources out there, my goal to cook recipe free follows me on the trail as well as at home. Under the influence of a recent brunch at a nearby Caribbean restaurant, I thought I'd try making a jerk chicken stew of sorts. This would give me a chance to use up lots of fresh veggies from the CSA and a stew is always great for camp cooking since almost everything can be cooked in one pot for easy clean-up.
I packed a pint size container with my spice mix then added the chicken to it to marinate while I cut up my vegetables. I made sure to use plenty of onion, garlic, and jalapeno (would have used scotch bonnets if I could have easily found them) and coconut milk as the soup base. The spicy scent of the jerk mix filled the air with cinnamon, ginger, and allspice, plus the bright colors of the vegetables and the rich feel of the coconut milk made me temporarily leave our Pacific Northwest setting for the tropics until I noticed we had a visitor whom our dog, unfortunately, did not welcome:
Nonetheless, I think this would be a great meal to make when camping in colder climes, when that hint of the tropics is especially appreciated on a night when your sleeping bag is extra snugly due to lows under 40 degrees. It didn't get lower than the mid-50s that night for us, but that didn't stop us from finishing off the evening with s'mores using Hit cookies as the base with marshmallows roasted over our campfire.
2 cups instant rice
1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced
1/2 cup shelled peas
1.5 cups zucchini and yellow squash, sliced into half moons
2 small carrots, sliced into thin rounds
1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
3 scallions, chopped
1 15 oz can light coconut milk
1 tsp Better than Bouillon Chicken Soup Base
2 tsp canola oil
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp all spice
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
Mix together the dry spices for the marinade in a pint sized container. At the campsite, add the soy sauce and diced chicken and let marinade while you chop up your other vegetables.
Cook the rice according to package directions. Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the onion, scallion, jalapeno and garlic and let cook until vegetables are softened. Add the chicken and continue cooking until chicken is browned. Add the rest of your vegetables and cook until softened, about 5 more minutes. Add the coconut milk and soup base. Reduce heat and let simmer for about 15 minutes. Spoon rice into bowls and top with ladle fulls of the stew.
CSA Count: 5
Carrots, fresh garlic, zucchini, summer squash, shell peas