Camping-friendly Coconut Green Curry

It’s been three weeks now since I shared a recipe with you, meaning: 1) I’m out of practice telling stories that circuitously lead to recipes; and 2) You, quite understandably, might not have the patience for that sort of thing anyway. So let’s just get straight to the point and talk about this green curry recipe.

First, I should say: Applying the term ‘recipe’ here is a bit of a stretch; we’re wading into the territory of canned beans, prepared curry paste, and hot food in 10 minutes or less. If you were hoping to really cook today, you might be happier tackling this much more ambitious (and wholly delectable) coconut curry. But if fast and easy are your thing, solider on! 

As the title of the post implies, the reason behind the ultra-convenience here is that the dish is meant to be consumed while camping, when your ability to say, pressure cook beans or prepare a curry paste from scratch is somewhat limited (particularly if, like me, you aim to minimize the amount of time in which you waft tempting food smells in the direction of your neighbourhood bears).  

water.jpgSure, if you’re really after convenience, you could heat up some canned chilli. But after a long day of driving, when you’re facing a chilly night in a tent, eating something good that you cooked yourself – even if it’s this simple – is immensely more satisfying and recharging than a prepackaged alternative (especially if your fellow campers do the dishes). 

plants.jpgFinally, don’t feel like you have to wait until you’re out in the wild (or pseudo-wild, in my case) to give this a shot. Because…well, because you can eat what you want, when you want it, when it comes down to it. But if you need a more compelling reason, it’s faster, cheaper and more interesting than ordering a pizza. Or at least it will be, if I stop writing about it and give you the recipe, already. Here it is. 



Camp-friendly Coconut Green Curry

Serves 2 hungry people as a main, 4 as a smaller meal, and doubles easily
 
Ingredients

1 tbsp oil (olive, canola, vegetable, and coconut will all work well)
1-3 tbsp prepared green curry paste (I use the awkardly named ‘Cock Brand’ green curry paste, which you can find at Superstore)*
1 540 ml can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 ~400 ml can of full fat coconut milk, shaken
2-3 bell peppers, sliced ~1.5 cm thick
4 cups of packed fresh, chopped spinach**
Salt (or soy sauce) to taste
To serve: Fresh cilantro or thai basil, lime wedges, cooked jasmine rice

Directions

1. Heat the oil in a medium-sized pot set over moderate heat. Once the oil is warm, add the curry paste, stirring to break it up and heat it through, about 30 seconds.

2. Carefully add to the pot the chickpeas, coconut milk and peppers. Simmer over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes, or until the peppers are nearly tender.

3. Sitr in the spinach until it’s evenly coated in the coconut milk. Taste the broth and season with salt or soy sauce to your liking.

4. Simmer the curry over medium-low for another minute or so, until the spinach has wilted but is still bright green.

5. Divide the curry evenly over bowls of hot jasmine rice, then top each bowl with fresh herbs and lime wedges. When serving this up for two people, each bowl gets: ~3/4 cup rice, half the curry, 3-4 tablespoons of fresh herbs, and 1/4 of a fresh lime. 

 *Premade curry pastes can differ quite a lot in their spiciness. With that in mind, start by using just 1 tbsp of paste, tasting the broth that’s made when you add the coconut milk, and then stirring in additional paste as you see fit. It’s also worthwhile to read the instructions on the side of your curry paste container to get a sense of what 1 tbsp will get you, in terms of flavour and heat.

**Sturdier greens – bok choy, cabbage, collard greens, beet greens, etc. – will also work well in this curry, and are likely to hold up a little better in your camping cooler. They’ll take a few extra minutes to cook through, so it’s best to add them to the pot at the same time as the coconut milk, chickpeas and peppers. And, as you’d expect, you can use other veggies, in exchange for or in addition to the peppers (thinly-sliced carrots and snow peas both spring to mind). 

British Columbia, in Squares

Friends! I got back to my apartment last night, ate a bagel and went to bed. And so, today: A few photos from my trip. 

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Tomorrow: A proper recipe (though it won’t take too much more effort than toasting a bagel). 

From somewhere on the side of the highway in BC

Friends! Oh dear! I didn’t mean to abandon you! I’ve been on the road these past two weeks, traveling around Vancouver Island.

I’ve of course been cooking and eating and taking photos along the way, but due to a packed schedule, a lack of electricity and regular appearances by the rain, my ability to share it all with you has pretty much nil. 

I’ll be back to regular FoodHappy scheduling come Monday, so please don’t stray too far! And in mean time, you can follow along with me on the road at http://instagram.com/stephanie.simpson

Until Monday, friends!

Little Cakes with Summer Fruit

Some of you may be wondering: Why make such tiny cakes, when you could make one big cake? 

It’s a fair question, I admit. Because, as a lifetime of eating cake has taught me, cakes – even simple ones – beg for a bit of ceremony.They are to be unveiled (even if only from a plastic cake carrier), sliced and carefully distributed, piece by piece, the slowness of the affair serving to increase your appreciation of the fact that soon, you will have cake! 

bowl-pair.jpgTiny cakes – cakes that offer instant gratification, that can be eaten with your bare hands – they’re really just glorified muffins. (Not to mislead you here, a muffin and a cake are made using different mixing methods, and so are technically different things.) So why not just stick to big cakes and muffins? 

Because little cakes fill a niche all their own. 

First, they’re seem nicer than muffins. So I suspect that in simply knowing they’re cakes, there’s a good chance we’ll find them a little tastier – or more tender, or fancier, or more indulgent, or more ceremonious (despite the obvious deficiencies) – than their muffiny counterparts.  

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Second, they’re more portable than a full-sized cake. And, if you’re the type who would, say, schedule a two-week camping trip immediately following a four-day outdoor music festival, having a stockpile of portable desserts (with that bonus psychologically-induced tastiness that muffins lack) may be essential to your survival. Of course, my original stash of 12 has dwindled to a mere one, having sampled a few and shared a few more, so I’m forced, alas, to make more. 

_MG_2978.jpgExplanations aside, the cakes were lovely – delicately flavoured with vanilla, fruit and lemon, and sturdy enough in texture to live up to the claims of portability. I think they could use a bit of tweaking and so have made a few suggestions in the notes above the recipe. If you want to reproduce the cakes as they are in the photos, simply follow the recipe as it’s written. 

And now, all that being said, I should tell you that I didn’t think about any of this until after I made the cakes. But I’ve convinced myself and, hopefully you too, of the merits of little cakes. And with that, I’m off to bake another batch! 



Little Cakes with Summer Fruit
Adapted from epicurious.com
Makes 12 small cakes

Notes: Next time I make these, I’ll add a full cup of fruit, dicing one 1/2 cup of it and stirring into the batter with the final batch of flour, and pressing the other 1/2 cup into the tops of the cakes as the recipe below directs. This approach should work fine with all of the fruits except for the cherries, which would dye your cakes red, were you to stir them into the batter. 

If you end up using a variety of fruits, like I did, you’ll find yourself with a lot of leftovers. I stewed my extra fruit – loosely following this recipe – and served it alongside the cakes. 

Ingredients
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder 
1/4 tsp table salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temerature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla or almond extract
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1/3 cup of milk (or non-dairy alternative)
~1/2 cup of soft fresh fruit*, cut into small pieces
1 tbsp granulated or raw sugar
Butter for greasing the muffin tins 

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 12-muffin tin with butter. 

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. 

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer (or using a large bowl and a sturdy whisk), beat together the butter and sugar until fluffly, 2-4 minutes.

4. Add the egg, vanilla/almond extract and lemon zest to the butter mixture and beat again until smooth. 

5. Stir 1/3 of the flour mixture into the butter mixture, followed by 1/2 the milk, then another 1/3 flour, then the remaining 1/2 of the milk, then the remaining 1/3 of the flour.  

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6. Evenly distribute the batter between the 12 muffin cups. Top each little cake with some of the fresh fruit, gently pressing the fruit into the batter. Sprinkle each cake with 1/4 tsp granulated sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops of the cakes are golden and a tested inserted into the centre of a cake comes out moist but clean. Take care not to overbake them, or you’ll risk a crumbly cake!

7. Let the cakes cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire wrack to cool until they’re cool enough to eat. The cakes are best day-of, while they’re still warm, but extras can be stored in an airtight container for an extra day. 

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*I used peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries, blueberries and plums. I cut the cherries into quarters, left the blueberries whole, and cut the remaining fruit into 1/4-inch slices. 

Coming Up Tomorrow: Summer Fruit Snacking Cakes

Tune in tomorrow to find out how to turn your overflowing fruitbowl into a tray of brunch-friendly, vanilla-scented snacking cakes. 

What Should Have Been a Recipe

Some days, despite your best intentions to cook a bloggable meal, the world conspires in such a way that you find yourself eating peanut butter on bread for breakfast and takeout Indian for lunch and dinner. 

In other words: I intended to have a recipe for you guys today, but it just wasn’t in the cards. But I’m on it! Check back in a day or two for something new and definitively not takeout (though I should say now that the Indian was delicious). Until then, happy cooking (and/or takeouting).   

5-minute Mac and Cheese

Fellow mac-and-cheese-loving Millennials: We’ve been duped!

Thanks to a blue-boxed processed pasta dish that shall remain nameless, we’ve come to believe that pasta with cheese sauce is, at its heart, a food of convenience.

And then, sometime in our late teens or early twenties, as we start to flex our culinary muscles, we get it in our heads that we will make macaroni and cheese from scratch, and our perceptions change.  

_MG_2776-3.png20, 30, 40 minutes after we embark on our dinner adventure – long after the familiar 8-10 minutes we’ve come to expect from our childhood (and/or university?) years have passed – we find ourselves grating mountains of cheese while we simultaneously attempt to tame a volcanic roux. (Add an extra 20-30 minutes if some persuasive recipe writer has convinced you to top your creation with buttery bread crumbs and bake it all, alas.) 

It’s not a bad thing, at the core of it. We learn to exercise patience and perseverance. We level up our kitchen skills. We make a cheese sauce! 

But sometimes, you simply can’t spare an hour to cook.  

trio.pngFriends, when you’re short on time, you can still have your pasta, without falling back on the blue box. Because, as a spartan fridge recently taught me, all you have to do to create a delicious cheese sauce is stir soft feta, extra virgin olive oil and pepper into hot pasta. And if you use a variety that cooks shockingly fast – like super-skinny capellini (angel hair) – your dinner will be ready a mere five minutes after the pasta water boils, tops.  

I should acknowledge that unlike the boxed stuff: 1) The ingredients will cost more than $1; 2) You can’t keep it in your pantry for two years; and, 3) It’s not made with macaroni, but macaroni isn’t nearly as tasty (or convenient) anyway. And it’s still devoid of vegetables and proteins (though, as I note in the recipe below, you can remedy this easily without extending your cooking time significantly). 

But it is faster. And thanks to the liberal quantities of salt and fat, it maintains the addictive quality you’ve come to love. Plus, you made it. And it’s not neon, which counts for quite a lot, or so I’m told by those who didn’t grow up with the blue box. 
 



5-minute Mac and Cheese

Serves 4

Notes: Given the short ingredients list, quality here is key! Be especially choosy about your feta, looking for a cheese that’s soft and not too salty (sample a few varieties at the deli if you can). I use goat feta from Edmonton’s Italian Centre

Ingredients
320 grams of dry capellini (angel hair) pasta
1 1/4 cups of soft feta (I like goat), finely crumbled
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra as needed
1 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
~1/2 tsp fine sea salt (start with less if you’re using table salt) 

Optional: If you want to add some veggies to your pasta, consider tossing in ~1.5 cups of frozen peas or finely chopped fresh broccoli to the pot at the same time as the pasta. You could also add some finely diced fresh tomato or a sparing amount of very finely diced kalamata olives (start with 1 tbsp) to the pasta just before serving. 

Directions

1. Bring a large pot filled 2/3 with well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Once the water is on the stove, prep your ingredients if you haven’t already!

2. As soon as the water boils, add your pasta to the pot (if that pasta looks too long to fit in the pot, break the pieces in half before you drop them in the water). Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package, checking it regularly for doneness. Capellini typically needs only 2-4 minutes before it’s al dente!

3. As soon as the pasta is cooked to your liking, turn off the stove, then carefully drain the pasta (best to do this in the pot with the lid on, as the pasta will likely spill through a colander), reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water in a heat-safe cup or bowl. 

4. In the same pot, stir the pasta with the feta, olive oil, pepper and sea salt until the smaller pieces of cheese have melted and the pasta is well-coated with the pseudo-sauce. If the pasta looks sticky or dry, stir in a few splashes of the pasta water to loosen things up. 

5. Serve while it’s hot! 

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Coming up: Mac and Cheese Made Easy

Homemade mac and cheese made with five ingredients, in five minutes. Really. 

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Be here tomorrow to find out how it’s done!

Eating in the Rockies: Part 3



This post is part of a series! Read the other two installments of Eating in the Rockies here: 

Eating in the Rockies: Part 1 (Introduction)

Eating in the Rockies: Part 2 (Essential Cooking Gear)  



In last week’s installment of Eating in the Rockies, I shared with you the contents of our camp kitchen – what essentials and little luxuries we were happy to have toted around mountain campgrounds. 

Now that we’ve laid the groundwork for good eating, we can (finally!) get to the food. In this week’s post – the last of this little series – I’ll share our strategy for choosing ingredients that kept us well-fed and away from grocery stores for seven days, without requiring that we pack the entire contents of my pantry or rely on canned chili and hot dogs. 

I’ll also share our favourite recipes from the week, plus a few handy tips that saved us from soggy sandwiches and other mealtime tribulations. Ready? Let’s get to it!

what-to-bring.pngIn general, we tried to bring ingredients that were:

  1. Relatively hardy. Choosing ingredients that will stand up to a week in a cooler means you won’t have to constantly design your dinner menu around stuff that’s about to spoil. Cabbage was great, spinach not so much. 
     
  2. Multipurpose. When you’re away from a grocery store for a week, it’s helpful to have ingredients on hand that work in multiple kinds of dishes. For example, things like crushed tomatoes, chickpeas and thai basil will come in handy whether you’re having pasta or a curry. 
     
  3. Staples, with variety. We opted to bring a few kinds of starches (rice, pasta, potatoes and tortillas) and proteins (canned chickpeas and beans, dried red lentils, eggs). It’s more work than packing giant quantities of a single type of starch or protein, but when your options are already limited by what you’ve stashed in your car, it’s worth the extra bit of effort to give yourself some variety. 

breakfast.pngWhen camping, my general strategy is to keep the cooking mess to a minimum in the morning, so that we don’t start our day off doing a giant pile of dishes. At the same time, part of the idea behind going camping was to go on vacation and break from the normal routine, so we snuck a few nicer morning meals in there too. Here’s what worked well:

  • Emergency cereal: Most mornings, we ate muesli with fresh fruit, but when the muesli ran out, we topped a box of crunchy cereal brought along for snacking with a handful of nut-and-dried-fruit trail mix. Heartier than cereal alone, and tasty too!
     
  • Pancakes: Before we left home, I tossed all of the dry ingredients from this recipe into a large reusable container. At the campsite, I added to the container the wet ingredients (melting the required butter in the same frying pan I’d be cooking the pancakes in). We topped ours with chocolate chips and bananas that we warmed up in tinfoil over a morning campfire. 
     
  • Scrambled eggs: We added a bit of chopped cheddar (no grater on hand) to the frying pan while the eggs were cooking and served the finished eggs with sliced tomatoes and store-bought tortillas warmed in a dry frying pan. This was especially nice on chilly mornings!

lunch.pngMost of our lunches were eaten on the go – either on a hike, or at a roadside pullout as we made our way from one destination to the next – so convenience was key. And so: Sandwiches. We prepped our fillings in the morning and kept them in a container separate from our bread/tortillas, then assembled everything at lunch time. Sogginess, averted! 

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While I’d be happy roasting veggie dogs on a stick over a campfire, my travelling companion takes great pride in making a good meal while camping, so I had no choice but to eat well. These were some of our favourite dinners:

  • This lentil recipe, tomato paste omitted (didn’t bring any) and fresh tomatoes swapped with whatever veggies needed using up. We served ours with rice.
     
  • A simple, flavourful coconut green curry, made as follows: 1) Heat a big spoonful of prepared green curry paste in a pot with a bit of oil for 30 seconds; 2) Add 1 can of drained chickpeas and 1 can of coconut milk, along with a big handful of fresh vegetables (we used sliced purple cabbage, spinach and diced zucchini); 3) Simmer until the veggies are tender, salting it along the way; 4) Serve atop hot rice and sprinkling with a big handful of thai basil. Serves 2-3. 
     
  • Speedy pasta with spicy tomato sauce, made as follows: 1) Cook capellini (angel hair) pasta in salted boiling water until nearly done – it takes only 2-3 minutes!; 2) Pour off the cooking water, then toss into the pasta some crushed tomatoes, hot chilies, salt, a bit of red wine (if you’re already drinking it) and a can of chickpeas, drained – quantities will depend on how many servings you’re after; 3) Heat for a couple minutes, until the sauce is hot and the pasta is cooked; 4) We served ours with some of the leftover thai basil, but it would also be tasty with some crumbled feta or grated hard cheese, or a bit of extra virgin olive oil, if you’ve brought things like that on your trip!
     
  • Pseudo chana masala, made with the extra crushed tomatoes from the pasta and the same spice mix we used to make the lentils (we premixed the spices at home and brought along enough for a couple meals), plus some cayenne from one of these handy gadgets.

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  • We brought bagged tea and a little container of homemade cocoa mix (just cocoa powder and sugar, essentially) for chilly nights and mornings. 
     
  • We pre-washed all of our fruits and veggies before leaving home (except for tricky stuff, like cabbage). It’s a little time consuming, but it makes it a whole lot easier to snack/cook at a moment’s notice and lets you save precious drinking water should you find yourself without other sources of potable water. 
     
  • We found it worked well to chill our cooler with consumable icepacks, like frozen cartons of milk and bottles of water. It saved precious cooler space, and let us take ice-cold water on long day hikes. Just over halfway through our trip, we refilled the cooler with a block of ice, which lasted us until we got home (admittedly some of our campgrounds still had snow on the ground, so it wasn’t too difficult to keep food cool). 
     
  • There are few disappointments greater than getting a nice fire going and being unable to crack into your corked bottle of wine. When you’re camping, choose screwtop! 
And there we have it, friends – camping food, in a blog-post-shaped nutshell. Whether or not you’re camping this summer, I hope the weeks ahead bring you good food and great times! 




This post is part of a series! Read the other two installments of Eating in the Rockies here: 

Eating in the Rockies: Part 1 (Introduction)

Eating in the Rockies: Part 2 (Essential Cooking Gear)  




Eating in the Rockies: Part 2



This post is part of a series! Read the other two installments of Eating in the Rockies here: 

Eating in the Rockies: Part 1 (Introduction)

Eating in the Rockies: Part 3 (Recipes, Tips, Extras)  



Picking up where we left off yesterday, today I’m giving you a closer look at what we did to ensure tasty times on our 8-day camping trip in the mountains, in hopes that you too can eat well even when electricity is nowhere to be found.

I’ll start by sharing the bits and pieces of our portable kitchen, with the help of some of cellphone photos (my proper camera was often tucked away at mealtime, alas).

As I mentioned yesterday, we were car camping, so we had the luxury of not having to limit our kitchen gear to what we could carry on our backs. That being said, we still tried to keep it relatively light (more space for snacks that way!). 

camping-gear.jpgHere’s what were glad to have with us:

Two cooking pots: You could probably get by with a single pot, but having a second on hand means that you can cook your rice and curry (or beans and mashed potatoes, or whatever you’re having for dinner) at the same time. If you plan to cook atop your campfire, make sure to leave your good pots at home. 

One frying pan: An essential if you’re planning pancakes or scrambled eggs. 

A cookstoveThe previous time we went camping, we managed well with one of these super-portable methyl alcohol cookstoves. This time around, we borrowed my sister’s propane two-burner stoveIt takes up considerably more space that the little stove and isn’t as easy to tote around, but it does let you cook two things at once, which is awfully nice when it’s pouring rain and you just want to get your eating over with and climb into your sleeping bag. Don’t forget the matches and the gas! 

Now, all that being said, we saw several people make good use of the cast iron stoves that you’ll find in the national park cooksheds (one group fired up the stove and made fresh-cut french fries!), so if you’re clever about where you camp you can probably get by without bringing a stove or grill from home. If you go that route, remember to pack matches and an axe or a hatchet for chopping firewood.

stove-fire.jpgBasic cooking utensils: Our little kit included a cutting board, kitchen knife, vegetable peeler, can opener, spatula, wooden spoon and scissors. If you’re planning to have a drink with dinner, you’ll want to pack a corkscrew and bottle opener as well (or keep it easy and stick to screwtop!). 

Dishware (per person): A plate, a bowl, a mug or thermos, and a set of cutlery (or one of these gadgets, if you’re short on space). Our favourite non-essentials were these plastic collapsible wine glasses

Reusable storage containers: We brought along a few containers, in part for food storage but more for use in food prep – as a mixing bowl, or to hold piles of chopped veggies awaiting their turn in the pot. 

Tinfoil: For wrapping around anything you want to roast in the fire (we went for chocolate-filled bananas). 

Cleaning supplies: Unless you’re lugging a ton of disposable dishware from home, you’ll have to wash dishes. RV parks may be well stocked for dish-doing, but if you’re staying in national parks you’ll need to bring your own soap, scrubbing brush and dish towels.   

pots-pans.jpgThis is getting awfully long, friends, so I’ll leave it here for today. Tune in next time to find out what we ate (with lots of recipes and tips!). 



This post is part of a series! Read the other two installments of Eating in the Rockies here: 

Eating in the Rockies: Part 1 (Introduction)

Eating in the Rockies: Part 3 (Recipes, Tips, Extras)