Fueling your body properly is of utmost importance when cycling every day. Regardless of your cycling ability or the difficulty level of your trip, we ensure that all of our Western Spirit guests are eating food that is both nourishing and delicious. We’ve put in time to hone our backcountry cooking skills and our guests RAVE about the food. Here are a few of our secrets.
On Western Spirit trips we cook in Dutch ovens—big cast iron pots with feet and rimmed lids. This is a surprisingly versatile cooking tool. We use them on the stove, just like a cast iron skillet, and also with charcoal. Just like the name suggests, when using a Dutch oven with charcoal, it becomes just like an oven. We use it to bake cakes, lasagna, and even roast chickens!
Storage and Prep
When you’re camping, it isn’t just cooking the food that is the challenge; storing and prepping the food is also part of the deal. Cooler space is usually at a premium. On Western Spirit trips we make sure to have plenty of space—we have a separate cooler just for the beer—but on personal camping trips, things can get a bit crowded and beer might preempt things like zucchini, lettuce, or other fresh veggies. Know your priorities, and do whatever you can to minimize the space occupied by your food. Pre-chopping and dicing can help, or bringing foods in only the amount that you’ll actually use. Planning the meals as specifically as possible helps with this.
You don’t need permission to convert your favorite meal into a backcountry meal! Just a sense of adventure, and maybe a practice campfire in the backyard. Here is a quick no-chop lasagna recipe that uses a minimum amount of cooler space. You can whip it up in no time and all your camping pals will be amazed.
Spinach Walnut Lasagna
2 pkgs frozen spinach (store this in a baggie in your cooler)
2 pkgs pre-chopped mushrooms (store these in the tray in the cooler—no swimming mushrooms)
1 large package lasagna noodles (no need to pre-boil—the water in the spinach has you covered)
8-10 ounces walnut pieces
1 pint ricotta
16 ounces grated mozzarella
8 ounces grated parmesan
2 jars of your favorite tomato sauce
1 12 inch Dutch oven
16- 20 charcoal briquettes; glowing
Begin the layering with a small amount of sauce.
Next, add a layer of noodles, mozzarella, spinach (it will be thawed by now so give it a bit of squeeze to get rid of some of the water), ricotta, walnuts, and sauce.
Repeat—ending with noodles, sauce, and the parmesan. Make sure your masterpiece stays below the rim of the pot—cheese stuck all over the lid is a classic rookie move!
Place 8–10 coals evenly underneath your Dutch oven: 8 coals around the edge of the lid and 2 in the middle. Crack open a bottle of red wine. After the second glass, or about 40 minutes, use an oven mitt or channel locks to lift the lid and see if there are bubbles. Stay close by, and the minute you smell yummy lasagna, call the gang to supper!
At first, backcountry cooking can feel a bit daunting, but it’s become one of our favorite parts of the trips! What are some of your favorite camping recipes?