We’ve just returned from an impromptu June weekend at Killbear Provincial Park–our summer stomping ground–and I’ve sent a sad-to-be-home daughter back to school with whatever I could scrounge for her lunch: a hardboiled egg, some dill pickles, a few Fruit-To-Go fruit snacks, lots of kiwi, and a handful of Smartfood.
No, obviously my daughter isn’t vegan. She eats all the “normal camping food,” as does my husband. It was a weekend of hot dogs, hamburgers, and deli meat sandwiches.
So what did I eat?
Surely, if you’re vegan, situations arise. A dinner party can be difficult enough, not to mention camping. But it’s workable.
It’s also good to note that I wasn’t virtuous this weekend by any means–insert tofu dogs and omit my usual dose of fruits and veggies. We decided to go camping on the fly, so basically I just had to be flexible and cover my bases.
I’ll start with the low-down on what I actually ate, and then give you a few recipes to make things more interesting:
ARRIVAL DINNER: Tofu dogs on gluten-free bread with a few condiments (in hindsight, sauerkraut or baked beans would have been good with this). My husband and daughter had all beef hot dogs from our neighbourhood butcher, topped off with campfire s’mores.
FIRST BREAKFAST: Earl Grey with almond milk, and gluten-free toast with hummus and sliced tomatoes. I recommend Kinnikinnick Multigrain because it isn’t too dense. I shared a side of sautéed kale and roast new potatoes with my husband, who paired his with fried eggs and dark coffee. Our daughter had her eggs sunny side up with a side of roast potatoes–no kale. And we all munched on fresh strawberries!
LUNCH: We took our bikes to the beach so for the non-vegans among us, I packed a picnic of ham and turkey sandwiches, chocolate chip cookies and sour cream and onion chips. I threw in Clif Bars–which are accidentally vegan and could be eaten by all–and brought bananas, Mary’s Seed Crackers with some hummus, and Kettle Brand Sriracha Chips, which are vegan but I’m not advocating that they are remotely good for you.
OUR ‘EXHAUSTED-FROM-THE-SUN’ DINNER: Flame-broiled beef burgers for them, while on our camp stove I cooked up store-bought spaghetti sauce and added lots of kale and some canned black beans and spooned it over cooked brown rice noodles. For dessert: a little dark chocolate with sea salt (and maybe a vodka cocktail) while I sandwiched chocolate and roasted marshmallows between graham crackers for my daughter (and nearly fell asleep in my chair at the fire).
SECOND BREAKFAST: Sipping on my usual Earl Grey, I transformed leftover tomato-kale-black bean sauce into Huervos Rancheros (minus the egg) by warming it in a pan and melting into it some non-dairy (store-bought) vegan cheese. Next time I’ll bring avocados or guacamole too. I ate my Huervos with gluten-free toast. At home I use a widely known vegan butter called Earth Balance, but honestly, I just had my toast dry. Eating was way more about fuelling our adventure.
‘PACKED-UP-FOR-HOME’ PICNIC LUNCH: I made lunch for the beach again; this time almond butter and strawberry jam sandwiches for everyone. I just put mine on gluten-free bread and we had the usual snacks.
GOOD-BYE DINNER: On our way home we ate out, as is tradition, at Gilly’s in Carling Township. Dying for veggies–and finding myself in a restaurant that doesn’t do vegan whatsoever (but that’s okay, Gilly’s; I still love you)–I had a salad of organic greens, an order of house-made coleslaw with a vinaigrette, and some steamed basmati rice.
So that’s what I ate.
Nothing fancy, but it was easy and practical and my nutritional needs were met. In the height of summer we would bring A LOT more fruit and eat it all day long, stopping at a roadside stand and stocking up on the way.
In hindsight now, for longer trips I’d bring other stuff too:
OATMEAL: Oatmeal is the best. I eat it all winter long. I like mine with blueberries, a banana sliced on top, a dollop of almond butter and a dash of maple syrup. But the possibilities are really endless. Try any combination of the following: raisins, cinnamon, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, fresh berries of any kind, chia seeds, cacao nibs, almond milk, coconut milk, and even homemade granola clusters. It’s really comforting on a chilly or wet morning (just in case those kinds of mornings happen on your camping trip).
TOFU: I’m thinking particularly for tofu scramble. This requires a little more organization, but tofu scramble is dead easy. These are my two favourite scramble recipes…
1 block firm tofu, drained
3+ tablespoons nutritional yeast
¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
1+ tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk
1/2 onion, diced
1+ tablespoon vegetable oil for frying
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 handfuls mushrooms, bite-sized or chopped
1 crown broccoli, separated into bite-sized pieces
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1/2 small zucchini, chopped
Note: omit some vegetables if you like, or add different ones – mind your cooking times.
Crumble tofu into a bowl. (It’s easier to crumble a block of tofu if you slice it first.) Add nutritional yeast, fenugreek, salt, mustard, and 2 – 3 tbsp of coconut milk. Mix until the tofu is evenly coated. Add more nutritional yeast or fenugreek here.
Sauté onion in oil in a medium-sized, deep-walled frying pan over medium heat until soft. Add garlic and mushrooms; toss and cook for 2 minutes. Add the tofu and cook, tossing regularly, until golden – about 10 minutes. Add the broccoli, red pepper, zucchini, and the rest of the coconut milk, mix, and cover. Let it steam for 5 – 6 minutes until the broccoli is bright green and tender.
Serve with hot EB’d (Earth-Balance-buttered) toast.
from Fresh: Everyday Vegetarian Cooking
by Ruth Tal Brown and Jennifer Houston
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Engevita nutritional yeast
¾ teaspoon dillweed
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup filtered water
2 cups chopped firm tofu
Heat oil in a pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook 5 minutes or until soft, stirring often.
Mix Engevita yeast, dill weed, garlic powder, salt, black pepper, turmeric and water in a small bowl.
Crumble tofu and add to onion mixture. Stir.
Add yeast mixture and stir 1 minute or until thoroughly heated and most of liquid has evaporated. Serves 2.
DO-IT-YOURSELF TRAIL MIX: Hands down, homemade trail mix packed with nuts and seeds and dried fruit has got to be better for you than Sriracha Kettle Chips. Here are a few recipes from Oh She Glows, and another from Yum Universe, for travel-easy snack inspiration, but there are a lot of possibilities. (Here is a really cute camping post by Heather Crosby of YumUniverse.)
Go Go Glow Mix
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup goji berries
1/2 cup almonds (or sunflower seeds)
1/2 cup mulberries
1/2 cup dark chocolate covered cacao nibs (or dark chocolate chips)
Mix together and enjoy for a quick pick me up!
Ultimate Nutty Granola Clusters
1 cup whole raw almonds
1/2 cup raw walnut halves or pieces
3/4 cup gluten-free oats
1/2 cup raw buckwheat groats or substitute gluten-free rolled oats
2/3 cup mixed dried fruit (such as cranberries, apricots, cherries)
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 275°. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place 1/3 cup of the almonds into a food processor and process for about 10 seconds, until a fine meal forms (similar in texture to sand). Transfer the almond meal to a large bowl.
In the food processor, combine the remaining 1/2 cup almonds and all of the walnuts and process for about 5 seconds, until finely chopped. You’ll be left with some larger pieces and some powdery meal, which is what you want. Add the mixture to the bowl with the almond meal.
Add the oats, groats (or more oats), dried fruit, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, coconut, cinnamon, and salt to the large mixing bowl and stir to combine.
Add the maple syrup, melted oil, and vanilla to the bowl with the dry ingredients and stir until thoroughly combined.
With a spatula, spread the granola into a ½-inch layer on the prepared baking sheet and gently press down to compact slightly. Bake for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake for 18 to 25 minutes more, or until the granola is lightly golden on the bottom and firm to the touch.
Cool the granola on the pan for at least 1 hour before breaking it apart into clusters.
Store the granola in a glass jar in the fridge for 2 to 3 weeks or freeze it for 4 to 5 weeks.
Almond and Coconut Antioxidant Trail Mix
1 cup almonds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
pinch sea salt
1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup dry goji berries
Preheat oven to 325°F and line a baking shed with a sheet of parchment paper.
Place almonds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds on lined baking sheet with a pinch of salt, and toast for 7 minutes. Remove and toss into a large bowl.
Using the same parchment-line baking sheet, toast coconut for 3 minutes. Add to bowl of almonds and seeds. Fold in dry goji berries.
HOMEMADE VEGGIE BURGERS: Make up a batch, cook them, then freeze your burgers and keep them deep in the cooler. Throw them on the grill to reheat when the meat-eaters have their beef version. Serve with gluten-free buns, or lettuce wraps, or crumbled over a salad. There are a thousand recipes out there. This is a good one…
Our Favourite Veggie Burger
from The Oh She Glows Cookbook
by Angela Liddon
3 tablespoons ground flax
1/3 cup warm water
1(14-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup finely chopped red onion or yellow onion
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 cup grated carrots
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, toasted
1 to 2 tablespoons tamari, to taste
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup rolled oats, processed into a coarse meal*
1/2 cup spelt bread crumbs (or bread crumbs of choice)
1 to 2 tablespoons oat flour (or flour of choice), as needed
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Whisk the ground flax and water in a small bowl and set aside for about 5 minutes so it can thicken.
Into a large mixing bowl, add the drained black beans. With a potato masher, mash the beans until 2/3 of the mixture is a bean “paste” while leaving about 1/3 of the beans mostly intact.
In a medium skillet, add the oil and increase the heat to medium. Stir in the onion, garlic, and a pinch of salt. Sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, until the onion softens. Transfer the onion mixture into the bowl with the mashed beans.
Stir in the flax egg, grated carrots, parsley (or cilantro), sunflower seeds, tamari, chili powder, oregano, and cumin until thoroughly combined.
Now, stir in the coarsely chopped oats, bread crumbs, and oat flour until the mixture comes together. It should be easy to shape the dough into patties. Stir in the salt and pepper, to taste.
Shape the dough into 8 patties (roughly 1/3 cup of dough per patty). Pack the dough together tightly as this will help it stick together. Place onto the baking sheet.
Bake patties for 15 minutes, gently flip, and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until patties are firm and golden. Cool the patties on a cooling rack for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. This helps them firm up a bit.
Serve in a bun or lettuce wrap with your desired toppings. Leftover burgers will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 2 to 3 days, or you can freeze cooled patties for up to 1 month. Simply wrap each patty in tinfoil and then place all of the wrapped burgers into a zip freezer bag.
* To coarsely chop the oats, add 1/2 cup rolled oats into a food processor. Process the oats until a coarse meal forms (the chopped pieces will be a mixture of powder and chopped oats just smaller than rice). Be sure not to process too long or the oats will turn into flour.
Make it gluten-free: Use certified gluten-free oats, gluten-free tamari, and gluten-free breadcrumbs.
VEGGIE KEBABS AND CORN-ON-THE-COB: I found an interesting little recipe for vegetable kebabs HERE (mind the tortillas), but again, sooo many possibilities. A drizzle of my Tantric Tahini Dressing on plain grilled veggies will make them extra delicious.
Want to roast your corn in the campfire? This video gives you step-by-step instructions!
Our little weekend was wonderful. A dream.
I ran the wooded trail twice and swam in (a slightly chilly) Georgian Bay, the shoreline thick with pollen from the pines. Our daughter nicknamed the pollen “mustard custard” and made lemony-looking sand cakes and erupting volcanoes, when she wasn’t chasing her dad with a super-soaker.
We walked the rocks at sunset and spent a whole Saturday on our bikes, had two campfires, a good game of Kings-in-the-Corners, and coloured from a book of inspirational quotes that asked us to “Listen Deeply” and “Make Music.”
Trying to pep talk my daughter this morning, I said, “We should be happy. We got the best weather, the best campsite, and the best table at Gilly’s!”
It had little effect on her. Our dream was just that good.