Introduction: How to Eat Like a King on Your Next Backpacking Trip
Whether you're just out for one night, or are embarking on a months long journey, a great meal at the end of your first day sets the tone of your backpacking trip off right. With a little preparation at home before you leave, you'll get to enjoy delicious food as you enter into the great outdoors. No hiker is happy on a hungry belly, so I'll not only teach you how to prepare a dinner worth reaching, but also a hearty snack to get you where you're going. This instructable will start by guiding you through the preparation of a (healthier) Chex mix snack, and then will detail how to prepare easy campfire fajitas.
Whether you're a seasoned hiker or planning your first camping trip, this instructable will make your taste buds much happier next time you're out on the trail.
Some considerations before you start
Food Safety Tip:Take note of all of the dietary restrictions of anyone who will be hiking with you to ensure their safety. Out in the middle of the woods is the last place you want to experience an allergic reaction. Be mindful of the ingredients you chose to add to your Chex mix and fajitas.
Fire Safety Tip:Exercise caution while cooking over an open flame. This instructable assumes that you know how to start your own campfire and are aware of wild fire prevention protocols. . Furthermore, ensure that campfires are allowed where you plan to camp. Some natural areas have protections that prohibit open fires.
Wildlife Safety Tip: Check local warnings regarding wildlife you may encounter such as bears or racoons. Be sure to store food securely overnight to prevent unwelcome encounters. Used aluminum foil can be just as aromatic as fresh food; store all trash in the same manner as your other food items.
Step 1: A Delicious Snack to Get You to Your Campsite
If you've got a full day of hiking ahead of you, you're going to need some fuel along the way before you reach your campsite and get to cooking the amazing dinner you'll see later in this instructable. Chex mix is an iconic snack for the trail, and making it yourself at home allows it to be a little healthier and fit your tastes exactly. This mix in particular is high in protein and fiber; this healthy snack will keep you full and energized to take on the mountains.
Here I offer a listing of my favorite ingredients, but I encourage you to throw in a few of your own favorites. I'll offer some suggested alternatives along the way! Feel free to use slightly more or less of the snack ingredients depending on your preferences. This is a simple and easy recipe so you don't have to worry about being too specific, so long as the ratio of cereal mixture to oil mixture stays about the same as described in the recipe.
(Healthier) Chex Mix
- 3 cups Fiber one cereal
- 3 cups wheat Chex
- 3 cups corn Chex
- Here, you could try substituting rice Chex, multi-grain cheerios, or any other cereal you like
- 2 cups pretzel sticks
- Recipes often also include bagel chips, rye chips, or sesame sticks; experiment with pita chips to add extra crunch and flavor
- 1 cup mixed nuts (I chose peanuts, almonds, and cashews; however, any combination works)
- 1/3 cup mixed seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, hemp, chia, and flax are all good options)
- Nuts and seeds are the most expensive ingredients to this recipe, so use as much or as little as fits your tastes and budget
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- Melted coconut oil or any butter or margarine can be used as a substitute
- 4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
- For bolder flavor, add 2 extra teaspoons Worcestershire sauce and an extra half teaspoon of each seasoning
For a sweet surprise, try adding raisins or other dried fruits.
Step 2: Combine Like Ingredients
- Preheat oven to 250° F.
- Measure out all cereals, nuts and other snack add ins and combine them in a large bowl.
- Measure out and combine 1/3 cup olive oil, 4 tsps worcestershire sauce, 1 tsp seasoned salt, and 1/2 tsp garlic powder in a small bowl.
- Whisk with a fork to combine oil and worcestershire sauce well just before mixing with cereal.
- Pour oil mixture over cereal mixture and mix to combine them well.
Step 3: Bake Chex Mix
- Line two large baking sheets with aluminum foil.
- Evenly distribute the Chex mix in a single layer on the baking sheets. If the size of your baking sheets prevents the mix from being able to spread out into a single layer, then reserve the excess mix and bake a second batch.
- Transfer the baking sheets to the preheated oven.
- Cook for 15 minutes and then take out to stir.
- Repeat three more times for a total bake time of 1 hour.
Step 4: Cool, Store & Enjoy
- After 60 total minutes of cooking, remove Chex mix from oven and let cool for at least 20 minutes.
- Transfer mix into portion sized bags or reusable containers, whichever you usually prefer to bring along on backpacking trips.
Tip: Just before you leave for the trip, transfer some Chex mix to brown paper bags to bring along as snack sized portions. This way, when you've finished your snack for the day you can use the bag as kindling for your fire. You'll get your fire started easier and less trash will be leftover to take up space in your pack for the rest of the trip!
This Chex mix will stay fresh and delicious for a few weeks if kept in a sealed container, so it is great to pack as a snack for extended trips. It is also lightweight and some of the ingredients I add in my recipe make it dense in energy, protein, and fiber; all ideal characteristics for food out on the trail.
Tip: After storing your Chex mix, brush off the aluminum foil used to cover the baking sheets and save it. You can use it later as part of the outer wrapping for the campfire fajitas.
Step 5: Collect Ingredient for Campfire Fajitas
Fajitas have long been one of my favorite meals, and by doing some preparation in advance at home they can become a simple meal to cook over a campfire. When I have these prepared and waiting to be cooked in my pack, there is ample motivation to reach my campsite for the night! Whether this is will be your only night out in the woods for a while, or is the first of many to come; this meal will be a memorable treat.
Easy Campfire Fajitas
- 1 pound chicken (2 large breasts)
- You can substitute steak or pork here if you prefer, just avoid ground meats for this particular recipe. For a vegetarian option, skip the meat and add in extra vegetables like zucchini, mushrooms, and yellow summer squash.
- 1 green pepper
- 1 red pepper
- The color is up to your own preference, any variety of sweet pepper will do.
- 2 small onions ( or 1 large one)
- 1/2 cup Mojo criollo marinade
- Available in the foreign foods section of most grocery stores or at latin food markets. If you can't find it, try substituting with equal parts lime juice and orange juice or make your own.
- 1 teaspoon fajita seasoning
- I used Kroger brand. Most grocery stores will carry a generic, or use your favorite blend.
- Whole wheat tortillas
- Whole wheat tortillas have more fiber to keep you feeling full for longer, but they can be substituted for white flour or corn tortillas. Or for a low carbohydate option, ditch the tortilla entirely.
- A generous amount of aluminum foil
- Frozen water bottle, ice pack, or dry ice for the day of your trip.
This recipe serves about 4 hungry hikers. Adjust the amount of meat based on how many people you'll have in your group. Tent camping isn't conducive to having leftovers, so plan accordingly.
Step 6: Slice Chicken
- Start with thawed meat to ease chopping.
- Cut into bite sized strips.
Tip: Since you'll be cooking over a campfire, a very variable heat source, you'll want to have as similarly sized pieces of meat as possible. This will ensure that everything cooks evenly.
Safety Tip: Raw chicken can transmit harmful bacteria. Be sure to wash your hands after touching the chicken and to maintain a sanitary kitchen area.
Step 7: Chop Vegetables
- Wash peppers and cut out the stem and remove seeds.
- Chop into thin slices of as even size as possible.
- Remove skin from onion and also chop into thin strips.
If opting for extra veggies instead of meat, wash and chop them up along with these during this step.
Step 8: Form Aluminum Foil "bowl"
Aluminum Storage and Cooking Container Preparation
- Rip off a long piece of aluminum foil, about 2 feet long.
- Fold up the long edges to form a lip. Fold in the corners and the short edges to complete your rectangle aluminum foil "bowl".
- Mix up the sliced peppers, onions, and chicken in this bowl.
Step 9: Add Marinade and Seasoning
- Shake Mojo well. Measure out 1/2 cup marinade and pour over meat and veggie mixture.
- Measure out 1 teaspoon of fajita seasoning and sprinkle over mixture.
- Mix the seasoning with the meat and veggies now slightly, but it'll get mixed up plenty as it rides in your pack while you hike.
If you used less meat and veggies to serve fewer people, adjust the marinade and seasoning amounts accordingly.
Step 10: Finish Wrapping Fajita Mixture and Store
Wrap fajitas for storage and eventual cooking
As pictured in the first picture, layer two long pieces of aluminum foil under the bowl that has now been folded closed. One will be longwise vertically and the other horizontally, forming a large plus sign underneath the bowl. Put the piece that is longer horizontally underneath the piece that is longer vertically.
Use these extra pieces to wrap up your bowl.
Then, wrap the entire packet tightly in at least two additional layers of foil.
Extra layers of aluminum foil will ensure a secure seal to keep in all the marinade and will also help once you're cooking the fajitas in a campfire. Don't worry about being precise with the wrapping of your fajitas. If some juices drip out after wrapping it up the first time, add another layer of foil and see the notes for storage. A leak in your packet of fajitas will not make or break how they end up tasting.
Tip: Utilize the aluminum foil you saved from cooking the Chex mix!
You may want to wrap the packet in a single layer of plastic wrap for storage, just in case any juices escape from the foil. If your packet is small enough, try storing the whole thing in a reusuable plastic baggie.
Finally,put the whole packet in the freezer until you leave for your backpacking trip. In order to give the food enough time to freeze solid, prepare this at least a day in advance.
Also put a full water bottle in the freezer at this time. You will use this as an ice pack to keep the fajitas cool while you hike.
Alternatively, plan ahead to use dry ice. If you'll be hiking a long day in hot weather, I'd recommend buying a little dry ice to transport your fajitas with. This is an ideal solution because the dry ice sublimates instead of melting and so you're not left with heavy water or a container to continue carrying. It can be a little expensive, so know that it is not essential. A frozen water bottle or an ice pack will work just fine in cooler climates, and the frozen meat itself will stay cool on its own for some time.
Step 11: Wrap Tortillas
Wrap tortillas for storage and cooking
Fold desired amount of tortillas in half and wrap in aluminum foil. This step can be completed just as you're packing things to leave for your trip.
Step 12: Pack Your Bags
Pack it all up
While packing your backpack for your trip, remember to leave a little bit of room for your delicious dinner you've prepared for yourself!
Use a small flexible cooler or lunch bag to insulate your packet of fajitas. Also put the frozen water bottle or dry ice inside the bag or cooler to keep everything chilled.
Step 13: Cook the Fajitas
Now's when the fun begins! Enjoy a day of hiking fueled by your healthy homemade Chex mix.
Once you make it to your camping spot for the night, collect enough dry firewood to keep a fire going long enough to cook dinner. The fajitas will need at least 20 minutes of cooking time. Your fajitas should have thawed by now, but stayed cool enough to ensure their safety.
Tip: Ensure that fires are allowed where you are camping, and exercise caution while working around the campfire. This instructable assumes that you are familiar with campfire cooking, and that you know how to prevent it injury to yourself and the surrounding forest. Some outdoor recreation areas have special protections that prohibit open fires, so take some time before you leave to ensure that campfires are allowed in your area. Respect the rules within your natural area, they were made for a reason!
Cook the fajitas
- Light and burn the fire long enough to generate some good coals. Let the flames die down a bit to make it easier to work over while the fajitas cook.
- Place the entire aluminum foil packet of fajitas into the bed of coals. Alternatively, build a resting spot for the packet out of sticks in your fire.
- Let the fajitas cook for 10 minutes, and then flip the packet over.
- Cook an additional 10-15 minutes. Some of the aluminum foil on the outermost layer may burn up or start to peel off. This is to be expected and is why you prepared by wrapping the packet in extra layers.
- For the final five minutes, add the aluminum wrapped tortillas onto the fire to warm up.
- Remove everything from the heat being careful to avoid burns.
- Allow the packet of fajiatas to cool for at least 5 minutes before attempting to open the aluminum foil. Do your best not to rip the foil the first time you open it in case it needs additional cooking time. Check to see that the meat is cooked thoroughly; wrap back up and return to heat if it needs more time, or if you just prefer your fajitas a little extra charred.
Step 14: Serve
Serve and enjoy
Once cooked through, remove from heat and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before attempting to serve. A lot of heat will be trapped inside the foil, so exercise caution when opening the foil. Open up the packet and allow everyone to fill their own tortilla with meat and veggies.
Enjoy your quick and easy campfire fajitas!
Tip:Be sure to store all used aluminum foil the same way you would store your food so that bears, racoons, and other forest creatures aren't able to get into it.This meal will be deliciously aromatic, and in most outdoors settings your nose will not be the only one to take notice! If camping in an area known to have active bears, consider cooking upwind of where you'll be sleeping for the night.
Warning: This instructable DOES NOT attempt to provide the full safety considerations for camping in the outdoors. Be sure to check local warnings in your area related to wildlife and other hazards.