One of the best things about camping is living (temporarily) closer to nature. If our bodies and spirits didn’t crave and benefit from that, we’d stay home in our air-conditioned houses, right?
Staying on-site all day preparing meals outdoors is one way to get that fresh air boost. Except for die-hard camp chefs, it’s probably not the way most of us choose when we’re in a spectacular location with hiking trails, recreation events and area activities we want to enjoy. What’s the solution to meal prep that leaves you free to get out and fully enjoy your surroundings? Here are some tips for preparing whole food recipes.
Well, there are always packaged foods. It’s quick to boil a pouch or just eat straight from a box or bag, but somehow living on commercially packaged foods doesn’t enhance that back-to-nature experience. Scratch that.
There’s the designated cooker path. One person stays in the campsite each day to prepare meals so that when hungry hikers (or bikers or swimmers) return, there’s a feast ready for them. Probably not much fun for the one who stays behind — and the group that’s out adventuring will miss sharing their adventure with that person.
Cast iron Dutch oven meals on the campfire? Most of us won’t be comfortable leaving a fire while we’re out exploring the world. Most campgrounds won’t allow it, and wildfire disasters mean an increasing number don’t allow campfires altogether.
Setting a pot to cook on a low flame on the RV stove? For hours unattended? Don’t think so.
Enter multi-function, programmable pressure cookers like Instant Pot, a hot holiday gift item this past season. These pots are very portable. Get one for home and throw it into the RV when you’re ready to roll. Most have at least seven different functions including sauteing, slow cooking, steaming, pressure cooking and more.
With methods like Pot-in-Pot cooking, you can make rice and your whole food stew in the same pot. With planning, you can set up breakfast to cook overnight, enjoy it in the morning while you pressure cook dried beans for dinner, then add other ingredients and finish it up when you get back — or slow cook that dinner all day while you’re out seeing the world. Or using the pressure cook function, you can make a meal in no time on your return. If you miscalculate the water you need…these pots have built-in safety mechanisms that shut them off. And good news: you have one pot to clean. It’s a very easy job even in those small camper sinks. Very.
You know how many worries you’ll have about flames inside or out? Zero. And how many people will miss out on the day’s adventures? That’s right, also zero. And you can enjoy a gourmet, real food meal back at camp. For steak, burger and hot dog eaters … well, that’s an easy add-on in a place where you can have a campfire and when you have the energy left after a day of hiking. Just pull them out of the ‘fridge or freezer and throw ’em on the fire.
Gourmet Whole Food Recipes
Here are some awesome whole food recipes adjusted for an Instant Pot or similar appliance:
(With rice, serves 3-4 hungry campers — 10 minutes prep time, 50 minutes cook time)
- Urad dal (Whole black lentils), 1/2 cup
- Dark red kidney beans, dry, 2 TB rounded
- Spanish onion, 1 large, finely chopped
- Ginger root, 1 TB, peeled and finely minced
- Garlic, 1 clove, peeled and finely minced
- Plum tomatoes, 3
- Green chilies, 1/2 of one chili unless you love it really hot
- Turmeric, 1/4 tsp.
- Cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp.
- Chili powder, 1 tsp.
- Coriander, 2 tsp.
- Garam masala, 1/2 tsp.
- Extra virgin olive oil, 1 – 2 TB
- Cream (you can use boxed plant-based milk), 1/2 cup
- Salt, 3/4-1 tsp. (to taste)
- Cilantro, a few leaves chopped for garnish
- Add the olive oil and cumin seeds to the Instant Pot and Saute until the seeds crackle. Cancel the IP while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
- Mince the garlic, peeled ginger root, and green chili. Add to the IP.
- Finely chop the onion and add to the IP. Turn on Saute again, and cook until soft. Cancel the IP.
- Cut up/chop the tomatoes or use one 19 oz. can. Add water to 3 cups. Add to IP along with remaining seasonings except for garam masala.
- Add the dried black lentils and dried kidney beans.
- Close the lid of the IP and close the vent. Turn the IP on at High Pressure for 40 minutes. If you like the black lentils (Urad Dal) to retain their shape better, just add the kidney beans, set the pressure at 20 minutes, do a quick release, add the black lentils, stir, close lid and vent and cook at high pressure for the remaining 20 minutes.
- When done, allow the pressure to release naturally for 10-15 minutes. If the pressure isn’t yet fully released, do a quick release and remove the lid.
- Add the garam masala and let it blend for a few moments.
- Add cream or non-dairy milk.
- Remove from the IP, and garnish with cilantro.
Serve with brown Basmati rice, which takes about 10 minutes to cook in the Instant Pot.
MUSHROOM BARLEY SOUP
(Makes 3 quarts — 10 minutes prep time, 20 minutes cook time)
- 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 Spanish onion, petite diced
- 2 large carrots, sliced on the bias
- 2 stalks celery, sliced
- 4 medium to large plum tomatoes, petite diced (or a 19 oz. can)
- 1/4 – 1/2 lb. pearl barley, depending on how thick you like your soup
- 1 lb. baby belle (small Portobello) mushrooms, quartered
- 2 cups chopped greens (kale/spinach/chard, any or all)
- 6 cups water
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 – 1/2 tsp. hot paprika
- Add the extra virgin olive oil to the Instant Pot.
- Petite dice or chop the onion and add to the Instant Pot. Turn on IP to Saute for 5-10 minutes while you prep the remaining veggies.
- Slice the carrots on the bias and add to the onions in the IP while continuing the Saute.
- Slice the celery and add to the IP while continuing the Saute.
- If the veggies are soft or you’ve completed 10 minutes of Saute time, Cancel.
- Add all remaining ingredients: the petite diced tomatoes (a 19 oz. can will work), the 6 cups of water, the cut-up mushrooms, chopped greens, barley, water and seasonings. Stir.
- Close the lid on the IP and close the vent. Set to High Pressure for 20 minutes.
- When the 20 minutes is complete, open the steam release until you can open the lid, about 10 minutes, then remove the lid, check seasonings and serve. Mmmm…mmm…good.
GREEN POTATO SOUP
- Potatoes, 5-6 medium or about 5 cups peeled, quartered and sliced
- Carrot, 1 large chopped or about 1 cup
- Celery, 1-2 large chopped or about 1 cup
- Onion, 1/2 large Spanish, chopped or about 1 cup
- Garlic, 1 clove minced
- Greens (kale and spinach are good but any dark greens are fine), 4-5 big handfuls or about 4-5 cups coarsely chopped
- Salt, 2-1/2 tsp.
- Hot paprika, 1/4 tsp.
- Nutmeg, 1/2 tsp.
- Extra virgin olive oil, 2 TB
- Water, 5-6 cups (save one cup of potato water to add in if needed at the end)
- Cream or plant-based milk, 2 cups or one 14-oz. can
- Wash and prepare the veggies. Petite dice the onion, mince the garlic, cut the carrot and celery into smallish pieces.
- Set the Instant Pot on Saute for 10 minutes. Add the garlic, stirring, for a moment, then the onion, carrot, and celery, sauteing until soft or when the IP goes off at 10 minutes. Cancel cooking.
- Quarter the peeled potatoes then cut into 1/8″ slices. You should have about 5 cups.
- Add the potatoes to the other veggies in the Instant Pot, and barely cover with water — you must add at least 1 quart.
- Close the lid of the pot, close the vent, and set the pot on High Pressure for 10 minutes.
- When done, release the pressure and remove the lid.
- Remove 1 cup of liquid and set aside.
- Remove about 1/4 of the remaining soup mixture, mash and return to pot.
- Add seasonings (salt, hot paprika, and nutmeg), and Saute briefly until flavors meld.
- Stir in milk or cream.
- Use that cup of potato cooking liquid you set aside to adjust soup consistency to what you like.
FAVORITE VEGETABLE SOUP
(Makes 2 quarts — 10 minutes prep time, 40 minutes cook time. This is one of those catch-all soups, a good way to use up any leftover raw veggies before they spoil, great for experimenting!)
- Extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup
- Garlic, 1 tsp. minced
- Onion, 1/4 LG, Spanish, petite diced
- Carrots, 3 cuts on the bias
- Celery, 2 stalks cut on the bias
- Green beans, 1 cup, cut into 1″ pieces
- Summer squash, one, 1/4-1/2″ dice
- Frozen organic corn, 1/4 cup (or scrape from a cob)
- Frozen organic peas, 1/4 cup
- Idaho potatoes, 2 medium, washed and cut into 1/4-1/2″ dice
- Greens, 1 cup, cut up
- Salt, 2+ tsp. (start with 2 tsp., add to taste at the end)
- Oregano, 1 tsp. crushed
- Hot paprika, 1/4-1/2 tsp.
- Basil, fresh, 2 TB minced
- Rosemary, 1/4 tsp. crushed
- Cannellini beans, 1/2 cup dried
- Diced tomatoes, one 19-oz. can
- Water, 1 Qt. to cook beans plus 2-4 additional cups
- Wash the dried Cannellini beans (or any white bean). Place in Instant Pot with 1-quart water. Close lid and vent, set Pressure to High for 20 minutes. Do a quick release. Empty beans and cooking water into a different container, and set aside.
- Wash and prepare all veggies.
- Add the extra virgin olive oil to the Instant Pot. Set on Saute for 10-15 minutes.
- Saute the minced garlic and petite diced onion until soft. Add the green beans, celery, carrots, summer squash, zucchini, and potatoes, reserving the chopped greens. Saute and stir briefly.
- Stir salt and seasonings in with the veggies, reserving the basil.
- Add the diced tomatoes or about 4-6 fresh petite diced plum tomatoes.
- Hit Cancel on the Instant Pot.
- Add the beans with their remaining cooking liquid. Add additional water until the soup is the consistency you like.
- Close the lid and vent of the Pot. Set Pressure on High for 10-15 minutes, depending on how soft you like your veggies. When finished, release the pressure and remove the lid.
- Add the chopped greens including the basil to cook until soft in the still-hot soup.
Bonus secret: A great way to avoid veggie waste is to put all scraps from washed veggies into a plastic bag and refrigerate. When you collect enough after several meals, throw them all into the Instant Pot with plenty of water and salt to taste, close the lid and vent, and set on High Pressure for 40 minutes. Drain, and store the broth until needed. It makes a great base for things like this Favorite Veggie Soup.
So plan your cooking time with a multi-function programmable pressure cooker that lets you take advantage of all the great places to explore while you’re out camping.
Want to learn more camping and cooking tips? Check out our blog!