Wednesday, April 7, 2010

on the road again...campsite cooking in utah's national parks

So, it has happened...I have officially turned 30 and with it become, finally, an adult. It seems that at 30 no one can tell you what to do or where to be, though perhaps they'll still try. But you can just smile, nod and say "hey, I'm 30 and I don't want to." At least that's what I plan on doing.

snow camping in Bryce and the kitchen

Though I don't feel apprehensive about rounding the bend of this great scary number, I do feel a need to say goodbye to the roaring twenties with a bang. That and I love birthdays.

Lucky for me, I'm a gal with a guy who likes to make me happy and also shares my love for spontaneity and adventure. Once, so many years ago, I told him that I love surprises and to this day he never fails to get me good.

aren't we precious?

This year takes the proverbial cake though as he's planned a 16-day surprise road trip. Yep - I started out having no idea where we were going and each morning, sitting on the dash of our beloved camper van is a new card, waiting to be torn open and reveal that day's destination. It is pretty much the sweetest thing anyone has ever done for me and I love it.

Now, at this point you're probably asking yourself "isn't this blog about food? Where are we going with this story??? It better be tasty." And I assure you that it is.

no explanation needed

The thing about a two week road trip is that it certainly takes me out of my kitchen, but that doesn't mean that I stop cooking. As you've all heard me say over and over again, I love a good challenge and nothing is more challenging than producing gourmet food over a campfire and a coleman stove. But we try and often, we succeed.

So, this post is going to showcase a few of the on the road meals we've made and hopefully inspire you all to get outside and Iron Chef your way to a four star meal by the fire (followed by the requisite marshmallows of course).

Day One

Vegas baby and we did no camp cooking that day but went to a seriously off the strip restaurant called Rosemary's that, as luck would have it, was having a ladies night, meaning that all of my drinks and food were half off. That sounds pretty kitchy for a restaurant of this caliber, but hey, it worked for us. And the food was pretty good too - though I've got to admit, their wine pairing was WAY off.

For breakfast the next day we hit up Jean-Phillipe's bakery and I got to try a Nutella brioche that was pretty dang divine. Plus the scenery was surreal given the Bellagio's Alice-in-Wonderland-esque garden.

Day Two

We were off to Zion National Park where we feasted on what I've heard my friends call Juicy Lucies. This is where you place cheese inside your hamburger so that it oozes out melty goodness as you bite into it. We had brought along some of our absolute favorite Happy Canyon free range, milk fed ground beef and I tell ya, it makes all of the difference. I had also whipped together a loaf of that no-knead bread everyone's talking about these days (and it is sadly, oh so easy) and used it as buns. It was an awesome way to start the trip.

all hail the juicy lucy

Day Three

 Another day in Zion (reminds me of a Fugees song) and this time we went into town in search of good BBQ. We'd heard of a joint called the Bit & Spur and by the name alone we thought we were onto something good. Unfortunately, we were wrong and the name was supremely misleading. A maladroit combination of Mexican-Thai-Southwestern fusion, nothing on the menu called our names, but we stuck with it anyway.

Thomas had the ribs, the closest thing to BBQ on the menu and they were dry and sauceless, making it completely unnecessary to use the giant stack of napkins placed before him. I ordered the seemingly benign "Polenta Stack" which was drowning in a confusion of ethnicities and wasn't sure exactly what flavor it should impart. It was an amalgamation of grilled polenta, crimini mushrooms, sauteed poblano chilies, walnuts, rosemary and goat cheese. All of this was sitting atop a strangely orange running mess claiming to be smoked cheese sauce and tasting strangely like licking cardboard. Alas, not our favorite dining experience.

Day Four

Moving on to Bryce Canyon National Park, and another day of great hiking followed by some solid eating. Every time we go camping we always have what we call "ranch mac" for at least one meal. Ranch mac is essentially mac & cheese with some sprucing up. For this iteration we added broccoli, some Rincon Gold premium albacore tuna in olive oil, and grilled onions. This is like taking your mac & cheese to 11 and makes it a wee bit more nutritious as well.

ranch mac

Other potential ranch mac additions include: hot dogs (fancy sausages are even better!), garlic, oregano, spaghetti sauce, ground beef, smoked salmon, peas, fresh tomatoes and really anything you're trying to get rid of.

Day Five & Six

Arches and Canyonlands National Parks...I just want to take a moment to comment on how truly stunning our National Parks are in the US. This is my first time in Utah and I have previously shied away from visiting for the obvious reasons, but man o' man, regardless of weird religious inclinations, they have some seriously beautiful countryside.

overlooking the green river

Arches and Canyonlands are no different, they are crazy expanses of deep and sinuous canyons coupled with awe-inspiring rock arches and precariously perched boulders just waiting to tumble. We only made one meal of note while here and that was good ole' steak and potatoes. There is just something about steak and potatoes that is so satisfying, especially after a long day of hiking. There isn't much to say about this meal other than "yum".


jucy lucy sliders on no-knead bread

1 lb ground beef, preferable high quality grass fed (or even better, milk fed) beef - I promise you will taste the difference.
12 small dice-sized chunks of sharp cheddar (it's got to melt, so don't make them too big)
4 slices of bread, cut in half (sized for sliders), click this link for the no-knead bread recipe
1 vine-ripened tomato, sliced
4 leaves of romaine hearts (arugula would have been nice here too)
4 slices of onion
2 tsp ground sage
1 Tbsp garlic salt
1 tsp pepper
additional salt to taste

- mix together ground beef, sage, garlic salt and salt and pepper
- form ground beef into eight small patties, about two inches in diameter
- place three pieces of cheese on top of four of your patties.
- place the remaining four patties on top of the cheese and pinch the two patties together along the edge to seal
- once your campfire has some good coals, place your burgers on the grill, along with your four onion slices
- cook to your liking, about four minutes per side for rare, eight minutes  per side for well.
- assemble all of the ingredients together on the bread and use your favorite condiments.


  1. I'm so glad you enjoyed the inside-out cheeseburger trick! I didn't know they were called Juicy Lucies but that makes sense! And I'm so glad you are enjoying our milk and grass fed beef on your wonderful journey. I'm Jonesing for a Westfalia SO bad now...
    your friend(s) at the
    Happy Canyon Cattle Co.

  2. I'm soooooo jealous of that trip. Shawn and I took a 2 week road trip through Northern California 2 years ago. I've been dying to get back on the road. It's just so much fun. What a great way to start 30.

  3. i love your food lels because it really is things i think i could manage! the mac and cheese gets my blue ribbon award

  4. Great blogging lady! You never fail to impress me with your campside cooking concoctions. Keep 'em coming!