MSR Backcountry Cafe: Easy Appetizers for the Exhausted

Story and Photos by Laurel Miller American gastronomy has been responsible for some memorably mediocre finger foods (or canapés, hors d’ouevres, or appetizers, if you’re so inclined). Despite this, we’re all familiar with the ubiquitous cheese ball, spinach dip (served in a hollowed out loaf of sourdough) pigs in a blanket, and, if you’re of a certain age, rumaki. Having inhaled my share of spinach dip in this life, I’m not trying to be an asshole. But it is possible, even in the backcountry, to create starters that are easy, on-trend, and free of processed ingredients. The point of appetizers, as the name suggests, is to stimulate the appetite. Providing a balance of flavors and textures is the key to making them work, as are good-quality ingredients (which don’t require…

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MSR Backcountry Cafe: Spiced Eggplant and Tomato Stew

One of my favorite things about cooking on the road is collecting spices from each place I travel. New flavors and aromas add excitement to my daily meals, and I love always being on the lookout for things I’ve never seen or tasted in marketplaces. What’s even better than buying fun new ingredients? Being given them by new friends! When my husband Tyler and I were in Athens, I was gifted a bag of spices by our couch surfing host, Miwa, who knew how much I love to cook. It wasn’t a Greek spice mix, nor one of Japanese descent like our host herself, but rather one that smelled of India. Miwa didn’t know exactly what it was called, but she said it was one of her favorites. I was honored to…

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MSR Backcountry Cafe: Trail Treats, Part 2 – The Parking Lot

Story and Photos by Laurel Miller Some of us eat to live, others live to eat (admittedly, it’s a First World luxury to be able to make such a distinction). If you’re of the latter persuasion, it’s hard to dispute the psychological and satiety benefits of high-fat/protein/complex carbohydrate post-exercise snacks that go the extra mile. Want to ensure a surplus of stoke at the end of your next outing? Take some inspiration from the below list, and make the traditional parking lot scarf-session just as memorable as the rest of your trip. Obviously, you’ll need to menu-plan and store or pack accordingly, depending upon climate and duration of trip. If you’re feeling especially motivated, fire up a grill if there’s one available at the trailhead, or use your camp stove….

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MSR Backcountry Cafe: Romanian Stir Fry

Story and Photos By Tara Alan  A few years ago, my husband Tyler and I were bicycle touring in Romania. We’d just pedaled through the gypsy village of Glod when we decided to free-camp for the night, stopping to set up our tent in an idyllic, secluded forest on a hilltop high above the town. Tall trees towered above us as we made our home for the night. Tyler got a fire going, while I set about making a tasty supper to satisfy our ravenous appetites. Despite the fact that we were deep in the heart of Eastern Europe and I should have been craving cabbage rolls and hearty Romanian soups, all I wanted was food like I’d find in a Chinese restaurant back home. And thus, I decided to concoct…

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MSR Backcountry Cafe: Soba Noodles With Wilted Greens & Spicy Peanut Sauce

Raise your hand if you’ve ever prepared Top Ramen on a camping trip. Raise both hands if you’ve ever been so famished that you’ve eaten them uncooked. We’ve all been there. And with all due respect to the ubiquitous fried noodles, there are other, healthier options available—ones that won’t crumble to dust in your pack or add a heaping dose of MSG to your dinner. If you’re willing to allow for the additional prep and cooking time, you can throw together a pot of soba noodles dressed with a fiery peanut sauce in just 10 minutes. These slender Japanese noodles are named after their main ingredient, buckwheat, which is a fruit seed related to rhubarb, rather than a cereal grain. Buckwheat is a good choice after an intense workout, as…

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MSR Backcountry Cafe: Steeped Coffee

Steeped coffee tastes great and is easy to make in the backcountry. The equipment is among the lightest and most compact available, and the finished brew is a step above any of the instant coffees. In fact, many coffee aficionados believe this method produces one of the richest cups you can make. The key to success is choosing a good coffee and following the steps carefully. The Coffee: You’ll need about one ounce of coffee per finished cup. It should be ground at a coarse to medium setting and stored in an air-tight container. Look for a coffee from Kenya, Guatemala or El Salvador. Any coffee will make a decent cup, but these tend to be the best. The Water: Use clear, filtered water from a stream or lake. The…

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MSR Backcountry Cafe: Quinoa Magic

Story and photos by Ben Kunz High in the Andean regions of Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia and Peru grows an amazing plant known as quinoa. And what better time to eat quinoa than 2013, the “International Year of Quinoa” as declared by the United Nations! Quinoa contains all the amino acids necessary for our nutritional needs and thus is one of the rare plant-based foods that is a complete protein. It’s a great choice for vegetarians and vegans, not to mention that it’s gluten-free! Quinoa can be found in most conventional supermarkets (often in the health or organic section) and in natural food stores. A cost-savings tip: buying quinoa in bulk often leads to significant savings on this wonder food. For a reasonably sized backcountry meal for two: Add one cup…

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MSR Backcountry Café: French Press Coffee

A French press can produce rich, strong coffee that will supercharge your day in the backcountry. Collapsible presses allow you to use your cooking pot for a brewing vessel, saving weight and space in your pack. Best of all, good French press coffee is simple: get the grind and water temperature correct and you’re likely to have a great cup, or three. The Coffee: You’ll need about one ounce of coffee per finished cup. It should be course-ground and stored in an air-tight container. With French Press coffee, an even grind is important – use a burr grinder rather than the blade type. Normal drip coffee will work if you can’t find the proper grind; our presses are designed to work with generic drip grounds too. The Water: Backcountry water…

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