All Photos by Ellen Baker | A camping toaster and local bread is another fantastic addition to the camping kit

The scent of our camp-cooked dinner wafts into neighboring campsites as whispers of positive affirmations arise.

“Mmmm, do you smell that?” Strangers become friendly and ask, “what’s for dinner?” with a hint of jealousy in their voice.

Eating healthy, delicious food in the outdoors is not only a soul-thriving necessity, it is also super easy. So say no to day four of that subpar hot dog with a list of ingredients nobody can pronounce and put down the Wonder Bread buns. Bring your creative cooking mind to the camp stove and prepare to never again visit those buns.

OK, maybe one or two on occasion but, come on; we are representing the farm-to-fork capital! There’s something about eating under an open sky and returning to the roots of our ancestors … it just feels good. Below is a collection of tips-for-success when cooking outdoors and a list of my favorite meals while camping, climbing in the backcountry, glamping (glamorous camping) or simply hanging at home in Sacramento.

Stainless steel camping kit

1) Prepare grains and rice before your trip and pack them in a Tupperware.
2) Shop at local farm stands and markets when traveling and camping.
3) Invest in a cast iron skillet (or two!). My kit consists of one large with lid and one small.
4) Always aim to buy organic. All ingredients listed below are organic or, at the very least, local.
5) If you are a frequent winter camper, I highly suggest you get yourself a thermal cooker. Any brand will do but the Thermos/Nissan collaboration is a great one. See dinner recipe below for some inspiration!
6) Frothing wand for lattes (new addition to my glamping kit).

Cooking up a cast iron breakfast in the desert

My Go-To Breakfast: Breakfast Tacos

You will need: corn tortillas, eggs, pimento spread (any will do, but the best is Annie’s Spread, available only in Santa Cruz. Let’s change this, Sacramento Co-op!), avocado, aged cheddar cheese, salt, pepper.

1) Butter the cast iron and break some eggs. I do two tacos per person, one egg per taco.
2) Cover the cast iron with a lid and wait.
3) Butter small cast iron and add tortillas to warm them (super necessary).
4) While waiting, cut avocados and cheese.
5) Once eggs and tortillas are ready, throw all ingredients in the tacos and enjoy.
My Go-To Breakfast Drink:
While most people do coffee, I enjoy a frothed Matcha Latte.
Yes, I do some glamping these days. My matcha calls for:
1) Splash of boiling water with a teaspoon of matcha.
2) One cup milk of your choice heated in a pot.
3) Froth the milk with a froth wand!
4) Add frothed milk to matcha water and enjoy.

My Go-To Snacks: As European as snacks come—Baguette, Cheese and Cured Meat.
This is not sliced bread, sliced cheese and deli meat. This is cheese straight from the local farmer of the town you are camping in. This is bread that was baked that morning by a local bakery. This is meat (or veggies if you don’t eat meat) from the farm less than 30 miles down the road. Support local, support your body, support your taste buds.

Over-medium eggs, toast and pour over coffee at camp

My Go-To Dinner: Lamb and Vegetable Soup (in the thermal cooker!)

This one blew my mind when I first learned about it. A thermal cooker is a crockpot without the need for power. It self-cooks. To use, boil about five cups of water for the walls of the pot, pour in and allow the walls to heat up. As you wait, prepare the soup:

1) Boil water.
2) Chop lamb into cubes, chop onion, garlic, and potatoes.
3) Add the above ingredients along with quinoa or wild rice to the boiling water.
4) Empty the walls of the thermal cooker and pour in the boiling soup water to main pot.
5) Close lid, go about your day for the next 10 hours and come back to camp for THE MOST delicious meal you have ever had in the wild. I promise, you won’t regret it.
Enjoy a new way of camping or bring these ideas home to the backyard. I encourage everyone to push the boundaries of camping cuisine and to share your meals with strangers and neighbors alike.

Enjoy a new way of camping or bring these ideas home to the backyard. I encourage everyone to push the boundaries of camping cuisine and to share your meals with strangers and neighbors alike.

**This piece first appeared in print on page 10 of issue #300 (Sept. 11 – 25, 2019)**

    Ellen Baker

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    Rock scrambling, exploring and taking photos along the way.