Written by Bonnie and Billy Johnson | photos by Story Moto ADV. Posted in Tech-n-Tips
After many unsatisfying meals, lack of focus and energy on the trail, and years of feeling depleted upon returning home from our adventures, we decided it was time for change. The mission: Find a way to travel super-light while eating healthy, affordable food… while also actually enjoying our meals.
This wasn’t easy. In truth this mission didn’t seem to matter so much in our youth. We could get away with it—and a hard night of whiskey to boot—and still ride like the dickens the next day. However, as time waits for no one, we learned the hard way that in order to feel good and ride to our potential we had to change our approach to nutrition. We set about that task by spending the next three years on the road experimenting with a great many fireside meal variations. While we made discoveries, the most significant was that the “trick is in the bag,” i.e. your moto staple pantry.
To some degree, we all carry such a staple pantry, even if it’s merely coffee, sugar and condiment packets. We decided to take that to another level by selecting a solid set of staples that work across the board in a number of recipes, and we selected and created these recipes to complement one another in terms of preparation and feasibility on the road. Another huge challenge we added along the way was to ensure this system was simple enough to have value to all camp cooking skill levels.
At length, by way of huge trial and error, we kind of nailed it by saving loads of money, getting to camp earlier, and riding with real focus and stamina as a result. And, we arrived home feeling invigorated instead of incapacitated.
As a sample, here are three recipes—two of which are completely shelf-stable and straight out of your panniers. The third requires a quick market stop for ground beef and is an excellent special occasion feast if the need arises and circumstances allow. Enjoy!
Chilaquiles Breakfast Taco
A fully loaded breakfast taco. This Mexican twist on a basic scramble goes next level by adding quick and easy saucy chilaquiles.
Ingredients for One Serving:
- 1 TBSP chopped bell pepper
- 1 TBSP chopped onion
- 1/2 TBSP oil or butter
- 1 TBSP cheese of choice
- 2 links chopped smoked sausages (we use Duke’s but any brand will get the job done)
- 2 eggs scrambled (or 4 TBSP OvaEasy Egg Crystals + 6 TBSP water)
- 1 flour tortilla roughly the size of your cooking pan
- 1 handful of tortilla chips or any type of corn chips
- 2 packets hot sauce, taco sauce or a small can of El Pato Salsa de Chili Fresco
- Pinch salt or other seasonings you like
- Sliced avocado (optional)
Before You Begin: Chop the peppers, onions and sausage. If you want to also make Day Ride Soup (see below), chop extra peppers, onion and sausage. Scramble the eggs in a small freezer bag. Place the tortilla chips in a second freezer bag.
Time to Cook: Heat oil or butter over a medium low bed of coals or cook stove. Sauté the peppers, onions and sausage for a few minutes. Pour the scrambled eggs over the vegetables and sausage. You can pull back the edges of the egg with a spatula and let uncooked egg flow into that space to speed up cooking. Sprinkle the seasoning onto the eggs. Add hot sauce, taco sauce or el pato sauce into the freezer bag with tortilla chips. Coat the chips with sauce and add the chips on top of the egg mixture, spreading them out evenly. Place your flour tortilla on top of everything. Once your eggs have set up, flip everything so that the tortilla is face down in the pan and the eggs are on top. Add cheese and let it melt a little. Top it all with slices of avocado, more taco sauce or any other toppings you’d like. Flip half of the tortilla over the other half like a taco or if your tortilla is big enough you can roll it up like a burrito!
Day Ride Soup-Easy Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo in a Thermos
This is a quick, delicious and filling lunch or dinner option you can make in your Thermos at breakfast. All you do is boil some water, mix it all in your Thermos and hit the trail. There are so many things you can cook in a Thermos; we have even poached chicken!
Side note: The name “gumbo” derives from the West African word for “okra.” I didn’t put okra in this recipe but if you can find it DEFINITELY add it! If not, I chop the celery a little larger than normal and pretend it’s “sort of” okra.
Ingredients for One or Two Servings:
- 1 TBSP chopped bell pepper
- 1 TBSP chopped onion
- 1 TBSP Minute Rice
- 2 to 3 TBSP powdered gumbo roux or base (we use Louisiana or Tony Chachere’s brand)
- 2 links smoked sausages sliced into coins (we use Duke’s brand, they have Andouille!)
- 1/2 chicken bouillon cube
- 1 small stalk of celery sliced about 1/4-inch thick
- 1 drained can Bumble Bee medium or tiny shrimp
- 3/4 cup boiling water
- Pinch of Cajun seasoning to taste
- Sprinkle filé powder (optional)*
- Thermos-style container (ours is a Hydro Flask 12 oz.)
Preheat Thermos with boiling water (let it sit for 10 minutes). While the Thermos is heating, get all ingredients ready. Chop the peppers, onions, celery and sausage. You can chop and sauté them ahead of time with breakfast. It will fully cook in the Thermos as it sits. Drain the can of shrimp. This meal is really tasty with canned crab meat too. Once the Thermos is heated pour the water into a camp pot and bring it back to a boil. Add all the ingredients to your Thermos except the shrimp. Slowly pour boiling water into the Thermos and give it all a good stir. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. We add filé powder but also sprinkle more just before we eat. Lastly, add the drained shrimp. It’ll take a good 30 minutes for the Minute Rice to cook, but no worries, as it won’t overcook. This soup has stayed piping hot and delicious for us for up to eight hours.
Note on rice: I only use Minute Rice or some type of instant rice. You have to watch out for over-cooking when using regular rice and pasta when cooking in a Thermos. You can also cook your rice at camp before you eat and pour your gumbo over it.
*Filé powder, also known as gumbo filé, is an herbal powder made from the dried and ground leaves of the sassafras tree (Sassafras albidum), native to eastern North America. The roots and bark of this same plant were the original base for root beer. It used to be frowned upon for human consumption because the plant contains a weak carcinogen called “safrole.”
Side Note: The name “gumbo” derives from the West African word for “okra”. I didn’t put okra in this recipe but if you can find it DEFINITELY add it! If not, I chop the celery a little larger than normal and pretend it’s “sort of” okra.
Group Night Shepherd’s Pie
Meat and potatoes, two of the big boys of camp ingredients come together in this recipe to bring you layer upon layer of delicious comfort food. The perfect one-pot meal to warm you up while you chill at camp. When riding solo, grocery stores are usually happy to wrap smaller portions of ground beef.
Ingredients for Two or Three Servings:
- Pack of instant mashed potatoes
- Water for potatoes (check the back of the mashed potato package)
- 2/3 cup of any cheese you’d like
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1 TBSP Italian seasoning plus salt and pepper to taste
- 1 brown gravy packet + water for gravy
- 1 14 oz. can mixed vegetables
Before You Begin: Slice slivers of cheese with a camp knife or veggie peeler and set aside. Prepare the instant mashed potatoes in a freezer bag with boiling water. For more flavor, add a little butter, salt and pepper or chicken bouillon cube. Mix the slivers of cheese into the mashed potatoes or save it to top your shepherd’s pie or both. Next, open the can of mixed vegetables and drain all liquid.
Optional: Shepherd’s Pie usually calls for Worcestershire sauce. Sometimes I can find condiment packet of Worcestershire sauce at sandwich shops. I’ve also made small Worcestershire straws at home, just like honey straws. if you don’t have it, no worries, this recipe will still taste awesome without it.
Makin’ shepherd’s pie: Heat a camp cook pot on a medium-high heat bed of coals or camp cook stove. Brown the ground beef and break it up so it’s a little chunky. We like to throw in a little chopped onion, too. Use lean ground beef so you won’t have to worry about too much grease to drain. Once the meat is browned and drained, add the Italian seasoning, crumbled bouillon cube and Worcestershire sauce if using. Sauté everything in the camp cook pot one minute longer. Take the pot off the heat and sprinkle in a pack of brown gravy mix. Slowly add water to the meat and stir until the mixture is wet but not runny. The amount of water added depends on the gravy mix brand, so check the back of packet for instructions first. I’ve also used the liquid from the can of mixed vegetables. You want to aim for drier than sloppy joes or else your shepherd’s pie will just fall apart. Next add the drained can of mixed vegetables and blend all ingredients together. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. Top the meat with the prepared mashed potatoes. Top the potatoes with the cheese. Cover the pot with a lid or tinfoil and place it back on a low heat bed of coals or camp cook stove. If you are using campfire coals, put a few hot coals on top of the lid or the tin foil. Heat over low coals or camp stove flame for 10 minutes. For an extra precaution you can use tin foil balls under your pot to raise it off the coals.
Billy Johnson has been an extreme adventurer, for 35+ years, and an avid dual-sport adventure rider for 25. His first time living on a motorcycle for more than a year was in 1988. Bonnie Johnson is a lifelong chef, restaurant owner, ex-boxer, chess champion, artist and adventurer. Bonnie and Billy started adventure riding full time with their children in 2018 and are currently still on the road in a tactical rescue mini-pumper International diesel (named Ned) converted into a swanky moto-life basecamp. To learn more about CAMP-UCOPIA: The Ultimate Adventure Camping Cookbook, visit StoryMotoADV.com.