Vegan camping

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This summer, we took a road trip to the East Coast of Canada. We brought a tent and reserved campsites at National and Provincial Parks from New Brunswick to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. We made memories that will last a lifetime.

We’re seasoned campers – we love sleeping in a tent and hearing the sounds of the forest around us. We love waking up with the sun and the chirping birds. I love cooking over a fire pit – potatoes in the coals, veggie burgers flame broiled – everything just tastes better when we’re camping.

This summer, though, everything was different. When we arrived in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, there was a fire ban. We have a simple isobutane camping stove for making coffee but we didn’t have much fuel. We couldn’t light a fire in the fire pits provided. We ran out of fuel after making a pot of coffee and we were stuck.

Aside from our usual stock of fruits and vegetables, we had a cooler stocked with veggie burgers, vegan sausages, veggie dogs and tofu without a way to cook any of it. None of the stores we stopped at carried isobutane so we had to eat at restaurants for the first few days on the island (more about that later).

Eventually, we stumbled on the only store in Cape Breton that carries our fuel and we happily bought a couple canisters and a frying pan. Now we had a way to cook our traditional camping food.

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Snacking on dry cereal and reading a book on our campsite.

With so many choices for vegan burgers, hot dogs and sausages, you can easily blend in with the other campers. But when you run out of that and you’re in a fisherman’s paradise without another vegan around, it’s time to get creative.

With our minimal camping stove, a pot for boiling water and a frying pan, we found a few things in the rural grocery stores to feed our hungry mob. Our favourite by far was a noodle stir fry.

Note: We don’t usually buy instant anything but when you’re camping and using fuel that is as hard to find as these canisters were, you do what you must to conserve the fuel.

Vegan noodle stir fry

  • one package of instant noodles
  • oil (sesame, canola, grape seed – whatever)
  • one block of tofu
  • seasoning (Herbamare is great but use what you can find and what you like)
  • one package of broccoli slaw (or another packaged salad with broccoli, brussels sprouts and kale)
  • soy sauce packets (if you have them)

Cook the noodles according to the package. Drain and put aside.

Chop the tofu into cubes and fry it in the oil with the seasoning. When browned, add the slaw and cook until wilted. Add the cooked noodles and stir to mix. Add the soy sauce and mix again.

That’s about the easiest vegan meal you can source in an isolated town. Another idea we enjoyed – minute rice and beans.

Camping rice and beans

  • minute rice
  • can of beans (black or red kidney are great)
  • canned corn (normally I’d eat frozen but we were pleasantly surprised)
  • seasoning

Cook the rice according to the directions on the box. When it’s done, add the drained and rinsed beans and the drained canned corn. Season to taste and enjoy!

Breakfast

When we’re car camping, I put quick cooking oatmeal in little mason jars with raisins or cranberries, sugar, cinnamon and I leave some space for hot water. (You could use instant oatmeal but I prefer the texture of the quick cooking oatmeal – less mushy.) The jars should be 3/4 full.

Hot oatmeal to go
Pack your oatmeal in jars to reduce waste.

When you’re ready to eat, pour boiling water in the jars, screw the tops closed, shake them up a bit and let them sit for a few minutes to allow the hot water to cook the oatmeal. My kids love having their own individual jars.

If you’re pressed for space, fill a ziplock bag with oatmeal, sugar, dried fruit and spices. Maybe include seeds – we’re eating a lot of hemp and chia seeds these days. And you can make your homestyle oatmeal in a pot. There’s nothing like a warm bowl of oatmeal on a cool morning.

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Sunset in Prince Edward Island National Park

There are so many benefits to getting kids out into natural spaces – they benefit from exploring, finding creatures, get to know the provinces they’re learning about in school and they learn to love and protect the environment.

You can make some amazing meals over the fire or you can use some cooking short cuts and head out to enjoy the world around you.

 

Miso-glazed eggplant

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This meal was a combination of two things I love: miso and Japanese eggplant. The eggplant bakes until it’s buttery soft then it’s brushed with a glaze and broiled until the glaze is bubbling. We had it with wheat noodles topped with broccoli, yellow pepper, carrots and tofu.

My kids are iffy with eggplant – and I’m okay with that. They don’t have to love all the vegetables I love as long as they’re getting enough variety on their plates. I wasn’t planning on sharing these eggplants with the kids but I decided to let my daughter have a taste and she loved it. So I had to share.

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Miso-glazed eggplant

  • 2 Japanese eggplants (long and thin)
  • 2 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp mirin
  • 1.5 Tbsp miso (whatever kind you like – the light miso is the mildest)

Preheat the oven to 400. Slice the eggplants in half lengthwise. Brush them with one Tbsp of sesame oil and bake for 15 minutes with the skin up.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining sesame oil with mirin and miso. Stir until mixed.    (I’ll admit, I wasn’t so patient with this step!)

When the eggplant is soft, remove it from the oven and flip them over so the skin is down. Slice it a few times – not through to the skin but through the soft interior. Brush the glaze on the tops of the eggplants. Place them under the broiler and broil until bubbly (only a few minutes).

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The kids simply had noodles, veggies and tofu with sesame seeds on top. The sauce is light – sesame oil, mirin and soy sauce.

I bought them starter-chopsticks and they’re learning to use them quite well. They didn’t give up and switch to forks! It’s great for their small motor skills.

That’s all for tonight – have a great night and let me know what you’re cooking!

Ginger miso noodle soup

Here’s another super easy weeknight meal that can easily be customized and it will boost your immune system through the cold evenings. It’s a ginger and miso broth over noodles and tons of vegetables. Feel free to use whatever you have in the fridge for this one!

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The kids’ soup has a lot of vegetables. They’re big and easy to identify – which makes it easy to pick out the mushrooms for my son.

This meal will take about 30 minutes – maybe less if you’re handy with a knife. Let’s get started!

Broth

  • fresh ginger root (about 2 inches)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 carrot
  • 5 cups of vegetable broth or water
  • 2 tsp miso paste (it doesn’t matter what kind of miso you use)

Soup

  • package of asian noodles of your choice (I used rice noodles)
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 head of broccoli
  • 1 block of tofu (firm)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar snap peas or other podded peas
  • 1 1/2 cups mushrooms

Prepare the broth. Slice the ginger and garlic into thin slices. Chop the carrot into chunks. Throw the ginger and carrot in a large pot over medium heat for a couple minutes. Add the garlic and stir for another minute. If it sticks to the pot, it’s fine. Just scrape it off with the wooden spoon. When they’ve started to brown and smell nice, add the vegetable broth or water and simmer it all together for about 15 minutes while you make the rest of the soup.

Prepare the noodles according to the package directions.

Chop all the vegetables into bite sized pieces. Cube the tofu.

When the broth has been simmering for 15 minutes, use a slotted spoon to remove the ginger and the carrot (if you want – my kids like the overcooked broth carrots so I keep them in). Scoop out 1/2 cup of broth and add the miso to it before returning it to the pot – you don’t want to overcook the miso since it’s a fermented food.

Toss the vegetables and tofu into the broth and let it cook for a couple minutes. While it’s cooking, put the sesame seeds and hot sauce out on the table.

Divide the noodles among the bowls. Pour the broth and vegetables over the noodles and you’re done. Enjoy!

Vegan noodle soup
I’ve topped my serving with sesame seeds (both white and black) and hot sauce.

 

Greens with roasted chickpeas, salty seed mix and a tangy avocado dressing

Vegan salad with roasted chickpeas and avocado dressing
Lettuce topped with avocado dressing, roasted chickpeas and a salty seed mix.

People often tell me they couldn’t be vegan because they could never give up cheese. I don’t miss it at all. In fact, when I think of where cheese comes from and I remember the smell of the dairy farm I visited (that inspired me to give up dairy), it turns my stomach.

One food that I do miss, though, is caesar salad. In my early teenage years, I loved caesar salad dressing. I didn’t like that caesar salads don’t include much in the way of vegetables so I would order a garden salad with the dressing and cover it in fresh pepper.

I’ve tried every vegan caesar salad dressing I could find and I was always disappointed. This dressing on my salad above gets its creaminess from avocado and it hits the spot.

Full disclosure – it didn’t pass the kids’ taste test. It was too tangy for my daughter and my son wasn’t interested. They had spaghettini with tomato sauce and roasted vegetables without any salad.

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Spaghettini with tomato sauce and roasted vegetables.

I topped their tomato sauce with a salty seed mix.

Salty seed mix

  • 2 Tbsp hemp seeds
  • 2 Tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp olive oil

Combine the seeds, nutritional yeast and salt in a little bowl. Drizzle them with olive oil and toss it well to mix. Use to top pasta and salads.

Roasted chickpeas

Very simple stuff. Preheat the oven to 350. Drain a can of chickpeas and dry them off with a towel. Toss them in olive oil, salt and garlic powder and bake for 20 minutes. Bake further if you want them crunchy.

Vegan spaghetti dinner with salad
Salad, spaghettini with tomato sauce and vegetables

I won’t call my salad caesar because it isn’t a match but it is a nice change if you’re looking for a nice creamy dressing. Here’s how I make it.

Creamy avocado dressing

  • 1 avocado
  • 1 clove of garlic (I roasted my this time but raw is more caesar-like)
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 cup water

Blend the ingredients together and serve.

To make the salad, I topped the lettuce with dressing to ensure ultimate coverage and topped it with the chickpeas and a sprinkling of the salty seed mix.

Find the recipe for the kid-friendly tomato sauce here. The roasted vegetables were chopped to bite-sized pieces and roasted at 425 for 30 minutes.

Bon appétit!