As we were preparing for our four day trip to Arches National Park, of course the number one thing on my mind was food. What on Earth was I going to take that was going to be as close to Paleo as possible, yet still not be a huge hassle? We didn’t have a camping grill (and it’s kind of expensive to run out and buy all the cool camping gadgets), and I didn’t want to spend a lot of time chopping and cooking while we were on vacation anyway. I considered doing some batch cooking and sealing the meals in Food Saver bags, then heating it up in a pot over the fire. I accepted that I hadn’t planned ahead enough to keep things 100% Paleo and we were going to have to rely a little more on things like instant oatmeal and Cliff bars, but we were leaving in less than 24 hours and I still didn’t have a solid grasp on dinner.
My BF is pretty much the King of Camping. He told me it was kind of a tradition of his to have burgers at least one night on the trip and seemed a little disappointed that I hadn’t considered it. After a little back and forth we decided tin foil dinners were the way to go. I was slightly apprehensive, as I’d never successfully prepared a tin foil dinner. I spent a couple of hours preparing enough dinners for three nights (I did three versions: tilapia with artichoke hearts, chicken with sweet potatoes and onions, and these mushroom turkey burgers – but the turkey burgers were by far my favorite).
A couple of side notes here. One, I will confess, in my 37 years on this planet (35 of which I have lived in Utah), I never knew Arches was a national park, nor did I know how touristy it was. After going, I simply cannot believe how close I’ve lived to such an amazing place and never gone. While we were out hiking, I heard many different languages and accents. People travel to Arches from all over the world, and I’ve had it in my backyard all this time. Seems wrong. Two, I think some people go on vacation hell bent on having a bad time. We encountered so many ornery, entitled people (but lots of cool ones, too). PSA: if all you want is a perfect picture, get back on your tour bus and go down to the Visitor’s Center. I’m sure there’s a gift shop with post cards that will suit your needs. Three, some of the coolest places cannot be reached by vehicle. You have to get out there and hike to it. As a bonus, because not as many people are willing or able to hike, you’re going to find yourself surrounded by less tourists which, for me, is a win/win. This is what you can see when you’re willing to get out there and work for it:
Finally, taking a recovery day after a four day camping and hiking trip is a very good idea. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be cleaning sand out of my car, clothes and bags for hours.
You might be wondering how you can eat healthy while camping. After all, you don’t have access to your kitchen so you’re fairly limited by what you can take that’s ready-to-eat. Here’s some examples of what we did: 9 minute eggs (pre-cooked and peeled, then stored in an air-tight container), oats, natural granola with almond milk and fresh berries for breakfast (wash berries and seal in an air-tight container). Lunch (when we weren’t hiking) was packets of tuna, nitrate-free lunch meat, lettuce leaves, avocado and fruit. Dinner was the aforementioned tin foil dinners. Snacks were the biggest thing as we spent most of our time out on the trail. We had Cliff bars, homemade trail mix (so it only had our favorites), jerky and yes, some gummy bears. I took a few cans of coconut water for recovery after the longer hikes.
1⁄2 cup chopped uncooked sweet potato
1⁄4 chopped onion
1 large handful baby spinach leaves
1 turkey burger, thawed and cut in half
3-4 baby bella mushrooms, sliced
Sea salt, black pepper and onion powder
Tear off a large piece of tin foil, about one and a half feet long. Lightly grease. Arrange sweet potatoes and onion in a thin layer along the center of the foil, as if making a burrito. Lightly season with salt, pepper and onion powder. Top with spinach, burger and mushrooms, then season again with salt, pepper and onion powder.
Bring the short sides of the foil together at the top and fold over at least twice, folding a 3rd time if necessary to eliminate as much air as possible. Fold each end in several times until foil pack is tight. Keep on ice until ready to cook.
When ready to make your campfire dinner, ensure the coals are whitehot. Set the foil dinner directly on hot coals and let cook for about ten to fifteen minutes or until you can start to smell cooked food. Be careful, as it is very easy to overcook. Serve with sliced avocado on the side.