Camp Recipe: Kate’s Couscous Paella

Over the years of participating in camping and paddling trips, I’ve grown a little tired of the pre-made, just add boiling water meals. They are great for expeditions that require light packing but I have discovered with a little planning, backcountry cooking can be a lot of fun and easy to prepare!

Here is a recipe that I wanted to share from my most recent paddling trip, which was a result of everyone throwing what they had into a pot. This recipe is great for paddling trips or base camping trips where you may be limited to one pot cooking.

Kate’s Couscous Paella

Cooking Kate’s Couscous Paella at Camp

Ingredients:
1 small package precooked shrimp
½-lb salmon fillets
½ lb smoked sausage (I like spicy)
½-cup finely diced red peppers
½-cup finely diced onion
½-cup frozen peas, thawed
1-cup couscous
1-2 vegetable bullion cubes (I use 1 onion and 1 parsley)
1-tbsp of lemon pepper
1-tbsp lemon juice
1-tsp thyme

Instructions:

  1. Cut up sausage into ¼ inch slices. Brown in pot, transfer to a plate, cover and keep warm.
  2. Add the bullion cubes to 2 cups of water, onion, bell pepper and parsley into a 4-quart pot. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  3. Add the salmon fillets and shrimp, cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the fish can be easily flaked with a fork. Transfer the fish and shrimp to a plate and cover to keep warm.
  4. Bring the poaching liquid to a second boil over high heat, and stir in the peas and couscous. Cover and remove from the heat. Let sit for 5 minutes. Flake fish and add it to the couscous along with the sausage and shrimp.
  5. Salt and pepper to taste; serve hot. Makes approximately 4 servings.

Notes: Cut the fish into smaller fillets and put in Ziploc bag with lemon juice, thyme and lemon pepper before the trip; transfer to cooler morning of trip. I would also pre-cut all the veggies and keep them in one bag (with the peas in a separate bag). I used the GSI Outdoor Kitchen 11peice Utensil Set to carry additional spices and oils with the utensils. The couscous can be put into a bag on it’s own and you can also add additional spices to this according to your taste.

Also, I recommend you read Paddling Chef Cookbook, Cooking the One Burner Way and Camp Cooking the Black Feather Guide. These books have great prep and nutritional tips for all your excursions. There are lots of tasty and practical recipes in these books as well and great information about planning meals.

This recipe was a big hit on a recent paddling trip. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we did. If you have any recipes that you would like to share, send them our way or comment below!

Kate,
ACK Customer Service

Colorado River Kayak Camping

I joined a local paddling group through meetup.com to get in on some group paddling action. Shortly after I joined, a meetup was posted for a 2-day/1-night kayak camping trip on the Wilbarger Paddling Trail on the Colorado River in central Texas. This would not only be my first meetup, but also my first kayak camping trip so my fiancé and I eagerly signed up to go.

Gear Check
Kayaks, Paddles, PFDs – check
Sleeping bags and pads – check
Tent – check
Stove – check
Cookware – questionable

My favorite part of planning a trip is the gear check. Of course, we needed to choose some kayaks or canoe so we chose the Wilderness Systems Commander 140 and Tsunami 140 for the trip. Since we were camping and we needed plenty of storage space, we decided on the Commander for my fiancé, he would be the gear mule. The Colorado is a wide and slow moving river so I decided on the Tsunami 140. I figured it’s agility and speed would get me moving right along. As we were laying out our gear for the trip, we discovered that we desperately needed to upgrade our cookware (ok, maybe not desperately, but I needed a good excuse anyway). We snagged a few things that were on the top of the list like the GSI Bugaboo Backpacker Cook set and Kitchen 23 Piece Utensil Set to complete our camp kitchen. A quick run through of the rest of the gear showed everything else was in good condition. We did find that we were running short on dry bags, so I used a tip I got from one of the other paddlers I simply placed a trash bag in the stuff-sack that my tent came in, shoved my tent into it, rolled the top of the bag like you would a dray bag and finally tucked it all in.  It’s probably not ideal for most trips, but it worked pretty well for a one-nighter.

Meet Up
We rolled into the meet up location ready to meet some new folks and have a great trip. The weather was perfect, the water was flowing and the birds were chirping; right off the bat, we could tell it was going to be a great trip. After our initial meet and greet we headed to the drop in point to unload. Since we were doing our own portage, a couple of us stayed with the gear while the others took some of the vehicles to the take out point. Our organizer’s lovely wife shuttled everyone back to the drop in. I volunteered to be the caboose to make sure that no one got left behind or into trouble. We did one final check and headcount and we were off!

Zippity Do Da…
…my oh my, what a wonderful day. The river was calm and meandering, the sun was out with a slight breeze — it couldn’t have been a lovelier day. Early into the trip I discovered the importance of weight distribution and good posture. Since it was my first kayaking camping trip, I did a lot of research on packing a kayak, but practice makes perfect. When we stopped for lunch we did a little bit of gear shifting which helped alleviate some of the balance issues. I don’t have back problems but I don’t have very good posture, this had never been a problem until I was carrying about 30 lbs of extra gear in the kayak. In my slouched position, my back was on fire, but noticed that when I sat up straight it went away quickly — easy fix. I could just hear my mother’s voice saying, “I told you so!”

We covered about 8 river miles on the first day with just a little over half of that at a nice leisurely pace. I have to say the Tsunami performed perfectly (once I rearranged the weight)! There was plenty of storage and it glided like a dream so I was able to give my bad shoulder a rest every now and then without falling behind.

Yay! Camping!
We arrived at our river island camping destination and discovered that most of the prime real estate has already been taken by another paddling group. It wasn’t a huge surprise since the river and weather are ideal for paddling this time of the year. We found another suitable campsite on the other side of the island and quickly began setting up camp. We pitched our Mountain Hardware Drifter 2 tent and Lamina Sleeping Bags, laid out the Therm-A-Rest Trail Pros to let them self-inflate and pulled out our newly aquired camp pillows. Once all the tents were up, we started gathering enough wood to set a signal fire viewable from space. With the fire started and the sun setting, it was dinnertime! Recently I discovered a deep love for cooking and feeding people so I was really excited about putting my new cookware to the test. I had prepped all the veggies, couscous and salmon at home by putting them into separate baggies. Some other folks brought some shrimp and sausage so we ended up with a bit of a melting pot for dinner. It was a huge hit and we were all impressed that it all cooked in one pot. Cleanup was made easy with the camp sink that comes with the Bugaboo Backpacker and the utensil set that included a sponge and camp towel. The night was filled with fire, stars and of course, some adult beverages.

Once asleep, we were woken several times during the night by all sorts of critters. There was a pack of coyotes right across the river, a wild hog that was making it’s way by our camp and various other furry critters running through camp looking for leftovers. It sure was nice to be out of the city for a little while.

All Good Things Must Come to an End
The second day started out with sausage and eggs for breakfast. I tried out the new Starbucks Via Columbian Roast instant coffee that we now carry and was pleasantly surprised with a nice smooth cup of coffee. We packed up camp at a leisurely pace and then headed out. The rest of the trip was easy going with a couple small class 1 rapids and a quick stop to eat lunch and skip rocks. We made it to the take out point at Fisherman’s Park in Bastrop early afternoon with plenty of time to get home and unpack. It was a wonderful trip and I will look forward to going on another outing soon!

Kate
ACK HQ

P.S. I’d like to give a shout out to all the folks who showed up (Frederick, Josh, Roger, Brian, Martin, Nenita, Craig and Nolan)!