To the very end of the long dirt roads of northern Saskatchewan, a group of us planned to go. All food up there is incredibly expensive, given the 12+ hour journey it has to make from main cities and truck routes. As you can imagine, allergy-friendly options would not be available. Plus, we had arranged to stay in a motel with nothing more than a mini-fridge and a microwave between the group. I had to bring my own food, but how would I do that? Many foods wouldn't even survive the journey in the hot van, nonetheless two weeks in a mini fridge.
After careful thought I figured out a solution: a Crock-Pot. I already had one of the smallest sizes you generally find in stores, 4.5 quarts. Really though, it's way too much for one person, which is why it was went unused at home. A quick search on Amazon revealed a 2.5 quart option though, HURRAY!
But now, what to cook? I took a chance on the cookbook Amazon recommended with the Crock-Pot, Vegan Slow Cooking. It's meant for smaller servings and smaller slow-cookers. I figured I'd get at least one or two recipes in it, which is a win if you're allergic to tomatoes, looking for Crock-Pot recipes. When it arrived, I sat down and started flagging possible recipes and, BEHOLD! 18 separate recipes I was interested, and able, to try ranging from breakfast to dinner. The recipe for Golden Veggie Bouillon Powder was genius and pretty much stable for the trip up. I decided to dehydrate all the fresh produce I needed to save space, weight and freshness (because of lack of refrigeration). A little extra liquid would be added to compensate.
For breakfasts I chose the Apple Chai Oat Groats and the Indian Carrot Halwa Oatmeal. For lunches and dinners I used the Pear Chickpea Fall Stew, New Orleans Red Beans and Rice (paired with millet instead of rice) and Root Veggie Barley Risotto. So far all the recipes I've made have tasted great! Highly recommend it.
To add a bit of variety I also used some internet-searched recipes:
Pineapple Coconut Farro (I replaced the farro with barley with no issues) as a breakfast option.
Pumpkin Pie Steel Cut Oats...because, you know, I like my oats!
Slow Cooker Pumpkin, Chickpea and Red Lentil Curry was a clear favourite of mine from the start. I added dried butternut squash to increase the nutrition of it even more. FYI: the recipe fills the tiny Crock-Pot to the max, might want to half the recipe if your slow cooker is the same size as mine.
Mushroom Barley Stew was terrific, but I did double the carrots and add celery. I seem to like my vegetables. If only I was more keen on them in my early years. I even don't normally like mushrooms, but I chopped up the store-bought dried mushrooms tiny and they were indistinguishable from the barley.
There's NO Chili in my Chili was surprisingly good. I had no idea what to think given the ingredients. No tomato...but pumpkin?...soy sauce? This recipe bursts out of 2.5 quart slow-cooker, so consider halving it. Well, at least it burst out of the Crock-pot after I added a ton of extra dried bell peppers and a little extra liquid. Keep in mind that tomato-free chili will naturally be different in texture, thickness and taste (just like my White Bean Chili), but it is no less delicious.
In the weeks leading up to the trip I carefully dehydrated all the veggies and fruit that I could, bagging them by recipe with their spices and grains. I carefully wrote out a list of what was still needed grocery-wise in Saskatoon before our long drive. It was the most preparation I had ever put into a trip but I was incredibly thankful that I did because I had no need to worry while I was traveling.
I also packed a few food containers (because leftovers were the next day’s lunch and/or dinner), a strainer (for rinsing and dishwashing), cutlery and a utility knife with a small cutting board (I did buy a bag of fresh apples to eat with Sunbutter). A small vacuum-insulated food jar was also perfect because I would set the Crock-Pot on during most nights and then in the morning I got up, filled my food jar, and it stayed hot until lunch, wherever our travels took us. And of course a can opener, mine from Pampered Chef, to open all the cans of beans and coconut milk.
The Crock-Pot went into my carry-on along with a few other cooking items. We got the last of the groceries in Saskatoon when we arrived and after our long drive all I had to do was put the Crock-Pot on with the contents of one ziploc and some liquid. A few hours later I was enjoying a hot meal! I would alternate between making breakfasts and lunches/dinners. Even towards the end of the trip, I was still enjoying new, hot meals and my poor friends were still working on their flat of Chunky canned soup.
I'll admit that this particular trip was on the extreme end of the scale for trip-food preparation. Some say that this would be good for emergency kits, what do you think? My next blog post discusses some of the easier trips that followed, stay tuned!