Tasty & Quick Cooking

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When you think about it, the most important thing after water and shelter is the food you eat. The quality and quantity of which can make or break a trip, and definitely sets the tone for your well being!

Kayak Camp Cooking Everglades kayakfari camping florida bay canoe adventure outback flats bank Keys Flex Maslan primitive photo photography

Outback cooking – the REALITY .. is your cutting board shown here under UV light!

Kayak Camp Cooking Everglades kayakfari camping florida bay canoe adventure outback flats bank Keys Flex Maslan primitive photo photography

Kayak outback cooking – the FANTASY

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Kayak Camp Cooking Everglades kayakfari camping florida bay canoe adventure outback flats bank Keys Flex Maslan primitive photo photography

Hello outback cappuccino in the sand!

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In today’s busy world, camping can actually present a great opportunity for a fun, simple and flavorful cookout loaded with lots of flavor and plenty of nutrients to nourish your body. In this article, I am focusing mostly on cooking solo & if you’re quick, you can be eating in as little as 10 – 15 minutes!

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Kayak Camp Cooking Everglades kayakfari camping florida bay canoe adventure outback flats bank Keys Flex Maslan primitive photo photography

Tasty dinner with tasty beer – a winning combination! :)

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Gastronomy is highly subjective, but needless to say, whenever I cook, people take notice! This is because of the wafting aroma of a freshly cooked meal. I almost never bother with freeze-dried or other prepared camping meals. Instead I like to bring out fresh fruits and veggies, then prepare something on the spot. This is a lot easier than you might think!

Since I live in South Florida, temperatures are usually warm and in the 60’s to 80’s or maybe even 90’s inside a kayak hatch. Also since there is no refrigeration, there are a few things to keep in mind. One is to pick the vegetables and fruits which can last several days even in this heat. The other is to wash, but not clean or prepare them in any other way, as this will cause them to spoil and wilt sooner, rather than later! The third thing to decide is just how much time you are willing to spend cooking, and pick your ingredients accordingly.

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Kayak Camp Cooking Everglades kayakfari camping florida bay canoe adventure outback flats bank Keys Flex Maslan primitive photo photography

Eggplant & yellow squash in beer sauce with caramelized onions.

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Only very simple and inexpensive equipment is needed for solo cooking. You will need a camping “Mess Kit”, usually consisting of several nested aluminum bowls, trays & covers. While you can fry with this kit, you’ll find that the thin aluminum makes for uneven cooking with hot spots. So I recommend a small 5″ or 6″ diameter cast iron pan/skillet for personal cooking needs. It’s heavy, but that makes it great for cooking, and on a boat it’s not that big a deal carry! Next a small but powerful camping stove like the MSR PocketRocket pictured below.  In addition you’ll need some fuel like the can below. These are sold almost anywhere, are cheap and last a long time. I make it a point to always have two of these fuel canisters, with one unused backup. This is because occasionally you can get one with a defective valve/seal that won’t allow any gas out (then you’d be eating raw)! I also like to label the date of  first use so you know how much gas is left (you can tell by weight too, but it can be hard to tell). Don’t forget a lighter and/or some matches too!

Additionally, you’ll need a preparation surface, like a cutting board or a fillet kit. I’ve been using a cheap $10 kit with cutting board and rusty knives for years that works out great! Also a folding camp chair will save your back and provide comfort and a wind break if needed.

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Kayak Camp Cooking Everglades kayakfari camping florida bay canoe adventure outback flats bank Keys Flex Maslan primitive photo photography

My simple cooking kit: fuel, stove & lighter!

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From my experience, I can recommend the following veggies:

Zucchini, Yellow Squash, Potatoes, Cauliflower or Broccoli florets, Carrots, Pea Pods, Onion, Garlic, Bell Peppers & Hot Peppers, also Cashews or mixed nuts. These are durable and will last for a few days in your kayak hatch. If you’re going out for only one night, you can bring ‘soft’ veggies that you will use right away that same evening or next morning.

I don’t actually bring any cooking oil or spices nor salt, instead I rely on the mixing of the flavors and my ‘secret’ ingredient solution: canned seafoods!

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Kayak Camp Cooking Everglades kayakfari camping florida bay canoe adventure outback flats bank Keys Flex Maslan primitive photo photography

Dried salted fish, anyone ?? ;)

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Now before you dismiss this idea, consider the benefits, the variety offered and ease of storage! For instance, one of my favorites is Octopus (or Pulpo) that comes in garlic oil. Another great option are Mussels (Mejillones en escabeche), also maybe some Squid (Calamares en su tinta). The great thing about all of these is that they come ready to eat, include their own oil and/or sauce and add a lot of flavor & protein to the dish!

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Kayak Camp Cooking Everglades kayakfari camping florida bay canoe adventure outback flats bank Keys Flex Maslan primitive photo photography

Example dinner #1 of Octopus & Yellow Squash, served with toast.

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Kayak Camp Cooking Everglades kayakfari camping florida bay canoe adventure outback flats bank Keys Flex Maslan primitive photo photography

Example dinner #2 of Mussels with Bell Peppers & Onions & toast

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Kayak Camp Cooking Everglades kayakfari camping florida bay canoe adventure outback flats bank Keys Flex Maslan primitive photo photography

Example dinner #3 of Squid in it’sown ink with Potatoes & hot peppers

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The main thing to keep in mind is that the “harder” the ingredient, the longer it will take to cook. Thus potatoes, carrots, cauliflower/broccoli, even eggplant, etc will need to boil or be steamed to cook through, and this will take some time, maybe 10 – 20 minutes! So if you want a quicker meal, skip these and just go with the “softer” ingredients like zucchini, peppers, peas, onions and the like (which only take about 5 – 10 mins tops). As a side dish, you can simply open up a bag of mini-toast that’s ready to eat for less than $1 ! Alternately, Couscous requires only some hot water and is equally quick and cheap.

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My basic cooking procedure demonstrated here as an impromptu cooking show on the picnic table on Little Rabbit Key in Florida Bay:

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Kayak Camp Cooking Everglades kayakfari camping florida bay canoe adventure outback flats bank Keys Flex Maslan primitive photo photography

Start by cutting up the potato into small pieces

Kayak Camp Cooking Everglades kayakfari camping florida bay canoe adventure outback flats bank Keys Flex Maslan primitive photo photography

Next pour out the oil and/or sauce into the skillet

Have a solid area to chop and cook on. You don’t want your stove to fall over. Don’t use a stove in your tent!

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Kayak Camp Cooking Everglades kayakfari camping florida bay canoe adventure outback flats bank Keys Flex Maslan primitive photo photography

Chop up your eggplant and mix in with potatoes after a few minutes

Kayak Camp Cooking Everglades kayakfari camping florida bay canoe adventure outback flats bank Keys Flex Maslan primitive photo photography

Cut up your onion and garlic .. ARRRGH!

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Chop up all your ingredients so they’re ready to go into the pan

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Adjusting your flame to medium will prevent burning and saves gas!

If there isn’t enough sauce, just add some more beer & cover!!

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Kayak Camp Cooking Everglades kayakfari camping florida bay canoe adventure outback flats bank Keys Flex Maslan primitive photo photography

You’ll need to cover the skillet to sautee everything for about 10 – 20 minutes or until potatoes are cooked through

Kayak Camp Cooking Everglades kayakfari camping florida bay canoe adventure outback flats bank Keys Flex Maslan primitive photo photography

Add the onions into the mix when it’s almost done

Sometimes it will look like there’s just too much to fit into the fry pan, but remember that it will all simmer down. I use my mess kit pot as the sautee lid because it has extra room!

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Kayak Camp Cooking Everglades kayakfari camping florida bay canoe adventure outback flats bank Keys Flex Maslan primitive photo photography

Finally add the Mussels and garlic at the very end, fry briefly over higher heat

Kayak Camp Cooking Everglades kayakfari camping florida bay canoe adventure outback flats bank Keys Flex Maslan primitive photo photography

Your dinner awaits .. with serving suggestion of beer!

I like to save all the garlic until the very end, usually stirring it in together with the seafood (already precooked in the can). This preserves potency and provides max flavor!

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I hope you like garlic!

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A perfect choice for beer is Shock Top, which comes in cans and tastes good even at ambient temperatures!

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Salud !

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You won’t believe how good food tastes when you’re out camping. After a day or two of paddling and exploring, your taste buds will reset & you’ll notice subtle flavors and more textures that often get drowned out in much of today’s commercially made meals! You won’t even miss the extra salts and sugars that you might be used (or addicted) to .. this is your body telling you “thank you for satisfying my genuine hunger with wholesome food!”

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Kayak Camp Cooking Everglades kayakfari camping florida bay canoe adventure outback flats bank Keys Flex Maslan primitive photo photography

Another variation, this time with couscous

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Kayak Camp Cooking Everglades kayakfari camping florida bay canoe adventure outback flats bank Keys Flex Maslan primitive photo photography

Don’t be afraid to bring some hot peppers & gaRlic !!

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Kayak Camp Cooking Everglades kayakfari camping florida bay canoe adventure outback flats bank Keys Flex Maslan primitive photo photography

One way of dealing with wind is to block it with your chair

Kayak Camp Cooking Everglades kayakfari camping florida bay canoe adventure outback flats bank Keys Flex Maslan primitive photo photography

Another way to block wind is with a chimney collar. However it did not help this ill-fated outback flambe~

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Experiment with different combinations. I like the octopus with potatoes & the mussels with eggplant.  The squid is great with couscous and spices!

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Kayak Camp Cooking Everglades kayakfari camping florida bay canoe adventure outback flats bank Keys Flex Maslan primitive photo photography

This mouth watering meal can be yours in about 15-20 minutes!

Kayak Camp Cooking Everglades kayakfari camping florida bay canoe adventure outback flats bank Keys Flex Maslan primitive photo photography

Cast iron skillet works great and is a perfect size for one person

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Of course, the irony of being out there, surrounded by all kinds of local seafoods while you are dining out on Octopus from Spain or further around the globe is not lost. So another, even tastier, local option is to bring some fishing gear and get yourself some fresh fish for supper. Or better yet go with friend(s) who love to fish, and they will often catch your dinner for you!  ;)

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Kayak Camp Cooking Everglades kayakfari camping florida bay canoe adventure outback flats bank Keys Flex Maslan primitive photo photography

Chunks of real redfish being prepared for awesome fish tacos!!!

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Kayak Camp Cooking Everglades kayakfari camping florida bay canoe adventure outback flats bank Keys Flex Maslan primitive photo photography

Fresh fish filet simmering in lime juice and beer

Kayak Camp Cooking Everglades kayakfari camping florida bay canoe adventure outback flats bank Keys Flex Maslan primitive photo photography

This could be the weekly mercury consumption limit of everglades sourced fish~

Be aware that due to heavy metal mercury contamination of the Everglades ecosystem, there are guidelines and limits for consuming freshwater and inshore fish. The good news is that surface water contamination appears to be on the decline, however the metals already in bottom sediments will persist for decades more.

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This recent article points out that (any) effect is cumulative, thus there are weekly consumption limits. Pregnant women and children should abstain according to the Park.

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For the casual camper and angler,  probably not too much cause for worry, just something to be aware of!

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Kayak Camp Cooking Everglades kayakfari camping Mercury Advisory florida bay canoe adventure outback flats bank Keys Flex Maslan primitive photo photography

NPS Mercury Advisory found on backcountry chickees

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Kayak Camp Cooking Everglades kayakfari camping florida bay canoe adventure outback flats bank Keys Flex Maslan primitive photo photography

Delicious soup for a cold night! Yes, it can happen even in Florida..

Kayak Camp Cooking Everglades kayakfari camping florida bay canoe adventure outback flats bank Keys Flex Maslan primitive photo photography

Cooking over an open fire works great for larger groups but can take some time

If you’re part of a larger group, and you have the extra space, communal meals are the most fun! Larger cook pots can be lashed on top of your deck upside down for transport and will make for lots of servings in camp!!

A simple grill setup over a camp fire can also work great and is flat & compact. But then you might be tempted to bring some meats to throw on top, and things get more complicated. Your call!

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Kayak Camp Cooking Everglades kayakfari camping florida bay canoe adventure outback flats bank Keys Flex Maslan primitive photo photography

Communal meals allow you to bring all those little things you’re used to!

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It’s true – cooking brings people together !!

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Kayak Camp Cooking Everglades kayakfari camping florida bay canoe adventure outback flats bank Keys Flex Maslan primitive photo photography

Burning books and roasting marshmellows; it’s all good! ;)

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Kayak Camp Cooking Everglades kayakfari camping florida bay canoe adventure outback flats bank Keys Flex Maslan primitive photo photography

Diego, Curious George & Co. relax by the campfire after a satisfying dinner!

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Now a word about outback java .. i.e. your cup of coffee. You could go any number of ways, from simple caffeine abstinence to a delicious cappuccino pressed fresh!

My personal favorite based just on taste alone is to bring some ground arabica coffee beans and prepare with the Mukka Express or another similar coffee press. Other options are the chilled coffee drinks from Starbucks etc.. to Red Bull or even the new Starbucks Refreshers beverage (which doesn’t taste like coffee at all).

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Kayak Camp Cooking Everglades kayakfari camping florida bay canoe adventure outback flats bank Keys Flex Maslan primitive photo photography

Fresh brewed delicious morning cappuccino

Kayak Camp Cooking Everglades kayakfari camping florida bay canoe adventure outback flats bank Keys Flex Maslan primitive photo photography

Mukka Express looks top heavy on stove.. and is! Be careful, you can’t sue the Park for spilling hot coffee on yourself!!

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If you’re gonna make cappuccinos, I find that the single serving aseptic packages of milk or soy vanilla flavored Silk work the best and need no refrigeration. You can use the leftover for your cereal or oats or Farina!

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In summary, eating well is easy and delicious. It takes a minimum of extra packing, and you will always look forward to your next time out cooking an outback dinner!

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You never go back !!!

Kayak Camp Cooking Everglades kayakfari camping florida bay canoe adventure outback flats bank Keys Flex Maslan primitive photo photography

If you had the space in your kayak, you could bring all this out

Kayak Camp Cooking Everglades kayakfari camping florida bay canoe adventure outback flats bank Keys Flex Maslan primitive photo photography

.. or a more realistic version of a kayak camp dinner for one!

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Happy trails and Bon Appetit!

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Dobrou chuť !

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© 2012 Flex Maslan / kayakfari.com / digital029art.com. All original photographs, artworks and music in this portfolio are copyrighted and owned by the artist, Flex Maslan, unless otherwise noted. Any reproduction, modification, publication, transmission, transfer, or exploitation of any of the content, for personal or commercial use, whether in whole or in part, without written permission from the artist is strictly prohibited.

All rights reserved.

DISCLAIMER:: The maps and images on this site are not intended for navigation, I am not a guide; use any and all information at your own risk! Your mileage may vary .. so use good judgement before venturing out!

With that said..
Blessings friends!

:)

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Bobby Z
    Sep 05, 2014 @ 01:30:30

    Thanks for the tips. Your illustration was easy to follow.

    Reply

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