On The Road With Beans and Grains

It’s been almost two weeks since I posted last. Husband and I are on an extended vacation in our 27′ travel trailer. We left home on May 28 and won’t return until the middle of July. We are spending the month of June in a gorgeous National Forest Campground just North of Durango, Colorado. This is the third year in a row that we have made this trip.

Haviland Lake National Forest Campground

So how does one enjoy beans and grains in a travel trailer at an elevation of 8500 feet above sea level? There are some challenges!

The first problem is the elevation. I have never successfully cooked beans at high elevation. I assume that there are people who can do it – but I am not one of them. So most of the beans that I enjoy during the month of June will either be from a can or eaten at a restaurant. The elevation does not seem to be an issue when cooking grains. So I can prepare whole grains to my hearts content, with a few caveats.

Our trailer has a “full kitchen”. It has all of the same appliances as my kitchen at home but they are smaller. We have a refrigerator, stove top, oven and microwave. In addition to that we brought along a toaster oven, a small crock pot and we have an outdoor gas grill.

I should tell you that my crock pot is really small. It holds 6 cups or one and a half quarts. That is the perfect size for us. It leaves us just the right amount of leftovers. I got mine at our grocery store for less than $10. You can get a similar one at Amazon. It is the Proctor Silex 1/2-Quart Round Slow Cooker.

We almost never use the oven in our trailer. It just generates too much heat in this small space. If we turn on the oven for even a few minutes, the whole trailer gets uncomfortably hot even on the coldest days. The stove top creates a similar problem though to a lesser degree. We do use it for quick jobs like scrambling an egg but we try to avoid using it to boil a pot of pasta. Too much heat! So most of our cooking is done in the microwave, the toaster oven, the crock pot or on the outside grill.

Cooking a big pot of whole grains on the stove top would be problematic. But I think I have a way around this! I have an idea that I can cook many types of grains in my crock pot. I did some research ahead of time. I have some recipes in hand. I will be experimenting with that.

Vegetable Barley Soup –  My first run at cooking grains on the road, was to prepare a crock pot full of vegetable barley soup. I am on record as loving soup. I think it is a perfect meal to have on hand. You can just heat it up, serve it with a salad and some bread or crackers. You are in business.

Barley Soup, Good Bread, and Condiments

This was a refrigerator soup…I just used whatever I had in the fridge. I cut up a zucchini, a small new potatot, and some celery and carrots. I added those to my small crock pot along with a quarter cup of barley and enough water to fill the crock pot 2/3 full. I let that cook on high for 3 hours. By that time everything was very tender. I added a half can of crushed tomatoes, oregano and paprika.  We ate that with a salad, some grilled bread, Louisiana Hot Sauce and some pesto from a tube for a bit of additional flavor. Very delicious. Very satisfying. And the little crock pot cooked the soup nicely without heating things up at all!

Hobo Packs – Daughter is grown now but in her youth she went away every summer to Camp Champions in Marble Falls, TX. She loved camp. She loved everything about it. She loved it so much that she went on to be a camp counselor while in college and later she worked for the camp as a staff member. One of the many things she learned at camp was to make Hobo Packs. This has become a real favorite at our house.

A Hobo Pack is nothing more than a foil packet that is stuffed with all the the things you like and the thrown on a hot grill. Cooking times vary of course. It is as much an art as a science.  A Hobo Pack is great anytime because it is quick and easy to prepare and the clean-up is a breeze. You can find a lot of recipe ideas at the Reynolds Wrap website.

I decided to make Hobo Pack enchiladas. I had a packet of Green Chili Enchilada Sauce from Frontera Grill, corn tortillas, canned black beans, chopped zucchini, grated cheese, a large sheet of heavy duty foil and I hot grill. It’s almost that easy!

Ingredients for Hobo Pack Enchiladas

I used a piece of heavy duty foil (or you could double up on regular foil) that was sprayed with Pam. On the bottom of the stack I put a small dollop of enchilada sauce. Then I layered a corn tortilla, drained black beans, chopped zucchini, a nice sprinkling of cheese and some more sauce.

Layering the Enchilada Hobo Pack

I reapeated that layer one more time and then topped with one last tortilla and enchilada sauce to cover. Tightly seal the foil packet. You don’t want it to leak!

Ready for the Grill

I put the packet on a screaming hot gas grill. It temperature gauge said that it was 500 degrees. Husband was cooking some chicken at the same time so he very kindly put up a “foil bridge”. Chicken makes me gag so he tries to keep it from splattering on my packet. Husband is very thoughtful!

Keeping my foil pack away from Husband's chicken!

It just needed to cook long enough got the zucchini to get tender, the cheese to melt and the flavors to come together. I cooked mine for about 15 minutes. Then I opened up the packet, sprinkled additional cheese on top, set it back on the grill for the cheese to melt.

Melted Cheese on Top

I served that with a salad of iceberg lettuce and radishes. I topped it off with some sour cream and had lots of salsa on the side. This was delicious! It was such a quick and easy way to make enchiladas! I can think of lots of variations on this meal; different sauce, different beans, more vegetables, shredded beef or chicken, etc. We will make this again. And again. And again.

So Delicious! The photo does not do it justice!


Rice in the Slow Cooker – My first attempt at making a pot of grains in the crock pot was with white rice. OK – I know you aren’t supposed to eat white rice. It’s brown rice all the way. But I like white rice. Husband likes white rice.  I find it easier to cook than brown rice. It seemed like a good place to start experimenting with grains in the slow cooker.

I don’t have any photos of this so you will have to take my word for it. I wanted to make something creamy and comforting so I used a can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup.  Here is my recipe:

  • One can of Cream of Mushroom Soup into the crock pot
  • Fill the empty soup can with water and pour that in the crock pot
  • Now fill the empty soup can with rice and put that in the crock pot
  • Add some chopped green chilies if desired
  • Stir to combine
  • Turn the crock pot on high
  • Check after an hour – give it a stir.
  • Mine was done in about an hour and 45 minutes but I found recipes that said it might take as long as 3 hours.

This is a fantastic way to make rice on the trailer. It didn’t create any significant heat. It was creamy and delicious. And I could get it started and then go off and do fun things for a while.

I am very happy that I know this recipe. It is a good addition to my list of go-to’s!

Bean and Grain Burgers in the New York Times

Last week I posted about making bean and grain burgers. I adapted my recipe from several several recipes that I had seen by Mark Bittman. As it turns out,at about the time that I was posting, The New York Times was running an article on the same subject; meatless burgers made out of beans, grains and vegetables.

The article was contributed by Martha Rose Schulman, a regular columnist in the food section of The Times. She writes an article called “Recipes for Health”. Her interest is in serving delicious, healthy, seasonal foods. She is an award winning cookbook author (Books By This Author), celebrity chef, educator and food consultant.

On March 26 her article, titled “Tasty Burgers Without the Meat” is not only interesting but gives 4 recipes for meatless burgers.  She likes to serve her burgers as a stand alone item (without the bun). Her recipes sound terrific and are all accompanied by a photo.

Her recipes have the same basic ingredients as the burgers I presented last week – but they have some interesting flavor combinations that I am sure are great.The recipes in The Times are for:

  • Mushroom and Grain Burgers (barley and chickpeas)
  • Quinoa and Greens Burger with Asian Flavors (quinoa and white beans)
  • Curried Lentil, Rice and Carrot Burgers (rice and lentils)
  • Beet, Rice and Goat Cheese Burgers (rice and white beans)

In her article she recommeds a book by Lukas Volger, “Veggie Burgers Every Which Way: Fresh, Flavorful and Healthy Vegan and Vegetarian Burgers – Plus Toppings, Sides, Buns and More“.