We are well-practiced at trip preparation. The vehicle is always primped and preened, our camping supplies are continuously stockpiled but what about us? Are we always ready?
I don’t know about you but there is so much incentive to up the health antics before embarking on an adventure. Obviously, we should try to lead healthy lives consistently but life get’s busy and we forget what we “should” be doing and just get by.
So what do I do before heading out on a trip?
Get EXERCISING – I love bush-walking and exploring by foot when we are off adventuring so I need to be fit. However, here’s my hurdles. I live in the middle of nowhere. No gym. I commute a fair way to work so spend most of the working week either at work or getting there. I study full-time (cue crazy person music) It’s now coming into WINTER. My days are shorter and I get home at night-fall. On the flip-side I have miles of country side to walk and explore but not enough time to do so consistently. I use the Wii-Fit. Our place is small so I don’t really have room for a treadmill or my favourite; the cross-trainer but the Wii-Fit takes up NO ROOM and it tracks my progress. I love the step classes and the yoga! It’s like having your own gym with a cartoon character as your instructor. PERFECT.
DRINK more WATER. I don’t drink enough water. I don’t know why I just don’t some days I forget to even have any at all. I know, I know what am I thinking? I have started to segment my water into portions. I divide the day in four and drink 500 mls in each quarter. It seems more manageable. I add some fresh lime juice to give some extra taste if I’m struggling and go for some carbonated water after dark 😉 to spice things up. I have cut out soft-drink all together and NO sugar-free alternatives. I don’t feel as lethargic and it sure “flushes” out the system. My kidneys will thank me!
EAT carefully. In normal life I try to follow the 80/20 good food 80% of the time while allowing “bad” food 20% of the time. However, lines do become blurred and 20% turns to 30%, 30% – 40% and well you get the point. So at the moment I’m resetting. No SUGAR and limited processed foods. I am trying to go for whole foods where-ever possible. I am lucky because we live in the middle of no-where, I have to cook so I’m responsible if it’s a healthy meal or an unhealthy one.
What do you do to self-prep before a BIG adventure?
There are many different things you need to live comfortably on the road. Somewhere to sleep, shower, cook and of course a lot of storage space. At the moment we sleep in our Oz Tent, we shower using a 12 volt shower system and we cook using our double burner gas stove. We have the bare essentials to make life comfortable while living on the road. There are a few items we have found that we just wouldn’t want to live without.
“Put another log on the fire, Cook me up some bacon and some beans”
It’s been mentioned before but our camp oven is one of the items most frequently used items. One of the reasons we particularly like free camping is that you can utilise an open fire and in turn use our camp oven to cook delicious meals. It makes even the most simple and boring meals…
Food, cooking and general stores play a major role in your trip preparation. The “Keep it simple stupid” premise comes to mind. Heading off the beaten track with limited space does not automatically mean you need to pack only dehydrated food and eat dry powder out of the packet and wash it down with a swig of water.
However, you do need to think outside the square.
Here is some hints and tips to get you thinking.
Store water in multiple containers to avoid contamination or complete loss of total water supply.
Dehydration can wreak havoc all year round. Powerade or similar is a perfect addition as it now comes in the powder form which takes up less space in your stores.
Use Baby Wipes/Sanitiser to cut down on your water usage.
Select compact cooking equipment that has multiple uses. I.E a gas stove with a grill feature (which creates a BBQ and stove in one)
Take-away containers are great for storing leftovers for lunch the next day as are heavy-duty snap lock bags.
Bring a Thermos. This allows you to boil water in the morning and already have the water ready for smoko time for those quick stops
A camp oven while not essential is great for camp fire cooking. 😉
A piece of weld mesh folded over with a piece wire extended makes the perfect toaster.
Use natural cleaners to limit impact on environment and use products with dual uses.
Don’t forget cleaning cloths and tea-towels. Paper towels are perfect.
Meat is best purchased Cryovaced or cyrovac yourself. This not only means it will last longer but you will avoid blood running through your fridge.
Spirits in bottles take up less space than pre-mixed cans and beer when it comes to alcohol.
A billy is perfect for both boiling water for tea/coffee, using as a saucepan and also to for boiling water for washing up.
Don’t forget matches, a gas lighter and fire starters.
Aluminium foil is a god send multiple uses – use instead of saucepan lids too
Dried spices add to taste and don’t take up a lot of space.
You can double a sauce-pan or similar for mixing bowl.
Come up with a list of basic meals pre-departure and make sure you have the basic ingredients.
Longlife milk and/or powder is great and also long life cream. These can be purchased in small 6 packs as well for less wastage.
Washing up bucket can be utilised in your vehicle for storage during the travel.
Long-Life fruit and veggies that travel well include potatoes, pumpkin, onions, garlic, carrots, tomatoes(if padded to avoid bruises)
Don’t forget washing and washing up…. a small container of washing up powder and washing up detergent… unfortunately holidays still include household duties of doing the laundry and washing the dishes.To be continued……
Working on a busy cattle station as the cook has taught me a lot of lessons. One of them is waste not want not. Out here we don’t have the luxury of running down to a shop every five minutes. If we run out of something or if something doesn’t turn out right we may have to wait for weeks to replace and restock. By no means am I an expert. I have only been here for about three months now, but I am learning slowly and want to share the following with you.
So far on my journey these are my three most frequent left overs:
Why do I love having these left overs? It means I can do something simple the next day. It means I can stretch one meal over a few days in different ways. It keeps everyone happy. Variety is the spice of life. Or so they say.
Now I always cook too much rice. Always have always will. Plus I know I am not the only person out there to be guilty of this. Even if I learnt the trick of how to cook the right amount I would probably still cook more. Why? Because of what to do with leftover rice. Here are my favs!
Rice Croquettes. Mmmmm! Delish. Easy and so yummy you won’t even have to try to get rid of them.
Fried Rice. Excellent to serve with a Chinese style stir fry the next night or even as a side dish for a BBQ!
Spicy Rice Salad. Excellent accompaniment for a meat dish or BBQ.
This is rarely a big left over provider. However, I always cook a little extra because everyone loves potatoes. Right?
Hash Browns/Potato Cakes. Good to add to a bacon and egg breakfast or even a smoko snack.
Shepard’s Pie. Everyone loves this dish. It is so simple.
Cheesy Mashed Potato Bake. Yummo.
Leftover cake you ask? Never! Well sometimes but this one is more importantly for those never-fail failure cakes. Ones that crumble as they come out of the tin. Or those that are slightly burnt but still good. I have tried and tested the following three ideas and all of them are delectable.
Cake Truffles. A combination of crumbled cake and melted chocolate and whatever else you might like. My fav so far is mixing the crumbled cake with cream cheese and dipping in chocolate icing. Yummo.
Slice. Adding crumbled cake to any refrigerated slice is a good way to not only save a failed cake but also extend it.
A New Cake. This one I have done a few times and successfully. Who would have thought. Simply beat the cake with another egg, some milk and extra SR flour. It comes at as a moister, denser cake and doesn’t fall apart. Brilliant.
One boy, a father of two with a crazy resume that lists stilt walking and fire twirling as two of his previous occupations. It is now Michael’s self-employed day job at Dracula’s pays the bills. Another boy, a bachelor with 2 plates and over 20 screws holding him together after a critical motorbike accident. Nick’s injury even prevented him from attending his famous, uncle Ian Turpie’s funeral and from continuing his five year career at BCF. Together both boys have been mates since high school now almost thirty residing in the land of sun and surf on QLD’s Gold Coast. No one could possibly guess what they do for fun.
Camp oven cooking is an art and these boy’s are modern-day Picasso’s. Exposed to camp oven cooking at a mate’s 21st, out on a small banana farm hidden in the mountains of NSW. The parents of the birthday boy catered to all sixty guests with camp oven roasts. It was this night after a great feed, some beer and one hell of a view over the ocean planted the seed for bigger things to come.
At the next opportunity, Mick Viller and Nick Turpie purchased their very own camp oven. With camp oven and mates in tow they headed to Mumma Mick’s place out near Millmerran, QLD. The fire burned all weekend long and the boys cooked breakfast, lunch and tea camp oven style. As luck would have it Millmerran is the home of the famous Camp Oven Festival held annually in October. This small coincidence was the next piece in the puzzle.
After a few brews they decided to enter the camp oven cooking competition. As with all competition they thought best to practice first. Late one night fooling around on YouTube looking for ideas, tips and how to’s the boys had a light bulb moment. Why don’t we do this exact thing? Film ourselves camp oven cooking, with hints, tips and recipes and post online. To start off they used an iphone to video. The quality wasn’t too crash hot. But from little things big things grow and grow things did. These early videos led to cooking demonstrations at camping shows and a strong online, social media presence lead to the naming of “The Cast Iron Boys
”. Now armed with an Olympus Digital SLR camera to film themselves and a DVD/ book package the sky is the limit.
The Cast Iron Boys have a committed social media following which in this day and age is necessary for success. They now have sponsors including Southern Metal Spinners, Oztrail and Tentworld with many more wanting to jump on board. Their demonstration calendar is filling up quickly and you are sure to see them at a camping show near you in the near future.
The other day some of the worker’s headed to Linda Downs (owned by the same people) to muster. They were gone overnight leaving a few of us behind to enjoy the peace and quiet. It made dinner time a breeze with less mouths to feed which for me meant less time in the kitchen. When they came back from Linda they had a new addition to add to the Tobermorey family.
It is yet to be officially named but there is all kinds of crazy names being thrown around. Names like Linda, Jenny, Donkey, Donkett, Georgina, May and god knows what else. I have been calling it Donkey for lack of a better name. Even though it is female I’m sure it won’t mind for now.
Other than our new arrival we are settling in really well and are so glad we made the decision to come here and give it a go. It is starting to feel like home and everyone is really easy to get along with. I find most of my day doesn’t even feel like work and the early mornings aren’t bothering me that much. I am not normally a morning person so for me that is a big thing.
I thought to finish off today’s post I would list some of the food I have serving for the masses here on the station to tease your taste buds. I am open to ideas and suggestions so feel free to comment with your feedback.
(I need all the help I can get)
Upside Down Pineapple Cake
Coconut Ice Cake
Golden Syrup Cake
Apple Crumble Cake
Plain Tea Cake
Choc Chip Biccies
Braised Steak & Veges
Gravied Sausages with Mash
Bacon & Egg Pie (for breakfast)
Tonight I am making Shepard’s Pie and a Golden Syrup Pudding for Desert. I better get into the kitchen and get cooking.
The buzzer goes off and I groggily swing my legs off the bed. Ouch I smack my feet on the plastic box, our make shift bedside table and clothes storage. It’s pitch black outside and as I step out into the fresh morning air I gaze up. The sky is clear bathed in a million stars. I hate mornings but out here it’s a whole different story. I walk into the corrugated dshower block that I share with a myriad of boys so it’s messy but in the mornings I don’t care. The concrete is cold on my feet but I brush my teeth and take in my reflection. It will have to do. I haven’t used a brush since my arrival I can’t find it but it doesn’t matter. I pull my hair into a pony tail, pull on my jumper and walk across the homestead lawn. I can feel the dew between my toes and even though I am wearing thongs I can feel the ground soggy beneath my feet.
Now in the kitchen I fill and boil the kettles and turn on the frypans.I pull out all the nice cuttings of cold meat, the containers of salads and left overs for sandwiches. I line them up along the counter like a buffet and set the table for breakfast. I pop the bacon into the pan and when cooked slip it into the oven to keep warm. I pour in 20 eggs and put the lid on. While they cook I make mental notes of the days cooking. What is for dinner again? Do I need 5kgs or 10kgs of meat? At 5.30am the first weary eyed ringers make their way into the kitchen. As they prepare their lunch I place the fried eggs and crispy bacon on the table and they dig in. They are sure to have a big day ahead. By 6am the kitchen is packed and by 6.30am the last stragglers head off to work.
From there I clean up the mess they left behind. Wipe benches, sweep, mop and prepare the kitchen for a busy day of baking and cooking. With thirty workers to prepare hearty meals for the oven gets a workout and it ends up being quite a juggle. Planning is key although I always end up winging it. By 9am I have all the chores done including checking on the caravan park, restocking the shop and social club, tidying the bbq area and the rec room and feeding the chooks, pigs and poddy calves. It is then time to start baking. I try to cook at least two cakes a day and biscuits and then start with the dinner prep. This means I can have the afternoon off and come back an hour or two before tea to finish it off.
My time off is spent relaxing, researching recipes, watching a movie, going for a walk or hanging out with the workers in the kitchen as they come in for lunch. There is a mad rush just before dinner setting the table and finishing off the cooking. When everyone sits down and enjoys their meal it is worth every minute. We all sit down, talk and laugh over dinner and a few drinks. Then its wind down time, a game of pool or ping-pong or movies and then off to bed.
I love home-made jam. This one is simple – roughly for every two kilo’s of plums, mix three cups of castor sugar and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. For this batch I made several bottles with a chunkier version for Shaun and a few of bottles of smooth conserve.
One of my favourite Sunday dinners is Lamb Shanks of any style. Moroccan style though takes them to a whole new level. Delicious!
And it’s so simple and easy while camping.
Brown the Shanks in a fry pan and transfer to slow cooker, camp oven or crock pot. In the fry pan fry off some squashed garlic, chopped onion and then add canned tomatoes, Moroccan mixed spice and beef stock and transfer mixture to lamb shanks.Place on coals if using camp oven or in the oven if using the crock pot. Cook for 1 and then add drained chickpeas. After a further 1/2 an hour add some spinach leaves.
When the meat falls away from the bone it is ready to serve. You can serve with either mashed potato, polenta or cous cous (pictured) I served this one with a spiced cous cous with currants and coriander. Simply prepare the cous cous in chicken stock, drain and stir though Moroccan spice, chilli powder, fresh coriander and currants.
Now that is starting to get a bit chilly it’s nice to have a sweet treat that warms you from the inside out. I love golden syrup it’s flavour is delicious and moorish. I normally have it on fresh damper or scones but my love of golden syrup led me to experiment with different recipes and I thought I would share one of my favourite golden syrup pudding.
Golden Syrup Pudding is steamed pudding using saucepan half filled with water and pudding bowl placed on top. You combine the makings for a basic vanilla cake; eggs, SR Flour, butter, milk, sugar and vanilla essence. (or to cheat you can buy a packet mix vanilla cake) Line the pudding bowl thick with golden syrup and pour in cake mixture. Steam for 35 mins or until skewer can be taken out clean. The perfect warm dessert for those winter nights camped out under the stars. You can serve with ice-cream or cream. Can be kept for morning tea the next day if it’s isn’t all eaten at once.