Pasta and veggies to go and a bear encounter!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hello! I have been off the grid, so to speak, for a little while on a family camping trip. We went up to Lake Tahoe for a few days to enjoy cooler temps and fresh air. It is always so much work to prepare for a camping trip (and so much laundry when we get home), but it is always worth it.

Blue sky and wispy clouds:

Camping wouldn't be as fun if it was clean:

I love sleeping in a tent under the stars and waking up to the hushed voices and breakfast smells of a campground. Fellow campers are always so friendly- it is as if we have some unspoken bond because we are all "the kind of people who go camping". We can refer to things like "camp soap" or "deet" or a "rain fly" amongst ourselves knowing that there is no need for explanation.

Holed up:

Our tent has a view of the sky:

Thursday night, we had quite an adventure! Sometime around 3am, we were awoken by the sound of a cooler being tossed around and bear locker doors being rattled. We listened for a little while before my husband looked out the tent window. He turned on his flashlight and scanned the area in the direction of the ruckus until, just one campsite over, he saw a GIANT black bear! The bear's eyes were glowing in the flashlight beam and he did not appear to enjoy the bright light in his face. We quickly shut the light off and looked at each other with wide eyes that silently said, "holy crap!" We sat for a moment before my son, not knowing that there was a humungous bear outside, woke up and said, "I have to go potty." Really? Now? Really?!

We waited until the bear lumbered off into the trees and it quieted down outside to take our bathroom trip. But, a little while later, the bear was back! He found something in another site and was making a bunch of noise again. One by one, the people around us began waking up and emerging from their tents to see what was going on. They whispered and pointed flashlights saying, "see him, over there?"

I know I'm crazy, but I LOVED seeing this big ol' bear! I so wish I had a picture of him! I also love the solidarity that this sort of encounter draws out. People who have never spoken before are suddenly sharing stories and flashlights and time.

A full moon rising behind the trees:

Fortunately our food was stored safely away from the bear in our bear locker! Our camping menu was similar to last year. I also brought along some homemade soft pretzels and a container of Hickory-Smoked Cheddar-Style We Can't Say It's Cheese Spread, my quick and easy granola bars, instant oatmeal with Justin's Nut Butter packets, and a couple more things from my picnic food recipe round up.

Camping snacks:

My favorite meal on this trip was pasta with veggies and "meatballs" (I used Nate's Meatless Meatballs but Trader Joe's carries them under their label too). This is a meal that is easy to prepare and travels well. I plan to prep a bunch of veggies and freeze them in freezer bags for a quick at-home version of this that I can pull out on busy nights.

Pasta and Veggies To Go
Serves about 4

1 small eggplant, chopped
1 medium zucchini or other summer squash, chopped
6-8 mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4-6 cups of raw spinach
1/2 a large onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 jar of marinara or other red sauce
1 package of whole wheat penne pasta
Sea salt, black pepper, and Italian seasoning, to taste
1 package vegetarian "meatballs"
Olive oil

  1. Place all of the chopped veggies in a zip top bag with the spinach at the bottom (i.e. put the spinach in first). You can add the salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning to the bag as well or bring those along to season the veggies while you are cooking.
  2. To prepare this meal, boil water and cook the pasta per the package directions. In a large skillet, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil and add the bag of veggies. If you're feeling fancy, you can add everything but the spinach and add the spinach later once the harder veggies have cooked a bit. If not, it will still turn out fine! Season with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning while cooking. Once the veggies have softened and are cooked through, add 1/2 to 1 whole jar of marinara and as many "meatballs" as you would like. Bring to a simmer and cook for another minute or two. Leftovers can be stored in the zip top bag that the veggies were in but, please, use the bear locker if you're camping! ;-)

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