Why YOU Will Like this Meal Plan

This is another of my troop’s favorite meals. It’s like making macaroni and cheese at camp (and I have yet to meet the child that doesn’t love mac and cheese), without giving them all the extra chemicals and coloring that come in that blue box. Other things I, as a leader, love about this recipe:

  • it makes a good lunch OR dinner;
  • it can be assembled ahead;
  • it contains mostly shelf stable ingredients, making it good for the last day of a campout;
  • it can be made in individual bags, and therefore modified individually;
  • it is FAST (my girls prefer to be doing stuff at camp rather than cooking for hours);
  • it can be made by Daisies with only a little help from adults (directing measuring and heating water);
  • it adds some whole wheat to a camp menu without freaking out the most “white bread only” girls in the troop.

How to Get Your Troop to Like This Meal Plan

The hardest thing is getting the troop to try something called “couscous”. You will likely have some girls who already have eaten couscous (my daughter had), but you are also likely to have girls who don’t eat anything new. ANYTHING. These are the girls you will have to explain exactly what couscous is: pasta. It might look like a grain – heck it is even put in the grain section of most grocery stores! – but it is actually teeny tiny balls of semolina pasta which merely needs rehydrating and heating. Once the girls wrap their heads around this fact, then describing this dish as “camping macaroni and cheese” makes it easy for them to try it. Bring a bowlful to a pre-camp meeting to let them try it – or actually teach them to make it at a meeting, if you have the facilities.

Make Cooking at Camp FUN

This recipe is not cooked in a way you would do in the average kitchen, which makes it something special for camp – like making S’mores at a fire circle. I found the original recipe on a site devoted to Trail Cooking and freezer bag cooking. Hikers and backpackers want to keep their gear as light and compact as possible. They also don’t want to waste fuel boiling pasta in water. Most backpacker meals (homemade or commercial) are made in thick reusable resealable bags: hot water is poured in the bag, the bag is then sealed and squooshed to mix contents, and finally the bag is stuck in a fleece bag to keep warm while the meal heats and rehydrates.

Since my troop is not the backpacker/hiker types yet, I use my big fleece blanket that I always bring to camp. I simply fold it so that all the individual bags will fit on it with a double layer of blanket on both top and bottom.

The Best Part

This is a “gateway” recipe. Once you can get your girls to demand it, you can start modifying it. I’m planning on getting my girls to try adding cooked broccoli to it next camping trip. We can boil the broccoli briefly (3 minutes) in the water you use to cook the couscous (this will add some vitamins to the couscous, maybe turn it a fun green color, but definitely be a lesson in using your resources wisely). Then add the broccoli to the couscous, maybe with some extra cheese (You like broccoli with cheese sauce, right? It’s like that, with pasta! *grins*). Maybe chop the broccoli so it mixes more thoroughly, or maybe leave it in big florets – I will need to ask the girls what they thing would taste better. Maybe leave some broccoli raw, and put it on the side with Ranch for the girls who think this sounds yucky.

After you get them warmed up to the idea that couscous is just pasta, and a great pasta to bring to camp – the sky is the limit! Couscous makes great cold salads (cook a double batch for dinner, save half for lunch with chopped tomatoes and mozzarella balls [bocconcini] and Italian seasoning), use it instead of spaghetti with red sauce or pesto, use it instead of rice. There are a lot of great sounding couscous recipes at Trail Cooking.

Cheesy Couscous

adapted from Trail Cooking
serves 1 adult, this scales perfectly although you might want to adjust portion sizes depending on the age of your girls (half it for Daisies and Brownies)
1/4 c. regular couscous
1/4 c. whole wheat couscous
1 T. dry milk
1/4 t. salt
1 stick cheddar cheese (or 1 oz. shredded)
1 c. water

  1. The first 4 ingredients can be assembled in quart sized freezer bags (1 per person). Keep the cheese in the cooler until you are ready to cook. When you are ready to cook, start heating water in a couple of pots over a stove or fire.
  2. Meanwhile, have the girls cut (with a butter knife if young) cheese sticks into a very small dice and add to bags, or measure shredded cheese into bags (1 oz. = 1/4 c.). Label any that are different (no dairy, no cheese, seasonings added, etc.)
  3. When the water is almost to a boil (bubbles start appearing on the bottom of the pot), start measuring out one cup portions, and adding to the bags. This is for adults to do until the girls are much older. Then make sure the bag is sealed WELL and pass to a girl to squoosh until everything is mixed, and tuck into the blanket.  At this point, you will be sure you misread the recipe and added WAY too much water.  You didn’t.  It will look like a very thin soup.  The couscous will soak it up.  I promise (look at the pic of this stage on the bottom of this post).
  4. Once all of the bags are wrapped in the blanket, let them sit for 15 minutes to let the couscous hydrate, and the cheese melt. Use this time to get salad stuff ready, or whatever fruit or veggie you are serving with the couscous.

Feel free to spice this up! Add garlic powder, chili powder, dried minced onions, and maybe even some beef bouillon for taco couscous. Use mozarella, and add Italian seasoning, maybe some chopped pepperoni (turkey is healthier and more acceptable than pork or mystery meat) for pizza couscous. Leave out the cheese, and add raisins, nuts, and curry powder for a more traditional couscous.

In the pictures, I made a taco flavored batch using half wheat, half tricolored couscous. I only made 1/4 c. (dry), and as you can see, it fluffed up to easily a cup of pasta – a good side dish portion for an adult, or a meal for a Kindergardener. For seasonings, I used 1/2 t. chili powder, 1/8 t. garlic powder, 1/4 t. beef bouillon (no salt needed because of this), 1/2 t. dried minced onion, and 1 oz. sharp cheddar cheese. I recommend it! Also, it would be good to add some diced fresh bell pepper, black olives, and cooked pinto beans for a more complete meal. Although that might only work for more sophisticated palates. 🙂


2 thoughts on “Meal Plan: Cheesy Couscous

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