Yesterday I had the great pleasure of being a guest on In the Aisle with Sue, an internet radio show hosted by Flemington Shop Rite registered dietitian extraordinaire Sue Lang-Saponara  and we had a great conversation about Meatless Mains and why we love legumes. Anyone who knows Sue, knows that her favorite legume is the red lentil because of its soak-free quick cooking and versatility. She mentioned a delicious-sounding recipe that she makes using 5-min cooked red lentils combined with a dressing of garlic, lemon, olive oil, parsley and……well, I forget if there are any other ingredients but maybe we’ll be lucky and get her to comment on this post and tell us the whole recipe. I’ve only made red lentils into soup so I am excited to try preparing them as a whole lentil that can be used in salads or other dishes.

Speaking of quick cooking and versatility, I must tell you about some of my recent camping meals and these include one meal of red lentils. We recently returned to St John, Virgin Islands National Park, for a second visit, returning to Maho Bay Campground. This is where the cool people stay (or the ones who can’t afford the hotels and resorts). It is 118 steps to Little Maho beach and a short walk to Big Maho or Francis Bay beaches. The campground was started as an eco-resort (resort definitely being the wrong word here) in 1976 “using hand construction methods which left the natural environment virtually undisturbed”. Platform tents are connected by elevated wooden boardwalks with lots and lots and lots of stairs. This is not a place for the luggage-burdened or luxury-expectant traveler.

But check out one of the beaches. It is well worth the effort of the airplane to St. Thomas, taxi to the ferry, ferry to Cruz Bay, St. John, and 45-min island taxi to the campground.

From a food perspective camping works for us. It can be difficult finding gluten free and/or vegan options while traveling to remote places. But you’d be surprised what items you can bring (on a plane in your luggage!) to create a simple meal that meets all the ingredient-restrictions in your family. And I’m always wonderfully surprised at the accommodations some restaurants are willing to make for us, but that’s for later.

For our first trip to Maho Bay I didn’t know quite what to expect; I am a seasoned camp cook with experience creating meals on even a one-burner propane cookstove.I assumed I could get some fresh veggies at the Maho Bay camp store so I brought the kinds of things I probably couldn’t buy: Suzie’s Thin Rice Cakes, a pre-measured bag of quinoa, Tasty Bite Lentil Magic , Eden brand spicy pumpkin seeds, lots of LaraBars, a bag of gluten-free pasta. There was enough to prepare 3 dinner meals on a 2-burner propane camp stove with the addition of fresh vegetables.

This time I was prepared to do even better, and we had an additional family member so the meals would have to feed more people. Here’s where the red lentils come in! I brought a bag of red lentils (double bagged for packing in luggage in case of bursting), a head of garlic, some dried onion flakes, a baggie with pre-measured spices (1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp turmeric), and 1 GF bouillon cube for my red lentil soup. I cooked the entire bag of lentils with the bouillon and 8 c water. Purchased an onion and lemon from the camp store ($3 lemon!). Sauteed the onion and some garlic in olive oil until brown, added the spices to that and combined this with the cooked red lentils. The juice of the lemon is added to the pot of soup at the very end of cooking. Delicious after a full day of sun and sand, and very quick to prepare in less-than-ideal conditions. Not sure what the other campers thought of the smells coming from our tent cottage but oh well.

On this trip I also brought along sundried tomatoes, dried mushrooms, quinoa, GF pasta, dried onion flakes, Ruth’s Chia Goodness, plenty of dried fruits to add to the Chia Goodness, several individual-sized almond and soy milks, Vega Shake & Go Smoothie, and pre-measured bags of oatmeal with spices and hemp protein powder.


We also went back to Margarita Phil’s  located in Cruz Bay.This time Phil was there and was gracious enough to come out and talk with us in person about all of our ingredient issues (gluten, dairy, vegetarian…). He has a tasty menu but there were all these combinations that had something that didn’t work for us. So he very generously created a new item that met all of our food needs and was quite tasty.It was a cup made of a corn tortilla, filled with steamed vegetables, black beans and rice, homemade salsa & guacamole, and the green sauce was a salsa verde with plenty of lime and cilantro. Everything was dairy free and no gluten ingredients. YUM!

Here is Phil showing off the dish; notice the painting of him on the door in the background!

So we’ve gone from red lentils to St. John, V.I. and back.Consider me your ingredient-restricted camping food consultant.Meanwhile, enjoy some quick cooking red lentils and check back here soon to see if Sue has sent over her yummy red lentil recipe!