R2AK recipe: Can-do couscous


With two weeks to go before the start of the 2016 Race to Alaska (R2AK), I thought I’d share my favorite meal from my 14 day experience in the 2015 Race: “Can-do couscous.”  This <10-minute meal delivers a powerful combination of carbohydrates, fats, and flavor that will warm your core and keep you energized (9.2 MJ, or 2,200 Calories).  Mixed with 250 ml water it’s reminiscent of a puttanesca pasta; with 500 ml it’s a Mediterranean minestrone.

R2AK Recipe: Can-do couscous

Scott Veirs, Team Searunners, 2015

Total energy: 2209 Cal or 9.2 MJ

Total mass (dry): 484 g

Energy density (aka specific energy): 19.0 MJ/kg (= 19.0 kJ/g)


  • 250 ml couscous — 640 Cal
  • 100 ml olive oil — 800 Cal
  • 100 ml powdered Parmesan cheese — 133 Cal
  • 50 ml kalamata olives — 180 Cal
  • 50 ml sun-dried tomatoes (in oil) — 366 Cal
  • 5 ml Better than Boullion (vegetarian flavor) — 10 Cal


  1. Mix all ingredients except couscous
  2. Add mixture to couscous in a Ziploc bagIMG_3227
  3. Store in cool place (we used our bilge) until really hungry
  4. Boil 500 ml freshwater (took ~1.5 minutes in our Jetboil)
  5. Squeeze, pour, spoon mixture from bag to 1-liter eating container
  6. Add 250-500 ml of boiled water to eating container
  7. Stir well (to ensure boullion dissolves) and cover for 5 minutes
  8. Consume with a can-do attitude (it’s a big, filling meal for 1; a hearty snack for two)

I ate this 3 or 4 times in 14 days of dinners and never got tired of it.  Since Thomas and I based all our meals on a 500 ml Jetboil volume, this was the one way I could think of to get the satisfaction of one of my favorite foods — pasta — with neither the risk of boiling water on a rolling for 10-15 minutes nor the waste of precious pasta water.  The olives and tomatoes break up the otherwise monolithic texture of the couscous, the savory-salty boullion base is delicious, and the Parmesan holds everything together and provides the novelty of occasional melted cheese strings.  This version is vegetarian, but a carnivore could add anchovies…

We were aiming for 5,000-7,000 Calories per day, so this meal was a solid third of my daily calories.  It sometimes seemed like a daunting amount, but only once did I save ~1/4 of it for a snack later.  (It’s totally fine, cold, too.  Pasta salad!)  Overall, this dinner weighs in at about 500 grams and delivers 9.2 megajoules of Race fuel.  That works out to about 19.0 kJ/g which is well above carbohydrates (17 kJ/g) due to the fats in the olive oil and Parmesan cheese.  (Olive oil has a specific energy of 37 kJ/g!)

For reference, milk chocolate has a specific energy of 22.85 kJ/g…  So, I recommend the Ritter’s milk chocolate with hazelnuts for your R2AK dessert!

Anyone else care to share their favorite recipe?  Add it in the comments.