Thursday, June 1, 2017

Last Minute Meal Prep

View of the Three Sisters from Morgul Vale (5.9+) at Wolf Rock, Oregon
A couple days ago I got a text at 6pm that a friend of a friend's climbing partner had backed out of a trip, and could I go? It sounded like too much fun to pass up, but I had no food, no car (Max had our truck on a weekend trip), and basically no time. I racked my brain as I stared at my somewhat empty pantry shelves and refrigerator loaded with fresh food I had planned to cook into delicious meals this weekend. I've pretty much stopped snacking between meals lately so I had no emergency snacks to bring along. I dropped a can of salmon, two avocados, a carrot, 2 packages of Heather's Choice Packaroons, and a travel bottle of olive oil into a paper bag. Definitely not enough for a full day's climb. This was a problem. But I wanted to go on the trip badly enough that I decided I would just grab some energy bars at the store before heading out. The store we went to didn't really have any paleo energy bars, so I settled for some Cliff whey protein bars (which were actually pretty good, even though the chocolate coating melted in the blazing sun), a Kate's Grizzly Bar (also very good but not paleo), and a Picky Bar (also good, and also not paleo). I had the can of salmon mixed with avocado and drizzled with olive oil and half of the carrot with some peanut butter for breakfast. That kept me going really well for half of the climb. And the energy bars did a good job of keeping me going for the second half, but I hate feeling like I'm compromising my body by just feeding it a lot of brown rice syrup in different flavors. So the lesson of this post is...I wish I'd had several things at home that I could have grabbed instead of settling. Here's a list of things I would like to prep and/or buy to always have around in the event of other last-minute trips:

In the freezer:
Grass-fed jerky
Morning Glory Muffins (these freeze really well)
One or two dehydrated dinners

In the pantry:
Plantain chips
A jar of trail mix
Tanka bars
Grass-fed pepperoni sticks
Sardines or other canned fish
RX Bars
Packets of nut butters (like Justin's or Wilderness Poets)
Heather's Choice dehydrated meals and packaroons

The only problem is, now I'll just have to make sure not to snack on it before any more trips come up!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Forgot Your Stove?

We did. Fortunately it was just a weekend overnight car camping trip to Smith Rock, but regardless we didn't have a way to heat up our food. I had already pre-cooked a stir-fry breakfast like I usually do for car camping trips, so we just ate that cold, and our lunch was no-cook anyways, but dinner...

We had planned on making burgers with some ground beef from our freezer and now we sat looking at a pound of raw meat wondering what to do. All of a sudden, I remembered reading that if meat is frozen for more than 14 days, it is safe to eat raw because it kills all the bacteria in it. Our beef, part of a bulk order we'd had in our freezer for a while, had indeed been frozen for more than 14 days.

That solved it! Raw meat dinner! We pulled out our trusty bottle of mustard, diced up a few lacto-fermented pickles and some avocado, and basically stirred it all together. It was delicious! (Seriously...I know you're probably doubting this one.)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Tuna or Salmon Chowder

This recipe deserves a story. A couple years ago, Max and I went on a 2-week bike trip on the Pacific Coast. The first week of riding was in beautiful, sunny, late-fall weather, iconic of the Great Northwest. During the second half of the trip, our luck changed. One morning we woke to rain. The type of rain that is also iconic of the Great Northwest, but in a very different way. Heavens-opening-up-on-you rain. You-might-as-well-be-in-a-swimming-pool rain. Stay-inside-and-listen-to-it-thunder-on-the-roof rain.

But we were trying to make it to San Francisco for the Divine Play acroyoga festival and needed to stay on schedule. So we rode. We rode 10 miles to the nearest town for breakfast at a cafe and dined, already soaked to the bone. Staying optimistic for the first half of the day that maybe it would let up at least a little, we pushed through for another 5 hours or so, and realized at 4pm that we hadn't eaten anything since breakfast. Had it really been 5 hours? We'd been waiting for it to stop raining but it never had. We snacked quickly under a road overpass and made the decision to stay at a hotel that night. We then rode another hour or more until we found a small inn that wasn't too expensive.

We arrived, soaked through, shivering, hungry, tired, and cold, cold, cold. The owner of the inn was so kind to us. We asked if they had a dryer we could dry our sopping cycling clothes in, and he offered to take them for us and do it himself. An hour later he brought them to our door, and announced he had went ahead and washed them for us as well. He also brought us extra towels, not showing any sign that he was worried we'd grow a pond of mildew overnight in his room. We were exhausted as we hung up all our other dripping gear over the chairs, the ceiling fan, the doors, and anything else we could find.

Luckily we had two things: first, a pint of Häagen-Dazs ice cream we'd picked up at a convenience store a half-mile before the hotel, and second, the last of a gallon-sized bag of salmon chowder we'd already used for a couple dinners. We downed the whole pint of ice cream as a pre-dinner snack and cooked up a huge pot of this chowder, simmering it on our pocket-rocket on the front stoop outside our room, the sky still drizzling away. We ate it on the hotel bed watching episodes of Human Planet (if you haven't seen these shows, you should definitely check them out, they're pretty incredible). Rich and dense, it picked us up from the day behind and fueled us for the next day, which started with the biggest climb of the trip.

For 2 people

4 slices bacon, chopped
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 TB dried dill
1 5-oz. can of clams
1 5-oz. can of wild-caught salmon or tuna
1/2 bag frozen peas
1 14-oz. can full-fat coconut milk
sea salt to taste
coconut flour or amaranth flour for thickening

In a large soup pot over medium-low heat, cook the bacon until the fat begins to release. Add onion, carrots, celery, bay leaf, and dill. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender.
Add clams and salmon (add the juices, too!) and cook a few more minutes until heated through.
Stir in the coconut milk. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and let cook about 10 minutes. Stir in peas just before turning of the heat.

Before dehydrating:
Allow soup to cool and check consistency. If it is very thin, it might need some thickening. We've used both coconut flour and amaranth flour (amaranth isn't technically paleo, but it's pretty tasty and I feel good about using it). Start with a small amount (about 1/4 cup) and stir it in completely before adding more. Coconut flour especially has a tendency to soak up liquid and make things really dry.

Let cool about 20 minutes, then spread on dehydrator trays covered in parchment paper and dehydrate 8-12 hours at 150 F, checking several times during this process to break up clumps and turn over. More dehydrating directions found here.

Before dehydrating

After dehydrating

To rehydrate:
Throw it all in a pot, add water until just covered, and let it soak for as long as you have. When ready to cook, bring to a boil (you might have to add more water after soaking) and cook, stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Turn off heat, cover pot with lid and let sit for another 5-10 minutes. Open and enjoy!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Backpacking Coyote Gulch: 3-Day Menu

For a lot of people, Spring Break is synonymous with Utah. March is here and we're starting to get hints of nicer days, leaving us wanting more sun, more fresh air, and more barefoot time. For Max and I, it's also an opportunity to return to a place we called home for almost two years. I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest and never thought I would feel at home anywhere else. Giant Doug firs and western red cedars, shady mountain streams, coastal fog, rain, clouds, rain, and more's in my bones and I thought there would never be room for anything else. But, when you do a job like wilderness therapy, and you live in a desert landscape for 16 days out of every month, and you rely on the dry rocky soil, the dusty red cliffs, the shade from a stunted juniper, the smell of sunbaked sagebush, and the vast starry sky at night for comfort after a stressful can't help but get into your bones.

And so now I have a second place to call home, and I was very excited to go back during my spring break last week. Max and I were able to meet up with two close friends who still live there to do a 3-day backpacking trip through stunning Coyote Gulch in Southern Utah. I offered to make dinners for us all, and we ate well!

My favorite part of this trip was that we hiked barefoot most of the time. The canyon was mostly filled with very fine sand (almost like red flour), clay, small rocks, and some stretches of sandpapery slickrock. And a lot of the time we were walking ankle deep in the clear, cold stream cutting through the canyon. It was the ideal surface to go barefoot on - lots of variability, but nothing too painful for feet that are not that used to being barefoot. Our feet are the base of a majority of movements we make, and so it is so important to have full function in the feet. At first I thought that just meant having a zero-drop heel (meaning, not having any sort of raise between the toe and the heel), and a wide toe-box. But lately I've been learning that having full function also means that your foot is able to deform comfortably over objects you step on, that your toes can spread wide and also move independently from each other, and that you have good blood flow through the feet. I normally have very cold feet, especially while sleeping, but after a day of stimulation on sand, clay, rocks, and water, my feet were so warm I had to take my socks off in my sleeping bag. They were throbbing with blood flow, not in a painful way, but in a really happy, "this is what we're supposed to feel like!" way. It was definitely an ah-ha moment for me (and my feet).

This is what I ate on the trip:

Day 1:

  • Eggs & left over Indian food (at home)
  • Sausages & some other stuff I don't remember (in the car)
  • Iranian Beef Stew (about half of a gallon Ziploc for 4 people; supplemented with rice, but we probably didn't need it...we all ended up pretty stuffed)

(Note: We had only a small amount of this beef stew left over from a trip this summer, so I took some plain dehydrated vegetables - zucchini and yellow summer squash, some onions and tossed those in, and then cooked and dehydrated an extra pound of ground beef. I was worried that the tastes would be really separate, and not meld very well, but I was wrong! They blended really well and this was one of the best meals I've ever had backpacking!)

Day 2:

  • 1 Chocolate Sea Salt RX Bar 
  • 4 oz. summer sausage
  • Sardine "Bowl"- 1 tin sardines packed in olive oil, 1/2 carrot chopped, 1/2 avocado, 1/2 baby bell pepper, mustard
  • Salmon Chowder (one super stuffed pint Ziplock for 4 people; supplemented with rice, but we probably didn't need it)
  • Dark chocolate
Salmon Chowder

Day 3:

  • 1 Chocolate Sea Salt RX Bar
  • 4 oz. summer sausage
  • Sardine "Bowl"- 1 tin sardines packed in olive oil, 1/2 carrot chopped, 1/2 avocado, 1/2 baby bell pepper, mustard

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Wallowa River Figure-8 Trail: 5-Day Menu

What is a "figure-8" trail you ask? A figure-8 trail is when one attempts to do a loop trail, but takes an accidental turn and cuts the loop in half, only to figure this out a day and a half later. Then one decides to double back and complete the loop in the other direction in order to see the part of the trail one thought one already saw. It proves to be a bit of a mind trip, but makes the trip that much more exciting! This has never happened to you, you say? Well, you should try it some time!

This last weekend Max and I took five days for a backpacking trip in the Wallowas in northeastern Oregon. This was some of the most stunning, sweeping scenery I have ever seen. It was also completely different from moment to moment. We traversed mountain meadows, volcanic hillsides, granite slabs, and wandered past brilliant blue alpine lakes. We couldn't even complain that we added about 4.5 miles by doing the figure-8 route on accident (in our defense, the junction was not marked and very easy to misinterpret as there was a big washout!).

And we ate amazingly on this trip. I was never too hungry and never too full and we hit the quantities just right. The whole time I felt like I was burning really clean energy. It's hard to describe but I just felt good. I tried out some new things that I'm excited about.

Usually with our dehydrating, we'll make a full meal ahead of time and dehydrate that. This method has great results - the meal is almost always amazing, and you get to try the finished product before you head out so you know approximately what you'll be eating. But the downside is that it's very time consuming.

We've had a lot of success in the past with variations on the Backpacker's Bounty Soup, where you essentially dehydrate all the vegetables and meat separately, then cook them together in the backcountry and it still melds really well and is super delicious. So I decided to try to expand that to other ideas and do some more "deconstructed" meals so I could spend less time in the kitchen.

Our trip was 5 days, meaning we'd need dinner for 4 nights on the trail so we decided to streamline even more and do 2 different dinners and just alternate them: Easy Salmon Coconut Curry and Beefed-Up Pasta Sauce over Butternut Squash "Noodles." In addition, I brought some grass-fed collagen powder to add to the dinners for a little extra protein and some joint-repairing benefits.

The curry and pasta sauce turned out so dense, flavorful, and delicious, but the squash "noodles" didn't quite turn out how I wanted them to. They were OK as something to serve the pasta sauce over, but I'll need to keep experimenting with the noodle idea.

Curry ingredients on the left and pasta sauce ingredients on the right. About to add some spinach.

Another trick I'd tried before that worked out really well was adding dehydrated vegetable ingredients to an already-made dehydrated meal to stretch it a little further. We had one half-bag of "Sausage Scramble" left in our freezer (the mystery meal that also made an appearance on our San Juan kayak trip) that didn't look like quite enough to feed us both for one breakfast, so I dehydrated some zucchini and summer squash and added that to the mix. That breakfast turned out to be so good! The zucchini and squash added a perfect flavor.

We ate the same thing for lunches and snacks each day so I didn't bother repeating the list in the menus below. We shared one tin of sardines packed in oil, one carrot, one bag of plantain chips, and one landjaeger meat stick each day. We brought one KIND bar (I know...not paleo but so good still!) per person per day, one pint tub of Paleo Cookie Butter for the whole trip, and probably about 5 or 6 cups of store-bought trail mix total.

Day 1: Wallowa River Trailhead to Aneroid Lake (6 miles)

Today we hiked in and the weather was decidedly summer. The sun was out and hot and we were thankful to be in the shade. We found some nettles along the way to harvest and add to our dinner tonight. We got a beautiful campsite right on the lake and even went for a swim!

Breakfast (in the car driving to the trail head)
  • Sardines w/ mustard 
  • Carrot w/ mustard
  • Paleo Cookie Butter
  • Plantain Chips
  • KIND Bar
  • Landjaeger beef stick
  • Trail mix

Day 2: Aneroid Lake to Polaris Pass to Horseshoe Lake (15 miles)

Hiking up and over the pass was an experience. As we hiked up we were treated to views of rounded hills and red rocks, lit up by fiery orange and crimson bushes. It almost looked like a moonscape with trees. Then once we crossed over the pass, everything we could see was sharp, angular granite! It was like we had crossed over into a different world. Then the descent was about 5 miles of switchbacks cutting down a long, steep hillside. By the end we felt like we had been on that same hillside all day long. This is also where we went wrong. Instead of taking the trail south to Frazier Lake, we cut north through the middle of the loop, past 6-Mile Meadow (which we weren't supposed to arrive at until the last day) and on to Horseshoe Lake (which we though the whole time we were there was Frazier Lake). The reason those last 2 miles felt so long was because they were actually 5 miles.

  • Same as above
  • Beefed-Up Pasta Sauce with Butternut Squash "Noodles" w/ about 2 TB collagen
  • Theo Salted Dark Chocolate

Day 3:  - Horseshoe Lake to Moccasin Lake (3 miles)

Still didn't know that we weren't where we thought we were for all of today. Woke up and started the "5 mile" hike to Moccasin Lake and arrived way earlier than we thought we should have. We ran into some people fishing and asked them what lake we were at and they verified it was Moccasin. We spent a while looking at their topo maps trying to figure out what we'd done, but finally concluded we had just taken a trail that wasn't on the map.

  • Same as above

Day 4: Moccasin Lake to Glacier Pass to 6-Mile Meadow (9.2 miles) 

It somehow donned on us this morning that we had actually taken the cut-off trail and circled around the opposite way than we thought we were hiking. So in order to correct the fact that we hadn't seen half of the trail we'd planned to see, we did the loop in reverse to complete our figure-8. Going over Glacier Pass and dropping down on Glacier Lake was one of the most beautiful parts of the trip. Sparkling aquamarine (or was it aquaalpine?? Sorry I know it's bad but I couldn't resist!) water flowing out into a rushing alpine stream. As we hiked down the valley alongside the river we ran into masses of tiny frogs! The size of a fingernail! We had to hike pretty carefully to make sure not to squash any.

  • Sausage Scramble (w/ added dehydrated zucchini & summer squash)
  • Same as above
  • Beefed-Up Pasta Sauce with Butternut Squash "Noodles" (forgot the collagen tonight :( )
  • Theo Salted Dark Chocolate

Day 5: 6-Mile Meadow to Wallowa River Trailhead (6.4 miles) 

We woke up super early this morning to hike out and do the 8 hour drive back to Eugene. As we hiked out along the Wallowa River, we could really feel the change in season. All the cottonwoods and vine maples were turning color and the entire river valley was painted with fall colors. A big contrast to the heat and greenery we hiked in on. It felt like an appropriate way to welcome the new season!

  • Same as above
  • Mexican food at a restaurant while driving back

Easy Salmon Coconut Curry

This is a different version of curry from my other recipe for Smoked Salmon Coconut Curry that uses all fresh vegetables and is more suitable for car camping or short overnights where weight isn't an issue. This takes more at-home prep for dehydrating the vegetables and makes a perfect backcountry dinner. A couple things I learned while making this meal: celery and bamboo shoots are both so watery that they dehydrate down to almost nothing. That doesn't mean you shouldn't use them! They do add really great depth and flavor, you just have to dehydrate them in bigger pieces. For example, I chopped up the bamboo shoots really tiny, but next time I would just put them on the dehydrator trays straight out of the can. To make this meal even lighter weight, you could use dehydrated coconut milk. I've tried one type of dehydrated coconut milk straight before and it wasn't my favorite thing, but mixed in a meal it might be pretty good. 

For 2 people

For Dehydrating:
2 carrots, thinly sliced in half-moons
2 stalks celery, chopped large
1/2 onion, chopped small
1 green bell pepper, chopped small
1 can bamboo shoots
1/2 bag of frozen peas, thawed
2 cups baby spinach leaves
1 5-oz. can of salmon

Additional Ingredients:
1 carton Aroy-D coconut milk
2 TB curry paste
1-2 TB grass-fed collagen (optional)

Spread all vegetables and salmon on dehydrator trays and dry until no longer moist, about 8-10 hours. That's an approximate time, since they will all dry at different rates. For example, peas will take longer than the spinach. There's not really a problem with leaving them in longer if you need to.

To cook in the backcountry:

Soak the vegetables and salmon mixture in a pot with just enough water to cover for as long as possible once you get into camp. The longer the better, but you can also skip this step if super hungry. When ready to cook, add coconut milk, curry paste, and collagen (if using) and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring for about 5 minutes. Feel free to add any wild goodies you find, like these nettles! Turn off heat, cover pot with lid and let sit another 5-10 minutes. Open and enjoy!

Beefed-Up Pasta Sauce

This is a great short-cut to awesome pasta sauce in the backcountry. We used jars of store-bought sauce (although if you have a favorite recipe, you can use your own!), threw them into a pot with some ground beef to cook and then dehydrated that. We also dehydrated some extra add-on vegetables (spinach, mushrooms, peas, and onions) to make it more interesting! Super easy prep at home and in the backcountry. The first time I made this I served it with Butternut Squash "Noodles." Basically I just grated raw butternut squash and dehydrated that, then rehydrated it plain by itself to serve the sauce over. It wasn't the best tasting thing, but it was a semi-OK accompaniment if you're interested in trying it. There are also kelp noodles you can find that might work well with this, but I haven't tried those yet. 

For 2 people

1 jar pasta sauce
3/4 lb. grass-fed ground beef

2 cups baby spinach
8 large mushrooms, sliced
1/2 bag frozen peas, thawed
1/2 onion, chopped small

Cook the ground beef in the pasta sauce in a sauce pan over medium heat on the stove until the meat is cooked through. Spread sauce & meat mixture on dehydrator trays and dry for 8-12 hours at 155 degrees F.

Spread the spinach, sliced mushrooms, thawed peas, and chopped onions on dehydrator trays and dry 8-10 hours. The normal vegetable setting is about 135 degrees F, but if you want to save time you can do it with the pasta sauce at 155, or do the pasta sauce at 135 (it will just take longer for the meat).

To rehydrate:

Throw it all in a pot, add water until just covered, and let it soak for as long as you have. When ready to cook, bring to a boil (you might have to add more water after soaking) and cook, stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Turn off heat, cover pot with lid and let sit for another 5-10 minutes. Open and enjoy!