Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Magic Winter Bars

I just discovered my staple food for this winter when I'm shivering in the field at (hopefully not) -20 degrees and just trying to stay alive while also providing therapy for a group of teenage kids who definitely don't want to be out in the Utah desert in winter. They like it when they're done, I swear. But seriously, the weather does pose a huge problem because 1) you need a lot of fat when you're in the cold 24/8 (our work weeks are 8 days long), and 2) food freezes solid at these temperatures so you can't just bring anything out there and expect to still be able to eat it.

Sooo....these bars are perfect!! They've got almond flour (basically more almond for less space), coconut oil, shredded coconut, coconut milk, more shredded coconut, coconut flakes, and chopped pecans or walnuts. How's that for fat? In addition, they have a little bit of honey and chocolate chips in them 'cuz sweetness and chocolate are always welcome in the winter.

My roommate just made these for a cookie party, and they seemed a little bit melty at room temperature. And what happens when you have a job where you sometimes have to think about survival things is that you subconsciously start tuning into things that will help you, well, survive. Like when I see a piece of wood while I'm hiking and I get the urge to pick it up for firewood. Or I spot a good-sized rock and think, "Ooh...too bad our shelter spot's not here...that's the perfect anchor!" So when I saw the bars she had made melting at room temperature, and saw how much fat was going into them, I thought, "That would be the PERFECT winter paleo food!" They need to be cold, and they're fattier than Santa Claus!!

So without further ado, the recipe: Magic Coconut Bars at Simply Living Healthy.

P.S. I'll let you know how I survive the winter.

'Nola - Grain-free Granola!

Granola and oats (or, as we call it at my program, "G-n-O") are a backpacking breakfast staple. Unfortunately, oats are not paleo. Fortunately, granola is easily paleo-fied! Here are a couple different recipes to get you started, but there are endless flavor combinations. I recommend soaking the nuts in salted water overnight, changing the water out once or twice if it's not already part of the recipe. This helps cut out the phytates that are in nuts that can keep you from absorbing nutrients.

Basic Granola from The Primalist
Apple Pie Granola from Multiply Delicious
Vanilla Nut Granola from Five and Spice
Vanilla Almond Granola from Against All Grain
Spiced Pumpkin Granola from Against All Grain (I tried this one this week and it was soo good!)
Chocolate Nut Granola from Paleo Diet Lifestyle

Now, to hydrate, your options will depend on your tripping situation. Car camping? Bring grass-fed raw milk, raw goats milk, or some good grass-fed, whole-milk yogurt and keep it in a cooler. Doing a couple days overnight? Maybe bring a couple small 5.5-oz cans of coconut milk and either split one with your tripping partner, or if you're hiking 30 miles that day, eat it all to yourself.

Extended expedition? The small cans might still work for you, ooor....powdered coconut milk! Apparently it's a thing. It's got two weird things - sodium caseinate and non-GMO maltodextrin - as emulsifiers, but their statement on their website says, "It is scientifically impossible to have pure 100% organic coconut milk powder. As we strive to offer products free of emulsifiers we feel that the benefits of the Coconut Milk Powder outweigh the tiny amounts of emulsifiers in this product. We are working diligently in R&D to remedy this situation."So stay tuned, I guess. And, as you probably already know, you could just use the original Pow-Cow (powdered milk) if you're a dairy-eater.

If you don't have time to make your own granola, a good alternative is Living Intentions' Superfood Cereals. They come in a lot of tasty flavors, like Cacao Crunch (so good), Chia Ginger, Hemp & Greens, and Acai Blueberry. They're made with organic buckwheat sprouts, which are gluten-free, and technically not a grain, but they are still pretty high in carbs. The cereal is sweetened with coconut palm sugar, and have other intriguing add-ins like astragulus extract and reishi mycelium in the Cacao Crunch, spirulina, chlorella, and dandelion leaves in the Hemp and Greens, and bilberries, elderberries, amla berry extract, and camu camu berries in the Acai Blueberry cereal.

I say "intriguing" because I'm not convinced that getting a small dose of these superfoods in a bowl of cereal in the morning is enough to get lasting benefits from them, but they sure won't hurt. The cereal overall is high in carbs (30 grams per 1/2 cup) but if you're doing a lot of work and eating low carb in other meals it's probably just fine.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Salad Theory

This post is not about trail food. It is about my most-craved, first-thing-I-want-off-the-trail food: salad.

Salad and chocolate tie for my two favorite foods, but, while I can easily have chocolate on trail (well...unless it's summer), salad is probably the most impractical trail food you can find - it takes up a lot of space for not that many calories. BUT...it is a great way to celebrate renewed access to fresh produce when you return to the front country, and to replenish some of the vitamins and nutrients that may have been lacking in your back country menu. And with the right ingredients you can make it substantial enough to be a whole meal in itself.

So, now that you know that salad is one of my two favorite foods, you should also know that I am a salad artist. And, as such, I have a whole theory about making salads. And this theory works; my salads are really good. Ask my boyfriend Max. He said he started dating me for my salad making abilities. Well, maybe he didn't say it like that, but he did say that when we first started dating, he was "really impressed" with how well I could make salads. And then I knew we were supposed to be together because he was really good at making salad dressings, and introduced me to my all-time favorite dressing that comes from his family.

Here it is: my cornerstone work on the theory of salad. I'm not sure if you'll ever meet anyone who has put as much thought into how to make a good salad as I have, so this is lucky for you that you have found this page.


If it is organic and mostly clean I don't wash it because dry lettuce is essential. If it is dirty or non-organic, rinse it really well and then either let it drip dry for a long time, dry it in a salad spinner, or pat it dry with tea towels. Again, it is important that the lettuce be pretty dry (although it doesn't have to be all the way dry) or else all the excess water will dilute the dressing and interfere with the adherence of the dressing to the leaves.


I think herbs are essential to salads. And not in the way most people use them, which is to add a tablespoon or two of chopped leaves. I try to put in at least a quarter cup to a half cup total of different kinds. It sounds like it will be overwhelming, but it's not. The normal amount is underwhelming, so go crazy and enjoy. My favorites are parsley, cilantro, green onions, and basil. If I have all of them, I'll throw them all in.

Dressing Binder:

This isn't a necessary addition, but there are things that I think of as "dressing binders" that help absorb dressing and then stick to the lettuce leaves so you get more dressing in each bite! These things include: grated carrot, grated cheeses, flax seed, and avocado. Not every salad I make has these things, but the better ones do.


Use any kind of dressing you like. My favorites are the vinaigrettes, and I've shared my favorite vinaigrette recipe below. The most important thing about the dressing though is that you must add it to the salad and toss it VERY, VERY well before serving it! Salads are infinitely better if they have been thoroughly tossed with the dressing, rather than serving the vegetable part and the dressing part separately and each person pouring a little spoonful over their salad.


Toss it A LOT. When you think you are done, keep tossing. Make sure everything is coated and then toss again. Believe me, it's important. If you don't believe me, you can do a test: Make two salads, toss one for 15 seconds, and toss the other one for a whole minute and see which one is better.

Basic Ingredients:

Ingredients will vary a lot depending on what's available to you due to the season or what's at the store that day. My basic salad has most or all of these ingredients:

  • Lettuce
  • Baby spinach
  • Grated carrots (if I'm in a rush, I'll just chop them)
  • Chopped red bell pepper
  • Chopped avocado
  • Fresh herbs 
  • Grated cheese


I add these ingredients when I want to make a stick-to-the-ribs salad, which is probably what you'll want when you get off-trail:

  • Flax seed - a couple tablespoons
  • Sunflower seeds - a handful or two
  • Olives
  • Shredded or chopped chicken, pork, beef, or sausage
  • Smoked trout or salmon
  • Chopped nuts: walnuts, almond, macadamias, pistachios
  • Raisins or dried cranberries
  • Sour cream