Monday, December 9, 2013

Paleo-Friendly(ish) Canned Soup Round-up

Update! There is actually a paleo canned soup now. See post about it here

Having a can of soup in my food bag during the winter at work is such a comfort to me. It ensures I will get a warm, soothing dinner all within about 5 minutes, with minimal preparation. This is essential for those days when everything goes haywire and all of a sudden it's way darker than it was ten minutes ago, and about 20 degrees colder, my fingers aren't functioning, and the last thing I want to do is walk the 50 feet to my backpack to dig out my knife, wrestle with my bottle of coconut oil just to get a couple chips out of it and into my pot, and chop frozen vegetables while my fingertips turn to ice cubes, all while calmly trying to tell the kid who's supposed to be the "stoker" (of the fire) for the day that yes, all the other kids are right, I know you don't want to get up right now, but we do need the fire stoked, even though we're trying to cook on the coals, because it is 18 degrees right now, and yes, they could have said it in a more assertive way, would you like to check in about what you're feeling or give feedback, but first please stoke, but please don't stoke all the way around my pot so that it's engulfed in a fiery furnace and I have no chance of keeping my arm if I try to go in to rescue it. Thank you. Ah! And don't step in my pot of veggies while you do it!

Aaah yes...canned soup. Mmm. 

I have a few favorites floating around out there, but unfortunately none of them are perfect paleo. But read the story above again and you'll agree...I need canned soup. Let me know if you find any perfect paleo ones. (Update! There is now a fully paleo canned soup, which I reviewed on my blog here!Here are my recommendations:

Amy's Soups

  • Organic Chunky Tomato Bisque (contains dairy and sugar)
  • Organic Cream of Tomato Soup (contains dairy and evaporated cane juice)
  • Organic Chunky Vegetable Soup (dairy-free, contains corn)
  • Thai Coconut Soup (contains soy AHHH!! but only teensy tiny pieces and cornstarch)
  • Mushroom Bisque with Porcini Mushrooms (contains arborio rice and dairy) - note, this is different than the "Cream of Mushroom Soup" which contains wheat flour
Max cooking up some Mushroom Bisque with chicken sausage at Zion National Park after climbing Angel's Landing.

Pacific Foods Soups - these come in resealable cartons rather than cans...even easier with no can opener!

  • Organic Creamy Tomato Soup (contains dairy, cane sugar, rice flour)
  • Organic Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup (contains dairy, cane sugar, rice flour)
  • Organic Cashew Carrot Ginger Soup (dairy-free, contains cane sugar and corn starch)
  • Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup (contains dairy, corn starch, rice flour, potatoes, natural flavors, canola oil, evaporated cane juice)
  • Thai Sweet Potato Soup (dairy-free, contains corn starch, rice flour, natural flavors)
  • Organic Hearty Tomato Bisque (contains dairy, corn starch, cane sugar)
  • Organic Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Bisque (contains dairy, corn starch, cane sugar)
  • Organic Butternut Squash Bisque (contains dairy, corn starch, cane sugar)
  • Organic Cashew Carrot Ginger Bisque (dairy-free, contains corn starch, cane sugar)
  • Organic Cream of Chicken Condensed Soup (contains dairy, rice starch, rice flour)
  • Organic Cream of Mushroom Condensed Soup (contains dairy, rice starch, rice flour)

Since none of these are super-substantial on their own (most are only around 200-300 calories per can), I slice up some salami to eat with them and it makes a nice, balanced at least.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Fire-Roasted Apples

A recent exchange with a co-staff on trail:
Me: "Hey, I think your apple's in the fire."
Jesse: "Yea, I put it there."
Me: "Oh. Why would you do that?"
Jesse: "I'm roasting it."

Hmmm...very interesting concept. Literally he just tossed his apple on the hot coals and about an hour later sliced up a perfectly baked, juicy, warm apple to share with us. It tasted just like the baked apples that my mom made in the oven when I was a kid for an after-school snack. No foil required. Just make sure it doesn't get in the flames, and keep turning it to cook it evenly. Dust off the ash and voila! Cozy comfort food.

Oil & Spice Kit Systems

I think that spices are essential on trips. I discovered about a year ago that one reason I sometimes don't feel satisfied with food on trips is not for lack of quantity, but for lack of flavor. I found this out because I really craved mustard all the time while on a Pacific Coast bike tour. Mustard in itself is not a very substantial food source, but it adds a ton of flavor. I used to not bother with spices because it seemed like more of a hassle and took up extra weight and space but I definitely have come to appreciate the value of it. And of course when eating paleo, fats are essential as well. Here are some recommendations for creating an oil & spice kit. I'm not saying you should use everything listed here (I definitely don't). If you did assemble everything from this list, your spice kit might take up half your food bag, so pick and choose the flavors that you crave most on the trail.


I like to use the GSI Outdoors salt & pepper shaker to store spices because you can put two spices in one little bottle. The also have a spice rack that looks pretty convenient, and cheaper than buying 3 separate salt and pepper shakers. Or a spice missile. Anything called a "missile" has to be worth it.

If I had to choose the top spices to have in a spice kit, these would be it:

  • Sea salt
  • Pepper (actually I don't really like pepper but I know most people do)
  • Chili powder - make anything taste like chili in a second
  • Curry powder - ditto for curry
  • Garlic powder or garlic salt
  • Cinnamon
  • Ground cumin
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Red chili flakes
  • Cayenne pepper

Additional spices that are nice to have if you really like going fancy on the trail:

  • Dill
  • Paprika - smoked or sweet
  • Ground Coriander
  • Thyme
  • Sage
  • Rosemary
  • Herbs de provence
  • Cardamom
  • Ground cloves
  • Ground ginger

Pre-packaged spice blends:

These work well if you want to flavor a dish quickly and easily. Simply Organic makes a bunch of different spice packets, although most of them have stuff like maltodextrin, tapioca starch, and/or silicon dioxide. They are tasty and easy but you could also come up with a similar flavor if you have a good spice kit.


The most convenient thing I've found for oils are Nalgene's travel bottles because they are leak proof. The size you get will depend on how much you want to carry based on the length of your trip and how many people you're feeding.  

Coconut Oil
I carry an 8-oz round, widemouth bottle for coconut oil. The wide mouth allows me to chip it out with my knife because coconut oil is solid below 76 degrees F. The 8-oz size easily lasts me for my 8-day shifts with some leftover, even if I'm cooking for other people. They also make 1-, 2-, 4-, 16-, and 32-oz sizes of the wide-mouth, although since the smaller volume bottles are smaller in general, I don't know if the mouths are big enough to get a knife into. Nalgene doesn't actually sell these on their website, but REI carries them or you can order them on The Container Store website. BPA-free. 

Olive Oil
I use Nalgene bottles for olive oil as well. Olive oil stays liquid at lower temperatures than coconut oil so the wide-mouth bottles aren't as essential, but if you're camping at sub-freezing temperatures it's handy to be able to scoop out the solidified olive gel. It does warm up really fast though, so sometimes I'll stick the bottle in my jacket close to my body while I'm doing other stuff and it liquifies pretty quickly. I currently have a 2-oz bottle I use for the olive oil and it's not nearly enough to last me a week, so I might have to get a bigger one soon.

Butter or Ghee
If you're traveling in butter-melting temperatures, you can either melt the butter or ghee and pour it into a wide-mouthed Nalgene travel bottle like the coconut oil, or use one of those snaplock tupperware containers (the plastic not the glass...unless you want to carry the extra weight). You can get small ones that fit a good amount of butter and won't leak if the butter melts. GSI makes a version that holds half a liter and is 3.8"x1.7"x4.9". Snapware makes one that is a little smaller (.3 L). Both of these are BPA-free. There's also a million other brands, so just go look at the store to find one that works for you. If you're traveling in solid-butter temperatures, just throw a stick in a Ziploc. 

Additional Flavors:

Soy Sauce:
Great for making teriyaki-flavored meals, or added to curries for a little extra flavor. Store in a small leak-proof flip-top bottle, or narrow-mouthed leak-proof bottle.

Hot Sauce:
Tapatío, Cholula's, Valentina's! Store the same as soy sauce. Also included in this category as Tabasco sauce (or "Tabby" as the kids affectionately call it as they argue over it). My favorite is the green Tabby, red is too strong for me. 

Curry Paste:
You can get individual curry paste packets at Asian food markets, or just bring the whole little bottle with you. 

Oh man, I don't go anywhere without mustard! I bring the whole bottle too! I go through about one 9-oz. bottle a week of Annie's Organic Dijon Mustard. If you don't want as much as that, you can always rebottle it in a smaller Nalgene. 

I don't use vinegar much (or ever) on the trail, and hadn't actually thought about it until writing this post. If you're a vinegar fiend though, it might be worth it. I might try it...I do love balsamic. 

Toasted Sesame Oil:
A good addition for Asian-flavored dishes. 

Raw Local Honey:
Good for sweetening tea. In colder temperatures it solidifies, so warm in your jacket. 

High-Carb Paleo for Cold Weather Trips

In my last post, I talked about needing more carbs in cold weather than a typical paleo diet provides, and I've come up with some ideas for how to do it in a paleo-friendly way.

Plantain Chips 

Salty, crunchy, and carby. Yum.

Terra Chips 

Same as above, and they make me feel like I'm getting veggies, which can be a struggle on trail.


Cheese seems like the perfect winter food to me...a great mix of fat, protein, and carbs. Find raw and grass-fed if you can.

  • See my post on Garlic Bombs for a delicious winter appetizer to whip up while you're waiting for your meal to cook.

Dried Fruit

Mmmm...I love dried mango, but I rarely eat it because it's pretty darn high in carbs. But I'm going to bring some next week!

  • Try to find kinds without added sugar
  • Add it to trail mix
  • Eat it on its own
  • Make it into energy bars

Energy Bars

  • Larabars use dates as a base and are therefore higher carb than other bars. My favorite is the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. 
  • KIND bars are gluten-free, but not strict paleo, since they use rice crisps and peanuts. I normally get the lowest-carb Dark Chocolate Nuts and Sea Salt, but the Dark Chocolate Cherry and Cashew one is just as delicious and higher in carbs.
  • Or make your own, with a blend of nuts, dried fruit, coconut flakes, chia seeds, and whatever else sounds good!

Living Intentions Superfood Cereals

I've talked about these before in my 'Nola post. They are sprouted gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free cereals made with buckwheat, which isn't actually a grain, and is not related to wheat. It's a fruit seed that is related to rhubarb and sorrel. Maybe not the MOST paleo thing, but it makes a tasty gluten-free, granola-like cereal while providing a slightly higher dose of carbs. 

Garlic Bombs

I was introduced to this delicious appetizer by a co-staff and they really hit the spot when all you need is a snack to keep you going until your dinner is ready. The raw garlic might turn some of you off, but the cheese really mellows out the bite and it's not quite as intense as you might think. Plus raw garlic is really good for you (it strengthens the immune system and supports the heart) and these little morsels are a tasty way to get it down. 

Hot sauce (such as Tapatío)
Raw garlic cloves

Cut the cheese into approximately 1/2" cubes.
With the point of your knife, dig out a dip in the center of the cube (big enough to hold a couple drops of hot sauce).
Fill the dip with a couple drops of hot sauce.
Set a garlic clove (or half a clove if they're big) on top of each cube.
Toast to strengthened immunity, a happy heart, a hike well done and toss one back!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Carbs in the Cold

So the cold weather has settled in on the field area for my job. Last week brought us a 13-degree (F) morning, 22-degree days, and a constant low-hanging fog that lasted about 7 days, obscuring everything further than 100 yards away. That's the longest I've gone without seeing the sun in Utah.

I felt like the apocalypse was coming, because every day we'd wake up in a cloud, with no sign that it would ever subside. However, on day 9 of the shift, the sun finally made a spectacular appearance and blasted away the fog, leaving us with sweeping views of the Uinta mountains to the north, the rock cliffs to the east and west of us still blanketed in snow, and a beautiful blue sky. The temperature only slightly increased with the arrival of the sun, and then became even more biting with the entrance of the wind that threatened to bring our first big winter storm.

Along with the weather, I've noticed a change in my appetite in the field: I've been craving CARBS. Lots of them. Almost immediately upon arriving in the field, I want what my co-staff are eating: Pop-Tarts (I never even liked these before), mac & cheese, king-size Snickers bars, granola and oats (known in our groups as "G-n-O"), and dense cups of beans and rice ("B-n-R") loaded with sharp cheddar cheese.

As soon as I return home, these cravings are gone. Right now I want to make a big pan of roasted brussels sprouts, devour a huge grass-fed burger with no bun, and snack on leftover stir-fry. I started to think that there had to be some primal answer to why I'm craving carbs when I'm living in the cold, and that I shouldn't ignore them, stubbornly clinging to a low-carb diet in the field. So I sent a question to Mark Sisson of Mark's Daily Apple, and he answered in his "Dear Mark" column. He explains it way better than I could, but essentially he says that yes, we do need to eat more carbs while living in the cold. Hurray! Here's the link to his response!

Now I just need to make sure I can keep them "healthy" carbs and resist the urge to go find gluten-free Pop-Tarts. Stay tuned for a post on carb-dense options that would still fit a paleo diet.