Thursday, November 30, 2017

Spring Break 2017: 9-Day Menu (Car & Backpacking)

A post from last spring that I just finished up...
It’s been seven years since I’ve graduated college and I’m still not ready to give up my spring break. This time of year, when it’s been raining for about five months straight in the PNW, the dry and dust of the desert really call me. Also, Max and I conveniently still have some friends living in Salt Lake who love to adventure. We decided to meet up and do some backpacking, but they weren’t available until later in the week, so Max and I took the Nevada route from Eugene down to Utah and made a stop at Great Basin National Park. There we toured the Lehman Caves. I hadn’t been in a cave since I was little so it was a pretty cool experience. Seeing all of the elaborate stalactites, stalagmites, columns, shields, “cave bacon,” and “cave popcorn,” it was so hard to comprehend just how slowly they all grow. It was also a trip when the guide turned out the lights and the darkness was so heavy it felt like it was pushing on my eyes, and I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. I was pretty shocked to learn that visitors in the 1800’s would throw parties deep in the caves, with music and food and dancing.

After the cave tour, we tried our hardest to get up to the Bristlecone Pine trail, but since the road to that trailhead is closed until a little later in the season, we had to start at the Upper Lehman campground, which added 3.6 miles to the trip, most of it post-holing in soft snow. We hadn’t brought snowshoes or even micro-spikes, so it was a laborious 3.6 miles. We made it to the campground but decided to turn around, since the snow had been getting unpassably deep for us without snowshoes.

My favorite part of the trail was the rose hips we found. We collected some for tea later and nibbled on the bright, sun-warmed red flesh as a little trail treat. They tasted like a fruit roll-up.
Then we headed to Ibex, Utah for some rock climbing. The first day of climbing outside after a winter of only gym climbing is always humbling. But that’s part of why I climb because the rock can really cut through your ego and teach you some real lessons. Essentially I climbed nothing beyond a V1 the first day, and even failed on some V0’s. The familiar discouragement set in, threatening to ruin the trip for me.

But the next morning we grabbed our rope and headed up to the Scorpion Slab for some 5.8/5.9 sport climbs. We started to figure out the rock a little more on these climbs, a little more comfortable experimenting with the safety of a rope. The rock in Ibex is quartzite, which I really liked. It took a while to trust my feet, but I finally realized that my shoes were gripping even the tiniest of ledges, and I didn’t have a foot fail the entire time. The sun baked us by noon, so we headed down to siesta in the shade of the boulders for a couple hours and then broke out the crash pads for another afternoon session once the sun had gone behind the cliffs. We chose a boulder that had about eight solid V0’s and V1’s all around and just really enjoyed the routes. It’s true when they say that you have to ignore the grades and just climb.

The first half of our trip was car camping, so we had the luxury of a cooler. Breakfasts were Soft-Boiled Eggs with Butter & Mustard, a hot dog, and a Morning Glory Muffin. Lunches were various takes on sandwich-style “Bowls” (which are really more like salads without the lettuce). On this trip we alternated between sardines or pepperoni, and added bell pepper, apple, carrot, avocado, and of course mustard. We didn’t bring enough olive oil to use some for lunch, but usually we douse it in some good extra virgin for a little extra fat. We always buy sardines packed in olive oil, so that helped a little, but the pepperoni definitely needed a little something to bring it together. Just to highlight how much we love mustard: we used an entire bottle in the first three days and ran out by Thursday breakfast. That was rough.

Sunday - Drive from Eugene, OR to Spring Valley, NV
(meals were mostly a bunch of leftovers or pre-cooked foods we brought in our cooler)
Breakfast - hard boiled eggs, avocado, yogurt & carrot radiccio salad
Lunch - grass-fed burgers, steamed carrots with olive oil, green salad
Dinner - grass-fed meat, onions, and mushrooms cooked in tallow, delicata squash, green salad

Chicken Pesto Broccoli
Monday - Great Basin National Park: Lehman Caves, Lehman Creek Trail
Breakfast - Soft-Boiled Eggs with Butter & Mustard, hot dog, Morning Glory Muffin
Lunch - Sandwich “Bowls”
Dinner - Chicken Pesto Broccoli, delicata squash (leftover from home), Theo chocolate

Tuesday - Bouldering in Ibex, UT
Breakfast & Lunch - same as above
Dinner - Salmon-Apple Bake (same as the Onion Apple Tuna Bake, but with salmon), delicata squash, carrot radicchio salad, Theo chocolate

Wednesday - A few sport climbs and some more bouldering in Ibex
Breakfast & Lunch - same as above
Dinner - Salmon Coconut Curry, Theo chocolate

Thursday - Headed to SLC to meet up with some friends and prep for the second half of our trip
Breakfast - same as above
Lunch & Dinner - city food

The second half of our trip we planned to do a little backpacking in Southern Utah. We had picked out Lower Muley Twist Canyon, but when we showed up at the ranger station to get our permit, the ranger on duty told us that they limit the number of parties in the canyons for each night, and that Lower Muley had already hit the limit of three. But she was really kind and pointed out a few other options for us, and we decided to hike Lower Spring Canyon. Because they limit the number of groups in the canyon per night, we didn’t see or hear a single person once we arrived at our campsite and we felt like we had the canyon to ourselves. We took some time to just lie and soak in the beauty of the sandstone walls, played some cards, ate some delicious food, and watched the bats swoop over our heads in our sleeping bags while we stargazed. The next day, we day-hiked Upper Spring Canyon, then returned to our campsite and moved down canyon for the night. On Sunday, we hiked Lower Spring Canyon. The ranger had told us that we would notice a difference between the upper and lower part of the canyon and she was right. The sharp, straight lines of the deep red Navajo sandstone gave way to the softer, rounder, lighter walls of the lower canyon. Since we started early enough, most of the canyon was in the shade the whole morning. At the very end we had to ford the Fremont River to get back to the road. I love any trip that ends in cold water, so I was thrilled.

Friday - Backpacking in Capitol Reef National Park: Spring Creek Canyon
Breakfast - eggs & bacon at our friends’ house before leaving
Lunch - Sandwich “Bowls”
Dinner - Cream of Mushroom Chicken Soup, chocolate

Saturday - Backpacking in Capitol Reef National Park: Spring Creek Canyon
Breakfast - Living Intentions Superfood Cereal w/ collagen & coconut milk
Lunch - Sandwich “Bowls”
Dinner - Beefy Spaghetti Squash 'n' Sauce, chocolate

Sunday - Backpacking in Capitol Reef National Park: Spring Creek Canyon
Breakfast & Lunch - same as Saturday
Dinner - Sausages, salad, sweet potatoes, wine, and chocolate back at our friends’ house in SLC

Monday - Drive from SLC to EUG
Breakfast - eggs & bacon at the house
Lunch/Snacks - sardines & oysters, carrots, apple, avocado, trail mix, plantain chips, sweet potato chips, kombucha

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Oregon Elk Hunt & True Primal 100% GRASS-FED! Soup Review: 6-Day Menu

I never thought I would want to hunt. I always thought of it as just a recreation activity for people who liked to drive trucks, shoot guns, and wear camo. But the more I've tried to learn about ancestral life ways, the more I've realized that hunting is an inseparable part of life. How else would we be able to nourish ourselves from a wild landscape? Foraged berries and leafy greens contribute essential nutrients and are obviously a very important part of a natural diet, but berries and leaves alone will not give us the protein and fat that our bodies have evolved to require. And so I have come to a point in my life where I want to become a huntress. Deciding to become her was the easy part. Learning to become her is much more difficult.
Most of the hunters I know have grown up hunting. They have been taught by their families, with this knowledge being passed down from many previous generations. Max and I both do not come from hunting families and have very few friends who hunt. Hunting and all the know-how that goes into it is very mysterious to me. How do you find the elk? is the biggest question, but I have many others like, How do you set up so you can get a good shot? How do you read the wind so your scent doesn't give you away? How do you track the elk once they are shot? How do you field dress it? And then there's the matter of being practiced enough with a rifle to take a successful shot. It seems like so many years of knowledge and skill required to make one kill, and I feel discouraged, starting from scratch. A seasoned hunting mentor who lives near us has yet to materialize, so we decided to start on our own this year anyways. We have a friend who has been hunting a couple years and so we planned a trip together to the Umpqua National Forest for Oregon's October elk season.
 This hunting trip required the most sustained energy output I have ever had to give for a trip. Up around 4 or 4:30 every morning, followed by 6-8 miles of tiring cross-country travel with packs, interspersed with hours of sitting still in the cold while glassing across valleys or waiting in a clearing for the chance to glimpse an elusive bull. This was all the energy I could muster on our last day in camp:
I was exhausted and bone-tired by the end of the five and a half days, and not a single elk was sighted, but I felt like I gained what I had come for. We found a few signs of elk - hoof prints and droppings - and I'm beginning to learn the type of habitat elk like. I made friends with the dark cold mornings, and learned to appreciate sitting in the cold, waiting for the magic of an elk to appear. These elk introduced me, through their absence, to their favorite times of day - dawn and dusk. Never had I so closely watched the coming and going of the days, and without these elk, I might never have done so.
Like any first time endeavor, this hunting trip surfaced more questions than answers, but it gave me a solid place to start from, on a learning journey that will take a long time. It also helped me decide that I don't want to rifle hunt; I am drawn much more to the backcountry and a bow than roads and rifles. The sound of a rifle, and hours spent at a shooting range to hone the skill is the opposite of the peace and connection I am seeking through learning to be a huntress. I know this will be exponentially more difficult than learning to rifle hunt, but I also feel like I have exponentially more to gain from it.
Oh yea! And I forgot to mention we saw a PACIFIC GIANT SALAMANDER!!! This is us looking at it, but it fled before anyone could get a picture of it, so you'll just have to take my word. It was giant!
A notable addition to our camping food pantry on this trip was True Primal's 100% Grass-Fed Beef & Vegetable Soup. I wrote a review on their original soup a while back, but recently they switched over to 100% grass-fed beef, and changed from cans to pouches. As before, I was impressed with the taste and quality. My favorite part is the absence of the "canned soup" know what I'm talking about...even Amy's Kitchen soups have it. And each pouch of fully primal/paleo soup has 24 grams of protein, 14 grams of fat, and 300 calories (more than the previous version). There's a substantial amount of vegetables and meat in each serving, and with some sweet potato chips or a coconut flour biscuit on the side, makes a pretty filling meal. Max, of course, always likes to add a scoop of butter, too.
I love companies who go the extra mile and try to make their product the best, and I really appreciate True Primal choosing to go with 100% grass-fed beef. I hate having to compromise quality food while out on adventures, and companies like True Primal make it so I don't have to! I also love that they are now pouches. They are easier to cram into a backpack, and the trash is more packable. We love this soup so much, we brought enough pouches along for 3 of our 5 dinners.

As far as the rest of our food goes...we were in a bit of a time crunch for preparing food, and also discovered last minute that the paleo bread we were trying to bake from Other Foods wouldn't work out because, lo and behold, we don't have a bread pan! So, we had to cut some corners and this isn't a fully paleo menu, but you can easily adapt it to be!

Food lessons from this trip:
  • Bring more bars!!!! Waking up at 4am means there's a lot more of the day to be eating! 
  • Don't bring breakfast foods (like hard boiled eggs) that require prep at 4 in the morning! Only bring foods you can stuff in your mouth as is. 
Day 1:
  • roast beef, raw cheese, and mustard on Franz Gluten-Free Bread
  • plantain chips
  • apple
Homemade Beef & Sweet Potato Chili & Coconut Flour Biscuit
Day 2:
  • 1 gluten-free blueberry muffin
  • 3 Knee Deep pepperoni beef sticks
  • roast beef, raw cheese, and mustard on Franz Gluten-Free Bread
  • plantain chips
  • apple
Cooking up a pot of True Primal soup!
Day 3:
  • roast beef, raw cheese, and mustard on Franz Gluten-Free Bread
  • plantain chips
  • apple
Day 4:
  • salami, raw cheese, and mustard
  • plantain chips
  • apple
  • trail mix
Day 5:
  • salami, raw cheese, and mustard
  • plantain chips
  • apple
  • trail mix
Day 6:
  • Tacos & salad at Falling Sky Brewery in Eugene!!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Cream of Mushroom Chicken Soup

I've been trying to experiment with more dehydrated meals lately and I am particularly excited about this one. It turned out really good and I packed SO many vegetables into it. I've been contemplating a lot lately how we in the civilized world have ended up eating just a few vegetables over and over again. Carrots, onions, celery. Carrots, celery, onion. Onion, celery, carrots. But there are so many other foods out there and each one offers a unique energy for your body to use. So in this meal, I tried to use a wide variety of vegetables. Ideally they would be from the wild because there is so much more energy to be drawn from wild places than from a cultivated garden or farm, but this is what I had available. I used two different types of mushrooms, onions AND leeks, cauliflower, garlic, kale, peas, and sweet potato. I think all the different ingredients also give it a much more complex flavor, something that is essential (and often lacking) in backcountry foods.

1 TB cooking fat (I think I used lard)
1 large onion, chopped
1 large head of cauliflower, chopped
2 cups crimini mushrooms, chopped
2 large white sweet potatoes, chopped
1 tsp sea salt
2 quarts chicken broth

1 TB cooking fat
1 large leek, diced
2 large portobello mushrooms, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 TB dried rosemary
1 TB dried thyme
1.5 lb. ground chicken

1 bunch kale, chopped
1 bag frozen peas

In a large soup pot, heat the cooking fat over medium heat. Add onion, cauliflower, crimini mushrooms, sweet potatoes, and sea salt. Stir to coat with the cooking fat, and cook until veggies begin to get tender.
Add chicken broth to the pot, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
Simmer veggies in the broth until they are very soft.
Remove pot from heat and let cool.

Meanwhile, heat another tablespoon of cooking fat in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add leek and portobello mushrooms and sauté until veggies are tender. Add the garlic, rosemary, and thyme. Stir for about a minute to release the fragrance, then add ground chicken. Break up the chicken into small pieces with a wooden spoon and cook until chicken is cooked through.
Once broth and veggie mixture is cool, run it in small batches through the blender to puree (I like to put a towel on top of the blender and hold down to make sure splatters are kept to a minimum).

Add the blended broth mixture to the cooked leeks, mushrooms, and chicken. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let simmer about 20 minutes.
Towards the end of the cooking time, add the kale and frozen peas. Stir to incorporate and cook until kale is wilted and peas are thawed.
Remove pot from heat and let cool.

Dehydrating & rehydrating directions found here.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Herbal First Aid Kit

**This is not medical advice and should not be used as such! This post is intended for educational purposes only, and if you are experiencing severe symptoms of any kind, you should immediately leave the backcountry and seek medical help. Some of this information may be useful for interim care, but should not replace professional care.**
I always carry a jar of salve for bug bites, cuts, burns, and dry lips.
For the last several years, I have been diving into the wisdom of plants and learning from them how to heal things naturally. I find so much richness in making my own herbal remedies and it is such an empowering feeling to be able to use something I've made to heal myself and my friends. There are a few things I swear by, and I'm beginning to build an herbal first aid kit to carry in the backcountry with my favorite remedies. Here are some of the things I like to use:

Cuts, Scrapes, and Bruises

  • Herbal salve - with ingredients like comfrey, St. John's Wort, plantain, calendula, and yarrow. There are a lot of great options for buying a salve, or if you'd like to make your own, find directions here
  • Yarrow poultice - My favorite remedy to stop bleeding! I've used this multiple times on pretty deep cuts, and it's almost magical how quickly it stops bleeding. If there is fresh yarrow (Achillea millefolium) where you are, you can chew up some fresh yarrow leaf and stick it on the open wound. You can also carry yarrow tea bags (buy them or make your own), and to make a poultice, soak one in water and apply it to the wound. 

Bug Bites and Stings

Plantain (Plantago major or Plantago lanceolata) is a great drawing agent, which is good for removing venom from bites and stings. It is such a powerful medicine that some people have even used it to successfully treat black widow and brown recluse spider bites, as well as snake bites.

This is Plantago major (Broadleaf Plantain). You can recognize both plantains (P. major and P. lanceolata, which are long, thin leaves) by the parallel veins of the leaves.
  • Plantain poultice - Find some plantain, chew it up until it's pulpy, and stick it on the bite or sting. Swallow whatever juices you extracted while chewing it (it's medicine on the inside and the outside!) Most effective if used immediately after bite or sting occurs. 
  • Plantain salve - If you're traveling in an area without plantain, you can carry a small tin of plantain salve for bites and stings.
  • Plantain tincture - Taking plantain internally as well as externally can help with bites and stings, too. 


  • Plantain poultice - Plantain is also a great drawing agent for infections. 


  • Pure Aloe Vera gel - This is by far my favorite option for sunburns - plain old aloe vera gel. I buy mine from Mountain Rose Herbs. Just make sure it's as pure as you can get it. Mountain Roses's has preservatives in it, but I don't think you can get around that because truly pure aloe gel would probably spoil quickly. A lot of other products have other fillers in them, including parabens (even if they're labeled "99.9%" aloe gel).

Bug Repellent

Sore or Injured Muscle and Joints

  • Arnica salve

Upset Stomach

  • Activated charcoal capsules - I swear by this for food poisoning-like symptoms (super gurgly stomach, diarrhea, etc.) and have also used it for acid reflux before with success. I have even seen references to it being used for giardia, although I've never had giardia so I haven't been able to experiment personally. 
  • Smooth Move Tea - for constipation.
  • Digestive Bitters Tincture - I always take a digestive bitter before or after I eat, and it really helps my stomach feel less heavy after eating. My favorites are dandelion root or yellow dock root. 

Cold and Flu

  • Gypsy Cold Care Tea - This one truly makes me feel better when I'm sick.
  • Throat Coat - Indispensable for sore throats. 
  • Usnea tincture - Usnea (Usnea barbata) or "Old Man's Beard" is another one of my favorite remedies. It is specific for respiratory and urinary issues, and is very good for sinus infections, bronchitis, strep throat, staph infections, colds, flu, pneumonia, and urinary tract or bladder infections. I make a double-extracted tincture and at the first signs of symptoms, start taking a small dose (5-10 drops) in warm water every half hour or so. Instructions to make your own here
  • Herbal cough drops - My favorite right now are Ricola's Natural Herb cough drops. They have some interesting ingredients like "color (caramel)"...what does that mean?!...and starch syrup and sugar. But even still, I love them, and they really seem to work for me. I love their herb mix they use (elder, horehound, hyssop, lemon balm, linden flowers, mallow, peppermint, sage, thyme, and wild thyme) and I'm thinking about trying to make my own, but with honey, and without the "color." 


So I can't verify these claims, but I recently found a website about 101 Uses for Coconut Oil, and a lot of them were first-aid related. I haven't tested any of them out, but I thought I would pass along the information, because if you're looking to go super lightweight, it would probably be handy to have just one bottle that is a cure-all. If you want to see the whole article, I linked to it above, but here are the first-aid related uses:
  • skin moisturizer
  • SPF 4 sunscreen
  • topically to speed healing of skin after injury or infection
  • topically to kill yeast infections - soak a tampon in it and insert for a few hours
  • topically to treat athlete's foot
  • rub on inside of nose to alleviate allergies
  • can help speed healing of sunburn, after initial heat is gone
  • antibacterial skin cream
  • reduce itchiness of mosquito bites

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Elkhorn Crest Trail: 3-Day Menu

Twin Lakes from the Elkhorn Crest Trail

Two of our friends got married recently and for a wedding gift, Max and I decided to plan a backpacking trip with them and make all the food. I love chances to try new recipes and especially for other people to test them! We had planned to take them to the Wild Rogue Loop in Southwest Oregon, which I've been wanting to do for a year now, but that area was smothered with smoke and also pretty close to a couple of fires. We spent several nights looking at maps of the fires and smoke, and looking at predictions for the weekend, but nothing looked clear except Eastern Oregon. We finally chose the Elkhorn Crest Trail in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. A little further than we wanted to drive, but it looked like our best option.
The long drive was made a bit longer and bit more exciting because we drove right past one of the active fires burning along Highway 126. This was the first wildfire I'd seen this close and it was hauntingly beautiful. We hit the burn right as night fell, and in the growing darkness we started to see small fires here and there on the ground, looking eerily like campfires that had been abandoned, or perhaps tended by ghosts. As the line of cars crawled deeper into the heart of it, more and more firelight appeared, now on the trunks of charred trees which crackled with criss-crossed lines of glowing embers. Most of the damage had been done by now and the smoldering forest was now reminiscent of a fire pit in its last hour. A snag burned in the distance. A small stand of baby cedars crackled as they went up in flames. And then we were past it. The road wound up the hillside and we watched from above as the lights disappeared in the darkness, winking away like so many Christmas lights hung from ghosted trees.

It was amazing to see in all that destruction that many of the larger trees remained standing with green needles held high above the danger zone, and knowing that this patch of forest has a good chance of regenerating. I used to be uniformly saddened by burned forests, but after years of hiking through burned patches, have come to realize that these "damaged" areas are able to host so much life afterwards. In fact, one of the best feastings of thimbleberry I've ever had came from a previously burned patch of forest. However, when so much area burns for so long, one has to this part of "healthy" regeneration for a forest? Or catastrophe brought on by climate change, and poor caretending of our lands? Here's an interesting article from Oregon Wild about it: 9 Things Oregonians Should Know About Forest Fires.

I think this map from 9-8-2017 speaks for itself. 
We started at the south end at the Marble Pass trailhead and hiked the 4-6 miles (signs conflicting) on the gradually inclined trail. The weather was hot enough to make us excited for a swim at Twin Lakes, our destination. We made bets on how cold the water was going to be. "I think colder than the McKenzie, but warmer than Blue Pool." "I think closer to the Willamette." It ended up being a perfect temperature and we swam several times in the aqua mountain water.
Tenkara fishing
 The water was also filled with many of them! It only took me about five minutes of casting before I caught my first fish ever (well...the first one I could legally take) using our new Tenkara rod. Tenkara is a Japanese style of fly fishing that uses only a rod, a line, and a fly. When I first heard about it, I was becoming more interested in fishing as a way of gathering my own food, and I was drawn to it's simplicity. The fish I caught was a small rainbow trout with beautiful markings on its sides. Since I fish only for sustenance and not sport, I now faced the death part. All food comes with a price, and death is a natural and necessary part of life. Feeling full of gratitude for this fish, and for the part of me it will become, I killed it, gutted it, and cooked it to eat with dinner.
My first catch
At our campsite, we were graced with the company of a herd of 20 mountain goats that we could see climbing the hills, drinking water out of the stream flowing from the lake, and grazing in the green meadows.

Day 1:

Breakfast - Morning Glory muffins & bacon (where we car camped)

Morning Glory muffins

Cooking up the Salmon Curry
Lunch - Smoked salmon, Almond Flour Dill crackers, creamy Toscano cheese soaked in Syrah

Dinner - Easy Salmon Curry w/ collagen powder

Dessert - Key Lime Packaroons (from Heather's Choice Let's Go On An Adventure dehydrating e-book)

This was my best pot of Salmon Curry to date!

Day 2:

Breakfast - Banana Nut & Maple Cinnamon Sprouted Buckwheat cereals (mixed together!) with coconut milk and collagen

Lunch - Salami Bowls, plantain chips

The salami bowls were a hit!
Dinner - Chile Verde w/ collagen powder and Jackson's Honest Sweet Potato Chips
Chile Verde. No that's not butter....good guess, though. It's raw cheese!

Day 3:

Breakfast - Banana Nut & Maple Cinnamon Sprouted Buckwheat cereals (mixed together!) with coconut milk and collagen

Lunch - Salami slices, goat gouda cheese, more sweet potato chips, Larabars

Snacks -
  • homemade beef jerky 
  • Sea Salt Rosemary Sprouted Almonds (also from Heather's Choice e-book)
  • trail mix
  • dried pineapple
  • plantain chips

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Taco Surprise

This was named by Max's cousin when I described it to her as "beef taco stuff." She then dubbed it "Taco Surprise" because...surprise! There's no tacos! No grains means no tortillas, but that doesn't mean we can't have taco filling! It was a hit at Max's annual family Cape Alava backpacking trip. Also, I have a lead on some cassava flour tortillas that I think would do well in backpacks...coming soon!

Makes 4 servings

1 TB cooking fat
2 red or green bell peppers, diced
1 large onion, diced
4 large crimini mushrooms, diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1.5 lb ground beef
1/2 TB salt
pepper to taste
1 TB chili powder of choice (chipotle, ancho, etc)
1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup tomato paste (about half a small can)

Cook vegetables in a large pot over medium heat until soft.
Stir in the ground beef, spices, tomatoes, and tomato paste.
Cook until meat is cooked through.
Remove from heat and let cool.
Spread on parchment paper on dehydrator trays and dehydrate 8-12 hours at 150F.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Sprouted Buckwheat Cereals

No. It's not Paleo. BUT...sometimes Paleo granola is just too many nuts at once for me. Buckwheat is gluten free which is a strict rule I follow in my diet life, and sprouting makes them more digestible. I've used Living Intentions' Superfood Cereals before on trips which use buckwheat sprouts as the main base, and I really like those. It's just one of those compromises I make sometimes for the backcountry. Living Intentions is somewhat expensive, though, so I decided to try making my own. I found a couple recipes, and they worked out nicely! They did turn out super crunchy, though, which tired my mouth out after a while, so I started soaking my bowl of cereal in coconut milk and water (I always water down my coconut milk in my cereal, otherwise it makes me feel sick) before adding about a tablespoon of collagen to it, and that worked well. Here are the two recipes I used. I followed them pretty exactly, with the exception of the cooking method for the Maple Cinnamon which says to cook in the oven at 400F. It started to get pretty burned around the edges, so part way through I took it out and finished it in the dehydrator. It would probably do fine to do it in the dehydrator entirely, and probably better to preserve the "liveness" of the sprouts...I don't know if that's true, but it sounds like it could be. Eventually I would like to make one more along the lines of Living Intentions' that uses things like reishi and maca and stuff like that just for more nutritional benefits.

Banana Nut Buckwheat Granola

Maple Cinnamon Buckwheat Granola

Friday, September 8, 2017

Chile Verde

I adapted this recipe from one I found using beef chuck roast. I changed it to ground beef for better dehydrating, and added some plantains and green bell pepper for more substance. I knew it was going to be good, but it actually turned out way better than I thought. And more filling. I looked at the quantity after dehydrating it and it didn't seem like enough for 4 people, so we brought cheese and sweet potato chips to go with it, but I think it would have been fine on its own.

Makes 4 servings

2 large anaheim peppers
2 large poblano peppers
1 jalapeño
1.5 lb ground beef or pork
1 onion, diced
2 green bell peppers, diced
2 large green plantains, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 tomatillos, diced
2 cups beef or chicken broth
1/2 TB ground cumin
1/2 TB dried oregano
1/8 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup cilantro
1 TB freshly squeezed lime juice

Place all the peppers on a large baking sheet. Roast under the broiler until skin is black and charred, about 5 minutes per side. Remove peppers from oven and put in a paper bag. Let them sweat for about 20 minutes, then remove from the bag, peel and discard skins, cut out seeds, and dice peppers. Put peppers in a crock pot or dutch oven.
Sprinkle beef or pork with salt and pepper. Brown meat in a frying pan over medium heat.
Once meat is browned, use a wooden spoon to break large chunks into smaller pieces (this will help it rehydrate faster later), then transfer it to slow cooker or dutch oven.
Adding more fat to the meat pan (only if needed), sauté the onion, green bell peppers, and plantain until onion is translucent and plantain is starting to change color to a brighter yellow. Plantain may start to stick to pan, if this happens, you can add water or broth to the pan.
Add garlic to the pan and continue cooking another 30 seconds to release the garlic's flavor.
Transfer onion, green bell peppers, plantain, and garlic to the slow cooker.
Add diced tomatillos, broth, cumin, oregano, allspice, salt, and half of the cilantro.
If using a crockpot, cook on high for 4 hours, or low for 6 hours. Add remaining cilantro, and the lime juice. Taste and adjust spices.
If using a dutch oven, or other large pot, bring contents to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 3 hours. Add remaining cilantro, and the lime juice. Taste and adjust spices.
Spread on dehydrator trays and dehydrate 8-12 hours at 150 F.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Almond Flour Dill Crackers

These crackers are delightfully salty, and the dill goes really well with smoked salmon. They're a little more on the cakey side of texture rather than crunchy, but don't let that put you off! They make a great addition to any lunch.

2 cups almond flour
1 egg
1 TB olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp dried dill

Preheat oven to 350F.
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until it has taken on a doughy texture.
Use your hands to form crackers into a long log, about 1-2 inches in diameter. You can make it a circular log or square.
Using a knife, cut the log into thin slices (about 1/8 inch) and lay them flat on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake for 10-12 minutes at 350F. If crackers are thick, they may take longer.
Remove and let cool before packing in a Ziplock bag.

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