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On the Hunt: Fall Mushroom Hunting in the Northwest

in Food/Skills by
Photo by Tatiana Bulyonkova Flickr.com
Photo by pfly Flickr.com
Photo by pfly Flickr.com

The rain has come. Most of us grimace and grit our teeth at the first few showers of the year, preparing to hunker down inside our rain gear and under umbrellas for the next few months. The first weeks are the hardest, we slip into the early stages of recovery – anger and denial, refusing to venture out, to give in to soggy pants legs and cold hands. We brace ourselves for the time change and the short, gray days of winter. We might cancel the first hike of the season due to rain and stay home instead to make cookies or contemplate taking up an indoor hobby, perhaps some kind of craft. We might as well, we think, just wait for the ski season.

 

Photo by Tatiana Bulyonkova Flickr.com
Photo by Tatiana Bulyonkova Flickr.com

In reality, we should be celebrating. These first warm rains bring the mushrooms.

 

The ease and abundance of Pacific Northwest fall mushroom hunting is more than enough reason to buck up against the rains early in the season. In a good year, one that is warm and wet and the rains arrive in the weeks before Halloween, even inexperienced and accidental hunters can come home with armloads of edible wild mushrooms in just a couple of hours. A good year makes a walk in the woods something more akin to a treasure hunt than a hike; adults turn into giddy school kids, squealing with glee when they find an untouched patch of matsutakes, carefully stacking them into baskets to keep them safe. A good year gives us reason to get outside during the shoulder season.

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This is a good year.

The best early indication of a good season are the mushroom camps. Wild mushrooms are exactly that, wild. They hide dormant under the duff for most of the year, waiting for just the right conditions before pushing through the surface. Most species are persnickety, requiring a specific combination of elevation, light and growing surface, making them difficult and expensive to cultivate. Somebody has to go out and find them. That’s where the mushroom camps come in. Mushroom camps are tiny village camps, some improvised, others hosted by local ski resorts – or even the Forest Service – that pop up in areas with abundant mushrooms. They teem with rubber-boot clad hobbyists, enthusiastic foodies, migrant workers with five gallon buckets strapped across their shoulders and buyers with pickup trucks. In a bad year, you would hardly even know the camps exist. In a good year, the buyers sit in dense clusters along the highway waiting for even casual hunters to unload some of their bounty. This year, there are large, hand-printed signs heralding camps and mushroom hunting hikes and tours.

The best part of this is that, if you’re new to mushroom hunting, you get a great sense of where to start looking. There is a long-standing tradition of secrecy among even the most casual of mushroom hunters that rivals the magicians code. “Thou shalt not reveal your hunting grounds.” It’s both necessary and irritating. Reliable patches make for easy hunting and will provide you with more than one bloom – if you’re the only one that knows about it. In a bad year, no one will tell you where to find mushrooms. But this is a good year and, in good years, people feel generous. The abundance allows them to hand out info on hunting grounds that may only produce a few mushrooms in a regular year, but make for decent hunting when conditions are right. Good years are for learning, watching how others hunt, finding your own grounds and getting out with people who know what they’re doing.

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The season is on. Buck up, dig out your rain coat and grab a basket. There’s reason yet to get outside.

 

Mushroom Hunting Basics:

Buy a good mushroom field guide, and read through it before setting out. My favorite is All That the Rain Promises, and More… by David Arora.

Find out what kind of mushrooms you’re looking for before you set out, and choose your destination based on their habitat needs.

Go with someone more experienced with you. Not all mushrooms are safe to eat – make sure you know what you are looking for.

Check the regulations. Some kinds of mushrooms require permits to harvest.

Be low impact. Always harvest with a knife and replace the duff cover.

Don’t over-harvest. Take only what you will use and plan on coming back for a second round.

Double check. Lay your mushrooms out at home and double check your identification. If you have any doubt, throw it out.

Reduce waste. In good years its easy to harvest more than you can eat. Share with friends, dehydrate or saute and freeze your extra harvest to eat throughout the winter.

5 Hearty Recipes for Cold Weather Backpacking

in Food by
Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters Flickr.com

As colder temps slowly begin to descend upon us, some people prefer to hang-up their gear in favor of slippers and a warm bed. But for other backpackers, they really get excited about the new challenges and experiences hitting the trail over the next few months provides.

Backpacking in the Fall and Winter not only gives way to new experiences, it’s also a great opportunity to try out new recipes and work on your cooking skills, and there are a lot of recipes available to keep you warm when the snow starts to fall. Here are 5 hearty recipes for cold weather backpacking to help fuel the long hikes during those cold weather trips.

Recipes for Cold Weather Backpacking
Image courtesy of Flickr.com via Chase Dekker

 

Recipes for Cold Weather Backpacking
Photo by the.waterbird Flickr.com

Breakfast: Turbocharged Oatmeal

A hearty breakfast to provide the energy for keeping warm and for hiking during the day. It’s an easy meal to prepare in the morning, but its benefits last well into the day. By adding in some Muscle Milk® powder, you’ll get a nice little boost with the extra protein – Serves 1.

Ingredients

  • 2 pkt Oatmeal
  • 1 tbsp Dried cranberries
  • 1 tbsp Golden raisins
  • 1 tbsp Pine nuts
  • 1⁄3 cup Powdered milk
  • 2 scoops Muscle Milk® “chocolate caramel pecan” flavored drink or similar

Instructions

  • At home: combine all ingredients into a quart sized freezer bag.
  • On the trail: if you are using the freezer bag cooking method: Add 1 cup near boiling water and stir well. Add more water as needed.
  • If you are cooking with one mug: Add 1 cup boiling water and stir well. Add more water as needed.

 

 

Lunch: Beef & Bean Chili

This recipe requires putting those food dehydrating skills to use. But after rehydrating the contents on the trail, you’ll have a tasty, warm meal in the middle of the day and all the extra preparation will be a big payoff – Serves 3-5.

Recipes for Cold Weather Backpacking
Image courtesy of BackpackingChef.com

Ingredients

  • 1 to 1¼ Pounds lean ground beef or turkey
  • ½ cup Bread crumbs, finely ground
  • 1 Large onion
  • 1 – 2 Cloves garlic
  • 3 tbsp Chili Powder
  • 1 15 oz. Can kidney or red beans, drained
  • 1 10 oz. Can tomato puree
  • 1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes

Instructions

  • In the kitchen: Work bread crumbs into ground meat with your fingers and set aside for a moment. I add bread crumbs because dehydrated meat infused with bread crumbs rehydrates better on the trail. Also, the bread crumbs absorb and lock in more of the chili flavor. If you are not planning on dehydrating this chili recipe for backpacking, there is no need to add bread crumbs to the meat. You can make your own bread crumbs by dehydrating bread. Sautee onions and garlic in a little olive oil using just enough to coat the pan. It really helps to use a non-stick pan.
    • Add ground meat and cook for about ten minutes until browned, stirring continuously.
    • Add chili powder and cook for one more minute.
    • Add tomato puree, diced tomatoes and drained beans.
    • Cook until bubbling and then reduce heat to a simmer for one hour.
  • Dehydrate: Have a taste and put the rest in the refrigerator overnight. The extra time enhances the flavor. Hitting the trail in the morning? Start dehydrating immediately. Spread chili out on the dehydrator trays covered with non-stick Paraflexx® Sheets or parchment paper. Dehydrate at 125° for 8 – 10 hours. This recipe took up three 15 x 15 Excalibur Dehydrator trays. After about four hours in the dehydrator, break up any meat and beans that might be stuck together with a spoon or your fingers to expose pieces to more air circulation. Once dry, divide dehydrated chili into one cup or larger servings and pack in plastic zip-lock bags. Yield: Five cups weighing about 12 ounces dry.
  • On the Trail: Combine one cup chili with one cup water and let sit for about five minutes. If you are cooking a larger serving, just add an equal part of water to your dried chili.
    • Light stove, bring to a boil and continue cooking for one minute.
    • Remove from stove and place pot inside insulating pot cozy for ten minutes.

 

 

Recipes for Cold Weather Backpacking
Photo by awordmonkey Flickr.com

Dinner: Chicken Gumbo

You’ll have those dehydrating skills put to the test again, but a hearty bowl of chicken gumbo is a tasty reward and a great way to provide some added warmth for a good night’s sleep when the temperature drops – Serves 2.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Instant brown rice
  • 1/4 cup Onion, dehydrated
  • 1/4 cup Bell pepper, dehydrated
  • 1/4 cup Corn, dehydrated
  • 1/2 cup Okra, dehydrated
  • 1/4 cup Tomato sauce leather
  • 1/2 cup Chicken or sausage, dehydrated (shredded chicken dehydrates the best)
  • Spices:
    • 1/2 tsp Garlic
    • 1/2 tsp Basil
    • 1/4 tsp Thyme
    • 1/2 tsp Pepper
    • 1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper
    • 2 Bouillon cubes

Instructions

  • At home: Combine all ingredients in a 2-quart ziplock bag.
  • On the Trail:
    • Combine all ingredients with the 3 cups of water in pot and soak for five minutes.
    • Light stove, bring to a boil, and continue cooking with the lid on for one minute.
    • Remove pot from stove and wait ten minutes. Insulate pot if possible.

 

 

Snacks: Energy Bars

Recipes for Cold Weather Backpacking
Image courtesy of OutsideOnline.com

Nothing provides a good pick-me-up any time of year like homemade energy bars. Packed with nuts, dried fruit and maple syrup, these energy bars will provide you with good, healthy fats and replenish those calories lost from keeping your body warm.

Ingredients

  • ½ lbs Chopped dates
  • 3 tbsp Maple syrup
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 2 tsp Fresh orange zest or Grand Marnier, or
  • ¼ tsp Orange extract
  • ½ tsp Sea salt
  • ¼ tsp Allspice
  • 1/4 tsp Cardamom
  • ½ cup Dried currants or other dried fruit
  • ½ cup Chopped walnuts, pecans or almonds
  • ½ cup of your favorite granola or toasted oats

Instructions

  • Chop the dates and combine them with the maple syrup, vanilla, orange, salt and spices.
  • Stir in the currants, nuts and granola until you have a firm consistency.
  • On a lightly oiled baking sheet, roll out the mixture to a uniform thickness of about ½ inch.
  • Chill in freezer for 15 minutes, then cut into bars.

 

 

Drinks: S’mores Cocktail

Before turning in, a s’mores cocktail is a delicious drink. Adding a little whiskey doesn’t hurt either when relaxing and keeping warm by the campfire before bed – Serves 1

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp Cocoa or carob powder
  • 3 tbsp Dry milk
  • 1⁄2 tsp Ground cinnamon
  • 1 oz Chocolate liqueur, Kahlua® or Amaretto liqueur
  • 2 tbso Mini marshmallows

Instructions

  • Pack the mini marshmallows in a small bag. In another small bag, add in the cocoa and dry milk, seal tightly. Take the liquor in a small bottle.
  • Add 1 cup hot water to the cocoa mix, stir in the liquor and top with marshmallows.

Notes

  • A packet of hot cocoa mix can be substituted for cocoa/carob and milk powders.

 

Recipes for Cold Weather Backpacking
Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters Flickr.com

While the weather may be chilly on your trips, you’ll be able to stay warmer with a little extra planning and preparation. So cosy up next to a campfire, grab your favorite hot drink and enjoy those cool crisp nights with a belly full of good food!

Ultra-Light Backcountry Fish Soup Recipe

in Food by
Fish3
Backcountry Fish Soup Recipe
Never hurts to have a good view when cooking

Tired of freeze dried meals while on the trail? Do you enjoy fishing while backpacking, but don’t know how to prepare a tasty dish without your home kitchen? Try my ultra-lightweight Backcountry Fish Soup Recipe! Perfect for when fires are prohibited or on cold nights while camping on the coast.

As a trained chef, it’s hard to leave behind all my spices, pans and gadgetry— but who wants to lug the kitchen sink up a mountain? When you’re trying to shave every ounce off your pack it’s important to make what you bring count. Here’s what I bring backpacking and what you’ll need to replicate my Backcountry Fish Soup Recipe.

 

 

Backcountry Fish Soup Recipe

What you’ll need:

  •   Stove
  •   Cooking vessel (I’m using a 600ml Ti Mug)
  •   A sharp knife
  •   Eating utensil
  •   Salt
  •   Pepper
  •   Garlic powder
  •   Onion powder
  •   Hot sauce/Sriracha
  •   Veggies (can be dehydrated— I usually pair a root veggie with a spring veggie)
  •   ‘Magic Rub’
  •   And, of course, a fish

 

Backcountry Fish Soup Recipe

Recipe for “Magic Rub” (makes 1 ounce – prepare at home):

  • 1 tsp Garlic powder
  • 1 tsp Onion powder
  • 1 tsp Red chili powder
  • 1 tsp Green chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp Hungarian hot paprika
  • 1/8 tsp Cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Sea salt
  • 1 tsp Ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp Herb de Provence

Before you start, if you are using freeze-dried or dehydrated vegetables, you’ll want to reconstitute them ahead of time in some warm water. Next you will need to scale, gut and fillet your fish. Once filleted, cut your fish into spoon sized pieces. Here’s a pro-tip: leave the skin on the fish and save a portion of the fish bones or head. Put your fish bones, fish and vegetables into your pot and fill 3/4 of the way full with water. Next drizzle in some of your hot sauce/Sriracha, sprinkle in a tsp of magic rub, give it a good stir and turn up the heat.

Once your fish turns from translucent to opaque, taste your broth. Add more magic rub and hot sauce if desired. Use the salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder to augment in order to suit your palate. Once your fish is opaque all the way through it’s time to kick your feet up and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Bon Appetite!

Backcountry Fish Soup Recipe

Some More S’mores: 6 Recipes to Up Your S’mores Game

in Food by
Photo by Ken Bosma Flickr.com
s'mores
Photo by Quinn Dombrowski Flickr.com

Fall: a time when tree leaves fade from vibrant green to fiery orange, red and yellow. When you wake in the mornings with the ground blanketed in a heavy frost. It’s that time of year when you pack up your summer gear and dust off your snow boots, shovels and sweaters.

Before you store away all of your summer-fun supplies, however, make sure you leave one important item out— the s’mores sticks.

Fall is the perfect time to load up your backyard firepit, bring out the blankets and chairs and huddle around the toasty-warm flames. Best of all, you can use items in your kitchen to spice up that old s’mores recipe you’ve been using all summer.

 

s'mores
Photo by gLangille Flickr.com

For Adults: The KBM S’more

What you’ll need:

-1 Package of your favorite brownie mix (white or chocolate)

-Graham crackers

-Marshmallows

-Kahlua Liquor

What you’ll do:

-Follow the instructions on your brownie mix and prepare them in the largest pan possible— you’ll want your brownies to be relatively flat for this.

-Once brownies have cooked and cooled, drizzle or brush a layer of Kahlua across the top. Let it soak for a moment and repeat as desired.

-Cut Kahlua brownies into squares the size of a graham cracker— about 2 inches by 2 inches.

-After roasting your marshmallow to perfection, place a slice of brownie onto the graham cracker, add marshmallow and top with remaining graham half.

 

Lemon Cheesecake S’more

What you’ll need:

-8 oz. Cream cheese

-Powdered sugar (optional)

-Marshmallows

-Graham Crackers

-Lemoncello

What you’ll do:

-In a medium mixing bowl, whip together cream cheese and 1.5 ounces of Lemoncello (approx. 1 shot glass full).

-Note: for added sweetness, slowly spoon in powdered sugar as desired.

-Toast marshmallow to perfection. Smear a generous layer of lemon cream cheese on one half of graham, then add ‘mallow and top with remaining graham half.

 

For Adults: The S’more of the Irish

What you’ll need:

-Vanilla or chocolate icing

-Chocolate bar

-Marshmallows

-Graham crackers

-Irish Cream liquor

What you’ll do:

-For every 1-cup of icing, add 1 shot of Irish Cream Liquor. Blend until smooth and refrigerate until firm.

-Roast marshmallow to perfection.

-Smother one side of a graham cracker half with icing-cream mix, top with a piece of the chocolate bar, stack on perfect ‘mallow and sandwich down with remaining graham.

 

s'mores
Photo by Ken Bosma Flickr.com

For the Family: Double Chocolate Crunch S’more

What you’ll need:

-Chocolate graham crackers

-Hershey’s Cookies & Cream Chocolate Bar

-Marshmallows

What you’ll do:

-Prepare s’mores as usual. However, substitute regular chocolate for Cookies & Cream Chocolate bar and use chocolate grahams in place of the regular grahams.

 

Pumpkin Pie S’more

What you’ll need:

-1 can of pumpkin pie filling

-Cool Whip

-Cinnamon sugar

-Marshmallow

-Graham crackers

What you’ll do:

-For every 1-cup of pumpkin filling, add 1 cup of cool whip and stir until smooth.

-Slather pumpkin-whip mix on one side of a graham half.

-After toasting ‘mallow to perfection, stack on top of the layered graham.

-Dust with cinnamon sugar and top with remaining graham.

 

s'mores
Photo by Andrew Butitta Flickr.com

S’more Nutty-Coco Lovin’

What you’ll need:

-Chocolate graham crackers

-Peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)

-Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups

-Marshmallows

What you’ll do:

-Spread a thin layer of peanut butter on one half of the graham cracker.

-Place peanut butter cup on layer of peanut buttered graham.

-Roast marshmallow to desired consistency and stack on top of peanut butter cup.

-Sandwich together with remaining graham half.

Backpacking Meals: Trail Pizza

in Food by
IMG_3188

Being from Chicago, I take my pizza pretty seriously. So, when I’m out in the backcountry, I don’t want to let my standards fall, but I also don’t want to be cooking with a headlamp trying to make some lengthy, effort-intensive gourmet meal. My solution: Trail Pizza. One of my favorite backpacking meals, trail pizza is super tasty, but also super easy to make. It also allows different group members to pick their own toppings and makes for a great family camping recipe where kids can help build their own pizza. Try it out and you won’t be disappointed— trail tested, Chicagoan approved.

backpacking meals

 

Directions:

First, construct your pizza. Take a slice of pita bread and spoon out about a tablespoon of canned tomato paste onto it, using the back of the spoon to spread it evenly in a thin layer to the edges of the bread (too much sauce makes your pizza soupy).

backpacking meals

Next, sprinkle some garlic salt, or minced garlic, over the paste. Then it’s time to add the cheese— depending on your preference and the length of your trip, you can use any variety of different cheeses. I’ve used bomb proof American cheese on 20 day trips and fresh goat cheese on overnights— shredded mozzarella is a good bet for weekend trips.

backpacking meals

The next step is to add toppings, and the world is really your oyster for this part. My favorite? Spam and canned pineapple. Summer sausage, chopped onion, garlic… the list goes on and on, so get creative! I always like to bring a little hot sauce with me when I’m backpacking— definitely a great pizza possibility.

backpacking meals

backpacking meals

Heat a skillet over your stove or fire with a pat of butter (add per pizza) to melt. Once the butter is melted, put your pizza in the pan and allow the bottom to start cooking. Over a hot flame, it’s easy to burn the bottom of your pizza, so make sure you’re continually moving your pan over the flame in circles to cook evenly. But how do you get the cheese to melt before the bottom burns, you ask? Here’s the coolest part: have someone in your group pour just a teaspoon of water from their water bottle into the bottom of the hot pan while you hold the pan lid ready to close it. As soon as the water hits the hot pan and begins to create steam, close the lid. The steam generated will melt the cheese and cook your toppings. But be careful not to add too much water, or your bread could get soggy! If the cheese isn’t melted after the first steam, just repeat the process a few times until it is. Add salt and pepper to taste. Repeat this process until everyone in your group has their own personal pizza (or two, or three…).

backpacking meals

 

Serves: 2 people

Prep time: 5 minutes per pizza

Cook time: 5-10 minutes per pizza

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 -1/4 sticks of butter
  • Package of four pita breads
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • Cheese (your choice – 4-8oz)
  • Toppings (canned pineapple, garlic, onion, sausage, hot sauce…)
  • Spices (salt, pepper, garlic salt, cayenne…)

Just Add Water: Three Easy Backpacking Meals

in Food by
Photo by Matt Matches Flickr.com

After a full day in the wilderness, the last thing you have energy for is cooking an elaborate dinner. But, hiking to or around your campsite is sure to work up a big appetite. Without the option to call for take-out, here are three quick and easy backpacking meals you can rely on to fill you up without taxing your end of the day energy supply. With a little pre-planning, these three meals have only one step: just add water. The added bonus? Clean up is a breeze.

Easy Backpacking Meals
Photo by Matt Matches Flickr.com

Loaded Potatoes

Instant mashed potatoes are a great way to fill up on comfort food. Add in a little dried gravy mix, bacon bits and chives. If you’re planning to chow down on this meal during the first day of your trip, you may even be able to get away with packing in a little fancy cheese. This quick fix gets a gold star for packing light.

*This dish makes a great side to fresh-caught fish cooked over an open flame (caught with a permit, of course).

 

Easy Backpacking Meals
Photo by OakleyOriginals Flickr.com

Trail Mix Oatmeal

Whether you choose to bring the pre-packaged individual servings or a big bag of quick oats, both will result in a thick, tasty cereal that will stick to your ribs for hours in the backcountry. Just add boiling water and stir. For added protein and flavor, sprinkle in some of the dried nuts and berries left over from your trail mix. Have a sweet tooth? Add a scoop of peanut butter and a few chocolate chips for a melt-in-your mouth peanut butter cup flavor. Stir in a toasted marshmellow for a seriously sweet late night treat around the fire.

 

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Ramen noodles get a bad rap for being overly processed, but if you ditch the flavor packet before you go, you’re saving yourself from a lot of unnecessary sodium and crud. The plain noodles cook quickly in boiled water. Drain the excess water (away from camp) and add in a package of tuna, chicken or salmon. You can find all three in easy-open foil packets that are lightweight and easy to pack out. Chili flakes or your favor hot sauce will seal the deal on this easy meal. (Hint: the little packets from Taco Bell are great!) If space and weight aren’t an issue, a can of peas can up the caloric intake and flavor. Bring everything you need for this meal in a Zip-lock bag that can double as a sealable trash bag for the hike out.

Easy Backpacking Meals
Photo by OakleyOriginals Flickr.com

Helpful hints:

  • Anything you can find at the grocery store that is dehydrated can make a great addition to “just add water” meals– but watch out for over-processed products high in MSG.
  • If something you purchase comes in heavy packaging, see if you can break it down into smaller Zip-lock bags that can be reused and recycled. They are much easier to pack and you will have less trash to worry about in the wilderness.
  • Keep in mind, when you’re in the backcountry the only calories you should be worried about are the ones you haven’t eaten yet. Your body needs tons of extra energy when you’re hiking, climbing and exploring the wilderness.
  • Enjoy the fact that everything tastes better when you’re camping, and don’t be afraid to eat enough to keep your energy high. Stay fueled with added proteins like tuna, nuts and peanut butter.

Healthy Meal Tips and Backpacking Dessert Recipe

in Food by
IMG_6023

Hey backpackers! We all know that conquering trails and unnamed peaks requires endurance and stamina, so it’s important to sustain your energy levels on your hikes. With well-timed nutrition and the power of plant foods, you’ll be able to blaze the trails. In this piece, you’ll learn how to stay fueled on the trails, and I’ll provide an awesome backpacking dessert recipe that’s nutritious and delicious.

backpacking dessert recipe

 

Step One: Mindful Planning

Since energy is vital, you want to have control over how you spend it. Digestibility is one of the most important factors when choosing fuel because many foods take large amounts of energy to digest. Net gain refers to the useable nutrition the body is left with once the food is digested and assimilated. Proper plant-based nutrition will provide you with a solid eating plan loaded with foods that are high in net gain.

Some examples: For carbohydrates, the best fuel comes from non-starchy, real, whole foods (sprouted seeds, raw nuts, fresh fruit, nutrient dense smoothies). Common carbs (refined sugars/high fructose corn syrup, wheat flour) can lead to inflammation or fatigue and other food sensitivities.

Your goal is to have a balance of low and high glycemic sugars so that you don’t experience a spike or crash in your energy level.

 

Step Two: Steady Nourishment

Your main objective throughout your day of hiking is to never become hungry or thirsty. Always fuel the fire, as it’s very important to your body. When you start to get hungry, restore your energy by fueling up on a nutrient dense snack. These are foods in their whole, natural forms and, again, are easy to digest.

Key Point: You’ll be minimizing the energy wasted in the digestion process. (Fuel on unrefined, unprocessed foods)

If you fuel efficiently, you’ll be easing digestive strain, and you will have a consistent level of energy across the entire day of hiking peaks and valleys.

Great vegan choices include:

  1. Raw nuts & seeds
  2. Healthy fats (flaxseed/hemp/coconut/pumpkin seed/olive oils)
  3. Fruits (dried and fresh)
  4. Energy Bars – look for healthy vegan options such as:
  • Simple ingredients: Pure Bar, Larabar
  • Macronutrient profile: Zing Bars, Vega Energy Bars
  • Superfood ingredients: Keen-Wah Decadence, Rise Bars

 

Step Three: A little bit about hydration

Hydration, coupled with electrolyte balance, is important during all components of hiking activity, not just during the hike itself. Your strategy for starting the hike should include water and electrolytes with a proactive and ongoing routine to support a full day of hiking performance. Staying hydrated keeps blood flowing while delivering nutrients to vital organs and muscles.

Definition: electrolytes

  • Replenishes internal fluid balance and maintains blood pressure
  • Correctly and quickly recovers the body’s muscles and tendons
  • Important for maintaining a healthy blood pH
  • Helps prevent dehydration

Easy-to-pack electrolytes include:

  1. Bananas, sea salt and coconut water
  2. Individually packed replenishers to try:
  • Vega Sport Electrolyte Hydrator: 4.2 gram packs and different flavors
  • Ultima Replenisher: 4.3 gram packs and different flavors

 

Step Four: Recovery

When you are finishing your long day of hiking, it’s important to take the right steps towards recovery. The body can have trouble digesting when it’s fatigued, so eating something first that has some liquid consistency always gets a thumbs up. Try to fuel with foods including the following profile, as they will be easy for a fatigued body to digest and utilize:

  • Simple + complex carbs
  • Electrolytes
  • Some protein (enough to help the carb in the muscle glycogen-regeneration process)
  • Small amount of healthy fat (helps repair soft-tissue damage)

So, in this case eat your dessert first! I’d like to introduce to you the tasty, nutrient-dense Vegan Party Cake Pudding from my BeVegan Recipe Collection! 

 

Vegan Party Cake Pudding

1 serving

  • ¼ cup buckwheat flour
  • ¼ cup cashew flour
  • 2 tbsp hemp protein
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • ¼ cup toasted carob powder
  • 8oz vanilla almond milk (or sub coconut milk)
  • Stevia (liquid or powder)
  • ½ tsp organic vanilla extract (or more for taste)
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon

Toppings: Pick your favs and stir them in at the end!

  • 1 tbsp cacao nibs
  • Shredded coconut
  • Goji berries
  • Dried cranberries

 

Directions:

backpacking dessert recipe
Before you head out, premix the “cake.” In a packable container, mix buckwheat flour, cashew flour, hemp, flaxseed, carob powder, chia seeds and cinnamon. 
backpacking dessert recipe
Take Vegan “cake” mix and slowly add in vanilla almond milk while stirring. Consistency will start to thicken just like pudding.
backpacking dessert recipe
Once mixed, add in ½ tsp vanilla and stevia. Feel free to add the amount of stevia that’s to your liking. (FYI: Stevia is about 30 times sweeter than sugar)

backpacking dessert recipe

backpacking dessert recipe
Once blended, transfer to a cup or eat directly from the container you brought the mix in.
backpacking dessert recipe
Add your favorite toppings and enjoy!

Nutrition Fun Facts:

Stevia: Contains no carbs and has no effect on the body’s insulin levels when ingested. It has been shown to regulate blood sugar and improve digestion.

Buckwheat: Don’t be fooled by the name, as buckwheat contains no wheat!  It’s classified as a seed in the same family as rhubarb. It contains amino acids; it’s high in manganese, vitamin B and vitamin E. It also contains calcium.

Hemp: A complete protein, containing all 10 essential amino acids. It also has superior digestibility.

Flaxseed: Highest level of Omega-3 in the plant kingdom. Aside from its ability to reduce inflammation, Omega-3 allows the body to burn fat as fuel more efficiently

Backpacking Meal Plan to Treat Yourself on the Trail

in Food by
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In the backcountry when the ultimate goal is to reach the next campsite, we don’t always have the luxury or the time to focus on our food. We settle for a bagel and peanut butter for breakfast, three Cliff Bars for lunch and Kraft Mac & Cheese for dinner. The day after, when we do have time, why not sip on that hot drink for a bit longer and treat ourselves to a hot and hearty meal? For a full day of 5-star cuisine in the backcountry, check out this backpacking meal plan.

 Backpacking meal plan

 

Breakfast: Cheesy Biscuits

Makes 4 biscuits

1 cup flour

1 1/2 tsp of baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 1/2 tbsp + 1 tbsp vegetable oil or melted butter

1 tsp garlic powder

1/3 cup + extra for topping grated cheddar cheese

 

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, oil or butter and garlic powder in a bowl. Fold in cheese. The dough should be sticky, but shapeable.  Divide dough into four to five biscuits. Heat the remaining 1 tbsp of vegetable oil or butter in a skillet. Drop the balls of dough into the heated skillet and sprinkle each with a little cheese. Cook each side for 3-5 minutes, or until the bottoms are golden brown and the cheese is completely melted.

 

Lunch: Trail Mix Pita Pockets

Makes 8 sandwiches

4 pita pockets

1 cup crunchy peanut butter

1 cup strawberry preserves

1 apple, cut into thin slices

2 cups granola

 

Split the pita pockets in half. Spread peanut butter on the inside of one side and jelly on the other. Place four slices of apple on the peanut butter side and sprinkle granola on the jelly side.

 

Backpacking meal plan

Dinner: Pineapple, Almond and Veggie Couscous

10 oz couscous

2 cups water

½ tsp salt

1 tbsp + 2 tbsp olive oil

¼ green pepper, cut into ¼ inch squares

¼ cup onion, diced

½ zucchini, diced

½ yellow squash, diced

½ cup slivered almonds

½ cup pineapple, cubed (I use canned so that I can use the juice)

½ cup pineapple juice

¼ cup parsley (fresh or dried)

salt and pepper to taste

 

In a pot, bring water, salt and 1 tbsp of olive oil to a boil. Stir in couscous, remove from heat, and cover. Let it stand for five minutes. Saute green pepper and onion in 2 tbsp of olive oil on medium heat in a saucepan until al dente, about 3 minutes. Add zucchini, squash and a teaspoon of salt and cook for about another five minutes. Add vegetables to couscous. To toast the almonds, spread them over the saucepan evenly with 1 tbsp of water. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the almonds are fragrant and light brown, continuing to shake the pan so that the almonds do not burn. Mix almonds, pineapple, pineapple juice and parsley into couscous and vegetables. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sriracha or Tabasco also go great with this.

Top 5 Chocolate Recipes for Backpacking

in Community/Fireside/Food by
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The backcountry is the one place where having an unlimited amount of chocolate 24 hours a day is socially acceptable. For one, chocolate provides ample calories and fat. More importantly, though, that squished Snicker’s Bar in your pocket or frozen bag of chocolate chips in your pack’s brain is an essential morale booster to which the most inspiring words from Thoreau or Jack London cannot compare. So reward yourself after a hard (or easy!) day on the trail with one of my top five favorite chocolate recipes for backpacking.

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Photo by Greg Walters Flickr.com

1. The Luke – One 16 oz Nalgene

The Luke is the instant fix for frozen boots in the morning, fading energy in the late afternoon, and grumbling stomachs watching water refuse to boil for dinner at night. Named after the mad scientist who created it on our NOLS backpacking trip in Alaska, Luke Cleary, The Luke fuels the body and warms the heart on a 3-day or 30 day trek.

2-3 tbsp hot chocolate mix

1 tbsp butter

¼ tsp cinnamon

1 ½ tbsp powdered milk

2 cup boiling water

 

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2. Kitchen Sink Granola – Serves 2

At the end of a trip or ration cycle, this granola on steroids is perfect for getting your body the calories, fats and proteins it needs for the day, as well as for ridding your pack of portions of food that add weight, but are still too small to make a whole meal. Another NOLS concoction we originally called “granola mush,” this breakfast was a close second to cheesy biscuits.

2 tbsp butter

¼ cup peanut butter (or any other type of nut butter)

1/3 cup chocolate chips

1 ½ cup granola

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

 

In a fry pan, melt butter, peanut butter and chocolate chips, and stir until smooth. Be sure to stir constantly so that the mixture doesn’t burn. Sprinkle in granola, cinnamon and vanilla. Continue stirring over the flame until fully incorporated and the granola is slightly toasted. Serve as is or cooled in yogurt.

 

3. Banana Boats – Serves 2

Banana Boats are a car camping favorite with the scents of childhood wafting out of the creases of the tin foil. I was first introduced to them in 4th grade at sleepaway camp and have yet to have a summer pass without digging into the better version of the classic s’more.

2 bananas

1 Hershey’s Bar, broken into the individual rectangles

15-20 mini marshmallows

tin foil

 

Peel one side the banana, leaving ¾ of it unpeeled. With a spoon, scoop out half of the inside of the bananas. Press half the Hershey Bar squares into the banana and top with the mini marshmallows. Fold the unpeeled side back over the chocolate-marshmallow mixture and wrap the entire banana in foil. Repeat with the other banana. Place both bananas on top of a griddle over the fire, or a pan over the stove, for 5-10 minutes or until marshmallows are golden brown.

 

4. Mexican Chocolate Ganache Apples – Makes 8 Apple Slices

Every backpacker knows Sriracha, Tabasco and any other hot sauce instantly elevates a dinner in the backcountry. Heck, they do in the frontcountry! So, why not add some spice to dessert, too? These apples are the perfect balance of sweet with a touch of heat for a night around the fire or tucked away in the tents.

1 tbsp butter

1/3 cup chocolate chips

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla (optional)

small pinch cayenne pepper

1 apple, cored and cut into slices

 

In a pot over a stove, melt together butter and chocolate chips until smooth. Stir in cinnamon, vanilla, and cayenne pepper. Dip apple slices in the chocolate mixture. You can eat them as is or, if you want them more like a candy apple, make them before dinner and let them set for an hour.

 

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Photo by Mary Flickr.com

 

5. GORP

What would a list about chocolate in the backcountry be if GORP wasn’t included? GORP, or “good old raisins and peanuts,” is backpacker slang for trail mix. This version of GORP is my personal favorite, although there are a million variations out there. I normally use raw almonds and cashews.

1 part cashews

1 part almonds

1 part Pretzel M&Ms

1 part dried cherries

1 part banana chips

 

 

Get Geared-Up Vegan Style

in Community/Food by
Top each wrap with half of the sliced avocado then roll them up and enjoy!

As a vegan backpacker I’ve learned that proper plant-based nutrition sustains energy levels and performance during long hikes, fueling you to tackle switchbacks and peak-bagging all day long! Once you get it down, plant-based nutrition is easy to plan and pack.

First, I would like to share a handful of important tidbits around vegan trail-nutrition, related to protein+fat+carb needs, energy level sustainability, and preventing muscle cramps and stiffness.  With a heavy pack and a full day ahead, the most important thing to focus on while planning is getting all the calories needed for long hikes.

Active vegans need to increase the fat and protein in their diet while eating complex carbs.  Protein will complement the carbohydrate, allowing it to enter the bloodstream at a steady rate, thus delaying the onset of hunger and sustaining energy levels. Much of the real energy for backpacking comes from carbs and fat. Fat is the longer-lasting energy source and is needed most during endurance activities. Fat also supports brain health, helps maintain body warmth, keeps the joints lubricated, aids in recovery and minimizes the inflammatory processes. Vegan backpackers should pay close attention to getting enough protein, fat and carbs. TIP: pack healthy fats!

Quality fat examples:

  • Olive oil (.4 oz packets are available)
  • Chia seed
  • Flaxseed
  • Sesame seed
  • Hemp seed
  • Nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashews, pecans)
  • Avocados – fun to eat with a spoon!

Quality protein examples:

  • Hemp seed nut
  • Beans (kidney, black, garbanzo, soy)
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Whole grains

Energy level is vital in keeping you trekking strong, so it’s important you don’t forget iron! Active vegans need to pay close attention to iron. After hiking for hours you want your iron levels to stay healthy. Strenuous exercise, constant foot striking on the trail and sweating all result in iron loss. TIP: Plant-based iron-rich foods need to be consumed with vitamin C to help with absorption.

Examples of easy-to-pack vegan iron-rich foods:

  • Soybean nuts
  • Dried peas and beans
  • Raisins
  • Peanut butter
  • Nuts (walnuts, cashews, pecans, almonds)

Everyone wants to prevent muscle cramping and stiffness when backpacking.  It’s easy! Keep your sodium and calcium levels up! TIP: Bring your sea salt.

Examples of easy-to-pack vegan calcium rich foods:

  • Almonds
  • Beans
  • Sesame seeds
  • Sunflower seeds

Introducing the “Cheesy” Hotchpotch Wrap from my BeVegan recipe collection. It’s the end of the day and after hours of ascending and descending, you put on your comfy camp shoes and nothing satisfies better than this tasty, nutrition-dense meal packed full of vitamins and minerals. This compact surge will re-energize your body, re-fuel your muscles and even provide you a deep sleep to prepare you for next day’s adventure.   It’s the gear head of all crowd pleaser meals.

The beauty of this nutrient-rich meal is that it’s enjoyed uncooked on the trail or enjoyed cooked in your kitchen. You are probably wondering where the “cheesy” comes from? Have you ever tried hippie dust? (Formal name: nutritional yeast.) It has a lovely, nutty-cheese-like flavor. Hippie dust is rich in B-vitamins (helps convert our food into fuel), iron and is also a complete protein source, including all the essential amino acids that drive us along the trail.

This recipe came to me one day as I was on my morning run.  I have created many vegan one-pot wonders and this one in particular is a power meal in a wrap. It will keep you moving forward with sustained energy.

 “Cheesy” Hotchpotch Wrap

Directions:

Vegan
Prepare avocado slices from a fresh, whole avocado then set aside.
In a separate bowl, combine the black beans, brown rice, and two tablespoons of olive oil. Mix well.
In a separate bowl, combine the black beans, brown rice, and two tablespoons of olive oil. Mix well.
Next, toss in the almonds, chia seeds, ground flax seed and seasoning. Mix. Add in hippie dust (aka nutritional yeast).
Next, toss in the almonds, chia seeds, ground flax seed and seasoning. Mix. Add in hippie dust (aka nutritional yeast). Continue to mix so everything is distributed evenly.
Set tortillas out and spread the tomato paste tube on outside edges of each wrap (this will help with holding the wrap together). Tomato paste has some vitamin C so it will help with iron absorption.
Set tortillas out and spread the tomato paste tube on outside edges of each wrap (this will help with holding the wrap together). Tomato paste has some vitamin C so it will help with iron absorption.
Fill each tortilla with half of the hotchpotch.
Fill each tortilla with half of the hotchpotch.
Top each wrap with half of the sliced avocado then roll them up and enjoy!
Top each wrap with half of the sliced avocado then roll them up and enjoy!

Notes: My choices are indicated below next to each ingredient. You can purchase and pack the ingredients however it makes the most sense to you.  I have found backpacker-friendly packaging for all ingredients in Trader Joes, Whole Foods, PCC and QFC.

Ingredients:

1 avocado

1 box of black beans (Whole Foods, Target and QFC)

1 package fully cooked brown rice (Trader Joe’s has a great one)

½ cup slivered almonds

2 tablespoons ground flaxseed

2 tablespoons chia seed (bulk or packaged)

4 tablespoons nutritional yeast (Braggs is a great brand for vegans with added B vitamins)

2 brown rice tortillas (or whole wheat if you are not gluten intolerant)

2 tablespoons olive oil (individual packets available)

1 tube tomato paste (Whole Foods and QFC)

Sea salt, everyday seasoning, cumin (season to taste)

Serves 2

Vegan Gear 13

 

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