Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Food for the trails

If food isn't the first thing on your mind when you think about backpacking, you probably don't want to hike with my family.  You never know when a snack might be your last: on the same trip in the past three years, we've had second degree burns and two head injuries. Lesson learned: you'd best eat while you can.

Hiking all day is the only way I can possibly burn enough calories to eat everything I want... so for two and a half days, that's what I do. (And the Appalachian Mountains are okay-looking, if you're into that sort of thing.)

To start your packing, Trader Joe's has every kind of delicious snack mix you could possibly want, and health food stores with bulk bins can source your dried fruits, grains (like quinoa or oatmeal) and goodies (chocolate-covered everything: yes, please). But this year, our best meal came mostly from our very own garden.

For Christmas, my parents surprised Abe and I with an Excaliber dehydrator. (If you don't have a dehydrator, come to N.C! Use mine.) We brought it out for the first time before our trip this past weekend, drying zucchini,* squash, rainbow carrots and peppers, as well as store-bought mushrooms.  The vegetables shrank down to almost nothing and I was a little concerned how they would turn out on the trail.

Ben's unimpressed by the crunchy dried veggies from a local health food store; Cash shows the proper attitude.
I picked beef Ramen - now stay with me, it gets better - to eat with our veggies, since it's so lightweight, and added some curry powder and ground ginger to a packet of red pepper flakes (left over from a pizza delivery a few months ago). I also packed some spicy Haitian peanut butter in a mini tupperware, and just to have options, some soy sauce and Chinese mustard packets.

Maybe it was the vigorous exercise (or maybe not, since I offered to make Abe virtually the same meal for dinner on Monday night at home), but the resulting dinner was delicious! We boiled water on our camp stove, then added the carrots, since they would take the longest to rehydrate. After a few minutes, we threw in the mushrooms and then the other veggies, along with the contents of my spice packet.  After the vegetables had rehydrated, we threw in the noodles with a pinch of the Ramen flavor pack and stirred for another minute or two. I added peanut butter to taste, and discovered that a sprinkle of cashews (picked out of the mixed nuts we'd brought along) added just the right richness and crunch.

Bon appetit and happy trails!
*Are you struggling with an over-abundance of zucchini? Are you going to choke if you have to eat another bite of zucchini bread?  Can you just-not-wait until August 8, "Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor's Porch Day"? Dehydrating your vegetables will shrink them down to almost nothing so you can almost forget how many there are! They'll also keep longer, allowing you to mail them to other people with too many zucchini as an ironic joke.


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