Quinoa Pilaf Adapted for the Trail

Quinoa Pilaf with Spinach, Toasted Pine Nuts, and Feta Cheese
Avoiding dishes containing pasta, rice, and high-carb grains can be tricky when eating out or especially when dining with friends.  The "I have celiac disease" tends to work better than "I don't eat grains because cavemen didn't eat them."  Regardless, you're not likely to be invited back if your Standard American Diet (SAD) hosts believe you are a dinnertime pain in the @$$.

Appalachian Trail camping Mahha
Hammock-filled woods at MAHHA Hang
Pot luck dinners can be challenging in a SAD crowd, but gatherings can also be a great way to find some new dishes to add to your recipe book.  Take our regional hammock hangs, for example.   Last year we had hand-tossed pizza over a fire, roasted whole pig, and steamed ramps, just to name a few dishes. I contributed some sautéed wild mushrooms after finding a beautiful chicken of the woods mushroom near camp.  Definitely not your usual pot luck food.

So it was at one such hang that I  found this fabulous new quinoa dish to add to my repertoire thanks to HF hanger Dylan.  Quinoa (pronounced "keen-wah") is the seed of Chenopodium quinoa, a close relative to one of my favorite wild edible foods Chenopodium album aka goosefoot. Quinoa is considered a "pseudo cereal," even though it is a seed and not technically a cereal grain, because it has a high glycemic load similar to other grains.  However, quinoa is tasty and versatile, and a great addition to my backpacking staples.

See the recipe by clicking the "read more" button below...

Dehydrating (and Rehydrating) Almond Milk to Use at Home and on The Trail

Eating well in the woods is an oxymoron for most backpackers, especially for a Paleo slow foodie who also tries to be lococentric in their eating efforts.  Trying to stick to a diet on a vacation with access to a grocery store and good local produce is definitely challenging, even with modern conveniences like refrigeration and a kitchen.  Venturing out in the backcountry in the middle with everything on your back, and sticking to an eating plan is down right nerve wracking, if not impossible.  

One aspect of Paleo is dairy free.  Fortunately, alternatives abound for milk substitutes these days;  coconut milk, soy milk (not paleo, I know), rice milk (also not paleo), or my current favorite, almond milk. Nothing tastes better than homemade almond milk, made from whole raw almonds, soaked and then blended and strained.  Add a touch of vanilla and honey and you have ambrosia in a glass.  But I am not about to lug a carton of milk into the wilderness in my backpack. This post focuses on a dehydrated solution for dairy milk.  Read on by clicking the "read more" button...

Great Lakes Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice with Mushrooms: Trail Food

This is a super easy recipe that requires minimal effort but provides a delicious and nutritious cold weather comfort food. Like wild rice and mushrooms?  Then you are going to love the taste of the two together.  A marriage made in trail heaven! 

Trail Backpacking Survival Food
Great Lakes Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice with Mushrooms

Urban Foraging: Edible Ornamental Callery Pears with Video

5-petaled flower of Ornamental Pear
Foraging takes some continuing education to become proficient.  I am 95% self taught at this point, but have a loooong way to go to get really good. I'm not sure what quantifies  "really good" as far as foragers go, but I am thinking Sam Thayer or Steve Brill good.  I want to have interesting discussions with other plant nerds about the merits of cooking a wild plant this way or that. I would love to be able to really live off the land with what the mother provides her children.

How to accomplish this?  On my "to do" list, I would like to take some taxonomy and botany courses, but this would mean sacrificing time from hiking, backpacking, and cleaning my often messy house. Also on the list is attending more foraging hikes offered by fellow plant enthusiasts.  In the meantime, I will have to muddle through on my own. 

Trail Foods: Wild Ginger or Asarum caudatum and Asarum canadense

Foragers often have a niche when it comes to their skills; some are fixated on fungi, others gaga for green and herbaceous plants, and even more are nuts for, well, nuts! I like to think I love all food-producing plants equally, although my strength is typically with identifying things green. I find it easier to recognize patterns of growth with green understory type plants. However, my skills are challenged by green shaded plants that have heart-shaped leaves and grow close to the ground. Weird, I know, but it's probably because I live in tidal wetlands so the local woods are devoid of greenery with the exception of greenbriar (Smilax rotundifolia). 

Wild Ginger, or Asarum canadense leaves

Eat Homemade Dehydrated Food on Vacation to Save Money and Time

This is a post for anyone who likes to enjoy hot beverages or eat hot food on the road but do not enjoy waiting in restaurant lines or paying exorbitant prices for fattening, unhealthy food.  Being a hot tea junkie, I can't stomach paying $2 for a cup of hot water with a 20 cent tea bag when I am away from home.  For short trips, such as a day trip, I carry a thermos of hot water and keep tea bags, sugar, and creamer in my car, along with snacks.

But for longer, overnight trips, I carry a backpacking stove.  That's right!  Those cute little backpacking stoves aren't just for the back woods.  I carry mine just about everywhere.  Instead of stopping at convenience stores for cups coffee or hot chocolate, stop at rest areas and fire up the stove.   Likewise, prepare pre-portioned dinners from dehydrated foods at home in ziploc freezer bags and simply add hot water to rehydrate in the bag.  This method, called "Freezer Bag Cooking," or FBC, has been used by backpackers for years to savor homemade goodness when on the go.

DIY Camping / Survival Meals: Flour Free Paleo Banana Nut Pancakes with Maple Sugar Syrup (Gluten Free, too!)

Eating a flour-free, grain-free, yet easy, meal on the trail is a challenge for those who want to eat healthy when enjoying (or surviving) the great outdoors. Here is a delicious replacement for pancakes while out on the trail, or a survival meal to quickly rehydrate when away from home.