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DIY Trail Foods. Quinoa Preparation

This weekend was supposed to be spent in the wilderness with my DH (my Darling, Delightful, Dedicated, Daring, sometimes Damnable Husband), and our children.  The one-to-two inches of rain in the forecast made the decision to go questionable.  Then, my kids decided their idea of fun isn't huddling under a tarp in a downpour, and they wanted to stay home.  Unattended.  

This put DH and I in a little of a quandary: do we leave the 16 year-old at home with the 18 year-old to supervise, or not?  After all, I asked off for this weekend months ago. 

Hmmmm. NOT! We scrapped the trip at the last minute.  On the upside, I get to sit around the house all weekend in my jammies and work on blog posts!

On backpacking forums, we frequently discuss meal ideas.  As I have talked about to death in my DIY Trail Meal series, bases such as potatoes, rice, and pasta are often found in store bought trail dinners, but not suitable for those of us who want to eat "clean."

So we look to quinoa for our trail meal salvation. Quinoa can be used as a base in DIY trail dinners in lieu of potatoes, pasta, or rice. The great thing about quinoa is that it is very easy to work with, taking very little "hands on" time.  Quinoa is a little chewier once rehydrated, so it bulks up a meal very easily.

Simply cook according to package directions, dehydrate in a single layer for about 6 to 8 hours, or crisp dry, and store.  

Here is my Youtube video on how to prepare, dehydrate, and store quinoa:

Chile Relleno Casserole on the Trail

Good food should be a feast for the senses as well as the stomach, but does good food need to be complicated? Do you need a shopping bag full of ingredients to make a mouth-watering wonder? I am not a gourmand or slow foodie by any means, but a tired, shift-working, stressed out mom with the desire to have more free time to pursue my passions. I love good, simple food.

Simple food can be found in any culture, and playing with the different cultural flavors adds variety to your DIY trail meals without complexity. Chiles Rellenos is my favorite traditional Mexican restaurant dish: a union of flavors that screams "South of the Border." Poblano chile peppers stuffed with cheese, dredged in masa flour and egg batter, then fried golden brown and topped with red sauce. Simple, slightly spicy, and scrumptious!

DIY Trail Survival Backpacking food
The Cheesy Oooey Gooey Chile Relleno

Our local Mexican restaurant makes Rellenos with a potato and cheese stuffing. At first, I was like "Potatoes? This isn't real rellenos. Where's the cheese?!" But now I am totally hooked. I make a version of this at home as a casserole: layers of Hatch green chiles, mashed potatoes, and cheese, with batter poured on top and baked.
My Homemade Chile Rellenos Casserole

Fortunately, the flavor of the rellenos is fairly easy to replicate on the trail. The peppers dry easily in a home dehydrator, rehydrating very well in a freezer bag. The recipe can be made simply with tomatoes, or more elaborately with the addition of some homemade enchilada sauce that has been dehydrated.
The Chile Rellenos can be made simply in a freezer bag with instant potatoes, or layered in a baking dish.  I prefer the simple method, since I am usually very hungry and tired by the time I get around to make dinner in camp.

An aside about green chiles. Hatch chiles are grown in the Hatch valley of New Mexico and Mexico.  On the east coast we don't have the luxury of Hatch chiles, unless you can find a Tienda that supplies them. Should you live in the west, the chiles are available in the grocery store in a #2.5 can.  If you don't have Hatches, you can use the little 4 oz cans of Old El PasoThankfully, my parents live in Arizona six months of the year, and when they come back to Maryland in the spring they bring me a case or two of Hatch chiles. 

Chop the chiles in a food processor then dry them in a thin layer in the dehydrator.  The chiles take very little time to dry - perhaps 8 hours or so until crisp.  Add the versatile chiles to soups, casseroles, Chinese, Mexican, and Italian dishes. One of my DIY Trail Food posts - Spices, Toppings, and Putting it All Together - shows how the addition of some simple spices can completely change the flavor profile of a meal.

Chile Rellenos Freezer Bag Recipe:

  • 1/3 cup dried green chiles
  • 1/4 cup freeze dried cheddar cheese (or 3 T cheese powder)
  • Instant mashed potato flakes
  • Ova Easy egg mix
  • Nido instant milk powder
  • Cumin
  • Garlic powder

Something crunchy (fried onions?)

packet of sauce (enchilada or salsa?)

Backpacking 101: An Introductory Guide For New Packers

Are you interested in breaking into backcountry travel, but not sure you have the physical fitness?  Want to walk into the wilderness but worried about wildlife and safety?  How about going to the bathroom and take care of simple hygiene in the woods? Wondering what gear to purchase and who you should buy it from?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, then my next series of articles is for you!

Red Creek, Dolly Sods, WV
Safely Crossing Red Creek, Dolly Sods, WV

My Full Monty (A Blogging Disclosure)

I like to write about things that interest me, and if you have read any of my blog so far, you will find it primarily about food preservation, foraging, backpacking, blah, blah, blah. I also like to talk. So blogging has become a natural extension of this love affair with the wild; when I am not outside because the weather stinks, or life constrains me indoors with work or family obligations, I can always revisit my outdoor experiences with my blog.  Not nearly so blissful as that last walk in the woods, but, hey, bloggers beggars can't be choosers.

Anyhoo, what I am getting to, is that in order to help fund some beer money, I have monetized my blog. I am telling you this to be nice and transparent to my readers. I am definitely NOT doing this to get rich, but since I spend hours every week writing about the stuff, I figure I may try to make a few cents in the process.  Moreover, I promise not to write about or recommend stuff just to make a few cents off the product.  Although I am an admitted gear junkie, and I spend way more on freeze-dried food than anyone should, I am actually a value-driven cheapskate at heart.  

So here goes!

1.  I provide links to Amazon products that I use and would recommend, and in return I get a [very] small commission.  You don't pay any extra to buy these products from the links I provide. As an aside, my 16 year-old purchased an Amazon Prime membership without telling me a few months ago. To say I was pretty upset when I saw the $99 charge at the time is an understatement.   Once I recovered from my apoplexy and realized 2 day shipping is included with the membership (Christmas purchases were delivered on Sunday!), I am very happy with the purchase.  And right now I am in a hotel on a ski vacay with the kids and watching the "Harry Bosch" series based on the books by Michael Connelly. You can only get this as an Amazon Prime subscriber.  Love it! 

2.  So far I have paid for every product I have reviewed in my blog, but from time-to-time in the future (hopefully the very near future), manufacturers of these products may shower me with gifts of the newest stove or a new Caldera Cone (hint, hint), and I will write a review.  If I write a review of an item I received for free, I will be sure to mention that in the blog article.

3.  I have been buying and recommending freeze-dried food from Emergency Essentials for a long time.  Just recently I found out that they have a Linkshare marketing affiliation program.  If you link to their website through mine and buy something, I get a kickback.

4. I allow Google Adsense to be displayed on my site. I don't always use those products (especially if it has something to do with hygiene, lol), but so far I have made a whopping $18, so I am almost to a 12-pack of my favorite craft brew. 

Now that I have some housekeeping out of the way, it's time to get outside!

Just in case you ran out of interesting things to read on my blog, you can check out the FTC disclosure rules for yourself!

Chilly Weather Chickweed

Foragers may lament cooler weather, since the prospect of identifying new plants is dim at best. However, winter is a time to indulge in delicious greens if you know what to look for.

A favorite winter staple is chickweed. Here in the Mid-Atlantic, common chickweed, or Stellaria media, usually makes an appearance in December and remains a source of renewable nutrition until February or March.  Another type of chickweed we see a lot of is mouse-eared chickweed, or Cerastium vulgarim, but this veggie comes up a little later.

This versatile green is great raw, right out of the ground. However, if you prefer cooked greens, chickweed is terrific thrown into a pot of soup. I also like to dress it up with a little olive oil, lemon, and salt.

Clarifying Butter for Backpacking and Long Term Pantry Storage and Use a Sealer to Make Individual Packets with Video

I love butter.  Butter makes everything better, and unless you are vegan or have some aversion to dairy then you probably agree. Not that nasty food product impersonating butter - margarine (yuk!), but real sweet cream, lightly salted and churned until it solidifies into a little concentrated piece of heaven. Here is a post for anyone who wants to make butter a shelf-stable addition to your pantry or package it up to enjoy on the trail or away from home.

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...