hiker food

Mountain House Meals - Meal Reviews

No matter how warm the weather, I like a hot meal while I'm backpacking.  I often cook both breakfast and dinner on trail.  While many hikers go no-cook or stoveless, I just don't think I'll be one of those hikers.  A warm meal is always my favorite way to start and end my day.  When it comes to cooking though, I like to keep things easy.  That sometimes means I'll turn to a freeze dried meal for simply heat-and-eat with no cleanup.  When Mountain House offered to send me two new meals to try, I was excited to give them a try.  

Mountain House Meals.png

Disclaimer: I received these meals in exchange for writing the review.  All opinions are unbiased and are my own.  

On a recent getaway I didn't leave myself much time to plan a trip.  On those spur-of-the-moment adventures it's great to have a few freeze-dried  meals I can throw in my pack and not have to worry about making sure I have all the ingredients.  Since Mountain House sent me two meals - Spicy Southwest Breakfast Hash and Homestyle Turkey Dinner Casserole, all I had to do was grab a few snacks, a quick lunch, and head out the door!

After a long day of hiking, I was excited to try the Homestyle Turkey Dinner Casserole.  Thanksgiving is a favorite meal of mine and I absolutely love turkey pot pie, so getting to have it in the backcountry was an added bonus!  The first thing I was struck by with this meal was the fact that there were real ingredients inside - check out the label: 

Real ingredients with easy-to-follow instructions. 

Real ingredients with easy-to-follow instructions. 

It was so simple to make this meal too!  The instructions tell you exactly what you need to do.  You'll even have time to set up your tent while you wait! This meal was really good and definitely reminded me of casserole.  Instead of the stuffing being on top, it was all mixed in and was super tasty!  The only thing missing was some green bean casserole!

Dinner on a pond in Maine - does it get any better?!

Dinner on a pond in Maine - does it get any better?!

When it came time for breakfast though, I was ready for some big flavors to accompany my coffee.  Enter the Spicy Southwest Breakfast Hash.  With the promise of having the "perfect amount of hot sauce" I'll admit I was skeptical.  All hikers love their hot sauce, and I'm no exception to that rule.  With hash browns, corn, black beans, chiles, and shredded beef, I knew I'd be nice and full for my hike out too.  After removing my oxygen absorbing pack and adding hot water, I impatiently waited to stir and eat.  

Don't worry - it won't hurt you!  Just take out the oxygen absorber and add water!

Don't worry - it won't hurt you!  Just take out the oxygen absorber and add water!

To my surprise, Mountain House was right - there was a decent amount of spice in this meal, but not too hot.  I didn't feel the need to add any additional hot sauce to my breakfast, which isn't always the case.  My favorite thing about this meal is the fact that it DIDN'T have eggs in it.  I'm not the biggest fan of freeze dried eggs, which you'll find in their other savory breakfast meal.  The fact that I got to eat potatoes and have a savory breakfast was definitely a bonus for me that morning!  This meal would be great with an avocado on the side or even with some warm tortillas!

If you're looking for an easy way to hit the trail with minimal clean up, these Mountain House meals are the way to go.  Having a filling, savory meal for both dinner and breakfast the next morning really helped me enjoy my hike.  

Have you tried either of these meals?  What are your favorite freeze dried meals? 

Sweet Breakfast Rice - Trail Recipe

Breakfast recipes on the trail can be hit or miss for some people.  While some hikers prefer to walk and eat, others prefer waking up with a full breakfast to keep them going in the morning.  Before I became a distance hiker I wasn't much of a breakfast eater.  After I got into my trail routine, however, I quickly realized that if I wanted to have any kind of energy before noon I needed to eat a few times in the morning.  In 2015, when we were setting out to do our thru hikes around the east coast, it was very clear that I'd need to make breakfasts for myself as NoKey definitely falls into the "walk and eat" category of backpackers.  I found myself focusing on flavors I loved and that's where this recipe came from.  

Back in the day, well, back in 2008 when I first started backpacking, there was a brand of commercial foods called Enertia.  They had an amazing breakfast I loved called Cherokee Rice Pudding and it was a sweet breakfast you could eat hot or cold.  I knew when I was setting out to create breakfasts for myself that Cherokee Rice Pudding would need to be recreated.  Sadly, Enertia was bought by Coleman several years ago and the food brand was phased out.  Since I couldn't find the ingredients online I recreated my own special version of Sweet Breakfast Rice. 

Sweet Breakfast Rice (2 servings)

1/2 home dehydrated basmati rice, cooked in vanilla almond milk before drying
1/4 cup dried tropical fruit of your choice (I love to mix it up!)
2 tbsp slivered almonds
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon

At home, mix all ingredients together in a small mixing bowl making sure to evenly distribute all flavors.  Split in half amongst two zipper bags and seal. 

On Trail: Add ingredients to your cook pot and bring to a boil.  Let sit until cool enough to eat or until you reach desired texture.  

Breakfast Couscous - Trail Recipe

Breakfast is definitely my favorite meal of the day.  I don't always eat it first thing when I get up, but I can promise I eat a proper breakfast of some kind every single day.  Trying to get in a healthy breakfast while out on the trail can be tough, especially with all the convenient grab and go options out there.  Getting ready for my Tahoe Rim Trail thru hike in 2017 has me prepping lots of easy breakfast options and breakfast couscous is a quick and easy go-to that I enjoy both on the trail and when I need to grab something quick to take with me.  

Breakfast Couscous (2 servings)

1 cup whole wheat couscous
1/3 cup dry coconut milk
2 tbsp brown sugar
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 nuts of your choice (slivered almonds are my favorite!)
1/4 dried fruit of choice

At home: Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl and stir to combine, paying attention to the brown sugar as it has a tendency to clump.  Once all items are mixed, split into two portions in zip top bags.  Seal. 

On Trail: To eat cold, add cold water to your couscous before going to bed - just enough to cover the couscous by about an inch.  Seal the bag and squish it to mix.  Eat cold in the morning.  If you'd like it hot, add couscous to your cook pot and cover with water, about an inch to an inch and a half over the mixture.  Bring to a boil, remove from heat, stir, and let cool.  

Trail Mac 'N Cheese - Trail Recipe

There are fewer meals hikers love more than Mac 'N Cheese.  When I was thru hiking on the AT, Mac N Cheese night more often than not meant a box of the cheapest stuff at the store without any milk or butter to make it more delicious.  Then, you’d wipe the pot clean with whatever kind of bread you had to clean it up.  Mac 'N Cheese is a fun comfort food, but when you’re making your own meals with nutritional factors in mind a box of the cheapie stuff just won’t do.  Here’s my recipe for Trail Mac that will definitely leave you wanting more!

Trail Mac - 1 serving

1/2 cup macaroni of your choice (does not need to be precooked!)
1/4 cup dehydrated veggies
1/2 tsp dried onion flake
1 tbsp + 1 tsp cheese powder
1 tbsp full fat powdered milk
1/4 tsp dried parsley
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp red pepper flake

At home: Add the macaroni, dehydrated veggies, and onion flake into a sandwich size zip top bag.  Add the cheese powder, milk powder, and spices to a smaller snack size zip top bag and mix to combine.  Seal the smaller bag, add to the larger bag, and seal.  

On trail: Add macaroni to your pot and cover with water (just to the tops of the pasta).  Bring to a boil, stirring every few minutes to avoid sticking.  Cook pasta to desired level of doneness and stir in the contents of your spice/cheese packet.  Let meal sit, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens.  

Dehydrator 101

After my big thru hiking announcement last week I've decided to share some of my favorite backpacking recipes with you guys; however, it occurred to me that while I'm whipping up a lot of these recipes like it's no big deal you might not feel that way too!  In fact, it took me a while to perfect my methods for dehydrating tasty meals.  Once you finally start to master techniques to make your food taste better, dehydrating your own backpacking meals is an easy "set it and forget it" option that not only can provide you better nutrition, but can also save you money on resupplies in tough areas.  Here's my quick and dirty guide to dehydrators - both purchasing and techniques to help you make your best backpacking meals.  

The Purchase

Buying a dehydrator is going to be an investment.  In fact, I'd look at it the way you look at purchasing a major kitchen appliance.  After doing plenty of research about what I'd like to use to make an entire season's worth of hiking meals I chose a 5-Tray Excalibur system with a thermostat.  The thing about dehydrating backpacking meals is that you aren't throwing them all in at one time.  First, you're dehydrating the mixed vegetables for a few days. Then maybe you're doing rice for a few days.  Then, you might be doing a few batches of sweet-flavored rice. You do everything in parts before assembling the meals.  Having a fan and a thermostat will help ensure you're dehydrating fruits and veggies at optimal temperatures to keep nasty bacteria at bay.  Meat, fruit, veggies - they all have optimal temps for pulling out moisture.  The thermostat will definitely make sure you're drying your food at the safest temperatures.  

While there are cheaper countertop models of dehydrators available, I definitely recommend going with a model with a fan for air circulation.  The round tray systems need constant babysitting to move the trays.  If you don't do this in a fan-less model, you'll have leather-like layers closer to the heat source whereas your top layers might not even be halfway dry.  You can definitely do months' worth of food on one of these budget models, but be sure you have the time to dedicate to rearranging the trays.  

Finally, you'll need a set of fruit leather trays for your dehydrator.  You can again go the budget option and use parchment paper.  I went with the generic fruit leather reusable inserts on Amazon.  I've reused them countless times for the past three years and they don't hold flavors and just need a quick rinse.  I highly recommend them.  Aren't planning on making fruit roll-ups?  That's fine - neither did I!  But, you'll need these guys to dry sauces, veggie paste, even condiments you'll want to dry to make them more potent.  Trust me, you WANT these tray inserts!


So you've purchased your dehydrator and you've found a couple of recipes you want to try out.  Maybe you want to try and recreate one of your favorite pasta sides at a fraction of the price you'd pay for them over the period of a distance hike.  Either way, it's time to start dehydrating.


Let's say your recipe calls for you to use your own dehydrated rice for a savory recipe.  Instead of just making plain rice like you'd make at home, I highly recommend seasoning the rice before you get it into your dehydrator.  If you're making a savory dish, I recommend cooking your rice in chicken, beef, or vegetable stock and salting it slightly heavier than you would eat at home for a normal meal.  On trail, you'll wish it had more salt!  After the rice cooks, cool it to room temperature before dehydrating.  Making a sweet rice - maybe for a pudding or breakfast treat?  Try cooking it with vanilla almond milk instead of water!  When it comes time to dehydrate your rice, spread it out thinly and try to avoid clumps of rice.  Clumps will hold more moisture and take longer to dehydrate.  If you're home while it's dehydrating, go out and break up the chunks of rice every so often to help it dry out faster.  


Not all frozen veggie mixes are created equally!  My favorite store, Aldi, has mixed veggies in a bag as cheap as $0.95!  However, their mixed veggies aren't all the same size and, in fact, the carrots are in rounds that are easily four times the size as the other vegetables.  This doesn't make for fast dehydrating OR rehydrating!  On the flip side of this, Wegmans makes a great mixed veggie blend with the exception of the lima beans.  Lima beans are another rehydration nightmare.  I don't care how long you soak or boil lima beans - they never seem to fully rehydrate properly.  When you're looking for mixed vegetables to dehydrate for additions to your meals, I highly recommend looking at the contents and shapes of the veggies in the bag.  BJ's Wholesale has great 4-lb bags that require minimal changes.  The only thing I did to these was cutting the green beans in half to make everything the same size.  When it comes to vegetables, uniform size is key to getting them dehydrated and rehydrated at the same times.  Trust me, there are few things sadder than being hungry on trail and crunching into half-rehydrated corn when the rest of your meal is ready!

Something I did for our meals a few years ago was broiling and blackening bell peppers before dehydrating.  This little something extra really made the flavors taste even more homemade despite being in the backcountry.  My most important tip is to NOT mix different veggies in your dehydrator at the same time if you can help it - especially strong-smelling veggies.  If you want to do a tray of red onions, put them in by themselves or else all your food will taste like onion!

I actually have EIGHT POUNDS of veggies in that second photo. They don't amount to much!

I actually have EIGHT POUNDS of veggies in that second photo. They don't amount to much!


Meat is a tricky, tricky thing to home dehydrate.  If you're doing beef or ground turkey you'll quickly become familiar with the term "gravel".  The reason?  Ground meat basically has the texture of gravel when you do it right.  Buying meat is the critical first step and you've got to do it right.  If you're set on using ground beef, you'll need to buy the leanest possible cut you can find (less than 90%, and 95% lean is more ideal).  Since buying meat this lean is often expensive, I chose to go with lean turkey as my meat choice.  We bought 99% lean white ground turkey.  Now, cooking the meat is also tricky because you'll have to do it low, slow, and as dry as possible.  No oils at all can be added to the pan, as every bit of oil can go rancid in packaging.  Adding dried breadcrumbs to your meat to soak up the oil is a great step you can take during the browning process.  After cooking the meat to well done, you'll need to sop up any oil that happened to cook out before breaking it up to place in your dehydrator.  Like rice, meat has a tendency to clump, so you'll need to break up the clusters every once in a while. Once your meat is completely dehydrated, I highly recommend vacuum sealing each portion to keep it fresh, just in case.  


Like veggies, uniformity is key with fruit.  Having all your pieces roughly the same size will save you time on both ends of the dehydrating and rehydrating process.  One tricky element to dehydrating fruit, however, is browning.  Apples and bananas both tend to brown when they're exposed to oxygen for a period of time.  I solved this problem by brushing easily browning fruits with lemon juice on both sides before putting them on trays in my dehydrator.  I liked seasoning my fruit as well.  A sprinkle of ginger and cinnamon on apple slices comes out delicious!

Me with my bounty - an entire summer's worth of meals for two hungry hikers. 

Me with my bounty - an entire summer's worth of meals for two hungry hikers. 

Just like with any good recipe, mastering skills with a dehydrator will take time and a few errors will happen as well.  It's all part of the journey!  Have you experimented with dehydrating meals?  What is your favorite backcountry meal? 

Better Nutrition for Backpacking

Thru hikers of any distance trail are notorious for eating highly processed, fatty, best bang-for-your-buck calorie bombs for meals.  If you’re an ultrarunner you definitely know what this is like.  When you’re out burning thousands and thousands of calories per day and you’re supporting yourself by carrying all your own fueling options, you know that lightweight, high-calorie foods are king on trail.  While the best way to get better nutrition on trail in remote locations would be to make your own food, here are some hacks to help you get in some better nutrition during your next long-distance adventure. 

Chia Seeds: 

Chia seeds pack in some serious nutrition.  With fiber, protein, and omega fatty acids, adding a tablespoon or two to oatmeal in the morning will pack in more punch to get you moving.  You can also make your own chia energy drink at lunch time by mixing in some chia seed with your favorite electrolyte replacement.  

Protein Powder: 

I am a huge fan of adding chocolate protein powder to my cup of coffee in the morning on trail.  While I personally use whey protein, you can chose your favorite and add it to your coffee or tea before breakfast for a quick nutrition boost.  While chocolate in coffee is the most popular on trail option, you could also use vanilla or unflavored powder with coffee.  Vanilla powder with green tea or chai powder with coffee are also amazing flavor combinations. 

Nut Butter Packs: 

Peanut butter on trail doesn’t have to be cheap store brands loaded with sugar and palm oil anymore!  With more and more brands hitting the market, like Justin’s, Peanut Butter & Co., andBogg’s Trail Butter coming in single serve packets, it’s simple to get your fix on the go.  Bonus nutrition points to you if you consume a pack with a fresh apple you’ve packed out of town!

Coconut Oil:

Coconut oil comes in solid form and is super simple to add to any meal you’ll be making over your camp stove.  Another great bonus to using coconut oil is the fact that it can also be consumed by the spoonful.  Being high in saturated fat and easy to digest, this stuff is delicious to add to any Knorr Rice Side you’ll be eating for supper. 

Gummy Vitamins: 

When all else fails, you can always add some adult gummy vitamins to your food bag.  Chewing up two of these guys at the end of a long day after you’ve finished your supper on trail can help suppress that after-dinner sugar craving many hikers get after burning thousands of calories hiking.  

Choose Healthier Options in Town:

Heading into town every few days to resupply usually means eating a meal in an actual restaurant - one you won’t have to cook over your camp stove!  While images of greasy pizza and juicy burgers will dance in your head all the way down to town, adding a salad to your meal won’t hurt either.  If you absolutely must have that whole large pizza, consider getting extra veggies as toppings.  The same goes for your hamburger - ask for extra lettuce, tomato, and onions to go along with that delicious goodness!  Consider a healthier appetizer as well - hummus is always a great option that is on many menus. 

While many people joke about the thru hiker diet, it can actually be easy to work in some sneaky healthy foods.  Do you have any tips for working in some healthy fats and proteins on distance hikes? 

Fuel 100 Electro-Bites: A Food Review


Update: Use code SPRINKLES at checkout for 25% off your order (not an affiliate link, feel free to share!) 

With the heat of summer in full swing I've been constantly attempting, and sometimes losing, a battle with my electrolyte balance.  Between my work outdoors as a full time hiking guide and helping my boyfriend train for his first half marathon, I've been spending a lot of time in the low elevations of East Tennessee - often times in sweltering heat and humidity with heat indexes in the high 90s and low 100s.  When I was offered the opportunity to try out Fuel 100 Electro-Bites I jumped at the chance to try something new.  Here are my thoughts on this product. 

After doing some research regarding Fuel 100 Electro-Bites I was excited to try them out for two reasons - the first being that they weren't fruit chews and the second being that they weren't sickly sweet.  While this product comes in five flavors, only three of them are flavors that sound sweet: pumpkin spice, apple cinnamon, and salty vanilla.  The other two flavors are simply salty and salty vinegar.  This immediately appealed to me because of recent I've been all sugared out and I've been on a quest for savory fueling options that are also easy to eat on the trails or on a run.  These tiny bites fit the bill!  The other thing that appealed to me was the fact these were a dry, baked product.  No sticky gels, chews, or sweet drink mixes.  Don't get me wrong, I love a sweet electrolyte tab after a hot and long run, but getting the chance to try something different was definitely a plus!

I took these out on a training run on a night when the heat index at sunset was 94 degrees.  Even though I ran an easy 3.5 miles I knew I had sweat more than I did on 10 mile runs back in the winter time.  If I don't replace electrolytes immediately I usually get dull and throbbing headaches so being able to grab them and go was a big plus for me.  I ripped the tab off the bag of the apple cinnamon bites and dug in!  The first thing I noticed was the fact that even though these bites were dry, they didn't make my mouth feel dry.  The crunchy little bites were actually fun to chew and were easy to swallow despite being hot and sweaty.  I was able to follow the bites by drinking down some cold water and felt great.  The apple cinnamon flavor was very mild and the hint of coconut oil was delicious as well. 

Easy to refuel after a long, hot run! 

Easy to refuel after a long, hot run! 

I also brought along the salty vinegar flavor on a longer day hike during a humid and hot June afternoon.  The vinegar flavor wasn't overpowering and again the coconut oil was very mild and present as well.  These bites stored well in a pack and since they're baked they don't melt the way an electrolyte chew would.  You also don't have to worry about adding a tab to water and waiting for it to mix before drinking.  All you have to do is rip the top off and start snacking!

I've got my fuel for after the hike! 

I've got my fuel for after the hike! 

Personally, I loved these little electro-bites and would definitely buy them again.  The fact that they're so much different from anything I've tried recently really sold me on this tasty and quick fuel for athletes.  They're formulated for distance athletes and have 100 calories per pack, including 190mg of Sodium, 55mg of Potassium and 46mg of Magnesium. Fuel 100 Electro-Bites will have a place in my pack for the rest of the season for sure!

A handful of baked electro bites - yum! 

A handful of baked electro bites - yum! 

Have you tried any new electrolyte replacement products recently?  What's your favorite way to refuel during a hot and humid summer run or hike?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received Fuel 100 Electro-Bites for free from Fuel 100 as coordinated by Outdoor PR in consideration for review publication.  All opinions, as always on this blog, are my own.

Hiker Mocha - An Easy, Popular Breakfast for Long-Distance Hikers

This shop has been compensated by CollectiveBias, Inc. on behalf of its advertiser, EAS Sports Nutrition.  #easbrand #PowerinProtein #collectivebias #ad 

Whenever I'm out on trail, be it as a guide or someone out on my own personal backpacking trip, food is the number one thing hikers will chat about while in camp at night and in the morning.  Whenever you see another hiker eating or drinking something it's common practice to chat about it and why they're consuming it.  I hadn't been on trail for more than a week before I started noticing all the hikers drinking a breakfast concoction I had never seen before.  While the drink had many names and variations (hiker mocha, ranger pudding, power breakfast...) my personal favorite was the Hiker Mocha.  Who doesn't love a fancy coffee drink at the beginning of a long morning of hiking?!  

At first my Hiker Mocha was chocolate milk powder and instant coffee, but I quickly realized that sugar energy was just burning off quick and made my teeth hurt.  I took a cue from those making the ranger pudding and switched to a chocolate protein powder.  Switching to a protein powder, however, wasn't an easy task!  Not all proteins are created equally.  Some powders contained added sugars or the dreaded sugar alcohols (REALLY harsh on the stomach after a few hours).  Some were kind of vague with wording like "proprietary blend", which I later found out means the ingredients aren't really disclosed and mixes of different ingredients are used.  While hikers eat lots of sugars and processed foods, it's nice to get a break from stuff like that at least once a day!  

When we were at the hiker mecca known as Walmart we could find EAS 100% Whey Protein powder.  I personally found Whey Protein easier to digest and it was much easier on my stomach than other brands with added sugars, which is why I chose this brand.  I was also excited to learn you can purchase this powder online as well!  This came in really handy for me when I was hiking near smaller towns where it was really difficult to find any types supplements on trail.  In fact, buying this powder online is still my favorite way to do it!

A Hiker Mocha is so great at breakfast because you can drink it hot or cold, which really comes in handy on those mornings when you don't want to have a hot coffee.  Here are the easy-to-follow instructions for making your very own Hiker Mocha!

With only three simple ingredients you have a yummy, protein-filled breakfast drink!

With only three simple ingredients you have a yummy, protein-filled breakfast drink!

-2 scoops EAS 100% Whey Protein Powder (chocolate)
-1 Tablespoon Instant Coffee or one packet of instant coffee/espresso
-1 Tablespoon Powdered Coconut Milk
-Optional honey to taste

On Trail Prep:
In your cup, measure out the first three powdered ingredients and mix together.  Add in a few tablespoons of water to make a slurry.  This will help equally distribute the ingredients and prevent any type of clumping of the milk powder.  Slowly add 8-10 ounces of water, hot or cold, to your cup. Add honey or sweetener of choice if desired. Stir well and enjoy!

The three powdered ingredients together - super simple!

The three powdered ingredients together - super simple!

Alternatively, you can also make this mix in a Nalgene or similar bottle by adding the powdered ingredients and all the water with the optional sweetener at the same time.  Shake well until ingredients are well-combined and the drink is smooth.  Enjoy while sitting in camp or on the go to get in those morning miles!

Easy to mix at home and drink on the go! 

Easy to mix at home and drink on the go! 

I found that I not only felt better with protein in my system on trail, I also was able to hike stronger in the mornings without those nasty sugar crashes that tend to come on around mid-morning.  Getting my energy from breakfast containing 30 grams of protein worked well for me!  Have you ever tried drinking a protein drink either on trail or before a long hike? Tell me what you think about adding a supplement to your diet during physical activity.  Leave me a comment below!

Check out the New NBC Show S.T.R.O.N.G where EAS® products will be featured on the June 2nd episode. (9pm EST 8pm CST). 



Recipe: Hiker Crack Cookies

It's near the end of the hiking season and you're out on a backpacking trip.  Your stomach is growling and you know it's time for second breakfast, but all the foods you've been eating since springtime just don't sound appealing anymore.  Hungrily, you'll stuff a protein bar in your face while you walk and struggle to swallow.  Sound familiar?  All hikers tend to get tired of the same flavors of bars season after season, but I'm here to help!  My recipe for Hiker Crack Cookies will help get you through the rest of your season and are actually pretty good for you too!

These cookies are delicious all on their own, but on the trail I do step it up one more notch and add a filling.  When peanut butter or any other butter of your choosing (cookie butter, anyone?!) is added they make amazing sandwich cookies!  When I'm at home I dip them into yogurt or slather them with coconut butter as icing - even fruit spread is great on them.  Eat just one cookie and you'll see why we started calling them Hiker Crack!

A plate of deliciousness! 

A plate of deliciousness! 

Hiker Crack Cookies (makes 4-5 dozen)  //   350 degrees for 10-12 minutes

3 room temperature eggs
1 stick (1/2 cup) room temperature butter
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1 cup nut butter (I've used all combinations of almond, cashew, peanut butter, and even Nutzo!
                             You just need it to equal one cup total)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup hemp seed (you can also use pumpkin, sunflower, or sesame seeds!)
1/4 cup chia seed
1/2 cup chocolate chips (I prefer the minis - you can get more in there!)
1/2 cup of currants/cranberries/raisins/blueberries - your choice!  Mixing is fun here too!
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup of almond flour or oat flour* 
3 cups rolled oats

1) Cream together the butter and both sugars until smooth and pale in color.  Slowly add in the eggs one at a time until mixed.  Add in your nut butter mixture until smooth, followed by your vanilla.  Scrape down the bowl.  Finally, add in the salt and baking soda and mix until smooth. 
2) While the mixer is going, put your hemp seed, chia seed, chocolate chips, dried fruit, coconut, almond/oat flour, and rolled oats in a mixing bowl and stir with a fork to evenly combine ingredients. 
3) Slowly add the dry into the wet ingredients until just combined.  
4) Refrigerate the dough for at least an hour - this is crucial or else your cookies will spread out and be very runny in the oven!
5) Preheat the oven to 350.  Using a tablespoon, drop the cookies onto the sheets and space them at least an inch apart.  
6) Bake for 10-12 minutes.  When they are just starting to turn golden brown on top, pull them out of the oven.  In my oven the bottom rack heats faster and I make sure to rotate my trays halfway through cooking.  Your oven may vary, so watch them closely on the first batch!
7) Let the cookies cool slightly before moving them to cooling racks. 

*Oat flour is simple to make at home if you don't have almond flour!  All you need to do is take 1 cup of rolled oats and throw them into a blender or a Magic Bullet.  I find that 1 cup of oats is pretty close to 1 cup of oat flour and makes a great substitute in recipes. 

Do you have any go-to recipes for day hiking or a backpacking trip that don't involve your typical trail foods?  I'd love to hear about them.  Leave me a comment below or join the conversation over on Facebook!

Sloppy Joe's - a tale of a hiker's quest

When you're hiking for a day, a weekend, or even for a month there is one thing every conversation will inevitably turn to - FOOD!  Usually more than once a day we would find ourselves hit with a hardcore craving for food, usually something so impossible to access in the small town resupply stores that the idea of it was absurd.  For NoKey and I in 2012, our food porn was all about Sloppy Joe's.  When we were hiking in Damascus, VA, we did what is called a slackpack.  This is where you leave the majority of your gear in town and take only water and food for the day.  Someone will drop you off and you walk back to your gear.  You can hike out of town, but still come back to town that night.  We did an 18-mile slackpack in 5 hours that day and we hiked back into town, starving of course.  We went to a place in town called Dairy King. The special that evening was Sloppy Joe's with tater tots.  We thought about getting them, but instead we grabbed a burger and a milkshake (blueberry and chocolate peanut butter, respectively) and vowed to go back to Dairy King before we left town the next day for what would undoubtedly be the best meal ever - Sloppy Joe's.  When we left town the next day we discovered it was Sunday.  Sunday's are the WORST DAYS on the AT because it often means all these small businesses are closed.  We fought back tears knowing we had missed our chance for Sloppy Joe's and we talked about them every night for two weeks. 

When we got just south of Waynesboro, VA we had to stop at Dutch Haus, a bed and breakfast/hostel where they would cook lunches and dinners for hikers.  I had the norovirus, meaning I was essentially quarantined in the basement.  It was on this day when I could eat nothing, nor hold it down, that NoKey got not only his two Sloppy Joe's, but also both of mine since I had paid for lunch but could not eat it.  Again, I had missed my chance for Sloppy Joe's.  It was heartbreaking in the mind of a hungry hiker.  The next 1600 miles consisted of the both of us talking about Sloppy Joe's.  We never got them again.  

This story, however, is about to get an incredibly happy ending!  In developing our hiker meals for the summer I came across an article on Chef Glenn's website describing how you can dehydrate your own ground meat.  I had an epiphany: I could make Sloppy Joe's.  We could eat them SEVEN times a piece over the course of the summer!  The food porn that kept us going on our AT thru hike could now become a reality!  While it doesn't look very pretty in the bags, it's going to be incredibly tasty in our stomachs this summer! (Scroll down for recipe!)

It's not pretty, but it will be tasty!

It's not pretty, but it will be tasty!

The first thing this recipe is going to require is that you cook and dehydrate your meat.  I chose a 93/7 Ground Turkey as fat is a big "no-no" when you're trying to preserve items.  I did 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs mixed with 1 pound of turkey meat before I cooked it.  This helped absorb any remaining fat and kept the meat incredibly dry for the cooking process.  While this isn't really ideal for most conditions, for dehydrating it is a must!  I dehydrated the meat at 145 degrees for 7 hours before it was completely dry.  

For the sauce, you can just use your favorite canned brand or you can make your own.  To dehydrate sauce, spread it in a thin layer over a silicone sheet or a piece of parchment paper on your dehydrator tray.  This dehydrates at 135 degrees for 8-10 hours.  After six hours your sauce should be dry around the edges and gelatinous in the middle.  You will take the sheet it's on, flip it upside down, and peel it off like a fruit roll up, placing directly onto the dehydrator tray.  Let it dry until it's crisp. When it's dry, break it up into smaller pieces and put it in an airtight container until you're ready to package your Sloppy Joe's!

Sloppy Joe "roll ups."  These might be good all on their own!

Sloppy Joe "roll ups."  These might be good all on their own!

Sprinkles' Sloppy Sammiches - 2 servings
-1 lb dehydrated meat of your choice (using the information above)
-1 can dehydrated Sloppy Joe sauce OR 1 recipe worth of homemade sauce
-2 tsp dried onion flake
-1/2 tsp paprika
-1/2 tsp garlic powder
At home prep: 
+In two vacuum sealer bags, split the meat and the sauce leather evenly into two portions. Add 1 tsp dried onion flake, 1/4 tsp paprika, and 1/4 tsp garlic powder to each bag.  Seal them with the vacuum sealer.  (This step is important with dried meat to keep it from spoiling!  If not using within 1 month, keep it in the fridge). 
Trail Prep:
+Pour the contents of the vacuum sealed bag in your pot and pour over just enough water to coat the contents.  Heat the contents to a boil, turn off the heat, and cover.  Let it sit just enough to hydrate everything thouroughly.  
+Spread mixture evenly between two sandwich rounds and enjoy your trail Sloppy Joe's!

Trail Magic and Trail Food Cravings

Yesterday we made a surprise trip down to the Finger Lakes Trail to pick up our friends Buttons and Bearwalker.  They're thru hiking the North Country Trail, 4500 miles from Vermont to North Dakota, and needed a ride to the post office.  Since New York isn't exactly hitchhiker friendly, especially when people aren't used to seeing them, they only had a short amount of time to get to their resupply box, which had their dog food in it.  Since Molly  had run out of food and the post office was closing soon, we rushed down to get them, getting them to the post office at 5:05 p.m.  Even though they closed at 5, the postmistress still allowed them to pick up their package!  We got to hang out with them last night and have hiker talk, eat large amounts of food, and look at all their gear.  It was a great time with them and we dropped them back off at the trailhead today.  

When we got home I was pretty hungry and, probably due to being in full on hiker mode for the day, was craving ramen.  Yes, ramen!  The cheap staple of broke American diets and thru hiker cuisine de jour.  Since I was whipping up a ramen recipe for us to take on the trail, I figured it would be the perfect time to test out the spice blend I was planning on using on our batch.  With the fresh veggies I added from the fridge,  I had a steaming bowl of hiker supper!

Ramen with broccoli, portobello mushroom, red onion, and carrot.  

Ramen with broccoli, portobello mushroom, red onion, and carrot.  

Here's the trail recipe I developed tonight, and a photo of how nicely it all packs out to camp! (Links provided for hard-to-source ingredients!)

Thai Ramen, packed and ready to hit the trail!

Thai Ramen, packed and ready to hit the trail!

Thai Ramen - 1 serving
1 pack ramen of your choice (chili lime shrimp would be perfect!)
1/4 cup dehydrated mixed vegetables
1 tablespoon powdered coconut milk
1/2 tablespoon powdered peanut butter
1 tablespoon cashews
1 True Lime packet
1 Sriracha packet
At home prep:
+In a snack-sized zipper bag, combine the cashews, powdered peanut butter, and powdered coconut milk.
+In a regular-sized zipper bag, pour in your dehydrated vegetables, place a ramen packet inside, and add the packet of True Lime and sriracha sauce. 
+Add the snack-sized bag to the large bag and seal
In Camp:
+Remove the bag with the coconut powder, peanut butter, and cashews.  Also remove the True Lime and sriracha sauce. 
+Break up the ramen in it's pack, then open it and pour the ramen and the vegetables in your cook pot.  Remove the ramen seasoning packet and cover the noodles and vegetables with the water level you chose for your soup. 
+Cook ramen according to package directions and turn off the heat.
+Add the ramen seasoning, powdered coconut milk, peanut butter, cashews, and True Lime packets.  Add sriracha sauce to your desired level of spiciness.  For best flavor, allow the mixture to cool off and let the flavors meld together. 

Logistics - the not-so-fun part of hike planning

Here I am, three days into my 'fun' employment and I'm going stir crazy.  Over the past few days, I've managed to spend several hundred dollars on pieces of gear we need for our hike and the beginning of our food budget.  I've spent the better part of last night and this morning preparing our menu.  Turns out sending yourself food is harder than I thought it would be!

On our AT thru hike and then working in the most remote part of Maine, we learned a very key piece of information for resupply - a good grocery store is really only a hitchhike away.  Sure, it might not be in the guide book, but if someone is willing to pick up a smelly hitchhiker, they're probably willing to give you information and a ride to the nearest real store.  Unfortunately, we also learned that sometimes these small town groceries just aren't going to cut it for trail food.  I've planned to dehydrate meals for the first two of our three hikes.  Even though the Benton MacKaye Trail is starting to get more popular, the fact of the matter is that it isn't as established as the AT yet and getting a hitch will probably be tougher.  On the Finger Lakes Trail, especially the eastern portion, towns and stores are nearly nonexistent.  Once we get to the Ithaca area we'll have an easier time getting resupply, but some of these places in rural New York have notations in the guidebook reading "skip the hitch, there's nothing here." (Seriously, it says that!)  

For our resupply boxes, I've done the math allowing for three weeks on the BMT and five weeks on the FLT, a total of 8 weeks of meals - three meals a day plus two snacks.  This means 56 breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and 112 snacks per person.  This is overshooting a bit, which means we'll probably have extras we'll bounce back home, but that's okay!  That means we'll have a bit of leftover for the more rural northern sections of the Long Trail.  I've devised a meal plan that allows for 8 rotating meals, meaning we'll repeat each 7 times during the course of the summer.  Not too shabby for hikers who are used to eating the same things over and over and over to the point of exhaustion!  

Right now, the logistics include making conversions.  Since I'm going to be cooking, dehydrating, and portioning our food, I have to make conversions as to not overbuy supplies.  For example - one cup of dried rice equals approximately 3.5 cups cooked rice, which dehydrates down into 1.75 to 2 cups of rice depending on a few variables.  Now, since the rice I bought comes in a 5 lb. bag, how much rice do I need for all of these meals...? Feels like high school  math, right?!  Since my head was starting to spin, I decided to take a quick break and write a blog post to update everyone on what we were planning.  I'm going to do a post in the future with all our meals and how they look in a few weeks when all the cooking is done.  

Have any of you done any dehydrating?  I'd love to hear how it went, how many extra meals you ended up with, etc.  

Pieces of Gear You Should Always Leave Packed for a Quick Get Away!

For those of us who are constantly busy and running on tight schedules, those rare moments when we can spare half a day to get away into the woods usually come upon us quickly!  I always have a day pack filled with essentials for a day hike on my porch, next to my hiking shoes and trekking poles.  This way, when the moment comes, I can put on my shoes, toss my gear in the car, and run off to the woods.  Here is what I always have on hand:

1) 2-liter Camelbak, filled before leaving the house.
2) Hiker first aid kit: Mine includes ibuprofen, emergency Aquamira Drops in case my filter doesn’t work, a lighter, Gold Bond Powder, Carmex, and duct tape.  I also keep a headlamp with fresh batteries in the same bag. 
3) My Sawyer Mini filter.  This thing is a beast - it’s fast, it’s easy, and it has never once failed me.  
4) Hiker snacks. Obviously, these need to be changed out/replenished every once in a while, but I always have hiker-friendly trail foods in my house.
5) Rain gear. I am a huge fan of The North Face’s Venture.  I’ve now owned two of these coats and I’d never wear anything else.  

Do you keep gear packed and ready for your next short adventure? What pieces do you never leave without?  Leave me a comment or connect with me on Facebook to talk about your favorite gear!

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