recipe

Chicken Piccata - a Trail Recipe

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For the past two weeks, I've been doing lots and lots of meal prep.  For those of you who don't know, for thru hikes less than 1000 miles I prefer to do all of our meals as mail drops instead of resupplies.  In doing a trail like the Mountains to Sea Trail, we are giving up the convenience of being able to easily get into town, especially for the first several hundred miles.  We will be mostly parallel to the Blue Ridge Parkway and it makes it much easier for us if we do drops instead.  Our first mail drop will consist of a post office less than a quarter mile from the Parkway and our second will be at a hotel that sits right on the Parkway.  Having mail drops right on the trail is so much easier than trying to hitch off a scenic byway and get back up to it - especially on a trail that doesn't see so many thru hikers!  

While I was going through my favorite recipes for this trip, I decided to use a few of our old favorites, as well as test out some new recipes.  I also decided to attempt and create one of my favorite dinners - chicken piccata.  I know Backpacker's Pantry offers this as an option, but at $11.00 per meal (and it's definitely not a two-serving meal at only 350 calories per serving!) this is not only cost prohibitive, it's also bulky in their big packaging.  I decided to see if I could recreate this meal at home with dehydrated products and I am super excited with the results!  Being able to have one of your favorite meals on the trail is a great way to end your day.  The recipe for you to recreate is below. 

Sprinkles' Chicken Piccata

1 cup of dried pasta of your choice (I recommend small pasta, like farfalle)
1/4 cup freeze dried chicken (or dehydrated canned chicken)
1 tablespoon of dried capers* (see below for instructions)
2 teaspoons butter powder
1/4 teaspoon (or one packet)  True Lemon powder

Directions: 
At Home:  Take the 1 cup of dried pasta and the 1/4 cup of chicken and combine in a sandwich-sized Ziplock bag.  Combine the capers, butter powder, and lemon powder in a separate snack-sized Ziplock bag.  Place the smaller bag inside the larger bag and seal. 

On Trail: Remove the small Ziplock containing the "sauce" powders and capers and set aside.  Dump the pasta and chicken into your cook pot and cover with water by a 1/2 inch.  Cook on a low flame, stirring to make sure the pasta doesn't stick to the pot.  When your pasta is done, you shouldn't have a ton of extra water in your pot - just starchy water barely covering the pasta and chicken.  Add the powder and capers from the smaller bag directly to the pot and turn off the heat.  Let it sit for a few minutes to rehydrate the capers and enjoy directly from the pot.  

*To make dehydrated capers, drain capers from their brine and place on a fruit leather sheet or piece of parchment paper on your dehydrator tray.  Dry at 135 degrees for approximately 4-6 hours (depending on the humidity), until they are leathery, but dry.  If you don't own a dehydrator, you can always place them on a baking sheet and put your oven on the lowest possible setting with the door cracked open for 2-4 hours.  

What is your favorite meal at home?  Would you ever attempt to recreate it on trail? 

Soul Food - A Trail Recipe

While some hikers love easy, no cook dinner options I happen to be one of those hikers who just loves a hot meal, no matter how hot it is outside! To me, a hot meal can really end my day on a good note.  Was it hot and nasty today? A good meal makes me feel better.  Cold and drizzly?  A hot meal warms me up and sends me to bed happy.  Now, imagine you’re having a tough day out on the trail and you open your food bag to see that you left yourself your absolute favorite dinner for tonight.  This moment can not only change your day, it can sometimes change your entire outlook!  One of those trip altering meals I had on the Benton MacKaye Trail was this one - Soul Food.  I adapted it from the book Lipsmackin’ Vegetarian Backpackin’ and it was definitely one we think about even off trail!  If you wanted to take this meal to the next level and you aren't vegetarian, you could even add in chunks of summer sausage!

Soul Food - 1 serving

1/2 heaping cup brown rice, dehydrated and cooked in veggie stock
1/3 cup of precooked and dried black-eyed peas
2 tbsp onion soup mix (here’s the recipe I use, but you can use store bought Lipton brand)
1 tsp onion flake (in addition to your soup mix!)
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp parsley flake
1/2 tsp cajun/creole seasoning
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp bacon bits/TVP
1 pack Cholula hot sauce
Optional: Slices of summer sausage

At home: Add all ingredients to a zip top bag and seal.  Shake to combine evenly.  Add one pack of Cholula hot sauce to the bag before packing.  

On trail: Pour contents of the bag into your cook pot, minus the hot sauce, and cover with water, leaving approximately 1/2 to 1 inch of water extending over your ingredients.  Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Take off the heat, add sausage if you'd like, and let meal sit for 5-10 minutes.  Check the texture of the beans for doneness before adding hot sauce and digging in. 

Red Beans and Rice - A Front Country Camping Favorite

Even though I'm a backpacking guide I still enjoy heading out for a front country campout every now and again.  The fun thing about heading out for a campout when you've got a car is the fact that you're much less limited on your food choices.  You're also able to bring a lot more friends with you to enjoy the campout as well!  Whenever I'm heading out for a front country camping event, I often find myself looking at my cast iron dutch oven for food preparation.  It can be used to make tons of dishes from savory stews to monkey bread to even fresh batches of biscuits!  My favorite recipe to make for a crowd though is my famous red beans and rice.  This make-ahead meal can be prepped in the days leading up to the event and then reheated on your grill or campfire when you get there.  

If you've read any of my recipes before you know that I don't take shortcuts when it comes to using more natural ingredients.  Many of you may remember that when I was prepping for my thru hikes last summer I even made my own chicken stock to use to cook the rice.  When making this recipe I decided I wanted it to be a little healthier, even though I was going to be out camping.  I started with dry beans soaked at home overnight for less sodium.  I also chose al fresco's Sweet & Smokey BBQ Chicken Sausage.  It's made with lean, skinless chicken meat, al fresco’s chicken sausage products contain 70% less fat and 30% less sodium than average pork sausage. Better yet, all of al fresco’s chicken sausage flavors are gluten-free and are packaged fully cooked.  This meant all I needed to do was brown the sausage and I was ready to get cooking!  Here's my recipe for red beans and rice to feed a crowd: 

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Sprinkles' Red Beans and Rice: Cook time - 3 hours, plus reheating time at camp

Ingredients: 
1 Package al fresco Sweet & Smokey BBQ sausage
1 1 lb bag dry red beans (soaked overnight)
1 sweet onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 clove elephant garlic (or enough to equal 2 tablespoons)
3 dried bay leaves
1/2 Tablespoon ham base seasoning
1 tablespoon cajun seasoning
1 tablespoon Louisiana Hot Sauce
Salt & Pepper to taste

For Serving: 
1 cup brown rice, cooked in 2.5 cups water
Green onion for garnish

Browning nicely! 

Browning nicely! 

Veggies are so pretty! 

Veggies are so pretty! 

Put your dutch oven over medium high heat and add sliced up al fresco Sweet & Smokey BBQ Sausage, browning it to your liking (I like mine nice and crunchy!).  Remove from the pan and set aside to add later.  While the sausage is browning, chop up all your veggies including the garlic.  Add them to a bowl, along with the ham base, cajun seasoning, and bay leaves.  After removing the sausage from the dutch oven, add this bowl into the pot.  Cook until the veggies have softened - about 5 minutes.  Add in your drained and rinsed red beans and stir.  Now, cover the mixture with enough water to keep everything covered about three inches.  Place the lid on the pot with a slight gap to allow for evaporation and simmer for about 90 minutes - stirring every 15 minutes or so.  After 90 minutes, add the sausage back to the pot along with the hot sauce and let this cook down with the lid on, but slightly ajar, for another 30 minutes or so.  Continue to check this every few minutes to make sure it's breaking down properly.  When you're adding the sausage back to the pot, this is when you're going to want to start the rice if you're going to be eating this right away.  After about 30 minutes the bean mixture in the dutch oven should thicken up like gravy.  Before serving, check the salt and pepper seasonings and add more to your liking.  Serve over brown rice with green onions on top, along with salt, pepper, and extra hot sauce!

Yum! Dinner is served! 

Yum! Dinner is served! 

Al fresco also has a Summer Grilling Sweepstakes going on RIGHT NOW that you can check out by clicking the link: http://www.alfrescoallnatural.com/promos/summer-grilling-sweeps .  All you have to do is vote for your favorite recipe and you'll be entered for a chance to win $500 and a new grill (valued at $500)!

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by al fresco and TapInfluence through FitFluential.  As always, all opinions are my own. 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of al fresco. The opinions and text are all mine.

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!

Ingredients: 
-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

Ingredients:
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

Instructions:
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 recipe - peanut-free GORP 
 After doing several shorter overnights and even day hikes, we began noticing that peanut products were giving NoKey an awful case of heartburn.  Hiking tough terrain all day after making the mistake of ingesting anything with peanuts or peanut butter in it was making him miserable.  This was pretty much the leap we needed into making our own trail mixes.  Anymore you can find a whole variety of trail mixes in pretty much any store you shop in, from tropical to chocolate lover to the plain jane traditional, even generic stores like Aldi and Price Chopper are carrying a variety of mixes that make it easy to grab a $4.99 bag and go.  Those bags tend to add up when you’re doing  a lot of hiking and chances are buying the ingredients in bulk will help you save a little cash and a lot of time instead of making those last minute runs out to the store.   
 I came up with this recipe out of necessity.  We couldn’t do a mix with peanuts and everything at Aldi this week had peanuts, so I grabbed a few bags of stuff and made my own mix.  I poured it into a 2.5-liter container used for cereal and now we have at least two trips (if not three!) worth of trail mix.  Now the only downside is that I have way too much trail mix in the house for my snacking pleasure! Here’s what you’ll need: 
 -1 Party-sized bag of M&M’s 
 -1 lb bag of almonds (I went for salted, oven-roasted) 
 -1 lb bag of cashews (I went for salted, oven-roasted) 
 -6 oz. bag of dried fruit (mine was a Fruit Medley mix from Aldi, which included pineapple, banana chips, papaya, dark raisins, golden raisins, and coconut chunks) 
 -Miscellaneous handful of whatever else you want.  In my case, I had yogurt drops left over from another trail mix, so I threw those in too! 
 Mix all these items together into a large container, shake it to distribute evenly, and try not to eat the whole thing!

Trail recipe - peanut-free GORP

After doing several shorter overnights and even day hikes, we began noticing that peanut products were giving NoKey an awful case of heartburn.  Hiking tough terrain all day after making the mistake of ingesting anything with peanuts or peanut butter in it was making him miserable.  This was pretty much the leap we needed into making our own trail mixes.  Anymore you can find a whole variety of trail mixes in pretty much any store you shop in, from tropical to chocolate lover to the plain jane traditional, even generic stores like Aldi and Price Chopper are carrying a variety of mixes that make it easy to grab a $4.99 bag and go.  Those bags tend to add up when you’re doing  a lot of hiking and chances are buying the ingredients in bulk will help you save a little cash and a lot of time instead of making those last minute runs out to the store.  

I came up with this recipe out of necessity.  We couldn’t do a mix with peanuts and everything at Aldi this week had peanuts, so I grabbed a few bags of stuff and made my own mix.  I poured it into a 2.5-liter container used for cereal and now we have at least two trips (if not three!) worth of trail mix.  Now the only downside is that I have way too much trail mix in the house for my snacking pleasure! Here’s what you’ll need:

-1 Party-sized bag of M&M’s

-1 lb bag of almonds (I went for salted, oven-roasted)

-1 lb bag of cashews (I went for salted, oven-roasted)

-6 oz. bag of dried fruit (mine was a Fruit Medley mix from Aldi, which included pineapple, banana chips, papaya, dark raisins, golden raisins, and coconut chunks)

-Miscellaneous handful of whatever else you want.  In my case, I had yogurt drops left over from another trail mix, so I threw those in too!

Mix all these items together into a large container, shake it to distribute evenly, and try not to eat the whole thing!