Tuesday, April 27, 2010

WANTED: 5 Minute Camping Segment

Can you believe I’m still going to reference Comcast SportsNet’s “WANTED: Adventure Host” even after I was told to take a hike? Well, believe it. I just happen to be interested in something other than myself! Hard to believe I know. I’m such a good sport – and so humble. Still, the competition is going strong and the winner is about to be announced!

I did get to see some of the behind the scenes action on the show. But the final three, Duane, Cameron, and Jeremy, were pretty tight lipped and didn’t tell us outcasts much of what the final challenge entailed.

So watching the show on Monday night, not knowing exactly what was going to happen, I couldn’t keep myself from groaning and shouting at the TV, just like I do when I watch Jeopardy, Survivor or other reality/game shows. Isn’t it funny how easy it is to convince yourself that you could do much better than television contestants?

I was the one behind the TV screen just a week ago telling people how a camera in your face changes the game completely. And there I was rolling my eyes when Jeremy said, “It’s a lot harder than it seems.”

“It’s a campsite!” I was yelling, “How tough can it be!” Oh how quick the ego forgets!

Still, I was inspired to put together a little segment content of my own. Since I’m not on the show anymore, I’ll have to be my own producer. You get to be my audience! And because this is a food related website, let’s talk food!

Taking tips from Duane’s “Outdoor Quicky” I’ll share with you a note from a friend. Heading out for a rafting trip, my friend asked me what kinds of space-saving, light foods she should pack.

Okay buddy, here are some healthy ideas!

Instead of heading to the sporting goods store for dehydrated, processed, chemically altered, fake food – spend a little time prepping and planning before your trip. This way, your healthy outdoor activity isn’t canceled out by false food.

It’s easy to find healthy, power packed snacks if you know what to look for: nutrient rich, calorie rich foods that give you the most bang for your backpack space.

Dried fruits are packed with filling fiber, vitamins, natural sugars for energy, and some (raisin, prunes, figs) even contain iron, more commonly found in meats, which helps keep energy levels high. Make sure to pick fruits without added sugars, preservatives, and oils.

Nuts and seeds are packed with healthy fats and protein to feed the muscles and regulate blood sugar level for sustained energy. Check out my recipe for Oregon Trail Bars in the Archives under “Multnomah Meltdown” – just as tasty as a candy bar but much healthier since it is pure fruit, nuts, and seeds.

Bison jerky (or beef jerky) is a great source of light, lean protein and iron. Again, read labels to make sure you’ve got a healthy jerky sans junky additives.

For something fresh, I like tangerines or clementines. They are small enough to fill in the spaces between objects in your pack. They are just the right size for a snack with thin peels so you don’t have a lot of waste. Save the peels to put in your water when you boil it for a fresh, citrus flavor.

When it comes to something a little more filling, I like to pack grains that can be boiled quickly – old fashioned rolled oats, quinoa, rice, “Zoom” (a hot cereal with a blend of whole grains) and more. Quinoa is great because it is also protein packed. Store grains in serving sized Ziploc bags with any desired dried seasonings so you can simple dump the contents into your boiling pot for a quick, warm, hearty meal. For oatmeal, add cinnamon and raisins and garnish with walnuts. For quinoa add some Italian seasoning and finely diced sun dried tomatoes. Be creative. I always like to pack a small bottle or flask of olive oil just to round out flavors, add to boiling water before adding grains, or drizzle on top of cooked grains.

These are just a few lightweight, power packed foods to consider. However, if you are going to have a successful trip, the most important nutritional element is water! Instead of packing heavy bottles of water or fancy purifying drops, just make sure that you have a heat safe water bottle or canteen, and a small boiling pot. You can find all kinds of burners at any outdoors store but as long as you can build a fire, you can purify water.

Make sure you know about streams in the area so that you can plan when and where to get your water. As long as the water is moving, you can collect some in your pot, bring it to a boil for a few minutes, and you are good to go! It may not be crystal clear or taste pure, but any bacteria or bugs in the water will be dead.

Vital cooking utensils don’t stop with your water boiling pot. Tinfoil is a must. You can wrap pre-made peanut butter and honey sandwiches in foil. When you’ve eaten the sandwich, fold the foil and use it later to cover the boiling pot, wad up and scrub the pot, wrap food, collect and funnel rain water, dress up a hook as a flashy fishing lure, or form around fist for a makeshift bowl, etc.

A heat safe spoon is also a necessity. Lots of people like disposable plastic spoons. Don’t do it! Bring something that won’t melt when you eat out of a container that was just in the fire!

I also like to pack my foods in Ziploc bags, which come in handy. Use bags to save food, fill with water and hang over tent doorways to deter bugs and flies from entering, pack sticky or wet clothes/trash/diapers/etc, or keep toilet paper or fire starting materials dry.

It is just as important to consider the waste you’ll create on the trail and have to pack out with you, as it is to think about what to pack in. Make your waste work for you!

Armed with a few tips and simple foods, you can make your trip good for your spirit and body!

This segment may have taken over five minutes. Okay boys – you win! Looks like I’ll be eating humble pie again, with a whole wheat crust of course!

When you’re backpacking food, the menu can look a little plain. Still, after a long day in the outdoors, it’s nice to have something besides trail mix to look forward to. Therefore, I’ve created a Berry Campfire Cobbler. Simple and delicious this cobbler can be made over a fire, grill, or stove and is equally perfect for breakfast or at the end of a long outdoors day. Plus, this healthy cobbler comes sans chemical additives and preservatives (unlike the dehydrate bag meals from the sporting goods store) while hitting all the nutritional requirements. No guilt!

1 ½ cup whole-wheat flour
1/3 cup oil
¼ cup cornmeal
¼ cup granola
¼ cup brown sugar (lightly packed)
2 tbsp powdered buttermilk (optional)
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp cinnamon
Handful of dried cranberries or other dried fruit
Handful of walnuts or pecans (optional garnish)
Boiling water
Ziploc sandwich bags


At Home:
1. Combine whole-wheat flour, cornmeal, granola, brown sugar, powdered buttermilk, baking powder, and cinnamon in a large bowl and whisk together. Separate the mixture into 4 different Ziploc bags. The bags will be your mixing bowls and make 1 large serving or two smaller. So only bring as many bags as you will need on your trip.
2. Pack a large amount of dried fruit and nuts for snacking making sure there will be enough to cover the bottom of your boiling pot in generous single layer for each bag of flour mixture you pack.
3. Pour oil in a flask keeping in mind that you only need enough oil for the number of baggies packed, a couple tablespoons each.

At Camp:
1. Boil fresh water to make sure it is clean and drinkable. Pour about 2 tbsp into one bag of flour mixture along with about 2 Tbsp oil. Reseal bag carefully to ensure there is little to no air inside, then mush and squeeze the bag to combine ingredients. If mixture is too crumbly, add a little more water. Keep in mind that you can always add more water but you can’t take it out – so add little by little.
2. Pour the rest of your boiling water into canteen leaving about a ¼ to ½ inch (thumbnail depth) of boiling water in your pot. Lean toward the generous side so you don’t end up with a dry pot and burnt berries. Add a handful of dried cranberries or other dried berry to boiling water – enough to cover the bottom of the pot in a generous single layer.
3. Using a spoon, scoop mixture and flatten against the side of the bag to make a disk. Using your finger, push it from the spoon onto the boiling berries. Repeat until the berries are covered.
4. Quickly cover pot with tinfoil leaving a small opening for a steam vent. The boiling water with plump the berries and steam cook the biscuit topping. If the boil is vigorous, remove from heat after about 5 to 8 minutes, make a good seal on the tinfoil, cover the top with a sweatshirt or thick fabric to insulate top, and let cobbler finish cooking in a warm place. If the berries start to sizzle or smell burnt, you can carefully drizzle in more water being careful not to pour water over the biscuits.
5. Cook for about 10 minutes, adjusting time based on the heat of your fire – a gentle boil or simmer is best.
6. You can eat straight from the pot or scoop out onto a plate. Sprinkle with hand crushed walnuts or pecan and enjoy!

COMMENT! Do you have trail tips or favorite backpacking foods? Please share them - leave a comment.

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