Currently we have a lot of time at home, this unexpected opportunity is fantastic for preparing food for last minute adventures and those planned out holidays. A majority of my paddling trips I fit in with my 40 hour work week. What better time now then to get planning and prepared.
Why do I like having my food prepared…because I love delicious healthy food. Going on any trip that requires bringing food whether it be lunch or a weekend worth of meals and snacks, if I prepare ahead, I eat like a “king”. I don’t enjoy spending a large portion of a paddling trip standing around the picnic table cutting up veggies, digging through the camp box searching for old dried spices, and dirtying unnecessary dishes.
Planning and preparing now means pulling perfectly portioned frozen one pot wonders out of the cooler as they thaw, rehydrating breakfast while relaxing sipping the morning coffee, and indulging in snacks that were prepared in comfort and convenience of home. I won’t be stressing out making food plans the week before a trip, I will simply review my “extra fresh” list and make one quick stop at the grocery store. (my “extra fresh list” is fresh herbs or dairy products to “crown”, eating like a king).
Sometimes trips can create limited storage space and weight restrictions, so I always will dehydrate when it is necessary. My go to is dehydrating chilli. I start by cooking a low fat ground beef and strain most of the fat and oils off to prevent it from going rancid. Some recipes suggest that adding a breadcrumb to the meat to help with the rehydration but I have never done this and I haven’t had an issue. I cut all my vegetables into small 1.5 cm by 1.5 cm pieces. This is extremely time consuming (I’ve got that time now) but I know that the chili will have better rehydrated vegetables and it will save time at camp. I add red peppers, green peppers, tomatoes, black beans, onion, kidney beans, cauliflower, and zucchini. It is fun to get creative in the kitchen! Here is a basic chili recipe to build off of. https://www.backpackingchef.com/how-to-make-chili.html
I dehydrate my chilli until it is brittle and snaps easy into pieces. Chilli can also be frozen instead of dehydrating into calculated portions and warmed as a one pot wonder! My extra fresh list for chilli includes cilantro, cheddar cheese, and sour cream.
My multi day breakfast go to is dehydrated eggs, because they are easy to rehydrate, light and loaded with calories. When you go to rehydrate, it’s better to let them sit in cold water for longer then start to “cook” them before they are rehydrated. What I love most about scrambled eggs is the creativity with what to add. A sprinkle of steak spice, mushrooms, a bit of red pepper and cheddar cheese are a few suggestions. I use freezer bags to hold the dried egg separate from the rest of the ingredients, so I can be selective with the rehydrating time and use warm/ hot water for the rest. Dehydrating eggs does take 12 hours plus in the dehydrator and the dehydrator has to have a built in tray for this. I start by measuring how much water would fit in the tray, this is important to know about the dehydrator being used. I will only use half to two thirds the amount of liquid to keep drying time to a minimum, less exposure to low heat to the eggs. The eggs are beaten in a sanitized (by boiling and cooled) glass measuring cup. I dehydrate them at 135 C, until brittle, and then I use a coffee grinder to make them into powder. I store them in freezer weight ziplocks in the freezer and definitely use them within 3 months. It is a time taxing process, but you don’t always want to eat oats for breakfast.
One of my favorite dehydrated “hidden gems” is Mitchell's Soup Co, Thai Coconut Prawn Soup. I purchase this amazing dried soup mix from my local Save-on foods. All the extra vegetables can be dehydrated, and the ingredients for the sauce can be stored in a small nalgene or sealed container. I dehydrate fake crab meat to add to the mix instead of prawns. This is a tedious process peeling the chucks into strips to dehydrate but the meat rehydrates wonderfully. This soup also could be made vegetarian by adding white beans or chickpeas. I don’t use dairy as it asks, I substitute in powdered coconut milk. I highly recommend this soup even for at home, or preparing it fresh and freezing it for adventures later. This is a serious one pot wonder.
I have found myself this year freezing portions of different kinds of one pot meals. When bagging these I always put more than enough information on the bags. I always list what extras I can add to make each portion a bit bigger, and if they are vegetarian or dairy free.
One of my favorites is a white bean tuscan soup. See this recipe, https://www.forkknifeswoon.com/tuscan-white-bean-and-butternut-squash-soup/ . I love adding roasted cashews, dried apricots and fresh cilantro to this soup. I am excited about the ease of one pot wonders after a long day of paddling.
Making meal plans and experimenting with different recipes is something I look forward to on my weekends off from work right now. I spend time figuring out which meals are cheaper, which ones will freeze well, and dehydrating different fruits and veggies. Since the social distancing and stay home has come into effect I have been playing with different recipes and getting creative in the comfort and convenience of my home kitchen. I am taking the time to learn about processing food that I knew nothing about before. It has become a wonderful balance of preparation and planning for future adventures, while educating myself on preserving food for trips to come.
- Kimberley Kenyon