Friday, August 28, 2015

Cooking in the Wilderness Part 3: Backpacking Meals

My husband, 4 kids and I just returned from a successful 26 mile, 3 night backpacking trip last week. Before the trip I FINALLY took some pics of meals so I could share some of what I have learned about feeding my family on the trails. 

As the title says, this is the third part in my "Cooking in the Wilderness" series. 
Here are the first two parts if you missed them: 

My goal in these posts is to share what I've learned. I am not an expert. My husband and I learn many new skills each time we go out with our family. On our excursions, we have eaten some gross food, some decent food, and some excellent food. And so far we haven't starved.

If you are backpacking for 3 nights by yourself, meal planning is fairly easy. You may just purchase some meal bars and Mountain House Meals (or other pre-made just-add-water meals), and you are good to go.  

But planning meals for a family of 6 for 4 days is more of a challenge. We would spend a fortune if we bought Mountain House Meals for our whole family every time we went. They run about $6-7/meal. We'd be spending $60-$80 a day just to eat on the trail! 

I have come up with some essential criteria for backpacking food:

1. It must use minimal packaging. Remember, all trash must be packed out.

2. It must be cooked in a pot on a backpacking stove--so "just add water," "pre-cooked," and "quick" are desirable features.

3. Calorie dense and high sodium=good.  Your food is your fuel. And you have to carry it on your back. 

4. It needs to be YUMMY.  My kids like knowing what is being served for dinner is something they can look forward to as they walk for miles and miles with a heavy pack.  Delicious food helps our psychological state everywhere, but especially while backpacking. 

First I will share how I do SNACKS on the backpacking trail
Before the trip I make a pile of snacks for each member of the family.  Granola bars, trail mix (nuts, cereal, mini-graham cookies, dried fruit, etc). and bags of candy (jelly beans and Sour Patch Kids are family faves). As you can see, Corn Nuts are also a favorite. Everyone carries their own snacks in their packs.  We encourage them to ration it so it can last the entire trip. (This especially applies to the 5-year-old with the jelly beans).

(Who just thought of hobbits?)
Grits, Cream of Wheat, Malt-O-Meal, or other quick-cooking hot cereal makes an excellent breakfast in the wilderness. Measure out the amount you need of the dry cereal, add salt, sugar or other seasoning, then write the amount of water you need to boil with a permanent marker on the bag.  We also love bringing hot cocoa and apple cider to have morning and night. 

It seems almost silly to have photographed our oatmeal packets, but here they are! I LOVE eating pre-packaged instant oatmeal for breakfast on the trail. We dump it all together (yes--every flavor!) in the pot of boiling water and it is ready in a snap. This simple breakfast is cheap and always tastes and feels so good.

Another breakfast we typically have is homemade or store-bought granola bars. We usually eat this on our last day to save time.

Third, I will share some LUNCH ideas:
Bread brought on the trail should be okay when smashed in your pack. So tortillas, pita bread, and bagels are our go-to backpacking breads.  This lunch was so simple, but so enjoyed! My kids said I should've brought twice as much. Mustard and dry salame rolled into a tortilla.  I did bring the mustard in the small bottle. If you really wanted to conserve space, you could squeeze it into a baggy before going, but I didn't want to risk it bursting open.  

This is one of our go-to lunches. We vary the flavor of bagel, but even if we didn't I think it would still be enjoyed.  I did bring the jar of peanut butter to ensure it didn't get squeezed out of a baggy. I also squeezed extra honey into the jar (it wasn't full).  The sweet and salty flavor of peanut butter and honey and the sustained energy of the carbs from the bagel make it a perfect backpacking lunch. 

Now onto DINNER in the wilderness:
On the left of the butter is our dessert:(from top) Dried apples, cinnamon and brown sugar, and an instant oatmeal packet mixed with graham cracker crumbs. On the right is our main course: Pre-cooked bacon, instant mashed potatoes (with cooking directions written on the bag), and powdered milk to make for the potatoes.  Part of the butter is used in the potatoes, the rest is added to dessert.  This meal was another in which the only complaint was that I should have brought more (but no one starved!). 
This is the baked apple dessert. It would also make a delicious breakfast. Cover dehydrated apples in water. Bring to a boil and cover until reconstituted. Add sugar and cinnamon mixture and butter. Sprinkle oatmeal/graham cracker crumbs on top and stir gently. We LOVE this, and it would work with other dried fruit like peaches or berries. 

Cheddar cheese, dehydrated refried beans, and tortillas. This was our meal on our first night out. We didn't want to chance the cheese getting to hot during the next day of hiking. This was an easy, filling, and tasty dinner.  Reconstitute the refried beans by covering them in boiling water and letting them sit for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, slice the cheese. Spread the beans on the tortillas and top with cheese. If you want to melt the cheese, fold the tortilla in fourths and wrap in the foil. Stack in a pot and heat for about 5 minutes. 

Chicken fettucini!  I LOVE that pre-cooked chicken now comes in a pouch! We add it to quick cooking pre-seasoned pasta or rice for a delicious, hearty meal! This was the family's favorite of the trip. 

Other dinners we've enjoyed included macaroni and cheese (yes, from the box), tuna or salmon in pouch packaging, quick cooking rice, couscous, and of course, ramen noodles. 

Each of these meals fed my family of 6, and cost about the same or less than one Mountain House 1-serving meal. 

When we are packing for our trip, I put the contents of each meal in a plastic grocery sack and label it with which meal it is (ex: "Wednesday Lunch").  Then as we are filling our packs, each of us takes note of which meals we are carrying so we are ready when it's time to eat. 

I hope this is helpful to anyone looking to take to the trails! We are always learning about new trail food.  I'd love to hear ideas for meals you have made while backpacking! 

Backpacking with our family takes a great deal of planning and patience, but when we get to be together enjoying God's amazing creations, it is so worth every bit of work! 

Participating in these link-ups.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Sea Salted Crio Brü Granola Bars

Yep! I've added leftover Crio grounds to another recipe! A couple of posts ago I put them in some delicious no-bake cookies.  Now, you won't BELIEVE how yummy they are in these soft, scrumptious granola bars. 

Crio Brü is a drink made from brewed cacao beans. Each time you make this tasty drink (which brews like coffee in a coffee maker or french press), save the grounds. I save my used grounds in a covered bowl in the fridge. They are so great for baking with that I rarely throw them out! These granola bars are full of yummy chocolate flavor before you drizzle them with melted chocolate chips, and Crio is the sole source of that flavor.  

(By the way, I am NOT being compensated for this post. I sincerely love Crio Brü and enjoy baking with it!)

For this recipe, you'll need to save 1 cup of your previously brewed grounds (which adds up fast because the grounds expand when brewed), pulse them in the food processor or blender for a few seconds, and they are ready to go!
1 cup previously brewed Crio grounds
Pulse in food processor or blender for 15-30 seconds, scraping sides once.
These bars also have delicious flaked coconut, chia seeds, and oatmeal! So they have a TON of redeeming health value!! My entire family went nuts!  I made two batches: one I iced and one I didn't; ALL were devoured. 

Sea Salted Crio Brü Granola Bars
Makes 12-14 bars

1 cup previously brewed Crio Brü grounds
1/2 cup coconut oil, room temp
1/2 cup honey
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
2.5 cups quick oats
1/4 cup chia seed
1.5 cups unsweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup chocolate chips for drizzle (optional)
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9"x13" baking dish with cooking spray. 
2. Place previously brewed Crio Brü grounds in food processor or blender and pulse 15-30 seconds, scraping sides once. Set aside
3. In a large mixing bowl, beat coconut oil, honey and brown sugar until smooth. Add egg and beat well. 
4. Stir in Crio grounds and vanilla. 
5. Stir in oats, chia seed, and flaked coconut. Spread in prepared pan.
6. Bake 30-35 minutes, until sides and bottom begin to brown. Remove from oven and cool. Cut into bars.
7. To make drizzle (optional): Melt chocolate chips by placing in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 1 minute. Stir. Microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring after each, until chocolate is smooth. Spoon into a plastic sandwich bag. Snip off a bottom corner and drizzle over cooled bars. 
8. Sprinkle with sea salt (with or without drizzle). Wrap individually in plastic wrap to store. Store in refrigerator or freezer.

Participating in these link-ups. 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Peter Pan Collar Ruched Blouse Tutorial

I have had this darling polka-dot chiffon fabric for over a year, waiting for the right  amazing inspiration to hit me. I considered a skirt (which would've been adorbs!!), but I have a TON of skirts, and I'm always wanting new, original tops to wear.

I am SO in LOVE with the Peter Pan collars that are popping up on blouses everywhere, and I am totally digging all the lace overlays and inlays being added to every kind of clothing.

SO... I decided to do a bit of both with this sensational easy-to-make blouse!

Whether you are an experienced or newly-budding sewist, this tutorial will be a surprising cinch. I'll walk you through each step!

You will need: 
  • Chiffon Fabric:  26" wide x 60" length.  If you are shopping, one yard should be enough. Knits, silks, or other light-weight flowing fabrics would also work. 
  • Lace trim, gathered: 3/4 yard of  1.5-2" wide. I used cotton eyelet lace.
  • Elastic thread
  • Scissors; Corresponding thread; Chalk for marking; Sewing pins; Sewing machine 

1. Fold fabric in half (wrong sides together) to make a 26" wide x 30" long rectangle. Find the center of the width and mark it at the fold with chalk. (I laid chalk here so you could see it clearly.)

2. Measure 4 inches on each side of the center and mark with chalk. Measure 3-4 inches down (depending on how low you want your neckline), and mark with chalk. Draw a line connecting the three marks to make a half-circle. This is your front neckline.

3. Measure and mark 4 inches down from the upper left and right fold corners. 

4. Draw chalk lines connecting the side marks to the each end of the neckline. These are your shoulder lines.

5. Make a mark 1.5-2  inches down from the center point along the fold.

6. Draw a curved line from the ends of the neckline to the mark you just made. This is the back neckline.

7. Cut along the TOP curved chalkline through BOTH layers of fabric.

8. Cut along the BOTTOM curved chalkline through only the TOP layer of fabric.

9. Cut along the shoulder lines through BOTH layers of fabric.

10. Turn fabric to right sides together (RST). Sew the shoulder lines together with a 1/4 inch seam allowance.

11. Turn fabric to right sides out. Sew a rolled hem around the neckline. 

10. Pin the lace around the neckline. I left extra at the end because pinning around a curve with gathered lace is not an exact science. I had to do some re-positioning at the end. Fold the ends of the lace under and at an angle to make the "Peter Pan" shape to the collar. Pin in place. Sew a topstitch along the top of the lace first, then carefully topstitch along the outside edges of the entire collar. (I did this as my very last step for this blouse, but you may as well do it now since you'll already have the right thread in your machine).

11. Measure and mark 9 inches down from the corner of the shoulder. From there, draw a line 3 inches horizontally. From there, draw a straight line to the bottom of the fabric.

12.  Repeat #11 for the other side of the blouse front. 

13. Cut through both layers of fabric along the chalk lines you just drew. (It's starting to look like a shirt, huh?)

14. Draw a curved line beginning 4 inches above the bottom corner down to 4 inches along the bottom edge. Cut through both layers of fabric along this line.

15. Fold the blouse in half along the length, and use the curve you just cut to draw an identical one on the other side. Cut along this line through both bottom layers of fabric.

16. This is what your shirt should look like (folded in half) at this point. Unfold for the next step. Turn right sides together.

16. With RST, pin along the bottom of both sleeves and sides of the blouse, ending at the top of the  curve. 

17. Put ELASTIC THREAD in the bobbin of your sewing machine. This is the key to making this shirt "ruched." With a 1/4" seam allowance, sew along the bottom of the sleeve to the top of the curve at the bottom of the shirt on both sides (where you just pinned in #16). Tie off with a back-stitch at the beginning and end. 

18. Sew a rolled hem along the sleeve edges. 

19. Sew a rolled hem around the bottom of the blouse. 

You are done!