15 October 2016

breakfast for the trail

Instant oatmeal: The standard breakfast backpacking is instant oatmeal and hot chocolate. So is the standard breakfast car camping. We would go car camping for a month at a time as children and I developed a strong aversion to both instant oatmeal (always fruit and cream flavors) and hot chocolate. For a while, I thought I could eat none of it, but then I found that I could eat apples and cinnamon instant oatmeal (briefly) and the extra chocolate hot chocolate version sold as "dark chocolate". I have also had good luck adding in a packet of "instant oatmeal" that was full of hardy things like flax seeds.  It is the texture that gets to me, and this is sufficient to change it for the most part.  I still have a cup of cider nearby to help wash it down if my body decides to revolt and my stomach try to convulse. Yes, my revulsion is that extreme. It is no way to start a day. I need something else.

Soup packets: As a teen heading out for 10 days, I dropped in a couple packets of split pea soup for each morning. It was delicious confined to that time, powered a kid who tended to have a suppressed appetite when hiking, and probably even good for me. It is also hard to find these days, especially if you'd rather not have one with bacon.

Couscous: I have often had couscous for breakfast with lots of fruit and cinnamon and/or allspice and nutmeg and maybe ginger. There should be lots of spice to fill in lots of flavor. Except for cloves. They should be used sparingly. I have been told that this is entirely the wrong way to do couscous and can only respond with, "Oh? Is it?" I put enough for breakfast into a little sandwich baggie and squeeze out the air and tie it off. Cooking, I'll heat water and pour some out into a cup for my hot drink and then just poke a hole and spill the mixture into the hot water. It does not need to boil for two minutes, it just needs hot water for a few minutes. This is often my staple for breakfast these days, but I get hungry again quickly. Adding protein is suggested to help slowing down getting hungry. I have tried it with ground flax and ground almond, both of which made it gritty and suppressed the flavors of the spices. Milk powder is not an improvement either.

Bag of couscous and a couple of bread mixings.

Chia seeds: Following a somewhat random set of PCT through hikers, I bumped into a chia seed pudding recipe. This particular recipe is nice for not suggesting that you must put in this kind of nut or that kind of fruit and thus clearly establishing some level of variety. I had some on my hike in the Flat Tops and a few other places. First observation was that I cannot stand to eat out of a bag. The bags I had handy were kind of tall and my fingers got dirty on the sides, so I got some shorter ones that still fit everything. My fingers got less dirty and it was still a miserable thing to eat out of a floppy bag. The first time I made it in a Talenti container instead was the first time I actually came up with a pudding product instead of a runny mess with chia seeds at the bottom, too. In fact, it was a little too set up, but it was well mixed.

Some mixed up pudding, some "blanks", and the fixings.

Real oatmeal: Oatmeal is still a viable option, but not instant.  The various 5 minute oats, steel cut or whole, can be cooked up almost as easily as couscous.  I want it with fruit and loads of spices, just the same as the couscous.  The bigger bottles of cinnamon are higher quality stuff anyway, so you might as well indulge.

Oats and couscous, but do not carry them like this.

Same theme as oatmeal: There is such a thing as instant grits, too. Maybe someday I should try this. Cream of Wheat is fast and can be adulterated to edible, which is, if I am honest, how I treat oatmeal and couscous.

Bread: Bread is good for breakfast and can be cooked on the right backpacking stove, but it does take a bit more time. One could make it in the evening, but then it will be cold when eaten. It is an excellent option for a lazy day.  To do the baking, the heat from the stove must be sufficiently low.  There seem to be two methods used. By far the most common is to divert the heat, usually using a double pot setup. I have experimented with just a layered aluminum piece to tuck under my pot and had pretty good luck with it. This does mean extra tools (weight) and extra fuel (weight and waste).  Some are able to cook by simply having a low enough flame in the first place.  Another option for a slow burn is cooking with a tea light. The recipes in the link use cake mixes and such, which I find distasteful. The bags pictured above by the couscous are 1/2 cup flour, spices, and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder. Simple. Seriously, biscuit mix is a waste of money. I have tried it also with a bit of whole wheat, corn, garbanzo, soy, rye, teff, and probably something more I have forgotten. Add in flax and ground nuts and fruits and dried milk for all kinds of flavor too. When it comes to bread, the grainier, the better. For cleanup, the slower the heating, the less likely it is to burn on. I also pour in plenty of oil, far more than needed against sticking, because oil is just good stuff for backpackers.  There are lots of details with this and it will likely have a whole post after much experimenting.  So far, very yummy, especially with raisins. Soy and garbanzo flours absolutely must get cooked well to taste good.

More things like sweet potato mush: This guy seems to have a good handle on edible and hardy foods.

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