Category Archives: Food

DIY Backcountry Meals – Dehydrated Chili Recipe

Chili is one of my favourite dehydrated meals while camping – it is hearty, delicious and easy to make! The ground beef has a lot of surface area so it dehydrates and rehydrates well. I just make a big pot in the slow-cooker, have it for dinner and then dehydrate the rest!

The tower of cans that went into this chili recipe
The tower of cans that went into this chili recipe

Ingredients: 

  • 1lb ground beef
  • 1 big onion, chopped
  • Optional – 1 medium green pepper, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (small) tomato paste
  • 1 can of sliced mushrooms (I really like it so I used 2)
  • 4 cans of beans (I usually use two black beans and 2 red kidney beans but you can really use any that you want… I’ve made chili abroad with lentils and chickpeas before!)
  • 1 can of corn (whole kernel, nibblets)
  • 2-3 tbsp chili powder  (Make your own Chili powder from scratch! – http://www.food.com/recipe/chili-powder-16892)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Extra spices to taste: salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, cayenne (all of these are actually in the homemade chili powder but you can add more of one or the other as you like)

Instructions:

  1. Open and pour all the cans into the slow cooker to start cooking.
  2. In a frying pan, Fry the ground beef and drain the fat. Draining the fat is super important dehydrating.
  3. Add the onions, garlic and the optional green pepper in the frying pan and saute to brown a little
  4. Add chili powder into the frying pan and cook for a few minutes to soak into the mixture
  5. Add frying pan mixture into the slow cooker. Add the salt and simmer about 4-6 hours.
  6. After the slow cooker has heated with everything in it for a couple hours, taste to see if you want to add more salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, cayanne or just more chili powder as you like

Dehydrating instructions: 

Spoon two scoops or so onto a dehydrating tray so that there is a very thin layer of chili. Set the dehyrator on high temperature/ meat setting if available.  Dehydrating times depend on your dehydrator but just make sure that there is absolutely no moisture before packing it away. I just put it into ziplock bags. You can store it in the fridge if keeping it for a long time.

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Dehydrating 101

Dehydrator city!
Dehydrator city!

In these last two weeks before heading out, I have been dehydrating up a storm. On the downstairs counter is four dehydrators lined up in a row pumping out dehydrated food for us to take with us on our expedition. We try to have about one week of dehydrated meals as back-up in case we’re not able to forage for food (bad weather, surf beach, provincial and/or national park are just some of the reasons). However, in the DIY spirit, we dehydrate our own meals instead of buying camping freeze-dried meals…and it’s easy!

Dehydrating food makes it light, pack so much smaller and lasts a lot longer. Last week, I was dehydrating a lot of fruit (so tasty to munch on as a snack or to flavour porridge!) , fruit leather (ground up fruit and dried like a fruit roll-up from when you were a kid!), and veggies (broccoli, peppers and corn OH MY!). We also made our own beef jerky and it dehydrates so easy that you’ll never buy expensive store bought jerky again! This week, I am simply making dinner and dehydrating the left-overs. I currently have a big pot of chili simmering in a slow-cooker, which is a favorite back-up camping meal for us.

The secret’s out: YOU CAN DEHYDRATE (ALMOST) EVERYTHING!

A few simple rules:

  1. Fat does not dehydrate so try to minimize it. Yogurt can dehydrate but it never re-hydrates the same.
  2. Big chunks take longer to re-hydrate so chopping things really small or shredding is great, blending soups is even better! Chili using ground beef works well but I made another dish with chunks of chicken that took forever to re-hydrate.
  3. Dehydrate like with like. If you have one tray of peaches and another of broccoli, you’re going to get broccoli infused peaches (maybe ok?) and peaches that taste a bit like broccoli (not as good…)
  4. Mark the quantity you dehydrated so you know how much liquid to put back in. Add liquid conservatively….you can always add more water but you can’t take it out once it’s in!

That’s it! Have fun dehydrating! If you’re looking to get a dehydrator, the ones with fans in them are the best.

Here are some dehydrating tips and ideas our experiences:

Dehydrating Fruit

dehydrating peaches
dehydrating peaches

Fruit is amazing to dehydrate and it’s so tasty to munch on. It’s great in oatmeal and to supplement granola/trail mix. I chopped up apples, peaches, bananas and strawberries and also dehydrated some raspberries and blueberries too.  With fruit, really anything is possible.

** With fruit that turns brown when left out (i.e. apples, pears, peaches), soak it in a little lemon juice and water for about 5-10 minutes before putting it on the dehydrator.

FRUIT LEATHER

A fantastic way of preserving fruit is to puree it and then spread it out on the dehydrating tray. Some dehydrators have fruit leather inserts but you can also easily make your own with parchment paper (not wax paper). You want to be careful to not over dry fruit leather or else it cracks. Once it is not sticky to touch anymore but still a bit pliable (like leather, who would have guessed?), peel it off carefully then cut into the size you want and roll it up in wax paper for storage.

Some of my favorite combinations are:  raspberry & strawberry, blueberry & applesauce* with a 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract, and the all time favorite, blend up all the fruit I have in my fridge for a kickass mixed fruit leather!

*Apples are a great filler and give a little extra sweetness to sometimes tart berries. Applesauce is really easy to make. Just boil up four roughly cut and peeled apples with about 1/2 cup of water, add a little honey/brown sugar/ maple syrup as you like, optional cinnamon. Boil for about half an hour and then blend in a food processor or blender after it’s cooled a bit. Presto! Delicious homemade applesauce!

Dehydrating Veggies

Dehydrating broccoli
Dehydrating broccoli

Veggies also dehydrate well and it really reduces the weight and space of carrying delicious veggies. A large ziplock bag of broccoli turned into half of a small ziplock bag of broccoli. Six full sized carrots turned into something I could hold in the palm of one hand. Dehydrating veggies separate means you can be versatile with your meals, coming up with meals on the fly or jazzing up other meals. This is new for us and thanks for backpacking guru, Lauren, for her suggestion! Now, we will have our freshly caught fish plus a side of quinoa with some dehydrated veggies tossed in while its cooking for an awesome dinner!

Some tips dehydrating veggies:

  • Soak broccoli in salt water for 10 minutes before throwing it on the dehydrator. This will help it keep its green colour
  • Bell peppers (all peppers actually) dehydrate well and really keep their flavour. Chop it up in small squares for better dehydrating.
  • Mushrooms soak up flavour so you can make little mushroom “bullion cubes” by soaking them in beef or veggie stock for about 10 minutes before dehydrating
  • Frozen veggies work great. Throw frozen peas and corn straight onto the dehydrating trays
  • Carrots can take a long time to re-hydrate. Some ideas for quicker re-hydration is to shred the carrots or cook them first. I tried cooking them this time and they dehydrated so small!
  • Leafy greens dehydrate well including kale, Swiss chard, spinach and more. You can also dehydrate herbs quite well too

Dehydrating Meat

Meat can re-hydrate kind of tough and use a higher heat on your dehydrator to make it safe. Many dehydrators have a meat setting.

Ideas for dehydrating meat include:

  • Deli cold cuts such as ham, turkey, chicken, lean roast beef –  Cut into strips to dehydrate. This can be a great addition to mac and cheese!
  • Canned tuna – Screw the heavy metal can! Make sure you get the tuna in water rather than oil
  • Similarly, canned chicken! – the key apparently is that canned chicken is pressure cooked. If you have a pressure cooker, you can do it yourself. See this website for more details: http://www.backpackingchef.com/pressure-cooking-chicken.html
  • Ground beef apparently dehydrates best with some breadcrumbs added in – 1/2 cup for every pound of beef, make sure you use lean beef. Bread crumbs allow more liquid to penetrate the dried meat when you re-hydrate it so it turns out more tender!

Honestly though, I don’t dehydrate meat separately all that much.  I have ground beef in my delicious dehydrated chili but I don’t normally have a bag of simply dried ground beef. The BEST WAY  to dehydrate meat is beef jerky!

BEEF JERKY

Beef jerky is so easy to make that you’ll never buy expensive store bought jerky again! First get a big hunk of beef roast then slice it. If you have a slicer, that’s great. If you don’t, a tip is to put the meat in the freezer for about 30 minutes before slicing and it will make it easier to cut. Cut the meat into about 1/2 inch slices – too thin will make the jerky really crispy while too fat will be hard to dehydrate. Use only lean meat for dehydrating and cut out fat parts as fat will go rancid and spoil faster.

We made a simple teriyaki sauce for the beef with soy sauce, brown sugar, lemon juice, a bit of garlic powder and cayenne. Some other things you can add in include liquid smoke,  black pepper, onion powder, Worcestershire sauce, Frank’s hot sauce and Tabasco. Play with the different amounts and see what tastes good for you. Just make sure there is enough to cover all of the meat.

Leave the meat to soak in the sauce overnight and then put it on the dehydrator. Like fruit leather, you want the meat to be completely dry to touch but still pliable and bendy.

 

Enjoy and comment below on any dehydrating thoughts!!

 

 

 

Food

Napoleon Bonaparte, the first Emperor of France and widely regarded as one of the greatest military leaders in the history of the West, once said something very simple and true,

“An army marches on its stomach.”

The last of classical Athens’s three great tragic dramatists, Euripides, also said,

“When a man’s stomach is full, it makes no difference whether he is rich or poor”

A final saying to this delicious trilogy is the famous proverb,

“The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”

These three quotes and sayings speak to the importance of food and a full stomach.  Food is central to any trip and this is especially true for us embarking on a long kayaking journey. When kayaking through huge remote areas, there is the challenge on how to provision for such a long trip in the wilderness. Some other kayakers on a similar journey had food airdropped into the remote locations or mailed it to various villages on the way…though they only held the packages for a couple weeks so it was always a bit of a rush to make deadlines.
me (Maggie) with some fresh greenlings I caught that we cooked up for dinner
Some fresh fish for dinner caught off my kayak! These are a couple big greenlings, which are often found in kelp beds

When we kayaked from Vancouver up to Alaska in 2010, we decided on living off the land. This meant fishing and gathering berries, shellfish and wild edibles for our dinners. This turned out to be one of our favorite parts of the trip and something we now really look forward to about these long kayaking journeys through the wilderness!

We plan on foraging for our dinners on this kayaking expedition circumnavigating Vancouver Island as well! 

Our plan is to stop kayaking around 2pm in the afternoon and fish for dinner. We will go to a kelp bed and jig for rock cod and greenlings. We’ll bring our catch of the day to shore to clean the fish and make a fire to cook it in. Our fires are always very small cooking fires made in the intertidal zones where it will be washed away by the next tide and we always prepare food away from camp for wildlife safety. Sometimes, we will also find some shellfish like mussels or wild edible food like berries and greens. Also depending on the location, we will put the fish heads and spines after cleaning the fish into our collapsible crab traps to put out for a couple hours as we continue to set up camp.

The bountiful resources of the Northwest Coast has not only been discussed in the present day but has been a part of the discussion of the coast’s history.The Northwest Coast is famous in anthropology for the rich cultures that have been found here. Previous to exploring the First Nation cultures on this coast, it was generally believed that a foraging society could not be very sedentary and could not develop complex societies. However, an anthropologist named Boas found during his work here in the late 19th and early 20th century that the resources of salmon and berries was so rich that people were able to live quite sedentary lifestyles and the cultures on this coast was amazingly intricate and complex.

That being said, finding the occasional restaurant at one of our town stops also “technically” counts as foraging!
Yummy campfire meal of some dehydrated chili. Secret is that you can actually dehydrate almost anything so before we leave, I will make big batches of food and dehydrate it for the trip!
Yummy campfire meal of some dehydrated chili. Secret is that you can actually dehydrate almost anything so before we leave, I will make big batches of food and dehydrate it for the trip!

We will post about our culinary adventures including the camping food we dehydrate to prepare for the trip, showcase some of the meals we’ll cook over the campfire, display proud pictures of the fish we caught and feature some of the amazing westcoast restaurants we run into on the way!

Are you a restaurant on the coastline of Vancouver Island and have a dish you want to share with the world? Contact me at my email (maggie.m.woo@gmail.com) or post a comment below if you would like us to come visit your establishment!
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Bounty from the Sea

Even after a long day of paddling, we are still excited to drop our line in the water in search for dinner. Though the BC coast is most known for its salmon, jigging for cod is a quick and reliable means to a meal and is our main form of fishing. We find a patch of kelp where fish gather and drop a line. Jigging for fish means we drop the hook and buzzbomb lure all the way to the bottom and then raise it a bit then let it flutter back down. When the lure is fluttering back down, it looks like a small, struggling fish and irresistible to bigger, hungry fish. This is then perfect for the even bigger, even hungrier kayakers!

Here’s a teaser from previous trips for some of the fish and marine goodies we will find during our paddle around Vancouver Island this summer:

A big rockcod Bryan caught in Cow Bay, Flores Island, Clayoquot Sound
A big rockcod Bryan caught in Cow Bay, Flores Island, Clayoquot Sound
The many types of rockcods are some of the most common groundfish found in BC waters. Rock cod, aka rockfish  or  Pacific  snapper, is not actually a cod fish nor a snapper! It's called a cod because of its similar traits - firm, white meaty flesh. Rockfish (Sebastidae) is a family of marine fish in the order Scorpaeniformes, like the beautiful but toxic lionsfish found in the tropics. Consequently, the quills on rockcod have a mild toxin that makes any wound by them really hurt.
The many types of rockcods are some of the most common groundfish found in BC waters. Rock cod, aka rockfish or Pacific snapper, is not actually a cod fish nor a snapper! It’s called a cod because of its similar traits – firm, white meaty flesh. Rockfish (Sebastidae) is a family of marine fish in the order Scorpaeniformes, like the beautiful but toxic lionsfish found in the tropics. Consequently, the quills on rockcod have a mild toxin that makes any wound by them really hurt.
Pacific cod is the only true cod found in BC waters. Pacific cod is considered the world's second-most abundant white fish. We only found it in Telegraph Cove on the north end of Vancouver Island
Pacific cod is the only true cod found in BC waters. Pacific cod is considered the world’s second-most abundant white fish. We only found it in Telegraph Cove on the north end of Vancouver Island
Ling cods are hunters on the rocky seafloor and can get really big in the ocean. Their flesh looks a little blue raw, which disappears with cooking
Ling cods are hunters on the rocky seafloor and can get really big in the ocean. Their flesh looks a little blue raw, which disappears with cooking
Lingcod's scientific name, Ophiodon elongatus, really describes this Pacific species of fish. The Greek “ophis” for snake, “odons” for tooth, and the Latin word “elongatus” or elongated really describes this serpentine monster of a fish!
Lingcod’s scientific name, Ophiodon elongatus, really describes this Pacific species of fish. The Greek “ophis” for snake, “odons” for tooth, and the Latin word “elongatus” or elongated really describes this serpentine monster of a fish!
This lingcod took me for a ride, pulling my kayak for 500m, as I was landing this fish!
This lingcod took me for a ride, pulling my kayak for 500m, as I was landing this fish!
Ling cod is actually a type of greenling fish that is popular with anglers because they can get really big and they really fight.   Greenlings are a family of fishes known scientifically as Hexagrammidae that are commonly found on rocky North Pacific shores. They are really colourful - the males are more colourful than the females.
Ling cod is actually a type of greenling fish that is popular with anglers because they can get really big and they really fight. Greenlings are a family of fishes known scientifically as Hexagrammidae that are commonly found on rocky North Pacific shores. They are really colourful – the males are more colourful than the females. Here I am with a couple of the more generic greenlings that are quite common in BC waters during our 2010 kayaking trip to Alaska.

The bounty from the sea is not only fish. We also harvest shellfish, crabs, and seaweed!

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Westcoast eateries

This kayaking journey is about showcasing the awesomeness of Vancouver Island including some of its fantastic restaurants and eateries!

We are looking for sponsors to feature on this website!

Are you a restaurant on the coastline of Vancouver Island and have a dish you want to share with the world? Contact me at my email (maggie.m.woo@gmail.com) or post a comment below if you would like us to come visit your establishment!

Foraging for our Food

The Northwest Coast is an incredibly rich environment. Between wild edibles and the bounty from the sea, I don’t think you can starve on this amazing coastline. You can get hungry but if you’re not picky, there will always be something to eat!

As we start paddling  around Vancouver Island, we will showcase some of the wild foods we find on the way. As a teaser, here are some of the wild plants we gathered on previous kayaking journeys on the BC coastline. There will be many more to come!!

Huckleberries are plentiful in the coastal forest. Big bushes of them are sometimes so heavy with juicy berries that they are drooping over a little and one plant could fill up a small pot! They come in red and blue. Blue huckleberries are also sometimes called blueberries. There is some debate on the difference between a blue huckleberry and a blueberry but what experts agree on is that they both look and taste the same!
Huckleberries are plentiful in the coastal forest. Big bushes of them are sometimes so heavy with juicy berries that they are drooping over a little and one plant could fill up a small pot! They come in red and blue. Blue huckleberries are also sometimes called blueberries. There is some debate on the difference between a blue huckleberry and a blueberry but what experts agree on is that they both look and taste the same!
Salmonberries are some of the early berries in the summer. They come in red and yellow and sweetness is not related to colour - both are delicious and sweet! This is the wild cousin of the modern domesticated raspberry
Salmonberries are some of the early berries in the summer. They come in red and yellow and sweetness is not related to colour – both are delicious and sweet! This is the wild cousin of the modern domesticated raspberry
Wild ginger can be found in shady, moist areas on the Northwest coast. Interestingly, though they have the same smell, wild ginger is not  actually related to the tropical ginger root that we use in cooking! The leaves not the root is used when cooking with wild ginger.
Wild ginger can be found in shady, moist areas on the Northwest coast. Interestingly, though they have the same smell, wild ginger is not actually related to the tropical ginger root that we use in cooking! The leaves not the root is used when cooking with wild ginger.
Wild onions that we found on a little island in Desolation Sound. We used the green leaves like chives
Wild onions that we found on a little island in Desolation Sound. We used the green leaves like chives
Glasswort is a succulent salt-tolerating plant that we found in the intertidal area on some beaches. We found this plant pictured on a beach in the Discovery Islands. It is edible raw as a crunch bit in salads but they are really salty. We boiled it in fresh water and drained that water away before  cooking with glasswort.
Glasswort is a succulent salt-tolerating plant that we found in the intertidal area on some beaches. We found this plant pictured on a beach in the Discovery Islands. It is edible raw as a crunch bit in salads but they are really salty. We boiled it in fresh water and drained that water away before cooking with glasswort.

Disclaimer

This page is just a teaser and not a replacement for a good guide to edible plants if you’re interested in wild edible foods. We carry two guides with us when we’re out foraging. If you don’t know what it is, don’t eat it because there are plants out there that are poisonous.

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