Monthly Archives: August 2009

DodieKakes, aka Ginger Food Bars

Hooray! Managed to gather up all the ingredients, measure & mix ’em & make good notes!

The recipe created 50 cakes @ an average “wet” weight of 1.1 oz (or 33 grams) and a total caloric load of 4,970 calories.

I cut the batter into smallish 2″x2″ squares, ending up with 50 cakes. Three of these, after dehydrating, equaled the standard DodieKake serving of 2.5 oz.

Per standard 2.5 oz serving, here are the Dodie-Kake details (percentages rounded):

  • 314 calories (125.6 calories/oz)
  • 52% carbohydrates @ 43g
  • 40% fat @ 14g
  • 8% protein @ 7g
  • 6g fiber
  • 23g sugar
  • 462g sodium

Here’s the recipe, along with some extra pictures of the process. You can get more details at Red Elephant’s Aug 25 Daily Plate.

Aside: I toast most of the seeds & grains before putting into the mix because I prefer that taste & texture. They’d be fine raw. Another option would be to buy roasted pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, etc. This recipe does adapt well, so feel free to experiment with a variety of nuts, seeds, grains, sweeteners & dried fruits.
For grating, I used the 6×6 attachment on my Cuisinart food processor. I also used the food processor to mix up the wet ingredients, as you’ll see in the photo.

DodieKake Recipe
DRY: mix together in big bowl

1 C pepitas
2 C raisins
1 C quinoa flakes
0.25 C whole flax seeds
0.25 C sesame seeds
0.25 C quinoa/millet grain
1 C puffed millet
2 large carrots, grated
1 medium apple, grated
2 oz fresh ginger, grated
2 Tbs turmeric

WET: put in food processor


0.5 C almond butter
0.5 C almond meal
1 C hummus mix
1 C water
0.5 C honey
1 C dates, pitted
(about 10 huge, juicy, fresh medjool dates)

Working with half of each, MIX wet into dry
Pat out onto cutting board & cut into 25 squares, about 2″x2″ (1.1 wet weight/33g)
Spatula onto parchment paper circles on dehydrator trays
—Alternatively, use an ice cream scoop for “rounds” of 1.6 oz (46g)

Nutritional facts based on a 2.5 oz dehydrated weight per serving.

Dehydrating takes less than 48 hours. I like ’em to be a little chewy, but you can also dry them crispier.

We eat these as a morning snack/breakfast food. On the JMT, I started putting one in my morning tea, letting it soften & eating it with a spoon right from the tea cup.

Calories per Ounce: What’s in the Ounce?

My JMT backpacking menu only supplies 107 calories per ounce!

That’s 18 calories short of the ratio recommended by a plethora of backpacking advisers, including, for example, Adventure Alan who suggests that “a good target to balance calories and nutrition is 125 to 130 calories per ounce.” Super-backpacker Andrew Skurka carries 2 lbs of food at 4,000 calories, just hitting that 125 calories/ounce ratio. It’s worth noting that Skurka expects to lose weight on the trail and loads up during town-stops to compensate. Neither of these guys are radicals.

How’d Mr. Jack & I do on our radical food plan?

We lost weight* & yet we hiked strong, at an average of 12+ miles per day, went to sleep & woke up without being hungry, and had no food cravings at the end of 24 days on the trail.

Amazing that we felt so good & performed so well with such numbers, isn’t it?!

It worked for us because of the food we took. Admittedly, not all our food worked as well as hoped, so we’ll be tweaking the menu again: No more cheese, no matter how tasty it is. It didn’t provide the get-up-and-go we’re looking for in a lunch meal. And more beans in the lunches! We’ll be leaving most of the dried shrimp at home from now on, although it has worked for us well on shorter backpacks.

All calories are not created equal. And all foods are not equal for each backpacker. When a body receives food it can easily use, rather than food that is useless, or even detrimental, the number of calories needed may not be as high as assumed. Think of your calories as dollars. Are all dollars created equal? In your life, is the dollar deducted for taxes from your paycheck as valuable as the dollar you spend at the grocery store? Is the dollar you might owe on your 19% credit card really worth the same as the dollar you find on the sidewalk? What about that $20 you lent a friend last year that you haven’t seen since? Is that as valuable as the $20 you took out of the ATM last night?

Calories, too, have different value to different people. The number & kind of calories you need may be different from the calories & kinds I need.

So how many calories does a backpacker need & what kind of calories should they be? The only useful answer is that it depends—depends on the backpacker, her body and her willingness to think outside the “one-size-fits-all” of most food information.

No web-blog or backpacking expert can tell you what your body needs, what foods your body can use & what foods are useless to you or even detrimental. One backpacking guru, for example, dotes on corn pasta. We tried it last year and I dragged down the trail for most of the day in an absolute stupor until my body managed to expel it.

Next blog, I’ll lay out some considerations to take into account when accessing your personal backpacking food needs. Blood type, DNA testing, food sensitivities & hidden allergies, anyone?

*More on That: Yes, we lost weight on the John Muir Trail. Jack lost about 9% of his beginning body weight; I lost about 5%. Doing the math on the calculator at fitnessgear101.com indicated that Jack had a calorie deficit of nearly 3,200 per day and mine was just over 800 per day. Mr. Jack had the weight to lose & has continued losing (at a more reasonable pace) since we returned home. I have gained back about half the weight & am holding steady. A personal fitness trainer told me once about a program designed to be used under a doctor’s supervision where in calories are cut drastically and exercise is increased exponentially. The goal is to lose fat while creating muscle without harm to the body. I think we found a personal version of this on the JMT.

Green Bars, the update


Yesterday at the food co-op, Mr. Jack bought himself an Active Green Organic Food Bar. He was stunned at how tasty good it was!

We will be adding these bars to our backpacking menu, and probably to our day hike choices as well, especially since we now know the ABOFB, according to a prompt email reply from Dr. Jack Singh (founder of OFB Inc.), “supplies approximately 4 servings of vegetable and fruit nutrition along with almonds and sprouted flax (omega-3, 6 & 9).”

These bars will not be replacing the 8-servings of veg & fruit available from the yummy Rebars, but will supplement with good fats, extra protein and that truly delectable texture and flavor. Kinda like a peanut butter & jelly sandwich … without the bread!

Use the link provided in the Backpacking Food Info investigate Organic Food Bar ingredients. You’ll want one … and so will your friends, whether they hike or not!

Complex Caloric Calculations

Nope, I don’t have an accurate count yet. Who knew it would be so complicated?! First of all, because I use a low-tech food scale (the pelouze K5 postal scale—“rates effective January 2001”—hey, it works!) all my food weights are in postal ounces, not grams. Imagine my dismay when, upon beginning to compose a “meal” for the Daily Plate, I realized that many (of not most) of the foods I would be using were offered up in gram servings!

Undeterred, I quickly whipped up an oz/gram conversion formula to plug into the original Excel spreadsheet. I took the opportunity as well to cleverly add an additional formula (she grins modestly) that would divide the meal weights into individual servings. The original spreadsheet, for simplicity’s sake, had lumped together all the meals of the same kind (3 salmon pasta Parmesan dinners, for example) as well as the duplicate snacks (22 Rebars, 44 DodieKakes, 11 days worth of gorp at 2-person servings per day …).

That particular bit of math taken care of, I turned my full attention to building some basic backpacking meals: our longtime favorite hot lunch of Kashmir spinach shrimp & rice, fruit & nut gorp, the aforementioned & much-evolved DodieKakes, and our perpetual supper, heretofore referred to as pease porridge from the nursery rhyme that hummed into my head just a few days down the trail (maybe day 9?):

Pease porridge hot! Pease porridge cold!
Pease porridge in the pot nine days old.

Some like it hot; some like it cold.
I like it in the pot nine days old!

Aside: Turns out De La Soul did a hip-hop version of this little rhyme, but my money’s on Miggy’s verson

How’d it go? It went great! I got all the meals in, all the snacks in, all the thises-n-thatses, hit the update button & almost fell off the couch at the appallingly low number of calories! Went back in, found some calculation errors (If I made the hot lunch meal to reflect one servings, why in the world had I only given myself a quarter of a serving for the day? Hmmm) as well as some omissions (Had I really left out all the hummus mix & most of the almond butter from the DodieKake recipe or had the MyPlate software dropped it? Mysteries of software indeed).

It was while making adjustments to that last recipe, the ginger-laden snack bar affectionately known as the DodieKake, that I was struck by the truly alarming realization that I had NO IDEA (NO idea!!) how many bars resulted from the recipe I had painstakingly entered into the food-analysis database.

Some scribbles on the much-marked up recipe sheet indicated that the “whole recipe should make enough for an 8-day hike.” Ha! But was that the printed out recipe, with the original amounts, or the most-recently revised recipe, which not only included a few new ingredients (see handwritten notes to “grate 2 carrots & 1 apple into dry mix” as well as “add 1 cup brown rice syrup”) but also doubled the original amounts, while eliminating other ingredients?

Ruefully, I realized that the only way to get a true reading on the caloric content of the elusive food bars was to whip up a new batch & COUNT the cakes; maybe write it down clearly somewhere this time?

In the meantime, the preliminary numbers are: 1,945 calories with about 52% carbs (249 g), 31% fat (66 g) & 18% protein (85 g)–and yes, of course it comes out to more than 100%! if you have an account at livestrong.com, you can take a preliminary peek at the not-entirely-accurate menu for one backpacking day at the Red Elephant Eats Daily Plate for Aug 21, 2009.

Eating across the Sierras: < 1.5 lbs of food

Jack & I started our JMT backpack with an average of 1.24 lbs of food per person per day for the first 11 days and about 1.34 for the next 11 days, including the 10 oz of secchi salami Mr. Jack threw into the Muir Ranch re-supply box for “emergencies.”

Aside: In all fairness to Jack, although I whine mightily about his intractable penchant for bringing along salami, I am first in line when he starts slicing it up at the end of a long day. On this hike, as on so many others, the salami did not survive to fulfill its function as emergency rations unless one considers overwhelming desire to consume salami at the first opportunity an emergency!

In addition to the food we packed into our bear canisters—nearly all of which was gone by the time we got to our car, as I mentioned in the introductory blog—I also ate on the trail 3 chocolate-based food bars (avg 1.6 oz each @ 190 calories) given to me by Karen from Vermont and a handful of raw cashews (probably also about 1.6 oz @ about 260 calories) donated by a couple on top of Forrester Pass who were on their way out. She was eating a Snickers bar; I had politely declined to accept any candy.

You’ll notice that our daily food weight is slightly lower than the suggested range of 1.5-2 lbs per person suggested by most backpacking experts. How do we get away with such low food weights? It comes from understanding that all calories are not created equal and planning a menu that optimizes nutritional density and eliminates—as much as possible—empty calories and ounces. Which is not to say we are ever going to give up our tea!

We know this menu works because we’ve used similar food plans in the past

  • In 2008, on the 8-day High Sierra Trail backpack, ending over Whitney Portal (107 miles, 2 passes) Jack lost 5 lbs he was happy to see go, and I lost none, coming home at the 135 I’d left with.
  • In 2007, on the North Lake-South Lake semi-loop (55 miles, 3 passes @ 11,000’+ in 5 days), we came home with no remarkable weight loss.

So why, this year, did Jack lose nearly 20 lbs & I lose just over 5? Maybe it was the considerably longer backpack with many more passes, but I particularly suspect the unseasonably cold weather, particularly the hail storm through which we hiked for nearly 2 hours, including 3 frigid high-water crossings.

Next blog, I’ll provide a sample day’s worth of backpacking food with calorie count and the percentage breakdown of fat, carbs and protein, including a fiber report. First, though, I’ll have to plug all the foods into the Red Elephant’s Daily Plate account over at Mr. Lance Armstrong’s LiveStrong.com. Once all the information’s in, we can check details to see how our backpacking food plan compares to yours … and to the experts’ recommendations.

Green Food Bars: Easy Veggies on the Trail

Although I planned to comment on the bins of abandoned backpacking food donated by JMT thru-hikers at the re-supply sites of Red’s Meadow, Vermillion andMuir Ranch, that must wait. Because today I grocery shopped for the first time since coming home (how grateful we are for the abundant garden!) & discovered a “new” food bar at the Davis Food Co-op. Yes, I’ve since discovered that the Organic Food Bar company started in 2001, but I have missed out! I bought the Active Green version & ate it in the grocery aisle, pleased with the fresh flavor & chewy texture and not at all adverse to the dark green color. I bet it would take even better while actually backpacking!

OFB Active Green tastes remarkably like our longtime favorite food bar, Rebar, a bar made entirely & completely of raw, organic fruits & veggies. Nothing else added. While OFB is also a green bar, it includes some seeds, nuts and sprouts, as well as agave nectar (3d ingredient in the list). Rebar also makes a nut/seed bar, but since it contains soy, we haven’t been able to add it to our repertoire.

Both of these bars are free of gluten, soy, dairy & egg.

The bars have similar amounts of carbohydrates (38/34), sugars (20/22) & fiber (7/6). OFB, however, provides 10 extra grams of protein (12) with the added bonus of 13 g of fat to Rebar’s none, thanks to the almond butter listed as the first ingredient. OFB is also a bigger bar at 68 grams to Rebar’s 50.

The calories/ounce ratio (important to consider when planning one’s backpacking menu) looks like this:

  • OFB = 125 calories per oz
  • RB = 91.4 calories per oz

Since getting the “hungries” on the JMT trip (more on that another day), I’m interested in adding more fat to my food. Whether the OFB is the answer, or whether I’d be just as well off to throw another handful of nuts into my gorp and keep eating the 8-servings-of-veggies Rebar, is a question to explore. Wonder how many servings of veggies the OFB contains with all those sprouts?

After all, fat is easy to add on a backpack (nuts, anyone?). Fresh veggies on the trail? Not so much.

Red Elephant Eats: A new dining experience

Friday afternoon, around 2 p.m., Mr. Jack & I came off our John Muir Trail backpack the long way, skirting around Mt. Whitney (which we had topped last year to finish up our 8-day High Sierra hike) and dropping into Horseshoe Meadow. We had eaten all of our food save for a few cups of nuts-n-fruit, a handful of homemade beef jerky, 2 Rebars and 2 packages of our newly modified “pease porridge”– and yes, quite a bit of Brookbond Red Label tea left from the 24 days on the trail. One must never run out of tea, after all!

We ate everything but the tea & the porridge during the hitchhiking adventure that got us to our vehicle in Yosemite Valley’s Curry Village by 9 that night, and thanks to Jack’s determined driving, we slept in our own bed & had tea in our own kitchen the next morning. Tea in a real teacup! Out of a real teapot! And then of course, real breakfast instead of a quart ziplock bag of snacks to take one up the pass & down the valley to lunch at a creek.

Backpacking food must fulfill several functions for most folks: fuel, flavor & comfort being perhaps the top 3. We want our food to keep our bodies satisfied & energetic. We want to experience the 6 flavors of pungent, sweet, sour, bitter, astringent and salty as well as a variety of textures: crunchy, creamy, fluffy, dry, light, heavy, juicy, gooey, chewy, soft & crisp. We want familiar foods but we don’t want to be bored by our backpacking foods.

Exploring the balance of fat, carbohydrates, protein and fiber that can feed us effectively & efficiently is fascinating to me, whether on the trail, eating the food I’ve brought, or at home, considering and preparing the food to be eaten. As a long-time foodie and nutritional student, a cook, an eater, gardener, and reader, I look forward to using this blog to share and learn about the food choices we take on the trail and how to optimize our eats while backpacking.