Tag Archives: pease porridge

Ready to Go? & Raves for a New Dehydrator!

We’re just about ready to go here with 22.5 pounds of food for each 8-day section. This includes vitamins, our variety of teas, the inevitable salami, and (of course) some packaging. Doing the math gives us an average of about 1.4 lbs per person per day, considerably heavier than the last 2 years (2009 @ 1.24 & 2010 @ 1.08), at least a pound of which will be the beef added to supper (see below). But the big difference makes me wonder if I was including the vitamins & teas last year … sometimes my notes are not as clear as I’d like when I look back. Anybody else have that problem?.dropcap:first-letter{float:left;color:black;font-size:250%;}

This backpack’s food prep has been plagued by “do-overs” & I won’t be completely sure I am done until the box goes to UPS on Wednesday for its Kennedy Meadows destination.

First do-over was the dried ground beef. I had already composed & taped up most of the hot lunches when I realized how much easier it would be on-trail to already have the beef in the lunches. So I opened them all back up & added a carefully measured ounce to each one. And shouldn’t I have done that with the pease porridge suppers (aka “gruel”) as well? Well, yes. So I opened up each one of those, added the beef and re-taped. Turns out I had just enough beef for the 15-day backpack.

And that’s when I hit the second do-over. Sunday afternoon, putting vitamins & such into little pill bags, I compared my inventory to the itinerary we’d sketched out Saturday night and discovered we were doing 16 days on the trail, not 15. Huh. So we’ll need one more day of food? Well, at least one more day of trail snacks, so out come the bags of nuts, dry fruits, backpacking bars and … oh my! Hang on a minute! I’ve forgotten the extra EmergenC! I’ll be right back …

Hopefully, that’s the last do-over. At least the box wasn’t taped up yet!

Excaliber Dehydrator Report

I got one. At last. And I am in love! If I’d had any idea how much easier, quicker & more enjoyable dehydrating would be with this 9-tray, no-hole, adjustable temperature dehydrator than with my well-used Ronco, I would have upgraded years ago. In fact, I would not have bought a starter-dehydrator at all. If you are still struggling with your donut dehydrator, I gotta encourage you to get out your money and get the right tool for the job. I’ll rave more later – right now I have to go unload 9 trays of white nectarines I picked from a neighbor’s tree this weekend.

Dahl: a damn fine food, on & off the trail

Spent my morning tea time looking through the Ansel Adam’s masterpiece Sierra Nevada: the John Muir Trail. As both a Sierra lover & a a press aficionado, I must recommend this amazingly published art exhibit. If you haven’t yet seen it, find a copy & set aside some time to spend in the Sierras without having to change out of your pajamas. I’m full of memories of past hikes & dreaming ahead to next summer’s adventure.

While we’re on the trail, every night’s supper is pease porridge, which Mr. Jack refers to as a quick-and-simple dahl: a by-weight 1:1 mixture of chia seeds, dehydrated split pea soup and toasted quinoa flakes. For the 2 of us, it weighs about 6 oz, including the critical seasoning square of organic vegetable bouillon, which does include at least turmeric, if not the other spices more traditionally associated with dhal.

Dahl is a traditional Indian dish of rice, beans and spices, that has hundreds, if not thousands, of variations. Fran’s House of Ayurveda blog, for instance, has a great winter squash/lentil recipe with simple directions. With canned pumpkin on sale this month, this is especially appealing, although I would need to use another bean since lentils are on my “avoid” list.

I’ve been making a lot of dahl since our JMT hike when we discovered that rice & bean dishes supplied more energy than any other combination of food. So of course, I’ve developed a more slapdash approach than that suggested in other recipes, using pre-cooked rice & beans because it’s easier for me to cook a big batch of beans & freeze to use as needed. In a pinch, I use canned beans.

Turns out that dahl makes a perfect breakfast! It’s the kind of food designed to be made in a big pot & reheated as needed. I am aware of the 3-day leftover rule; at our house, however, that is completely ignored as neither Mr. Jack nor I have delicate stomachs and often find ourselves happily eating food more than a week after its initial appearance. Here’s my casual recipe, which you may enjoy trying on some cool fall or winter day, either for breakfast or later in the day:

You’ll need:

2 cups cooked rice
2 cups cooked beans (canned are fine if you don’t have the inclination to soak & cook your own)
2 cups mixed cooked vegetables

Note: If you are using frozen rather than fresh vegetables, you will not need to cook before adding to the dahl. Canned vegetables are not recommended as they get too mushy.

My current dal includes these vegetables, which I piled into a saucepan in this order, & steamed until just tender:

  • 2 golden beets, julienned
  • a handful of green beans, chopped into 1/2″ lengths
  • small chayote (or other soft-fleshed squash) cubed 1/2″

Fresh greens, a handful or 2 if available (chard, spinach, beet, turnip). Adding chopped, raw greens to the completed dahl is one of my favorite ways to enjoy more vegetables.

1 onion, chopped
fresh ginger, about 1″, minced
cooking oil: grapeseed, olive or coconut; ghee
basic dahl spices — adjust to your own taste; heat can be added as desired

  • cumin, whole, 2 TB
  • corriander, whole, 2 TB
  • fenugreek, ground, 1 TB
  • tumeric, ground, 1 TB

Salt to taste

You will need a big pan for all of this to end up in, as well as a few other pans for toasting seeds, sauting onion & ginger, and steaming the vegetables.

A coffee grinder works great for grinding the seed spices.

Ready, set, go!

Put cooked rice & 3 cups of water in a big pan with a lid (use a pressure cooker if you have one) — cook at low heat until the rice has broken down into a porridge
While the rice is porridging:

  • Roast about 2 TBs each cumin & corrieander seeds
  • Pour out & let them cool before grinding


  • In a oiled pan, low to medium heat, saute a chopped onion very slowly.
  • When about half-done, add finely minced ginger & keep stirring.
  • When the onions are nicely translucent & browned, add the toasted, ground cumin & corrieander, along with tumeric and ground fengreek.
  • Add some more oil — I like coconut for the extra flavor, but grapeseed or olive would work as well. Ghee would probably be perfect.

Finish up
To the rice porridge pot, add:

  • Spice/onion mixture into the rice porridge of rice, along with:
  • Cooked beans
  • Veggies, assorted
  • Salt to taste

Note: This recipe has no real heat. Feel free to add a chopped chili pepper along with the ginger, or a pinch of chili flake along with the spices at the end. Do remember that heat added on the first day may get hotter as the dish matures! For breakfast each morning, I put 2 cups into a small saucepan, along with a half-cup of water, cover & simmer on the lowest possible heat while I have my tea.

Hope you enjoy some dahls this winter season. If you decide to cook a big pot & dehydrate to enjoy on the trail, leave the rice out. Next blog, we’ll talk about rehydrating rice for backpacking.

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.