Saturday, October 22, 2016

My Grand Canyon Backpacking Trip was Fantastic!

The title says it all but here are some pictures too.  Everything turned out really well.  It was a geology "class" with the Grand Canyon Field Institute, led by 2 guides and with 8 students.  I prepared my food as described in my previous post.  I had two 16-oz water bottles that I filled with my dehydrated food (75 g each, or about 2.5 oz) and water.  I did this after each meal and then started snacking on the first bottle an hour or two later.  I snacked on the bottles and on my seed mixture (hemp, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin and a touch of salt) all day long.  I probably ate at most 1/8 tsp of salt in a day from the seeds, but I put so little salt on the entire bag I think it was quite a bit less.  So I think most of my salt just came from the natural foods, proving that you don't need to add much, if any salt, even in the desert. Our main guide told us at the beginning that we should eat lots of junk food and salty foods. One of the other students said she wasn't used to all the salt she was eating and I wonder if that's why she had swollen feet during most of the trip.   Everyone else ate those packaged backpacking meals where you boil water and then add it to a foil package.  They generated so much garbage that they had to pack out.  I didn't!  Also their food didn't look appetizing.  They made fun of me but I'm sure my food tasted better than anyone else's.  It was sweet thanks to the butternut squash and sweet potatoes.  And it was cool and refreshing with all the water that was added to it.  And I didn't have to carry the extra weight of a stove.  It was brilliant if I do say so myself.

And the trip was great and I was in great shape and had no trouble.  I was so relieved because I was nervous about how I would do.  I practically bounded up the canyon on the last day, in my excitement to reunite with my partner at the top.  I'd love to do this again and be more relaxed instead of nervous about whether I'd packed the right things and how my food would turn out and how I would do physically.  Here are some pictures:

Heading down from the North Rim on the North Kaibab Trail:

Relaxing at Cottonwood Campground on the first night:

The amazing Ribbon Falls, a sacred site for the Zuni Indians.

 Heading into the box Canyon as we approach Phantom Ranch at the bottom.

The mighty Colorado River, where I took a bath

It was cold!

Hiking out on Day 4.  We had an awesome hike on Day 3.

Our guide's favorite rock in the entire Grand Canyon:

Our campground on Day 4, the last night.  We huddled around the tree after the first rainstorm, then had another huge one that led to beautiful waterfalls off the Redwall cliffs and a flash flood very close to our campsite!

The start of thunderstorm #2, right when my camera battery died.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Using Dehydrated Food for Travel

I've used this in a number of ways:  1) for backpacking 2) when visiting friends celebrating a graduation where I didn't have control of the food, didn't have a car, and didn't want to be a bother--it was so much better eating my food than trying to make their food work for me, 3) to visit my family in a similar situation--though there I could have gone to the grocery store and used their kitchen but this was still easier.  In all cases, the dehydrated food was perfect:  I made my meals easily and I ate them while others ate their food, whether on the trail, at their homes or in restaurants.  Here's how I do it:

I order a bunch of food from Harmony House.  I'm sure there are other places too, this is just the first place I found.  I started with their Backpacking kit, and then over time learned which foods I like better than others.   Here is what my current supply looks like.   My starches:

These are peas, butternut squash, sweet potato, and sweet corn.  The corn is somewhat crunchy even after rehydration.  Note I don't have potatoes here.  I don't find the dehydrated potatoes to be very tasty, though I suppose I could give it another try.


Here I have pinto, black, lentils, kidney, split peas, northern and garbanzos.

Broccoli, cabbage, onion, spinach, celery, and "vegetable soup" which is a mixture of carrots, bell peppers, onion, and other stuff like that, all veggies.

I combine them into a big bowl with 1 part (by weight or measuring cup, doesn't matter) starches, 1 part beans, 1 part veggies.  I just pick at random what I want from the 3 categories, or add some of all in. It doesn't matter much really, just make sure you have enough sweet potatoes and butternut squash because they make it taste really good.  

Now, how much is a serving?  For backpacking I wanted to make sure I'm getting enough calories, so I looked at the nutritional information for all these different dehydrated items.  It turns out it's very similar for all of them, from starches to beans to veggies.  Why?  because all the water is gone.  Veggies are mostly water and that's why they are low calorie.  When you take out the water, they have a similar calorie density to dehydrated beans.  Interesting, huh?  So it turns out they are all about 3-4 calories/gram.  150 grams then gives about 525 calories.  Or if you prefer ounces, it's about 100 calories per ounce of dried food.  So if you want 500 calories per meal, that's 5 oz by weight per meal.  

For my first backpacking trip, I put each meal in a small ziplock back and then packed those in a larger one.  I decided that was wasteful, so now I just put all the food into large ziplock bags. 

To rehydrate, add about 3 times as much water.  You can use heat or not.  If you use heat, bring it to a boil it and it will be ready in 10-15 minutes (I'd let it sit another 15 minutes after that).  If you don't use heat, you can let it soak for 1-24 hours. I prefer at least 2 hours--I think it digests better the longer it soaks. Here is how I usually do it, whether backpacking or day hiking or flying somewhere:  I put about 75-90 g of food into into each of two 16 oz wide mouth bottles and fill them to the top with water.  I've put a mark on the bottle to fill the food so if I don't have a scale, I don't really need it, just fill to the mark and add water.   I use a long tea spoon and eat right out of the bottle.  It is so refreshing when backpacking because of all the liquid.  I don't get dehydrated and thirsty like my companions eating dried fruit and salty snacks.
 This is a very filling meal and it tastes surprisingly good--the reason is that the squash and sweet potatoes make it taste sweet.  So these are key ingredients you don't want to leave out.  And of course you can change the ratio of veggies to starch to beans to whatever you want.  You can of course supplement your meal with any fresh fruit or veggies you can get your hands on, and also nuts and seeds and dried fruit if you eat that.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Soy Yogurt in the Instant Pot

Nowadays whenever I make soy yogurt, I do it in the Instant Pot pressure cooker. It's super easy.  You take a glass bowl, fill it with soy milk, as little or much as you want, add yogurt starter, whisk to mix well, put the bowl in the Instant Pot.  Put on the lid and turn on the yogurt setting.  I up the time to 12 hours.  How long depends on your tastes and your yogurt starter.  I use this for yogurt starter.  Only 1/8 tsp is needed for 1 quart of soy milk.  I use Edensoy unsweetened for the soy milk.  Westsoy also works well, it's just not as thick as Edensoy.  The soy milk should be room temperature--no need to boil it first like you have to do with cow's milk (to sterilize it).  There are other brands of yogurt starter you can use, or you can use store-bought yogurt for starter.  Whatever you choose will affect the flavor of the yogurt, so experiment for yourself to see what you like best.  Some are more sour than others.  I tend to like a less sour taste.

roasted vegetables

This is as easy as chopping an onion, some broccoli, and cauliflower.

an onion
Vegetables:  my favorites right now are broccoli and cauliflower, or asparagus (when in season).

Directions:  preheat the oven to 400 F, while chopping the vegetables.  Put them in a large glass baking dish.  Put them in the oven for 20 minutes.  stir.  Cook another 20 minutes.   Now you decide if you want to cook them longer.  This depends on your oven and your preferences.  Note that they will continue to cook as they cool.  But if you like them softer and sweeter, you can leave them in another 10-20 minutes, or turn off the oven without removing them and let them continue to cook as the oven slowly cools.  After a few experiments you'll know what you prefer.

Note on onions:  The vidalias are the most sweet, and the reds are least.   They will all sweeten up with roasting.

Note on not adding liquids.  Notice I didn't include oil or water.  The onions release water as it cooks.  It's possible if you didn't use onions, maybe you'd want 1 T of water.  But the veggies release liquid too.  Anyway, for this recipe, no added liquids are needed!

Feel free to add any seasonings or salt if you you'd like.  If I'm taking my veggies to a potluck, I'll usually add salt since most people are used to eating a lot of salt.  Otherwise, even though I do eat some salt in my diet, I don't find any desire to add salt to these when making for myself, as they are flavorful and sweet all on their own.

Here are my starting ingredients:


All done:

Sunday, May 8, 2016

My vacation

I just got back from a 9-day trip to the Smoky mountains.  It was my first vacation since I started Bright Line Eating 14 months ago.  I hadn't appreciated how much I've internalized BLE.  Dealing with food was so easy!  I just ate simple foods:  oatmeal, fruit & veggies for breakfast, beans, veggies & fruit for lunch and dinner, and some nuts with each meal.  I used easy veggies, like carrots and romaine lettuce, and fruit is always easy.  and measuring the food assures me I'm getting the right amount.  I got to focus on fun.  The highlight of the trip for me was my overnight backpacking trip.  I considered this a practice trip to make sure I had the right equipment and food for my longer trip I have planned in the fall.  And it worked beautifully.  Here are some pictures:

Just as I'm leaving, pretending to be confident (scared of the bears):

My bedroom:

My dining room:

Dinner (and breakfast):  I ordered a bunch of different dried veggies and beans from Harmony House.  You don't even need to cook this stuff.  I got a spill-proof pan and added the water before I started my hike and let it soak while hiking.  I was amazed at how good this tastes.  This will come in handy in other situations where I need to bring my own food.

The pulley system supplied by the park for hanging your packs to keep them away from the bears.  The bears were quite numerous.  I was glad not to see any!

 We did lots of other fun stuff, hiking and sight-seeing.  It was a great trip!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Wellness Forum

I just joined the Wellness Forum, led by Pam Popper.  I've heard several talks by her and like her.  Also Howard Jacobson works there and he's a good researcher  I bought the concierge membership so I have access to their medical knowledge and research team. That is my health insurance program.  I want to research first before taking any doctor's advice, because nowadays they are just pill and invasive test prescribers.  Upon joining, I got this special offer to offer a regular membership to 2 other people for $49.50.  I believe at this level of membership, you don't have access to the medical libraries, but you do get lots of information about how to adopt a plant-based diet and improve your health.  If you are early on your journey and want a little help transitioning, this might be a good option for you.  I don't know.  If you are interested, email me:  bwhitney (at)  (I spelled out the "at"-sign to keep down the spammer traffic).  If you are a long-time whole-foods plant-based eater, I don't think you need this membership, though you might be interested in the concierge membership.  or you can wait and see what I find out about it.  I'll update later on how I like it.

Berry and yogurt salad dressing

Here is a super easy salad dressing that I have been making every day.

6 oz berries
4 oz homemade soy yogurt
1/2 Tablespoon balsamic or apple cider vinegar (optional)
1 T flax-chia seeds (optional--actually tastes better without)

Blend in a blender.  Pour on your salad.  I make a huge salad for lunch with lettuce, spinach, kale or arugula, maybe a little raw cabbage, mushrooms, onion, red bell pepper, bean sprouts.   that's been my winter salad anyway.   I fill a big bowl and then dump the dressing on.  mmmmm.