Camping Food (pt.3): Something Small & Tasty

On the heels of (pt.1), I wanted to follow-up with some small package items that are easier to carry along in your pack.

I got all of these over my Fell-Off-A-Truck Stop. They went for about $.13 cents each.

[you can see that the Walkers have already been out with me a couple of times and didn’t get consumed… I always take more than I need and enough to share in case anybody else has a sweet tooth, too].

Like the cookies in the larger packages from the original post, these are all “hard” baked cookies, and consequently have a longer shelf life. That’s a nice factor to consider if you’re buying things consume over an entire camping season. All are recommended.

Camping Food (pt.2): Little Packs for Breakfast

The other morning I went grocery shopping and I almost committed a capital shopping sin: I was about to go food shopping while hungry.  For me, this is a disaster. I’m almost certain to get home and discover I bought a 24 pack of pop tarts, Hot Pockets™, or some other ridiculous food that just “looked so good”. Buyer’s regret is almost inevitable.

Before I did any of the rest of my shopping, I picked up the package of Nature Valley Blueberry “Biscuits” that are mentioned in the first part of this series. I opened up the box, and ate three of the four biscuits in one pouch to take the edge off my appetite and save myself from stupidity. Ordinarily I would’ve purchased the green packaged NV “Oats ‘n Honey” crunchy bars, but they didn’t seem to be in stock. The biscuits turned out to be a nice alternative to also have on hand when I put together a weekend’s camping food. Sometimes stupidity has side benefits.

Well I got home, I opened up one of my packages of the Justin’s Maple Almond Butter, and tried it out on the fourth biscuit. I was little disappointed. The Almond butter itself is pretty good, but the maple flavor was quite lacking, and the biscuits themselves have a nutty enough flavor that the nut butter was pretty much wasted on them. As I mentioned in the other, earlier review, these are very dense and the “natural” blueberry flavor comes through well.

The Nature Valley “Biscuits come in at 230 cal for a four biscuit pouch; 80 cal come from oil.

My usual pairing for the “Oats ‘n Honey” bars is to crumble them up into a squeeze pouch of “Ready GO Greek” * shelfstable yogurt. The bars [2 to a pack] have 95 calories each, and a yogurt pouch adds a decent 130 cal. [as a comparison: the CliffBar™ and the NV Almond granola bar that I have on hand come in at 260 cal add 130 cal respectively, but they seem much sweeter and too sugary to me]   I really like this combo as an alternative to a pop tart or granola bar for a field breakfast. It is quick, delicious, and I will gladly do a spot of cleanup on my silicone bowl for the upgrade. When my hiking season is over I also do this pairing up right around the house to finish my supplies of the yogurt [however, it does seem to come dated at least a year out at time of purchase]…  the Oats ‘n Honey Bars are so dense that they seem to have a nearly indefinite shelflife. I’ve eaten them as much as two years after purchase, and they were perfectly fine.

When I have them, since they are also a somewhat come-and-go item over at the Fell-Off-A-Truck Stop, I will sometimes add eight or 10 of these strange little freeze-dried fruit balls. One of the nice things about them is that they come in a resealable zip top bag… as long as you squeeze most of the air back out they seal up very tightly and stay nice and crunchy for quite a long time.

If you will let the crushed up oat bars and the fruit balls soak in the yogurt for a few minutes, they will start to soften up… Too long and they get mushy.

Both of these and the Nature Valley “Biscuits” are also really good as a “munch while you march” snack.

However, you don’t want to add the fruit clusters to a trail mix unless you’re going to eat it all that same day. They will soften up from the moisture in the nuts and raisins.

 

 

* the link I found shows a much higher price, which makes them a lot less bang for your buck, but I picked up my Ready GO Greek yogurt as a four pack for only $2 over at the Fell-Off-A-Truck Stop… It is generally available there in a couple of other flavors as well.

 

 

Camping Food (pt.1): Something Sweet

Biscuits… Cookies…”Biscuits”?  Breakfast bars?    Whatevz…  I like them. I have a sweet tooth, and I indulge it. I’m a 1950s kid, raised in America’s heartland, so they will always be cookies to me. Biscuits are what you get at Carl Jr’s™ with a sausage patty inside.

Once I got past that “Sugar-coated Captain Choco Blasters” stage of childhood, I discovered I far preferred the somewhat less sickly sweet european-style cookies. The ones that the British dip in their tea and do call “biscuits”… and of those, the type I like the best are referred to as butter cookies. Relax, the good varieties taste nothing like those cheap Danish ones that came in a blue metal tin, and that your grandmother always had under the Christmas tree.

I wanted to talk about the “good ones” a little bit as they are perfect additions to take along camping and hiking. Because they are in general quite crisp, they don’t melt and crush nearly as badly as most American cookies tend to do. You can put a few in a zip lock baggie, and have every expectation of them still being intact when you get to wanting one.

The closest US product to a butter biscuit is probably the Pepperidge Farm™ “bordeaux” cookies. [These we’re always my mother’s favorites, and I’ve been eating them since the 1960s].

Together with the chocolate-coated HobNobs and the Biscoffs, they are almost always up on the refrigerator here at the Château.

That last box from Nature Valley is certainly the odd man out… Those are pretty much breakfast bars that they have now chosen to call “biscuits”, and are certainly not recognizable as biscuits by our usual American standards, however, they are a pretty good cookie.

 

I’m sure most people are at least a little familiar with Pepperidge Farm™ cookies. They cost a bit more then Keebler’s and Nabisco, but I think that they’re infinitely better. Their “bordeaux” cookies are a classic take on a butter cookie. They are perhaps cooked a little darker than some other butter cookies, but they have a crisp crunch that melts quickly on your tongue. It’s hard not to eat these like potato chips. There is a certain quality to them that reminds you of a very crisp graham cracker… but not at all the same flavor. The “bordeaux” are a much more adult taste.

The Nature Valley™ Biscuits [here in blueberry flavor] are found in the breakfast food aisle at the supermarket, but they eat far more like an American cookie. They have the same crispness and crunch as all these others. Interestingly, the blue stripe on the box has the very curious phrase, “Naturally flavored with other natural flavorings“. Seems like something out of the Department of Redundancy Department, but WtF? They are pretty good. The blueberry flavor comes across light but distinct and there are actual bits of dried blueberries in the matrix; they have a nice texture that probably derives from the fact that they are made of a combination of wheat flakes, oats, and barley… not your average cookie dough here. Maybe that is why they chose to refer to them as biscuits. I find the texture and flavor reminiscent of a mouth full of Wheaties™.

McVities is an old mainline British/Scottish baking firm established in the early part of the 19th-century. They make an incredibly wide and very wonderful selection of cookies. They were the the first to develop what is called a “jaffa cake” [this is a sponge cake ” cookie with a spoonful of marmalade [or other jam] on it and a chocolate-dipped top. It Is a dear familiar to any British child]. They have Ginger Nuts which are like a hardtack ginger cookie with a 50 year shelf life and an incredible snap of flavor.

I believe a lot of what makes the McVities cookies unique is their use of golden syrup, another British product, whose closest American relative is Karo syrup. Golden syrup however is actually derived from cane and I think is closer to molasses but without molasses’s heavy richness.

Of all the McVities offerings, my easy choice favorite is HobNobs. Introduced only in the 1980s, these are a combination of rolled oats and whole wheat with a milk-chocolate coating on one side that is reminiscent of Cadbury’s… It is the kind of chocolate that melts all over your fingers almost instantly [when you take some camping, the trick is to put pairs of them chocolate sides together… a lot less mess that way]. These have an interesting texture that comes across like really good whole grain bread that has been toasted crisp… but that has a bit of added sweetness… AND that chocolate covering. They are ridiculously good.

Biscoff” has apparently become something of a generic/varietal name. They seem to be made by a number of different companies, but are nearly identical no matter their source. I believe that the originals were actually made by the European company Lotus Foods. They have come to people’s attention over the last few years because they are given out of snacks on a number of airlines. Delta even has them branded with their own logo. If you look them up on the Internet there are a lot of different suggestions as to just what they taste like. Some people find a hint of cocoa, or ginger, others describe them as a browned butter cookie. One elegant review by Francis Lam in Salon magazine said they were cookies that “taste beautifully and comfortingly of warm spices, caramel, and wheat”[…if you already like Biscoff, you really have to go read this review].

The truth is that they apparently only rely on soy flour, oil [not butter], and cinnamon for their unique flavor. The rest of the ingredient list is not particularly complex. The bottom line, as you know if you have them, is that they are delicious. You can dunk them in your coffee, you can spread them with nut butters or jam, you can eat them plain, and Lam claims that if you put a little lime juice on them they taste just like key lime pie! That’s some pretty good mileage for any cookie.

I know that everybody has their own favorites of things to take along as little luxuries when they go camping. These are a few of mine.

GORP

Before we took off for the lake a couple of weeks ago I put together what turned out to be probably the best trail-mix combo I’ve ever had. Most of the store-bought mixes are pretty much “Meh” in my opinion. They’re always padded out with raisins and cheap peanuts, or that “healthy stuff” that I’m not fond of, like sunflower seeds.

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This is what I ended up with, from left to right:

1-4~ Dried pineapple, mango, raisins and date… These were all leftovers in a canister. They were part of some bulk package of dried fruit that I had picked up at Sam’s Club at least a year ago, and that I had sealed up in a screwtop container. I disremember exactly what right now, but part of the mix had dried out really badly. I tossed that part out. And as I mentioned above, like most mixes, it had been padded out with way, way too many raisins. A bunch of them went in the bin too. But I left some of the largest, and juiciest ones behind.

5~ Last Christmas the Dotter had given me a bag of dried cranberries that had been soaked in orange syrup as part of their processing.

6~ One of my favorite all-time parings is to have quality dark chocolate, like 70% cacao, paired with crystallized, candied ginger. I had some ginger slices that it gotten badly dried out, so I broke them up into fingernail size pieces.

7-8~ Honey roasted cashews and peanuts.

9~ When I went looking for the M&M’s I also found some pre-shelled, salted pistachio nuts.

10-12~ And lastly the M&Ms, because no decent gorp is worth it’s name without some kind of the ubiquitous “candy-coated chocolate discs”. Let me make this perfectly clear… In my opinion, “candy-coated chocolate discs” are no substitute for an honest to gawd, Old-fashioned, All-American damn M&M!  With this in mind, I bought three of the small bags of M&Ms in the checkout lane. M&Ms have started coming in some weird combinations recently. They even had one called “birthday cake”… that one frightened me just a little bit too much with visions of HoneyBooBoo staggering around my campsite, so I left it behind at the check out. What I grabbed were Pretzel, Jumbo Peanut, and best of all, Coconut. The Coconut M&Ms are unbelievably good. An ideal blend of chocolate and coconut flavors. Like having a micro Mounds Bar, but without the coconut fibers sticking between your teeth. They were the perfect finishing touch to the trail-mix.

This turned out to be an incredible over-all combination. A lot of variety in tastes and textures, and just a small handful at a time is more than enough. This one is definitely a do over.

 

[BONUS LINK: if you ain’t got the time or inclination….]

 

 

Because… BACON! Duh!

Yesterday my best friend Ed [who is usually referred to as TOG… the other geezer] and I were “trouting*” down at the local Walmart in search of a retractable leash for his new puppy.

When we came out, we both had been required by geezer law to purchase a package of this artery clog.

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BACON! Cooked BACON! 100%. In a pouch. Ready to eat. No cooking.  Bodhi stop you’re not getting any… [this was inserted by Siri as MY labrapuppy danced around the computer and the now open package in an ecstasy of anticipation… Shuddup… It’s a stream of consciousness kind of thing going on here and if I had to two-finger type you’d never see another post] No refrigeration. No MSG. Gluten-free. No artificial ingredients. Minimally processed. Fatty partz included… although the package does claim that it is “20% less fat than USDA data for pan-fried bacon”. Of course one serving is 28% of your daily sodium intake. But…

… BFD! BACON!

And that’s what it really is… Bacon. All the goodness, and none of the inconvenience. Breakfast in the back country will never be the same.

 

[ * “trouting”- to swim [wander] up and down the aisles or department of a store [usually of the hardware, tool, camping, or L.L. Bean/outdoorsy type] without [usually] biting [buying anything]. … It’s something geezers do]