Feed me on the Trail: Vegetarian Chili

We use our mind and body all day to get to our destination while hiking so it’s only right to fuel ourselves as best we can. For me, sometimes those meals will include eating a prepackaged hiking meal and other times, I will eat homemade goodness. I want my daughter to eat good food too while she is hiking.

She goes through waves of picky-eating and right now we are on the tail end of a phase. Dinner has commonly been met with, “can I have a hot dog instead…can you just make me pasta instead?”

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Eats foraged leaves but protests kale and zucchini

No. And no. I am not a line cook. I understand that you may not like the food that we are making and eating but one day you will thank us for the meals we provided. She expressed strong disgust for zucchini on Sunday when we made lasagna with zucchini instead of pasta. She ate the left overs on Monday without protest.

Leading up to our overnight trip on Easter weekend, I took the easy route and made her Kraft Dinner. It was our first trip of the season, gear was unorganized, and I just wanted her tummy full at the end of the night. I asked her if she wanted sun dried tomatoes and she looked at me with absolute disgust.

Last fall, I attempted to spruce up her Sidekicks meal by adding dehydrated kale to it and all of the kale was left at the bottom of the bowl. She devours kale salad with cranberries and pumpkin seeds but said she didn’t like kale and pasta together. At least I tried.

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What is a mum to do?

She loves to cook and bake and we enjoy spending time together in the kitchen. I know that she likes beans and sweet potatoes so we cooked a vegetarian chili together on Saturday. We purchased the ingredients that we needed at the same time that we bought zucchini for our Sunday dinner. She was amendment that zucchini not go anywhere near the chili. Our intention was to dehydrate the leftovers so that she could save it for an upcoming hiking trip. She inhaled the bowl of chili and was excited to eat it again while hiking.

Mum’s Vegetarian Chili

1/2 white onion, diced

4 cloves of garlic, minced

Avocado oil to sauté

1 red pepper, seeded and diced

1 carrot, chopped

1 small sweet potato, peeled and chopped

1 can of mixed beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup vegetable stock

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin – ideally ground but I just put the whole seed in

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Sauté onion and garlic with avocado oil until soft and translucent.

Add red pepper and sauté for five minutes.

Add carrot, sweet potato, and beans. Mix well.

Add vegetable stock and all of the seasonings. Mix well.

Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes.

The chili is spicy and has some kickback. If you plan to make this, adjust the chili powder and cayenne powder if preferred. My daughter drank a glass of milk with dinner and it helped to cut the spiciness. The plan was to add powdered heavy cream after the dehydration process so that the edge could easily be taken off while eating it on the trail.

Ready to be dehydrated

I put the left-overs into the dehydrator at 135°F for about 13 hours. The food did not dehydrate evenly. The peppers and carrots were the first to dehydrate, followed by the beans, and then some of the sweet potato.

With the sweet potato not fully finished dehydrating by the time I was ready to go to bed, I removed the trays and put the food into Tupperware for the night. I was unsure what I was going to do with it.

I did not want the food to go to waste and at the same time, the sweet potato wasn’t dehydrated enough to package it. After talking to someone about this, they suggested vacuum sealing and freezing the chili as it was. While hiking, the meal could thaw and be eaten for the first dinner of the trip. I will keep this in mind if something similar happens again.

Lunch time!

I wanted the opportunity to test the hydration process so I brought the chili with me to work and ate it for lunch. I added boiling water until it looked like enough and waited 20 minutes while the food soaked.

Sneak peek of hydration process

The beans took the longest to hydrate and a couple of them still had some toughness. Perhaps the beans would have hydrated better had I added more water and kept the food in an insulated pouch. I was concerned about a soupy mess but maybe I was too conservative with the amount of water added. I also took a peek during the hydration process and let the steam out. That likely was not a good idea.

Hydrated goodness!

The meal tasted just as amazing as it did the night before! I will be sure to slightly mash the food the next time I dehydrate a similar dish to ensure a more even consistency throughout. I’m looking forward to making this dish again and saving some for my daughter to eat on the trail. Lord help me if she “forgets” that she likes it and wants plain pasta instead.

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