Friday, September 26, 2014

Paleo meals to go

Tyler and Nika at Coffee Cup Lake overlook

Fast, allergen-free food

Paleo Meals to Go provides freeze-dried meals, free of allergens, additives

As an avid backpacker, I have found it impossible to find ready-to-go and easy-to- prepare meals that are free of allergens, additives and other ingredients that cause me issues. All that changed when I discovered Paleo Meals to Go, a company ( that offers freeze-dried meals that conform to the paleo diet.

The paleo diet is sometimes called the caveman’s diet because it encourages you to eat like our Stone Age ancestors. This diet excludes many foods that tend to exacerbate inflammation and allergies. The diet is a healthy balance of veggies at every meal, along with lean, hormone-free protein, and fats, such as avocado, olive oil and coconut, with nuts on occasion. The diet encourages choosing foods free of pesticides, antibiotics and hormones.

I packed along pouches of Savory Chicken and Vegetables from Paleo Meals to Go on my most recent backpacking adventure, as well as on a biking touring trip. The meals were hearty, delicious and best-of-all, I didn’t have to do anything but pour in some boiling hot water and wait for the food to rehydrate.

Savory Chicken and Vegetables on campstove
In the past, I had to buy freeze-dried foods, such as meat and vegetables separately, and then assemble my own meals into heavy-duty Ziploc bags. The meals were filling but often bland and lacking in flavor.

 On the other hand, my husband was raving about the tasty freeze-dried meals he was eating from companies, like Mountain House and Backpackers’ Pantry. These meals were fine for him but contained all kinds of potential problem ingredients for me.

This last trip, I was the one doing the raving. The Savory Chicken and Vegetables filled me up and kept me hiking for hours without experiencing hunger.

I especially appreciated the option, available at Paleo Meals to Go, of customizing the meals, if needed, to eliminate foods from the master recipe that might provoke allergies or food sensitivities. I ordered my Savory Chicken and Vegetable meals without garlic, onions and mushrooms that cause me issues. To order custom meals, as I did, you must purchase a minimum of 10 of the same meals and order well in advance.

You don’t have to be a backpacker to enjoy these meals. They can be used biking, camping or traveling. I am eager to try the Beef Mountain Stew on my next adventure.

In the meantime, back at home, I am enjoying Berry Salad with Sunbutter Dressing.


1/4 red bell pepper, sliced thin (I didn't have any of these but they would be delicious.)
3-4 slices cucumber, sliced into matchsticks
2 baby carrots, grated
1 radish, sliced into matchsticks
handful baby spinach
3 steamed asparagus spears, sliced into matchsticks
3 strawberries, diced
Optional: additional berries, such as blueberries
1 /2 T. pumpkin seeds
shredded cooked chicken

For the dressing:

2 T. sunbutter, peanut butter or almond butter
3-4 T. olive oil
3 T. almond, coconut or soy milk
1 tsp. sesame seed oil
salt and pepper
dash of liquid stevia, to taste


Cut and toss all salad ingredients. Whisk together dressing ingredients. Recipe makes more than you will need so save the rest in a container in the fridge. Toss the salad with your dressing and enjoy.

 Recipe contributed to:

Saturday, September 20, 2014

DIY healthy energy gel

Grassy Mountain Lakes, near McCall, Idaho

Packing along some kind of energy gel or sports drink is essential when you are exercising for two or more hours. The problem for those with food sensitivities is that many of these pre-made energy products contain additives that may trigger symptoms.

This summer, my husband and I cycled for six days along the Washington coast and later went on a backpacking trip. These activities underscored the importance of having a quickly absorbed energy food with you.

Coffee Cup Lake
In preparation for these trips, I carefully read the labels of four different energy gels which promised to boost energy levels within 15 minutes of consuming them. Energy gels usually contain some kind of sugar, fruit concentrate, electrolytes and in some cases, caffeine.

Three of the products I considered contained maltodextrin. The fourth contained no maltodextrin but “natural flavors,” another red flag warning for those with food sensitivities.  

Lower Grassy Mountain Lake
Maltodextrin is an artificial sweetener added to a large variety of foods because it contains fewer calories than sugar. This common additive is usually harmless unless you are one of the unfortunate individuals allergic or sensitive to it.

I am one of those with sensitivity to maltodextrin, along with other artificial sweeteners. Side effects may include: diarrhea, upset stomach, vomiting, hives or rash, and/or asthma or breathing problems.

After reading the labels, my decision was easy. I would make my own energy gel. Here’s the recipe for the great-tasting energy gel I packed along on my trips.

Date energy gel in gel flask
Date Energy Gel

(Recipe makes enough for four servings. Consume one serving every 30 minutes when exercising for two or more hours.)

Left to right, lemon juice, cocoa powder, almond butter, coconut oil, salt. Dates not pictured.

4 pitted dates, free of any coating or added sugar
1 T. cocoa powder
1 tsp. peanut butter, sunbutter or other safe seed or nut butter
1 tsp. coconut oil
3 T. fresh lemon juice
Pinch of salt
Stevia to taste or 1 T. honey, if tolerated 
1/4 cup water


Soften the dates. Place them in a small container with ¼ cup water. Microwave for 30 seconds or long enough to soften the dates. Reserve the liquid in case you need to thin your gel.
Ingredients in Vitamix, ready to blend

Place the dates and other ingredients in your food processor or blender. Pulse until all the ingredients are pureed and smooth. Add a bit of the reserved water if the mixture is too thick.

Mixture blended and smooth
Pour the gel into an energy gel tube or divide into four small snack bags.