If you can’t take the heat…

Some days you just know you shouldn’t be trying to experiment in the kitchen.

But you do it anyway. Because you have issues.

We’re having a snow day in greater Boston today so instead of working on my resume and applying for jobs I’m daydreaming and reading about hiking and backpacking and camping. I’ve been meaning for a while to work on some trailworthy hot chocolate and instant coffee mixes. Even though I knew I wasn’t really in the right frame of mind to be experimenting in the kitchen I headed in anyway. I figured I’d limit myself to hot cocoa mix… keep things low-key… minimize the risk of disaster.

Coffee fiends that we are, the boyfriend and I started off last year’s backpacking season carrying organic instant coffee (surprisingly drinkable! and I like the linked brand a lot better than Starbucks Via.), powdered soy milk, and turbinado sugar. This worked out OK, though the soy powder never really fully dissolves — it stays a touch gritty. After some trial and error we found that for whatever mysterious reasons this combination works better with cold water than with hot. If you have a water bottle that seals tightly you can shake the bejeezus out of it and it mixes as well as it’s ever going to. And it tastes better than when it’s made with hot water. Go figure.

When we ran out of powdered soy we switched to powdered coconut milk. BTW — if you’re dairy-free be very careful of powdered coconut milk — most brands contain casein to prevent clumping. Native Forest is the only vegan brand I have found. Powdered coconut milk is great because it has a pretty high fat — aka ENERGY — content, is just a little bit sweet, and, well, it tastes like coconut! I am a sucker for just about anything made of coconut. Being casein-free, the NF coconut powder is a bit lumpy and clumpy, so it really only works well in hot water. But it doesn’t stay gritty like the soy. So, pros and cons. I really prefer coconut to soy, though, for crazy conspiracy theory and flavor reasons.

So today I thought I’d make some hot cocoa mix with powdered coconut milk. What could possibly go wrong? I threw some in my Vitamix (aka Greased Lightning) along with cocoa powder, sugar, salt, cayenne, and cinnamon. I wanted a powder in which the ingredients were finely ground and fully incorporated so they’d dissolve well in water.

Fully aware of the fat (and moisture) content of the coconut powder, as well as the power of the Vitamix, I’m not sure why I expected to end up with a light, fluffy, powdery instant hot cocoa mix. Instead I got something that looked like it should be buried in a cathole. I mean a lovely, rich, thick hot chocolate paste/concentrate. Or a delightful toast topping (the boyfriend’s idea).IMG_2466 It turns out that when you put powdered coconut milk into a high-speed blender you get coconut butter. Valuable knowledge for the future but not what I was going for today. I’m not sharing a picture with you for what should be obvious reasons. But I am sharing a picture of the hot chocolate even though it looks like every cup of hot chocolate you’ve ever consumed. Don’t get me wrong — it’s really good hot chocolate. It’s just not going to be very convenient on the trail.

Next time I’ll try it with powdered soy. It shouldn’t turn to paste in the blender but should get ground finely enough to not be so gritty. Or maybe I’ll try the food processor instead of the blender. I’m also planning on trying a “cappuccino” mix — something we can just throw into some hot water instead of carrying coffee, sugar, and creamer as separate components. I’ll let you know how that all turns out.

 

Running with Raynaud’s

Remember when I was complaining about the rain and the record-breaking (high) temperatures a couple weeks ago? Well, winter has finally arrived and it’s making up for lost time. For the past few days we’ve had temps in the 20s and CRAZY wind, resulting in wind chills either side of 0. Here’s the thing:  I love cold weather. Here’s the other thing:  my body does not. I have asthmaRaynaud’s Disease, and very sensitive skin. I won’t whine or go into any gory details, but the fact is that all this makes being outside in this weather challenging. Cold, dry air is one of my (several) asthma triggers; my face is very susceptible to windburn; the circulation in my hands and feet can get compromised enough to be scary.

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Today is downright balmy compared to the past two!

Here’s how I handle the bitter cold so I can still play outside. For today’s 45-minute run I wore/used…

Clothing:  long-sleeve tech shirt; mid-weight tech pullover, mid-weight running pants, and, of course, shoes and socks.

Accessories:  Buff (to cover my neck and face/warm the air for breathing), a thick, warm hat, half Buff (under my hat, around my ears because I haven’t found a hat that truly protects them), flip-top convertible glove-mittens. Confession:  my Buff is made of merino wool. My glove-mittens are alpaca. Sometimes I wear wool socks. I realize this is not vegan but sometimes I have to compromise for the sake of health and safety.

Seemingly excessive but often necessary extras:  hand warmers and toe warmers.

Oh, and a healthy dose of pure shea butter on my face to protect it from the wind when I have to pull my buff off my face because I feel like I’m going to hyperventilate/suffocate. Note:  pure shea smells a little funky. Today I finally remembered to add a drop of essential oil to combat. Mmm… grapefruit

(notice I said I mixed some essential oil with my shea butter. this is key information.  please do not ever put undiluted essential oils on your skin! they are very potent and can burn skin… especially citrus oils.)

Oh, and I ALWAYS use my albuterol inhaler before running. This is the only pharmaceutical product I use on a regular basis. Again, health and safety sometimes trump ethical preferences.

I have learned over the past couple of years that keeping my core warm is very important in preventing Raynaud’s “attacks,” as is keeping my wrists warm — it’s all about keeping the blood that’s flowing to the extremities warm. Not only are attacks common in this single-digit weather, but in anything below about 60 degrees. When I worked in a grocery store I had to wear a cardigan and wrist warmers almost every day — even in the middle of summer. I wasn’t necessarily cold but my hands and feet often ended up being so.

Today’s experience? Fairly typical: within five minutes I’d pulled my Buff off my face; within ten minutes I’d put my hand warmers in my pocket and flipped back the tops of my mittens; within fifteen minutes I’d removed the mittens altogether. My head got pretty sweaty though my ears were still cold most of the time because this wind penetrates everything. The rest of my body was pretty comfortable. Fifteen or twenty minutes after the run my hands got very cold, but this happens in almost all weather conditions — even when it’s warm out. Breathing was a bit painful, but I knew that would be the case. And my face stayed soft and smooth and happy.

This is what works for me. Your methods/results may vary. The links included here lead to the products I like the best — I am not affiliated with any company, nor do I receive any kind of compensation from anyone.

Stay tuned for a similar entry involving hiking clothing. This is my first winter hiking  on a fairly regular basis so I’m still working on my system but I do already have a few items I know I love.

Blargh.

It is a nasty, nasty day in New England. I’ve been wishing for snow all week but to no avail… it’s windy and crazy rainy with a record-breaking temperature of 58 degrees in my town — at 5:30pm. In January. In New England. Apparently the temperature is going to drop like a rock tonight and tomorrow’s expected high is 34. I’m OK with that. We’ll be going on a 65 minute run. I’d much rather run in 34 degrees than 64 degrees. My dad has always said I must be part penguin.

So instead of being outdoorsy I haven’t left my apartment and have been cooking. I made walnut pesto (#pinenutsaretoofreakingexpensive), carrot-harissa dip (mostly based on this recipe but I always tweak recipes to suit my needs/preferences/ingredients on hand), and baked doughnuts (mostly based on this recipe but I always tweak recipes to suit my needs/preferences/ingredients on hand).

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I’d love to blame the poor quality of this picture on my haste/laziness in taking it. That’s partly true but I am also just not a very good photographer.

I made the doughnuts with some butternut squash my aunt in Maine grew and topped them with apple cider glaze instead of chocolate. Creativity! I also made homemade Swiffer wet cloths by mixing water, white vinegar, and peppermint Dr. Bronner soap in a big zip bag and adding enough cheap, thin washcloths to soak up all the liquid. ‘Cause I’m weird like that (and I hate using synthetic chemicals to clean my house just as much as I hate using them in/on my body).

 

If you know me you know that I am currently unemployed — by choice. I am dreading the day when I have to start looking for a job… and that day is approaching far too quickly for my taste. I would much rather be making hair conditioner, relearning to play the piano,, and, of course, playing outside.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a gorgeous daikon radish and a less-than-perfectly-fresh cucumber that are just dying to be pickled. Heheheheheh.

12 in ’16

 

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged (and no, you probably wouldn’t know my previous blog. it still exists, though, so maybe I’ll link to it someday). I don’t really make New Year’s resolutions but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about creativity. I used to be very creative — cooking, writing, crafting, blogging, singing/playing instruments… but I spent the past ten years in a retail job, the last five of those while working on my bachelor’s degree. There wasn’t much time or energy for creativity. Now that I have completed my degree and have escaped my somewhat stultifying job I’ve decided that it’s time to reboot my creative side. First step:  cooking like a madwoman. Second step:  new blog. Third step:  dust off my guitar. And so on, and so on, and so on.

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Heading into the woods on a recent hike in New Hampshire.

Why “Happy Vegan Camper?” I’ve always loved being outdoors, walking in the woods, kayaking, Geocaching, feeling the sun on my face. Something really clicked about a year ago, though, when my boyfriend mentioned his longtime fascination with Maine’s 100 Mile Wilderness. I was suddenly consumed by the idea of more serious hiking and even backpacking. I spent last winter reading, researching, and buying gear, and we did a lot of hiking, a little car camping, and a tiny bit of backpacking in 2015. We love it. We can’t get out in the woods nearly enough to satiate ourselves. We don’t have immediate plans to hike the 100 Mile Wilderness but we may get there someday. For now we are spending as much time as possible exploring the wilds of New England and hope to do more backpacking this year.

And yes, I am a vegan. I am also obsessed with living as natural a lifestyle as I can. I moisturize my skin with organic, extra-virgin coconut oil; I burn essential oils to combat colds and flu; I clean my apartment with white vinegar. I eat as organic as is feasible for me. I avoid at all costs artificial sweeteners, colors, flavorings, and preservatives.  I try to err on the side of more whole foods, fewer processed foods.

So sometimes finding outdoor gear and food can be challenging. I make the best effort I can at adhering to my ethics, though, and I’ll use this site to share my findings with you.

I also run. Roads, trails, the pond we live next to when it freezes over. Some of that will probably sneak in here, too.

By now you’re probably wondering what “12 in ’16” means. I can’t take credit for that — that’s all my boyfriend (who is far more creative than I have ever even hoped to be). He has this idea of having one major adventure each month this year (in addition to our regular adventures). Figuring out WordPress is turning out to be more of an adventure than I thought it would be but we are also hoping to spend a night or two at Mass Audubon’s Innermost House in Topsfield (MA) for our first adventure. We did this last March, and it was great, but my boyfriend (I really need to come up with a nickname for him) had a pretty bad cold and couldn’t fully enjoy our time there. So, new year, new adventure in Topsfield!

I hate blog posts that go on forever. Trying to curb my penchant for overwriting will be another ongoing adventure for me this year.