Indian Creek & [Flourless] Almond Butter Cookies

28 Thu, 2011 § Leave a comment

We always wish we had something sweet when sitting around the fire.

[photo by David Finch]

The smore suggestion is often thrown around, but vegan marshmallows are expensive & usually use syrup — & Allie-approved graham crackers & chocolate aren’t exactly cheap either…& I’m out of homemade chocolate…already.

We went with cookies, because cookies are easy & easy to tailor.  I did not want a flour-based one that might leave us feeling heavy for climbing, so these use almond butter as the base with ground flaxseed to bind everything together.  They are a little crumbly — not so much so they disintegrate on you, but they might not survive milk dunking —  subtly sweet & [almond] buttery.  Cookies that were exactly what I was wanting for our camping trip:

Almond Butter & Cacao Nib Cookies

makes ~16 small cookies

Preheat oven to 350*F.

  • 4 dates, pureed into paste
  • 1 C almond butter, unsalted & stirred well
  • 1 flax “egg” (whisk 1 T freshly ground flaxseeds with 3 T warm water, allow to thicken ~10 minutes)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • ~1/4 C cacao nibs (or mini-chocolate chips)

Combine all ingredients except cacao nibs & mix well [you don’t want to bite into a salt or baking soda cloud].   Stir in cacao or chocolate pieces.  Spoon into tablespoon-size balls & flatten onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for ~12 minutes until lightly browned.  Cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes.  Transfer to a cooling rack & cool 15 minutes longer.

~

What sweets or treats do you take camping?

Indian Creek & Our Damp Solitaire

27 Wed, 2011 § 10 Comments

Our new route to Indian Creek, Utah is one of my favorites.  Monument Valley is stunning & diverse.  Even though driving home & back to “reality” can be disheartening, I can think of worse views.

[photo by David Finch]

Clouds, often responsible for creating nice, filtered light & ominous skies for photos, plagued much of our camping trip.

[by Allie]

Rainy days meant fewer climbing days, because wet rock should not be climbed, though many choose to ignore this common sense & decency law.  The weather treated us to a lesson in Being & patience as we were left to fill more days than expected with “rest day” activities.

One morning we took advantage of National Park Week & the waived fees to trek into Canyonlands.  We intended to hike to the confluence of the Colorado & Green Rivers.  The longer-than-anticipated, already quick-paced hike was cut short when we turned & ran 3 – 4 miles back to our little, awaiting Eisley.  I would definitely call this an advanced running trail & hope we actually make it to the confluence next time.

Another rainy afternoon, we retreated into the tent for card games.  Much of our time was spent reading to each other though.  We took turns reading chapters from Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey, beautifully written & highly enlightening.  I was tickled (yes, tickled) when Dave asked me to read aloud to him.  The simple act of sharing a book felt fresh & intimate, especially because we were immersed in pages so fresh with passion & intimate with love for the desert.

Though the rain spoiled some of our “plans”, it offered us time to reflect inward, connect outward & recognize its precious presence in this beautiful desert.

~

Do you ever read aloud with others?

Sprouted Quinoa, Pear & Molasses Granola

26 Tue, 2011 § 2 Comments

Did you miss us?  No?  Did you even notice we had left?  No? 😛  Tricky aren’t we?

I eluded to our camping trip, which we thoroughly enjoyed…last Tuesday through Sunday.  I prepped a couple posts, hit schedule, unplugged & lost myself in the desert for 5 days.

Aw.

(even despite the rain.)

Aw.

Are we really back?

We are, but now I can reminisce over our adventures with you.

We should always start with food though; don’t you agree?

I love quinoa granola & have found its perfect match: molasses.  Try it.  You’ll never look back.

Molasses is a rich source of iron & calcium — important for those following a plant-based diet — as well as magnesium & potassium, providing 20% of the daily recommended value for each of these nutrients.

Sprouted Quinoa & Pear Granola with Molasses & Nutmeg

Preheat oven to 250*F.

  • 1 pear, diced
  • 1 C quinoa, sprouted
  • 1/2 C almonds, chopped
  • 1/2 C ground flaxseeds
  • 1/2 C black sesame seeds
  • 1/4 C sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 C pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 C buckwheat groats
  • 1/2 C hemp protein powder
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • cinnamon, optional
  • 1/4 C coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 C molasses
  • 2 T apple juice

Stir together dry ingredients. Combine wet ingredients separately.  Stir wet ingredients into the quinoa mixture & mix together.  Spread granola onto a parchment-lined baking sheet & bake ~1 hour.  Allow to cool completely before breaking into pieces & storing in an airtight container.

Homemade granola — especially quinoa granola — is great for camping, backpacking or hiking.  It is the perfect way to cram a lot of nutrients into a light-weight, easy-to-pack & store snack.  Along with pieces of banana, this was delicious, light fuel in the mornings.  Dave enjoyed it so much, I’ll be sure to make enough to share next time.  😉

~

Do you cook with molasses?

Spring Cleaning, Eating & Camping

20 Wed, 2011 § 4 Comments

Spring has brought on more than just the need to get out & rough it for a few days.  It has triggered other transitions as well — Spring Cleaning we’ll say — like cleaning up our finances & tracking how we are spending all of our income, so we are better & more quickly able to save up for more extensive traveling.

That is not the only thing I have been cleaning up a bit though: I generally eat quite clean but lately have been trying to eat particularly clean & time my meals according to my physical activities.  I feel great & might be figuring out a few more things about my body & nourishing it properly.

It can be tricky to eat clean while camping though.  With a good amount of planning & prep work, I think I may pull it off for our Creek trip though.  I will share details, photos & recipes after our trip, but here is a look at our menu:

~Breakfasts are simple & light, so we can get up & get to the crag [the outdoor “climbing wall”] bright & early.

  • Rooibos tea
  • sprouted quinoa, pear & molasses granola
  • fruit
  • Dave also has muesli & oatmeal, kefir & hard-boiled eggs.

~”Lunch” is also small; we prefer to snack throughout the day between climbs.

  • fruit: apples, cantaloupe, kiwi
  • dates rolled in coconut
  • popped amaranth & papaya energy bites
  • baked tofu

~Few things are better than returning to camp completely exhausted & enjoying a delicious, nourishing dinner.  Some of these are experimental, & I’m excited to see how they turn out.  Cross your fingers for us!

  • tinfoil dinners with lentil-walnut burgers & meat for Dave [2 nights]
  • Field Roast sausages with roasted apples, butternut squash & rosemary in butter lettuce wraps [2 nights]

~We always wish we had something sweet after dinner, so I decided to make a treat to satisfy our cravings but without the sugar shock or heaviness flour often leaves.

  • [flour-less] almond butter & cacao nib cookies

~Staying hydrated means a lot of water; I am also taking coconut water this trip.  We always come home a little dehydrated — sometimes more than a little — & sometimes I get pretty sick following a trip.  I also often crave tart juice after an especially active, sweaty day, so I grabbed a tropical Naked juice made with coconut water, pineapple, mango & other juices for a nice treat on the rocks.

~

How & what do you usually eat while camping?

Desert Trip!

19 Tue, 2011 § 3 Comments

I am in need of simplicity.

[photo by David Finch]

To be honest, we live pretty simply; but there is something centering about the desert & a long camping trip — Dave & I have both been craving this!

We have all but been counting down the days to our upcoming Creek trip.

Indian Creek, Utah is one of our favorite climbing destinations

& where Dave & I exchanged our vows.  I have talked about The Creek before:

1.  Here is a glimpse of why Indian Creek is so cherished.  This camping trip differed from the usual & opened our eyes to a different perspective of IC.

2.  Many people find the desert boring; these people are crazy. 😉  I find a sense of peace in its austerity, & I always learn something about myself among it sparseness & resilience like I shared in this post.

I am sure I will have more to share after our Spring trip!

~

Do you find the desert beautiful?  Any camping trips planned?

Snap

19 Fri, 2010 § 4 Comments

Playing outdoors often means packing & hauling quite a bit of gear around.  Bouldering: crash pads, chalk buckets, climbing shoes, Klean Kanteens, guide book, etc.   Mountain biking: bikes, camelback, water, tools, etc.

Whether we are climbing, backpacking, camping…hauling around heavy — or even light — bowls for Eisley is simply not efficient.

Our girl must have water though, & as perfect as Dave’s large hands work for a makeshift drinking bowl, we’ve found another solution to the problem of carrying bulky items.

This Pet Bowlz by Fozzils unsnaps to flat & is extremely lightweight.  It easily slides/packs for all of our outdoor excursions.  The set is great for trips as well; rather than packing heavy bowls from home, she simply ate her meals from these when visiting family or while camping.  Honestly, as we are moving around & trying to simplify/reduce our “stuff”, these have become her permanent “bowlz”.

  • Ultra Lightweight
  • Packs Flat
  • Sturdy
  • Easy to Clean
  • Bright Colors easy to See [even in dim lighting = good for camping]

Nearly every time we are out, we comment how glad we are Dave found these at the Black Diamond Store; I think they were ~$16 – $20.  I believe you can find these at REI as well as other outdoor retailers.

Another snappy solution we’ve come to love while playing hard?

A means to hold our rings.

After seeing Natalie’s brilliant tip for protecting wedding bands while lifting weights,

I thought I’d share what we do with ours while climbing.

This nifty, spring-locking clasp hangs from our key chain as the perfect ring holder.  I think they came from a couple crazy little Cootie key chains I had — do you remember Cooties?!  So fun!

Now I’m not sure how to tie this next bit in with the “snap” concept…oh wait —

Harrummph [clearing my throat] —

I used to be bewildered & intimidated by bean burger recipes.  I thought it had to be tricky to create just the right consistency to hold the burgers together.  You know what?  They are a snap.  😉

Tuesday evening rolled around, pasta was on the menu; & it just sounded too heavy.  We wanted something lighter, like salads, but with a nice bit of protein & some texture.

A can of black beans called out, & I decided to just go for it & make my own burger creation.

Slightly crunchy on the outside, moist & soft on the inside — these were tasty. I’ll definitely be experimenting with burger creations more!  Maybe I’ll try adding actual olives next time.

Olive Black Bean Burgers

makes 4 burgers

Preheat oven to 350*F.

  • ~1/3 C bread crumbs, toasted [toast bread before tearing into crumbs]

[any bread will do, but the olive artisan loaf we used added a nice flavor]

  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp corriander
  • ½ tsp garlic powder [or 1 clove fresh garlic]
  • ½ tsp onion powder [~2T fresh onion, chopped]
  • substantial dash of red pepper flakes
  • dash dried parsley
  • salt & pepper to taste

In a food processor, process bread crumbs & seasonings to combine.

  • 1 can black beans, drained [~1 heaping cup]
  • 1 tsp EVOO

Add beans & oil to processor & pulse until coarsely chopped, leaving the beans somewhat chunky.  Don’t over-process, or you might get mush.

  • 1 flax”egg” [whisk 1T ground flaxseed with 3T warm water & let sit ~10minutes]

Add to processor & pulse a couple times until just combined.

Roll into 4 balls & flatten onto a lightly oiled baking sheet.

Bake at 350*F for ~20 minutes per side [~40minutes total].

~

How do you keep your rings safe & prevent losing a finger while working out or playing hard?

Tinfoil Portabella Pizzas

12 Sun, 2010 § 3 Comments

Tinfoil dinners are generally a camping staple for us.  It is super easy to build a complete & delicious meal we simply chop & wrap beforehand; then toss gently place in the coals.

Patiently waiting for them to thoroughly cook through is the most difficult part ;).  Normally these are a pretty basic combination of chopped vegetables, meat for Dave, a little Earth Balance butter & some seasonings, but I wanted to make something a little different this time.

Oh.

My.

I am going to toss gently place these beauties in the fire?

Why not?  These Stuffed Portabella Pizzas are meant to broil on the lowest temperature setting for several minutes to really toast the delicious Cashew Basil Cheese, but I was hoping laying a few coals over the tinfoil would do the trick.

While our cheese did not exactly toast beneath the mound of peppers, it did melt & taste FANTASTIC none the less.  It is no wonder Angela took Gold in the Portabella Playoffs.  The combination of pizza sauce, peppers & — have I mentioned how much I love? — cashew basil cheese is spot-on-good-stuff.

Not generally a huge fan of red sauce, Ashley’s home-made pizza sauce is the best, especially with my mom’s bottled tomatoes; just throw in some red pepper flakes for a burst of heat.  Because I made it from scratch & was unsure how much it would yield,  I was a bit short of the one cup needed for our 4 porta-caps.  We also used a lot more chopped peppers than Angela [the same amount [1 C] she used for 8 caps]; so while our pizzas are less photo-worthy, they are certainly no less taste bud worthy.

  • After removing stems & gently rubbing the Portabella caps with a wet cloth to clean, lay each on its own lightly oiled sheet of tinfoil [if you are taking them camping].
  • Spoon ~ 2 T of Pizza Sauce into each Portabella
  • Spoon ~ 2 tsp of Cashew Basil Cheese over the sauce
  • Divide chopped Onion [1 – 2 T total] & chopped Peppers [I used a combination of ½ C Bell & ½ C Banana Pepper] into equal portions & sprinkle over Portabellas.
  • We threw on some sliced garden jalapenos as well.
  • Sprinkle Red Pepper Flakes & finely dice fresh Basil over the top
  • Wrap & seal in tinfoil homes until cooking over the fire OR skip all the tinfoil stuff & broil 10-12 minutes, on middle rack, watching closely.
  • Serve immediately!

~

What are in your tinfoil camp entrees?

Every Queen Needs Her Throne…

2 Mon, 2010 § 1 Comment

…& a collapsible, pop-out bed! 🙂

So when I saw this at Target, we just had to have it.  It is a Pop-Open Dog Kennel from SportPet.  We use it all of the time; it is perfect for travel, camping, etc.  It pops out to a nice, light & roomy bed for my little girl, but collapses down to the size of a dinner plate!

It comes in various sizes: we ended up with a large because she could not stand in the small, & they did not have a medium.  Measure your dog first to determine an appropriate size; also, the listed measurements of the pop outs are not exact, so round them down.

For only $25, this was a worthy purchase for us – even if collapsing it seems to be an acquired art – pay close attention the first time you pop it open.  It does get easier even if never effortless.

Keep in mind; it should only be used for crate-trained dogs & non-chewers.  Anxious dogs & this crate may not do well together.  Like I mentioned, it is extremely light & not necessarily uber durable; it could easily be ripped, flipped &/or destroyed [for only $25, you can’t expect it to withstand canine teeth, claws & rambunctiousness, right?].

When researching anything, I suggest paying more attention to reviews with low ratings. You will learn a lot more about a product from those who do not like it – I rarely give any credit to 5 star-ers – & determine if those are concerns for you.  This crate not holding up to anxious/rambunctious dogs & puppies seems to be the biggest complaint.

We really lucked out our angel is so perfect 😉  Just a little spastic & hyper-friendly sometimes; seriously, that is her flaw: she is too friendly & loves everybody.  Are we really going to deem this a flaw?  Even if she does not always love being in her crate, she is a pretty good girl about it.  Once though, she actually unzipped it.  Wiley minx 😉

Letting the Wind Go

30 Fri, 2010 § 6 Comments

“Love flowers best in openness & freedom.”

~Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

There is something austere & beautiful about the sparseness & simplicity of the desert.  A stillness exists here unmatched by any place I have yet visited; the life that triumphs the desert’s harshness stands out bold & defiant.  I always learn something about myself among this resilience.  Sometimes – often – it is something I do not like admitting & deeply wish to change.

~

We have just begun preparing dinner.  There is a welcome, even if only subtle, breeze.  The slight relief it has offered from the scorching heat of the day abruptly ceases.  Suddenly, a huge opposing gust rages through camp.  The one-up digs in for a losing battle as I rush to grab a pole begging to be torn from the dirt.  It lifts like a kite…& I watch twenty-two pages of collected yoga practices scatter in every direction.  Dave rushes to my aid, & we quickly disassemble the one-up & take chase.

The wind is continuously shifting; just as I have a page in sight & determine its path, it immediately vanishes.  I run after them like a child chasing butterflies.  Uh, lie.  I chase these gems of wisdom & self-discovery…these corridors to fleeting nirvana…with tears lining my eyes & a pitiful whine,  “but they make me happy”, being carried off by the wind along with my pages…all the while cursing the wind.  What purpose does it even serve anyway?  Honestly, amidst my frustration, I could not credit the wind one redeeming act — I had completely forgotten the relief it offered only minutes earlier.

Why the tears?  Why over these pages?

Yoga has become a place where I can escape – I can curl into its warmth, stretch into its expansion – my inadequacy does not exist here.  Not because I “excel”, but because it is something I have learned – am still learning – to embrace playfully without judgment.  But playfully without attachment?  Without ownership?  Apparently not.  Why did I feel I needed these pages to embrace my practice?  Was it my own insecurities?  Was I letting my sense of inadequacy creep in?  A need for identity?  While knowledgeable guidance is fundamentally valuable, do I need someone else to define my practice?  Do I need to define my practice?

We managed to gather a handful.  Of course my favorites were without their mate or still missing completely.

Broken.  Defeated.  I accepted my losses…bitterly…still clinging to a twinge of naive hope we would see Play Leads the Way [which includes a favorite pose, Lord of the Dance, I hope to master someday] waving frantically from a net of sage the next morning.

Dave & I collected other items the wind had thrown: plates, books, chairs, sunglasses, hats, etc.  Eisley insisted on helping scour for chips – we could not keep her away – she was even looking the next day. 😀  Dave finally had to crush them.  We took down what didn’t stand a chance against the furry & tethered the rest.  We looked at each other through furious, indecisive gusts of wind, smirked & asked “now what?”

We gave in.  We could not stop the wind.  It had claimed what it would have.  So we walked.  I teased about my absurd attachment to these papers, we toyed again with the idea of packing up, but instead, we simply walked.

Dave took photos at the overlook as I flowed through a favorite playful practice.  We embraced what the moment still offered, enhanced by the charm of the sun setting.  The wind was still a rye, but we were enjoying ourselves; & I had let go.

During the walk back to camp, we recovered four more pages, completing all but two sequences [most of which were found by Dave].  His final find that evening?  He smiled at me as he read “Play Leads the Way”.

“When we are established in non-attachment, the nature & purpose of existence are understood.”

~The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

By letting go, the entire tone & mood of our evening changed.  It is useless to cling — there are very few things we have ultimate control over — yet we have a choice regarding the attitude we embrace.  “I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me & 90% how I react to it” [Charles R. Swindoll].

Life in the desert is met by some of the harshest obstacles acting against it, yet the cactus does not whine, make excuses, cling to illusions of becoming a fern nor grow bitter.  It accepts the moment, uses whatever resources it is given, embraces the freedom of its sparse surroundings & blossoms into what it is meant to be.

Mind your mind; let everything else follow.

~

As we made our final departure the next morning, Dave asked me to please adjust the side mirror.  As I reached out the window for the corner of the mirror, a sheet of white waved from the brush just beyond.

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The View On Top

29 Thu, 2010 § 6 Comments

“This is what I desire most; to be able to sit with you & watch the shifting shadows cross a cliff face of sandstone.”


It was in Indian Creek that Dave & I realized the love we shared for the desert — & for each other — & we knew we would spend our lives together experiencing this kind of beauty & adventure.  It seemed only fitting we marry here with bands of red cliffs looming overhead as witnesses.  For us, the heart of Indian Creek has always been in the canyon…at the base of 300-foot sandstone cliffs…admiring the sheer faces & clean lines [cracks].

For us, Indian Creek is not just rock climbing; it is crack climbing.  It is perfecting tape gloves & hand jams; consenting to gobies, scars & blood.  It is sweat, tears, feeding off the desert’s calm & facing fears.  Fulfillment & success are equated to falling into our sleeping bags at the end of the day…exhausted.

What does a typical Creek day look like?

[Take a deep breath now…& GO]: I’m awake just before the sun bundling up in layers, trying to wash the sleepiness from my eyes; I let Eisley out of her bed, do some quick yoga to warm up; Dave’s up, scanning the climbing guide for our daily agenda & preping required gear while I prepare a simple breakfast [usually oatmeal & yogurt], hot chocolate & tea, still trying to warm up…pause…just long enough to admire the sun spilling over the horizon into full view…eat, quickly clean up, jump in the FJ, aim for the crag, always at least second — if not the first group – at the base; finally, climb until our muscles, joints, skin, nerves, all-of-the-above fail.  [& breathe]

So what happens when you take the familiar, with its established meaning, intimacy & expectations, step back & peel off the layers?  What does it look like naked, raw & fresh without our agenda?

I’m still up before the sun letting Eisley out.  It’s a bit chilly, so we walk.  At the point of a drop off, I find a perfect stone platform to watch the gold & orange expansion of the soon-to-be-sun shooting across the horizon.  I let Eis wander within eyesight, while I practice sun salutations & warrior poses with the rising sun.  I sprint back to camp overcome by the desire to share this with Dave.  We bike down the dirt road looking for other sunrise photo ops.  Eventually we walk to the rim to experience the morning view.

These same walls are normally met by our anxious ambitions to get up close & personal; this time, we admire their beauty & magnitude from above…from a distance.

We spend our days practicing yoga; biking till the road ends, then hiking till we discover a new path, then walking until it’s been too long since Eisley’s last drinking puddle 🙂  Rather than concerning ourselves over what will be quick & effortless over the fire — & take up less space than the climbing gear — we savor “gourmet” camp meals [Salmon with Blackberry Sauce, Chickpea Burgers, Eggs & Bacon, etc]; we even enjoy actual lunches rather than bars & snacks hastily consumed between pitches.  We sleep under the full moon on cots.  We borrow my parents’ one-up!?!  Partake of midday siestas?!  Have we gone soft??  We read & write; we enjoy music as well as the stillness.  We love just being in the desert & just being with one another.

Our trip wasn’t always this sunny, light-hearted view; we were initially welcomed by tall bolts breaking through the sky not nearly far enough away.  Among the grey, drizzling sky & massive gusts of wind, we found what appeared to be an ideal campsite & waited out the storm.  Dave entertained me on his ukulele with John Williamson’s “Home Among the Gum Trees” & tried to teach me the Maori Kamate Haka…with little luck :P.  We became immersed in our own little world & cannot tell you when exactly the rain ceased.

The wind never really eased up that night…& after a coyote sauntered to within 15 yards of camp [my primary concern regarded Eisley; I could claim sole concern, but coyotes have always creeped me out], we seriously contemplated packing up & heading to more familiar pastures down in the canyon.  The point of our venture was to experience the less familiar though, so we committed to give it until morning.

Our faith rewarded.

We will not be giving up our typical climbing-centered/active camping trips any time soon; however we did gain much from loosening our grasps & letting go of an agenda.  It is ok for us to bend even how we enjoy recreational activities: rather than baha-ing downhill on mountain bikes at god-knows-what-speed [Dave, not me], we can also be more moderate & playful with our approach.  We do not always have to dig in so deep; we can relax, welcome flexibility & leave room for spontaneity.  Let life happen…& enjoy.

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