Back From Nature Salad

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I’m back!

That’s right. I, Gena Hamshaw, otherwise known as City Mouse, survived my very first camping trip. I hiked through forest, scurried up a boulder or two, waded across streams of water, and even spent a night in a tent. And I loved every moment of it. Backpacking, as readers assured me on the eve of my departure, combines so many of the things I love: it’s physically challenging and athletic, it’s intimate, it demands focus and patience, it’s drenched in natural beauty, it’s full of small moments of excitement, and it lends itself to peaceful contemplation. In all, it’s a magical experience.

On Friday, when I shared my hemp cacao energy bites, I promised that we’d be capturing eats and snacks on camera. You can imagine my guilt, then, when I realized at lunchtime that M and I had left all cameras and phones and other appliances behind us. Ah well—truth be told, I was overdue for an electronics fast, and I can’t say that it wasn’t tremendously refreshing (if sometimes really weird) to go two days without gmail, Twitter, and blog commentary. I don’t unplug often, but when I do, I try to do it wholesale.

In fact, one of the nicest things about backpacking was the experience of being stripped down to necessity. No idle tweets, no social media distractions, no furnishings, no fashion. And—this was a big one for me—very little in the way of food luxuries. I’m a picky and a spoiled eater: I have strong likes and dislikes, I tend not to eat things I don’t absolutely love, and I’m used to having numerous specialty ingredients and vegan luxuries at my fingertips. I write a blog that enables me to be exacting and precise about my food choices, and I love it. For at least 24+ hours, though, it was refreshing to be reminded that simple food is delicious on its own, that I don’t need a pantry of exotic ingredients to be happy, and that food really is precious. Everything we ate on our trip tasted more delicious and exciting because we’d carried it around on our backs, and because there wasn’t an endless supply of it.

And what, you’re wondering, did we eat? In all, the tally was thus:

  • 1 giant bag of trail mix (almonds, dates, raisins, cashews)
  • 1 container kale chips
  • 1 bag quick oats
  • 1 bag freeze dried blueberries
  • 1 bag mixed dried fruit (apples, pears, mangos)
  • 3 apples
  • 3 pears
  • 4 packets almond butter
  • 1 jar raspberry jam
  • 4 Vega bars
  • 1 bag hemp cacao energy bites
  • 2 bars dark chocolate
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 ziplock bag baby carrots
  • 2 boxed soups
  • 2 primal strips
  • 2 coconut waters
  • A ton couple packets of Starbucks Via instant coffee

Yes, this was for about 2 days. And yes, we ate most of it. Our dinner—a mix of lentil soup and vegetable soup from Dr. McDougall’s Right Foods, mixed with 2 primal strips and smothered in noochy kale chips—was hot and filling and basically amazing. Our breakfast—quick oats cooked with dried blueberries, almond butter, and a touch of jam—was just the fuel we needed. And our snacks and midday meals along the way were nutrient dense and sweet. M deserves the credit for planning all of this, but we both loved our eats and treats. I found that my veganism and love of raw foods lent themselves naturally to the strictures of camping, and I’m actually excited to use future trips as an excuse to break out the dehydrator and find some wonderful ways to preserve veggies.

Of course, the one thing that’s tough to take camping is an obsession with salad. So my first order of business when I got home yesterday was to make a trip to Sweet Green. And since one giant salad is never enough, I used today as an opportunity to make another: this time, with one of the specialty ingredients I couldn’t tote with me on the backpacking trip.

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Umeboshi plum vinegar, if you aren’t familiar with it, is an incredible, salty/sour vinegar made from pickled plums. It’s a wonderful way to dress up salads without adding too much fuss or fat, and it’s absolutely unique. Since the sodium content is colossal, I tend to use it in conjunction with another vinegar—usually red wine. Lately, though, my friend Julie inspired me to try it with apple cider vinegar instead, and I loved the results. In fact, this whole salad is inspired by Julie, whom I like to think of as my favorite California chef. The salad is a fresh, varied, and delicious way to welcome the summer—or to celebrate a return to one’s produce-rich kitchen.

Gena’s Back From Nature Salad (raw, vegan, gluten free)

Serves 1

3 cups chopped romaine lettuce
8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/3 cup chopped cucumber
1 small diced carrot
1 sheet untoasted nori, ripped into pieces
3 large button mushrooms, thinly sliced
5 sundried tomatoes, chopped
1/2 avocado, chopped
1 tsp umeboshi plum vinegar
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp agave syrup
Dash each dried oregano and and basil

Mix all ingredients together. Devour in your apartment, using non-aluminum flatware, and try not to miss the woods too much.

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With that, it’s off to study. This is my reading week before finals, so my posts may be on the short side. Hope you’ll all bear with me. Happy Monday!


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Categories: Salads

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  1. It doesn’t surprise me at all that you are a natural born hiker and camper.

    Best of luck with your finals!

  2. I love this post because I love camping and find it challenging to pack healthy food. I always steer clear of the expensive store bought mixes. They usually have tons of sodium and questionable ingredients not to mention the extremely limited variety when you leave out the meat and diary options. Congrats on your first official camping trip and hope there’s more to come. You should check out the Adirondacks-breath taking (just wait until after July 4th aka black fly season to go πŸ˜‰ Happy studying-


  3. Oh, I’m so glad you had a good experience, and an unplug.

    Your food all sounds great. Part of my recent realization that after all these years, now’s the time I need a dehydrator, is based on the desire to be able to prepare good camping foods.

    And I forgot to tell you in my previous comment about my favorite camping ‘salad:’–I bring along dried seaweed (eg wakame, hijiki), rehydrate it with some water and add spices and whatever veggies I’ve managed to bring along. It’s sort of like salad!

    Good luck with Finals!

  4. “For at least 24+ hours, though, it was refreshing to be reminded that simple food is delicious on its own, that I don’t need a pantry of exotic ingredients to be happy, and that food really is precious. ” – word! I love being reminded of that sometimes!

    I’m glad you enjoyed camping, I didn’t know a thing about it until I had to go to a school that had mandatory camping and other trips. i love lentil soup and bean stews/chillis on camping nights, and oatmeal with salt (mmmm so savory, so good) in the mornings!

  5. Sounds like such a relaxing weekend πŸ™‚ Totally agree re: the need to disconnect sometimes!

    Good luck with finals! xo

  6. I’m so happy you enjoyed your communion with Nature Gena! I always get a crunchy salad when I get back into the city as most of the food I bring with me is always dehydrated.

    I can relate to “unplugging” being such a weird experience, yet a refreshing and soulful one.

    Good luck on your finals!

  7. Well done you for surviving! I like the hiking aspect, but I’m not good with camping – my brother got all of those genes (he recently climbed up a mountain and spent the night sleeping in a thunderstong… by himself.. for fun?!). This salad looks wonderfully refreshing, but i must say I’m still partial to the hemp bites instead πŸ˜›

  8. I have been sick and off my computer, so I’ve missed this whole thing. I LOVE LOVE backpacking!! I do a travel post almost every Sunday that usually involves one of my old backpacking trips. It is so much fun and really, an indescribable feeling. I’ve actually found a brand that makes freeze dried veggies that I always munch on and add to soups and such for meals. I think they are called Just…something. Maybe that’s it. They make all kinds of fruits and veggies. Just veggies is the mix, they also have just tomatoes, just peas, just mango, etc. etc.

  9. Aren’t there supposed to be some health benefits to using the plum vinegar? I’m scared of the sodium content, though, as you mentioned, it’s super high! That can’t be healthy. Your salad looks delish though. Congrats on surviving the camping trip, I have never camped before!!!

  10. It’s nice you had such a great time! People usually love it or hate it. When I was around 19 my parents decided we should go backpacking together. I was a little freaked out, but my Mom is always planning adventures, so this was just another of Mom’s weird ideas and Dad and I went along. She had no idea what to bring for food either, so we had pretty much the same things you are describing! It reminded me of our first trip. We had lentil soup for dinner, and oatmeal for breakfast, and Mom found a recipe for trekker bars in some camping book. We completely adored all the food when we were out there in the wild. The funniest thing for all of us was, and is still a dear family story, is when we got home, we made the same stuff and it was all horrible! The lentil soup was awful and the trekker bars were bland and just as awful! When we were out there, in the wild walking on steep trails and tired, the trekker bars were the most amazing things we had ever eaten!

  11. Girl, get your studying done! We’ll all be here to welcome you when it’s over. And in the meantime we’ve got years of your amazing recipes to catch up on! Glad you had such a wonderful time on your trip!

  12. mmm you’ve got me craving Primal Strips now–those were a lifesaver in college during late-night study sessions:)

  13. I loved reading about your camping trip!!! Now you must come out to Colorado for a bigger adventure. πŸ™‚ One of my favorite parts of backpacking is the food. I love preparing it before we go, I love thinking about it in my backpack and I love eating it. Hot oats are a must in the morning! They always taste like the best oats in the world! πŸ™‚ Glad you had fun!

  14. lol! city mouse. adorable haha. glad you survived, camping is def not for everyone. i’ve done it but i don’t have any desire to experience it often ha.

  15. Yay, so glad the backpacking trip went well! That’s great that you disconnected from technology for a few days. And looks like you have great eats, much better than my hubby when he went backpacking. πŸ˜› The salad looks great and I hope studying for finals goes well!

  16. I’m glad you enjoyed camping! My mom and dad both love camping so I spent many, many nights sleeping in tents as a kid. Now I kinda miss it…

  17. Glad you had a good time camping. It would have been hard for me to be without camera, if it was a pretty place, but not without computer or phone. I love breaking it all off from technology from time to time. Sounds like great camping grub you packed there.

    I’ve been putting chunks of nori into my salads too. Or dulse. I love seaweed in a salad. But not a whole seaweed salad.

    Welcome back to the real world!

  18. Glad to hear you had a great backpacking trip! I often crave a big salad after hiking to counteract the dried fruit etc. This past weekend I took a litre of green juice with me. The cucumber and celery were great for hydration. On one longer backpacking trip we took fresh cucumbers. The first day they were a wonderful, fresh treat. They second day they were a little banged up (don’t let the guys pack them!). The remaining ones definitely should have been eaten before the third day…I’m looking forward to dehydrating my own meals this year. Any recipes you come up with will be appreciated!

  19. Oooh, another ingredient I’ll have to add to my shopping list when I get back to the U.S.of A. I’m glad you had fun camping! I hope it wasn’t too cold. I love everything about camping except for temperature extremes.

    Ok, this may be waaaay too weird of a question for a blog comment, so I understand if you don’t care to answer. Have you ever heard of autophagy? It was a term I came across and decided to look up.

    Basically, when in a deficit of protein, the body harvests little useless proteiny bits on the inside, like damaged organelles. Supposedly it’s connected to higher energy and longevity. But of course it’s a short-term effect as the body ultimately needs protein. Could this be a possible reason why some people who go 100% raw or very low-protein vegan claim to have lots of energy at first, but might later start feeling less stellar and need to restructure their diet to include more protein-rich plant foods like beans and grains? Of course just eating good food plays a huge role in energy, but I was just curious if you’d heard of it.

  20. Gena, welcome back!

    Nothing wrong with forgetting your camera stuff…which then led to 2 days of unplugging. Amen! Sadly the only time I unplug for a day or two is when I am traveling (usually out of the country) and then when I get there…i plug back in. I know, crazy. But yes, it feels GREAT to just take a technology break, doesnt it.

    The snacks you brought with sound great. Trail mix right at the top of the list. That was my suggestion in your what should I bring post πŸ™‚

    And so happy for you that you hiked and got in touch with your nature side…you, the quintessential NYC City Mouse πŸ™‚

    Good luck studying!

  21. Glad to hear you got through camping and enjoyed it throughly. Definitely a different kind of experience being out with nature; one that’s very hard for a girly- girl like me πŸ˜‰
    That salad has everything I love in it!

  22. it’s so impressive that you ate so easily while camping, with so much dietary restrictions! ie you camped without beef jerkey. you are my hero! lol just kidding πŸ™‚

  23. I have umeboshi plum vinegar, but to be honest, I just kind of stare at it, confused, every time I open the pantry. We just haven’t had much time to get to know one another…despite having purchased the bottle about 2 years ago πŸ˜‰ Oops. Time to get inspired and reintroduce myself. I’m sure we’ll get along swimmingly once we understand one another better; I really should employ some effort and amend that…

    Ah, nature. That is all. <3

  24. welcome back! your snacks sound great! I LOVE ume plum vinegar! It’s so, so flavorful. And great idea to put nori in a salad. I will be trying that…