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Eating well in the wild

My husband and I braved the wilds of the Southwest in the heat of the summer a few years back. We took to the road with our truck and our sleeping bags -- no cookbooks, no oven and no restaurants to turn to when the going got tough. It's a bit more of a challenge to eat well when you're camping or backpacking, but not nearly as difficult as you might think.

Pack staples, such as grains, beans, spices and salt, in sealable plastic containers and plastic bags. Put liquid ingredients, such as soy sauce and oil, in recycled glass bottles if you're car camping or in plastic squeeze bottles if you're toting your supplies on your back. Label everything to avoid confusion. Store food where it is easily accessible with the most often used ingredients near the top.

Bring along a few basic instructions: cooking times for different grains or beans and ratios of water to dry ingredients. It's easier to refer to a few notes until you can commit them to memory than it is to wing it when you're starving.

Pack the essentials: a cooler, camping stove, a medium-sized saucepan and a large skillet, a few wooden spoons, a good knife and a cutting board. If you can fit it into the car, a pressure cooker opens up a world of opportunities, such as grains and beans that can later be turned into soups or cold salads.

Remember that water is not always readily available. If you're car camping, bring along an extra water jug to get you through to the next time you find a tap. Backpackers especially will need to bring foods that require limited water.

Bring lots of stove fuel. It can be difficult to find the particular type you may need in some areas so it's wise to stock up when your sporting goods store has its next sale.

Be ready for setbacks. Almost every afternoon, just as we set to cooking dinner, a powerful thunderstorm and gorgeous light show would begin -- and then we'd get deluged with intense rainstorms. Have a backup plan in case of inclement weather. My husband was my backup; he was willing to brave the rain if it meant his belly would be filled. Leftovers can make another backup if you don't have a single-minded camping buddy.

You'll get very hungry, so make lots of food. It doesn't have to be a gourmet feast, however. No matter how you put things together, everything will taste wonderful. Double recipes if you can and set aside leftovers in the cooler for tomorrow's hike. Trail mix, made from any combination of dried fruit, nuts and granola, can be a lifesaver at snack time. A few empty plastic storage containers and plastic bags come in handy for packing up leftovers or bringing along lunches while hiking.

And, by all means, if you're heading out on a long journey, do a trial run. We spent a weekend in the woods of northern California before we headed to the Southwest just to be sure our food storage and preparation went smoothly.

Tortilla Rollups

Camping requires a minimalist approach to food preparation but without sacrificing taste. This simple but unusual sandwich is perfect and quick: it relics on the combination of prepared foods with fresh vegetables for great taste. Look for sprouted wheat tortillas, though any will do. Any mock meat slices will work in these rollups; experiment with your favorites. You can parboil the collard or kale leaves at home and pack them in the cooler as both a time and fuel saver.

4 large collard or kale leaves, stems
removed
2 large (burrito-size) flour tortillas
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
4 "chicken"- or "beef"-flavored
vegetarian strips
1/2 large ripe tomato, chopped

1 tsp. clarified butter or ghee (see
note)
2 tart apples (such as Granny
Smith), cored, peeled and thinly
sliced
Pinch salt
1 1/2 tsp. maple syrup

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