Robert and I just got back from our first backpacking trip of the season. We headed up to Lake Caroline in the Wenatchee National Forest. I wish I could say we had a great time, but, unfortunately, the mosquitoes had made it their goal to cause us misery. I have never seen such ruthless bugs! They were so bad at Lake Caroline that we decided to climb higher and higher into the mountains, hoping to find a windier, bug-free spot. No luck. We found wind and colder temperatures, but just as many mosquitoes. Even our 100% DEET wasn’t enough to keep them at bay. We ended up packing our things early the next morning and heading home, a day earlier than expected. Oh well, things can’t always be perfect. That’s the risk you take when you go into the backcountry. Robert and I have really good luck with backpacking up until now so we were probably due for a less than ideal trip.

At least, this trip afforded me the opportunity to try out a new backpacking recipe. This time I made “Alpine Peanut Noodles.” This recipes features angel hair pasta and my signature dehydrated broccoli in a spicy Asian peanut sauce. Black sesame seeds add an exotic touch – a little bit of gourmet while you’re out in the mountains! Weighing in at 12 ounces, this meal is bit heavier than I prefer for backpacking. After the exhaustive climb we did on Sunday, I am more motivated than ever to make my meals as lightweight as possible (without having to resort to commercial, freeze-dried camping dinners – blech!) That said, my Alpine Peanut Noodles were worth the extra weight. They were spicy and filling, just what you need after a long, hard day of hiking. It’s just too bad we couldn’t enjoy the meal thanks to the swarms of mosquitoes making a meal out of us!

Alpine Peanut Noodles

1 large head of broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
8 ounces angel hair pasta
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/8 teaspoon ground dried ginger
1/8 teaspoon (or more) cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 ounces peanut butter
1.5 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon unseasoned rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to between 140 and 150 degrees. Blanch the broccoli in a pot of boiling water until just tender. Drain thoroughly. Wrap a piece of cheesecloth around a cooling rack and secure the ends using safety pins (or use a mesh screen). Spread the broccoli out on the cheesecloth arranging it in a single, uncrowded layer. Open the oven door a few inches to create airflow, making sure that the temperature remains between 140 and 150 degrees. Dry the broccoli in the oven, checking every hour or so, until completely dried and brittle (5 to 6 hours). Remove from the oven and let cool.

Put the broccoli and pasta in a plastic baggie (I break up the pasta into smaller pieces to make it fit.) Put the garlic granules, ginger, cayenne, brown sugar and salt into a small packet. Put the peanut butter into another small container (I actually buy JIF’s “to-go” cups which are 2.25 ounces each. I’m not a big fan of JIF peanut butter, but the small cups are perfect for backpacking.) Pour the soy sauce, vinegar and sesame oil into a small plastic bottle (for the soy sauce, you can also use those tiny packets that you get with Asian take-out – three packets is about right for this recipe.) Put the sesame seeds into another little packet. Place all of this into a larger baggie along with written cooking instructions. Now, it is ready to be taken on any backpacking trip!

To prepare the meal, bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and broccoli and cook until almost done (about 4 minutes.) Drain most of the water out, leaving about 3/4 cup of water in the pot. Add the spices and cook for another 30 seconds. Stir in the peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar and sesame oil until well-mixed. Sprinkle in the sesame seeds and enjoy!

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