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January 2014 Trail Bytes: True Grits & Three Sisters Stew
January 31, 2014

This month's cover features "Levi" enjoying some camping time at N. Saskatchewan River, Alberta Canada. Shared by Yvonne.

In the last issue of Trail Bytes we covered how to make oat bark. One reader noted that you don’t need to precook and dry oatmeal since it cooks up just fine on the trail with a minute of boiling and waiting five minutes with the pot in a cozy.

The usefulness of oat bark is for those folks who want to hit the trail in the morning without cooking, but still get all the nutrition of a bowl of oatmeal. If they change their mind, they can still rehydrate it with an equal quantity of boiled water for a bowl of hot and creamy oatmeal.

I liked the taste of oat bark well enough that I plan to incorporate it into trail mix. I’m still looking for more submissions of trail mix recipes before I write up a webpage on the topic. Thanks to Michael F., Deborah B., Vance M., Rachel P., Peter R., and Joel N. for sharing your recipes. I'll include them when I write up the page.

The winner of the Trail Mix Recipe Contest was Rachel Phelps and she gets a copy of my book, Recipes for Adventure.

Rachel’s Trail Mix Recipe:

  • Salted mixed nuts for protein, fat and salt.
  • Raisins and other dried fruit for sweetness and quick energy.
  • M&Ms for more sweetness and quick energy.
  • Corn or Rice Chex for crunch.
  • Dark chocolate covered espresso beans for caffeine.
  • Alternate in either pretzels or tortilla chips for saltiness to balance out all the sweetness.

Dehydrating Polenta

After working on oat bark, I moved on to grits. I have always used plain quick grits enhanced with additional dried meat, vegetables and cheese options for trail breakfasts since quick grits are so easy to prepare. Coarse milled grits take longer to cook making it less practical to cook them on the trail due to increased fuel usage.

However, coarse grits taste far better and retain nutritional components and fiber from the corn kernel that get milled out of quick grits.

The good news is that coarse grits are easy to precook and dry at home so they cook up as easily as instant grits on the trail.

For complete instructions on how to dehydrate polenta, visit the Grits Recipes page.

Also, for the recipe below, learn how to dehydrate beans on the dehydrating vegetables page.

Three Sisters Stew

Early European settlers in the “New World” learned an “Old World” trick from the native inhabitants who knew a thing or two about agriculture. Three crops were planted together in a single mound of dirt which may have had a fish head buried in it for fertilizer. Corn was planted in the center of the mound first. When it was six inches tall, beans and squash were planted around it. The beans climbed up the corn for support and sunlight. The squash covered the ground helping to retain soil moisture and suppress weeds.

The three sisters – corn, beans and squash – were a perfect combination. Not only did the beans add nitrogen to the soil which the corn and squash needed, but they also made a “complete” protein for humans when combined with the corn which lacks what the beans possess – lysine and tryptophan.

With that in mind, I created a new one-pot trail recipe that I call Three Sisters Stew. Delicious & nutritious!

Serves 1


  • ½ Cup Precooked and Dried Polenta
  • ½ Cup Dried Zucchini Ratatouille
  • ¼ Cup Precooked and Dried Beans (any kind)
  • 1½ Cups Water to rehydrate

At Home:

Pack all ingredients in one Ziploc bag for the trail or store in an airtight container at home.

On the Trail:

Combine all ingredients in pot with water and soak five minutes. Light stove and slowly bring to a boil for one minute. Remove pot from stove and let sit covered, preferably in a pot cozy, for ten minutes.

How to Make & Dry Zucchini Ratatouille:


  • 1 Tbsp or less Olive Oil
  • 1 Small Onion, diced
  • 1 Large Red Pepper, diced
  • 1 Clove Garlic, minced
  • 3 Medium Zucchinis, sliced and quartered
  • 2 Medium Tomatoes, diced
  • ½ tsp Dried Basil
  • ½ tsp Herbs de Provence (or Italian Seasoning Blend)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Yield: The above ingredients yield one cup dried – enough for two servings.

Use just enough olive oil to fry the vegetables on medium heat starting with the onions for a few minutes. Add the rest of the vegetables one at a time, cooking a few minutes each before adding the next. I find the best order of adding them is onions, peppers, garlic, and zucchini. Add the herbs when you add the zucchini.

Once all the vegetables are cooked, add the diced tomatoes, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for ten minutes.

Allow to cool and then spread out on dehydrator trays covered with non-stick sheets, trying to keep any pieces from overlapping each other. Use all juices.

Dehydrate at 135°F for approximately twelve hours. Two or three times during the dehydration process, squeeze drying ratatouille between paper towels and wipe the non-stick sheets to remove any of the olive oil. Do this one last time before storing in an airtight container.

Website Improvement Project

If you have visited the website lately, you have seen the work in progress as I make improvements. I am switching to a brown color scheme from red which involves page by page editing. While doing the edits, I am also adding new photos, editing text, and improving navigation.

I hope to finish all the editing by the end of February and cap it off with a new site banner at the top. Stop by, poke around and let me know what you think. A good place to start is the dehydrating food section.

Beautiful day here in Switzerland. The winter has been mild so far. My friends in North Georgia have not been so lucky, unless of course, you get to enjoy a few days off from work or school. As always, I wish you much success with your backpacking food preparations and adventures.

Warmest regards,

Chef Glenn & Dominique

P.S. If you have any questions or comments about this issue of Trail Bytes, please reply to this email or use the contact form at

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