Uncle Tom’s final solution: quick, tasty, lunch soup !

My son Arlo, knows.  He lives in San Francisco with his partner, Alanna Hale, who herself is becoming increasingly well know for her dynamic and spare  photos of  food, drink, and the good life. If there is a place in the US where multicultural life affects what we eat, it’s San Fran.  Arlo recently recently commented on my last Instagram photo of my homemade soup and suggested I that was actually cooking up was a version of jigae, and not fauxpho.   This is a typical bowl of what I have been calling fauxpho:

photo 11I’ve been experimenting with preparing quick one -serving soups at home for the past 6 months.  The process has stayed the same: from start to finish in 15 minutes or less,  producing a huge 16 ounce serving of tasty nutritious goodness.

All of this started when I decided to turn around my decades-old lunch routine.

I used to eat a grilled cheese/ meat sandwich, where I even graduated to a baby George Foreman grill to cut out the extra butter that I’d slather on each slice.  The other part of the lunch was a bowl of either instant ramen soup, or a more “healthy version” which I decided was one of the one-can Progresso products.  I liked the lentil soup the best.

Then I got older and my father Chester’s side of the  family history kicked in- heart disease.  I am an exercise nut, so that’s not the issue- it’s genetics. Under the old cholesterol guidelines, I was I pretty good shape, but under the 2013 ACC/AHA Cholesterol Guidelines, I wasn’t anymore. Sure, I could move to Canada or Europe where I would still be considered healthy, but no.  I even got a second opinion from a local cardiologist, who was so convinced that I was a sitting duck for a heart attack that he pushed a prescription for Lipitor into my hand as I was walking out and told me that I would need them sooner or later.

That’s when I decided to lower my daily dose of gooey cheese, lunch meats, high-sodium ramen, and canned soups and eat a bit lighter for lunch.

Then, I discovered pho, the Vietnamese staple.  Wikipedia notes that, “Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup consisting of broth, linguine-shaped rice noodles ,a few herbs, and meat, primarily served with either beef or chicken.”

But, thanks to Arlo, I have come up with something that is even better, primarily due to the richness of the broth.  Arlo sent me this link to a new York Times recipe for Korean jigae.

I have modified that recipe for a single serving, and here’s today’s improved version. You can see leftover steamed broccoli, garden kale, roasted beets /carrots harvested yesterday from under the snow and ice, and sprouted mung beans.

Jigae- Uncle Tom style
Jigae- Uncle Tom style

I’ll be stocking up on the kimchi for sure, now!

Ingredients ( serves 1- me!)

  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon miso
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup kimchi
  • 1 tablespoon Korean red pepper paste (gochujang)
  • 2 cups water (for a richer soup, use chicken, pork or beef broth)
  • seasonal vegetables ( 1 cup chopped)
  • scallions chopped, for garnish


  1. Start boiling 2 cups water or stock.
  2. In a separate fry pan, add first six ingredients.
  3. Add cut up veggies and 50 grams of rice noodles ( I like wide) to the boiling water.  Simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
  4. In the fry pan, add protein (could be animal, tofu, tempeh), stir together and let it cook for 3 minutes.
  5. Transfer frypan ingredients to the liquid stock/noodle/ veggie mix.
  6. Add kimchi , miso, and scallions.
  7. Mix well
  8. Fill bowl, use chopsticks to slow down the meal.
  9. Spoon or drink the rest!


Day 1: Snow Walkers’ Rendezvous 2015

I’m back in Fairlee, Vermont to attend my favorite annual gathering of the year, The Snow Walker’s Rendezvous. The event consistently attracts 100 fans of winter foot travel, be it walking, hiking, snowshoeshoeing, or skiing. It runs from Friday night to Sunday morning. I have been attending for over 15 years.

Friday night’s program kicked off with two of presentations that focused on winter backcountry skiing expeditions of 4-10 days duration in Quebec, specifically the Groulx Mountains, just north of the Manic 5 dam that is located several hour’s travel north of the St. Laurence River. That area is totally unique in that a map displays a perfect circle of blue water  just above the gigantic dam, a geographic feature that was created millions of years ago when a  asteroid hit the earth there.

The first two presentations took place in the deep winter of Quebec, Cacada!

Number one  was by a two young folks who were in group of five that spent 10 days in the winter wilderness. Their trip was totally self-supported. One of the speakers was Andy Staudinger. The other was Emily Hughes. In 2008, Andy skied the length of Vermont, built a voyager canoe, and then paddled the length of Vermont, and managed to portage the boat and all the team’s gear back to base camp at Kroka Expeditions.

The second presentation was from Don Tedstone ( Quebec ):Winter Travel in Les Monts Groulx Don has 7 successive years of 10 day winter trips to the same area. He is an advocate of “hot camping”, and shared stories and photos of the trips and his expertise in building his own silicone-coated nylon tent and stainless steel stove and stovepipe to heat the tent.

Don's creation
Don’s creation

Here is a picture of the tent the Don designed and made himself.

The featured attraction of the evening was Tim Smith’s humorous and candid review of his experience on what turned out to be the final episode of The Discovery Channel’s “Dude, You’re Screwed” survival show.

The real Tim on the left and the "Screwed Tim" on the right
The dim Tim on the left and the “Screwed Tim” on the right

Tim is the founder of  the Jack Mountain Bushcraft School, and is a Registered Master Maine Guide.

Tim enlightened us with the fact that the 1 hour show was composed of actual events, staged events, and trumped-up drama. The show is set up to be a game, where the contestant (Tim) is kidnapped and then helicoptered away to a very remote wilderness area (Northern Norway) above the Arctic Circle. The copter leaves Tim with one cameraman (who provided him with no direct assistance)  and a small pile of assorted gear. The on-screen clock then started down from 100 hours, the amount of time Tim was allotted to reach civilization.

Parts of the drama of the show were believable, like disorientation of Tim’s sleep cycle cues. Tim deduced that he was above the Arctic Circle, due to the fact that the sun never set. However, without a watch, there was no way that Tim knew when to sleep. His first sleep occurred close to 24 hours of being moving and awake. This introduced the dramatic element of Tim habitually dropping off to sleep, even while he was keeping his makeshift coracle (primitive boat) upright while he was careening down a rapids-filled river.

For those of you who have no subscription  to the Discovery Channel, here’s a YouTube link to the episode that I just found that is currently active.  These clips go offline quickly, until someone puts them up again, so if you would like to be thoroughly entertained for 45 minutes, check it out right away.

Day one here was as good as I hoped for tomorrow should be even better.

Nuts and bolts:  

Meals & Lodging: Simple lodging is available at the Hulbert Outdoor Center. Cozy 3-4 bedroom heated cabins provide comfortable accommodations. (As well as your tent!) Meals are served buffet style in dining hall. The Center is located on Lake Morey, and is easily accessible from I-91.

Program registration -$60; student/limited income-$45. Registrations accepted until program is full.

Meals & lodging packages are available for the weekend (Fri. Dinner through Sun. Breakfast, 3-4 occupancy/room)

Commuter & tent rates available

If you want to experience a most interesting weekend in Vermont next year (November 11-13, 2016), then ask to be put on the mailing list so that you won’t be left out in the cold-   Mailing your request to Lynn_Daly@alohafoundation.org

My faux pho recipe: A most excellent daily lunch !

photo 11I occasionally post Instagram photos of my “pho” bowls of soup since I started the practice almost a year ago.   My Vietnamese friend, Tom ,  just dressed me down for calling my soup pho. True pho relies on beef bones, roasted in the oven and then put into a stock for the soup.  Not for me.  Too cumbersome and time consuming to make.

I have had several requests to post the recipe for my daily “faux pho”, so here it is.  (This recipe makes one big serving, and now takes me just 15 minutes to make, and would probably feed two normal folks.)  🙂

1 pint of water
stock  – I have used the small jars of “Better than Bouillon” pastes, which are available in chicken, beef, vegetable, and now mushroom flavors.  I now favor vegetarian powders, or vegan/vegetable boullion/herb cubes .

Into the boiling stock I toss chopped vegetables.  I have vegetable gardens going outside, so the ingredients here are typically seasonal:  greens, and onions in the spring;  squash, more greens, peppers, string beans, and corn in the summer; in the fall there are beets, carrots, Chinese cabbage, and more greens. This year, I grew jalapenos, so I slice a couple pieces into the pot.  In the depths of winter we have to buy from the supermarket.

Beet, tomato, zucchini, summer squash mix
Beet, tomato, zucchini, summer squash mix

I usually include protein, which is increasingly vegetarian as well, although I sometimes put in leftover pieces of chicken, beef, or pork. Lately, my go-to protein is tempeh, cubed or crumbled, and then quickly browned up and crisped in ghee ( clarified butter).  I will do the same with local tofu.

Rice noodles are my most frequent carbohydrate addition. I have a small postal scale where I weight out my single serving of 50 grams of dry noodles. They go in last, and cook for no more than 3 minutes.

At this point, I remove the pot from the burner and let it cool a bit before I add the finishing flavor touches. photo 11 I add fermented ingredients ( which are not as nutritious when boiled) :  a healthy dollop of kimchi, a tablespoon of miso paste, and a scant amount of black bean sauce with chili.  I vary the types of miso that I use. Too much black bean sauce is painfully hot, so I am careful to adjust to my own taste.  I am continually amazed at how rich this broth tastes.

I have perennial bunching Chinese onions outside, and often snip a couple of stalks for garnish.

How to Eat:  Chopsticks! Even if you are not skilled at using them, try this:  struggle through the hand coordination that will be required to be functional at using them.  It’s good for your brain to learn new things, especially when it involves your body. Using chopsticks also forces me to slow down when I eat.  When I have reduced the size of the pieces of food to make using the chopsticks practical, I finish off with my spoon.

Note:  This dish can be taken on day hikes, where it can be prepared relatively quickly if you bring a backpacking stove.  Precut the veggies and protein ingredients and place in a plastic container.  The stock bases and the flavor enhancers can be in a smaller separate container and added at the end.  Instant rice noodles shorten the boil time.  Impress your backpacking friends by treating them to a fresh bowl of pho, even though it is really faux pho !

(approximately 500 calories/ 1 pint large bowl)    

My companion piece on discovering pho (from February 2015 )

“How bad do you really want to walk?”

“How bad do you really want to walk?”   -I felt like asking, in response to a question posed to V8 and Auntie Mame,  The Trekking Twins, at their well-attended Lincolnville ( ME) Public Library presentation “Twins Talk Trail”  two nights ago.

The actual question was, “Just where around here can you hike now that it is deer hunting season?”   Translation: For almost all of November ( except for Sundays), the forests and fields of Mid-coast Maine will be populated with numerous hopeful hunters sporting high-powered rifles in the hopes of hauling venison home to stock their freezers for the winter.

Sure, there are isolated properties that have posted “No Hunting” signs, but most are small islands of safety amidst oceans of game-laden cover, but  bullets fired from one of these rifles can easily travel a mile or even two,  so it’s dangerous to be out there, even if you are on posted property.

Most Mainers who don’t hunt stay away from the woods in November, or at least save up their walking for Sundays when it is illegal to hunt.  I am one of these people.  I don’t want to die from an errant bullet.

I used to think it was safe to walk in the nearby Camden Hills State Park, but that’s not true. Hunting is only prohibited between June 1 and Labor Day.  Otherwise, look out, because shooting is prohibited only within 300 feet of a picnic area, campsite, parking lot, shelter, or posted trail.

Someone at the talk mentioned Acadia National Park as an alternative . Fact check:  True-there is no hunting or trapping allowed.  November is a wonderful month to hike Acadia’s trails, but be ready for a  3 hour, 140 mile round trip from Lincolnville.

If you really want to walk really badly enough here in deer hunting season,  you can still go anywhere you want , on any trail you usually like to travel.  You just have to carry a flashlight or wear a headlamp, because you will be walking in the dark.  You can even look up the exact time that hunting ends each day in November 2015 on a table published by the  Department of inland Fisheries and Wildlife.  For example on today, November 13, it is illegal to hunt at or after 4:39 p.m.  That’s not bad.

I hiked 4.7 miles last night in the dark. photo 2  However, I decided to stick to the road, where there was a lot of traffic (@ 25 cars in 75 minutes), relatively speaking. I’m nursing a bashed up knee, which I experienced on last week’s night time trail ride in the Rockland Bog. That didn’t go well at all for me, but I learned from my mistakes, and it won’t happen again.

Night hiking ( unless under a full moon) requires adequate lighting.  There are dos and don’t for this aspect of outdoor adventures.

Stay tuned for my next blog post, where I’ll get into what I am currently using for lights when I hike in the woods, and on the back roads here at night.

Teaser:  Here’s part of my go-to illumination while road walking:  the Glo-Toob !



Make your own “energy bars”

The science of eating and drinking while engaged in long duration events (extended backpacking) or shorter events where maximum effort is tapped (mountain biking) escapes most of us. This could be a problem.

I have personally experienced poor nutrition management, and have witnessed others approach the brink of seizures, and even faint to the ground due to a lack of understanding of our unique physical needs in endurance events.

Enter the world of the pre-packaged sports nutrition industry, which includes energy bars, gels, gummy blocks, and liquid foods. I have tried them all. My present needs are now met by eating real foods, or making my own “bars” from real food.
Certainly, one needs to understand the basics of this unique subset of nutrition. I’ve learned as much as I can digest in the two books by Biju Thomas and Allen Lim: The Feed Zone Cookbook (2011) and the more recent companion book Feed Zone Portables (2013).

I have been the butt of jokes from my mountain bike riding group, The Bubbas, for throwing a couple of slices of leftover pizza in my Osprey day pack. The guys are used to hanging with bikers who consume Cliff bars, energy beans, and gel packs. I have even take along Subway leftovers on someday long rides. It works for me: tastes better, and seems to digest fine as well.

I just finished making up some home-made bars of my own. I altered one of the recipes ( Blueberry & Chocolate Coconut Rice Cakes) from Feed Zone Portables yesterday. I didn’t have a pint of fresh blueberries around ( but do have 100 pounds of frozen wild Maine berries in my freezer), so I substituted dried apricots instead.

Here’s a picture of my recent work:

Pile o' real bars
Pile o’ real bars

The ingredients are: 3 cups uncooked sticky rice, water, canned coconut milk, 1/4 cup of raw sugar, juice of 1 lemon, 1 teaspoon coarse salt, half a regular bag of semisweet chocolate chips, and 16 oz. of dried apricots. You get the idea. The only thing cooked is the rice.

For those of you who wonder how these bars match up to commercial sports bars, here’s the breakdown, per bar. (For comparison purposes, the Kim/Thomas analyzed 11 sports bars and averaged out their nutritional values):
Bar Calories                                           Fat Carbs Fiber Protein Water
Home made apricot/coconut/choc 250 6g 45g 2 g 4g 65%
Sports bars (11) 223 8g 33g 3.5g 6.5 7%

The sports bars are very similar to my rice cakes, except for the water content ( 23X by mass). The rice cakes are also 100% real food, where the bars averaged 78% actual food.

How about costs? While not a very thorough analysis, I went online to look at one of the more popular types, the Cliff bar. 25 Cliff bars @ $1.50 each cost $37.50 (sometimes plus shipping). The cost for me to make the 25 homemade rice cakes was $14, a considerable savings.

I’d encourage the endurance hiker/backpacker/rider/swimmer to consider making your own real food bars. It’s a long winter coming up, and I think the mini Mushroom and Swiss Frittatas cooked in muffin tins look pretty good to me.

Midcoast Maine Day Hike: The Great Disappointment (1844 revisited)

The hikers gather
The hikers gather

Just before day break on Oct. 22, I drove up the Maiden Cliff Road to join Rosey Gerry and three other men at 6:30 AM to follow the footsteps and wagon wheel ruts of a group of heavenly-focused Lincolnville residents in recreating a most unique, but disquieting event that occurred on this exact date in 1844.

For the past 30 years, Lincolnville historian Gerry has recreated this Oct.22 hike.

The walk commemorates the exact path taken by a band of religious zealots, followers of an upstate New York farmer and Baptist layman named William Miller (1782-1849). Miller was certain from his studies of the Bible that Jesus Christ was going to return on that day.

photo 11
Ciphering the old road

The hike took place on the western edge of Camden Hills State Park.  Rosey led us up an ancient wagon trail that can still be traced on the back side of Mt. Megunticook up to the Millerite Ledges.

Millerite Ledges
Millerite Ledges

A crowd gathered here to meet Jesus Christ, who was prophesied to arrive on Oct.22, 1844 in order to lift up to the glorious afterlife all who heeded the good reverend’s call.    Camden area believers had reached the same spot on the Ledges from traveling directly north from town.  Another large contingent of believers congregated on the open ledges atop Mount Pleasant, some 5 miles southwest.

On this date in 1844 over 100,000 Christians gathered on hillsides, in meeting places, and in meadows. But Jesus was nowhere to be found, at least on the earthly sphere, with the event that became knows as The Great Disappointment.

From Grace Communion International (GCI)’s website:
“ Actually, the October 1844 debacle was the second great disappointment for followers of Miller’s chronology and prophecy blueprint. He had previously announced that the coming of Jesus Christ would occur in about the year 1843. The year came and went without Christ’s return. Miller’s prophetic claim had failed and disappointed many people.
Then someone pointed out that he had neglected to take into account the transition from BC to AD, so that his calculations were one year off. Miller then moved the expected return of Jesus forward by one year, this time to Oct. 22, 1844. But The Great Disappointment happened once again to the thousands of followers who had given away their possessions and waited in expectant belief — for nothing.”

There is considerable web info about The Great Disappointment, including  this three minute re-enactment video on YouTube.

We spnt spent most of the morning exploring old foundations, ancient granite bridges, and the glacial scouring of the ledges above Maiden Cliff.

Galcial striations visible on granite trough
Galcial striations visible on granite trough

On the way down, Rosey cut a thin forked branch from what I call a swamp maple tree and demonstrated his dowsing skills, locating what he said was a water source that was below ground on the upper reaches of a former commercial wild blueberry field that is a recent edition to Camden Hills State Park.

The three other members of our hike were unsuccessful in their efforts to make the stick bend to the ground.


Then it was my turn.  I held the stick tightly in my hands and twisted the tip upwards, as instructed by Rosey.  As I approached the same spot where Rosey “discovered” water, I began to feel an unmistakable pull of the tip of the twig downward to the ground.  Then the tip was pulled almost 180 degrees downward with enough force that the green bark cracked and separated from the white inner layer.  It was unmistakable, and unexplained, but so are a lot of events that occur in the natural world.
“ Tom, you got it!”  said Rosey.
I can all dowser to my vitae, although I have not tried to do it since last week.

I experienced another satisfying discovery on the way down, when I located a white birch tree that had several growths of a fungus known as chaga on it.

Chaga on birch tree
Chaga on birch tree

I recorded the spot via a GPS waypoint button for a future hike to harvest a few chaga chunks.  The chaga mushroom is considered a medicinal mushroom in Russian and Eastern European folk medicine; medical evidence is emerging.

This was one of the most unique day hikes that I have experienced.  I plan to redo it again on Oct. 22, 2016, where I’ll show up at the end of the Maiden Cliff Road at 6:30 AM and see what other adventures Rosey will have in store for us.