Nicole Duncan, 24, Telluride, CO
Diagnosis Stuck in a menu-planning rut “I am something of a one-pot wonder,” says Nicole. “I eat the same breakfast every day [oatmeal] and have about three dinners in my rotation, mostly mac ’n cheese. I would love to learn how to jazz up my traditional backcountry menu.”
Makeover by Tracy Young, former NOLS instructor, private chef, and part owner of the Stone Park Café, Brooklyn, NY. Philosophy: “Well fed people are happy people.”
Meal Rx We gave Nicole a multinational set of spice tricks and a dozen easy menu substitutes, and replaced her lackluster macaroni with a vibrant soba dish.
The Recipe: Ginger Garlic Soba
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, diced
2 carrots, chopped
8 ounces soba noodles
10 dried shiitake mushrooms
1/2 cup freeze-dried peas
3 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
5 teaspoons soy sauce
1/3 cup toasted sesame seeds
Place sesame oil and soy sauce in spillproof containers. Put dried mushrooms and peas in one zip-top bag, and sesame seeds in a separate zip-top.
Sauté the chopped garlic, ginger, and carrots in two teaspoons of sesame oil, until tender; set aside in a bowl. In the same pot, boil five cups of water, then add soba noodles and mushrooms, stirring continually so pasta doesn’t stick. When noodles are halfway done (usually about four minutes, but follow the package’s instructions), add dried peas. Cook another four minutes, then drain. Add garlic mixture, soy sauce, remaining sesame oil, and sesame seeds, and enjoy a tasty break from ordinary macaroni.
Five Days of Spices
Even if you cook rice and beans every day, add variety by bringing zip-top bags of...
Italian Equal parts basil, oregano, and parsley; garlic powder and sun-dried tomatoes to taste; olive oil in a spillproof bottle
Mexican One tablespoon cumin powder or seeds, two teaspoons oregano, one teaspoon chili powder, and one teaspoon dried onion
Asian Equal parts garlic and ginger (powders or fresh), toasted sesame seeds, and packets of sesame oil and soy sauce
Indian Equal parts ground ginger, cinnamon, and ground cardamom with half-parts clove and nutmeg; ideal for oatmeal or tea
Insta-flavor Hot sauce, lemon pepper, salsa, and pesto packets
Switch It Up
Swap a conventional item for something more enticing, nutritious, or exotic:
Raisins » Antioxidant-rich goji berries
Ketchup » Savory sun-dried tomato paste or freeze-dried salsa
Salt » Spike, a store-bought mix of 30-plus herbs and spices
Chicken stock » Instant miso soup mix, high in essential trace minerals like zinc, manganese, and copper
Sugar » Maple syrup or brown sugar, both packed with antioxidants and, in the case of syrup, zinc
Cheddar » Smoked gouda, for its hearty and nutty flavor
PB & J » Almond or cashew butter, homemade preserves, honey, and/or dried bananas
Tortillas or bread » Novel carbohydrates such as whole-grain flatbreads, spelt pretzels, German rye, or pumpernickel bread (also known as fitness bread)
Maximize Your Mac
Spruce up traditional pasta with the following ingredients; add all of them for the ultimate experience, or just one or two to enhance flavor: sun-dried tomatoes, toasted pine nuts or walnuts, garlic, onion powder, and/or red bell pepper flakes.