Puffed kelp chips, anyone? New snack chips are crunchy, sustainable and weird

Puffed kelp chips, anyone? New snack chips are crunchy, sustainable and weird

puffed kelp chips

12 Tides makes organic kelp chips using kelp grown by ocean farmers in Maine. Pam LeBlanc photo

Puffed kelp chips, anyone?

I’m an avid scuba diver and ocean lover, so when I heard about a new organic chip made with kelp, I wanted to try it.

I’m munching on a bag of 12 Tides chili pepper flavor puffed kelp chips right now, and, well, they’re not bad. They’re not warm-tortilla-chips-from-your-favorite-TexMex-restaurant good, either, but they’re growing on me.

They look like giant Fritos, have the consistency of Styrofoam, only crunchier and more flavorful (at least I think so, I’ve never actually eaten Styrofoam), and taste salty and spicy, with an underlying hint of seaweed. You’ve eaten seaweed, surely.

puffed kelp chips

12 Tides makes puffed kelp chips in three flavors, including the chili pepper flavor shown here. Pam LeBlanc photo

I’m not hooked on them, but I want to be, for several reasons.

Kelp is a type of large brown algae that grows in cool coastal waters. It absorbs carbon from the ocean and is low maintenance to farm.

The maker describes the puffed kelp chips as “ocean positive snacking.” They’re not made with wild kelp, which provides a food source and protection for marine life. A warming climate has contributed to a decline in kelp forests in recent decades.

Related: Farm to Summit makes deydrated meals using ‘cosmetically challenged’ veggies

These snacks are made with kelp grown at small, regenerative ocean farms in Maine. Kelp farmers don’t use pesticides, fertilizers, fresh water, or arable land, so it’s a lot more sustainable than crops grown on land. The bags they’re sold in is compostable, too, which means they don’t have to end up in landfills.

The chips come in three flavors – sea salt, chili pepper, and “everything.” Unlike Fritos and other processed snack chips, they’re organic, gluten free and have no added sugar. A 1-ounce serving has 100 calories and 2 grams of protein.

The chips are sold in stores in California, Oregon, Arizona, Idaho and more, but (so far) not in Texas. You can order them online at www.12tides.com. A four-pack costs $19.99 and 1 percent of sales from each bag helps fund kelp forest restoration projects in California.

The more I nibble on them, the better they taste. And knowing they’re more sustainable than other snacks makes me like them more.

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Turkeys, get ready to trot!

Turkeys, get ready to trot!

ThunderCloud Subs Turkey Trot

Pam LeBlanc at the start of the 2021 ThunderCloud Subs Turkey Trot. Chris LeBlanc photo

I’ve been mixing a little running in with my regular schedule of swimming and biking lately. It’s part of my gear up for next week’s ThunderCloud Subs Turkey Trot.

I do the run every year. I love being part of that moving throng of humans, some dressed as turkeys, pilgrims, or Native Americans, as it makes its way up Congress Avenue, up and down Enfield Road, and back to Cesar Chavez Street during the annual 5-mile run.

If you’re contemplating joining the race, sign up soon. Right now, registration is $35 for the timed run, $30 for the untimed run, or $25 for the walk/run. The Kid’s K is $15. Prices increase by $5 starting Thursday. You can also sign up for the event on race day, but it will cost a little bit more.

ThunderCloud Subs Turkey Trot

Participants are encouraged to dress in costume. Pam LeBlanc photo

Proceeds benefit Caritas of Austin, which provides housing programs, education, employment, food assistance, and refugee services for homeless people in Austin. Last year’s race drew 14,000 participants and raised $240,000 for the non-profit organization.

Packet pickup starts Nov. 17 at First Texas Honda, 3400 Steck Avenue.

To register, go here. And look for me at the starting line on Thanksgiving Day.

ThunderCloud Subs Turkey Trot

Registration prices for the ThunderCloud Subs Turkey Trot increase on Thursday. Pam LeBlanc photo

 

 

 

 

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Ready to ski? Southwest adds nonstop flight to Telluride area

Ready to ski? Southwest adds nonstop flight to Telluride area

nonstop flight to Montrose

Southwest Airlines is adding a nonstop flight to Montrose, Colorado, from Austin. It’s an easy drive from the airport to Telluride Ski Resort, shown here. Pam LeBlanc photo

Planning for this year’s ski season just got a little easier, thanks to a new nonstop flight from Austin to Montrose Regional Airport near Telluride on Southwest Airlines.

From Montrose, it’s an hour and 15-minute drive to Telluride, or an hour and 45-minute drive to Crested Butte. That means one flight gets you within spitting distance of two of my favorite ski towns – and some of the best skiing in North America.

nonstop flight to Montrose

It’s an easy drive to Telluride, shown here, when you catch the nonstop flight to Montrose. Pam LeBlanc photo

The nonstop flight to Montrose only runs on Saturdays. If you don’t mind a connection, you can fly any day of the week on Southwest, Delta, American or United.

Related: Top 10 things to do in Telluride this Winter

When I checked fares today, the nonstop flight to Montrose on Southwest was selling about $270, but check before you book because prices change.

I can’t stay away from Telluride. I endured a six-hour drive from Denver to attend the Telluride Bluegrass Festival this summer, and it’s long been at the top of my “best of” list for skiing. Crested Butte, with its easy access to hiking, mining town roots and steep tree runs, also makes me swoon.

The 2-hour and 20-minute direct flight will run from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport from Jan. 5 until April 2.

Related: A Texan’s Guide to Telluride

Want to get even closer to Telluride? Telluride Regional Airport will offer daily jet service from Denver and Phoenix again this winter.

For full schedule information go to Colorado Flights.

Telluride

A free gondola whisks people from downtown Telluride to Mountain Village. Pam LeBlanc photo

 

 

 

Farm to Summit makes dehydrated meals using ‘cosmetically challenged’ veggies

Farm to Summit makes dehydrated meals using ‘cosmetically challenged’ veggies

Farm to Summit

Farm to Summit, a woman-owned, Colorado-based company, uses farm “seconds” to make dehydrated meals for backpackers. Pam LeBlanc photo

I’m always on the prowl for good dehydrated meals to take on camping and backpacking trips.

I’ve long been a fan of Austin-based Packit Gourmet, which makes my hands-down favorite just-add-water dish – Dottie’s Chicken and Dumplings. But during a trip to Telluride for the annual Bluegrass Festival this summer, I met two women who’d recently started their own dehydrated meal company.

Related: Taste Testing Packit Gourmet 

I had to give it a try.

Farm to Summit’s tagline is “dehydrated meals that give a damn.” I might add “dehydrated meals that taste like real food instead of salt and cardboard.”

Farm to Summit

Jane Barden and Louise Barton teamed up to create Farm to Summit, which makes sustainably farmed dehydrated meals for backpacking. Pam LeBlanc photo

Company co-founders Louise Barton and Jane Barden, a Durango-based couple, teamed up in 2020 to start the business. Combining their backgrounds in farming, fine dining and ecology, their meals are made with what they call “cosmetically challenged vegetables” from local farmers, the oft-discarded seconds that might not look as pretty as what you see on the Whole Foods Market shelf. You know the type – lumpy, oddball looking veggies that taste just as good as the perfectly shaped ones.

Barden grew up on her family’s farm in Michigan. She hates waste – especially unharvested veggies or “flawed produce.” She also worked in the restaurant. Industry. Barton, a botanist and research ecologist who loves to backpack, couldn’t find a backpacking meal she liked. The two teamed up to make their own.

When I met them at the Telluride street market, they sent me home with a packet of green chile mac & cheese ($13.50) to test. The packet sat in my pantry until last week, when I kayaked out to a floating campsite at Sea Rim State Park near Port Arthur, in southeast Texas.

camping

Callie Summerlin of Port Arthur heats water for a dehydrated meal while camping at Sea Rim State Park. Pam LeBlanc photo

It’s easy to make – boil 2 cups water, pour it into the packet of dried noodles, let it sit 20 minutes, add cheese packet, stir, and enjoy. It’s way better than that neon-orange stuff that Kraft makes and you ate as a kid. The green chile adds a zing, but it’s not overpowering. And if you’re looking for a wallop of calories, look no farther. It packs 890 calories and 32 grams of protein.

For me, it ranks up there with Packit Gourmet’s line of foods

Farm to Summit is not sold in Texas stores, but you can order it online at https://farmtosummit.com. Shipping is free when you spend $50 or more.

 

 

 

 

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Endurance paddler Freya Hoffmeister looking for partner to paddle Central America

Endurance paddler Freya Hoffmeister looking for partner to paddle Central America

Freya Hoffmeister

The view from Hoffmeister’s custom kayak. Photo courtesy Freya Hoffmeister

Got a sea kayak and a few weeks to burn?

German endurance paddler Freya Hoffmeister is looking for someone – perhaps a Texan – who can meet her in Costa Rica and paddle for a few weeks, as she makes her way toward the Panama Canal.

Freya Hoffmeister

Freya Hoffmeister is looking for someone to paddle with her along the coast of Costa Rica and Panama starting in November. Photo courtesy Freya Hoffmeister

Hoffmeister, who is paddling all the way around North and South America in sections, will pick up her route where she left off last winter in Nicaragua on Nov. 7, and head south. Ideally, she will find a temporary partner to join her for at least three weeks of that trip, after she reaches Costa Rica. (Check her progress here.)

Central Texas is known for its paddling community. Hoffmeister hopes to find someone who can drive down from the United States with a sea kayak (preferably an Epic 18x) and meet her in sometime in early to mid-November.

A beautiful stretch of water

Compared to other parts of her route, Hoffmeister says this stretch of her journey is relatively easy – and quite beautiful.

Related: Arctic Cowboys pull plug on 2022 Arctic expedition

“It’s actually too beautiful to be by yourself,” she says. “I need to do something different and integrating people and coaching them one-on-one is a new challenge.”

She plans to paddle about 30 miles a day, at a comfortable pace, and camp as she goes.

Freya Hoffmeister

Hoffmeister’s paddles have taken her to beautiful beaches in Mexico. Photo courtesy Freya Hoffmeister

“I’m getting older, and I simply like to enjoy the sections more. I’m curious, so I look in every nook and cranny,” she says. “It’s absolutely not a race.”

Hoffmeister, 58, has already paddled all the way around Australia. She describes herself as blunt but easy to get along with, and she has paddled with people she barely knows in the past. Back home in Germany, she owns several ice cream shops.

Next summer, she’ll stop her paddling in the south and head north, to pick up her route in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. (She’s already picked up a paddling partner to join her on that part of her trip. Check her Facebook page for details.)

If you’re interested, contact her via Facebook or email, at Mail@freyahoffmeister.com.

Freya Hoffmeister

Freya Hoffmeister is paddling around North and South America in sections. Photo courtesy Freya Hoffmeister

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Meet the new baby porcupines at the Austin Nature and Science Center

Meet the new baby porcupines at the Austin Nature and Science Center

porcupine

One of two new baby porcupines meets the press during during its presentation at the Austin Nature and Science Center on Sept. 13, 2022. Pam LeBlanc photo

Porcupines, known as porcupettes, look vaguely like prickly little potatoes when they’re born.

They’re smaller than a fist, and already covered with quills, which harden within a few hours of birth.

But as the weeks pass, they grow into lumbering, vegetation-munching rodents with eyes the size of thumb tacks and toenails that help them cling to trees.

porcupine

This porcupine is about four months old and weighs 6 pounds. Pam LeBlanc photo

They’re oddly cute, as I discovered this morning, during a visit to the Austin Nature & Science Center, which unveiled a pair of four-month-old North American porcupines that will be introduced to the public this Sunday.

Just one, a male, made an appearance today. The female is still acclimating to its new home. Both were born in Minnesota.

The as-yet-unnamed, 6-pound bundle of quills I met emerged from a plastic dog carrier the size of a large suitcase, nibbled bits of lettuce, sweet potatoes and apples, chewed on a leafy branch, and all but ignored the small crowd of journalists who gathered to admire it.

Porcupine facts

Porcupines, it turns out, are the second largest rodent in North America, weighing in behind the North American beaver. When the center’s new porcupines are full grown, they’ll weigh about 12 pounds each.

porcupine

The new porcupine munches lettuce at a press event on Sept. 13, 2022. Pam LeBlanc photo

Porcupine sightings are becoming more common in the Austin area. The species is slowly spreading into Central Texas, as the climate warms and they look for more reliable sources of water.

Help name the porcupine babies

The public is invited to help name the center’s new babies, either by suggesting a name online or by visiting the center this Sunday, which is Austin Museum Day. Members of the Friends of the Austin Nature and Science Center will be collecting donations to make improvements to some of the center’s animal shelters.

porcupine

The Austin Nature and Science Center will unveil its two new baby porcupines on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022. Pam LeBlanc photo

The center’s goal is to educate the public about nature and natural places, and get people excited about what’s living in their own backyards. It offers programs and exhibits, including a sand pit where kids can dig for dinosaur “bones,” a honey bee hive, and a trading post where kids can bring in natural treasures and swap them for others.

The center also cares for rehabilitated wildlife like owls and hawks that can’t be released to the wild due to their injuries.

The porcupines will join the Small Wonders Exhibit, where visitors can also see an assortment of snakes, lizards and other reptiles.

The Austin Nature and Science Center is located at 2389 Stratford Drive, just south of the pedestrian bridge under Loop 1 (MoPac.).

porcupine

The two new porcupines at hte Austin Nature and Science Center eat rodent blocks and fresh vegetables. Pam LeBlanc photo

 

About Pam

I’m Pam LeBlanc. Follow my blog to keep up with the best in outdoor travel and adventure. Thanks for visiting my site.

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