Over the years, a number of foods have become backpacking staples. Oatmeal in its various forms (e.g., breakfast cereal, granola), peanut butter and mac & cheese continue to rule the roost. In recent years, ramen noodles, stuffing mixes and instant mashed potatoes have also become “go to” resupply options. The greatest reasons for this are that these foods are easy to prepare, filling, relatively cheap and readily obtainable at resupply places. All good reasons to keep on eating them.
Over the past (gulp) thirty-four years that my hiking buddy, Wayne, and I have been tramping along backcountry trails, we expanded our repteoire to vary our diet and rely less heavily on pre-packaged, preservative laden foods. Here are three meals we’ve come up with that we enjoy eating and don’t take much longer to prepare than the other foods I’ve mentioned. What’s really nice about adding these meals to your menu is that you can be out for more than a week without having to eat the same dinner twice (with the possible exception of Annie’s mac & cheese, which continues to be a real hit).
Noodles with Thai Peanut Sauce
One night we were sitting in the tent toward the end of a trip. I looked in my kitchen pouch and noticed that I had the ingredients to make Thai Peanut Sauce. Since then, it’s become a favorite.
About the ingredients
I constantly scour grocery store salad bars, take out restaurants and health food stores to find packable condiments. Three things that I’ve found in squeeze packets became the basis for this recipe: peanut butter (available in health food stores), olive oil (at a grocery store salad bar) and soy sauce (from an Asian food restaurant). Talk about easy to carry on the trail!
3-4 tablespoons peanut butter
1 packet soy sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
1 package rice noodles (you can substitute pasta noodles if you prefer)
Put olive oil in pot. Add the peanut butter and soy sauce and whisk together over very low heat (just until the peanut butter achieves sauce consistency. Remove from heat.
In another pot, prepare the rice noodles and drain, leaving the noodles and about 1/4 cup of liquid in the bottom of the pot. Add the peanut mixture to the noodles and stir until combined.
The peanut sauce thickens very quickly. That’s why it helps to add it to the hot noodles and reserved liquid. I like to add a dash of garlic powder and/or dried chives for a little extra color and flavor.
Portobello Mushroom Stroganoff
After a long hike, this indulgence really hits the spot.
About the ingredients
Fresh portobello mushrooms usually carry well on the trail (particularly in cool weather). Whole mushrooms last longest, sliced mushrooms take up less room in your pack. I make this meal on the first or second night on the trail due to the perishability of the mushroom and cream cheese.
Portobello mushroom cut into 1/2″ thick pieces
2 tsp olive oil
Dried onion flakes or powder (optional)
Cream cheese – one squeeze packet will do the job
1/4 to 1/2 cup water
One packet or beef or vegetable broth in cube or packet form
Add olive oil to pot and bring to low heat. Add mushrooms (and optional dried onion flakes or powder), then sauté until the mushrooms are almost cooked through.
Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water (or water with beef or vegetable broth added) to the mushroom pot. I recommend starting with 1/2 a bullion cube or part of a broth packet, then tasting before adding to the pot. (An entire cube or packet of broth may make the dish too salty.) Simmer for one minute and remove from heat.
Add cream cheese and stir into mushroom pot to combine, then set aside. In a separate pot, prepare and drain egg noodles. Add mushroom mixture and pepper to taste.
Cooking tip: Adding noodles to the mushroom mixture keeps the noodle pot cleaner, so you save the effort of having to clean two messy pots.
Chili Burritos/Huevos Rancheros
This fabulous meal has joined our “hiking foods hall of fame.” Why? It’s packable and flavorful. It pains me that the original version of this dish was made with Fantastic Foods Vegetarian Mix, which is no longer available. However, I found a reasonable substitute, Wonder Slim Zesty Vegetable Chili with Beans.
About the ingredients
There are only two perishable ingredients in this recipe: guacamole and tortillas/wraps.
Guacamole, now available in individual serving packets at most grocery stores, requires refrigeration. If you are hiking in warm weather, you’ll probably want to skip it.
Tortillas/Wraps – What we’ve found is that tortilla shells/wraps made without preservatives go bad pretty quickly on the trail — within a few days if the weather is warm. However, the white flour tortillas made with preservatives last longer.
Dried eggs – Mountain House eggs are my old stand by. They are available from an number of outfitters as well as their website.
Cheese – Isn’t cheese perishable you ask? That depends. I found powdered cheese at Nuts.com that I pack in warm weather seasons. Of course, in cooler weather, fresh cheese blocks last quite well and you can cut off what you need at meal or snack time.
Add ins: My favorites are dried kale, sun dried tomatoes and a small summer squash diced very small.
Tortillas/wraps – whatever flavor you prefer (see above)
Freeze dried scrambled eggs
Cheese – fresh or powdered – whatever you have on hand to sprinkle on top
Prepare the chili mix as recommended on the package, adding your favorite ingredients at the same time as water. When chili is done, spoon into tortillas, top with cheese, roll up and enjoy.
Keep about a cup of chili in reserve for your morning Huevos Rancheros (your method of storage will depend on whether you are in bear country or not). My cook set has a cinch down top that helps deter animal raids. Alternatively, you can spoon cooled chili into a zip seal bag and store it with your other food (in a bear canister or bear bag if you are in bear country).
In the morning, prepare freeze dried eggs as directed on package. Spoon into tortillas and top with chili and cheese.
I hope you give these meals a try on the trail. I’d love to hear your own twists on campsite meals and snacks that add extra flavor to your adventures!