This is a reprint from a post from our other blog. Backpacking meals are great for prepping, and handy to have to around. Trail Eats was a feature we ran for a long time – and I am going to repost some of of my favorites in the coming months.
Hiking and backpacking was for a long time my driving force in life, until I had child #3 and could barely keep up with life. I know though that in a few years life will settle back down and I’ll be out more. There was a time between Ford (my oldest) being 2 years-old and when was 12 (when I had Walker, our middle child), that I was out backpacking often weekly, dayhiking every couple of days, often with Ford in tow. I was driven to find what lay behind each knoll, what views I could sweat for hours to glimpse. I once cracked a 20 mile day in sheer stupidity, that ended in a long hike in the dark, listening to elk and cougars in the distance.
This picture is bittersweet in many ways to me. Ford and I had hiked for the day to Summerland at Mt. Rainier, with my friend Jared, in the summer of 2009. I was lagging the whole trip. No energy, but the flower show there is phenomenal, and it kept me going. It wasn’t shocking to take a pregnancy test a few days later and find out I was pregnant with Walker.
Let it be said, there is a reason the hike to Summerland is packed in summer. It is one of the prettiest sections of The Wonderland Trail. The creek I am by is usually covered in Marmots, lying around like fat sacks of potatoes. And with views of the summit of Rainier and Little Tahoma’s spire…sublime. I spent the night here in 2004 while hiking the Wonderland and vowed I would come back.
There is little that feels as good as snuggling into sleeping bags in a small tent with your children. Ford and I backpacked 1,000’s of miles over the years, it is good memories.
About 14 years ago, this was Ford and I on a frigidly cold hike near the Canadian border in subalpine, he had just turned 5 years old. It was below freezing the entire hike. It bears significance as well, I came home and found an email waiting for me from Kirk. He had just moved to Washington and wanted to know if that random offer of going hiking was still an option. I often hiked with hiking forum members from online so it wasn’t weird, we had chatted once online, and I had said “Oh, if you get out here….”. We met, we hiked, we hiked a lot more…and then I realized I liked him on a long hike to a place called Glacier Basin, which sits above the ghost town of Monte Cristo, a long abandoned mining town.
A 12 mile hike gives one time to think. We started dating in a rain forest, and we still hike together, all these years later.
If anything, Kirk encourages me to get out there. He knows nothing makes me happy like a sunny morning at 6,000 feet in alpine at Rainier. He isn’t that crazy over alpine hiking (too sunny and too exposed for a redhead!) so he takes the kids, and shoos me out of the house for the day.
So what does this have to do with the title of my post? A lot. Kirk encouraged me often to go beyond my comfort zone. When he met me, I was known for eating Stove Top Stuffing and freeze-dried peas for dinner plus plenty of Little Debbie oatmeal cookies. Yeah, gourmet it wasn’t. I also believed that commercial freeze-dried meals were great. (Eek) I got hooked on light weight hiking, found snazzy new gear to tote, and found a budding outdoor cook hiding in me. Waking up to snow on Labor Day weekend on the Pacific Crest Trail and having awesome food to eat? Priceless.
On Thanksgiving weekend, in 2005, Kirk and I hammered out what would become our first book – Freezer Bag Cooking: Trail Food Made Simple. The first version looked different, it had less content and a different cover. We brought a revised version out in 2007, the one that sells now. When Kirk and I set out, in 2004, it was a different world for publishing. We took a risky plunge and self-published, deciding we wanted all the rewards, hard work and risk. My friends Cat & Dani were there with me, both of them helping me run booths at hiker conventions around the Northwest. I found I achieved goals I didn’t know I had. The first one was strangers buying our book. That was shocking. I’d have been happy selling 50 copies. Many, many thousands later and years later, strangers from all over are still buying my book, around the world. That in itself made it worth it. I was featured in Backpacker Magazine, and then I wrote an article for them as well and realized I just do NOT like writing for corporate magazines….just um..too stifling. They do not see the world as I see it. It is boring and dry…..I like having the freedom to ramble on about whatever catches my fancy. And to be an idiot if I choose. To the point I have turned down writing offers from them. It plays into why I blog as well. I love being able to talk about what makes me tick, what makes me wonder. It is also why I chose to be my own publisher. And hey, being sold in REI for years was pretty cool as well……I have countless photos of me holding my book in REI’s we visited.
I did though find some writing I liked, it was recipe development for Washington Trails Magazine, in a column that became known as Trail Eats. I wrote it for a couple of years.
Each month brought 2-3 recipes, in a theme. The column spawned a book as well:
This one was Fall bringing crisp days and cold evenings. It also brings Thanksgiving and hearty appetites.
PS: If you want a cheater dessert, look for the tiny pecan pies sold at gas stations. The little sugar bombs make a great treat! (Although super unhealthy…but hey….)
- 1 cup instant rice
- 1 cup instant brown rice
- ½ cup freeze-dried vegetables
- 2 Tbsp homemade broth mix or 2 tsp lower sodium chicken bouillon
- 2 tsp dried parsley
- Pinch of sea salt
- 5-ounce can (w/ pop-top lid) or 7 ounce pouch chicken
- 1 Tbsp or packet olive oil
- ¼ cup finely chopped walnuts
Pack the rice ingredients in a sandwich bag or quart freezer bag, depending on cooking method. Mark “Add 2 1/2 cups water” on bag. Pack the walnuts in a snack bag.
One Pot Method:
Add the chicken, with any broth, water and oil to a cooking pot. Bring to a boil, add the rice bag, return to boil. Turn off the stove, cover tightly and let sit for 15 minutes. In cooler weather or at altitude insulate the pot with a pot cozy.
Stir the rice, top with the walnuts.
Freezer Bag Method (FBC):
Bring the water to a boil, set aside. Place the freezer bag in a cozy, add the oil and chicken, with any broth and the water. Stir well, seal and let sit for 15 minutes.
To make a second ‘bowl’ bring along a second freezer bag, cuff in half.
Divide the rice and top with the walnuts.
This recipe can be adapted to vegan by leaving the chicken out and adding in chickpeas if desired, or more nuts. Use the same amount of water called for, if using dehydrated chickpeas, hydrate them separately add, drained, with the hot water to the dry rice..
To make your own vegan-friendly dry mix see here.
Cranberry Pear Compote
- ¼ cup dried cranberries
- ¼ cup dried pears, chopped
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar
- ¼ tsp dried orange zest (or a True Orange packet)
- Pinch fine sea salt
Pack the ingredients in a snack bag or pint freezer bag, depending on cooking method.
Insulated Mug/Bowl Method:
Add the ingredients to an insulated mug or small bowl, cover with ¼ cup of water. Cover and let hydrate for 20 to 30 minutes. If a bit dry, add in a little more water as needed.
Freezer Bag Method (FBC):
Bring ¼ cup water to a boil, set aside. Place the freezer bag in a cozy, add the water and seal bag. Let hydrate for 20 to 30 minutes. If a bit dry, add in a little more water as needed.
Pumpkin and Gingersnap Pudding
- 2/3 cup dry milk
- ¼ cup brown sugar, packed
- 3 Tbsp cornstarch or favorite thickener, arrowroot works as well
- 2 Tbsp dried and powdered pumpkin purée (see below)
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- Big pinch ground nutmeg
- Big pinch ground ginger
- Big pinch salt
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 bag crisp gingersnap cookies (any size, more is better..say 7-9 ounces)
Pack the pudding ingredients in a sandwich bag. Tuck the butter in a small bag.
One Pot Method:
Add the mix and 2 cups cold water to a cooking pot. Using a small whisk, stir while bringing to boil, over a lower flame. When the pudding comes to a boil and is thick, take off the stove and whisk in the butter. Serve warm or let cool, a cold stream or snow bank works well for chilling.
Divide between mugs or bowls – or in a pinch served in pint freezer bags.
Crumble up some of the gingersnaps, dust on top, serve with the rest to dip in the pudding.
Serves 2 to 4, depending on appetite.
Dried pumpkin? Very easy! Spread a can of organic pumpkin purée on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, dehydrate in your oven at lowest temp till bone dry, then powder. Store tightly sealed. Or see here on how to do it in a dehydrator.
Want it even better? Add in some rum at the end, after it comes off the stove.
PS: Wondering what an FBC Cozy is? What FBC means? A full on primer of what the heck Trail Cooking is? Visit TrailCooking to learn more.