Holiday Meals on the Appalachian Trail

Hiking the AT, the PCT, or the CDT means you will possibly be on the trail for months. No reason not to celebrate the holidays! Here are my recipes for a Thanksgiving or Yule dinner that is sure to please.

Hiker’s Chicken and Dressing
1 3-ounce package Sweet Sue Premium Chicken Breast
½ cup Pepperidge Farm Herb-Seasoned Stuffing
1/8 cup Honeyville freeze-dried sausage
½ tsp. chicken bouillon
1 tbsp. Harmony House dehydrated celery
1 tbsp. Harmony House dehydrated onion
Coarse black pepper
1 tbsp. dried cranberries.
½ cup boiling water (or more)
Few drops cooking oil
Individual pie tin (I bought mine at Hobby Lobby)
4” square of foil

Seal dehydrated vegetables in a bag. Seal cranberries in another. Seal stuffing, chicken bouillon, and pepper in another bag, using an oxygen absorber. Seal freeze-dried sausage in another bag. On the trail: rehydrate freeze dried sausage by adding 1/8 cup water to the bag. Fully re-hydrate celery and onion by adding ¼ cup water to the bag. Using a few drops of oil, simmer re-hydrated vegetables and dried cranberries in a pan until hot and slightly browned. Add boiling water and stuffing packet. Fluff and mix well. Add chicken and sausage and mix well. Put chicken and stuffing in the pie pan and cover with foil. Using the larger Trangia bowl, bring 4-6 ounces of water to a boil. Put pie tin down in water, making sure water does not bubble into pie tin. Cover and allow to heat through.

Serve with Hiker’s Cranberry Chutney and Hiker’s Holiday Whipped Potatoes

Hiker’s Cranberry Chutney

2 tbsp finely chopped , dried cranberries
1 tsp VitaCherry powdered cherries
1 tsp. chopped Harmony House freeze-dried pineapple
1 tsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. broken walnuts
Water for reconstituting

Seal fruits and sugar in one bag and walnuts in another. While you are cooking your Chicken and Dressing above, add very hot water to fruit, and knead back and forth until well mixed. Add walnuts.

Hiker’s Holiday Whipped Potatoes

1/3 cup Idahoan Original Mashed Potatoes
2 tsp. Meyenburg goat milk powder
1 tsp. dehydrated sour cream
1 tsp. powdered butter
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup water

Seal all ingredients except water. On the trail, bring water to a boil. Mix in dry ingredients and remove from heat. Put pot in a cozy for 2 or 3 minutes, then fluff.

 

Hiker’s Polenta with Tomatoes and Marinara

This meal takes some simmering, and then some cozying, but is worth the extra time to make it. It will fill you up and leave you satisfied. If you want to use vegetable bouillon instead of chicken, you will have a lacto-ovo vegetarian meal on the trail. Here is the Recipe:

Hiker’s Organic Polenta with Marinara
1 cup water
¼ cup Organic Polenta
1 tsp. chicken bouillon
1 tsp. dehydrated tomato dices
1 tsp. powdered butter
Pinch garlic powder
1 tbsp. Parmesan cheese
Pinch coarse black pepper

Marinara Sauce:
1 tsp dehydrated onion
1 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp Harmony House dehydrated bell peppers
6 tbsp. Harmony House tomato powder
Pinch garlic powder

Package polenta, tomato dices, and chicken bouillon, in one bag; powdered butter, garlic and black pepper in another. In a third bag, seal Parmesan cheese. Finally put all sauce ingredients in a small bag and seal. Seal all ingredients with an oxygen absorber.

On the trail: Bring water, tomato dices, and chicken bouillon to a boil. Add polenta, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and stir in powdered butter, garlic powder and black pepper. Simmer 10 minutes and remove pan to a cozy for 10 minutes. While water is boiling, add hot water to Marinara sauce packet and allow vegetables to rehydrate. While polenta is in the cozy, heat the marinara through. When polenta is ready, serve with Marinara and Parmesan cheese.

Hiker’s Mexican Corn

Here is a vegetable recipe that makes a very good soup base. Add a 3-ounce package of Sweet Sue Premium Chicken Breast, or 1/4 cup dehydrated ground beef. Cut up some peppered jerky to throw in. The secret to having vegetables on the trail that taste good is to make sure they are well re-hydrated before you boil them. When I first tested this recipe, I added 1/8 tsp of red pepper, and although I like food hot and spicy, that much red pepper is a little too spicy. If you add chicken, try adding 1/8 tsp of chicken bouillon for a flavorful and hearty Mexican soup.

Hiker’s Mexican Corn
3 tbsp. Harmony House dehydrated corn
1 tbsp. Harmony House diced tomatoes
1 tbsp. Harmony House bell peppers
1 tsp. Harmony House chopped onion
½ tsp. Harmony House jalapeno dices
½ tsp. powdered butter
1/8 tsp. Tones Taco Seasoning
pinch cumin (I like more)
pinch ground red pepper
Salt, and coarse ground pepper
½ cup hot water or more

Package all vegetables and spices in one bag, and seal bag with an oxygen absorber inside. On the trail: Add hot water to the bag to rehydrate vegetables about 15 minutes before cooking. Bring vegetables and water to a boil, reduce heat and put in cozy for 10 minutes. Goes great with Hiker’s Refried Bean Burritos.

Hiker’s Savory Mashed Potatoes with Broccoli and Cheese

When you have a meal that is rather lean, with not much starch, it is nice to add a starchy vegetable as an accompaniment.  Trying to have an entree and mashed potatoes with gravy is not very likely, so making a stuffed baked potato without the skin to stuff it with, is an option. Here is my hiker’s recipe for un-stuffed mashed potatoes.

Unstuffed Mashed Potatoes with Broccoli & Cheese (1 serving)
1/3 cup Idahoan Original Mashed Potatoes
1 tbsp. Harmony House dehydrated broccoli
1 tbsp. Meyenburg goat milk powder
1/8 tsp. Wyler’s chicken bouillon
½ tsp. powdered butter
1 tbsp. Honeyville Freeze-Dried Cheddar Cheese shreds
1/3 cup or more water*

Combine mashed potatoes, goat milk, chicken bouillon and powdered butter in one packet and seal. Seal a packet with 1 tbsp. broccoli and another with 1 tbsp. cheddar cheese.

On the trail: Rehydrate broccoli first by adding water to the bag and allowing it to steep for about 15 minutes. Bring the 1/3 cup water to a boil. Stir in potato packet and remove from heat immediately. Add rehydrated broccoli and stir. Put pot in a cozy for 3 minutes. Remove from cozy and fluff with a fork. Top with cheddar cheese. *You may need up to 1/2 cup of boiling water, so prepare.

Hiker’s Barbeque Beef Sandwich (for lacto-ovo vegetarians)

BBQ Beef Sandwich (Adapted from Augason Farm’s Recipe)
1 cup Augason Farms Vegetarina Meat Substitute Beef
4 tsp. beef bouillon
¾ cup water (per serving) or more
Worcestershire sauce a few drops per serving
8 tbsp. Honeyville Freeze-Dried Cheddar Cheese Shreds
Divide beef substitute into four equal ¼ cup servings. Add 1 tsp. beef bouillon to each bag. Prepare four small bags with 2 tbsp. each of cheddar cheese. Seal one bag of meat, with one bag of barbeque sauce and one bag of cheddar cheese.

Barbeque Sauce Packet Adapted From Martha Stewart’s Spicy Barbeque Sauce: Makes 4 servings
3 tbsp. Harmony House Dehydrated Onion
1 tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp coarse salt
¼ tsp allspice
10 tbsp. Harmony House tomato powder
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1/8 cup dehydrated apple cider vinegar (Nuts.com. has this)
¼ tsp black ground pepper
Mix all the dry ingredients well and divide into four equal portions. Seal with an oxygen absorber.

Bring water to a boil. Add bouillon, barbecue packet and beef substitute. Lower heat to a simmer until meat is heated through. Top with Honeyville Freeze-Dried Cheddar Cheese.

**Lacto-ovo Vegetarians omit the beef bouillon.

Hiker’s Sweet and Sour Shrimp

This recipe is a little on the expensive side. On Amazon, the 3-ounce packages of shrimp are around seven dollars each, making this entree a little pricey; however, when you are stuck in the middle of the 100 mile wilderness, and want something Asian, this recipe might do the trick. Here it is:

Hiker’s Sweet and Sour Shrimp (makes 2 servings)
2 3-ounce packages of dehydrated shrimp
1 cup Minute white rice
2 tbsp. dehydrated onion
2 tbsp. dehydrated peppers
1 ½ cups water (for 2 servings) or more

Sauce:
2 chicken bouillon cubes, unwrapped
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. Ultra Gel
1 tsp. dried ginger
2 tbsp. pomegranate powder
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 cup water (for 2 servings) or more

½ cup freeze-dried pineapple
1 cup La Choy Rice Noodles
2-pkts. Kikkoman soy sauce

Divide rice, onion, and peppers into two portions. Bag and seal. Grind chicken bouillon in a coffee grinder and mix with all sauce ingredients. Divide sauce ingredients into two packages and seal. Divide freeze-dried pineapple into two portions, and divide the noodles into two portions. In a large bag, add one package of shrimp, one package of sauce mix, one package of freeze-dried pineapple, and 1 package of rice noodles. Tuck in one packet of soy sauce and seal all with an oxygen absorber inside the bag.

On the trail: Bring ¾ cup water to a boil and add one package of shrimp, and one rice/vegetable pouch. Cover and simmer until rice has absorbed all the water. In a separate container, rehydrate pineapple and sauce mix in ½ cup water. When rice has cooked and shrimp are tender, stir the sauce into the rice. Heat through. Quickly stir in 1 package of soy sauce, and top shrimp with rice noodles.

Chicken Tetrazzini for the Appalachian Trail

Finding individual portions of protein is sometimes a challenge when packaging meals for the trail. Amazon has Sweet Sue Premium Chicken Breast in 3-ounce servings. Just perfect for one person. I don’t like to eat a lot of beef, even on the trail, so I have several chicken entrees that are hearty and tasty. Here is the recipe:

Hiker’s Chicken Tetrazzini (makes 2 servings)
2 pkgs. Sweet Sue Premium Chicken Breast
½ cup dry Mushroom Gravy Base                                    2 tbsp. Meyenburg Goat Milk
½ cup Parmesan                                                              2 tbsp. powdered butter
¼ cup dehydrated red pepper                                         2 tsp. dried parsley
½ cup dehydrated mushrooms                                        Salt & Pepper to taste
2 tbsp. dried Italian bread crumbs                                   4 ounces spaghetti, broken
3 cups water (for 2 servings)
Mix mushroom gravy mix, goat milk, parmesan, butter, parsley, and salt and pepper. Divide into two servings and seal. Divide spaghetti, peppers and mushrooms into two portions and seal. Divide Italian bread crumbs into 2 packets. In a larger bag, put one package of Sweet Sue Chicken Breast, one mushroom gravy packet, one spaghetti/vegetable packet and one crumb packet and seal with an oxygen absorber. On the trail: Bring 1 ½ cups of water to a boil. Add spaghetti and vegetables. When spaghetti is tender, stir mushroom gravy packet into the spaghetti. Simmer until heated through. Top with Italian Bread Crumbs.

Italian Lasagna for Hikers on the Appalachian Trail

Purchasing ready-made meals for long-distance hiking trips is prohibitive for most people. While some brands taste very good, others are less than desirable. I don’t want to find out which meal I have when I’m 200 miles in and very hungry. From a culinary standpoint, it just makes sense to create your meals at home, and try them first. Most of the recipes I have shared with my audience are my own recipes. Some, I adapt from other cook’s recipes. I will even post recipes and give full credit to other hikers who have done the same. The home-prepared meals are economical, delicious, prepare easily on the trail, and will make your mouth water in anticipation. Seal in fresh ingredients, and take the time to cook them on the trail. The effort is worth it.

While some hikers prefer to precook these meals and then dehydrate them, I don’t. I have tried it too, but you lose the savory aroma of the herbs. You need to add more salt for it to taste good. There is not much nutrition left in spaghetti that has been cooked, and cooked, and cooked again. The textures are unappetizing, and personally, when I first bagged up my cooked spaghetti with sauce that was dehydrated into a round mess, it looked kind of like garbage. My sauce was wonderful, but by the time it was processed, it even tasted like garbage….a dead thing…and was composted for the worms. Even when preparation takes a lot of time, the results are far superior to ready-made or precooked.

Hiker’s Lasagna for the Trail (very large serving or divide into two)
Sauce:
1/8 cup dehydrated ground beef
1/8 cup Honeyville freeze-dried sausage
6 tbsp. tomato powder
¼ tsp garlic powder
1 tsp. Harmony House dehydrated onion
1 tsp. Harmony House dehydrated bell pepper
1 tsp. brown sugar
¼ tsp. coarse salt
¼ tsp. coarse black pepper
1 tsp. Italian Seasoning
1 ¾ cups or more water

Cheese Filling:
1/8 cup dehydrated cottage cheese
1 tsp. Meyenburg goat milk powder
1 tbsp. Parmesan
1/8 tsp egg replacer
½ tsp parsley flakes or dehydrated spinach flakes
Water for reconstituting

Topping:
1 to 2 tbsp. freeze-dried or dehydrated mozzarella
1 tbsp. Home-made dehydrated garlic bread croutons

Pasta:
2 ounces Mafalda pasta (looks like mini lasagna noodles)

Seal sauce ingredients in a bag with an oxygen absorber. Combine cheese filling well and seal in a separate bag. Seal small bags of the toppings. Finally put the pasta into a larger bag which will hold all the ingredients. Fill this bag with 1 sauce package, 1 cheese filling bag, 1 topping bag (or 2, however many bags you use for them) and seal, preferably with an oxygen absorber.

On the trail, boil pasta first. While boiling pasta, rehydrate cheese filling with just enough water added to the bag to make a creamy, pourable filling. Pour the water from the pasta into another cooking pot and add more water to make 1 ½ cups. Add sauce packet to this water and boil, then simmer until meats and vegetables have rehydrated and sauce is heated through. Mix pasta with cooked sauce. With a spoon, open up spaces in the pasta mix to squeeze the filling into. Do this by snipping a corner of the bag, and simply squirting the filling into the pasta. Sprinkle mozzarella over it all and toss on croutons for your garlic bread. Voila! Hot Italian Supper on the Trail…

**While some people like to pour the starchy water off their pasta, I want to consume that starch for energy on the trail. Reserve the water for the sauce. If you want to drain away those calories, the herb Cleavers makes a very good colander in the wild. If you can find it, just curl it up into a bowl. It will stick together nicely and you can pour your boiling pasta right into it. Cleavers makes a very good tea as well.

Dehydrating Ground Beef for the Appalachian Trail

I could not find any USDA information for the safe storage or dehydration of ground beef. Please note that these instructions are what I do, but you should perform your own research before deciding to do this. Historically, meat has been salted to retard spoilage. Salt absorbs moisture and draws out moisture from meat, which is where the bacteria survive and proliferate. I cannot overstate safety precautions here. Scrub your hands as if you were going to perform open-heart surgery. Sanitize counters, stove-top, sinks, utensils, etc. Throw away old dish sponges near your work area. If this beef is going to be used to make your hiking meals, you want to make sure that nothing survived the processing so that later, a host of “them” will not make you ill. Even so, boil water with the meat, and added salt before using. Never put ground meat that has not been boiled in water into a cozy to sit around absorbing liquid. Be safe.

Dehydrated ground beef, when reconstituted with hot or boiling water, tastes very much like fresh. It is lightweight to pack in meals, and it still contains some nutrition as well as being a protein source. The problem with dehydrating beef is that the process must be done in a sanitary manner, the beef must be thoroughly cooked, and it must be dehydrated to the point you can use the back of a spoon to crush it into a powder. There is no skimping on the process if you want your food to be safe.

To begin, purchase the leanest beef you can find. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t cook well in a skillet, because you are going to wash the fat off of it anyway. Yep, you are going to wash it in boiling hot water….several times. But, before it is washed, it will be broken up into bite-size pieces and fried. Cook the meat, on medium heat, until it is slightly browned. While cooking the beef, bring a pan of water to a rolling boil. (You can use the tap on the hottest setting, but who wants to put chlorine and fluoride into their meat?) When the meat is fully cooked, put it in a colander lined with a cheesecloth. Pour the boiling water over the meat, using a spoon to stir the meat around. Get as much fat off the meat as you can. Rinse the skillet with super hot water (no soap) and dry with a paper towel. With the skillet placed on a medium-high burner, put the rinsed and drained meat back on to cook. Cook until the water has evaporated and the meat is piping hot. Have your next pot of boiling water ready. As soon as the meat is super-heated and the water evaporated, pour the meat into the colander again (new cheesecloth or washed cheesecloth) and rinse again. Do this at least three times, or until the meat no longer has a greasy sheen. The beef particles should look very dull and dry.

Line the bottom of your dehydrator with baking parchment because the crumbs will fall through. On each screen, spread 2 cups of meat crumbles evenly. Don’t worry about the ones that fall through. The clean parchment will catch them. If you use Teflex sheets, it takes much longer to dehydrate. This invites organisms, so dry that meat as quickly as possible, using a higher setting. Once the meat is dry enough that you can pound it to dust with a spoon, let it cool completely. Store in an airtight glass jar with an oxygen absorber until you are ready to use it.

One 1/4 cup serving is enough for an adult. Once you add water back to it, trust me, it will almost double. After all, it is only one ingredient in your meal. A little will go a long way.

If you package the beef with any other ingredients, add salt. If you add more salt than you want to consume, simply rinse the beef before you cook it. Another bath won’t hurt. Seal quickly, and use oxygen absorbers if you have them. A vacuum sealer is better than a Zip Loc for storage.

I have used beef like this many times. It always tastes great. The texture is the same as if you used fresh beef. Some cooking blogs say to add bread crumbs to it so it will rehydrate properly, but I have NEVER had a problem with re-hydration. **I have never used this process with chicken or pork, and will not do it until further study has been done on the safety of this process. Use good judgment and you should have delicious protein meals on the trail.

Macaroni and Cheese on the Appalachian Trail

In my home, macaroni and cheese is a staple food and is sometimes the entire entree. It is so versatile. Add chicken, vegetables, or ham. Ummm. Top with sun-dried tomatoes, bacon, Parmesan and bake. Ummm. It is the ultimate comfort food. Ultra Gel is a gluten free, non-GMO cornstarch that can be directly added to any liquid, hot or cold, for instant thickness. Ultra Gel holds up to freezing, canning and refrigerating without weeping, thinning, or breaking down. It is used in this recipe because it is added while the liquid is hot so the powdered contents stir right in. You can use bacon on the trail if you buy Oscar Mayer Real Bacon Bits, but you must use the entire package that day, so start with a breakfast of bacon and Ova Easy Eggs and Mac & Cheese for supper so the bacon does not go rancid. Here is my adapted recipe. The original is from Chef Tess from Honeyville Foods:

Mac and Cheese  2 servings
7 tsp. Honeyville Powdered Cheese                                          2 tsp. Ultra Gel
1 tsp. chicken bouillon                                                              1 tsp Harmony House dehydrated onion
¼ cup Meyenburg Goat Milk                                                     1 cup elbow macaroni
½ tsp Tony Chachere’s Creole seasoning                                1 tsp powdered butter
Salt & pepper to taste                                                               ½ cup Honeyville dehydrated

3 cups water (for 2 servings)                                                   Honeyville Cheddar Cheese shreds

Mix powdered cheese, bouillon, milk, seasonings, Ultra Gel and butter. Divide evenly into two servings. Divide macaroni and onion into two portions and seal them into two bags. Divide dehydrated cheddar cheese into two bags. In a sealer bag, add one pkt. Of seasoning, 1 macaroni pkt., and 1 cheddar cheese pkt. On the trail, Bring 1 ½ cups water to a boil. Cook macaroni until tender. Add seasoning packet and simmer until heated through. Top with crispy cheddar cheese shreds.