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Simple Meal Ideas

Dec 7, 2013
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Who has a favorite recipe that is super simple? Most of my trips are quick over-nighters and weekend trips, since I still work full time and many are thought of on the morning I'm leaving. I don't want to spend days dehydrating gourmet meals and I'm not really picky when it comes to camp food, I prefer to just add boiling water.

Quite often it's store bought freeze dried meals, many times I'll cut those in half since they are meals for 2 people. Of course there's cereal with dry milk in a bag or instant oatmeal with fruits and nuts for breakfast. For lunch or dinner I've found instant mashed potatoes with bacon bits and spices to not only be good there's really no prep time and I'm eating in the time it takes to boil water.

Who has a simple favorite they'd care to add? Thanks!!
One of my favorite easy meals is sundried tomato pesto gnocchi. I buy the shelf-stable vacuum-sealed gnocchi and a small jar of sauce or a packet of Knorr dried sauce. If I buy a jar I will empty some in a zip lock when packing. Boil the gnocchi for a few minutes, drain most of the water and add the sauce. You want some of the starchy water for the sauce (more if using the Knorr packet). Takes 5 minutes and is darn good.

A can of Progresso New England clam chowder fits that niche for me. No prep work. Add some oyster crackers. Makes a filling dinner for me. Eat out of the pot and all you have to clean is the pot and spoon.
All my camp meals are simple. Cooking no longer holds much enjoyment for me so I want something quick and easy with little cleanup. I also prefer to use easily procurable ingredients when I can.

The only pre-trip prep for my main dinner meal is to dehydrate the mixed veggies. Buy them frozen and dump them straight into the dehydrator. Super simple. I recommend not using a mix with corn. It makes the trays sticky. I'm happy with peas and carrots.

Other ingredients are quinoa and lentils, both of which cook quickly and require no pre-trip prep, and salt and olive oil.

Throw 2 handfuls of quinoa, 2 handfuls of veggies, and 1/2-3/4 handful of lentils into the pot and add water. How much water? I don't know, I just do it by eye. You'll figure it out after a few times. You can always add more during cooking if it starts to dry out.

Bring the pot to a hard boil and remove the pot from the fire. Wrap it in a couple insulated cozies for 25 minutes while you set up the tent and tarp. After 25 minutes add olive oil and salt and then eat out of the pot. It will still be hot enough to burn your tongue.

No mess and just rinse out the pot when you're done.

That's enough for a full meal for me. If I'm really hungry I just add more ingredients. Or sometimes I'll make a smaller portion and cook a bannock to go with it while I'm waiting for the pot to come out of the cozies.

I should add that as plain and boring as this sounds I find it delicious, even after eating it everyday for 1 1/2 months I look forward to the first (and last) mouthful. Nothing whets the appetite like hard work and a real hunger.

Thanks Alan! I find that even the most bland meals can taste gourmet when you're hungry. I have a dehydrator and use it mostly for vegetables out of the garden or wild fruit.
I normally dehydrate rather extensively many different types of food and complete meals.

but whenI want to be quick and efficient, I'll take a packet of foil pouch chicken, a package of dry Idaho mashed potatoes (these are much better now than the quality found in years past). heat the chicken along with the water before adding the potato powder. If you have dehydrated veggies available, add those as well to rehydrate (favorite is onions and mushrooms).

Almost as easy but a lot more sustantial is to cook up a package of Knorr dehydrated veggie soup, then add a handful of cousccous to it during the final couple of minutes and it beccomes a hearty meal. You can add a foil pouch chicken (or any other foil protien) to it as well.
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Chicken soup with egg noodles or rice:
Chicken bouillon.
Dehydrated shredded chicken (diy).
Dried egg noodles (diy) or rice (I use either Basmati or Arborio).
Choice of dried herbs such as parsley.
Salt and pepper to taste - optional.
In Camp
Bring water to a boil and dissolve bouillon, reduce to simmer and add above ingredients. Season to taste.
While camping, I don’t want to have a too much food prep but I don’t want to always eat dehydrated meals either. I love a good “buttered noodles” dish. I use butter at home and olive oil camping. Cook my noodles add salt & pepper, some janes crazy seasoning, and parmesan. That’s it! Nothing is fragile, it’s all lightweight, most ingredients are used for other meals, and it’s good! There’s hundreds of ways to spice this up. Same with ramen noodles.

The other meal I like to make is Chilaquiles. It’s technically a breakfast meal, but who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner?! It has spice, eggs, it’s filling, it’s warm for chill mornings. 👌🏻
I’ve been on low salt diet so long, all those pre/packaged rice and soup dishes taste like a mouthful of sea water.
So cook up your own favorite soup (or any meal) with ingredients of your choice, and then dehydrate it yourself. Not a difficult thing to do. There are a number or resources available to help.
This is one of my favorites that leads you to experiment on your own.

Backpack Gourmet: Good Hot Grub You Can Make at Home, Dehydrate, and Pack for Quick, Easy, and Healthy Eating on the Trail by Linda Yaffe

I usually lean to dehydrated meals. I dehydrate dinner leftovers. The dish has to be one featuring small pieces. Just assemble a full plate then scrape it onto the dehydrator tray.

However, eating dehydrated food requires water to rehydrate your dish. On many trips there's water everywhere and you can locally source water upon arriving at your camp site. But, if you are traveling where good quality, local water is not available, you have to pack water, and dehydrated food is less convenient.

On trips I took in 2019, to the Missouri, then the Green Rivers, consuming water from the rivers is discouraged due to mining and agricultural runoff. I figured since I had to pack water, I'd just bring canned goods.

I took a number of upscale soups. For example, Wolfgang Puck Hearty Vegetable and Lentils, or Amy's Organic Black Bean Soup. At dinner time, I opened a can of soup and dumped it into my cook pot, then added a bag of precooked rice (which come in a number of varieties), heated it, and ate a hearty dinner. It might be too much food for most people. Both the rice and soup claim to be two servings, but I eat a lot, especially on a river trip. I wouldn't do this if I was portaging or on a longer trip where carrying the trash would be a pain. On ten day trips, I fit all my trash into a gallon, zip lock. Crush the cans, obviously.
One of my all time favorites. Two eggs and a package of Uncle Ben's Ready Rice ( The Orange pouch), Olive oil, Soy Sauce and believe it or not a teaspoon of Vinegar.
Fry the rice in oil, soy sauce, and vinegar, for a few minutes, add eggs, and stir. Done in a few minutes. So good ? I eat at this at home often. Don't for get the Vinegar !

Enjoy !

Sodium content aside, I like the Knorr sides or Carolina rice packages, either as a side for a fish supper or, if I don't feel like cleaning fish (or I get skunked), I shred up some bacon and toss it in while boiling. Bacon, once cooked, lasts a disturbingly long time at room temps so I usually cook up 3-5 lbs for multi-day hikes / canoe trips. (great cold trail lunch too)

They tend to be "2- 2 1/2 servings" / pkg so they're the perfect size for 1 hungry human equipped with a fistful of bacon or a couple of fish.

One consideration with any of these... pre-packaged dehydrated (DIY or not) typically just requires boiling water. The Knorr sides, you simmer for 7 minutes and Carolina rices simmer for 20. If you're cooking on a fire, this will not likely be an issue but, if you're using a gas stove, you'll use a LOT more fuel so pack accordingly.
I am a vinegarholic. I love vinegar! Especially balsamic. Put it on lots of things. Will even sip it straight.
Getting a bit soggy in the mid-section I have temporarily abstained from alcohol. 2 tablespoons of good vinegar mixed in a glass of soda water and ice is a pleasant, slow-sipping drink.

I'm a boil water guy. Mostly commercial dehydrated meals but I have recently been testing some of the backpacking chef's recipes. The saving money is nice, but cutting down on the salt is the prime motivator. The chili is very easy and you can doctor it up how you like. Uncle Ben's Bistro Express are super quick - some flavours have "responsible" amounts of sodium.
Throw 2 handfuls of quinoa, 2 handfuls of veggies, and 1/2-3/4 handful of lentils into the pot and add water. How much water? I don't know, I just do it by eye. You'll figure it out after a few times. You can always add more during cooking if it starts to dry out.

Bring the pot to a hard boil and remove the pot from the fire. Wrap it in a couple insulated cozies for 25 minutes while you set up the tent and tarp. After 25 minutes add olive oil and salt and then eat out of the pot. It will still be hot enough to burn your tongue.
Wow,, thanks. Made this at home and it comes together very quickly, bring to a boil and wait. Nice texture to the meal and quite tasty for simple fare. I converted your handfuls to 1/4 C veggies, 1/4 C quinoa, 2 T lentils, ~~2 C water. Salt, pepper, and 1 T olive oil.
White (ivory) quinoa cooks faster than red or black quinoa. Red (split) lentils cook faster than brown or green lentils. Good to know when you want to save cooking time and fuel.
These grains and legumes augment/replace meat sources of protein for me at home and in camp.

Camp Dhal (masoor di dhal)
- Put measured amount ( say 1 C) of red lentils into small pot, cover with water and bring to a boil, add crumbled stock cube and dried bay leaf, put lid on pot and remove from heat and place in pot cozy.
- In fry pan heat 1 Tbsp. chosen oil (ghee, butter, olive oil or coconut oil), then add 1 onion (chopped, dehydrated or powder), 1 garlic clove (chopped or powder, 1 red chili (chopped, flakes or harissa),
1 tsp. turmeric, 1 tsp. ginger, 1 tsp. cumin. Cook spices gently for a couple minutes then add "2"tomatoes (rehydrated sauce) and cook further. Reduce to thicken, do not burn.
- Add cooked lentils (and any cooking water) to fry pan mixture and combine. Stir in 1 tsp. garam masala and adjust mixture for thickness - your call, thin and soupy or thick and saucy. Add salt if needed.
Toasted pita bread goes well with dhal.
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