Hey Dehydrators

I confess I am not a cook. Should be, but noooo. The whole process of cutting, mixing and measuring multiple ingredients, cooking, and then of course the clean-up just stresses me out. With the plethora of cooking shows, food blogs, and books readily available on the subject, I KNOW I am very much in the minority. My weird ideas on food preparation is probably one of the biggest contributors to my love of backpacking. Food in the backcountry is simple, planned out ahead of time, has no real measuring, is always beyond delicious, and requires no real clean-up. Magical.

Unfortunately, this creates an ongoing problem for me. I am not a vegan or vegetarian, but I do eat organic food, very little red meat, no milk products except cheese and ice-cream, lots of fruits and vegetables, some chicken and fish, and most of all I try to buy good quality non-processed foods. I think that is why halfway through last summer’s thru-hike, I dumped my stove and ate my lunches for dinner and supplemented with fresh food from convenience stores at resupply locations. My favorites were: apples, salad in a bag, hunks of hard sharp cheddar, loaves of bread, deli meat, chips, tortillas, carrots or any other raw vegetables I could buy, and bagels.

This change happened suddenly and I recall the exact moment. I was cooking dinner on a ridge with an awesome view of a sapphire lake in northern California. As I was starting to eat my super delicious Loaded Baked Potatoes (the whole package) and a serving of Mary Jane’s Organic Freeze Dried Black Bean Flakes, I read the ingredients and was horrified at the amount of sodium I was ingesting in just one meal at the end the day! 2000 mg. in the potatoes and 530 mg. in the beans. Granted, hikers do need to up their intake of salt during hiking, but I am not so sure an influx of more sodium than I usually eat in a few days at home ingested at one sitting is good for my heart, blood-pressure, water retention, over-all wellness, and sleep.
Through the years I have purchased excellent tasting organic freeze dried dinners, but in researching the sodium content in my favorites, they also contain a ton of salt my body does not need.

So here I am…ready to embark on the adventure of preparing low salt, organic, good for you, dehydrated dinners. I am scared to death. I think I would rather face down a bear or an aggressive rat. Yep sireeeee.

Here is my current arsenal to get started:

Food Saver

Calling all backpacking dehydrators out there, I am requesting your help and asking for your favorite recipes, tips, how-toes, mistakes, websites, anything to ensure my success. I do ask that recipes be as simple as possible. Experience has taught me that if I have to mix more than say 8 ingredients, I quit and eat a hunk of bread, cheese, and carrots. I will be sure and post updates.


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  4. You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this matter to be really something that I think I would
    never understand. It seems too complicated and very broad for me.

    I am looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of it!

  5. Pingback: Gear and Food | Lady on a Rock

  6. Silly Chili gave high praise to the food you prepared on the PCT this April.
    Now that you are a Master Dehydrator and have some Trail Tested receipes, Any favorites or updated tips or lessons for those of us trying to perfect our JMT meal plans for 2012??

    • Hey I am just about to post some of my favorite trail tested recipes. The meals are a ton better than anything I could buy. I love it. Thanks for posting.

  7. Lots of good backpacking-food dehydrating info:

    Frontier has a powered organic chicken flavored broth. Has anyone tried it?

    • Hello EJ,
      Yes I have used Ox and bought Frontier from Lassen’s Health Foods in the bulk bin. They are both good, but I would like to try a new brand that is still low in sodium. I am ordering Vogue brand that was recommended by Trail Cooking. Thanks for the tip on backpackingchef. Just finished checking out the site. I am planning on making Potato and Pumpkin Bark. He also had great ideas on making Annie’s Mac and Cheese even more delicious and nutritious.

  8. Ha ha Rockin, it is not that hard to do. You don’t even have to cook complicated meals to dehydrate. As couple of examples are:
    – If cook a pasta sauce at home, just cook extra , freeze it and dehydrate when you are ready to do a few batches. It can then be frozen or refrigerated.
    – Same with cooked rice, it dehydrates really well and rehydrates perfectly.
    – You can make batches of ground beef, dehydrate it and add spices etc when you rehydrate.
    – One of our favourites is dehydrating curries from our local take away store. They work a treat, the only thing is to dice up the cooked meat into small pieces before you dehydrate it.
    – our daughter Clare dehydrates vegetables and adds spices when she rehydrates them, they work really well

    Mmm, the list goes on (and on, and on) – Thanks for mentioning our ebook Food to Go, all this stuff and a lot more is explained in there!

    Frank and Sue

    • Frank and Sue, Love your book and it has inspired many a meal for me, so I would agree with your comments above. I walked the Bibbulmun track in Western Australia Sept / Oct last year, 969km, 54 days. There are only 10 supply points on the entire track with 2 of those being 7 days treks. I prepared all my meals and dehydrated before hand. All very easy to rehydrate on track. I even cook and dehydrate pastas as they take less energy (fuel) to rehydrate and heat on the track. I cook mostly curries and chillie type foods as they have the most flavour when rehydrated.

      • I too love the book, Food to Go. I am so going to have to try curry. It seems to be EVERYONE’S favorite. I really like the idea of adding flavor after rehydration. Especially when feeding more than one person, opening up options for adding spicy hot and salt. Thanks for all the ideas.

  9. Ox makes a sodium free powdered chicken bouillon. I use it with couscous and Just Veggies and some curry spices. Makes a nice broth. Coiuscous and Just Veggies rehydrates in hot water in about 5-7 mins. I haven’t gotten into dehydrating yet so I buy my dehydrated chicken from PackitGourmet and add it to the couscous veggie mix. I love curry.

  10. http://minimus.biz/ is also a good site for small condiments and such — the cool thing is you can buy 1 little packet or a truckload.

  11. How did u decided upon your dehydrator?

  12. Michael Gushulak

    Hi Rockin;

    I got into making my own meals last year after discovering MrBabelfish5 on YouTube.

    Highly recommend his channel, you’ll get some really fantastic meals on his channel. His red beans and rice is fantastic. He has quite a following, here is a link to his page. http://www.youtube.com/user/MrBabelfish5?feature=watch

    I also purchased the Nesco 700 watt dehydrator from Amazon (great deal) and our Foodsaver Vac from Costco.

    What a great investment they both were!!

    I’ve been happily making my own meals ever since. Making my own dehydrated apples, bananas, mangos, zucchini, and even tomatoes from my organic garden. Also making dehydrated ground beef for everything from tacos to your own trail burrito. It truly opens up a whole new world to you.

    I’ve also watched all of Sarah’s YouTube vids for Freezerbag Cooking for some good ideas.

    Good luck with your new adventure.

    Michael Gushulak

    • Michael,
      Wow, thanks for the wealth of great info! So funny… I just printed recipes from Trail Cooking Blog today (ones that I thought I could handle). I love that you can select the amount of servings. I am so going to visit Dr. Babelfish, thanks for that tip. Everyone seems to love dehydrating hamburger. Thanks again for taking the time to post. I am sure others will benefit also.

  13. So glad you are trying this. I too have wanted to begin dehydrating food but have been afraid to begin. Looking forward to reading about your experiences with it. Good luck.

  14. Hey Rockin,
    My favorite trail meal is burritos with dehydrated 7% ground beef (self made) and the dehydrated refried beans from the bulk section at Winco Grocery store wrapped in tortillas. Lightweight, tastey, and easy to make. and the dehydrated ground beef (gravel) keeps for up to a year in the freezer and a month or so out of the freezer and rehydrates very well!
    Good Luck,
    Mark Peterson

    • Thanks Mark! One of the first things I am going to dehydrate is hamburger. Winco’s bulk section is a great resource. Wish I would have discovered that years ago. Do you bring taco sauce or hot sauce for the burrito for seasoning?

  15. I just got a dehydrator too! Looks like the same one. So far I’ve made this: http://www.trailcooking.com/recipes/health-bowl, and I dried the lentils, rice and carrots. I think I am going start dehydrating some of my favorite soups and bean dishes I make for non-trail food. Good luck!

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