I am heading off to yet another awesome backpacking adventure next weekend and I am too excited to think about anything else. But before I go, I must solve The Big Question - what are we going to eat for 4 days in the wilderness with no gas stations and vending machines. Even for me it is stretch to spend 4 days of strenuous hiking on bagels and cream cheese. The alternative is the store bought "just add water" meals sold at outdoors stores for ~$5 a meal which is a bit steep for a bag of ramen with some spices. On our last backpacking adventure two months ago, I was introduced to the miracle of freezer bag cooking - home-made "just add water" meals that are delicious, nutritious and easy to prepare for a crowd. We made them for dinner, family-style, all in one pot and everyone (but lazy, post-thesis me) cooked a meal for the whole group. It was fantastic - an amazing warm meal every evening! We had a burrito night, a couscous night and a linguine in cream sauce night. Yum! So for next weekend I readily agreed with James's suggestion that we cook dinners the same way and decided to use the occasion to test and cross-compare some freezer bag recipes. All recipes below are from the Trail Cooking website. More recipes can be found at One Pan Wonders, the Backpacker magazine and on some other websites (search for freezer bag cooking).
Orange Rice with Salmon (for 1 person)
1 C instant rice
1⁄3 C chopped toasted pecans
2 Tbs dried parsley
2 Tbs diced dried onion
1 Tbs dried orange peel
1 1/2 tsp bouillon
1 tsp orange drink mix (such as crystal light or tang)
3 oz pink salmon/tuna (1 bag)
(1 C water)
Weight: 10.5 oz Cooking time: boil water + 5 minutes Calories: 530 Kcal Protein: 22 g Fat: 30 g Carbs: 46 g Price: ~$4.00
Preparation: Mix all ingredients but the fish in a bag. At camp, bring water to boil, mix with the dry ingredients and let it seep for 5 minutes. Stir in the fish. Enjoy!
Review: I was very excited about this and it turned out fairly tasty if a bit strange. The original recipe asked for 1 1/2 C of rice - this makes way too much food for one person so I scaled it back. I am not sure about the orange drink mix - I used Kool-aid and it sucked (too sour). I'd suggest just skipping it altogether. Quite a mix of flavors, maybe a bit too much.
Thai Style Peanut Noodles (for 1 person)
3 oz package ramen noodles
1⁄4 C chunky peanut butter
1 1⁄2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp diced dried onion
1⁄2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp vinegar
(1 1/2 C water)
Weight: 5.5 oz Cooking time: boil water + 3 minutes Calories: 760Kcal Protein: ~21g Fat: ~20g Carbs: ~60g Price: $1.50 (generously)
Preparation: Break ramen into smaller pieces (to save space) and pack in a ziplock bag. Mix all other ingredients in a small plastic jar. At camp bring water to boil. Add ramen and let it steep for 3 minutes. Pour some of the ramen water in the sauce jar (less than 1/4 C) and shake until it turns into a thick sauce. Dispose of the rest of the ramen water. Stir the noodles with the sauce.
Review: Veeeeery peanuty! Oh my! The original recipe asked for too much water in the sauce and too much vinegar so I've changed these. Using chunky peanut butter is fantastic (I used salted). One can add more peanuts if desired. I would like to add some dried vegetables if I make it, maybe a handful of dried carrots.
Swiss Broccoli Mac and Cheese (for 1 person, generously)
1 1/2 Tbs flour
1⁄4 C dry milk
1 tsp dry mustard powder
2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried garlic
1⁄8 tsp ground black pepper
4 oz uncooked small shell pasta
1⁄4 C diced dried broccoli
2.5 oz shredded swiss cheese
(2 C water)
Weight: 8.5 oz Cooking time: boil water + 5-10 minutes (depending on pasta) Calories: 760Kcal Protein: 45g Fat: 20 g Carbs: 90g Price: $2.25
Preparation: Pack pasta in one bag, cheese in a second bag, all other dry ingredients in a third. At camp, bring water to boil and boil the pasta till ready. Without pouring the water out, stir in all the other ingredients until the cheese is melted. Reserve some cheese and parsley to sprinkle on top if desired.
Review: This was awesome! Well, when is mac and cheese not awesome... Total comfort food, rich and delicious. I used Swiss Cheese from New Zealand, found at TJs and tiny alphabet pasta which cooked in under 5 minutes.
Which am I going to cook after all? The Orange-Salmon-Rice is at the bottom in the weigh-price-calories ratio - it is heavy, expensive and low in calories. The race is between the Mac'n'cheese and the peanut noodles. Not rally sure. The peanut noodles are cheap and light. The Mac'n'cheese is a bit on the heavy side but equally delicious. Mmmmm, though choice. Any votes?
PS. Why is this called "freezer bag cooking" if these meals can be much more comfortably cooked in the pot where you boiled the water?