Thursday, May 1, 2014

Backpacker's Bounty Soup

This was a recent experiment. While working my wilderness therapy job, my mainstay for dinner was a veggie soup/stew thing that consisted of whatever fresh veggies I had, chopped up and cooked with whatever meat I had, all together in a pot with some water and fat to make a broth. But I wanted to see if it would work with dried veggies, too, since that's much more economical for a longer backpacking trip (or a trip where you don't have a support base to send you out fresh food every other day). I tried this on a backpacking trip to Cedar Mesa and it turned out fabulous. The really exciting part is that it's different than other dehydrated meals I've posted in that you don't have to cook a darn thing before you go! OK, that's not true, you have to cook the hamburger meat, but it's much less work than the other meals and doesn't sacrifice anything for flavor. It was our good fortune on that trip that we ended up having to cook a whole package of bacon for breakfast one morning (someone didn't calculate the amount of dehydrated eggs we needed correctly...), so we left the solid 1/4-inch of bacon grease that we rendered in the bottom of the pot all day, and then cooked the soup in it that night, and all of a sudden, miscalculating eggs had turned into a blessing!

1 large zucchini
1 large red pepper
1 large onion
12 large mushrooms
1/2 a package of baby spinach
1 lb. grass-fed ground beef

Chop all the vegetables (except for the spinach) into small pieces and lay out in a single layer on dehydrator trays. Lay the spinach out in a single layer on dehydrator trays as well.

Dehydrate on the vegetable setting (125 degrees) of your dehydrator for about 6 hours (the spinach will take less time, so you can check on that in about 3 hours).

After 6 hours, check vegetables for dryness. If they are still wet, add another hour, continuing to check on them until they are dry.

Cook the hamburger meat in a frying pan until it is cooked through. Crumble it into a thin layer on dehydrator trays and dehydrate on the meat setting (155 degrees) of your dehydrator for about 6 hours.

After 6 hours, check meat for dryness. It will still probably be greasy-looking, but you're looking for it to be sort of stiff and rubbery rather than soft and spongy. I don't have a good way to explain how to know when it's done. When in doubt, dehydrate longer. It's hard to over dry things.

Once everything has been dried, combine it all in a Ziploc bag and keep it in the freezer until ready to use.

To Rehydrate:

  • Backpacker's Bounty Dried Mix (from steps above)
  • 1/2 cup fat of your choice (this is the bulk of your calories in this meal, and the tasty-fying part)
  • sea salt

Put contents of Ziploc in your pot. Pour in enough water to cover, and then some (remember, it's a soup!). When we rehydrated this, I think we dumped a whole liter in it.

Add copious amounts of the fat of your choice (coconut oil, butter, lard, bacon grease).

Bring to a boil, and cook for about 5 minutes, or until you can tell the veggies and meat are getting tender. Turn off the heat, put the lid on, and let sit for 5-10 minutes (This step is important! It really soaks up more water and rehydrates better during this time.).

Salt liberally and serve it up!

Basque Pork Meatloaf

Brought this one on a recent trip. So good!
Meatloaf. It is so good and so easy. I love it so much in fact that I have a book called Everybody Loves Meatloaf. Check it out, it's a good one. It's not Paleo, therefore all the recipes have breadcrumbs in them, but I've discovered that if you just leave them out, it turns out fine, and all that happens is you get a lot of meat juice left over in the pan. Which is actually awesome because I just save it and cook a pot of greens in it, and they usually end up being just as delicious as the meatloaf, if not better. I've also discovered that meatloaf works as a dehydrated meal! So exciting! This recipe is adapted from Everybody Loves Meatloaf  by Melanie Barnard. Drain off the excess fat before you dehydrate it since fat hinders the drying process (unfortunately). You can always add more fat in after you rehydrate.

1/2 lb. smoked ham
1 lb. ground pork
1/2 cup green or black olives, pitted and sliced
1 small red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 TB tomato paste
1 TB dry sherry
2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. grated orange peel
2 eggs
1 cup chopped roasted red bell peppers

Dinnertime in the backcountry - rehydrating some meatloaf. 
Heat oven to 350F. Chop ham, then process in food processor until finely chopped.

In a large bowl, combine and mix pork, olives, onion, garlic, tomato paste, sherry, paprika, orange peel, eggs, roasted red bell peppers, and ham.

Press mixture into a 9x5-inch loaf pan.

Bake until the meatloaf is firm and a meat thermometer inserted into the middle reads 155 degrees. This takes about 1 hour.

After it cools, crumble it and spread it as thinly as possible on dehydrator trays.

Dehydrate at 155 (the meat setting on some dehydrators) for 6-8 hours, checking at the 6 hour mark and leaving it in for as long as needed to feel dry and brittle. Because of the fat content it will probably still be a little shiny and possibly "wet," but get it as dry as you can. I don't think you can really over dry meals.

Backpacking Cedar Mesa: 4-Day Menu

This last week I had a good friend from Wisconsin visit who had never been to the Southwest, so Max and I planned a backpacking trip with her to Cedar Mesa, an incredible area of Southeastern Utah. We hiked the Kane Gulch to Grand Gulch trail in the Grand Gulch primitive area. 
Melissa and Me
The coolest thing about this site is that it used to be populated by the Anasazi and you can still see the ruins of their houses, kivas (ceremonial structures), middens (trash heaps), and granaries (food storage structures), as well as their rock art. I never knew the difference between petroglyphs and pictographs, but the rangers for Grand Gulch have put interpretive information into water-tight ammo cans and from these I learned that petroglyphs are pecked into the rock and pictographs are painted on. Their middens were full of broken pottery shards, some of them painted with black geometric designs, and some meticulously carved with repeating patterns. We could also see signs of their fires - the walls above their homes permanently blackened with soot, bringing them to life even more.
Me and Melissa looking in on a kiva - a ceremonial structure.
The biodiversity in the canyon was amazing - more greenery than I've ever seen in southern Utah. We had brought along a book on medicinal plants of the Southwest but were only able to identify globe mallow and wild rhubarb, beyond the sagebrush, juniper trees, and prickly pear cacti which we already knew well from our year and a half living down here. The Anasazi who lived here before tended the land, growing corns, beans, and squash, and probably many other plants. Some openings in the canyon were large enough to imagine them as an ancient garden, and when we climbed up to one of the ruins, the large rock bench they sat on were populated with many plants we hadn't seen so far on the hike, making us think it used to be part of a cultivated garden. That's just speculation, but it was an interesting difference with the rest of the landscape.

The structures were peppered through the canyon with such regularity that whenever I would think to myself, "I haven't seen a ruin in a while," I would look up and there would be one right above me. Some of them were really high, too, making you wonder how difficult it was to build the structures up there and what it would be like to climb ladders that high, unprotected.

As an added bonus to the trip, we (unfortunately) found out that there would be no water available at our site we planned for the last night in the canyon, so we hiked out a day early and drove to Burr Point to sleep on the edge of a canyon overlooking the Dirty Devil River and wake up to the sunrise. On the way we were burning up in the car and were able to stop at the Colorado River and take a little dip. Mmmm...nothing better than dipping in cold cold water. My dad's friend likes to say it's "tonic - nasty but good for you."

A whole pot of bacon for breakfast!
We had beautiful weather the whole time, and made it out the day before it was supposed to make a turn for the worse. And I was extra excited because I had several dehydrated meals sitting in our freezer that I'd dried in past years but never tried out. They ended up being delicious and I'll post the recipes shortly for those. And this menu is still dairy- and nut-free.

We brought dried eggs for breakfasts, but then realized on the first morning out that we didn't actually have enough for the week. But luckily we'd brought a whole pack of bacon so we just ate that and some Lemon Chia Seed Muffins that I'd made beforehand, and saved the eggs for the rest of the week.

Basque Pork Meatloaf on the first night
All the dinners were dehydrated meals which saved a lot of weight and space. The biggest source of weight was lunch foods. We brought several fresh vegetables, but like I've said before I really don't mind carrying the extra weight in order to have fresh veggies. I didn't keep super close track of what I ate every day, so I'm doing the outline for the main meals and at the bottom I'll list all the snacks I brought, which I ate whenever I got hungry, or with meals if I needed more food. I'm writing it as if it's for 1 person (me), but since we had 3 people, we obviously brought more and cooked more than what's listed. You'll also see in the snacks sections that I brought some rice tortillas. Yikes. Sorry that's not Paleo, but it was really nice to have a little extra carbs to eat with dinner or breakfast.


  • Fresh eggs & bacon at our morning car-camping site
Melissa lunching on a 
salami bowl by a little creek.
(Note the Lake Superior tatt on her shoulder.)


  • Couple squares of chocolate


  • About 1 1/2 dehydrated eggs cooked in coconut oil (since we didn't bring enough, we had to ration)
  • 1 Lemon Chia Seed Muffin
  • Backpacker Tuna Salad - 1 tuna packet, 1/2 carrot, 1/3 avocado, 1/6 cucumber, 1/3 apple, 2 TB golden raisins, 2 TB sprouted sunflower seeds, olive oil, mustard, sea salt
  • 1/6 bag Sweets & Beets Terra Chips
Such a satisfying dessert in the backcountry.
  • Greek Moussaka
  • Couple squares of chocolate


  • 2 & 1/3 hot dogs w/ mustard
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1/3 avocado
  • l/6 cucumber
  • 1/6 bag Sweets & Beets Terra Chips
  • couple handfuls sprouted sunflower seeds
  • Salmon Chowder
  • Couple squares of chocolate


  • half-eaten jar of coconut butter (yes I brought a glass jar on a backpacking trip)
  • small bag of olives (about 30)
  • 1 package of Wellshire Family Tom Tom Turkey Sticks
  • 1 pint-size bag Maple-Sage Grass-fed Beef Jerky (for all of us to share)
  • couple apples
  • couple extra carrots
  • bag of toasted coconut flakes
  • sprouted sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 pint-size bag homemade dried apples
  • 3 Food For Life rice tortillas
  • tea

Extra Food (things I thought I might eat if I got really hungry but never did)

  • 3 tins oysters
  • another package of Tom Tom Turkey Sticks