trail cooking

Mountain House Meals - Meal Reviews

No matter how warm the weather, I like a hot meal while I'm backpacking.  I often cook both breakfast and dinner on trail.  While many hikers go no-cook or stoveless, I just don't think I'll be one of those hikers.  A warm meal is always my favorite way to start and end my day.  When it comes to cooking though, I like to keep things easy.  That sometimes means I'll turn to a freeze dried meal for simply heat-and-eat with no cleanup.  When Mountain House offered to send me two new meals to try, I was excited to give them a try.  

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Disclaimer: I received these meals in exchange for writing the review.  All opinions are unbiased and are my own.  

On a recent getaway I didn't leave myself much time to plan a trip.  On those spur-of-the-moment adventures it's great to have a few freeze-dried  meals I can throw in my pack and not have to worry about making sure I have all the ingredients.  Since Mountain House sent me two meals - Spicy Southwest Breakfast Hash and Homestyle Turkey Dinner Casserole, all I had to do was grab a few snacks, a quick lunch, and head out the door!

After a long day of hiking, I was excited to try the Homestyle Turkey Dinner Casserole.  Thanksgiving is a favorite meal of mine and I absolutely love turkey pot pie, so getting to have it in the backcountry was an added bonus!  The first thing I was struck by with this meal was the fact that there were real ingredients inside - check out the label: 

Real ingredients with easy-to-follow instructions. 

Real ingredients with easy-to-follow instructions. 

It was so simple to make this meal too!  The instructions tell you exactly what you need to do.  You'll even have time to set up your tent while you wait! This meal was really good and definitely reminded me of casserole.  Instead of the stuffing being on top, it was all mixed in and was super tasty!  The only thing missing was some green bean casserole!

Dinner on a pond in Maine - does it get any better?!

Dinner on a pond in Maine - does it get any better?!

When it came time for breakfast though, I was ready for some big flavors to accompany my coffee.  Enter the Spicy Southwest Breakfast Hash.  With the promise of having the "perfect amount of hot sauce" I'll admit I was skeptical.  All hikers love their hot sauce, and I'm no exception to that rule.  With hash browns, corn, black beans, chiles, and shredded beef, I knew I'd be nice and full for my hike out too.  After removing my oxygen absorbing pack and adding hot water, I impatiently waited to stir and eat.  

Don't worry - it won't hurt you!  Just take out the oxygen absorber and add water!

Don't worry - it won't hurt you!  Just take out the oxygen absorber and add water!

To my surprise, Mountain House was right - there was a decent amount of spice in this meal, but not too hot.  I didn't feel the need to add any additional hot sauce to my breakfast, which isn't always the case.  My favorite thing about this meal is the fact that it DIDN'T have eggs in it.  I'm not the biggest fan of freeze dried eggs, which you'll find in their other savory breakfast meal.  The fact that I got to eat potatoes and have a savory breakfast was definitely a bonus for me that morning!  This meal would be great with an avocado on the side or even with some warm tortillas!

If you're looking for an easy way to hit the trail with minimal clean up, these Mountain House meals are the way to go.  Having a filling, savory meal for both dinner and breakfast the next morning really helped me enjoy my hike.  

Have you tried either of these meals?  What are your favorite freeze dried meals? 

Chicken Piccata - a Trail Recipe

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For the past two weeks, I've been doing lots and lots of meal prep.  For those of you who don't know, for thru hikes less than 1000 miles I prefer to do all of our meals as mail drops instead of resupplies.  In doing a trail like the Mountains to Sea Trail, we are giving up the convenience of being able to easily get into town, especially for the first several hundred miles.  We will be mostly parallel to the Blue Ridge Parkway and it makes it much easier for us if we do drops instead.  Our first mail drop will consist of a post office less than a quarter mile from the Parkway and our second will be at a hotel that sits right on the Parkway.  Having mail drops right on the trail is so much easier than trying to hitch off a scenic byway and get back up to it - especially on a trail that doesn't see so many thru hikers!  

While I was going through my favorite recipes for this trip, I decided to use a few of our old favorites, as well as test out some new recipes.  I also decided to attempt and create one of my favorite dinners - chicken piccata.  I know Backpacker's Pantry offers this as an option, but at $11.00 per meal (and it's definitely not a two-serving meal at only 350 calories per serving!) this is not only cost prohibitive, it's also bulky in their big packaging.  I decided to see if I could recreate this meal at home with dehydrated products and I am super excited with the results!  Being able to have one of your favorite meals on the trail is a great way to end your day.  The recipe for you to recreate is below. 

Sprinkles' Chicken Piccata

1 cup of dried pasta of your choice (I recommend small pasta, like farfalle)
1/4 cup freeze dried chicken (or dehydrated canned chicken)
1 tablespoon of dried capers* (see below for instructions)
2 teaspoons butter powder
1/4 teaspoon (or one packet)  True Lemon powder

At Home:  Take the 1 cup of dried pasta and the 1/4 cup of chicken and combine in a sandwich-sized Ziplock bag.  Combine the capers, butter powder, and lemon powder in a separate snack-sized Ziplock bag.  Place the smaller bag inside the larger bag and seal. 

On Trail: Remove the small Ziplock containing the "sauce" powders and capers and set aside.  Dump the pasta and chicken into your cook pot and cover with water by a 1/2 inch.  Cook on a low flame, stirring to make sure the pasta doesn't stick to the pot.  When your pasta is done, you shouldn't have a ton of extra water in your pot - just starchy water barely covering the pasta and chicken.  Add the powder and capers from the smaller bag directly to the pot and turn off the heat.  Let it sit for a few minutes to rehydrate the capers and enjoy directly from the pot.  

*To make dehydrated capers, drain capers from their brine and place on a fruit leather sheet or piece of parchment paper on your dehydrator tray.  Dry at 135 degrees for approximately 4-6 hours (depending on the humidity), until they are leathery, but dry.  If you don't own a dehydrator, you can always place them on a baking sheet and put your oven on the lowest possible setting with the door cracked open for 2-4 hours.  

What is your favorite meal at home?  Would you ever attempt to recreate it on trail?