Monday, January 2, 2012

Freeze-dried SCD meal options for backpacking

I wanted to post a great resource for freeze dried meals that I found on the web.  Melanie Blackmer of Louisiana came up with these great recipes and food plans to help her son go on a multi-day backpacking trip.  Another great story of people finding ways to continue doing the things they love to do!   
Melanie also maintains a great blog at:

Tools needed for Dehydration
Dehydrator – preferably one with a temperature select. I use one from Nesco.
Seal a Meal
Steamable seal a meal bags (pleated bottoms)
Food grade desiccant packs from Packit Gourmet
Freezer paper one side waxy
Muffin top pan
Tips to get you started
When preparing to dehydrate meat, make sure to get lean cuts of meat. If the meat you purchase for jerky, for instance, has fat, cut it all off. When you cook the meat towel blot as much of the grease off as you can.
When making muffins, you will want to dehydrate any fruit that goes in to them. Also, you do not want to send on a long trip anything that is too moist. I also find it better to cook muffins in a muffin top pan, which yields more of a little cake. This cake travels much better and allows a good seal when you seal in a seal a meal bag. I have never had a regular shaped muffin last even sealed. Remember to add a desiccant package.
The best meals to dehydrate are ones with some sort of sauce. Dehydrating just meat will end up in jerky, which could be tasty but doesn’t reconstitute well with water.
Dehydrating meals
To prepare your dehydrator before you begin to dehydrate meals, you need to cover each rack you use with freezer paper unless you have solid tray covers. Cut the paper to fit the tray and line with shiny side up. Always measure the amount of food you are dehydrating so you will know how much water to add when you are ready to eat. When dehydrating any meal you want to cook out as much water as you can making any sauce pretty thick. Then spread the food on the lined tray as thin as you can get it. If you are dehydrating Lasagna or Cannelloni make sure to chop it up as much as you can making the pieces as small as possible. You will dry food on
the Meat Setting for about 4 hours. Stay on top of it though as the time might be different depending on dehydrator or altitude. You will want to blot the food every couple of hours. When the top seems very dry flip it and dry longer to get the bottom dry. I usually dry till the food is the consistency of a potato chip. As you flip it you will want to dry the freezer paper underneath. I usually can fit two meals on one tray and can dry several trays with different meals on them at the same time. However, I don’t recommend drying say lasagna or chili with a tray of fruit. The fruit will come out tasting like chili. Once your food is dry, let it cool completely before placing it in the seal a meal bag. It is best to use the pleated bag for meals. You will want to label the food and note a reminder to remove the desiccant pack that you will add before you seal the bag. I have also found it is good to check a few minutes after you have sealed the bag to make sure the seal stays.
Dehydrating Soup Base
Once you have cooked your tomato sauce down (instructions on recipe page), again prepare your tray with freezer paper and make sure the shiny side is up. Spread a layer of sauce and fill the tray making sure not to get too close to sides. I dehydrate this on the vegetable setting. I believe it took 2-3 hours. Again, make sure to check often and you may find you need to blot the top. Once the sauce seems pretty set, try to peel it away from the paper. It should peel off easily if done carefully. It will resemble fruit leather. You will again need to dry off the paper and flip the dehydrated sauce and dry for a few minutes longer to make sure all moisture is out. Again you will want to let the sauce cool completely before putting it in the bag to seal. I tear up the sauce “leather” as small as I can before putting it in the bag just to make reconstitution easier. The recipe for the rest of the soup ingredients is on the recipe page.
Dehydrating Fruits and Veggies
To dehydrate fruits and veggies you can use fresh or frozen. I did both. Not sure if I found a difference. You will again want to line your trays for carrots, peas, green beans pretty much anything that isn’t a slice as sometimes they get small and fall through the tray. When packing meals to last in seal a meal
bags, I have found that you must dehydrate any fruit or veggie added to a muffin or bread item. This will keep the muffin from spoiling too soon. Veggies need to be clean and dry before dehydrating. I do not cook my blueberries or cherries before dehydrating I find they do better if I don’t. How ever it does take them quite a while to dry. I prefer dehydrating fresh blueberries and strawberries. When dehydrating apples or bananas you want to soak them in pineapple juice for a few minutes before setting them on the tray. But do blot them when you take them out of the juice to put in the dehydrator. You will dehydrate them on the fruit setting for 6-12 hours. Checking frequently so the fruit isn’t too dry. You will find that the blueberries will be more like a raisin. Vegetables will dehydrate on the vegetable setting for again about 6 – 12 hours.
Reconstituting Meals
Once you have reached your destination and you are ready to enjoy the dehydrated fruits of your labor, you must first boil some water. I suggest boiling at least a cup of water. It is also good to bring a clip of some kind to close the bag after you add the water to help it steam. Open your meal and remove the desiccant package. Open the pleats and carefully add ½ cup of water and stir. At this point, you should be able to determine if you need to add more water to make your meal the consistency you desire. Clip the top and let set a few minutes and your meal is ready to enjoy!!

Entree Recipes (all recipes courtesy of Melanie Blackmer)

Italian Sauce
1 ½ Qts Campbell’s tomato Juice in Bottle
2tsp Legal Garlic Powder
2TBS Legal Onion Flakes
1Tsp Legal Chili Powder
½ tsp Pepper
1Tbs Basil
You could probably half the Basil with oregano.
Add everything to medium sauce pan and cook on medium until it reaches the thickness you desire. Stir often it has a tendency to bubble up. It really doesn’t take long.

6 cups Campbell's 100% Tomato Soup
1 Tbs onion Flake
1 Tbs garlic powder
4 Fresh Basil leaves chopped
1tsp Tabasco
1 tsp cumin
1Tbs Chili powder
1 lb lean ground meat
Salt/ pepper to taste
In a sauce pan salt a pepper meat lightly and brown. Make sure to break in to small pieces and drain off any grease. You may even want to use a paper towel to squeeze any grease out. Add remaining ingredients and simmer till sauce is your desired consistency. You want a rich thick sauce but not too thick. Maybe 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Vegetable Soup
One recipe Italian sauce cooked thicker than regular sauce
1/4 to 1/2 cup dried peas
1/4 to 1/2 cup dried green beans
1/4 to 1/2 cup dried butternut squash
1-2 cans valley fresh chicken including broth
In dehydrating the ingredients for the soup, again I lined the trays with parchment paper. Then I covered the paper with the tomato paste I had made earlier. (see soup recipe) I dried this also on the meat setting. After a while check and see if the sauce will lift off the paper. Similar to a fruit roll up. When the sauce is set enough to remove pull it away from paper. Wipe
the paper and flip the sauce and dry it on other side. This side maybe only 30 minutes. I tore this in smaller pieces and added to the vegetables and vacuum seal with a desiccant package. Jacob recommends that it might to better to powder it first. The vegetables I used were frozen peas, frozen green beans and frozen butternut squash. Again lined trays with parchment paper and this time dried on the vegetable setting. I found they took a little while to dry well. I dried mine till they were pretty hard because I wanted to make sure they would last 17 days.

Make the sauce the same as you did for the lasagna. However I let it get thicker for this recipe.
You will need
about 1 egg per crape
8 oz Farmers Cheese (soft like Ricotta)
1lb lean ground turkey cooked and drained
1/4 c Grated Parmesan (you can use as much as you like)
Basil ½ tsp
garlic powder ¼ tsp
salt pepper to taste
Colby Jack cheese grated
First mix into the cheese mixture the cooked turkey meat, the parmesan and the seasonings. Set aside. In a frying pan on low heat melt about a table spoon of butter. When melted pour 1/4 cup egg in a circle on the pan. You don't want these to cook too fast. And you want them to set not turn brown. I use a thin pastry spatula to flip these they are usually too delicate for a thicker spatula. When set flip and fill the center with the cheese mixture. You don't want them too full. Maybe start with 1/4 cup and see if that is enough. Fold sides of egg over the cheese and transfer into a baking dish. Repeat till you use all the cheese mixture. I think I usually get about 5 or 6 depending on how generous I get with the cheese! Pour sauce on top and sprinkle either Colby Jack or parmesan. Put in an oven on 350 just until cheese melts!

1 lb ground beef lean
1 recipe of Italian sauce
¼ cup DCCC
¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese
1tsp basil
Shredded Munster
Shredded Colby Jack
Season the beef as you like and cook completely making sure to break the meat into the smallest consistency you can. Add sauce to meat. In an 8x8 inch pan barely cover bottom with a little of the sauce mixture, then layer with seasoned DCCC and cheeses. Continue to layer till meat mixture is used up. Usually makes two layers. You can add zucchini to each layer for noodles. We didn’t for the hike because they are too wet and we thought it would make it harder to dehydrate.

Beef Stew
2-3 lbs lean beef tips (trim off any fat)
4 Roma tomatoes chopped
1 onion chopped
1-2 tbs minced garlic
1 bag baby carrots
1 bag fresh broccoli
1/2 cup of Campbell's Tomato juice
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Chili powder to taste
In Dutch oven season and brown meat. Once browned add chopped onions, tomatoes, minced garlic and carrots. Also add in Tomato juice. Cover and put in the oven at 350 for 2-3 hours. Till meat is tender. Add broccoli stir and put back in the oven till broccoli is tender.

Red Beans and Cauliflower Rice
1 ½ cup red beans (boil for one hour then rinse)
1 onion diced
season with salt and pepper to taste
2 cups sliced SCD legal smoked sausage (or seasoned meat)
1 head Cauliflower
Once you have boiled your beans for one hour and rinsed them thoroughly also rinsing the pot, place beans back into pot and cover with water about 1 ½ to 2 inches above beans. Add all ingredients and cover cooking slowly on a med to low heat till beans are tender. Uncover and stir often. As water cooks down you will want to add water in until you achieve a rich thick sauce. Next, rinse cauliflower well and run heads through a Salad Shooter with the cheese grater attachment. Put in a frying pan with about 1 Tbs butter. Salt and pepper to taste and saut√© on a low heat. Once
cauliflower is just tender your rice is ready. Place a serving of rice and cover with red beans.

Coconutty Granola
¾ lb Pecan Pieces
1½ Macadamia Nut pieces
1- 1 ½ Almond slivers
5 oz bag Kroger Unsweetened Coconut flakes
Set oven at 350*. Pour coconut flakes into baking pan. I use my stone casserole. Place in the oven to toast. Toast coconut for about 12 min stirring often to prevent burning. You want the coconut a beautiful golden color when finished. Take coconut out of oven and drizzle with honey. Drizzle lightly at first and stir. You are trying to just sweeten the coconut. You may want to add a little at a time stirring in between. I just drizzle over the top and then stir. Taste and see if it needs more. This is where the sweet is coming from in this granola. Next, roast as you did in first recipe. When nuts have finished roasting and are completely cool add sweetened coconut.

Candied Fruit and Nut Granola
Dehydrated Banana Slices (about 2 bananas sliced thin)
Dehydrated Apple Slices (about 1 apple sliced thin)
½ lb Pecan Pieces
1-1 ½ cup Hazelnut pieces
½ cup Macadamia Pieces
2 ½ oz toasted coconut
Dried Cherries (cut up)
Course salt in grinder
Set oven on 350*. Mix nuts into a baking pan and roast again as in first recipe. While roasting tear banana slices and apple slices into smaller pieces. When nuts are roasted and still warm lightly drizzle with honey and mix. Then add coconut and fruit and lightly grind coarse salt over the mixture and stir. Be very careful you just want the slightest bit of salty. Too much will ruin it. This one is my favorite!!!!!

Happy backpacking everyone!



  1. Awesome recipes!! Once again thank you! We will have to give these a try as packing food in on a flyfishing trip, snowmobiling, biking and hiking can be a challenge! Karen

  2. It says "freeze dried" in the title.
    That is not something you can do at home, unless you want to spend thousands of dollars on freeze drying equipment. What you are talking about is just dried food, or dehydrated, not freeze dried.

  3. Freeze Dried Meals-Use these 20 Minute food storage meals recipes to rotate your food meal storage and introduce your family to the meals they would like to eat.