One-Hit Wonders: Just-Add-Water Alpine Meals

By: Kel Rossiter

These days it seems like everyone and her mother’s belayer has a cooking show, so you could imagine that it was only a matter of time before a cooking article hit the climbing scene. Sure, car camping near the crag doesn’t demand much different from your own kitchen, but cooking for backcountry climbing is its own beast—and while there is a generation of “NOLSes” out there trained in twiggy fire pizzas, the idea of huddling in the wind-whipped vestibule of my tent looking for non-existent twigs to cook on a two-pound Frybake pan just sounds unappetizing.

Alpine climbing is a particularly ferocious beast to battle with in the kitchen: Fast-and-light alpine-suited stoves like the JetBoil or MSR Reactor are great, but they seem to have two settings: “off” and “burn.” Ferocious environmental conditions often lead to cramped kitchening in the vestibule, so meals need to be quick to prepare and easy to clean. Plus, the intensity of the climbing means max calories have to be delivered with minimal weight and volume in your pack. On top of all that, climbing trips can be long and while all that food weighs down your pack it also paradoxically lightens your wallet—so meals have to be a value.

Kel Rossiter, Camping, Alpine, Meals, Darn Tough, Vermont

Mealtime is a special time in the alpine world: After a hard day of technical and environmental challenges, you’re finally in camp, changed into a fresh pair of warm and toasty socks, and a good meal tonight sets the stage for a successful tomorrow. Having set that stage, here are a few perennial alpine performers.  While these are recipes of sorts, creativity is the most important ingredient for the alpine chef—tweak the ingredients and amounts to your particular tastes.   For all recipes, basic ratios for one serving are presented; take it from there  with your basic math skills to determine how much you need for your particular length of trip, group size, and hunger level.

POFFING: Potatoes and stuffing…and a whole lot more. This is an all-time alpine favorite. It’s like Thanksgiving every day, but without annoying Uncle Bob.

Ingredients:

  • ¾  cup potato flakes
  • ½  cup stuffing
  • ¼  packet of gravy mix
  • 2 Tbsp chopped walnuts
  • 2 Tbsp textured vegetable protein (TVP), an amazingly light-weight source of protein with the texture of taco filling.  You can find it in the bulk section of any co-op
  • 2 Tbsp dried veggies, find them at the same store you bought your TVP at or buy it online
  • Handful of cranberries
  • Add cheese and/or butter as you like on top
  • Black pepper and cayenne to taste

Preparation: This is a great meal to make in bulk. Get a large mixing bowl and put all of the above ingredients in. Mix thoroughly. Put 1 ½ cup portions into snack size d zip bags—it’ll barely fit. Once out in the field, simply put your portion into a bowl, add boiling water until you get the consistency you like, and enjoy a quick, satisfying meal and easy clean up.

ALPINISTO: Expeditions to Mexico, Central and South America will have you eating plenty of beans, so no need for this dish there, but if you’re expeditioning in the 50 states it’s got tasty and easy to find ingredients that’ll stick to your ribs through a long alpine push.

Ingredients:

  • 1 packet of boil-in-bag rice
  • ½ cup of dried refried beans—available in bulk at many co-ops and in boxes in the natural foods aisles of many others
  • ¼ packet of taco seasoning
  • ¼ cup dried veggies—find them at the same store you bought your dried refried beans at or buy it online
  • Add cheese as you like on top
  • Cayenne pepper to taste

Preparation: Get a large mixing bowl and put all of the above ingredients in, except for the rice. Mix thoroughly. Put ¾ cup into snack size d zip bags. To prepare, bring water to a boil and plop in the rice bag to cook as directed. Put the bean/veggie/seasoning /spice mix into your bowl, add water as you like, open the rice bag and put on top—with lots of cheese!

Kel Rossiter, Camping, Alpine, Meals, Darn Tough, Vermont

HIGH ALTITUDE ASIAN: On longer expeditions, you’ll appreciate the variety this dish offers. On shorter trips, you’ll appreciate the flavor and sustenance in delivers, with minimal mess and weight.

Ingredients:

  • 1 packet of ramen noodles (don’t use the flavor packet or it’ll be too salty)
  • 1 packet of peanut butter (Justin’s is one popular brand) or pack your own portion
  • 1oz Nalgene container with a flavoring mix of:  1Tbsp soy sauce, 1 Tbsp brown sugar, 1 tsp fish sauce, 1 tsp vinegar, ½ tsp chili flakes
  • Handful of peanuts put into a snack-size zip bag (to put on top at the end)

Preparation: Put all the items above together in a quart-sized bag. When the water’s boiling, add the ramen noodles for 2 minutes, pour off most of the water, dump the noodles into your bowl, add the peanut butter and flavoring mix and sprinkle peanuts on top.

COLLEGE-WITH-EXTRA-CREDIT: Ramen noodles are the rather lacklaster and nutritionally-lacking staple of college students everywhere, but with just a bit of motivation they become an interesting and delicious climber’s dish with this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 packet of ramen noodles (don’t use the flavor packet or it’ll be too salty)
  • 2 Tbsp of potato flakes
  • 2 Tbsp of dried tomatoes
  • ¼ packet of pesto sauce mix
  • Handful of walnuts
  • Dried sausage sliced on top to taste

Preparation: Put all the items above together in a quart-sized zip bag. When the water’s boiling, add the ramen noodles for 2 minutes, pour off some of the water, dump the noodles into your bowl—saving some water in the pot, add the peanut butter and flavoring mix and sprinkle peanuts on top. If you need more water to rehydrate the potatoes, add what remains in the pot.

COOK UP YOUR OWN IDEAS:  Single serve soup cups put into snack bags and a bag of instant rice, cous-cous with dried tomatoes and walnuts—watch what your preparing in the home kitchen and consider how it might find a field application.

Kel Rossiter, Mac and Cheese, Alpine, Meals, Darn Tough, Vermont

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s