Plus the Boy Scout thumb's-up on chicken, easy Indian cuisine, and other tips and recipes, compliments of readers like you.
Around town, a bad meal at a restaurant means you leave a lousy tip and sneer at the "Please wait to be seated" hostess. But in the backwoods, an unsatisfying evening repast leaves you with two unappetizing options: pack it out or gag it down.
That's why tried-and-true (and hungry) Backpacker readers know to turn to this page. This is where the staff taste buds and those of our trusted contributors are put on the line so you'll have better-tasting camp fare. We've choked down all sorts of often-indescribable foodstuffs as well as some darn fine eats.
But this time out, we decided to turn the tables, so to speak, and let some of the well-fed campers out there offer up their ideas for better meals. Here's a sampling from our mailbag.
Foreign Affairs Made Easy
After reading "Advice From Chef Slacker" (Moveable Feast, May), one reader from Tennessee let us in on his easy-food find: Indian cuisine in a pouch that you boil for 3 to 5 minutes. The 3/4-pound packages cost $3 each, and the options are uniquely eastern: Agra Peas and Greens, Kashmir Spinach, Madras Lentils, Punjab Eggplant, and Jodhpur Lentils, among others. The packet serves 2, if used as a vegetable side dish. For a solo packer, serve over rice and with pita bread (remember, Indian food is spicy!). Look for Tasty Bites Indian delicacies at local groceries or international markets.
Butter, Clear and Simple
I'm constantly noticing camp recipes that call for clarified butter. I asked around and nobody locally seems to know anything about it.
Dinner Side Dish
In-The-Mug Hot Mince Pie
8 Ounces condensed mince pie mix
8 shortbread cookies
Instead of reserving mincemeat pie for just the Christmas season, reader Ron Bonig spreads the traditional food around the calendar. "I serve hot mince pie in a mug to trailmates on the first night out, particularly in winter. It tastes exactly like mince pie, except it takes only a one-burner stove to make."
In Camp: Follow the package instructions for preparing the mince pie. Break up two cookies in each mug. Ladle the hot mince into the mugs and stir.
Lake Conway Chicken
1 Cup instant brown rice
1/4 Cup slivered almonds
1/4 Cup dried mushrooms
2 Tablespoons onion flakes
1 Tablespoon dried green or red pepper flakes
1/2 Teaspoon salt
1 1/2 Cups water
20 Ounces canned chicken (don't drain)
2 instant cream of chicken soup
As Scoutmaster of Troop 283 in Orlando, Florida, reader Steve Diedrich is always searching for easy-to-make dinners that'll satifsy 30 or so boys while backpacking through Ocala National Forest and the Smokey Mountains. Several years of trial and error yielded this recipe, which gets the troop's thumbs-up (offered here in an easier-to-manage version that serves 3, instead of 30).
At Home: Combine the first six ingredients in a zipper-lock bag.
In Camp: Stir the bagged ingredients into the water and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the chicken and soup mix, and simmer for an additional 3 to 5 minutes.
1 Teaspoon orange-flavored instant drink mix
1 Teaspoon powdered milk
2 Teaspoons instant vanilla pudding
Remember the sweet, satisfying taste of a Creamsicle you ate as a kid? Mike Davis of Scituate, Massachusettes does and loves them so much he invented this refreshing and fairly healthy drinkable alternative. The bonus: no need to lick dripped ice cream off your hands afterward.
In Camp: Dump all the ingredients in a 16-ounce mug, add cold water, and stir.
The Converted: Coosa's Venison Stroganoff
1/3 Pound jerky, chopped into tiny pieces
1 1/2 Tablespoons onion flakes
1 Tablespoon paprika
4 Tablespoons dried mushrooms
1 1/2 Teaspoons tomato powder
2 Cups instant cream of mushroom soup
1/2 Cup instant potatoes
1 1/2 Teaspoons dried parsley
3/4 Cup powdered sour cream
3 3/4 Cups water
Serves: 4 to 6
When we invited folks to send their favortie at-home recipe for us to convert into a lightweight, easy-to-handle trail version, Appalachian Trail addict "Coosa" Carol Donaldson of Blairsville, Georgia, tooks us up on the offer.
At Home: Place the jerky, onion flakes, paprika, mushrooms, tomato powder, soup, and instant potatoes in a zipper-lock bag. Place parsley and sour cream powder in a separate zipper-lock bag.
In Camp: Pour the contents of the jerky bag into a pot and add the water. Bring to a boil, then simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more water if needed. Stir in the contents of the sour cream bag and heat, but do not boil, the mixture. Serve over noodles or rice.