Meal Idea: Stroganoff

When I was on the Appalachian Trail (and, for that matter, any time I’ve lived/worked outside), my meal preferences varied according to the weather.  In the heat of the Mid-Atlantic in the summertime, I enjoyed lighter, salty dinners after a full day on the trail.  However, on chilly spring nights in the South and frigid fall nights in New England, heavier meals were much appreciated.  Vegetarian, beef-style stroganoff is one such meal.

This is one of those meals that didn’t enter my backpack after I found it in a backpacking cookbook; instead, my mother randomly sent it out in a resupply box as a bonus meal.  My grandparents had visited the week before, and she’d made stroganoff for them one evening and dehydrated the leftover serving for me.

When I first saw it in my resupply box, I was kind of confused.  At that point in my hike, I was very family with the dozen meals I would receive in quart-sized freezer bags to rehydrate.  This was clearly none of them.

That night, as I ate dinner alone in a clearing while waiting for friends who were south of me to catch up, I really appreciated the stroganoff.  Its richness was a treat, and knowing that it was part of a meal my family had shared just a few days ago made me feel closer to home.

Making a vegetarian stroganoff for a backpacking trip isn’t very complicated.  It’s a two-part process:  First, make the meal, and then dehydrate it.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • egg-free ribbon noodles (linguine will rehydrate faster than wider ribbons)
  • TVP, or vegan “beef tips” (the latter being my preference)
  • cream of mushroom soup (vegan varieties are available)
  • mushrooms
  • onion
  • garlic
  • salt and pepper
  • oil

1) In a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan, saute a chopped onion, a couple minced garlic cloves, and as many mushrooms as you desire (I’m not much of a mushroom person, despite my efforts to the contrary) until the onions are translucent.

2) Meanwhile, cook the ribbon noodles according to the package directions.

3) Add the sauteed veggies and the soup to the ribbon noodles.  Allow all of the ingredients to simmer for a few minutes, and season to taste.

It’s really that simple.

Once the meal has cooled a bit (and you’ve sampled some), you’re ready to dehydrate it.  You’ll want to slice any large pieces of noodles or protein into smaller pieces to shorten dehydrating and rehydrating times.

To dehydrate the mixture, spread it out thinly on several dehydrating sheets and set the dehydrator to medium heat (125 degrees Fahrenheit or so).  The stroganoff will dehydrate in about 6-10 hours, depending on the sizes of the pieces you’re dehydrating.  Ensure it has dehydrated fully by touch- and taste-testing some of the larger pieces; they should be dried fully.

Then, just divide the mixture into several quart-sized Ziplock-brand freezer bags, putting a backpacker’s portion in each.  On the trail, just add boiling water to a bag, allow the food 5-10 minutes to rehydrate, and enjoy.

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