I'm not one to quickly reach for the Mountain House or peanut butter sandwiches when meal prepping for backpacking trips- if I'm planning a 3 or 4 day trip, I enjoy having the luxury of fresh fruits and veggies and wholesome meals. Here are a few of my trail favorites, which are not even that much extra weight. The taste of "real food" is so worth it!
Baked Brie: bring a wheel of brie cheese and fill a ziploc bag with your favorite dried fruits and nuts (e.g. cranberries, chopped dried apricots, currants; walnuts, pecans, slivered almonds, pine nuts...). Slice a sourdough baguette and put slices in a ziploc bag. It's best to have this meal on your first night out because you don't want to keep the soft brie in your backpack for too long. Start by toasting the nuts in your camp pot over your camp stove over medium flame. Set them aside, then put the whole wheel of brie in the camp pot over low flame and top with the nuts and dried fruit. Cover and let heat until hot and melted. Serve spread over baguette slices. Round out the meal with a bowl of broth made from water and a bullion cube. This dinner is excellent with a on-the-go boxed red wine!
Udon: Another delicious dinner. Purchase a pack of single-serving pre-cooked udon (World Market, most Co-Ops, and upscale or well-stocked grocery stores should sell these), which usually comes with a packet of seasoning/broth mix. Additionally, get green onions, some celery, and mushrooms. If you're feeling adventurous, bring a sheet of dried seaweed (nori). To cook, dry saute the mushrooms and celery until the mushrooms release their juices. Add a cup of water, add the noodles and broth mix and heat until soup is hot and noodles are tender.
Ramen: Similar to the udon recipe above, bring a pack of Top Ramen and boost it up with celery, scallions, onions, mushrooms, seaweed, or any other veggies!
Avocado and soy sauce: This is a great trail snack! You'll need a knife, spoon, avocado, and packet of soy sauce. Slice the avocado in half and pour a little soy sauce inside the hole where the seed was, scoop and enjoy! Pick a hard one so that it becomes ripe on trail and you can eat it before it becomes a squishy green mess!
Sausage, Onion, and Squash saute: Pack a small onion, a zuchinni or yellow summer squash, and a frozen pack of Aidell's sausages. They should be nice and thawed by your first morning. Slice and saute the onion, squash, and sausages together for a delicious power breakfast. You can even bring eggs if you have the proper hard-sided storage container that protects the egg from breaking in the pack.
Indian Food with Rice- The Tasty Bite brand sells many different entree options of pre-cooked and bagged Indian food such as punjab eggplant, madras lentils, and channa masala. Buy your favorite flavor and a pack of minute-rice, which is also pre-cooked and only needs a few minutes on the stove and a bit of water before it's ready to eat. Heat up the Indian food and pour it over the cooked rice. Yum!
Mashed Potatoes: Instant mashed potatoes cook up nice and fluffy and tastes a LOT like the real thing! Bring a tablespoon of butter in a small, tight-lidded container. Bring your favorite toppings such as bacon bits, green onions, dried garlic. To rehydrate the potatoes, add hot water and stir vigorously. Top with butter and toppings and enjoy!
McDougall's: Some of my favorite products from this brand of instant dehyrdated meals are their tortilla soup. I just dump the contents of the paper container cup into a Ziploc bag instead of carrying the original packaging (lightweight, but bulky) and boil it in my camp pot. While it's delicious on its own, you can jazz it up with butter or olive oil, sauteed onions, and sauteed zucchini.
Fresh Fruits and Veggies: some fruits and veggies that store well in a backpack are apples, oranges, cucumbers (especially Persian cucumbers, which are smaller and easier to eat), bell peppers, celery, zucchini, carrots, onions, garlic, and avocados. Even fresh mushrooms are packable if you eat them on day 1 and don't crush them by packing things over them.
Dessert - I'm a huge fan of the single-serving chocolate pudding cups, and I like to dress it up with chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, and pecans for texture and nutrition. If you don't want to be as healthy, turn it into a dirt cup with crushed Oreos and gummy worms! Single-serving Jello cups are also a fun snack, and can be extra delicious and offer more calories if you mix orange jello with raisins, cheese chunks, and carrots.