Whether you’re creating your own camping meals, or looking to jazz up existing ones, working with the right freeze-dried and dehydrated ingredients, powders and pastes can be a flavor-changer (and life-changer) for your camping adventures! This is exactly why we sat down with Debbie — Packit Gourmet’s Chef & Queen of dried ingredients and camp cuisine — to chat about her go-to items when creating a meal from scratch or taking it to the next level.
Q: What items from the Packit Gourmet grocery do you always keep stocked in your camp pantry?
I’d have to start with what I call the “Trifecta” — dehydrated tomato flakes, white onion and mixed bell peppers. I pretty much toss these into everything as a foundation. They’re all really handy and offer a robust flavor that’s easy to add into anything you’re making . . . soup, sauces, eggs, rice . . . to begin to build the flavor profile of the dish. It also allows you to add in a little extra nutrition and a more concentrated flavor when vegetables would otherwise be too cumbersome to carry.
Both of these broth options are fantastic and they each offer different advantages . . .
I love the natural flavor of our Stock Powders — there’s no salt or seasonings added — so you are free to flavor them to your own taste. Plus, the powder form makes it really easy to control how much of the meat flavor you might want to add to rice, beans, a stew, anything! It allows you to create either a lighter or more full-flavored broth, whichever you prefer. You can easily blend it with other dried ingredients in advance and then add water or, you can just sprinkle it into the finished product and build the flavor that way, as long as there’s a bit of liquid available to help dissolve it.
It’s also really handy if you’re feeling a little under-the-weather and need a warming cup of broth to perk you up with a little stomach-friendly sustenance . . . and you can just toss in some dehydrated vegetables to add a bit more flavor, texture and nutrition! That being said, the powder is a little more difficult to carry since it is susceptible to moisture and oxygen. I’d recommend double-bagging it if you’re taking it with you for use over a few days.
The Savory Choice Broth Sticks are a bit easier to carry since they’re already liquefied and portioned out — 1 stick is enough to transform about 1 cup of water into a savory broth. It is more concentrated and deeper flavored, so although it can be a bit more intense brothiness – it’s easily adjusted with more water . . . and the flavor is yummy all-the-same!
3. Freeze-dried Green Onions — I’m a green-onion fanatic — I love that green onions add a fresh flavor pop to everything! There are some other freeze-dried veggies that also retain a really bright and fresh flavor, such as the corn , green peas and green peppers; but the green onions are so versatile and require very little moisture to rehydrate, so they can be sprinkled over anything, even when dry, to add a fresh taste & appearance to a backcountry dish.
4. Pre-cooked, Dehydrated Black Beans — Living in Texas, black beans are the go-to bean and I love the flexibility that pre-cooked dehydrated beans bring to the table. Toss them into rice, soup, or make a quick side dish out of them using the trifecta! We enjoy them with our Diner Deluxe Eggs in the morning . . . seasoned up tex-mex style . . . and if you don’t have any southwest spices, like cilantro or chile spice, on hand, then I’d probably suggest just squirting in a Cholula packet for extra flavor! Since they’re pre-cooked, preparation is simple and fast, and they’re an easy way to add a protein boost to a meal.
5. Instant or Quick Cooking Rice — Our white rice is instant, just-add-boiling-water, and the brown rice is quick-cooking — requiring a short boil in the pot. Both act as a great base for so many different meals, and really, with a packet of Olive Oil, Soy Sauce, Garlic Packet and the Trifecta vegetables I’ve mentioned, you can easily make yourself a nice little dish of fried rice! Add in a drizzle of rehydrated OvaEasy Eggs and it can be a breakfast fried rice!
6. Tomato Powder & Amore Tomato Paste — Both are delicious — which one you use depends on what you want to carry. The Tomato Paste is great because it’s already rehydrated, so you can just squeeze it out and seal it back up as needed — no more trouble than a tube of toothpaste.
The powder needs a bit more care due to it’s sensitivity to moisture, but what’s nice about it is that you can pre-season it with your favorite herbs and veggies, and you’ll have a fantastic just-add-water pre-made pasta sauce that’s small in size and lightweight. It’s also offers great flexibility in how it can be used: the base for a thick tomato paste, a tomato-gravy (great on biscuits!), or just add it to any stew for a light lift of tomato-saucy flavor, such as in chili or stew. Such a great burst of tomato flavor, it’s just scrumptious!
7. Herb Packets: Garlic, Oregano, Crushed Red Pepper — These are just all-around seasonings that are conveniently packaged into individual portions — great flavor boosters for anything and they take up practically no room at all!
8. Hot Sauce Packets: Cholula, Sriracha, Tabasco & Texas Pete Hot Sauce — If you’re a spice lover like me, a splash of hot sauce goes with everything. My personal favorites are Cholula and Sriracha, with Tabasco standard for topping off anything cajun.
Q: What’s the most under-appreciated grocery item?
The Maple Syrup Powder is so delicious! It can be rehydrated to a great, full-flavored syrup for pancakes, plus — it’s just all around sweet-goodness — you can sprinkle it on your granola, oatmeal or in your coffee as an alternative to plain-ole sugar!
I find the Butter Powder pretty nice too — you can whip it up into a buttery spread — once rehydrated, use it similar to “real” butter in toasting a “grilled cheese” using some rehydrated freeze-dried cheese.
Q: Are there grocery items that you recommend pairing with the Packit Gourmet trail meals?
If you’re a fan of sour cream, whipping up a bit of our Sour Cream Powder is pretty fun and great with our Texas State Fair Chili, Austintacious Tortilla Soup and the Big’un Burrito with Fajita Chicken.
Q: For everyone that’s new to creating camp recipes, do you have any tips on how to get started?
I always say the best way to start creating recipes is to simply think about how you would cook with them at home. Take our Chili for example, I simply think about what ingredients I’d use in my homemade Chili — the veggies, spices, etc, and the ratio between them all — then convert this to the dried ingredients.
And although we do offer rehydration suggestions on our website (how much water is required to rehydrate a specific ingredient all on its own), you can toss all of that info out of the window if you’re making a soup or stew . . . and because of this, that’s the type of meal I recommend starting with. You have water which becomes your broth with the addition of stock powder or broth stick . . . then your base ingredients (what veggies do you want; how about any protein?) . . . and your herbs and spices and other seasonings. With all of these ingredients swimming in your broth, this will allow you to focus on flavor rather than what is required to properly rehydrate each individual ingredient as a side dish, for instance.
The other factor is how quickly the ingredients rehydrate … for example, freeze-dried ingredients rehydrate instantly — so much quicker than their dehydrated counterparts. But even within the dehydrated group — some rehydrate quickly while others may take up to 30 minutes. So even if you’re working with a soup or stew, you’ll want to be aware of these basic differences so that the ingredients can come together for an edible finish at the same time (rather than still being firm and not fully rehydrated).
When water need and timing really comes into play is when you’re creating a drier dish, such as a stir-fry or burrito bowl, because you need enough water to bring all of your ingredients back to life without excess water remaining in the bottom of the bowl. But that’s for another day . . . I recommend starting with a basic soup or pasta sauce, playing with ingredient textures, flavors and indvidual behavior in order to understand their various qualities and then moving on from there. Once you start experimenting, you’ll never want to stop!
For additional questions about freeze-dried and dehydrated foods or the Packit Gourmet products listed, please feel free to comment below or reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org!