Alpine Cuisine Menu Planner--Some Tasty Suggestions
by Paul Richins, Jr.
(updated 10/4/08)

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Topics addressed below: balancing carbohydrates and protein, drying meats/fruits/vegetables, freeze dried vegetables and fruit, menu planner, gourmet dinners, and how to make a delicious Sierra Gatorade Slush.

Good food gives a festive touch to summit celebrations and lifts the spirits during stormy days. Good food improves the scenery and keeps the spirits high. Bad food makes the nights colder, the approaches more difficult and the weather unbearable. The key is finding cuisine that is tasty and easy to prepare. At altitude this is not easy. The following suggestions are simple to prepare, inexpensive, lightweight, and tasty. All the food items can be purchased your local grocery store.

Backpackers and backcountry skiers/boarders may experience a lack of appetite when going to higher elevations. Others may be just too tired at the end of a hard day to eat. Resist the temptation to skip a meal, whether it is breakfast, lunch or dinner. Eating is essential for the sustained level of output required in the backcountry. Soup is easy to eat and enjoyable if nothing else sounds good.

During the course of the day, keep hydrated by regularly drinking water, Gatorade, or a sports drink of your choice. For dinner, drink plenty of fluids, Gatorade or a hot drink. To reduce weight and volume, mix at a ratio of 50/50 sugar-based Gatorade with an artifically-sweetened drink mix such as Crystal Light.

The Zone Diet of Dr. Barry Sears, stresses the importance of balancing carbohydrate and protein intake. Independent studies have shown that ones health is improved and the competitive performances of athletes are enhanced when the Zone Diet is followed. In the simplest of terms, a Zone-favorable meal balances protein, carbohydrates and fat in a ratio of 7 grams of protein to 9 grams of carbohydrates to 1.5 grams of fat. Dr. Sears believes that the near-epidemic rise of obesity, heart disease, cancer and diabetes will continue unless the public’s over consumption of high-density carbohydrates and fats are drastically altered.

Your protein intake can be increased with dried meats and fish. Dried beef will be about 25% its original weight and home drying is about half the cost of commercially purchased jerky. Drying is the oldest method of preserving food. The early American settlers dried foods such as corn, apple slices, currants, grapes, and meat. Compared with other methods, drying is quite simple. In fact, you may already have most of the equipment on hand. Dried foods keep well because the moisture content is so low that spoilage organisms cannot grow. An excellent source of information can be found at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, College of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service web site. Drying Foods, Circular 1227, includes Food Drying Basics, Equipment and Methods for Drying, Drying Fruits, Drying Vegetables, Drying Herbs, Drying Meats, and Storing and Using Dried Foods. Their web site address is http://www.ag.uiuc.edu/~vista/html_pubs/DRYING/dryfood.html

Mountain House is a good source of freeze-dried beef and chicken (#10 cans). These freeze-dried meats can be used in place of the meat noted in the recipes below and will lighten your load considerably.

The Just Tomatoes Company has a tasty assortment of freeze-dried veggies, tomatoes, bell peppers, black beans, onions, garlic, berries, and fruit. Add these nearly weightless goodies to soups and side dishes for delicious flavors. Consider their wide selection of freeze dried fruit that can be added to certain dishes or eaten as snacks on the trail or at home.

Below is a menu planner with some basic meals, several delious gourmet dinners, and a recipe for Sierra Gatorade Slush. As a general rule, plan 1.6 to 2.0 pounds of food per person per day. The following suggested menus include weights of each item and totals 1.6 pounds per person per day. Adjust the portions based on the appetites of those in your party. Throw in a couple of extra soups for emergency rations. Organize your meals into separate color-coded stuff sacks. Place all the breakfasts together in a single stuff stack, all the lunches in another colored stuff sack, and all the dinners in a third stuff sack.

Menu Planner

Breakfast (per person per day)

Weight

Food Item

1.5 ounces

Instant oatmeal, cream of wheat, or cup of soup (single serving envelope)

1.5 ounces

Add protein powder, powdered milk and any combination of raisins, freeze dried fruit, sunflower seeds and pine nuts to the cereal.

2 ounces

Zone Bar, Balance Bar or Protein Bar—select a bar that balances protein, carbohydrates and fat in the ratios recommended by Dr. Barry Sears (many so called nutritional bars are rich in carbohydrates and contain little protein).

1 ounce

Powdered hot drinks such as Cappuccino, Mocha, spiced cider, eggnog, or Chai Tea Latte.

6 ounces

Subtotal--Breakfast


Lunch (per person per day)

Weight

Food Item

5 ounces

Mini bagel(s) with cheese or crackers and peanut butter

1.5 ounces

Mixed nuts (cashews, almonds, pecans, brazil nuts, carob covered raisins)

1.5 ounces

M and M’s or candy bar

1.5 ounce

Dried fruit

1.5 ounces

Gatorade or other sports drinks (powdered mix)*

11 ounces

Subtotal--Lunch


Dinner (serves 2 persons, per day)

Weight

Food Item

2.5 ounces

Packaged Lipton or Knorr soup (5 minutes cooking time). Add a fresh carrot and bell pepper, or freeze-dried veggies, zucchini squash, onions, and garlic.

6 ounces

Packaged Lipton or Knorr side dishes (5 minutes cooking time)

1.5 ounces

Freeze-dried meat (chicken, beef, fish)**

1.5 ounces

Gatorade or other sports drink*

2 ounces

Hot drink—herbal tea, Cappuccino, Mocha, spiced cider, eggnog, or spiced Chai Tea Latte

3.5 ounces

Two candy bars for desert

 17 ounces/2

Subtotal--Dinner for two—8.5 ounces per person


Snacks (select any combination)

Weight

Food Item

2 ounces

Pringles Potato Chips, or

2 ounces

Beef/turkey/salmon jerky, or

 2 ounces

String cheese and crackers (Air Crisp Ritz or Wheat Thins)

2 ounces

Subtotal--Snacks

25.5 ounces

Grand Total (per person, per day)


*Mix at a ratio of 50/50 sugar-based Gatorade with an artifically-sweetened drink mix such as Crystal Light.
**Vacuum-sealed or canned chicken or fish will add 3-7 ounces.

Gourmet Meals

Chicken and Zucchini Squash with Thai Rice Noodles

  • 2 packages of Thai rice noodles with flavor packs
  • 1 cup freeze-dried chicken
  • 1 cup freeze-dried zucchini squash
  • dried sliced mushrooms (small portion for taste)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil (roasted red pepper olive oil or garlic/basil olive oil)
  • Bring contents to a boil for 3 minutes in 2.5-3 cups of water and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.