Being vegetarian leaning vegan and on a budget, too, I make my own dehydrated meals. I've scoured the web for the few blogs that touch on this subject, and have picked through their recipe collections but I'm always open to more options. So let me throw this out: first, are there other diy veggie backpackers out there? If so, what are some of your favorite recipes? What were some of your failures? (For instance, rice ended up off my menu when I realized that re-hydrating takes almost as long as the original cooking.)
I'm not a vegetarian, but I generally tend to eat a lot less meat when on backpacking trips (on mountaineering trips I rarely eat meat). That being said, my preferred foods are pasta of any kind (although I favor good quality ramen), rice (ideally brown or hybrid to get more fiber), lentils and split green peas, although all legumes must be soaked in water for a few hrs before; they are totally worth the bother, though, in terms of nutrition and flavor.
I didn't get your meaning regarding re-hydration of rice, though. I always carry my rice dry and uncooked, and it doesn't take very long to cook. Lentils and split green peas, if you soak them in water for a couple of hrs, take 30-50 min to cook depending on your location temperature and altitude, and they are excellent as a one-pot meal. What you have to do is make first a small stir-fry with onions, bit of garlic, carrots and the like, in oil or butter, with spices (I use paprika, cumin and salt), and after 10 or so minutes you add the soaked lentils or peas with more water, mix everything well together, and let it boil/simmer covered on low fire.
Hey @BrownDog - we love talking about food!
Check out the thread "Share Your Favorite Campsite Recipes" - a lot of great recipes there. Even some of the ones that have meat can be made with alternatives.
I'm in my 50s and have to watch my blood pressure and, as tasty as they are, those prepackaged dehydrated meals are incredibly high in sodium so I don't bother with them anymore and just make my own. It's amazing what you can do with the bulk food section of your local grocer and a food dehydrator!
@Dad_Aint_Hip Thanks for the link! I'll check it out. And I hear you. I too have to limit my salt and for food sensitivity/allergy issues, I have to avoid chemicals and other "non food" additives. (I grow most of my own food for this reason.) And yep, I love my dehydrators! I started out a million years ago with one of those wooden kits with the funky dryer and no blower, but have since graduated to digital models.
I generally just choose wisely at the grocery store... Most dishes that require milk or butter work fine with powdered milk or vegetable oil. I eat a lot of pasta, anyway, because it's relatively lightweight, high in calories and quick and easy to cook.
As for rice, the "minute" rice is fast and easy.
For dishes that require cheese, I use the "string" cheese. Unless the weather is ridiculously warm it seems to survive for a few days without refrigeration just fine.
If you're going to do the pre-cooked thing, you might want to consider doing your own freeze-drying, rather than conventional dehydrating.
@BrownDog Yeah, I thought it would be fun to get a freeze-drier. Then I looked at the price.
But here's what I do - if I am going on a short trip (which is almost all of my trips), I'll cook the ingredients at home, dehydrate them, and then put them in a vacuum-sealed bag with a desiccant pack. I do this just a few days before I go and I store it in the fridge for an added level of food safety. But I would feel comfortable leaving it out for several days (depending on the type of food, obviously). For my trip last week, I did that to ground beef and I did it about two weeks before I went - there were no issues with it.
But, that being said, if I want to make up a recipe a lot earlier or I want to use larger chunks of meat, then I wouldn't dehydrate them (again, unless I could do it a night or two before I left and would only be in my pack for two or three days). In these cases, I would buy that particular ingredient freeze-dried already. Great option for chicken and beef strips. Then do the rest of my ingredients as needed.
Not a veggie here, but I noticed that you've dropped rice because of the rehydration time. I do freezer bag meals and use minute rice a lot, just add boiling water and wait for 10-15 minutes. I think a lot of recipes would be fine without the meat portion. And now I'm wondering if there are places that sell freeze dried vegetarian "meat" substitutes. Good luck in your search!