This is by far the best! Simple, inexpensive, high protein and no-prep!


Cowboy Pasta  (serves 4)

1.  Cook, then drain in a colander:

     10 ounces (2 ½ cups) farfalline (tiny bow) pasta

     Return pasta to pot and set aside

2.  Sauté until browned in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat: 

      8 ounces lean ground meat

     or use 6 ounces soy ground round, crumbled (add after salsa;  no sautéing is  needed)

3.  Add to skillet and bring to a boil: 

     28 ounces canned crushed tomatoes

     15 ounces canned “ranch style” beans

      1/3 cup salsa, your choice of heat.  Simmer 4 minutes

4.  Remove from heat and stir in: 

        ¾ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

5.  Add the sauce to the pasta in the pot and blend

6.  Dehydrate for 6 hours at 145 degrees

7.  To rehydrate, cover with water just above level of food in pot, boil, stir and serve.

This is a copy of Hawk’s Vittles dish of the same name.  I first had it one cold rainy evening at Jerry Cabin Shelter on the AT.  Long, cold wet hike to get there, only to find the shelter occupied by a couple who clearly didn’t want company, so pitched my tent.  The food rehydrated just as the directions said it should, and being tired, cold and wet, tasted wonderful.  Hawk Vittles gives generous portions;  toward the end, I was groaning to myself “Must….finish last….bites!”

Tried replicating it a few times at home;  even with the wrong cheese (used cheddar) and wrong proportions, it was a hit at home.

Then, found a free book, an early version of Backpack Gourmet by Linda Fredrick Yaffee.  There inside was this recipe;  it’s Mr. Hawks version!  And a host of other good stuff.

Retired medical technologist and engineer
REI member since 1978
Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

If I share my cast-iron dutch-oven recipes, then everyone will be able to do what I do and I won't be known as an amazing camp chef anymore!

Happy to announce I've dialed in my latest recipe for backpacking: Cottage Pie! (Shepherd's Pie but with ground beef)

One really important note - because I don't do this that often, I didn't want to spend money on a large bulk order of freeze-dried ground beef. So I cooked up ground beef and then dehydrated it. Dehydrating meat is fine AS LONG AS you take some precautions. So if you want to use this recipe and you're not familiar with proper handling of meat when dehydrating, I'd strongly recommend getting freeze-dried hamburger.

Before the recipe, here's how I dehydrated and packaged the ground beef for use in this recipe:

  • Use as lean a beef as you can get. I used 96% lean. It's the fat that will go rancid and cause potential issues with food-born illness, so you want to reduce the amount of fat as much as you can
  • Cook the ever-loving $#@%*  out of it. You're about to dehydrate it anyway so you don't care if it's dry. If you can't get ground beef that's at least 95% lean, throw in some fine bread crumbs while you cook the beef - it helps absorb the moisture. Also, don't cover it while you cook it. Again, no need to trap moisture in the meat.
  • Once it's cooked, IMMEDIATELY dump it into a fine mesh sieve or strainer and let excess grease drain out. Don't let it cool or the grease can congeal and stay with the meat.
  • Then dump it onto some paper towel and use it to blot any remaining moisture/grease.
  • Put it onto a fine mesh tray in your dehydrator, set it to high and dehydrate for 10-12 hours. If it's crunchy and the nastiest thing you've put in your mouth since college, it's done.
  • Once dehydrated, I put it into a vacuum-sealed bag along with a desiccant bag, seal it, and then pop it into the fridge for added protection.
  • Finally, I wouldn't do this more than a week or so before needing to use it on trail.

On to the recipe (finally)!!


Cottage/Shepherd’s Pie


  • 4 ounces 95% lean ground beef, cooked
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 1 Tsp beef bouillon
  • 10 grams freeze-dried vegetables*
  • ½ container of dried hash browns**
  • 2 Tbsp brown gravy mix
  • ½ Tsp mushroom powder
  • ¼ Tsp garlic powder
  • 3 grams dried mushrooms, chopped
  • Dried thyme and oregano


  1. Boil 1 cup of water, add to hash brown container, seal, and set aside for 12 minutes
  2. Add 1 cup of water to pot, add mushrooms and veggies, and bring to boil slowly (or let simmer for a few minutes and then bring to a boil)
  3. Once boiling, add contents of ground beef package (see below), reduce heat to simmer, and let it thicken (3-4 minutes)
  4. Drain the water from the potatoes into the pot and add potatoes to top of ground beef
  5. Put the lid on your pot and let sit for 5 or 6 minutes to let veggies and meat continue to hydrate


  • Before leaving, combine cooked/dehydrated ground beef, thyme, oregano, flour, bouillon, mushroom powder, garlic powder, and gravy mix in a vacuum-sealed bag with a desiccant pack
  • * I use Karen’s Naturals Mixed Vegetables for the calorie count
  • ** I use Idaho Spuds brand, 4.2 oz container


Beef - 156 cal
Flour - 30 cal
Beef bouillon - 10 cal
Freeze-Dried Vegetables - 12 cal
Hash browns - 210 cal
Thyme and rosemary - N/A
Salt and pepper - 6 cal
Brown gravy mix - 40 cal

Total - 464 cal

“Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.” (John Muir)

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Snow Camping Boot Warmer Oatmeal. 

Double line the inside of your “chilled by the winter night” winter boots with gallon size heavy duty zip lock bags.

Once inserted deep into you boots, the zip lock bags need to exceed the height of your boots, and then some.

On the side, add 1 cup of Instant Oatmeal, Walnuts, Raisins & Flaxseed to a backpacking bowl, of which has a lid.

Bring at least 2 cups of water to a boil on your gas stove.

Carefully, pour at least 1 cup of boiling water into each of the double lined heavy duty zip lock bags. Zip the bag seals tightly shut.

Set the boots aside from your active zone, but within easy reach.

Allow a few minutes for your boots to thaw and warm up.

Carefully pull the inner lining bags of hot water out of your boots (without spilling water back inside your boots), leaving the outer layer bags inside your boots, and add the hot water to your awaiting oatmeal mix bowl.

Stir the oatmeal, until throughly mixed and put the lid on the bowl.

Allow the oatmeal mix to hydrate for a minute or so before chowing it down.

With practice, a snow camper can perform this task flawlessly, while still in his/her sleeping bag, eagerly preparing the hearty breakfast meal, just outside the tent door.

Pull out the remaining zip lock bags from your boots, put on a pair of clean dry socks, your warmed boots, wash out your bowl with the fresh fallen snow, and your ready to have a great day, trekking across the snow covered countryside, to your next destination.



Thats inventive, I like it.

A favorite but still in the works since it's so versatile:  I've been making at campsite is pizza over the fire with the cast iron. 

Grease the cast iron pan well.  I cook both sides of the dough before (at least until lightly golden) putting the sauce and toppings on.  Cook one side then flip. Top with whatever you like.  Cover to melt the cheese sufficiently (if using cheese)

I usually buy the dough but last time I made it at home prior with recipe for "that dough" from Lauren Toyota's Hot for Food: Vegan Comfort Classics (This book also has a great cinnamon bun recipe).

The pizza has come out best when I don't overload it with the toppings.  I did this last time and it took much longer.  I also think that cooking the mushrooms and spinach separately would have also been time saving. 

I typically try to avoid meat so I don't have to worry about washing the germs away, temping it out or keeping it cool....and I am lazy 🙂 

 The meal ideas can be tailored to personal/family preference

-Portabella Mushroom Fajitas

                -Mushrooms, Onions, Peppers, seasoning, tortilla, pico or guac

-Chickpea gyros

                -Chickpeas toasted & seasoned, lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, garlic, parsley, tzatziki on pita

                                -sometimes we swap chickpeas for portabella mushrooms and add hummus

-Sweet and Sour chickpeas

                -Chickpeas, red pepper, green pepper, garlic, broccoli, sweet and sour sauce over rice