Bacon Wrapped Cheese Dogs

Alright summer lovers, let’s talk hotdogs. Whether you’re a Chicagoan, a New Yorker, or just a fine citizen of the world who can appreciate a good hot dog, listen up. Cheese + Bacon + Traditional Dog = Bliss. I know, it’s simple but sometimes, especially when camping or cooking in bulk, the simpler the better. Regardless, once you give them a try, no grill out will be complete without these tasty little dogs. Continue reading Bacon Wrapped Cheese Dogs

Food for Day Hiking

Written by Freelance Journalist and Health Enthusiast, Helen Veale

Food and water are the most important things to take with you on a hike as you will be burning a lot of energy!

Consistently, you should plan to eat at least one snack every hour. Make sure some of these snacks are salty in order to replace electrolytes lost through sweat (1). Without good nutrition, your hike could quickly turn into a disaster leaving you weak, unable to focus or enjoy yourself. In extreme circumstances a lack of nutrition can even put you at risk. This is why it’s so important to make sure that food and water is the first thing you should pack for your trip. Continue reading Food for Day Hiking

Starting Off The Morning Right With Breakfast Camping Food

For our fourth day of cubicle camping, Trent and I elected to get our cooking in early and try some of the breakfast camping food options at ACK. We’ve all heard the saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and that’s even more true when you’re out on the trail. A good morning meal will get you energized and prepared for a day full of outdoor adventure. Today’s menu included Trail Food’s PB & Banana Oatmeal and Granola with Bananas & Milk, and then Peanut Butter & Raisin Oatmeal and Huevos Rancheros from Backpacker’s Pantry.

Meal 1: Granola with Bananas & Milk 

The Granola all cooked up. Nice & thick!
The Granola all cooked up. Nice & thick!

The Granola with Bananas & Milk from Backpacker’s Pantry was the biggest meal of the morning by far and costs a couple extra bucks over the other options for today. It includes vanilla, banana and milk powder – a combination of flavors I was very much looking forward to! Trent was going to have to sit this one out since he’s got a tree nut allergy… so it was all mine.

A note about allergens: Read packaging closely before buying/ eating. Both Trail Foods and Backpacker’s Pantry will have an allergy warning on the packaging and those will also be specifically listed out on product pages at ACK.com. We didn’t expect this one to have tree nuts in it but Trent is sure glad we read the warning!

I opened it up and my first thought was that it looked a bit like the granola had some sort of sugary frosting to it, although it was really just a mixture of the banana, vanilla and milk powder. I couldn’t resist and gave it a try when it was still dry and really wouldn’t have minded eating it as it was because it tasted great! It was just the right amount of sweet and the vanilla was a great touch. I wanted to see what it was like actually cooked though, so I fired up the JetBoil and had the granola ready in about 5 minutes (2 minutes to boil water, 3 minutes to cook). One thing to note – this works with cold water too!

It had thickened up great when I opened it up which I appreciated because I prefer my granola or oatmeal on the thick side. After a few stirs I dug in while it was still hot. It was delicious, although definitely on the sweet side of the spectrum. For the flavors, I found the banana to be very subtle and the vanilla seemed to have come out more during cooking.

Meal 2 & 3: PB & Banana Oatmeal and Peanut Butter & Raisin Oatmeal

Organic Peanut Butter & Raisin Oatmeal from Backpacker's Pantry.
Organic Peanut Butter & Raisin Oatmeal from Backpacker’s Pantry.

The two different oatmeals from Backpacker’s Pantry and Trail Foods were both one serving meal pouches and each cost under $5. The Trail Food’s Peanut Butter & Banana Oatmeal beat out the Backpacker’s Pantry option in terms of vitamins and minerals, although both had a good mix of carbs, protein and calories to get you fueled for the day. One thing to note though is that the Peanut Butter & Raisin Oatmeal is an organic option and we were both interested to see how this would affect the taste – it certainly didn’t seem to effect the price all that much!

Joseph’s Review: I enjoyed the Peanut Butter & Raisin Oatmeal quite a bit. It was a very hearty meal and actually kind of reminded me of a Cliff Bar. It might’ve been that we didn’t use the right amount of water but this one turned out very thick and clumpy as you can see in the picture. The taste was still great though and I ended up eating most of this one for my breakfast. It was probably my favorite for the day. It didn’t look pretty, but this would certainly get the job done on the trail!

The PB & Banana Oatmeal
The PB & Banana Oatmeal

Trent’s Review: I went for the PB & Banana Oatmeal from Trail Foods. It came with two separate packets in addition to the oatmeal – one with peanut butter and a sugar packet. After cooking, I tried it without them and quickly elected to add them in. The sugar was a much needed touch. It had a very distinct flavor although the banana was very subtle.

We had the opposite problem with this oatmeal in that it turned out to have too much liquid, at least for my taste (I like my oatmeal thick). After pouring a bit out, it was perfect. This was my top meal for the day. It combined good flavor, consistency and was packed with a ton of goodness to prepare you for the day.

Meal 4: Huevos Rancheros

We mixed things up with our last meal of Huevos Rancheros, a common breakfast entree here in the great state of Texas. Would it translate well to a camp food form? We were determined to find out.

Unlike the other meals, the Huevos Rancheros does not cook in its pouch and requires some type of skillet to go along with your stove. This means there’s extra stuff to hike in and dishes to clean up afterwards. It does ask that you first rehydrate the beans for about 10 minutes and without the typical easy standing bottom of other pouches we had to get a little creative to keep it upright while the beans rehydrated.

Once this was done, we fired up the JetBoil and cooked us some eggs. The JetBoil is probably not the best stove to cook this meal. It suggests to slow cook the eggs but the JetBoil only has one setting and it’s not a heat you could use to slow cook something. Keeping this in mind, we served the eggs and dug in.

Joseph’s Review: It didn’t quite live up to its TexMex name and was severely lacking spice (I recommend bringing some kind of salsa if you go for this meal) but the eggs tasted like actual eggs and the veggies, cheese and spices did add a nice flavor. The one thing that didn’t turn out right was the beans, which must’ve needed some extra time to rehydrate as they were a bit crunchy. I ended up eating around them and even after all the oatmeal and granola found myself going for more and more of this meal. I would make this a certain addition to my breakfast camping food pantry IF it didn’t require the skillet. I like to keep things simple with these meals and it if can’t cook in the pouch, I probably won’t be using it.

Trent’s Review: My first thought when trying these was that it had the same texture and consistency of tofu scramble, something I had gotten very used to while I was in in the middle of my vegetarian phase. This didn’t bother me one bit, but I could see how some people might not like it. As mentioned above, I think this would’ve done better over a more controlled fire or at least by holding the skillet above your stove while you cook. I think having the extra control would’ve improved on both the eggs and the beans. Overall though, I thought it had a good blend of flavors that all complimented one another very well.

Draining Water from our PB & Banana Oatmeal.
Draining Water from our PB & Banana Oatmeal.

Too Much Water? Just Drain A Little Out!

Measuring the correct amount of water on these meals sometimes comes down to a personal preference and the amount the pouch lists on the back is just the suggestion. If you ever find that your meal comes out too watery after cooking, there’s a simple solution: drain some out! With the resealable tops, you can easily seal up most of the meal and then pour out as much water as you’d like.

We haven’t had to do this too often this week but we’ve also cut back on how much water we’ve added  compared to the suggested amount. Try a few meals and get a feel for how much water tastes best to you.

Stay tuned for tomorrow as we’ll be cooking up our final round of meals – a three course meal from Backpacker’s Pantry!

 

Ultimate Lightweight Camp Foods: No Stove Required

'Cooking' up some trail foods just outside the office.
‘Cooking’ up some trail foods just outside the office.

Some of the biggest reasons people turn to camp foods like the meals from Backpacker’s Pantry and Trail Foods are for their simplicity and light weight. Today, we look at four different options that go a step further by eliminating the need for a stove. Rather than using hot or boiling water, these options require only cold water, meaning you can use the same stuff you’re drinking to ‘cook’ your meal. These are your ultimate lightweight camp foods.

While these cold water meals won’t come in the same variety as the typical style of other camping food, they do provide a surprising amount of tasty options, including the four we tried today. Today’s menu consisted of two desserts from Trail Foods (Chocolate Peanut Butter Pudding and Key Lime Pie) and two cold salads from Backpacker’s Pantry (Cold Pasta Salad and Cold Potato Salad). We still brought out the JetBoil Flash Stove and used it’s measuring cup to make sure we were accurate.

Cold Pasta Salad w/ Vegetables from Backpacker's Pantry
Cold Pasta Salad w/ Vegetables from Backpacker’s Pantry

Meals 1 & 2: Cold Pasta Salad w/ Vegetables & Cold Potato Salad

We started with the cold salad options from Backpacker’s Pantry (that way we could end with desserts). Both are advertised as two serving lunch options and are a bit on the pricier side ($7.99) compared to our $5 backcountry lunch options from Monday. We currently stock the cold pasta salad w/ vegetables at ACK and offer the cold potato salad via special order. Similar items like a cold black bean salad and cold couscous salad can be found on our site as well.

Backpacker’s Pantry on their Cold Pasta Salad: The salad uses pre-cooked pasta that’s only partially cooked to help retain the natural nutrients. When you rehydrate them in our meal, you’re able to get the full nutritional value from the pasta and all of the other ingredients.

Backpacker's Pantry Cold Potato Salad - available via special order at ACK.com.
Backpacker’s Pantry Cold Potato Salad – available via special order at ACK.com.

The water measurements were 3/4 cups for the potato salad and 1 cup for the pasta salad. It was handy to have the measuring cup that comes along with the Jetboil Flash Stove which measures out 1 cup. The other glaring difference was that these meals took 30 minutes to ‘cook’! That’s something to keep in mind when planning an outing with these. After our half-hour waiting period, we dug in.

Joseph’s Potato Salad Review: I absolutely love potato salad but I think I’ve only ever had it refrigerated and with a mayo base. I have to say that I was really impressed with this meal and ended up eating it for my lunch today.  It was tasty! It felt like a German style dish that normally might be served as a side but had plenty of substance to fill me up as a regular lunch. I will definitely be adding this one to my trail foods pantry. I gave the pasta salad a try but Trent ended up hoarding most of it for his lunch. See what he had to say about it.

Trent’s Pasta Salad Review: I had the Pasta Salad for lunch today and am going to start with a pointer for those making it: about half way through the 30 minutes of ‘cooking’, open the pouch up and stir. I had a thin layer of noodles at the top that didn’t get the same amount of re-hydration as the noodles at the bottom. That being said, I really enjoyed this meal. It had a very wide variety of flavors compared to several of the other meals I’ve tried. This was my lunch for the day and was very filling.

Chocolate Banana Pudding, yum!
Chocolate PB Pudding. Yum!

Meals 3 & 4: Chocolate PB Pudding & Key Lime Pie

After our salads, we turned to dessert. The idea of using cold water to ‘cook’ these desserts was a little less exotic than having it cook our salad lunches because they were essentially both powdered mixes that needed thickening. A majority of the Trail Foods desserts require only cold water to cook and this Chocolate PB Pudding and Key Lime Pie were no exception.

Both of these meals are listed as part of Trail Food’s ‘Recovery’ line of meals meaning they are intended for a post adventure snack to aid in, for lack of a better word, recovery. They come packed high in protein (especially the pudding!) as part of this line.

Trail Foods Key Lime Pie
Trail Foods Key Lime Pie

Unlike the salads, these desserts were ready in about five minutes so we had them served up quick!

Joseph’s Review: Our first thought on these was that they weren’t the most appealing thing in the world to look at but hey – you can’t judge a book by its cover, right? Plus, what else can pudding look like? And the Key Lime Pie was essentially a pudding. I ended up eating the majority of the Chocolate PB Pudding and have to say that it tasted great! The peanut butter came in an additional packet which I mixed in. It did get a little clumpy rather than mixing in perfectly but I don’t feel like it detracted from the taste. Overall this was a very sweet meal but not overly so with a good mix of chocolate and peanut butter flavor. This is definitely my favorite dessert so far.

Trent’s Review: I tasted the Chocolate PB Pudding first and immediately thought of the pudding that came in the kid’s frozen TV dinners I ate when I was younger. It’s not a bad taste but I’m a key lime pie fan so I went with that option. To clarify, it’s called Key Lime Pie because of the flavor and ingredients, but as you might’ve expected, the consistency is similar to the chocolate pudding. It came with an additional graham cracker crumble packet (pie crust!) which we mixed into the meal. I think next time I’ll leave it as a topping because it kind of messed with the texture. The taste was great but boy was it sweet! I had my fill of it for dessert and still had easily half the bowl left.  My recommendation would be to share this one between multiple people after your meal.

Leave No Trace – Use Your Meal Pouch To Hike Out Trash

Both Trail Foods and Backpacker’s Pantry have designed their meal pouches be more than just packaging. They work to cook the food, eat out of and contain any trash you end up with at the end. While they don’t create much of a mess to begin with, be sure to throw away trash like the torn top and any additional plastic packing for spices or add-ins. Of course, these bags are big enough that you could probably add whatever other trash you need to out in the backcountry! Once you’ve got it all inside, just seal and store in your pack until you’re able to get to a dumpster. Remember, leave no trace!

Keep an eye out for tomorrow when we look at breakfast camp food options available at ACK!

 

Camp Foods in The Cubicle; Just Add Water

Camp Cooking Made Easy

Dehydrated & freeze dried camp foods have always been a favorite method for adventurers looking for a lightweight and low-footprint method of cooking. That’s because they only require three things: the meal itself, water and a heat source to boil the water (although some dehydrated meals can be made with cold water!). Well, four things counting the utensil! I give a run down on how easy it is in the video below:

We're going to be doing this all week.
We’re going to be doing this all week.

Need Some Help Deciding Which One To Get? We’ve Got You Covered.

There are so many different meals to choose from so how do you decide which one to get? Trent, ACK’s Media Manager, and I are going to make it a little easier for you. We both forgot to go grocery shopping this week so we snuck into the ACK warehouse and helped ourselves to ACK’s stock of camp food. Shhh, don’t tell our boss!

Each day this week we’ll be trying three to four meals from Trail Foods and Backpacker’s Pantry. We’ve put together a cooking gear kit including a Jetboil Flash Cooking Syetem, a pair of Light My Fire Sporks, a 4L Platypus Water Tank, an Optimus Titanium Long Spoon and our own personal bowls. Catch all the action on the ACK blog and other social media sites. We’ll be updating things every day with new food talk, starting later today!

Trail Curry in 15 Minutes

The setup.
The setup.

On my last camping trip I vowed to try something new for my camp cooking and quickly settled on the instant gourmet camping meals from Backpacker’s Pantry. What attracted me to these lightweight pouches was how easy they claimed to be – just add boiling water and eat! No heavy duty cooking gear required. So I picked up a couple & added in my Jetboil Stove and Bugaboo Camper Cookset (although I only needed the bowls & plates from it).

I decided to start with their Chicken Cashew Curry. My goal was to determine if the process was really as simple as they claimed it was, find out if I actually liked the food (duh!) and see if each package was enough to really served two people.

Adding water directly to the pouch.
Adding water directly to the pouch.

Combined with my Jetboil, the whole process was a breeze. I simply added some water to the cooking cup and turned up the burner. Two minutes later, I had boiling water ready to add to the dry mix. Too much boiling water as we would find out later.

The pouch that contains the dry food is what makes things so great. It’s more than just a plastic container meant to hold the food contents – in fact, it’s very functional! It includes a zip-lock top that keeps the heat in and a gusset bottom that makes it easy to stand up. I poured the boiling water directly into the free-standing pouch, zipped it up & let it sit for the required 13 minutes.

So a total of 15 minutes after starting (AND WITH ZERO DISHES TO CLEAN), I had ready to eat trail curry. But how did it taste?

Two bowl sized servings.
Two bowl sized servings.

As I prepared to serve the meal into our two bowls from GSI, I quickly realized that I had added a bit too much water (I should have measured more carefully). To remedy this I drained some out of the bag directly before dishing out the food. Once that was done, the food was ready to go! With close to a third of the food still left in the bag, our two 14 oz. bowls were filled almost to the top.

The final verdict on the taste? Two thumbs up! It was well spiced and had a decent amount of veggies and chicken mixed in. Next time I think I will be bringing a condiment bottle full of Sriracha and maybe some kind of fresh veggie to add to kick it up a notch.

My favorite thing about the entire experience? Only two dishes to clean AND that could’ve been avoided by eating directly out of the bag. That is certainly hard to beat! I will note that because the bag is so tall eating directly out of it would probably require a long utensil like this spoon from Optimus.

We carry a full line of Backpacker’s Pantry products and encourage you to check them out here. I know I certainly will be! See some more photos of the cooking experience below:

 

Love, Hugs & Outdoor Gear

I logged onto Facebook this past Sunday in anticipation of reading post-Super Bowl game comments and was surprised to see how many people posted they were glad that football season was over. Why? Well, not necessarily because they didn’t like football but because and I quote, they were “happy to have their husbands” back. Sad but so true and the good news for those who “lose” their loved ones for a few months is that Valentine’s Day is just around the corner  — time for redemption?

While Valentine’s day is synonymous with love, hugs, flowers and chocolate, I like to look at it as more of an opportunity to bring the romance of the great outdoors to the one I love. For example there was one year we experienced such mild weather that I surprised her with a late night float along the banks of the Colorado river (Lady Bird Lake) here in downtown Austin, Texas. I brought all the goodies one would expect on Valentine’s date such as a couple of glasses of wine, cheese, crackers and chocolate. I even brought her a blanket to stay warm while we enjoyed the sweet sounds of our favorite music.

I do realize that weather can be a problem this time of the year but with a bit of creativity and gear made to keep you warm or dry, there is no reason not to give it a try. Can’t paddle? Go camping. Too cold? Make a fire and warm up some tea or coffee! Or, you can always keep it indoors and make a feast with our complete line of Lodge cookware…nice plug huh?

Sure, this article in fact is about gear but more importantly, they are gifts they’ll cherish through the experience and memories you both make using them.

Think outside of the box this year!

Roland @ACK