Spring has arrived in Georgia and that means it's time to crank up the dehydrator and hit the trail. On Sunday I dried a load of fruit in the Excalibur – seven bananas, four pears, two cantaloupes, and five large apples. I had intended to dry vegetables, but I noticed my bananas were getting brown spots and wouldn't be good for drying if I waited another day. Bananas are tricky. They're usually a little green when you buy them – not at their sweetest potential for drying. The best time for drying bananas is when the peels are completely yellow with just a few brown dots showing up. Beyond this stage, the fruit gets soft and your dried bananas will turn out sticky.

Congratulations to Chef Russ, the “Best Backpacking Recipe” winner for March. Russ submitted his Knock 'n Kraut recipe and wins dinner and dessert prepared by Chef Glenn. Each month I'll draw a name from my chef hat of the people who submit recipes. Let's see what you're cooking.

In this first edition of Recipes for Adventure, I will answer Mike K's question about dehydrating brown rice:

Have you ever dehydrated brown rice? If so, how did you do it? And how long did it take to reconstitute it?

How to Dehydrate and Flavor Whole Grain Brown Rice

Whole grain brown rice contains fiber, fat and nutrients that are stripped away from white rice. If white rice wasn't fortified with vitamins and iron, it would have little nutritional value. To cook rice fast and use less fuel on the trail, my recipes call for instant rice. The good news is that you can make healthier instant rice by precooking and dehydrating whole grain brown rice at home.

Basic Cooking Instructions:

Cook brown rice in the usual way – Bring 2 1/2 cups water to a boil, stir in 1 cup brown rice, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer 45-50 minutes or until all water is absorbed and rice is tender.

Beef, Chicken, or Vegetable Flavors:

Cook rice with beef, chicken, or vegetable broth instead of water. This eliminates the need to pack a separate bouillon cube for your meals. I use the broth that comes in a carton such as the Wolfgang Puck brand. These are low or no fat broths. You would not want to use fatty broth due to the risk of it turning rancid later.

Soy Sauce:

After you finish cooking your rice using one of the above methods, you can stir in soy sauce to give your meals an Asian flavor. Try adding a teaspoon of soy sauce per cup of cooked rice – more or less depending on your tastes. This eliminates the need to carry a packet of soy sauce on the trail.

Hot Sauce:

Stir in a few shakes of your favorite hot sauce to whatever heat level makes you happy. This eliminates the need to carry a small bottle of hot sauce as I have seen some hikers do.

How to Dehydrate Cooked Brown Rice:

Cover your dehydrator trays with parchment paper or the liners that came with your unit. For my Excalibur dehydrator, I use reusable Paraflexx sheets. Never use waxed paper in a dehydrator. It melts. Spread the rice in a single layer and dehydrate at 125 degrees for five hours or until completely dry. Dehydrating times are longer for some dehydrators. Midway through the drying process, break up any rice that is stuck together.

Yield:

1 cup uncooked rice = 3 1/2 cups cooked rice = 2 cups dehydrated rice.

On the Trail:

I cook homemade instant brown rice the same way as instant rice in my trail meals. Soak with other ingredients in pot for 5 minutes to begin rehydration. Light stove and bring to boil for a minute or two. Remove pot and let sit 10 minutes. I use a pot cozy to hold in the heat.

Homemade instant brown rice is a little chewier than instant white rice, but I find this a favorable characteristic. You can create an unlimited number of healthy brown rice meals following the dehydrating and flavoring methods discussed above in combination with your favorite meats, beans, and vegetables.

The Basic Formula is:

Regular Serving:

  • 1/2 cup homemade & flavored instant brown rice
  • 1/4 cup dehydrated meat or beans
  • 1/4 cup dehydrated vegetables
  • 1 cup water to cook and rehydrate

Large Serving:

  • 3/4 cup homemade & flavored instant brown rice
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp dehydrated meat or beans
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp dehydrated vegetables
  • 1 1/2 cups water to cook and rehydrate

Extra-Large or Serving for Two:

  • 1 cup homemade & flavored instant brown rice
  • 1/2 cup dehydrated meat or beans
  • 1/2 cup dehydrated vegetables
  • 2 cups water to cook and rehydrate

Meats – Ground Beef or Turkey, Deli Ham, and Shrimp all go well with rice.

Beans – Black, Red, Kidney, Great Northern, Black-eyed Peas, Garbanzo, and more.

Vegetables – Corn, Peas, Carrots, Green Beans (Or all of those as Mixed Vegetables), Bell Peppers, Hot Peppers, Onions, Mushrooms, Tomatoes, Spinach, Okra, Collard or Turnip Greens, Broccoli, Celery, Zucchini, Cabbage, and more.

The water to dried food ratio is always 1:1 when cooking with dehydrated or instant rice. If you were using other starches such as potatoes or couscous instead of rice, you would use more water. I usually cook the regular serving size because I always warm an extra serving of vegetables on the side in my mini-pot, plus a fruit based dessert. Choose a serving size that meets your needs and makes you happy!

Recipe: Rice with Collard Greens & Black-Eyed Peas

  • 1/2 cup beef or vegetable flavored dried rice, consider adding hot sauce before drying rice
  • 1/4 cup dehydrated black-eyed peas
  • 1/4 cup dehydrated collard greens
  • 1 cup water to cook and rehydrate

I wasn't sure how this recipe would turn out because collard greens are typically simmered for hours in southern homes on New Year's Day. Probably because of the drying, the meal turned out delicious. Collard greens are easy to dehydrate without pre-cooking. Cover your trays with parchment paper or Paraflexx sheets because the leaves may break into little pieces when almost dry. Cut the thin parts of the leaves away from the thick, vein-like centers and dry just the thin parts. If you don't do this, the leaves will dry way before the centers. Your collard greens will be crumbly dry after four or five hours in the dehydrator at 125 degrees.

Black-eyed peas are also easy to dehydrate. I’m a little lazy in this department, so I just open up a can and drain away the liquid in a colander. There is no need to cook canned black-eyed peas because they have already been cooked. Cover your trays with parchment paper or Paraflexx sheets and spread the black-eyed peas in a single layer. Dehydrate at 125 degrees for four to six hours. Black-eyed peas and all beans (legumes) will split open when dehydrated.

That's it for now. Next month I'll share a trick about making Flavored Potato Bark with a delicious new recipe for Barbecue Beef Stew. It tastes like Brunswick Stew!

Thanks for subscribing to Recipes for Adventure. I hope you enjoyed this first installment. Please let me know if you have any comments or suggestions about the newsletter.

Happy Trails,

P.S. Pages recently added at BackpackingChef.com:

Buy Dried Food: No time to dehydrate your own? Use these resources to buy the dehydrated or freeze-dried ingredients you need to follow Chef Glenn’s recipes without a dehydrator.

Vacuum-sealing Food & Drying Meat for Long-term Storage.

How I packed my food for last year’s 28-day Appalachian Trail section-hike.

Submit your Best Backing Recipe. You could win a dinner and dessert prepared by Chef Glenn.