Backcountry Mac & CheeseFeb 25, 2020
I love the challenge of providing delicious, healthy meals for our backcountry hut trip. This dairy-free mac and cheese is one of my favorites!
The Backcountry Food Challenge
Packing food for the backcountry can be a challenge because:
You have to haul the food in on your back for your stay at the hut. Therefore, you do not want to be bringing food that weighs a lot in your backpack.
Trying a new recipe is a bit of a gamble. You won’t be ordering delivery if the meal is a flop and your hut-mates may or may not have food to share with you.
Portion sizes are important as you don’t want to haul out food. I’ll usually plan the leftovers for our meals at the hut.
I am NOT a fan of the dehydrated meals you find at your big box, outdoor retail store. But I am a fan of making my own dehydrated meals! In fact, I have created a whole recipe guide full of recipes to make for your backcountry adventure that you can check out here!
Backcountry Comfort Food
About a month before our hut trip, I found a recipe for a vegan mac and cheese using cashews, nutritional yeast, and butternut squash for the cheese sauce. I ended up with about double the cheese sauce that I needed for our pasta that evening and got to thinking about how delicious mac and cheese would be while we were on our hut trip! Who doesn’t want a little comfort food while living off the grid, without the comforts of everyday life??
So I did an experiment and put the cheese sauce on my dehydrator.
When you think about the traditional mac and cheese from a box we all had kids, that powdered cheese sauce turns into cheese with a little milk and butter. So why couldn’t I make my own powdered cheese sauce?
Within 24 hours, all moisture had been removed from my vegan cheese sauce. I then put it in my blender and turned it into a powder. This looked promising! My experiment would either soar or flop at 11,000ft elevation in just a few weeks.
Well, friends, I’m happy to report that it was a smashing success! I rehydrated the cheese with water a few hours before we planned to eat. I couldn’t tell you exactly how much I used, however. But I do recommend starting with less as you can always add more. You will want your total volume of cheese to resemble the volume you spread on your dehydrator to dry.
Since my body feels more fueled when I follow a gluten-free and dairy-free diet, I used Banza chickpea pasta for my noodles. I really like the texture of this gluten-free pasta. It’s a little sturdier than brown rice pasta and doesn’t completely fall apart if overcooked a little. Chickpea pasta is also a great source of protein for my friends that may be following a plant-based diet.
We enjoyed our mac and cheese as a side dish with some BBQ rotisserie chicken and asparagus. I deboned, sauced, and vacuumed sealed our rotisserie chicken making transportation of it easier. After all of my veggies froze on our hike to the hut last year, I went with frozen asparagus for this trip which I sauteed in a little ghee. This gave us a yummy, comforting balanced meal without any tummy troubles. Oh, and I used the extra chicken the next morning for some bbq chicken breakfast tacos. Delish!
Check out the easy way to make your own vegan cheese sauce! You can dehydrate and take it on your own backpacking trip or enjoy it on pasta right away!
Vegan Cheese Sauce
4 cups Butternut Squash (peeled, seeded and sliced into 1-inch cubes)
1/2 Sweet Onion (diced)
2 Garlic (cloves, whole)
2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 cup Cashews - soaked in water for 2 hours
2 tbsp Nutritional Yeast
2 tsp Sea Salt
Preheat oven to 420ºF (216ºC).
Place butternut squash, sweet onion, and garlic cloves in a large mixing bowl. Add olive oil, season with a bit of sea salt and pepper, and mix well. Transfer onto a large foil-lined baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes.
Drain the cashews. In a blender, add cashews, nutritional yeast, sea salt, and water. Blend to a creamy consistency. Now add in the roasted butternut squash and onion mix and blend until smooth.
Serve with cooked pasta noodles
1 recipe provided enough sauce for 2 - 8oz boxes of chickpea pasta.
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