Tis the Season. As the leaves are changing and the air is getting chilly; Thanksgiving soon approaches (sooner for my Canadian readers). I can’t think of a more perfect way to enjoy Thanksgiving than a nice trek on a trail to enjoy the colors and smells of the fall forest. Bonus if you bring your family and friends so you can all enjoy it together.
The good news is, you don’t have to forgo your thanksgiving feast while you are out enjoying the great outdoors. I have perfected the art of Thanksgiving Dinner on the trail. You can make as many variations as you wish, make it more complex or add your own flare. Bottom line, is that this hearty and heart warming dish will fill your belly and spirit. It doesn’t even have to be thanksgiving to enjoy this meal, I plan this feast on every backpacking trip because it “sticks to your ribs”. The meal consists of two critical parts, the stuffing and the potatoes. Because we all know the actual meat is secretly everyone’s least favorite part of thanksgiving dinner 🙂
Ingredients for the stuffing:
Stove Top Stuffing mix
Olive Oil packets or butter
Turkey or Chicken – Canned or foil pouch works best
Dried Cranberries (optional)
French Fried Onions (optional)
You can make this in a pot by following the directions on the side of the stove top box: bring the water and butter to a boil, stir in Stuffing Mix and let sit covered for 5 mins. If you are backpacking and want a mess free clean up, use the freezer bag technique: To do this I pour the boiling water over the stuffing mix which I have packaged into a Ziploc freezer bag or boil proof bag (make sure your bag is safe for boiling water!!!) and then add in a single serve package of olive oil and let hydrate for 5 mins. Once hydrated (either by bag or pan) you can add in your mix ins. You can fancy it up and pack in fresh turkey or chicken meat if conditions allow. Most backpackers, especially those on the trail for a few days, will opt for the shelf stable, foil pouch chicken (which trust me, is still satisfying!). I usually empty the pouch of chicken directly into the stuffing and stir it in. I love to add in dried cranberries which add some great flavor and some french fried onions too. You could get fancy and sauté some celery and onion to add to your stuffing too if you wish. Depends on how backcountry chef you want to get.
Ingredients for mashed potatoes with gravy:
Idahoan Instant Potatoes
Powdered Gravy Mix
Ranch dressing!!? (optional, see comments below)
Thanksgiving Dinner isn’t complete without a heaping side of potatoes and gravy. My favorite for this Thanksgiving dinner is the Idahoan butter and herb instant potatoes. You can make these in a pot, or again use the old ziplock freezer bag method for easy clean up. If I have some, a pat of butter in these potatoes goes a long way for creaminess and flavor. Ranch dressing you say? My friend Sarah and I found, after hiking up a brutal climb in a cold and torrential rain storm, sitting under a tarp preparing this dinner, that some ranch dressing all over this was a delightful treat. Maybe it was the cold, maybe it was the wine, maybe it was that we needed to eat it to make room in our overstuffed bear canister… but it was divine. Try at your own risk.
For the gravy, I usually forgo the instructions and the pot for this because the clean up is pretty rough, so again, I use a water bottle or freezer Ziploc to mix. Start with less boiling water than the instructions say and continue to add in gravy powder and mix to your desired consistency and taste. Pour gravy over everything, because that’s the way thanksgiving dinner was meant to be enjoyed. (Hey you can burn it off later on the hike out!) For an extra special treat, I find that this meal pairs well with your favorite red wine and campfires.
WAIT! DON’T FORGET THE DESSERTS!
If you can spare some room after dinner, nothing finishes off a feast like some tasty desserts. I love some backcountry baking, but by the time I’ve polished off a feast like this, the sleepy’s have settled in and I’m in no shape to start baking dessert. In a pinch, I’ve found some amazing stand-ins that require very little effort to prepare.
Alpine Aire Cinnamon Apple Crisp: Just add boiling water.
Prepare ahead Pumpkin Pie Fruit Leather: Prepare ahead at home.
Okay okay, I love this time of year, and I am (like most of us) obsessed with all things pumpkin and fall, so here are some other honorable mentions in the dessert department:
Trader Joes Pumpkin Seed Brittle
Mrs Thinsters Cookie Thins – Pumpkin Spice
Trader Joe’s Maple Leaf Cookies – My Canadian readers can find a much more suitable candidate in their stores, but these remind me of Autumn at home, and they are the closest thing I can find.
Happy Hiking, Happy Feasting and Happy Adventuring this Thanksgiving (or any time). This is a meal that won’t disappoint on the trail.
Warning: You may be so full and satisfied after this meal you will just want to lay in your tent and nap instead of hiking out!