The basic system
First - Plan your backpacking meals around hearty staples like 10-minute brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, bulgur, healthy ramen noodles and/or instant bean mixes. (I like Fantastic Foods refried beans, black beans, and instant chili.)
Second, add some flavor. Either pack salt & pepper or a more varied spice kit, or add spices to the bags of ingredients before you leave for your hike.
Now, give yourself extra protein by bringing cheese, nuts, or instant beans to add to your meals. (Think of Broccoli Cashew Rice, Sesame Noodles, Rice and Beans, Pasta with walnuts or pine nuts.)
For even more flavor, add dried veggies. Buy them at a local health food store, or dehydrate them yourself!
A sample recipe
Spirals with Pesto and Sun-dried Tomatoes
At home, put spoon-sized pasta in a bag (about 4 ounces per person) and add sun-dried tomatoes, dried toasted pine nuts, onion flakes, dried broccoli, and dried mushrooms (or any similar combination). If you don't like big chunks of the tomatoes, slice into smaller pieces first.
In two smaller bags, put some pesto (dried, fresh or in a tube) and some parmesan cheese. (Parmesan cheese keeps much better than moister cheeses like cheddar.)
Adding olive oil will give you more flavor and calories. If you want to bring some, use a small (1oz) Nalgene bottle or buy some little foil packages of oil at a deli or salad bar.
Put the two smaller bags and the olive oil container inside the pasta bag so all elements of the dinner are together. (You might also want to stick a clove of garlic in the bag!)
On the trail, slice up the garlic and sauté it briefly in olive oil. Then add only the amount of water you need to cook the pasta & veggies (about 400 ml per serving).
Dump in the contents of the pasta bag and boil about 2-3 minutes. (If your stove is a "blow torch" model, you may need to hold the pot a few inches above the flame.)
Turn off the stove and cover. Your dinner will finish cooking by itself, and you’ll save fuel.
When you’re ready to eat, pour any extra liquid into your mug for a yummy broth. Stir the pesto and cheese into the pasta, plus salt and pepper if needed.
Tasty, healthy, one dirty pot, and no fork required!
Breakfast to Get You Going
At home, make single-serving bags of the following ingredients:
1/2 cup or so old-fashioned oatmeal (Old fashioned oatmeal takes a little longer but doesn’t get “gluey” like the quick kind.)
1 T. or so chopped walnuts or almonds
1 T. or so raisins or “craisins” or other dried fruit
1 T. or so brown sugar pinch of salt if desired
On the trail, dump contents of bag into just under 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil and cook 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.