March 8, 2011

Pecan Pie Cookies and Bananas Foster Pastry

As I mentioned in an earlier post, each month the HH6 club puts out a cooking challenge.  The challenge for March was to come up with a concept dish for an MRE.  For those of you who do not hail from the military world, an MRE (meal ready to eat) is a box of portable, lightweight rations designed to support military members in locations where chow halls aren't readily available. 

MREs are not (despite some misconceptions) dehydrated or freeze dried.  They are actually preserved using a variation on the canning technique.  The pouch containing the food is not plastic, but more thin layers of aluminum which can be sealed airtight and processed the same way you would process canned fruits or veggies.  While this yields a significantly heavier ration (due to water content) than dehydrated or freeze-dried food, it is quicker to prepare and can even be eaten with no preparation at all if time is an issue (and in combat, it certainly could be!).

Since MREs are more canned food than backpacking food, there are actually a lot fewer restrictions in the food composition than you might otherwise have.  For example, you can have larger pieces of meat than if you were dehydrating the food first.  Still, canning tends to work best with "saucy" type things.  Rice is notoriously difficult, though apparently the military has figured that one out already!

MREs used to be, to put it plainly, awful.  In recent years as the preservative technology has advanced, they've become quite edible - though the menu choices are still fairly boring.  Click here to see the 2011 entree list.

See why we want to spice it up?

Here's a picture of the contents of a Beef Ravioli MRE.


Beef Ravioli
Beef Snack Stick
Vegetable Crackers
Jalapeno Cheese Spread
Toffee Cookies
Chocolate Chip Toaster Pastry
Orange Flavored Electrolyte drink mix
Acessory Pack
          o Xylitol chewing gum
          o Water-resistant matchbook
          o Napkin / toilet paper
          o Moist towelette
          o Seasonings, including salt, pepper, sugar, creamer, and/or Tabasco sauce

A common complaint about MREs stems from a very significant lack of fiber.  Most MREs are lucky to contain less than half the fiber that they ought to.  I plan to address this with my concept MRE.

Concept MRE: Mardi Gras Edition!

Chicken Etouffe
Whole-grain Cajun Rice
Wheat Crackers with Maple Pepper
Hard Aged Cheddar slices
Pecan Pie Cookies
Bananas Foster Pastry
Hurricane Flavored Electrolyte drink mix

Yes, we're going with the Mardi Gras theme here!  Let's break it down a bit.

Chicken Etouffe

I already blogged this recipe here.  It's fantastic and flavorful (unlike most MREs!), but not overly spicy.  I don't know anyone who doesn't like etouffe!  Traditionally you would see shrimp etouffe.  Apart from my undying hatred of shrimp, I went with chicken because eating canned meat is moderately less pleasant than eating fresh meat, but eating canned seafood is just plain nasty.

Whole-grain Cajun Rice

It's not etouffe if you aren't eating it over rice.  Plus, it's a great way to sneak a few veggies in, not to mention the fiber from whole grains.  I mentioned earlier that canning rice is very difficult, but since the MRE gods have already figured this one out, I'll leave the logistics to them.

Wheat Crackers with Maple Peppe

MREs already feature crackers quite regularly.  Seems like it would be pretty easy to just use wheat instead of white (with more fiber to boot!), and maple pepper sounds odd but is to die for on crackers.  See a fancier version here.

Hard Aged Cheddar Slices

Away with that nasty faux-cheese spread!  Dairy products are not recommended for canning by the FDA, but a good hard cheddar can (and is!) aged for years in parafin.  It'll last as long as the MRE will, and will just get better as time goes by.

Pecan Pie Cookies:

These tasty little treats are hand-held, durable versions of the traditional southern dessert.  A little chocolate brings out the flavor and you'll never notice the wheat flour - but you'll get the fiber!  Hat-tip to allrecipes for the base.

Ingredients (makes 6-8 cookies)


3/4 c flour
1/4 c wheat flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 c brown sugar
6 T butter
1/2 egg
1 t vanilla


2 T butter
1/4 c powdered sugar
1 1/2 T honey
1/2 t vanilla
1 t dark rum
1 t cocoa powder
1/4 c chopped pecans

Melt the butter.  Stir in the sugar, honey, vanilla, rum, and cocoa.  Once all the ingredients are blended, mix in the pecans.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350.

Whip the butter, sugar, egg and vanilla, then slowly beat in the flours and baking powder until dough forms.

Spoon dough into cupcake tins.  Use your fingers to form the dough into a "cup" running about 1/4 to 1/2 inch up the walls of the tin.  Fill each cup with 1 t filling.  Bake 13 minutes.

Bananas Foster Pastry
This recipe is the only one that would need to be significantly altered before being incorporated into an MRE.  However, since they already include various flavors of toaster pastry, it should be easy for them to make a bananas foster version.

Ingredients (makes 3)

1 sheet puff pastry
2 bananas
1/4 c butter
1 c brown sugar
1 t cinnamon
1/4 c tuaca or other fruit-flavored liquor
1/4 c dark rum

Cut the pastry sheet into nine squares.  Preheat oven to 350.

Melt the butter in a saucepan.  Add the brown sugar and cinnamon, stirring until well dissolved.  Add the liquor and carefully flambee until the alcohol is burned off.  Add in the bananas and cook for 5-10 minutes.  Remove bananas and slice thinly.

Grease a sheet pan.  Lay out three squares of puff pastry.  Place 3-5 (depending on thickness) slices on each sheet of puff pastry.  Spoon over some sauce, then cover each with another sheet of pastry.  Add bananas and sauce again, then cover with the final slices of puff pastry.

Bake for 20-30 minutes.  You may have to turn the tray to ensure even browning.

Serve with icecream, drizzle with any remaining sauce.

Hurricane Flavored Electrolyte drink mix

Come on, if they can make orange and lime flavors, they can make hurricane flavors!  Heck, I'm pretty sure Jello had a hurricane flavored mix a few years back.


  1. Awesome info on the MREs. The Banana Fosters look decadent. I haven't had one in a while. Now you're making me crave it.

  2. I can't take my eyes of the Great idea for an MRE - Mardi Gras theme. I love it!!

  3. Those are such cute little cookies and your pastry looks fantastic too. I have a sweet treat linky party going on at my blog and I'd be delighted if you'd stop by and link your treats up.

  4. Love the theme! I see myself trying out those pecan pie cookies sometime. Yum! :)

  5. Yummy foods, there are so many foods, whose name I don't know. But is very tasty. ration MREs meals ready-to-eat