For me, backpacking is about getting off the beaten track, heading deep into nature, challenging myself both physically and mentally, standing in awe of the sheer beauty of the mountains, and learning about myself and my surroundings. While experiencing all this, it helps to have some tasty food.
Food can sometimes be one of the heaviest things I have in my backpack. When choosing what to bring, I ask myself, is it worth carrying this thing for x miles, up x elevation? Sometimes the answer is yes, other times the answer is no.
Some food comes dry, and can require rehydration, while others come pre-hydrated. The pre-hydrated stuff usually weighs a little more. At the end of the day, it's up to you what to bring. So if you think it's worth it to hike in an entire 20 lb turkey, go for it.
The following are food items I've enjoyed on the trail.
Dehydrated meals are probably the simplest option for easy-to-prepare dinners. Just boil water, pour it directly into the pouch, wait 15 to 20 minutes, then enjoy. No clean-up necessary. The trick is finding meals you enjoy. Lately I've been a big fan of Good-to-Go.
Ramen is cheap, light, and quick to make (3-4 minutes). It can also be a source of hydration after a long day (that salty broth). I really enjoy this Yakisoba GreeNoodle packet which comes with dried veggies.
Making your own dehydrated meal can take a little extra prep time, but the results are something that you have complete control over (size, flavor, etc...). It's also probably better for the environment, since you can use reusable containers and order in bulk.
Chop up a little onion, pepper, and jalapeño, then drop it into your dinner, and voila: your meal just got 10x better. This works well for the first evening, since keeping fresh veggies for multiple days isn't very practical, unless it's winter.
Throw a block of sharp cheddar or Manchego into a ziplock with a pack of crackers and you'll be enjoying a tasty snack in the backcountry. Don't worry about the cheese not being refrigerated... it only gets better as the days go on. Hard cheeses usually fair a little better over multiple days of being jammed into a backpack or sweating in the hot sun.
A hardy mix of nuts and dried berries is an excellent source of energy and an easy snack to munch on during a break along the trail. My favorite is a mix of cashews, almonds, cranberries, and cherries.
Fast and easy. Keep one in your pocket for emergencies or a quick breakfast on the go.
Dried mango, banana chips, cherries? Why not?
There's a company called Oloves that make small packets of olives that are perfect for backpacking. Grab a few packets for your next trip.
Some Haribo gummy bears while sitting around the fire? Bar of dark chocolate while star gazing? Hell yeah.
Bring a few tea bags, packets of hot chocolate, or hot apple cider. It's a great way to warm up in the evening, and also get in some extra hydration. If you need a coffee fix, Starbucks Via or Sudden Coffee make pretty decent instant coffee packets.
A great way to add a little flavor to your water, and help hydrate along the trail, is by dropping in a Nuun tablet (or equivalent).
Time to relax. Crack open a can of wine, dig up that beer you buried in the snow when you got to camp, or pour a little whiskey into your hot tea while you unwind around camp.