Saturday, January 7, 2012

On the Road Again

“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money."  ~Unknown

Hethyr:  That is some great advice.  I only wish I'd had it prior to our last vacation!  Jon and I are suckers for a good road trip, as evidenced by our latest adventure.  We drove from Colorado Springs, Colorado to Tarpon Springs, Florida and back (with a short stop in New Orleans on the way home) over the holidays.  That is why you, dear readers, haven’t heard from us in a while! 

My family (minus a few!) on Xmas - Happy Holidaze!

The one part of preparing for a long trip like this that I abhor is planning what we’re going to eat.  We refuse to eat fast food and we don’t eat at chain restaurants, so there are very few options for food along the way.  Which means that I get to plan all of our breakfasts, lunches, snacks and dinners – woo hoo!  Don’t get me wrong, I love to cook, but eating on the road is much more difficult than eating at home.  First, there isn’t a microwave or oven in our car, which is where we end up eating most of our meals.  Why the hell hasn’t someone addressed this obvious omission from automobile designs?!  Second, refrigerator (and by refrigerator, I mean a cooler with ice) space is limited, so most of our food has to be shelf-stable.  What a pain in the arse. 

Jon has actually apologized to me (!) for planning certain surprise vacations because he knows how much time it takes me to get the food planned and made.  Ha!  Although I may complain a little, I’ll always gladly take the vacation in trade for making the food.  I will say that I was absolutely thrilled that I didn’t have to do much cooking while we were gone – I guess it all balanced out.  Thanks for feeding me while I was home, family!  =)

Jaymen & Tayvn making everyone
banana pancakes for breakfast.
They did all of the work - I just
instructed and tended the griddle!

Enjoying their culinary masterpiece...
with homemade whipped cream
& strawberries, of course!

Uncle Mike sneaking turkey.  =)

One thing that I’ve struggled with is finding enough variety to keep us satisfied...  there are only so many things you can eat in the car.  After countless Google searches for things like ‘road trip food,’ ‘healthy eating on the road,’ ‘easy dinners for the car,’ etc. and not coming up with much of anything helpful, we’ve decided to do our own post.  I feel like there have to be others out there like us who have a tough time deciding what food to take on the road and hopefully this will help.

BREAKFAST - This one is probably one of the easiest things for most people to plan, including me.  Here is a list of some ideas…
Muffins / breads (regular or gluten-free) - See some of our favorite muffin recipes here and here.  And check out a couple of good quick bread recipes here and here.
Bagels with Cream Cheese (store cream cheese in the cooler)
Fruit that travels well… apples, oranges, grapes, bananas (stay away from soft fruits like peaches, apricots, plums, etc. – you’ll end up with a sticky mess)
Hard-boiled eggs (cooler)
Cooked bacon – Bacon is just as good cold as it is hot (store in the cooler)!
Yogurt and granola – Store yogurt in the cooler in individual small jars or containers, then just add the granola.  I made this yummy Gingerbread Granola from Neo-Homesteading.  I used cashews instead of peanuts, nutmeg in place of the cinnamon and dried chunks of apple instead of raisins.  I left most of it with my sister Fayre’s family (her kids love granola!) and some with my parents since I can always make more at home.  =)

Scones (regular or gluten-free)
Cinnamon Rolls – Keep the icing in a small jar and just dip chunks of the roll into the jar.  I kept both in the cooler.  Check out these Gluten-Free Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls from The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking.  Although mine were cinnamonLESS rolls due to my allergy (I used nutmeg, cardamom and cloves) and although they weren’t as pretty as Kate’s (they didn’t rise at all – I’m pretty sure my water wasn’t warm enough to activate the yeast properly), they sure tasted good.  I also used a packaged GF flour mix + xanthan gum in place of her GF flour mixture.  Here is a not-so-pretty picture of my unrisen cinnamonless roll… sounds appetizing, doesn't it?!

SNACKS – A pretty easy thing to plan, but we often get bored with the same old things.  Here is a list of our staples plus a few new (to us) yummies…
Beef Jerky - we buy ours from Ranch Foods Direct (no antibiotics, hormones or preservatives, vegetarian fed, humanely raised and harvested)
Natural Chips – potato or other veggies like beets or sweet potatoes
Cooked and shelled edamame (cooler)
Individual applesauce containers
Granola bars or Lärabars – I love this blog post from Enlightened Cooking for homemade Lärabars.  This time we tried one of my creations - Mango-Cardamom.
Popcorn – Jon always pops a big batch before a road trip!
Fruit - See Breakfast.
Hummus with veggies or pita crisps (hummus & veggies in the cooler)
Crackers and cheese – For those of you with food sensitivities like me, check out these great grain-free Sesame Crackers and gluten-free/grain-free Multi "Grain" Crackers from Elana’s Pantry.  Store cheese in the cooler.
String Cheese (cooler)
Trail mix or nuts and dried fruit – I made a couple of different nut recipes for this road trip and both were quickly devoured.  See these posts for Vanilla Roasted Walnuts and Candied Macadamia Nuts from Elana’s Pantry.  Careful – they’re addictive!

LUNCH/DINNER – This is probably the toughest thing for me to plan, but I’ve come up with a couple of good ideas that always work for us.  This time I wanted to add something new to the repertoire, so I tried the spring rolls and they worked perfectly!  I store all of these things in the cooler.
Sandwiches – PB & J, lunchmeat with cheese, chicken or tuna salad, egg salad, etc, etc, etc.  Endless options.
* Wraps – See below for one of my favorite wrap recipes (this one isn’t gluten-free).  Also infinite possibilities.
Pasta Salad – Think outside the box.  Of course, a standard Italian-style pasta salad is always good, but how about Mexican or Asian?  Get creative!
Grain Salad – For this trip, I made a Greek-style brown rice salad which included roasted red peppers, Kalamata olives, red onion, feta cheese, cooked and cubed chicken, oregano, parsley and a Greek vinaigrette made with red wine vinegar, lemon juice and olive oil.  The possibilities are endless with this one… try different grains, vegetables, cheeses, beans and/or meats and vinaigrettes.  Another of my favorites included barley, asparagus, toasted walnuts and Gorgonzola cheese with a honey-lime dressing.

Greek grain salad

* Spring Rolls – This was my most recent stroke of genius.  No one thinks to make these ahead of time since they can easily dry out, but I stored them in an airtight container with damp paper towels and they were great for about 3 or 4 days.  See below for my awesome recipe.
Coleslaw – Here’s a recipe for Pretty Chopped Slaw from The Sensitive Pantry that’s really good.
* Tomatoes and Mozzarella with Balsamic-Pistachio Dressing – my sister Fayre’s awesome creation that I just had to include.  This will be with us on our next road trip!  See below for the recipe.

Turkey, Bacon and Avocado Wraps
Makes 4
~4 large whole wheat tortillas
~4 ounces cream cheese
~2 cups fresh baby spinach
~1 to 1 ½ cups cooked, shredded turkey
~4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
~1 or 2 avocados, pitted and sliced
~¼ to ½ cup Annie’s Natural’s Papaya Poppy Seed Dressing (or a sweet vinaigrette of your choice)

1.  Assembly line-style, spread cream cheese evenly on one side of tortillas, then top with equal amounts of baby spinach, shredded turkey, bacon, avocado slices and dressing.  Fold in sides of tortilla, then roll from the bottom up.

2.  To store, wrap in plastic wrap, then place in a reusable container or storage bag.  Keep cold until ready to eat.

Spring Rolls with Cashew Dipping Sauce
Makes 16 (enough for about 3 meals for the two of us)

~2 large carrots, peeled and julienned
~2 large celery stalks, julienned
~½ cup scallions, julienned
~½ large red bell pepper, julienned
~1 small kohlrabi, peeled and julienned
~2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
~1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
~2-inch knob of ginger, peeled and minced
~2 thin slices turkey, julienned
~4 ounces brown rice noodles, cooked (see
  package for instructions) and drained
~16 rice paper wrappers
~¼ cup cashew butter (you can use peanut
  butter if you prefer)
~¼ cup coconut milk
~1 tablespoon fish sauce
~1 ½ teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)

1.  Mix carrots, celery, scallions, bell pepper, kohlrabi, cilantro, mint, ginger, turkey and brown rice noodles in a large bowl.

2.  Soak one rice paper wrapper in warm water for about 15 seconds (or until soft and pliable), then remove.

3.  Lay rice paper wrapper on a flat surface (I used a cutting board) and fill with one-sixteenth of the veggie mixture.  Fold in sides of wrapper, then roll from the bottom up.

4.  Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling.

5.  Store in the refrigerator (or cooler) in layers in an airtight container, separating each layer with very damp towels or paper towels.

6.  In a small bowl, mix together the cashew butter, coconut milk, fish sauce and crushed red pepper flakes.  Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container with a lid.  Use as a dipping sauce for the spring rolls.

Fayre's Tomato and Mozzarella Salad with Balsamic Pistachio Dressing
Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish

~3 or 4 large tomatoes, cut into chunks
~4 ounces fresh mozzarella or bocconcini, cut
  into chunks
~1/2 cup shelled pistachios
~3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
~1/4 to 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
~Salt and pepper, to taste

1.  Place pistachios and balsamic vinegar in a food processor and pulse a few times.

2.  While motor is running, drizzle in olive oil through the food chute until you reach your desired consistency.  Season with salt and pepper.

3.  Gently, toss all ingredients together in a large bowl.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley to garnish (optional).
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Jon:  Life on the road sure was a helluva lot easier back in the days when we willingly ate disgusting, deadly, non-food products from places like McDonald's and Taco Bell.  Cheap, fast, easy meals were available everywhere we went.  But now that we have committed ourselves to a life of eating food that won't send us to an early and extra-large grave, it has become a real pain in the ass to eat away from home.  Even when we arrived in Florida and our family was trying to accommodate our snobbish eating standards, it was tough for them to manage due to the lack of healthy, natural options.  Regardless, with no small amount of effort, we were able to eat loads of delicious food on our voyage.

Hethyr's traveling food was excellent.  Thanks to her, we were able to eat well for 3891 miles.  Impressive.  But we always prefer it when someone else can feed us good food, so we searched far and wide for quality eateries with a decent amount of success.  We found an awesome burrito lounge in Montgomery that met our natural/local/sustainable requirements.  Yep, you heard me... a burrito lounge.  It was some sort of Mexican hipster joint - like Sancho Panza meets Frank Sinatra... in Alabama.  The place was so awesomely bizarre that I wasted about 20 bucks on a hideous powder-blue burrito lounge shirt that I'll probably only wear while painting.  We also found a vegetarian cafe in Amarillo, Texas, where we had a pretty lame lunch.  But if you ask me - which you didn't, but I'll tell you anyway - everything is lame in Texas.  The very best food that others made for us, however, undoubtedly came out of New Orleans.

The shirts are as confusing as the ambiance
We spent a whirlwind 36 hours in NOLA, including oysters and Bloody Mary's at Dickie Brennan's on Bourbon Street, a creepy cemetery tour, a visit to Trent Reznor's old mansion in the garden district, beignets at Cafe du Monde, a foggy stroll down the Riverwalk, streetcar rides, flounder muniere and a seafood platter at Brigtsen's, French Market shopping, New Year's Eve midnight fireworks, pizza and squash ravioli at Marigny Brasserie, sidewalk jazz jams, navigation through masses of drunken idiots, a New Orleans Saints-related traffic jam, and at least a dozen miles of walking.  We left town fat, happy, tired, and totally broke.  And much like going to Vegas, 36 hours was enough.

G-Rated version of Bourbon St.

So for all of you fellow food snobs, I hope that you put Hethyr's ideas to good use on your next road trip.  I also hope that when you feel the overwhelming desire for food cooked and served by someone else that there is a hipster burrito lounge nearby.  Happy travels...

1 comment:

  1. I have been waiting for this blog post! I have the hardest time planning decent food for our (too few) road trips! So many wonderful ideas in this blog that I can't wait to try, especially the spring rolls. OMG! However, I can only make the 'Candied Macadamia Nuts' right before we are walking out the door. Trust me -- I ate the ones you left behind in much less time than I should have. :-)