When my children were young, we often travelled by car and our trips were always culinary adventures. The most important thing was what was in the cooler. As soon as our car turned the corner, the kids immediately declared, “We’re hungry! Let’s eat!”
When my sister and I were young, we also loved to go on car trips. My mother always packed the best cooler. Her standard selection included pastrami, corned beef and garlicky salami sandwiches with tomato and hot mustard on fresh rye; and chopped egg sandwiches (some with onion, some with olives). She sometimes included cold sliced hamburger or chicken sandwiches, once again with tomato slices – Mom wanted to be sure we ate our vegetables. Salmon salad sandwiches with sliced cucumber and onions were sometimes included, but rarely tuna – no one in our family liked tuna very much. Mom also packed apples, oranges, bananas and of course, homemade cookies such as her komishbroit and chocolate chip cookies. Cinnamon buns were another big favourite with our family. Memories of those terrific car trips still linger in our collective memories.
In the summer, we usually travelled to a rented cottage at Winnipeg Beach but that was a short trip, only 50 miles away. It seems like my mom took our whole kitchen in the car! Our beach cottage had no running water, no refrigeration and no indoor plumbing, but there was an icebox and a wood stove. There was no shortage of fresh pickerel from the nearby lake, fresh vegetables and fruit from the local farmer, meat from the kosher butcher… and we ate to our heart’s content. It was “eating local” at its best!
Today travel is somewhat different, but some things remain the same. When I asked some of my friends what they take with them on their family travels, they told me that they usually pack an insulated bag with bagels, cream cheese and lox, party sandwiches or chopped egg, tuna, cheese or peanut butter sandwiches. Deli sandwiches are a favourite for a meat meal, with sliced deli turkey or chicken offered as healthier choices, sometimes done as a wrap. Juice boxes and concentrated juice containers can be frozen to act as ice packs and then the defrosted juice can be enjoyed. Veggies often include baby carrots, cherry or grape tomatoes and miniature cucumbers packed in resealable bags – moms still focus on getting vegetables into their kids! Chocolate chip cookies are always popular, along with fruit – apples, grapes, bananas, plums – and individual containers of yogurt.
When my sons travelled from Montreal to Toronto recently for a family visit, their coolers were jam-packed with food for the six-hour trip, along with freezer packs to keep everything well-chilled. They brought sandwiches, bagels, veggie burgers, yogurt, hummus, potato chips, blueberries, strawberries, carrots and mini-cucumbers, chocolate and cinnamon Danish, poppy seed and chocolate chip cookies, juice boxes, bottled water, plus plastic cutlery and wipes. If they had travelled by plane, I’m sure the cost for overweight baggage would be more than the price of the airline tickets!
If you are travelling to a rented cottage, there are additional challenges to consider. Organization and advance planning are the keys to having a happy holiday, so it’s a good idea to keep an updated list from one year to the next. Here are some helpful tips to help simplify things so that you really will have a holiday when you arrive at your destination!
• A “vacation box” can be packed with inexpensive kitchen equipment so that it won’t matter if you lose something – but the equipment should be of decent enough quality to work properly:
1 dairy skillet (preferably nonstick)
1 pot for pasta along with a colander (preferably collapsible)
1 pot for boiling eggs
1 soup pot and 1 skillet for meat
1 pot for cooking vegetables
A big salad bowl (or two)
Disposable cutting boards
A couple of decent knives
A ladle, tongs, measuring equipment
A few mixing bowls, spoons and spatulas
A grater, vegetable peeler and cheese slicer
New sponge and scrubbies
• To save on shlepping, buy paper goods (disposable paper plates, plastic cutlery, glasses, cups, napkins), plastic wrap and foil at the local supermarket or dollar store when you arrive at your destination. You can also buy disposable foil containers for roasting chicken, meats, vegetables, etc.
• To be “green” use reusable or recyclable dishes. Consider bringing an unbreakable set of cheap dishes and inexpensive cutlery with you. There are also collapsible dishes that pack easily.
• Pack seasonings, herbs and spices in small containers or ziploc bags: salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion flakes, basil/oregano, paprika, instant chicken soup mix, cinnamon. Keep it simple – and be sure to seal the bags well!
• Pack individual size packets of mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, peanut butter, jam. No refrigeration needed.
• Buy perishables such as yogurt, cheeses, margarine and milk when you arrive at your destination. Fresh fruits and vegetables can also be bought at any supermarket or corner grocery store. Pasta, rice and other grains are easily available. Consider special dietary needs such as gluten-free diets, allergies and diabetic choices before you leave for your trip.
• Include Shabbat candles, matches and wine. A box of matzah can be used if kosher bread isn’t available.
• Bring food for a quick, simple meal when you arrive: bagel, breakfast cereal, a whole salami, tuna in pouches, canned salmon, sardines, beans and corn – and don’t forget the can opener!
• Meal Suggestions: Pack a cooler with frozen meats and poultry that’s been double-wrapped. Prepare double portions of whatever you’re eating for dinner a few weeks before your trip: lasagna, meatballs or hamburgers, brisket, chicken and salmon patties are good choices. Label clearly, double wrap and freeze them until you’re ready to leave. Pack tightly with frozen concentrated juice containers in a cooler or designated suitcase lined with a plastic garbage bag. Place the food in the freezer as soon as you arrive at your destination. If tightly packed, it will probably stay frozen.
• Hopefully, there’s a microwave oven at your destination. It’s very easy to kosher one and you can prepare eggs, fish, potatoes and other vegetables easily, as well as reheating and defrosting foods in a hurry.
Safe travels and happy holidays. Enjoy!
This casserole is perfect to prepare in advance and freeze for a future meal, whether you’re travelling to the cottage or not (see Meal suggestions above). No-roll enchiladas are layered like lasagna, so there’s no need to boil lasagna noodles. Now that’s really using your noodle!
2 tsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups mushrooms, sliced
1 green pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 cups tomato sauce (low-sodium, if possible)
1 can kidney beans (rinsed & drained)
1/2 tsp. chili powder (to taste)
7 corn or flour tortillas
3/4 cup grated low-fat mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup grated low-fat Swiss cheese
Preheat oven to 350. Heat oil in a non-stick skillet. Sauté veggies and garlic for 5 minutes. Add sauce, beans and chili powder. Simmer uncovered for 5 minutes.
Spray a 2-quart casserole with nonstick spray. Layer 2 tortillas, 1/3 of sauce mixture and 1/3 of cheeses, until all ingredients are used, making 3 layers. Cut up the extra tortilla to fill in any empty spaces. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes. Yield: 6 servings. Reheats and/or freezes well.
Oat-so-good! This recipe comes from my favourite (and only) daughter, Jodi Sprackman, who is an excellent cook and baker. My granddaughters call them “Jodi’s Oaties!”
1/2 cup soft tub margarine
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats (preferably large flake)
3/4 to 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine the margarine, sugars, egg and vanilla; process for 2 minutes or until well-blended. Add the flour, baking soda, salt and oats; process with quick on/off pulses, just until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips with a rubber spatula.
Drop from a teaspoon onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between each cookie. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden. Cool for 5 minutes, then remove from pan. Yield: About 44 cookies. Recipe can be doubled easily. Freezes well for up to 4 months.