If there is one passion I have beyond cooking and eating, it is traveling.
In just one week I will be on a plane with my husband, heading for the tropical paradise of Kauai. It has been a dream of mine for many years to visit this Hawaiian island, and since my best friend is currently living there, I knew that this was the perfect opportunity. The only bummer about this incredible dream coming true? Oh, the 38-hours it will take to get there from Copenhagen. Yikes.
Yes, I love traveling, but I am not a huge fan of the in-transit time. Hauling luggage around. Layovers. Crowded airports. Until I actually arrive at my destination, I have my blinders on and my head down in total survival mode. You’d think for someone that travels as much as I do I would be used to all the schlepping by now, but I don’t think I’ll ever be in love with the line up at customs. It’s just not happening.
One thing I have happily mastered in all of my travel experience is the business of food. Just because I am in survival mode doesn’t mean I am eating questionably edible, pre-packaged sandwiches from the vending machine. No way. When this foodie is on the road (or in the sky), she comes fully prepared from door to door!
I take great pleasure in preparing my food for trips, and although it takes a little planning, am I ever chuffed cracking open my Tupperware of thoughtfully made salad, crackers, dip, and dessert, while other passengers are munching on mystery meat. More often that not, I end up sharing my meal with my seatmates, as they always ask about what I have with me. This leads to many great conversations – sometimes new friends – and I bet I’ve convinced more than one person that raw chocolate is better than their mini candy bar.
I posted a picture of my in-flight meal on Instagram during my last trip to Lisbon and the response was surprising: you want to know what to eat on the go! I am very happy to share my easy-to-make recipes that travel well if it means you’ll avoid schwaggy snacks eaten out of desperation too.
Now, I know that the list seems really long, but keep in mind I’ll be in transit for over an entire day and a half! And I eat a lot. And the last time I checked there were no restrictions on how much food you can take on a plane, just what you take.
Here’s what I am bringing with me on the epic trek across planet Earth:
Rice and Beet Salad (recipe below)
Roasted Garlic and White Bean Dip (recipe below)
carrot and cucumber sticks
banana and pears
Simple Gourmet Granola
Mango-Cashew Sunshine Bites (next post!)
Here is what I’ve learned about traveling with food.
1. Pack foods that don’t need to be refrigerated. This one is obvious. All of the above items are fine out of the fridge for at least 24 hours. Soft cheeses, meat, and melty things are not the best choices.
2. Pack foods that will maintain good texture. I chose to make this rice and beet salad because the veggies will maintain their freshness and crispness throughout my journey. I find that all plane food is pretty one-note when it comes to consistency: mushy! I like to crunch on my food, so packing carrot sticks, cucumber, bell peppers, apples, sprouts, rice cakes, and crispy granola are always a safe bet. If you are going to eat greens, stick to romaine. Spinach, butter lettuces, and mixed greens wilt and get soggy. Also, pack foods in a specific order in your containers. With the rice and beet salad, you’ll notice that the rice and beets are on the bottom, while the romaine and cilantro are on top. Mix them all together just before eating and they will maintain their crispness for sure.
3. Pack foods that are easy to eat. I find sandwiches do not always fit in this category. If you do make a sandwich, keep the fillings small and non-liquid-y so that they are not oozing all over you when you take a bite. Sometimes I like to take a wrap with me because I can roll it up in a piece of parchment, which prevents dripping. Oranges and grapefruits are a bad call because they often require a hand washing. Also, don’t take foods that require knives as you can’t bring anything sharp in your carry-on, and you may have to wait for the food cart to come around before you can get your hands on utensils.
4. Be considerate. No one wants to sit beside Mrs. Garlic n’ Onions. Smelly cheeses, curry, and cooked cruciferous vegetables can stink up an entire plane with the flip of a Tupperware lid. The bean dip I made uses roasted garlic, which is far mellower and less offensive than raw garlic. The beet salad is rather inoffensive as well – the main smell is mustard, but it’s very mild. If you know that you’re about to drop a stinky food bomb, be thoughtful and eat when everyone else is so at least your smells are covered up by everyone else’s meal.
5. Avoid liquids. This is a no-brainer these days, but if you are going to take any kind of dip through security, make sure it can be turned upside down and not budge – think mashed potato consistency. It also really depends on who your security team is and what city you are in. Sometimes I get my hummus through one airport but I’ll be forced to toss it at the next one. It helps if the dip is not in a container with a weight or volume measure on the side and if it’s accompanied with veggie sticks, as pictured. If all else fails, playing dumb, smiling ever-so-sweetly and begging are seriously effective tactics. Remember, this is survival.
The following two recipes are very simple yet have been thoughtfully created for traveling.
The Rice and Beet Salad supplies you with whole grains for fiber, beets for cleansing your liver if you do choose to have a mini bottle o’ wine with your meal, walnuts for omega-3, cilantro for pulling heavy metals out of your blood, and romaine lettuce for vitamin C to ward off the flu from the dude sitting next to you. This salad has a high water content to keep you hydrated, and feeling like a human being when you land, instead of a zombie. The Roasted Garlic White Bean and Tarragon Dip is flavourful, high in protein and fiber. The roasted garlic won’t be as offensive as raw garlic like in regular hummus. It is also much thicker than regular hummus so that you can get it through security!
Prepare the salad and bean dip well in advance of leaving for your trip – the day before is ideal. You need to make sure all the ingredients are cool before you make both dishes, so that they will keep for many hours outside of the fridge. If they are warm when you leave, they may spoil en route.
Rice and Beet Salad
½ cup short grain brown rice (won’t get mushy in the dressing like long-grain varieties)
1 cup water
2 medium beets
½ head romaine lettuce
1 small bunch cilantro (or flat leaf parsley, dill)
handful of walnuts
Honey-Maple- Mustard Dressing:
1 Tbsp. cold-pressed olive oil
2 tsp. mustard
1 tsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
pinch sea salt and cracked black pepper
Whisk all ingredients together. Season to taste.
1. To roast beets, wrap whole unpeeled beets in foil, and place in a 400°F / 200°C oven for 30-45 minutes, until tender. When cool enough to handle, unwrap and slip skins off.
2. While the beets are roasting, rinse the rice, combine it with the water and a pinch of salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook covered, for about 45 minutes. Let cool.
3. Chop beets into large chunks and toss with half of the dressing. When rice is cool, toss with the other half of the dressing. In your container, lay the rice in one half of the bottom, then the beets on the other half.
4. Chop romaine and cilantro and place on top of the rice and beets. Sprinkle with walnuts. Cover and store in the fridge right until you leave the house.
Roasted Garlic White Bean and Tarragon Dip
1 head garlic
2 cups cooked white beans (navy, cannellini, butter etc)
1/3 cup shelled sunflower seeds
zest and juice of 1 organic lemon
1 Tbsp. cold-pressed olive oil
1 tsp. maple syrup
5 Tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon
sea salt to taste (this will depend on whether or not your beans are salted)
1. To roast garlic, cut the top off the head to expose the cloves beneath. Drizzle with 1 tsp. olive oil and wrap tightly with foil. Let roast in a 400°F / 200°C oven for 30-40 minutes until soft.
2. Cook beans if using dried. Let cool completely. Canned is fine.
3. In a dry skillet over medium heat, lightly toast sunflower seeds. Remove from heat.
4. In a food processor pulse sunflower seeds until ground. Add all other ingredients and blend until smooth. Season to taste. Store in a container in the fridge until you leave the house.
Help with Jetlag
Jetlag is a serious bummer. When you finally get to where you are going and all you want to do is sleep is incredibly frustrating.
The secret to combating this very common affliction is staying hydrated and avoiding those things that cause dehydration. I’ll share with you my own little tips that get me through every time. In fact, I rarely suffer from jetlag at all.
1. Drink tons of water. The circulated air on planes is incredibly dehydrating. Drink as much as you can the day you are traveling before you get to the airport. Take a bottle with you on the plane and have the flight attendants refill it often, or ask if you can have their 2-liter bottle for long-haul flights. They usually give me one, as they find coming to my seat every hour to fill my bottle annoying.
For every hour you are flying, drink at least 500ml / 17oz. of water (I aim for double this). This sounds like a lot, but it helps more than anything else. Yes, you may have to pee a lot, but it’s good to get out of your seat anyway.
2. No alcohol, coffee or tea. Yea, yea, I’m a big party pooper, but I say this in your best interest. Alcohol and caffeine are also dehydrating, which will exacerbate any feelings of jetlag you may have. Save the celebrations for when you actually get to your destination instead of suffering through a jetlag fueled hangover. The worst!
3. Limit or avoid the plane food. Meals on planes are heavily salted and/or sugared
because food tastes blander at high altitudes. To dilute both salt and sugar, your cells excrete water and send a thirst message to your brain saying they need more fluids. Wine does not help the situation. Nor does a cold beer, an iced tea, or coffee. Drink water on the plane only, and stick to high water content fruits and veggies. If you are going to be eating on the plane, order a vegetarian non-diary meal in advance – it’s your best bet!
Preparation for Coming Home
As a final detail, if you can plan ahead to your home coming, it will make the end of your trip a lot more pleasant. For my last meal at home I make a large pot of soup or stew and cook extra to freeze so that when I arrive back I have a meal waiting for me to heat and eat. It seems like a small thing, but when I get off the plane tired and needing a hot, nourishing meal, I know that there is one waiting for me when I get home without any fuss.
I hope that these recipes and lists of travel tips will help you on your next trip. Bon voyage! And I’ll see you when I am back from paradise…Peace out winter!