Tips for Summertime Mobile Meals
Nothing beats lounging in a secluded part of the forest with little else than the wonders of nature for entertainment. But if camping isn’t your cup of tea, a day at the beach or winding along on a long train ride may be. Whatever the adventure, meals will be required. And while on your recharging retreat, you don’t have to leave your food tenets back at the home front. Yes, lugging food around is a challenge, and there are tight cooking quarters (if any at all), as well as refrigeration issues to contend with. But don’t fret—traditional food principles can be applied at the fireside (or wherever you are) without much more effort than is applied at home. So pack those bags and feel confident about your travels, because you can keep everyone well-nourished on the road!
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EARLY BIRDS CATCH THE NUTRIENTS
If there is one thing that becomes strikingly clear when living a traditional-food lifestyle, it is the need to think ahead. At home, knowing what you will serve for the next several meals lightens the process for the family chef, but when traveling such advance planning becomes irrevocably non-negotiable.
Starting to organize your mobile food plans several weeks in advance is best. Not only are there the decisions to make on what to bring, but as a traditional foodie, you know that the most nutritious meals often are prepared in stages, such as soaking, sprouting, souring and dehydrating. Here are some goals for our foods for the road:
• They can sustain some bumps along the way and maintain a semblance of original structure.
• They need minimal or no refrigeration.
• They need little or no prep or cooking on site.
• They preferably can be eaten with fingers and a napkin, to minimize clean-up.
These foods are best kept in a cooler or fridge, but are still easy to grab on-the-go. Ice is usually easily accessible on the road or in hotels. Use glass storage containers if you desire, but BPA-free plastic may be a more practical storage choice while on the road. However, one thing that is not negotiable for my family is their drinking containers: we stay away from plastic bottles, particularly in hotter times of the year. The carcinogenic, estrogen-like compounds leached from plastic (especially when heated in a warm car on a hot day) into water or other beverages are not worth the risk (read more in the informative piece titled “Natural Protection against Estrogen Overload” found at www. westonaprice.org).
For cooler keeper ideas, see the sidebar on page 73. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for local farmers markets or roadside produce stands as you travel to replenish your stash. You can also check out www.localharvest.org to find farmers markets, family farms and other sources of sustainably grown food in the area you are visiting.
Travel is the perfect time to take advantage of the crock pot’s portability; some units even have locking lids for safer transporting. It can be used in hotel rooms, kitchenettes and campers alike. Use this nifty tool as you normally do if that works for you on the road, but for faster, cleaner meal prep, use it more as a way to warm your pre-prepared meals. Another great thing about the crock pot is that you can put your food in and walk away without worry, and people can come in and grab some grub when their tummies start grumbling.
Before you leave home, make a big batch of soup, freeze in meal-sized portions and heat it up in the crock pot when needed. Another idea is to brown beef and make the sloppy joe sauce separately, toss them together in the crock pot until time to eat, with no need to brown the meat on location. The same can be done with a meatloaf or meatballs, which can either be cooked or reheated in the crock pot on your trip.
Make a lovely breakfast or dessert of baked apples in the crock pot by removing the cores of your apples with a paring knife or even a spoon handle. Be sure to keep the bottom of the apple intact. Drizzle a touch of honey into the openings, or sprinkle in maple sugar, cinnamon, butter or coconut oil and crispy nuts. Cook on low for six to eight hours.
For campfire ideas, see below.
Whether you are RV-ing cross-country, enjoying the mountains on a weekend camping trip, or you are just an on-the-road-eater, these fun, mobile foods will help keep you and your family nutritionally charged.
COOLER KEEPER IDEAS
FRUIT: Most fruits don’t actually need refrigeration, but sometimes taste better when chilled.
FRUIT DIP: Try mixing crispy cashew butter with yogurt and a touch of honey; it is creamy and easy to scoop.
YOGURT with berries and honey.
Hummus: Good dipping for veggie sticks or crackers.
HARD BOILED EGGS: These little pre-cooked wonders should remain refrigerated and if left in their shell can last for a good week. Camping supply stores or on-line retailers carry egg storage containers that are hard plastic to protect eggs from damage.
SLICED LUNCH MEATS: These slices are perfect for rolling around hunks of cheese. These sandwich rolls make an easy purchase during a quick mid-trip grocery run and can be eaten in the car.
SUMMER SAUSAGE OR SALAMI SLICES: Serve with cheese and a handful of cherry tomatoes.
AROUND THE CAMPFIRE
COOKING ON A STICK: Half the fun of camping is the campfire meals, and with some creativity, many meals can be cooked and enjoyed right around the flames. There is the basic hotdog or bratwurst (pasture-raised beef, please), but what about wrapping those wieners with a slice of nitrate-free bacon first? Or molding meatloaf around a stick, covering with foil (consider the variety lined with parchment paper to put next to your food) and cooking that over the campfire. Use your imagination!
ROCK-STOVE: My friend Moneca uses nature’s cooking tools while backpacking. “I buy the small, sprouted frozen corn tortillas from Food for Life. I put a package of those straight from the freezer in my pack along with a bag of shredded raw cheese and a bag of pre-cooked ground beef that I cook with a little butter, sea salt, and chili powder (all pretty lightweight). When we build our fire we make a fire ring with some rocks that have a flat top. Once the fire is going and those rocks get hot, I put the tortilla right on the hot rock and top with just cheese or cheese and the meat. The cheese is melted in no time.”
BANANA BOATS: Move over s’mores, banana boats win out on taste and fun! Put a slit in the banana peel and add any goodies you like: nut butter, butter or coconut oil (approximately 1/2 tablespoon), flaked coconut, crispy nuts, strawberries, carob chips, a few preservative-free marshmallows (gulp…we are vacationing, remember!). Wrap in foil, being sure to seal the ends well. Place in a grill over the campfire (seam side up), on top of hot coals, on a barbecue, or in a 300-degree oven for seven to ten minutes. When cool, scoop out with a spoon and eat as is, or slather on a graham cracker.
BAKED APPLES: Similar to the crock pot version mentioned above, fill your cored apples with yummy fat, nuts, sweetener and spices. Consider dried fruits too. Wrap each apple in heavy duty foil (preferably lined with parchment paper), twisting the ends at the top to form a handle. Place the apples on the coals for approximately 15 minutes, or until the apples give a bit when pressed. Allow your creation to cool before enjoying.
NO FRIDGE NEEDED: FOODS PERFECT FOR THE KNAPSACK OR BEACH BAG
MEAT AND LIVER JERKY: Jerky can be made out of almost any meat—beef, venison, turkey, buffalo. Using ground meat can be more economical than using whole cuts. And not only is ground meat jerky a great hiding place for the all-important pastured liver, but you can power-pack your recipe with different herbs, spices and fun additions like ground dried blueberries or cranberries to give it a special kick. Below is a basic recipe; play with it at will.
1 – 1 1/2 pounds ground meat
1 teaspoon sea salt
Mexican: cumin, onion (powder or flakes), chili powder, chipotle powder, oregano
Sweet and Spicy: Rapadura sugar, sea salt, ground mustard seed, garlic, black pepper, ground red pepper
Pizza: Basil, oregano, garlic, salt, pepper
Teriyaki: garlic, ginger, soy sauce (tamari) and powdered lime or lemon peel
There are several ways to make your jerky. Simply spreading it out on a dehydrator sheet or piece of parchment paper to about 1/8’’ inch thickness, scored into your desired size, is fine. But to make the more uniform shapes, a cookie press works too. And if you really become a jerky-connoisseur, there are jerky guns available just for ground meats, which push out even strips or circular shapes. Pop your trays into a dehydrator or low-temperature oven set at 150 degrees for up to eighteen hours. Keep checking your jerky. Flip when it is flip-able to get the underside adequately dried. Test your jerky; you don’t want to see pink, but you don’t want it to be so un-pink that it becomes too dry either. The drying time will depend on your thickness and chosen ingredients. Store in an airtight container or in the fridge for up to two weeks.
FISH JERKY: Sally Fallon Morell provides details for Salmon Jerky in Nourishing Traditions that is downright delicious!
SEMI-HARD TO HARD CHEESES: Cheddar, Colby, Swiss, Parmesan (or Parmigiano Reggiano), Gouda, Romano, Jarlsberg, Monterey Jack. Harder cheeses have less moisture content than softer varieties, and the aging process—which utilizes enzymes, bacteria, and molds—gives it texture and allows it to keep longer.
Cheese was accidentally discovered many moons ago by nomadic tribes who used available storage containers for their milk—animal stomachs. Rennet naturally occurs in the stomach, transforming sweet milk into curds and whey. From there, cheese making evolved into a way to preserve milk without refrigeration. Generally, the longer a cheese is aged (or ripened), the better it will keep at room temperature. Bear in mind, room temperature is roughly 70 degrees, not a 90-degree backpack during the hottest part of the day. Cheese may “sweat” a bit at room temperature or feel oily, which is fine. Wrap your cheese in a few layers of cheesecloth or paper; the small holes will allow the cheese to breathe and prevent it from drying out. Plastic wrap prevents the cheese from breathing, allowing moisture to collect. Coincidentally, most cheeses are even more scrumptious at room temperature compared to cold from the fridge.
CRISPY NUT AND SEED TRAIL MIX: Our favorite blend is date pieces, crispy almonds, dried cherries and crispy cashews with a sprinkle of dried coconut. Another yummy mixture is chopped pineapple pieces, crispy almonds and walnuts and some broken up banana chip pieces. See Nourishing Traditions for more details on crispy nuts and seeds, which have been brought to life through soaking and dehydrating to maximize their nutrition and digestion.
POPCORN: Top with plenty of real butter and sea salt to taste.
CRISPY PANCAKES: Make a batch of your favorite pancakes and put them in a low temperature oven (around 150 degrees) or dehydrator until crispy. They make a lovely treat as is, or as vehicles for dipping.
DRIED FRUITS: apricots, pineapples, apples, cherries, and so on.
BANANA TAR: Bananas usually don’t do well for travel, but transform them into banana tar leather and you have a keeper! Blend together a combo of six ripe bananas (peeled), one tablespoon vanilla, four tablespoons carob powder, 1/2 teaspoon green stevia powder (not white extract), 1/4-1/3 cup coconut oil and a handful of crispy nuts. Spread mixture on dehydrator sheet and dehydrate at 150 degrees or so, starting to check at about four hours, flip and dry again until leathery.
Other yummy considerations for travel foods that require no refrigeration:
APPLE CHIPS: (store bought or homemade)
HOMEMADE BARS: (see breakfast bar recipe in article titled “Morning Nourishment: The Benefits, the Bounty & Creative Ideas” found at www.westonaprice.org)
FRUIT LEATHERS: (store bought or homemade): try mango raspberry, apple cinnamon or apricot or tomato. A general recipe is three cups fruit purée (blended fruit), a splash of lemon juice (maybe two teaspoons) and a little honey or maple syrup if desired. Spread mixture on a dehydrator tray and dehydrate at approximately 150 degrees until leathery, but not crisp. These can be surprisingly good with hard cheese.
SARDINES IN CAN WITH TOMATO SAUCE: These are so yummy to eat right out of the can! But you can use crackers too.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Summer 2011.