Tag Archives: travel

Uninspired Inspiration: Trip Food Planning.

Anyone who’s been following here for more than a year will probably know that I am not a fan of cold or snow. Unfortunately, it’s both cold and snowing outside right now, and I find myself mostly just wanting comfort food and hot cocoa (preferably with some Kahlua in it). I’m not really inspired to do much in the way of anything that doesn’t involve a big comforter and my cats.

This isn’t good.

While I realize I need some relaxation, and while I also realize I am terrible at it and that sometimes it’s okay to just sit around, doing it for an entire two days while eating continuously just isn’t a recipe for meeting my overall health and wellness goals. Since I tell my fitness students all the time that the less you feel like working out the more you probably need to do it, I kinda felt like I couldn’t just sit on my butt all day without being something of a hypocrite. The good news is that Sundays actually are my day off of working out hard, and I did my regular stretching. The bad news is that, given the weather, leaving the house wasn’t going to happen.

I struck on the idea of planning out our cooler food for our trip to see our family in a few weeks. We try not to eat on the road because it’s expensive and bad for you, but I hadn’t really given much thought to it yet, either. A perfect task for an otherwise lazy day! Here’s what I came up with, and why.


Homemade hummus and veggies. Carrots, broccoli, and caulflower are easy to pack, keep well, and are easy car munchies that give a lot of nutritional punch for very little cash. I’ll make hummus, which is super easy to do.

Raw milk cheese. I can’t tell you how excited I am that one of my local stores is carrying raw milk, super-sharp cheddar.

Apples and Bananas. Local apples are still really easy to find this time of year. The bananas will depend on if I can get organics. Our local stores have been appallingly bad about keeping anything organic in stock these last few months.

GORP. My version will include dried cherries, raisins, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and probably walnuts.

Hard-boiled eggs. Thadd doesn’t like these, but I love them.

Popcorn. I like crunchy munchies on the road, so I am doing some popcorn with olive oil and nutritional yeast. The b vitamins will help give us energy for the drive, too.


Homemade sandwiches. Neither of us can stand pre-made sandwiches, so we’ll take the stuff along to make them when we stop to gas up. PB&J is always a favorite for Thadd, but we’ll also do tuna salad and some high-quality lunch meats and cheeses. All homemade breads, of course.

Black Bean and Banana Empanadas. These are great hand foods, and most gas stations now have microwaves so you can heat things up. The whole wheat crust is fabulous.

Spring Rolls. Rice paper wrapped around salad, essentially. It’s an easier way to eat salad on the road, and I’ll make a nice almonds dipping sauce.


Raw milk. We’ll have a milk delivery from our herd share the day we leave. No point in letting it go to waste.

Coffee. We’ll take a thermos of our own. I know coffee is controversial, but I’m just not making a 14 hour drive each direction without it.

Dark Chocolate. If I get a sweet craving on the road, I’d rather have a square of this than break down and buy a Snicker’s bar.

On the way back, we’ll probably be stuck with just the coffee and sandwiches, unfortunately, as we won’t really have a lot of time or access to make special foods for the way home.


Weekend Cooler Challenge Recipes: Booze Smoothies!

I promised you the last recipe today. I also promised you a wrap-up. One of those promises is going to be fulfilled, the other is going to have to wait until my writer’s block goes away, hopefully Monday. I have to say, though, that while I love all these recipes, these two are my favorite. Not because they’re the most gourmet or anything, but because damnit, I want some fruit and booze (hey, it’s been a long week)!  So, take it away, Gaylin!  (As a note, if you guys haven’t been checking out the recipes and comments on her blog, go there now–there’s all kinds of extra goodies over there from this series, as well as bunches of yums otherwise unrelated!)

Frozen Fruit Booze Smoothies
I had originally meant these smoothies to serve as an alternative to breakfast, but when it came right down to it, the bottle of local rum was staring me in the face when I started the whole process and before I knew it, we had what we like to call in our house “booze smoothies.”
The recipe starts with fruit we freeze during the harvest time, when they’re in season. Strawberries typically come from Maple Creek Farm, our CSA, but we occasionally get them from other farms that sell at the farmer’s market near our house. One of them isn’t on the web. Burda’s Berry Farm, located in Three River’s, Michigan. Their berries are always great quality and when they feel the fruit has passed its prime for eating out of hand, it’s picked and turned into other things, like jams and jellies. In addition to strawberries from them we also get blue berries. Another berry farm we get fruit from is Bigelow’s Berry Farm.
Most of the berries we get from our farmers are super ripe when we get them, so we process them the same day they land in our kitchen, for maximum freshness. What we can’t use that day or the next, we’ll clean or hull, and then spread out in a single layer on cookie sheets that fit in our freezer. Once completely frozen, the individual fruits go into freezer bags and await whatever insanity we have planned for them in the middle of the cold months when we’re craving the fresh fruit that’s never available except from far flung places off the American continent.
So, to make our fruit smoothies, I put an extremely generous cup full of mixed, frozen berries, into the blender, and to that I added an equal amount of frozen peaches. I topped this with the last two scoops of homemade peach ice cream that had magically survived my husband’s assault (ok, I confess, I hid it so I could have some and then I promptly forgot about it). To top all this off, I added a good cup full of a locally made Pinot Gris called “Gris Gris” made by Vintner’s Cellars, a custom wine maker just down the street from my house (how cool is that for local!). This didn’t produce quite enough liquid for the processing, so we topped it all off with about half a bottle of our newest local spirits find, Freshwater Amber Rum from New Holland Brewery in my hometown of Holland, Michigan.
Whir the dickens out of all of this, and poof, booze smoothies, without ever having to resort to adding water from ice cubes. “Sheer genius!” was my favorite compliment from sharing these. They traveled in the cooler quite nicely in our large thermos (the one that’s never seen coffee in it) and were gone in the blink of an eye when people got wind of their yummy factor.

Weekend Cooler Challenge Recipe: Venison

I’m a big fan of healthy food you can take on the go, especially since Thadd and I are pretty active. And, he needs hand-held foods for lunches because he’s often eating it while running between classes.  Empañadas are perfect, and this recipe is one I plan to try out as soon as my nephews get me some more venison (hey, guys, if either of you two are reading, this is a hint!). Take it away, Gaylin!
Venison, Wild Mushrooms, and Caramelized Onion Empañadas
My husband’s family is big on hunting for several reasons. Foremost among them, however, is our ability to control our source of meat and how it’s processed. Almost all the red meat in our house comes from deer we’ve taken off his family’s ancestral farm. Last year’s harvest included two good-sized bucks and we still had some of the ground bits left (the tenderloins were the first eaten, of course). I caramelized a white onion that I’d diced up, though that onion had seen better days and really needed to be used. To this, I added several cloves of mince garlic and the venison for a quick fry. The meat cooks alarmingly fast because of how lean it is. We still had some of the mushrooms left from the other dishes I cooked, so I added those to the pot too.
Now this is where my amounts get a little iffy. I’ve cooked a dish like this since before I was married many years ago, so I don’t really know the exact amounts, but I can tell you roughly what else it has. The venison needed a little sauce to really keep it from being dry in the meat pies. I cast about in the fridge and found a lonely little bottle of homemade stout beer that a friend had gifted my husband with and it bravely sacrificed itself to the cause. To this, I added a goodly splash of soy sauce and another goodly splash of some homemade white vinegar I had on hand. Spices added included a large quantity of black pepper, but also a dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamon, long pepper, cubebs, and salt. All this simmered away merrily at medium low heat until the liquid had turned to a thickened gravy and everything was nicely coated.
 This is where I used Shawn’s awesome crust recipe using some of the last of the homemade apple sauce I had on hand.
The flour was the whole wheat flour I had from Hampshire Farms. I love this crust because it behaves so very nicely to everything. My next goal with it is to roll it thinner. I am so glad Gaylin liked this crust, though I really can’t take credit for it personally. Vegetarian Times really hit a winner with this one. We make it in triple batches, freeze it with the banana-black bean filling they have in their recipe, and freeze them for snacks and lunches. They come out perfectly every time, and it’s nice that we have a use for any extra applesauce we make and don’t get eaten!
After the mixture had cooled to room temperature, I separated the pie crust into 6 good sized chunks, rolled them out into thin ovals, set the filling in the center and rolled them up, crimping the edges. These went into a 350F oven for about 45 minutes until the crusts had browned nicely and I was confident that the filling was hot through. Onto a rack to cool completely and then I packed them away from the trip, layered between wax papers just in case there was any residual moisture that leaked. I didn’t want them to stick together.
These would likely work with beef, too, and I may give that a try soon since I doubt I’ll get any more venison before winter (since it is, after all, illegal to hunt them at the moment). Tomorrow, the finishing touches, and a wrap-up of how this whole thing worked out!

Weeked Cooler Challenge: Zucchini Galettes

Because I am a total moron, I forgot to put this fabulous picture of Gaylin’s Clean-the-Cupboards Granola on the first blog post:
Now I have to go back and edit it, but I wanted folks who may not necessarily re-read all my blog posts (though you should, they’re more fun the second time around when you can really take the time to pick apart all my grammar and spelling errors!) to see how yummy this looks!
Once I realized I’d done this, of course, I took more care making sure all the hard work Gaylin did snapping pics didn’t go to waste. So, there’s food porn with your next recipe!For those of you who haven’t been keeping up, my guest blogger this week and next is Gaylin from “More Than Just the Food.” If you read me regularly because you like my food paradigms, you need to check out her blog–you’re going to love her. And now it’s time for me to shut up and let her share her next recipe…
Zucchini Galettes
I love this recipe. It uses up a huge amount of shredded zucchini and it freezes really well. The crust comes together with 2 cups wheat flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 cup unsalted butter, 3 to 4 tablespoons ice cold vodka (come on! of course we have this in the fridge!), and another 3 to 4 tablespoons ice cold water. This got cooled for while I made the filling and then rolled out into two equal portions on a floured surface. 

Now the filling is a little troubling. It had about 5 cups of zucchini that I’d had sitting in a strainer salted and draining.
I squeezed the crap out of it to get it as dry as possible. Added an egg to this and about 1 cup (lightly packed) of two cheeses. I confess I splurged here. You can use any good cheese you like, honestly. I used a haertkase (mild white) and a Spanish mahon (cheese is one of the few food items I get at the grocery). Mixed up quickly to moisten, spiced with some of the smoked sea salt (still blame you), and plopped half each in the middle of each dough circle. I folded the edges over in the style of a rustic tart and then baked until everything was golden and bubbly, about 25-35 minutes at 375F.

In retrospect, I should have split this recipe into 4-6 much smaller galettes. It would have been much easier to portion out. Cutting these into servings was really kind of a pain in the middle of a hotel room.
This is a perfect summer recipe all around, since most of the folks I know end up swimming in zucchini by mid-July. I can’t wait to make up a batch of these for the freezer.
Swing back by tomorrow  for Gnocchi with Asparagus and Peppered Bacon!

Weekend in a Cooler: What the Hell is That Smell?

Yes, there are recipes in this post. Hold your horses, sit back with that cup of (hopefully Fair Trade Certified) coffee, and read on.

Gaylin has a way with words as well as food, and one of my favorite things about this series has been the chance to email with her more. Why?  I’m glad you asked…

Obviously, part of the challenge was that everything had to fit into a cooler and a tote. While we were putting notes together for the write-up, I get this email (er, lightly edited for language, because I know a few of you have work filters):

I have to tell you about the cooler too. Oh you’re going to love this. So…you know (her husband) hunts, right? Well when he brings back a deer (or three), we process it ourselves. He’s incredibly picky about the processing and we get far better quality by doing it ourselves. So we got two deer this year and processed them. Guess what Don forgot to take out of the cooler IN NOVEMBER? Yep. One small ice cream bucket of broth cuts. Junk meat, essentially. But the cooler was so well sealed the whole time that we never smelled it.

Until he opened it, that is, and then jesus god almighty on a pogo stick what the f**k. So he says to me “we can fix this!” and fool that I was, I believed him. He set off to scouring that cooler like it had just held all the hosts of hell and their minions. And I have to admit that when he was done, that cooler didn’t seem to smell a bit.

Until we got to the hotel.

So to make a long story short, everything fit in the cooler just fine. And thank god I’m anal retentive about packing everything double bagged and in containers. The smell still in the cooler was just present enough that I made him take everything out of the cooler and then fill one end of the bathtub in the hotel room with ice. We stored all the food there.

I’m making him throw away that f**king cooler. Best damned cooler we ever owned too.

You can see why I get along with this woman. And, speaking of Gaylin, it’s time to turn things over to her, since my involvement in the recipe-prep portion of this whole wacky challenge was nil. That’s right, it’s time to start the recipe portion of the series! Take it away, Gaylin!

Homemade Rawmilk Yogurt
Our milk comes from Thomas Organic Creamery (but their site is down as I type this). Our cow’s name is “Amanda” and I get regular reports on her health and what she and her compatriots are doing. Right now they’re mostly birthing babies. I love that I know this. Seriously. I mean how many people are connected enough with their food that they know a baby just got born?
Most people cringe when they hear how much we pay for a gallon of milk. We pay $7.50. It’s a lot. Especially when you see how little milk costs in the grocery stores. But what aren’t you seeing in that milk? Safety, for one. And hidden costs, for another. How far did your milk travel? I know. Mine traveled 86 miles from door to door to get to me. I also know what my cow ate most days. Grass. Unsprayed, untreated, grass. I know what my cow did. Largely it wandered around free on that grass, minding its own business and doing cow type things. Happy cows play with each other. Did you know that? It kind of looks like they’re playing tag with each other like little kids. It makes me smile every time I see it.
Here in VA, Thadd and I get our milk from Our Father’s Farm. We pay $35/month, which is still far more than grocery store milk; but, we do it for all the reasons Gaylin does. It’s worth the cost).
I still use the crockpot to make my yogurt, mostly because I still don’t own a thermometer to allow me checking these kinds of things and we simply don’t keep much ice around to cool things down quickly. If I get into cheesemaking more (which I fully intend to), I’m going to invest in one and then. Until then, I make use of my crockpot because I can pretty much ignore what’s happening and just use time as my guide for what’s going on. The original recipe I came up with I’ve modified as best I could to try and lower the temps a bit and allow a lot more of the natural bacterial cultures through to the end. I’ve just not really noted the time changes.
Someday, I need to post my cooler recipe. I keep thinking I have, then realize I haven’t. Ergh.
Clean the Cupboards Granola
Our farmer’s market doesn’t sell nuts and dried fruits (more’s the pity), so we looked for a local source and were pleased to find the Germack Pistachio Company in downtown Detroit. They’re the oldest roaster of pistachios in the United States and one of the few companies in the US that roasts pumpkin and squash seeds. They roast in small batches and they’ve had the same master roaster working at the company for over two decades. They source through Michigan sources whenever possible, though most nuts can’t grow in Michigan. But the fruits they purchase for drying frequently can be grown in Michigan and they try to work with vendors within the state before they go out of state.
With the end of the food year and the start of the next (this is how we think of the transition from Spring to Summer in our house), our cupboards are fairly bare. There were, however, several small bits and bobs of nuts and fruits left in the cupboard. Some dried dates, cranberries, and grapes. Raw almonds we still had in abundance because I’d just bought them. Making up a batch of granola was one of the best ways to use all this up. Technically I don’t follow a recipe (when is that a surprise) but I do have one written up on my blog.
The oats we use in our house come from Hampshire Farms. They’re an organic farm about 78 miles from us. In addition to our oats, we get all of our grains, grain flours, dried beans and peas, and seeds from them. When our Amish farmers can’t make it to market, we get our eggs from them too.