Food For Savvy Family Travel

My younger sister and I still talk about our first family trip to Miami when we were in our teens. We were traveling from Winnipeg with its frigid, frosty temperature of 40 degrees below to the sunny south. As soon as our car turned the corner, we immediately declared, “We’re hungry! When can we eat?”

My mother reached into the overstuffed cooler that she had packed with 40 sandwiches for our trip. She always made 40 sandwiches for any trip we took because she didn’t want anyone to be hungry!

Her standard selection included corned beef and pastrami sandwiches with tomato (my father’s favorite), salami (everyone’s favorite), egg and olive (Mom’s favorite), and chopped egg with green onions (my favorite). She sometimes included sandwiches with cold sliced hamburger or chicken, once again with tomato slices – Mom wanted to be sure we ate our vegetables. Salmon salad sandwiches with sliced cucumber and onions were often included, but rarely tuna – no one in our family liked tuna very much.

Mom also packed apples, oranges, bananas and of course, a selection of homemade cookies such as her komish broit, kichel and chocolate chip cookies. Cinnamon buns were another big favorite with our family. The sandwiches lasted for nearly 2 days and luckily no one got food poisoning with the lack of refrigeration! Memories of that terrific trip still linger in our collective memories.

In the summer, we usually traveled to a rented cottage at the 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 and no refrigeration 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. Friday nights my father would come by train for the weekend and we would often go to the local boarding house where we would have a beautiful Shabbos meal served by Mrs. Chmelnitsky in her white-clothed dining room. We would enjoy her gefilte fish, crusty challah, chicken soup with luscious homemade lokshen, plump potato knishes and succulent roast chicken. I can still remember the taste of her fabulous food even though more than half a century has passed.

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 and cream cheese or tuna salad, or assorted sandwiches such as chopped egg, cheese or peanut butter. Deli sandwiches are a favorite 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 ziploc bags – moms still focus on getting vegetables into their kids! Chocolate chip cookies are always a favorite, along with fruit – apples, grapes, bananas, plums – and individual containers of yogurt.

Yesterday, my son Doug and his family drove from Montreal to Toronto for a family visit. Of course, their cooler was jam-packed with food for the six-hour trip along with freezer packs to keep everything well-chilled. They packed an assortment of sandwiches, frozen salmon patties for fussy 3-year old Sam, baby food for 1-year old Zak, bagels, potato chips, fruit (blueberries and raspberries for Zak), carrots and cucumbers (for Sam), chocolate Danish and poppy seed cookies (for everyone), plus baby bottles, juice boxes, bottled water, cottage cheese, yogurt, plastic cutlery, wipes – and a bag of salad greens that my daughter-in-law Ariane was certain would spoil before they returned home in 4 days!

So my refrigerator is now overflowing, especially since I cooked in advance so I would be able to spend more time having fun with the kids rather than spending time in the kitchen cooking. If they had traveled by plane, I’m sure the cost for overweight baggage would be more than the price of the airline tickets!

One of my clients, a food writer with 4 young children, recently traveled to visit her parents at their cottage for a month. Luckily, her mother had a well-equipped kitchen so she only had to pack for the road trip. They left late in the afternoon, taking tuna sandwiches, chocolate chip cookies, juice boxes and assorted fruit, along with books and games to keep the children amused for their 10-hour trip. When I spoke with her the other day from her parent’s cottage, she told me there is one small Kosher grocery store nearby so she’ll be able to pick up the ingredients she needs for the food photography for an upcoming article. The joys of a working vacation!

If you are traveling to a rented cottage or apartment, there are additional challenges to consider. My friend Denise Levin once rented an apartment in Israel for 2 months and luckily her Israeli neighbor lent her some pots and a frypan when she arrived. Denise had shlepped everything else with her and said it was “a pain in the neck!”

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 will really have a holiday when you arrive at your destination!

* A “vacation box” can be packed with inexpensive kitchen equipment so it won’t matter if you lose something but the equipment is of decent enough quality to work properly:

1 dairy frypan (preferably nonstick)
1 pot for pasta along with a colander
1 pot for boiling eggs
1 soup pot and 1 frypan 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 storage containers/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 and rice are easily available with a hechsher. Consider special dietary needs such as gluten-free diets, allergies and diabetic choices before you leave for your trip.

* Don’t forget to pack Shabbos candles, matches and wine. A box of matzo can be used if kosher bread isn’t available.

* A plastic dish tub to wash dishes (or as suggested by one friend, stack the dirty dishes on the counter, then hold them with one hand, and wash and rinse them under running water).

* 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 niblets – 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. Reheat in a kashered oven and enjoy when you need them for a carefree meal.

* Make sure there’s a microwave oven at your destination. It’s very easy to kasher and you can prepare eggs, fish, potatoes and other vegetables easily, as well as reheating and defrosting foods in a hurry.

Chaim Schneider shared his story of how he was traveling before Shabbos and was in heavy traffic on the way to Rhode Island, more than an hour away. There was no way that he, his wife and five month old child would arrive before Shabbos for dinner. They spotted a hotel in Connecticut, pulled off the road and quickly found a supermarket.

Chaim told me “It’s simple to find Kosher food if you’re not too picky. There are name brands and fresh fruits and vegetables everywhere. We bought the basic necessities and some candles and found a package of Kosher Kaiser rolls. Luckily, we had two bottles of Kosher wine with us. We lit Shabbos candles in our room, used the rolls and wine and had a lovely Shabbos!”

He recalled Yeshiva days when students were not allowed to cook in the room and no cooking utensils were allowed. Rumor had it that students would double-wrap kosher pizza in heavy-duty aluminum foil and put it in the clothes dryer to heat up. Fifty cents got you a hot pizza!

Safe travels and happy holidays. Enjoy…



Adapted from: The NEW Food Processor Bible by Norene Gilletz

1 medium onion, cut in chunks
1 carrot, cut in chunks (optional)
1/4 cup fresh dill (or 1 tbsp dried dill)
2 cans (7 3/4 oz each) salmon
2 1/2 cups corn flakes
4 eggs (or 2 eggs plus 4 egg whites)
dash freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp oil for frying (plus more as needed)

In a food processor fitted with the Steel Blade, process onion, carrot and dill until minced, about 8 seconds. Add salmon, including the skin, bones and juice), corn flakes, eggs and pepper. Process just until blended, 6 to 8 seconds. Mixture will be soft. (If you don’t have a processor, grate or mince the onion and carrots, mince the dill, then combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.)

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet. Drop salmon mixture from a large spoon into hot oil. Flatten slightly with the back of the spoon. Brown on medium heat on both sides, until golden. Drain well on paper towels.

Yield: 6 servings. Freezes well. Perfect for traveling.



Adapted from: Healthy Helpings by Norene Gilletz

This is a perfect dish for one person or for a crowd. For a large quantity, multiply all ingredients. Easy and versatile. Leftovers are delicious thinly sliced and served on crusty rolls or in a salad.

1 boneless skinless chicken breast, trimmed of fat (1/4 lb/125 g)
Salt, optional
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Paprika to taste
1 tsp fresh dill, minced (or 1/2 tsp dried)
1/2 tsp olive or canola oil
1 to 2 tbsp fresh (or bottled) lemon juice

1. Place chicken in a bowl (or a ziploc bag) and sprinkle it with seasonings. Rub with dill, oil and lemon juice. Let marinate for 1/2 hour at room temperature, or cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours.

2. Cut a large square of foil or parchment paper. Place chicken on the foil and drizzle lightly with marinade. Seal package by crimping edges closed. (If preparing several portions, make individual packages.) Place on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated 400 degree F oven for 20 to 25 minutes. To serve, place pouch on a serving plate and cut open at the table.

Yield: 1 serving. Best served immediately, but if you make a large quantity, leftovers can be reheated. Cooked chicken might be too dry if frozen (see Time-Saving Secret below).

* Time-Saving Secret: Combine chicken with seasonings, dill, oil and lemon juice in an airtight container. Freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw overnight in the fridge, or use the microwave. (One piece of chicken takes 2 to 3 minutes on DEFROST.) Cook immediately as directed in Step 2.

* Forget About the Pouch Version: Place marinated breasts on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake uncovered at 400 F for 20 minutes. Or grill or broil over medium-high heat, allowing 5 to 6 minutes per side, basting with marinade.

* Microwave Method: In Step 2, wrap marinated chicken breasts in parchment paper. Cook 3 minutes on HIGH for a single breast, 4 to 4 1/2 minutes for 2 single breasts, and 6 to 7 minutes for 4 single breasts. When done, chicken juices should run clear.

* Chicken and Vegetables in a Pouch: Prepare chicken as directed, but before sealing package(s), top chicken with one of the following veggie combinations: broccoli and/or cauliflower florets, chopped green, red and/or yellow peppers; julienned zucchini, carrots and/or green onions. Sprinkle with a little marinade or white wine. Bake or microwave as directed. If microwaving, add an extra minute or two for the veggies.