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The Traveling Picnic
When I begin to plan a trip, I have mixed feelings of anticipation for the adventure that awaits me mingled with the dread of the aggravation I'll face in just getting there. Travel throughout the world has increased dramatically since I was a young college student flying to Italy to study abroad. Then, the airports didn't seem as congested and I didn't feel like a member of the bovine family as I now do when I'm herded into a tightly packed plane.
According to statistics published by the U.S. Department of Commerce, domestic travel (recorded in passenger miles) by plane, train, bus and car has swelled by approximately 80 percent from the period covering 1970 to 1993. All this increased travel impacts upon your trip through crowded air terminals, train and bus stations and packed roadways. Your once relaxing journey to your favorite vacation spot has the potential of starting as a nightmare of frustration, exhaustion and agitated stomach.
Adding to this unsavory dilemma is the usual selection of unappetizing (and often unhealthy) road food or pre-prepped, pre-wrapped train or airplane food that we tend to feed our bodies. It's difficult for most people to refrain from eating on a trip, however short their journey. Blame it on nervous energy from being cooped up in close quarters. The simple truth is that you don't have to eat this way. If you plan ahead, you can prepare yourself a satisfying and nutritious transportable picnic that soothes your flagging spirits and helps comfort you during your trip.
I remember a recent flight where I, like most everyone, was patiently waiting for the dreaded food cart to come rolling down the aisle to deposit my miniature, compartmentalized meal in front of me. Since I neglected to call the airline in advance of my flight to request a vegetarian entree (I consider this a safer bet than their regular meals), I was offered the dreadful choice of beef burrito or lasagna. Yuk!
Meanwhile, a smart young woman across the aisle from me pulled out a bag filled with a thermos of hot soup, some fruit and cheese. Her soup filled the cabin with the delectable aroma of a real homemade meal and had many nearby customers salivating and wishing they had been so thoughtful and organized as she.
So I got to thinking that a moveable picnic would be just the thing to put together for this article's menu; one that reflects simplicity in preparation and an ability to be made ahead while offering no fuss or mess during eating. The possibilities are innumerable if you have a thermos to provide you with something hot and a small insulated container that will keep your refrigerated items chilled. You can buy these at a camping/outdoor store and probably at your neighborhood drug store or supermarket in their school supply section.
This menu is easy to prepare for one or more in your travel party and can be enjoyed by adults as well as children. Aram bread rolled around a filling of thinly sliced smoked turkey, shredded carrots, cheddar cheese and crisp slices of Fugi apples create a nutritious and satisfying start to your traveling meal. Wrap them individually, first in waxed paper (which will serve as the plate) and then in foil to keep them tight. Individual plastic containers of roasted vegetable salad tossed in a tomato-basil vinaigrette would be fine for an adult. If you are traveling with young children, be sure to bring them their own container of carrot and celery sticks. A thermos of fresh corn and cilantro chowder that is thickened with some toasted tortillas, making it both hearty and aromatic, is a good compliment and a sure bet for enticing those sitting next to you as you spoon in each mouthful of chunky soup. For dessert, choose something light and healthful such as fresh fruit or a container of dried papaya, pineapple, mango, dates and raisins.
The only thing you'll need to round off your feast is something to drink. For that, just ring for your attendant if you're flying or bring something along. And then watch your envious neighbors as they stab at their meals of pre-packaged or purchased food, regretting they did not think of your example first.
Smoked Turkey Aram Sandwich
This sandwich can be made the night before your trip to prevent last minute rushing. The sandwich is 'glued' together by using a low fat cream cheese flavored with an apple jelly. The trick is to keep everything as thin as possible to facilitate the rolling.
1 aram bread oval
2 tablespoons low fat cream cheese
2 teaspoons apple jelly (or jelly or jam of your choice)
4 thin slices smoked turkey
3 thin slices of cheddar cheese
1/4 shredded carrot
1/4 Fuji apple, thinly sliced
Place the aram bread on a cutting board.
Blend the cream cheese with the jelly and spread on one side of the aram bread.
Place the smoked turkey on the left end of the aram oval.
Top with the cheddar cheese, the shredded carrot and the sliced apple.
With the layered end closest to you, roll as tightly as possible toward the other end of the bread oval. Turn the sandwich so it is seam side down and cut in half.
Wrap tightly, first in waxed paper then in foil. Refrigerate until ready to eat.
Roasted Vegetable Salad
serves 2 to 3
It is impossible to make roasted vegetables for one without leftover raw vegetables sitting in your refrigerator.
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small carrot, peeled, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 small beet, cleaned and stem trimmed, halved
2-3 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1 small sweet potato, cut into 4 wedges
1 small onion, sliced into 4 wedges
Vegetable oil spray
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup canned chopped tomatoes (I prefer Pomi brand)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons chopped basil
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.
Blend together the 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and 1/4 cup olive oil. Toss with all the vegetables and let sit for 30 minutes.
Lightly spray a cookie sheet with the vegetable spray. Place the vegetables on this in a single layer. Roast in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or when the beet and potato can be easily pierced with the tip of a sharp knife.
Meanwhile, mix the remaining ingredients in a medium sized bowl. When the vegetables are done, remove from the oven and pour into the medium bowl. Toss the dressing with the vegetables to coat well. Serve at room temperature.
Fresh Corn Chowder with Cilantro and Tortillas
serves 4 to 6
This recipe makes enough for your trip plus enough leftover for when you return home and find the refrigerator as well as your stomach empty. Just thaw the container quickly under hot running water to loosen the soup and drop it into a soup pot. Cover and cook over low heat until completely thawed and hot.
4 ears fresh corn, kernels removed and reserved
3 cans no-fat chicken broth
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 carrot, chopped
1/4 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 teaspoon salt
juice of 2 limes
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
Place corn, chicken broth, onion, carrot, bell pepper, jalapeno and salt in a 4 quart stock pot and cook over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, toast the tortilla(s) over the gas flame of your stove until slightly charred. Tear up into small pieces and stir into the soup. If you don't have a gas stove, toast the tortillas under your broiler for 1-2 minutes each side.
When the soup has finished cooking, add the lime juice and fresh cilantro and stir well to incorporate.
Place in your pre-heated thermos. Freeze any left over after it cools.
Rosemary Furfaro is a freelance food writer.