If you are a mom who travels for work you’ve surely experienced the all-encompassing surges of pleasure when eating out by yourself in peace and quiet in another city. However, this is usually followed by a wave of guilt when you think about your brood fending for themselves back home.
I love my husband and son but they would be happy doing one of two things for dinner every night; the monster salad- which involves lettuce the size of my husband’s head tossed in a bowl with salad dressing and an avocado or the pepperoni, cracker, and cheese sandwich. In an effort to make sure they are not at risk for scurvy and to be sure they aren’t slowly mummifying themselves with nitrates I have developed “meal plans” for my away days. This involves my son and I having a cooking Sunday. Luckily, I love to cook and my son is the best 6 year old sous chef I know. In the interest of all traveling mom’s out there here are some tips and recipes for a typical three day two night trip away.
Night Away #1-
The crockpot is your best ally. My father-in-law became one of my favorite people the day he sent me an All-Clad Crockpot. This crockpot is the Lexus of kitchen cookware. I always incorporate at least one crockpot meal into my time away. On my flight days it is easy to throw ingredients into the pot and have everyone come home to a great smelling house. Crockpots are also very forgiving. You can throw the cheapest cut of meat into a crockpot, add a liquid, and some spices and have a gourmet tasting meal for dinner that night. One of our family favorites is a meal consisting of shredded bbq chicken sandwiches, Mexican corn, and cucumber zucchini salad.
Boil 3 ears of corn in a salted pot of water for about 10 minutes. Dump hot water out and fill up pot with cold water to cool the corn. Put the ears of corn on a cutting board and cut down the corn cob to remove the corn from the cob. Lay all of the cut off corn on a tinfoil lined baking tray. Squeeze half a lime over the corn and sprinkle with shredded Mexican cheese blend (sometimes it’s called taco cheese blend). Put the pan in to broil for 4 minutes or until cheese is melted. Take out and let cool. I fold up the corn in the tinfoil and store it in the fridge.
Zucchini Cucumber Salad
Our garden has been particularly abundant this year so we eat zucchini very frequently! Peel one medium zucchini and one medium cucumber. I remove the seeds from the cucumber. Chop both into bite size pieces. Mix with 2 tsp dried dill, a pinch of salt, and 2 TBS reduced fat sour cream. Put in the fridge. To reduce dishes I mix this salad in the tupperware it will go in the fridge in.
Crockpot BBQ Chicken
In the crockpot place 4 chicken breasts, 1 can/bottle of gingerale (I use Verner’s which we drive back from Ohio whenever we go visit there. Any “gourmet” gingery ginger ale will do fine but traditional gingerales like Schweppes are too sweet.), one packet of McCormick’s Montreal Steak Seasoning, a pinch of salt, and 3 TBS of A1 sauce. Add enough water to cover the chicken. Set the crockpot for 8 hours on low or the equivalent setting on your crockpot. I always do this meal the first day I leave. My husband comes home and pulls the chicken breasts out of the crockpot, shreds them with two forks and adds the appropriate amount of bbq sauce into the bowl of shredded chicken. We usually use Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce or when I have some, my favorite- Rudy’s BarBQ Sause (www.rudys.com). Serve the shredded chicken on rolls, particularly popular in our home are kid-friendly slider rolls. This recipe frequently provides enough leftovers for a lunch during the week as well and it can be multiplied for family gatherings to make a quick and easy buffet-style meal.
Night #2 Away-
For night two quiche is one of my favorites. Quiche has the potential to be fairly unhealthy but I like to think my version is a pretty healthy compromise. Plus it makes two quiche and the leftovers freeze well and taste just as good cold for lunch the next day.
Grate 3-4 cups of zucchini (about 3 medium- or one of the baseball bat sized ones from my garden) into a strainer. Sprinkle with about 2 tsp salt and set aside. This will draw excess moisture out of the zucchini so that your quiche doesn’t get watery in the oven. Take two 9 inch frozen pie shells. Squirt 2 TBS mustard into the bottom of each and use a rubber spatula to cover the bottom of the pie with mustard. Put the pie shells into a 375 degree oven for 5 minutes. Pull out after 5 minutes. Sprinkle the bottom of each of the warm quiche crusts with 1/3 cup of shredded cheese. I like to use Cabot’s Monterrey Jack or Sharp Cheddar. Chop 1/4 cup of fresh basil and split between the bottom of the two quiches.
Go back to your zucchini and press down on it to remove any excess liquid. Add about 1 tsp of pepper and toss the zucchini with your fingers to mix it in. Split the zucchini between the two quiche crusts, fluffing it with your fingers so that it settles nicely. In a mixing bowl, stir together 1 cup of part skim ricotta cheese, 1 egg, 2 TBS mustard and 1/2 cup of milk. Set the two quiche onto a cookie sheet. This will protect the bottom of your oven in case of any overflow when baking. Pour the ricotta topping onto the quiches splitting it between them. Bake the quiche for 45 minutes in your 375 degree oven. Remove and cool. Wrap quiches with foil and stick them in the fridge to be heated later in the week.
In all prep time for the sides and quiche is minimal. The sides can be prepped while the quiche bakes and setting up the crockpot will take less than 10 minutes the morning you leave. Kids can help with some of the tasks. At six my son is fairly adept at peeling with a safe veggie peeler and grating so these two meals are ones that give him quite a bit to do.
The guilt may still be there as I eat in one of my favorite restaurants but it is only a twinge because the family is eating just as well as I am minus the blissful silence!