Food is always an interesting part of a long car adventure. On the plus side, there are farm stands and cool local spots to discover…or there might just be chain restaurant after chain restaurant of so-so quality. So it’s the smart foodie who leaves with plenty of road-worthy fare on hand, lessening the cost of pit stops along the way.
What to pack? String cheese, whole fruit, sandwiches, and bottles of juice and water are smart bets. If you’ve got a planned stop along the way (say, a park), a picnic spread of salads and fried chicken isn’t a bad bet, either.
Be careful with mayonnaise-laden sandwiches and other fridge-kept goodies, which won’t do well more than a few hours out from home. (It’s also a smart idea to keep the cooler with you https://www.mint.com/blog/how-to/summer-food-safety-tips-0613/ in the car instead of in the trunk, where it’s much hotter.)
Beyond that, think inexpensive and not too messy, so you’re not encountering the remnants of your meal over the rest of the drive. 6 recipes to try:
Honey Tortilla Chips with Yogurt
Think of this as a fruity take on chips and salsa, says Michael Vyskocil, a volunteer field editor for Taste of Home magazine. To make, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small bowl, mix together 1 ½ teaspoons sugar and ½ teaspoon cinnamon. In another bowl, stir together three tablespoons honey and 1 ½ tablespoons hot water. With a pastry brush, spread the honey mix over one side of the tortillas. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Using a pastry cutter or pizza wheel, cut the tortillas into 1-inch strips. Cut the strips diagonally into small pieces. Arrange tortilla pieces on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the tortilla pieces are lightly toasted. Remove tortilla pieces from the baking sheet and let cool. Serve with yogurt for dipping.
Golden Beet Chips
Jennifer Fontaine of MommyHiker.com has a nutritious chip alternative: Beets! Plus, the recipe http://www.mommyhiker.com/2014/05/food-series-baked-golden-beet-chips.html is as simple as it is tasty—beets and a little salt.
“Homemade fruit chews are a delicious treat to make ahead and take on a trip—plus they count as a full serving of fruit,” says Jean Duane, author of “Bake Deliciously! Gluten and Dairy Free.” They’ll keep for days in a cooler with ice, she says. Not a cherry fan? Sub in any other fruit you like. To make, preheat oven to 135 degrees. Combine in a food processor a one pound bag of frozen (thawed) sweet pitted cherries, three tablespoons honey or agave and a teaspoon cinnamon. Process to the consistency of applesauce. Strain mixture to remove excess liquid.
Cut parchment paper to fit a baking sheet and thinly oil. Spread cherry mixture ¼-inch thick on pan. Place in the oven. (If your oven’s lowest temperature is 170 degrees, set it to that and prop the door open two inches, Duane says.) Bake 6-8 hours. Chews are ready when the surface is dry and smooth. Use a plastic scraper to pry the chews from the cooking surface. While warm, imprint your favorite shape with a cookie cutter, and cut out with scissors. Or cut in strips for roll-ups. Store in a zip-up bag.
Crunchy Roasted Chickpeas
“These crunchy roasted chickpeas are a great travel snack because they don’t need to be refrigerated, they’re packed with protein and you can flavor them in pretty much any way that you’d like,” says Pamela Braun of MyMansBelly.com. “Maybe make a batch for each person in the car, that way there’s no arguing over sharing.” Her recipe, here http://mymansbelly.com/2010/01/12/crunchy-roasted-chickpeas/.
Chef James Carpenter makes this candied bacon for salads and sandwiches at Page at 63 Main in Sag Harbor, NY. “It’s a great, unfussy treat to take on the road,” he says. To make it, preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking pan with foil, and place a broiler rack on top of the pan. Coat the rack with a teaspoon olive oil. Mix ¾ cup light brown sugar in a large bowl with ½ teaspoon ground cumin, ½ teaspoon chili powder and ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon. Using one pound of bacon, press mixture onto each bacon slice. Place bacon slices on oiled rack in a single layer, sprinkling with any remaining sugar mixture. Bake until bacon is crispy, about 20 minutes. Transfer to towels to drain, then transfer to a dish to cool completely.
“Rather than drowning popcorn in a river of melted butter, you can give popcorn a flavor boost with a dash of cayenne pepper and some finely grated lemon zest,” says Vyskocil. “The popcorn will be just as appealing to the taste buds but healthier and less greasy than its buttery brethren—perfect for a road-trip snack.”
Frugal Foodie is a journalist based in New York City who spends her days writing about personal finance and obsessing about what she’ll have for dinner. Chat with her on Twitter through @MintFoodie http://www.twitter.com/mintfoodie.