Have Food, Will Travel!

It’s spring break time around here, thank goodness.  As a result, we’ll be doing a bit of traveling during the course of the week.  Brian and I both grew up doing lots of travel by car and, as a result, we’ve been packing snacks to go since we were kids.  If I’m going to be out of the house for more than 4 hours or so, I’ve generally got some food with me.  With summer vacation not too far in the distance, it seems like a good time to share some of my favorite travel snacks and tips.

Have Food, Will Travel

First, Some Tips

Always pack napkins in your bag of snacks.  You never know when you’ll need them.  You may also want to consider cups, plates and/or resealable containers or bags for divvying up larger packagers of food later. 

Also useful: chip clips (or binder clips) for resealing bags after you’ve opened them.

Travel mugs + tea bags are awesome.  Much to my chagrin, our travels often start early in the morning.  I usually leave the house with a travel mug of tea, which means I can get even more sleep before we leave.  Brian and I both take our travel mugs on trips and coffee shops are more than willing to fill them for us, often with a discount involved.  Sometimes I bring my own tea bags, which means I’m guaranteed get the tea variety I want; I’ve gotten shops to fill my mug with hot water for almost nothing.

My Favorite Travel Snacks & Accessories

Cheese and crackers – this is my go-to snack all the time, but especially when I travel.  It’s easy to slice up some cheese and put it in a reusable container or plastic bag.  Pre-wrapped string cheese is also pretty great, but not as cheap as buying a block of cheese.

Candy – travel is a special occasion, so special snacks always seem appropriate.  Besides, sometimes a person needs some sugar to cheer them up while driving 12 hours to North Carolina.  Most recently, I’ve been enjoying peanut m&ms while on the road.

blue diamond almonds

Nuts – if cheese and cracks are my go-to snack, nuts are the close runner up.  I’m a big fan of almonds and vacations are the perfect opportunity to try out a new variety I haven’t sampled before.  This time around, I’m enjoying Blue Diamond Bold Honey Dijon, which are full of flavor (and a little messy – don’t forget your napkins!)

Vegetable sticks – just like cheese, it’s easy to buy a bag of carrots or celery and cut them into sticks before you leave.  If you’re feeling fancy, pack some dip or hummus as well. 

Water bottle – I use my water bottle all the time, but it’s especially useful for trips.  Water will help keep you hydrated and awake and you can easily refill it at any water fountain along the way for free.

dried pineapple

Dried fruit – dried fruit keeps well and won’t get bruised or squished.  I picked up this pineapple recently and it is really delicious. Some dried fruit has a lot of sugar in it, but other varieties are just fruit. 

Eating in the Hotel

Whenever possible, I try to book hotels with at least a refrigerator, which means it’s easy to keep my water bottle cold, plus I can bring other types of food and store any leftovers I might end up with from local restaurants.  Even better if I can find a hotel with a microwave and/or a kitchenette

hotel coffee set up

Even if your hotel only has a coffee maker, you can still make food in your hotel room.  The hot water can be used for tea, coffee and even instant oatmeal. 

If oatmeal isn’t your thing, a loaf of bread  and a jar of peanut butter can make a great cheap breakfast before you leave your hotel to explore your vacation destination.  Similarly, if you have a fridge or like visiting the ice machine, bagels and cream cheese work well.

A microwave is great for heating up restaurant leftovers or making canned soup for an inexpensive meal between sight seeing adventures.

Please share – what are your favorite travel snacks or eating tips?

This post is sponsored by Blue Diamond Almonds.  This post also contains affiliate links.

Cheesy Potato, Spinach and Egg Breakfast Casserole

Every year, I have the same dilemma: what in the world am I going to bring to our church’s Easter Sunday sunrise service and potluck breakfast?  I am well aware that the Easter holiday has nothing to do with my cooking, but any event that allows me the opportunity to bring food ranks high on my priority list.  I always have several goals when I bring food to a potluck.  One is to bring something that looks appetizing, because people are going to judge on appearance and I may not be afforded the opportunity to explain the dish.  I also try to make sure that the dish is recognizable, but also unique.  Another thing I always try to do is make a dish that’s vegetarian, because chances are good that others are also seeking meat-free options.   Now that I’ve typed all that, I’m realizing that my approaching to potlucks may be a little over the top.

At any rate, I decided I wanted to make some sort of egg casserole dish this year.  I dug up an old Pioneer Woman recipe I’d saved in Evernote, omitted the meat and baked it up on Easter morning (after I slept in an hour late because I used an alarm that wasn’t changed for Daylight Savings…but that’s another story).  The dish came out well and went over great with others at the breakfast, but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted it to be.  Last week, I made some adjustments and tried it again.

egg potato and spinach cassrole served
I am really happy with my version of this casserole.  It’s a great dish because it comes together fairly quickly and makes a lot of food.  A 9 x 13 inch pan of deliciousness is awesome for a potluck or brunch, but it’s also perfect for making ahead and reheating throughout the week.  I baked this casserole on Tuesday and Brian and I ate it for dinner twice, plus got 2 days of lunches out of it.  Lastly, this casserole would easily accept any other adjustments you’d like to make, such as re-introducing meat, using another green (kale, anyone?), changing up the type of cheese or adding spices or hot peppers.  Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Cheesy Potato, Spinach and Egg Breakfast Casserole

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 8-12 servings

Cheesy Potato, Spinach and Egg Breakfast Casserole

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds potatoes, shredded (I used my food processor to do this)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 12 eggs
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (divided)
  • 4 cups raw spinach

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Heat a couple tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shredded potatoes to the pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook the potatoes, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are slightly crispy. If needed, add additional olive oil to keep the potatoes from sticking.
  3. Meanwhile, crack the 12 eggs into a large bowl. Beat with a fork. Add 1 and a half cups of the cheese and all of the spinach to the bowl. Stir to coat all of the spinach with egg.
  4. When the potatoes are done, spread them evenly on the bottom of an ungreased glass 9x13 baking pan.
  5. Pour the egg/cheese/spinach mixture evenly over the potatoes. Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, or until the eggs are cooked through.
  6. After 20 minutes, sprinkle the additional half cup of cheese over the casserole. Return the casserole to the open for 5-10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown.
  7. Enjoy!

Cheesy Potato Spinach Egg Casserole

Tips and Tools for Meal Planning–2015 Edition

Way back in 2011, I wrote my first post about my meal planning process.  Since then, I’ve planned a lot of meals, tried a lot of new recipes and grown up a little bit.  It’s no secret that I love menu planning – I post them here regularly (they’ll resume when our CSA shares do in June) and I talk about it all the time.  That said, I’ve been slacking since the end of our CSA season…and we’re really feeling it.  I am so over wondering what’s for dinner every night.  I really don’t know how people do it, I survived about a week before I started planning again.  I’m just a planner.

Tools & Tips for Menu Planning

The Tools

Menu Planning Spreadsheet

Google Drive with the Vertex42 Perpetual Calendar Template

As I’ve written before, I use Google Drive to organize a lot of things in my life.  I use the calendar template to sketch out what I plan to cook.  The nice thing about having the whole year before me in one place is that I can plan far in advance.  If I see something I really want to make, I add it to my calendar for sometime in the future.  This eliminates those new recipes from getting buried under other recipes and makes future planning even easier.

Evernote

The obsession continues (See more Evernote posts here, here, and here).  I use Evernote primarily to store recipes I’ve clipped from the internet, though once in a while I create a note for something else.  At this point, my note count is 3,470.  I credit Evernote with making my menu planning as easy and fast as it is.  In addition to the notebooks and tags I’ve set up, I can search by keyword.  So, if I know I’m getting a bunch of radishes or tomatoes at the CSA or that cheddar cheese is on sale at the supermarket, I can find recipes that will utilize those ingredients.

Screenshot_2015-04-15-19-44-43

Our Groceries APP

Once upon a time, I wrote about the app GroceryIQ.  A while back, the app or my OS was updated and after that it kept crashing on my phone.  I’ve switched to Our Groceries, which is overall very similar, but it doesn’t crash, always syncs and makes it easier to type your own names for items.   I have several lists for various stores (including Target and the hardware store).  I’ve shared the lists with Brian, so either of us can add to it at any time.  I love using a grocery list app because I can add items that I’m waiting to purchase until the price is right and don’t have to worry about losing the paper that includes items I didn’t pick up when I was at the store.  That, and I can send Brian to the store at a moment’s notice.

Trello-Web-Macbook-Pro

Trello

Trello is one of my new favorite things.  Trello is a project manager on which you create boards for different projects, add lists to those boards and then put cards on the lists.  I’m finding it really helpful for creating overviews of multifaceted, long term projects.  I’ve created a Home board and shared it with Brian and one of the lists on the board is going to be a freezer inventory, which will help with planning and budgeting. 

Supermarket Circulars

I’m less strict about checking out the fliers on the day I receive them than I used to be, but I definitely still use the weekly fliers to inform my menu planning.  Once you’ve been planning and shopping for a while, you get a good sense of what the average prices are and what a good sale is.  The fliers definitely don’t impact my planning as much as they used to, but if a specialty item is on sale it might make a difference.

Some Tips

  • Spend time now to save time later – Menu planning takes time.  Sometimes it takes me much, much longer than I expect.  That said, I save so much time during the week when I make sure there’s a plan in place.  I have all the ingredients I need, I plan leftovers or easy meals for busy nights and it helps me stay on schedule by not resorting to eating out.
  • Check your stock before you plan – I’ll be the first to confess that I’m still pretty bad at this. But if you want to make sure you don’t waste food because it’s spoiled and don’t want to accidentally end up with 5 bags of frozen corn in your freezer (I’m speaking from experience), check what you have before you go to the store.
  • Use that stock to plan – this may seem obvious, but planning around the foods I already have helps me stretch my creativity in the kitchen and reminds me of special ingredients (Arborio rice, anyone?) that I’d like to use.

Previous Meal Planning Posts on Relishments

Creative and Healthy on a Tight Budget, a guest post from my friend Caleb

What I Cook When I Can’t Really Cook

Making My Menu Planning More Efficient

Please share – what are your favorite tools and tips for menu planning?

This post includes affiliate links.  Thanks for supporting Relishments!  Trello image provided by Trello.

Highlights: Spring 2015

I believe (though I hope I don’t regret saying this) that Spring has officially come to western Massachusetts.  This morning, I went to church without a coat on.  The temperature reached 70 degrees and it was awesome.  I drove with a window down.  The crocuses in my yard are blooming.  The tulips I forgot I…

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tomato-soup.jpg

Avoid the Supermarket with this Tomato Soup

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chicken and dumpling soup

New Adventures: The Best Recipes I Tried In March 2015

As promised, I’m saving the best new (to me) recipes from each month to share with you all at once.  Enjoy! I was not a “good blogger” in March.  I did not stick to my posting schedule (which, based on this post going up on a Wednesday isn’t changing any time soon), I never really…

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