TheTravelCook.com



A Sample From 
Chapter 6
YIKES! Now What Do I Do?

It wasn't raining when Noah built the ark.  (Howard Duff)

Planning is only part of the strategy for a smooth trip.  Luck, wit, and humor have something to do with it as well. 

          My disasters come in two sizes, BIG and REALLY REALLY BIG; everything else is simply an inconvenient annoyance.  Emergency changes of plans fall in the BIG disaster category for me.  These disasters encompass everything from running out of an ingredient at the last moment, to over cooking the vegetables, to finding the fruit you planned for dessert is over ripe (not spoiled). 

          The REALLY REALLY BIG disasters are usually physical disasters like knocking over the fondue pot and sending dinner splashing all over the walls, carpet, and furniture (not to mention people in the splash zone), or the electric cooler’s cover wasn’t shut tightly and some of the food items in it must be discarded–just the ones I planned to use for dinner.  How can you save your plans once a disaster has occurred?  Can it be prevented from occurring again?  Read on for some ideas.

Emergency change of plans

          There is always a moment when you realize disaster is about to strike.  It is apparent that you are not going to be able to prepare the evening meal because you are out of food, or you don’t have time to shop and prepare a meal, or you aren’t going to arrive at your hotel in time to prepare the meal for which you have plans and ingredients, or you are just too tired.  Sometimes the disaster is waiting for you when you arrive at your hotel. On unpacking the car a disheartening discovery is made? the cooler lid wasn’t closed all day and some things are not safe to eat.   On checking into the hotel expecting certain amenities in your room you find they aren’t there.  In these disasters I take a deep breath, refocus, and find a way to circumvent the problem, one that fits the budget. 

Know Before You Go

          To prevent a room crisis, ask for specific details about the amenities in your room before you reserve it, if possible ask a live representative of the hotel.  If you are planning to stay in more than one location, make notes about the amenities in each location and note whether the information came from a phone conversation or online.  If you have the name of an individual you spoke with on the telephone you can always use that information if you need to question or dispute any arrangements.  If you are planning to eat in and do some or all of the food preparation, it is important to know what kitchen and dining facilities will be in the hotel room.  We have stayed in modestly priced suites which supply not only your morning coffee, a coffee pot, cream, sugar, and all the necessary cooking and eating utensils including  pots, pans, and appliances, a stove top, an oven, a microwave, and a refrigerator, and sometimes even a dishwasher.  These units usually contained a table and chairs suitable for dining and are generally more expensive than the units without kitchens.  We have also stayed in elegant business class hotel rooms with modern televisions and fireplaces, but without kitchen facilities or suitable surfaces for dining-in; and occasionally there was not even a coffee pot.

          Sometimes you have asked in advance about the facilities and done the menu planning only to find that your expectations were not met.  If your printed reservation states what should be available, what you were expecting, then have a quiet talk with the manager.  Really savvy managers will want to please you, and often will provide a change of accommodations that do satisfy your expectations, sometimes with assistance relocating your belongings.  Our personal experiences have been varied; we have been upgraded to a larger room at no extra charge, we have even stayed free if we accepted the original accommodations, and very occasionally, we have been disappointed when no adjustments were made.  Always print out reservations received in emails; these are like contracts.  Nevertheless, read carefully for clauses implying “first come first served” and phrases indicating the accommodations you will receive may not be the ones you requested or that the accommodations “may not look like the photos.”  With such disclaimers you may not have grounds to dispute the accommodations if they are not what you expected.

Managing a Food Crisis

          YIKES!  I forgot to bring the baking mix, or all the milk spilled, or [you fill in the blanks].  Now and then, when the menu planning you have done is thwarted, you may feel like giving up and eating out.  That is certainly the path of least stress, and if your budget allows, a sensible one.  For those times when there is a food crisis as well as a budget restriction, here are some suggestions that may see you through.  In the rest of this chapter, will you take a walk (with me) through the average grocery store and see what is there that offers a solution to a food crisis.

          We’ll begin our tour of the market with a few simple rules for purchasing healthy foods while saving money and time shopping.  (1) shop the perimeter, (2) buy the least processed items (think raw shrimp-in-the-shell or brown rice), (3) buy food (think milk or carrots) not food products (think ding dongs or prebaked lasagna noodles), (4) buy foods where you do some of the preparation work (think shell and devein the shrimp or flatten the chicken breast), and (5) finally focus on ingredient lists with words you can pronounce (and readily know what they mean) or lists that have just one or two ingredients.

          The middle aisles, identified here as the grocery aisles, in most stores are filled with products such as canned vegetables, salty snacks, cereals, and mass produced breads and boxed/canned juice drinks.  The perimeter of most grocery stores is where you will find fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, butter, milk, meats, and sea foods.  Sadly the middle aisles are also where the food and food products that are the most processed are found.  These are the foods that most often have coupons or are offered on “specials” (excepting seasonal foods like berries, apples, sweet corn on the cob).  Happily there are some notable exceptions, for example, dried beans, peas, and lentils are often in these aisles, as well, as dried pasta, water canned tuna, and canned low salt tomatoes, all reasonably healthy choices. 

          Finally, many deli items are highly processed food products, but some are worthy of consideration if your immediate need is to resolve a food crisis quickly.  The trick is to buy the least processed of these items such as sliced low sodium roast beef and cheeses which are often only available in the deli. 

Money Saving Store Membership Cards

          Before we tread the aisles in the grocery, take note of whether the store you are in has a card system that allows the bearer of their card extra discounts off the advertised price.  Signs in the store giving the price with and without the card alert an observant shopper to ask about the method for obtaining the card.  I have never been refused access to such a card in any store anywhere I have traveled in the USA offering the cards, even though it was clear that I was just passing through.  Sometimes, the application form had to be completed, and sometimes all that mattered was the request for a card.  Often the checkout clerk would simply swipe a card held at the register for that purpose, and my groceries were charged at the reduced price. 

          Recipes in this chapter follow our trek through the super market aisles.  All recipe titles are underlined to make distinguishing them easy.  They are organized by typical supermarket divisions: Hot Table Ready to eat items, The Deli, Produce, Frozen Foods, Bakery, and Grocery aisles.

          Right up front near the check-out lanes there usually is a hot table with boxes of hot rotisserie chicken, spare ribs, and the like.  When your plans have crashed or you’d rather play it safe because you just aren’t sure what awaits, you might opt for one of the ubiquitous rotisserie cooked chickens which seem to be available in nearly every supermarket.  They are usually a good bargain, around $5 or $6, and sometimes come with all the sides to make a reasonable dinner.  When side dishes are not included with the price of the chicken, they are often available in the deli.  This can be an expensive alternative, but perhaps worth the additional cost if you are exhausted or unexpectedly cooking without amenities.  We found that one large chicken was enough for dinner for two adults and two young children with a few left overs for chicken salad sandwiches for lunch the next day. 

          If the hot table is empty of warm chickens, a frequent occurrence late in the day after about 6 pm or so, ask if there are any cold rotisserie chickens stored somewhere else.  The most valued attribute of rotisserie chicken is in the variety of ways it can be used.  It can be eaten right off the bone, or made into salads, sandwiches or wraps, soups, pizza toppings, burritos, tacos, fajitas, enchiladas, quesadillas, pot pies, casseroles, and skillet meals. 

          The easiest by far is to serve hot rotisserie chicken with a green salad and a drink.  However, if the chicken is already cool, layer slabs of cold rotisserie chicken on whole wheat bread with tomato and onion slices, slathered with a favorite dressing and topped with lettuce.  Complement this cold sandwich with veggies and dip or chips (your choice), and a drink.  Here are some other examples for quick rescue type meals in which the shopping list is italicized.

          If you are watching your salt intake, please note that the salt content of the recipes using rotisserie chicken from the grocery store are approximate.  If you need to keep very careful account of salt, then create your own recipe calculator http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-calculator.asp using the ingredients listed on the rotisserie chicken you purchased.  A quick way to reduce salt in recipes is to use only low salt or no salt added tomato based products, broths, and deli meats and cheeses.

Pesto Chicken Pasta For 2

Appliance: Fondue pot

Quick-Shop for this dish:  Hot table for rotisserie chicken, dry pasta and pesto mix in general grocery aisles, broccoli in produce, deli for fresh mozzarella, produce for fresh tomatoes.

Equipment: small bowl or cup, medium bowl, knife and cutting board, spoonula

Serves: 2

Procedure:

1.   Mix 1 packet pesto dry mix + 4 Tablespoons olive oil ( simply stir 1/2 tube prepared pesto omitting the olive oil into the chicken mixture), stir well and set aside.

2.   Cut rotisserie 1/2 chicken into small cubes or chunks.

3.   Heat 2 servings (1/2 cup cooked per serving) pre-cooked small pasta (available in freezer section) or cook 2 ounces small pasta such as elbows, rotini or broken spaghetti) in fondue pot, drain, put hot into bowl.

4.   Add chicken to bowl.

5.   Add 1 cup broccoli flowerets.

Serve warm with fresh mozzarella and tomato salad.

Nutrition per serving(without salad): Calories 222, Total Fat 6g (Sat Fat 2g), Chol 94mg, Sodium 332mg, Potassium 152mg, Total Carbs 18g, Fiber 2g, Sugars 0.5g, Protein 25g

Web Hosting Companies