You know the phrase ‘Taking a vacation with kids isn’t called a vacation, it is called a trip”?
(She found this chair on her own).
It is also true that there is a paradox about eating good food on a vacation/trip. You want to eat good food AND relax. But producing good food for your crew can often be the opposite of relaxing.
Most of us would agree that a not small part of a vacation is the food. A warm bowl of french onion soup somewhere cold or a mango and calamari salad in a warm, exotic location exponentially increases the experience. Going to a restaurant can be great sometimes, and it does mean no clean up, but ‘tourist trap’ is synonomous with ‘bad overpriced food’ in many parts of the world, and if my kids are tired or cranky, we may as well box up that bad, expensive food to go. And what is with the 100% junk food kid menus? (The exception to this is Disney, which is food heaven for families and the ubiquitous Mickey plates, whose ears are practically begging to carry grapes and carrot sticks, nicely skirt this issue.) I feel bad when all my kids have eaten all weekend is french fries, mac & cheese or hot dogs. And if it is a crowded season or town, you may have entered the seventh circle of hell waiting with hungry, cranky kids/spouse/self for a table.
So maybe eating in is the answer. But I have found it is hard to relax if all I am doing is making and cleaning up meals. I want some easy, delicious things to throw together without a lot of fuss, but a lot of coziness.
We go up to our ski condo a ton this time of year, and I have learned after repeated weekends what works (meatballs) and what doesn’t (pork fried rice with no soy sauce. Or any recipe with a lot of ingredients you probably didn’t pack). Maybe you rented a lake house for a week, or are headed to a hotel room with a kitchen for the weekend in a town where there is only one pizza delivery place and it is a two hour wait on Friday nights. Either way, planning the food ahead will help you actually relax, especially with kids. Here are 7 things to pack to make easy and healthy foods on a family trip (these are only vacation foods if you leave the kids at home).
1. Pizza Dough-
Fresh or frozen pizza dough travels well and the whole wheat, organic variety is easy to find and so cheap, it makes eating healthy on vaca very easy. It also doubles as an activity with the kids if you need it to. I saw these on Pinterest and all I can say is we
Our bellies were very happy on the chair lift after making Breakfast Pizza before skiing:
By far the easiest form of pizza to travel with is what I call ‘Stromboli’. I take pizza dough and put pepperoni and mozzarella in the middle, roll it up (with some slits for steam in the middle) and bake it at 350 for 20-25 min. (until crust is golden brown) and, after it has cooled, sliced it and put it in bags for road trips, hikes, or trips to the lake. I have even given it away to friends who are leaving us after a visit for their ride home. Obviously you can make a fancier form of sausage bread or put your favorite pizza ingredients in when you roll up the dough, but my kids love the simple kind and love how easy it is to have just three ingredients.
2. Meatballs –
Make meatballs ahead in the comfort of your own kitchen (the one that has an electric dishwasher) and throw into a bag. On vacation you can make spaghetti & meatballs, meatball subs with provolone and pizza sauce, or put them on the pizza dough you so wisely packed.
3. Sausages –
Like meatballs, these can be turned into subs or tossed with pasta, but you can also make this kid friendly meal with apple sausages, apples and onions. Or you can sautee peppers, onions, and spaghetti sauce with the italian style. There are so many natural and healthy varieties out there right now, they are sure to inspire you while you stare into your mini-fridge, dripping wet from the hotel pool.
4. Spiral Ham –
Not only can this be turned into sandwiches all week, scrambled in eggs for breakfast, or tossed into a potato or pasta creamy dinner, but the bone at the end can easily be combined with a bag of split peas, some carrots onions and celery and water in a crock pot and you have delicious split pea soup (I did this with our Christmas ham and vowed to bring one up during school vacation week). Hams can just be stretching in a million ways across all meals.
5. Chicken Breasts –
I cook these ahead at home so we can put them on salads or pizza. Buffalo chicken pizza is a treat in front of the fire. And tossing it with alfredo sauce, broccoli and pasta only takes 10 minutes when it is pre-cooked.
6. Crock Pot –
I have written before about how easy it is to defrost our beef from our freezer on our way to the condo, then use the crock pot while we ski to turn it into something that smells wonderful when we walk in the front door. From Pot Roast to Chili, Soup to Beef Stew, our Crock Pot gets a lot of milage when we travel. I have even prepped ingredients at home and put it into the crock pot (which locks for travel), then stuck it outside on the frozen deck the night before, and plugged it in when we left in the morning.
7. Quick Veggies –
– Veggie Trays: Picking up a big tray of precut veggies means you have quick veggies sides for kid meals, snacking, or for slicing up to add to soups and dishes. (Beef stew is pretty easy when you have precut veggies). If your cold storage is small, get the precut bags of celery, carrots, etc. (Fruit trays sometimes make sense, but I find that melons, grapes and bananas travel the best and last for a whole week).
– Frozen Bags: Peas & Carrots, Stir Fry Veg, or Spinach. These make you feel like you have a sous chef. Plus they act as your ice packs in your food bags.
– Dry Goods: I always pack a few onions, potatoes, and garlic. They are so versatile, they always get used, and they travel well.
Hope you have a great trip and a TV that happens to run kid shows 24/7. Because you know they will be up early.
(And also, make them carry their owns skis young. You’ll thank me later.)