With a little forethought, you can prepare meals in the galley that taste good and are good for you.
By Marlene K. Dopp, F316737
It’s easy for motorhomers to “eat well,” especially if they frequent restaurants while traveling, but “eating healthy” may be another story. However, with a little planning, preparing nutritious meals in the coach galley doesn’t have to be a complex undertaking. Nor does it require an elaborate kitchen setup “” a good thing for RVers who have limited space for food preparation and storage.
My husband and I are not full-time RVers, but we take a four-to-six-week trip a couple of times a year, along with short four- or five-day trips on the spur of the moment. At home or on the road, I don’t want cooking to be too labor-intensive, but I do want healthful food. The key to this is preparation.
I begin the week before we embark on a longer trip. When I am cooking at home, I make what I call “planned-overs,” doubling each recipe so I can freeze meal portions to take in the motorhome. I typically make spaghetti sauce, chili, and bean soup, to name a few. We have a portable freezer in the storage area of the motorhome and carry our frozen entrees there, along with extra whole-grain bread and whatever else I have space for.
In addition to the “planned-overs,” I make a list of 10 to 12 meals and bring the ingredients with us so I have them to fall back on when we are in areas where grocery stores are not convenient. With those meals, plus my frozen entrees ready to go, I can pick and choose which meals to serve according to our daily activities. I actually type these meal plans (and all the ingredients needed for them) into my word processor and print out a couple of copies. I use one as a checklist when I pack the food into the motorhome and the other to remind me what I’ve brought.
SALADS AND VEGGIES
Obviously, you can’t buy fresh salad ingredients too far in advance, and sometimes I prefer raw vegetables to tossed salads. They take up less storage space, and you can prepare them whenever you wish and have them ready in plastic resealable bags for meals or snacks. I have found that peeled and thinly sliced red garnet yams are a delicious raw veggie treat. Plus, the yams don’t have to be refrigerated until peeled and sliced.
When the refrigerator empties a bit, wonderful salad choices can be found in the grocery stores that make it quite convenient for RV travelers to enjoy fresh salads. For instance, the salad-in-a-bag-type greens, all washed and ready to serve, are great for our needs. I especially like the bags of baby spinach. I prefer to make my own salad dressings to avoid the extra chemical ingredients in the store-bought brands. Here are two of my favorites:
This recipe includes equal parts of olive oil and a good-quality raspberry vinegar (I make my own with fresh raspberries, but there are good varieties on the market) and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard whisked in for thickness. Add salt and minced garlic if desired.
Lemon Dill Dressing
Shake or whisk together 1/4-cup of fresh lemon juice, 1/2-cup vegetable oil, 1/2-teaspoon of dried dill weed, and 1/2-teaspoon of salt.
I find it fun to shop at farmer’s markets across the country. I even check the Internet to look for farmer’s markets in the areas we plan to be. When I buy the beautiful fresh greens and other produce, I use the salad spinner bags called Spin’nStor (available at Camping World and from www.argeecorp.com) to clean the vegetables and put them into the refrigerator.
CHEESE, DIPS AND SPREADS
Some deli items make convenient, relatively healthful ingredient choices that help pull off delicious meals. One is chevre, a white goat milk cheese that can be purchased in one-pound logs at Costco and other retailers. It is lower in fat than some cheeses, and a little bit goes a long way. A thin spreading on whole-wheat crackers makes a fine appetizer when we watch the news before dinner. I have improvised a couple of dishes using chevre just by copying tasty entrees I have had in restaurants.
Arugula Salad With Chevre
Start with a bed of arugula greens (or mixed salad greens) on each plate. Over top of the greens place approximately 1/2-cup of diced cooked beets; half of an Anjou pear, thinly sliced; one or more tablespoons of chevre, divided into little bits; and a light covering of raspberry vinaigrette. Finish by sprinkling toasted walnuts or any other nut, if desired. This salad is so good it can be served as the main dish, accompanied by crusty whole-grain bread.
Pasta With Sun-Dried Tomato And Chevre
Mix together 2 or 3 cloves of minced garlic, 2 to 3 tablespoons of pine nuts, and 2 to 3 tablespoons of julienne-sliced sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil) that have been sautéed in 1 additional tablespoon of olive oil for a few minutes on medium-high heat.
Begin cooking the pasta of your choice (I like the bow-tie shape here). When it is almost done, add a couple handfuls of fresh spinach or arugula to the garlic mixture. Add the cooked pasta and toss. Put on plates and add small dabs of chevre and fresh-grated Parmesan cheese.
I use only whole-wheat pasta. It took me awhile to find a product that tasted good and didn’t turn to mush when cooked. That brand is Bella Terra from Racconto, which can be ordered online at www.racconto.com. I also discovered that Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods, which has a store in Milwaukie, Oregon, carries some shapes. You can order products online from Bob’s by visiting www.bobsredmill.com.
Hummus (chickpea dip) and olive tapenade (olive spread) are other great deli items that are available at Costco and other retailers. Hummus is a great appetizer served on whole-wheat pita triangles. I also discovered that pita bread halved, spread with hummus and a couple spoons of the olive tapenade, with some salad greens packed in, makes a wonderful sandwich. The tapenade goes well on top of a cracker with the chevre, too.
Ready-made pesto, another deli item readily available, is great on pasta. Just thin 1/2-cup of the pesto with some of the pasta water to make a sauce; sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top; and you have a great quick entrée.
Bean Soup With Pesto
Heat 2 cups of chicken broth. Add 5 cups of cooked white beans and heat through. Add 2 tablespoons of prepared pesto. This makes a great lunch for two.
Many recipes call for broth of some kind. I find that carrying canned broth in the motorhome can be heavy and bulky, so I use McCormick-brand chicken or beef base, as it doesn’t contain trans fats as some bouillon cubes do. I also have found a very good vegetarian mushroom bouillon mix at my Asian market.
The above recipe guidelines remind me of some of the tools that I carry on board to make cooking a bit easier.
- Small slow cooker
I can cook dry beans in the slow cooker as we are driving down the road. I place it in the sink on a rubber mat so it doesn’t move or spill and use a rubber band to secure the lid and prevent it from rattling. It beats carrying heavy cans of beans for Pesto Bean Soup. In the summer I sometimes cook beans in the slow-cooker outside overnight so I can make bean salads the next day.
If you are not used to eating lots of beans and they tend to cause digestive distress, try adding a 3-inch-by-6-inch section of kombu to your next pot of beans. It is a dried seaweed vegetable that adds great flavor to the beans, plus improves the beans’ digestibility. You can find kombu in an Asian market or a natural foods store.
- Pressure cooker
I use brown rice exclusively instead of refined white rice. However, it takes 45 minutes to cook brown rice in a standard pot over a burner but only 15 minutes in a pressure cooker. Using a pressure cooker will help you save propane as well as time. With a pressure cooker you can make a variety of bean soups, starting from dry beans, and only have the burner on for 30 minutes.
- Hand blender/emersion blender
This tool makes pureeing soups or sauces easy in a small space. Also, you can whip up a quick guacamole:
Take 2 medium-sized ripe avocados and peel, pit, and chunk them up into a small bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice; 1 or 2 medium cloves of garlic, pressed (a garlic press is another tool I couldn’t get along without in the motorhome); and 1/2-teaspoon of salt. Use the hand blender to mix it quickly. Avocado is high in fat, but it is a healthful fat. Serve the guacamole with a low-fat bean burrito for lunch, or with toasted pita bread triangles (versus high-fat chips) for a snack.
I hope these ideas will help with your next traveling food plan. Happy traveling; go in health.
Six Healthful Eating Tips
- Eat whole grains
- Choose foods that are low in fat
- Eliminate trans fats
- Use minimal amounts of sugar
- Eat smaller portions
- Avoid fast-food restaurants