Gluten-free on the Road and a slow cooker mashed potato recipe!

Cooking in a kitchen that is not your own can be nerve wracking! Whether your home kitchen is fully gluten-free (GF) or not, cooking at a vacation rental or someone else’s house requires an extra level of preparedness to be safe.

If the house is close by, one option is to make the meal at your own house and bring it with you. When driving for a trip, I pack a Rubbermaid tub with the cooking essentials. If we are sharing the house with others, I make sure everyone knows that that box is only to be used for gluten-free cooking.

Checklist for Cooking Meals in a Non-GF Kitchen:

  1. Aluminum foil (and lots of it!) – this can cover cookie sheets, serving platters and grills and wrap around food to keep the chance of cross-contamination low. Don’t forget a sharpie to mark GF as needed.
  2. Cutting board (Bring a large wooden cutting board to double as a serving platter for you’re your Thanksgiving turkey if needed)
  3. Frying pan
  4. Pasta pot
  5. Colander
  6. Paper plates and bowls
  7. Plastic cups
  8. Plastic forks, spoons and knives
  9. Chef’s knife (transport it in a paper towel tube)
  10. Spatula
  11. Whisk (I have used a plastic fork instead of whisk many times, so bring it only if you have space)
  12. Mixing spoon that can double as a serving spoon
  13. Gallon and sandwich size Ziploc bags or containers for leftovers
  14. Chicken stock
  15. GF flour
  16. Sugar, salt and pepper, condiments and other herbs that you like to keep separate
  17. Aluminum cake pans, casserole or bread pans, if needed
  18. Crockpot or crockpot liners (When not using the crockpot, I use the bowl as my mixing bowl for other recipes)
  19. Cheese grater

To separate items in the refrigerator, either designate a separate shelf (the higher the better) and/or a drawer. If it’s a small amount put it in a small Rubbermaid bin.

This seems like a lot. I know. It’s a mobile kitchen. If you are not going to be cooking entire meals, then you will not need all these items. Everyone’s checklist will look different depending on what you are cooking. Keep your recipes simple and bring only what you need to make your recipes. If you are flying, consider buying cheap or one-use versions of what you might need at your destination.

An easy way to keep things simple while on vacation is to make a one pot meal in a crock pot. It will feed a crowd, allow you to enjoy the day and can easily be made gluten-free. This is especially important on holidays. Here is a mashed potato recipe you can make entirely in your crock pot.

Slow Cooker Mashed potatoes

Ingredients

About 6 medium yellow potatoes, washed and diced

1 ½ cups milk

3 Tablespoons of butter

1 teaspoon of salt

1/8 teaspoon of pepper

4 ounces of cream cheese, optional

Directions

Add potatoes, milk, butter, salt and pepper to slow cooker. Cook on high for 2 ½ to 3 hours. Add cream cheese if you like cheesier mashed potatoes. Mash or whip with handheld mixer. Taste and add more salt or pepper if needed and it is ready to serve. To keep warm, pour about 1/4 cup of milk over top, cover and set on low or warm until service. Then just mix in milk and its ready for some gravy!

How do you cook gluten or allergen free when you are traveling? You can try my easy chili  or pasta with mascarpone recipe.

Back online, still cooking and blogging about feeding kids while traveling

Ever have those days where you can’t get anything accomplished besides basic care for yourself and whomever you care for? Two year old twins who are not regularly napping have thrown me into that feeling on a daily basis. I have a pile of laundry, that has been dubbed “Mt. Laundry” and a growing to do list that I don’t even look at most days! Now, I love to cook and have not had the energy for it lately, so props to all of you who don’t like to cook and get it done when you don’t have the time or energy for it! Since returning from our drive down to Atlanta (yes my husband and I are crazy and drove with 3 children under 5 and all their gear in our car with no storage space) we are just getting back in our groove.

BT (Before the Trip) I was cooking to clean out the fridge so that we wouldn’t leave things that could spoil and cooking meals without leftovers so there wouldn’t be food to spoil. The weekend before we left, I made grilled pork with twice baked mashed potatoes and peas. Stressed about the impending drive, I wanted comfort food.
 
The pork was grilled on the indoor grill and seasoned with salt, pepper and coriander. The twice baked potato recipe is based on one I found on Pinterest and is amazing! Here is the Pinterest version from TastyKitchen. I just make my usual mashed potatoes and then put them in a casserole dish, sprinkle with cheese and bake. The peas were frozen and steamed in the microwave. I enjoyed the meal with my favorite Riesling. My son is enjoying his milk in the background 🙂

To use up the potatoes and pork, I had them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. At breakfast with a poached egg on top. At lunch I put some pork over a bed of romaine with a little feta and light italian dressing and at dinner in a quesadilla.

DT (During the trip) we ate lots of fast food. Luckily on the road between Boston and DC, our first stop, there are choices of fast food. My kids enjoyed the Subway sandwiches with apples and the fun little reusable bags the kid’s meals come in. I packed lots and lots of Happy Baby pouches so I would feel like the kids were not eating all junk. They ate apple carrot and butternut squash and pear and spinach as well as squirted lots of it on themselves making for fun clean up 🙂 The pouches are good in theory but sometimes can create a mess. I also packed grapes, whole apples, whole grain goldfish and craisins mixed and fruit leathers.

We had a great night with friends in DC (along with an amazing cheese plate and a great pizza dinner! Caramelized onions on pizza = delicious). We all had breakfast and then got on the road to Atlanta.  Again we ate fast food along the way. The McDonald’s 20 piece chicken nuggets was a good deal for $4.99. We had other snacks and drinks with us, so the nuggets just rounded out the meal, a little 🙂

In Atlanta we were treated to amazing food made by my brother and sister-in-law, along with lots of cake and fun with cousins. One of the standout meals in my mind was the peri peri chicken on the grill. If you have never had peri peri, go out to the store now or go online and order a bottle of Nando’s medium peri peri sauce. Put chicken breasts in a bag. Pour enough sauce to cover the chicken. Marinade for about 20 minutes. Grill to perfection (like my brother did) and serve. So easy and sooo good!

Three days later we were back on the road to Richmond, VA. Fasts food and healthy snacks again. Then we made it to family in Richmond where we were greeted by some delicious sangria, a great pizza dinner, salad and red velvet cupcakes to celebrate a special 3 year old’s birthday! The pizza was from a great take out place in Richmond. The spinach and feta was definitely my favorite!

Early the next morning we were on the road again after a healthy breakfast of cereal, fruit, yogurt and whole grain waffles. More fast food and then we finally made it home, somewhat unscathed 🙂 It was hard to make sure the kids were eating healthy the whole time, that is why I packed mostly healthy snacks and had them get as much fruit and vegetables as I could get in them when were at someone’s house. The pouches do work well, when they eat them.

IPT (Immediately Post Trip) I did not have the energy to cook, so unfortunately some of our unhealthy eating habits from the road persisted a little. We ate quesadillas and pasta a lot. I did try to throw in some veggies, like shredded carrots and zucchini. We had way to much take out though.
PT (Post Trip) I am now finally getting back in the groove, planning my menu and doing thoughtful grocery shopping instead of just going through the store as fast as I can so the boys don’t start screaming. I have been making some foods inspired by good meals we ate on our trip. I made pizza with spinach and feta and peri peri chicken. My energy level is still low (see above re: boys not napping) so I have been making no fuss meals. A great one is my sausage, veggie and potato bake. My husband has already had me make this twice in the last week. I cut up about 4 already cooked chicken apple sausages in small enough pieces for the kids and set aside. Then in a saute pan, that can go into the oven, I saute 1/2 an onion (any onion you have on hand), 1 clove of garlic (minced), 2 cups of chopped veggies that you have on hand (I used zucchini and carrots last night), 2 diced potatoes (sweet or regular), olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika or coriander or your favorite spice blend. Once mixed together and starting to cook, throw in sausage, cover and put in a 400 degree oven for 20-40 minutes depending on amount and size of veggies. Check after 20 minutes and cook uncovered if it needs more time. Sorry I forgot to take pictures!

Another easy and tasty meal is baked citrus dill salmon with couscous and veggies. Salmon was on sale this week, so I bought a piece that weighed about .8lbs. This was plenty for our family of 5.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Take a paper lunch bag and rub with olive oil until completely covered. Remember to get all the creases. Place bag in casserole dish. Mix the zest and juice of one lemon, zest and juice of one lime, 1 Tbsp of sugar, couple of splashes of olive oil, and a handful of freeze dried dill. Take 2 pats of butter and place in paper bag. Place salmon, skin side down, on top of the butter, in the bag. Pour citrus and dill mixture onto salmon and fold paper bag closed. Bake for about 20 minutes. While that is baking, make your favorite easy side dish. I had a box of roasted garlic and olive oil couscous, which takes not even 10 minutes to make. After I took the couscous off of the heat, I added a couple of handfuls of frozen peas and diced carrots, closed the lid and let the heat of the couscous defrost and soften the peas and carrots.

I have been, kind of, going through my cooking bucket list for 2012. I will finish them all by the end of the year, just more in some months than others 🙂 Here is how things stand:
Cooking bucket list 2012
Bread – January, Done, Very successful
Gnocchi – February, Done, Very successful
Meringues – March, Done, Kind of successful (delicious, but couldn’t quite get the consistency right)
Calamari
Flan
Lobster
Koeksisters
Oysters
Mozzarella
Pork Belly
Short ribs
Chocolate truffles
I am hoping this month to tackle Calamari and Flan, so June can be all about Lobstah! I know the month is more than half over, but all I need is one afternoon with a burst of energy and my husband to take the kids and I will be set!