I wouldn't like a bag of beef or a beer or a cup of chowder...
January 17, 2013 11:21 PM   Subscribe

I need some fast, easy, healthy meals that I can make while traveling. Difficulty level - ingredients often limited and I'm sick of sandwiches. Extra points for vegetarian.

I love cooking, but it has occurred to me that I'm not the "simplest" chef: many of my go-to meals involve lots of ingredients, additional tools (I miss my garlic press!), and a big mess. Which is fine! When I'm at home. But I've been living in Central America for a few months with a lot of travelling, and will soon be heading on some shorter and longer vacations with pals. I'd like to have a better arsenal of tasty, nutritious dinners that I can make quickly with limited resources.

So, come at me with your favourite quick-and-dirty but fresh-and-delish meals (or website/book suggestions)! Thanks me-fites!

(Also, a few other considerations for my current restrictions:
- Some travel will include camping or hostel environments
- Mostly vegetarian, but carnivorous options also welcome
- I'm boycotting sandwiches for a while due to overconsumption. So many sandwiches.
- Sadly, I don't like the cheese here, despite an intense love for all things cheesy normally. Please don't tell me about your awesome thing that includes feta, because my heart will cry. Cheddar-like substances are serviceable but overpriced for the quality)
posted by Paper rabies to Food & Drink (6 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I'm unclear on your cooking vs no-cooking requirements.

Orzo salad: cooked orzo, oil, vinegar, plus whatever chopped veggies you want to add. I like tomato and cucumber or sundried tomato plus eggplant or and/or artichoke hearts. Those last three can come out of tins or jars.

Also works with penne or other fork-friendly pastas

For a zero-cooking option, chickpea salad with tinned chickpeas and sundried tomato plus eggplant or and/or artichoke hearts.

Can you buy fresh artichokes? Dipping the leaves in butter is basically the vegetarian equivalent of a lobster feast. Messy, fun, delicious.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:53 PM on January 17, 2013

I combine 2, 3 of these options and call it a meal.

-Saute some minced garlic in a pan with olive oil until light brown. Add kale/chard/spinach/broccoli + spices if you wish. Cumin, cayenne, red pepper flakes work well. Cook until wilted, stirring often. Add sea salt and pepper at the end.

-Polenta in a tube. Slice in half an inch slices. Fry in a nonstick pan (super important!) about 4 minutes each side until golden brown. Serve with tomato sauce. Careful, it splatters.

-Cut up/prepare potatoes/carrots/squash/sweet potatoes/brussel sprouts for baking. Toss in olive oil. Potatoes+rosemarry, carrots + slivered almonds+ rosemary, squash+cinnamon, etc- have fun! Bake at 400 degrees for _ amount of minutes. Start at 20 and check every five when nearing doneness. Ooh, and sweet potatoes cut in a fry shape, put them in the broiler for like 30 seconds for crispness. All veggies are great roasted.

-Whole sweet potatoes stabbed with a fork, knife or skewer a dozen times. Microwave for 8 minutes or so. Depends on size, but 6-10. Cut up, put in butter and salt, or cinnamon and sugar. Or nothing, which is my go to.

-Fresh green beans, trimmed. Put in boiling water for about 10 minutes. Take em out and put em in ice cold water. Saute garlic in a pan, add fresh chopped tomatoes. Stir and cook for a few minutes. Add green beans. Season with salt, pepper, and cilantro. Also good with tofu stirfried with the tomato.

-Salads! (I like mine luke warm). This is a Vietnamese salad I grew up eating, and it's light: Bed of lettuce, (or watercress) topped with sliced tomatoes and sliced hard boiled eggs. (Traditionally, my family serves it with hot fried sliced thin beef, but I don't eat meat and it's fine without it). Serve with a vinaigrette of vinegar, oil, black pepper, a tiny bit of sugar, and sliced red onion. Good with white rice on the side and soy sauce to dip.

-Black bean patties. You cannot go wrong. Mash up a can of black beans. Add an egg (without one you are fine though, the patties are just more crumbly), veggies of your choice (chopped onion, bell peppers, corn..), spices like cumin or paprika. Form patties. Bake or fry until browned on both side. I eat them in lettuce with salsa.

-Do you eat fish? I just remembered my parents go to sardine sandwich. Toasted baguette ( I know...no sandwiches.. but this one is interesting!), canned sardines in tomato sauce (they come like that) heated with sliced onion, black pepper, and a bit of sugar. Place in baguette, top with cilantro (or pickled daikon and carrot if you have it..)

-Slice eggplant a quarter of an inch thin. Dip in a light wash of egg + milk. Then coat in a mixture of 1/2 cup flour with half a tsp of sugar. Bake until cooked, soft. Then saute in hot oil until crisp and brown on both sides. Top with a spoon spreading olive oil mixed with raw chopped garlic.

-Recipes for easy things that taste good:
Green onion pancakes, Chana masala, tofu with peanut sauce, aloo phujia, lots of simple stuff.
posted by flying_trapeze at 11:58 PM on January 17, 2013 [6 favorites]

My go-to hostel meal is some kind of pasta with tomato sauce, tuna, and olives. Ingredients are available everywhere, fresh vegetables are easy to incorporate but not essential, and it's healthier and more interesting than plain old spaghetti or ramen. There's enough flavor with the tuna and olives that you won't miss garlic, herbs, or whatever else you would add to pasta at home.
posted by acidic at 12:00 AM on January 18, 2013

Personally I'd just make what the locals make:

If you're in central america, you have to go with rice and beans -- particularly gallo pinto. Get a local to show you how to make this stuff -- there are some hostels where you both have access to the kitchen and staff that cooks who might be able to show you. Burritos, Arroz Con Pollo, etc, etc.
posted by empath at 12:30 AM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Avocados are pretty widely available. Arepas, tortillas, and other flatish, grainy things make an excellent taco/tosatada base. Pile up with avocado, fresh veggies, beans, rice, etc.

I would suggest that rather than loading up on stuff and trying to cook yourself, that it may be more expeditious and cheaper to eat at local places. Also, you'll really get a taste and feel of the culture that way.

Check out the local salsas, there are many, many types, with corn, beans, tomatoes, cilantro, tomatillos, etc. Learn them all!

Breakfasts are usually enormous in Central America, and will keep you full until Lent. They feature eggs, avocados, local cheese, beans, rice, tortillas, local fruits and coffee. In some countries a salted sour cream is included.

Empanadas, Pupusas, and Tamales will also be available and have veggie options pretty much everywhere. If you're into fish, that too will be readily available

Elotes (roasted ears of corn) will be made on oil drums and available for a song. SO GOOD!

It will probably NOT be cheaper to make your own food, but to buy it at local places where it is made fresh and fast right in front of you.

Embrace the experience by eating the local food, prepared by the local people!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:43 AM on January 18, 2013

I'm unclear on your cooking vs no-cooking requirements.

I'm interested in both cooked and non-cooked meal options. As long as it's easy and healthy. So salads count (although lettuce and leafy greens are hard to come by here) and other no-cook meals. Even if I can't necessarily make it here, I would love some easier dinner ideas in general.

Also, Ruthless - I do eat tons of local food. It's tasty, but it's almost all fried and lacking in vegetables or fruit. It definitely is not cheaper to make my own food (except in some tourist locations), but it's nice to have some healthier options.

Also, I could eat my weight in pupusas.
posted by Paper rabies at 7:02 AM on January 18, 2013

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