Cottage essentials and take-along treats
Preparing for travel is one of my favourite things. While my husband despises packing and prefers to just transfer his entire pile of clean laundry from the basket to his suitcase without much thought of coordination, I obsess over lists and love to spread outfits out on the bed. But this isn’t a how-to-pack-your-suitcase kind of post. It’s a how to pack to eat kind of post, equally essential!
I’ve never been much of a meal-planner. My mother hadn’t been either and something about it makes me think it’s a skill you develop growing up. I love to slowly peruse the farmer’s market or grocery store, choosing what looks good and fresh and then opening my fridge to get inspired when we get hungry. However, when it comes to packing up food for a week away and feeding a rather large group with rather diverse dietary needs and preferences, some planning is in order! Our cottage trip was a family affair, with my four sisters, their two boyfriends, my husband and me. Two of us are gluten-free and dairy-free, I also have a pretty severe intolerance to corn and tend to lean to a mostly plant-based diet. My sister can’t eat eggs or nuts. Another sister is vegan. Two of the men are super-big fans of hamburgers and ‘protein’, but one can’t eat nuts. Quite the group! We decided ahead of time that we’d each plan to take one night to serve dinner for the group, and then plan our own breakfasts, lunches and snacks based on our needs and preferences. The nightly feasts were amazing – Zach and I made gluten free & vegan pizza with salad, and on the other nights we had veggie burgers and bbq with asparagus and potatoes cooked on the grill, kabobs with roasted potatoes and salad, fajitas with Mexican rice and guacamole, samosas and chana masala with rice. So many delicious and healthy meals, and each of us only had to do a big dinner once. Perfect!
When heading to a cottage with a kitchen, even one that is relatively well-stocked, those with gluten intolerances have a few extra things to think about. For example, our cottage had things like cutting boards, baking sheets, frying pans, a barbeque, and loads of kitchen utensils. All of this is wonderful, but I tend to get nervous around porous kitchen items like cutting boards made of plastic or wood – sneaky hiding spots for stubborn gluten. For my tummy’s sake, I brought along a few pieces of kitchen gear that eased my mind and may have also kept me from a cross-contamination-induced sick day (or in my case, week). Because we were basically staying in a house, we were able to live similarly to the way we do at home. I brought my blender so that I could make smoothies, avocado pudding that we froze in popsicle molds for a yummy treat, banana ice cream, and frosty pina coladas during a game night. Before leaving, I also made a jar of salad dressing that lasted me through a week of huge lunch salads as well as a large salad that we served with our dinner. Our cooler was stocked with pre-washed containers of baby greens (I have found that arugula and baby romaine hold up better than more delicate leaves like spinach), crunchy romaine hearts that doubled as wraps for veggie burgers and fajita fillings since I forgot to bring along gluten and corn-free wraps (even the best-laid plans...), other favourite salad ingredients like radishes, sprouts, carrots, tomatoes, green onions, olives, pepitas, and hemp hearts. We packed a big watermelon, our veggie pizza toppings, rice crackers with hummus, baked chips, rice paper wraps, oats, and dried fruit. Luckily, we had a grocery store nearby and popped in a few times during the week to replenish our salad greens and to get pizza buns for Zach (something about camping or cottaging brings nostalgia for childhood foods, doesn’t it?)
In preparing for our cottage trip, I also made a few easy and tasty treats to take along to share. These made for healthy and quick snacking, and also were awesome to hold me over during the drive up. These recipes will hopefully serve you well, whether you’re headed for a road trip, a weekend away, or even just looking to stock your freezer with some healthy treats to tuck into whenever the mood strikes.
These little bars are really tasty and somewhat like a granola bar, mini-sized. They have dried apricots, brazil nuts, pepitas, gogi berries, coconut, and dates. I like to top mine with bee pollen, because the bitterness is nice against the sweet bar, but this is optional. They hold together well, perfect for packing away in the cooler! They can also make for a quick, easy breakfast. I also made these addictive little balls that are similar to oatmeal raisin cookies, but with a superfood punch. I include maca, which is surprisingly delicious with oats and the two have become a favourite combination of mine. The maca and oat mixture, without the raisins, is a nice crunchy addition to popsicles.
Apricot, Gogi & Brazil Nut Bars (raw, gluten free, vegan)
makes 15-21 pieces
1/2 c brazil nuts
1/2 c pepitas
8 medjool dates, pitted
10 dried apricots
a big pinch of salt
2 tbsp coconut oil
4 tbsp shredded unsweetened coconut
3 tbsp gogi berries, soaked in water for 5 minutes to soften
bee pollen, for topping (optional)
extra coconut, for topping
Pulse brazil nuts in the bowl of a food processor, until broken into chunks. Add pepitas, dates, apricots, salt, coconut oil and shredded coconut, and pulse to combine. Reserve 1 teaspoon of gogi berries, and add the remainder to the food processor and pulse briefly, to combine. Line a dish with parchment paper. Press mixture firmly into prepared pan with clean hands. Top with reserved gogi berries, as well as extra shredded coconut and bee pollen, if using, and press gently. Place in the fridge to firm up, for at least 30 minutes. Carefully lift bars from pan using the parchment lining, and cut into squares using a large sharp knife. Store bars in the fridge or freezer.
Maca Oatmeal Raisin Balls (high raw, gluten free, vegan, nut free)
1 1/2 c gluten free rolled oats
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
5 medjool dates, pitted
3 1/2 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp maca powder
a couple handfuls of raisins
Add oats to the bowl of a food processor, followed by maple syrup, sea salt, cinnamon, pitted dates, coconut oil, and maca powder. Pulse until combined but some whole oats remain. Add raisins and pulse briefly to combine. Roll tablespoon-sized portions into a ball with clean hands. Store in the fridge or freezer.
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