Over the past few years, we’ve stayed at a number of places with full kitchens while traveling, from time share units to VRBO places. We’ve come to realize that not all “full” kitchens are created equal, and even those that are technically fully equipped may be sorely lacking in the quality department.
A good knife is one of the most important pieces of kitchen equipment you can have if you actually want to cook from scratch. We’ve started bringing our paring knife and our chef’s knife with us on almost every trip. A couple of knives take up minimal space, whether you’re traveling by car or by plane (of course they have to be in checked luggage!) — knife guard highly recommend to protect you and the rest of your stuff.
The kitchens at the resort in Destin feature non-stick skillets. Though I do try to minimize use of non-stick skillets to avoid ingesting the chemicals in the coating, I’m not completely opposed to them (I have yet to figure out how to successfully make scrambled eggs in a cast iron skillet) IF the coating is in good shape. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case for pans I’ve encountered in vacation rentals, so this year, our cast iron came along for the ride.
While the pan is a bit heavy, it doesn’t take up all that much room. When packing, I stuck the pan in a paper bag to prevent oils from rubbing off on anything else, then put other kitchen stuff inside the pan. Next time, I’d also bring our baby cast iron (6″ diameter), which is perfect for making one or two fried eggs.
On the implements and tools side, I also added a small fine mesh strainer, after learning that hard way that it’s pretty much impossible to rinse quinoa without said implement.
Dry goods and pantry items — I tried not to go too crazy here, there are grocery stores in Destin after all. I focused on items that are hard to find and/or items that I can get a much better price buying from bulk food bins (I may be able to skip this step in future trips, as Destin is about to get a Whole Foods — then it will have ALL THE STORES (well, not TJ’s, but almost all the stores)).
- natural, organic peanut butter
- almonds and peanuts
- organic raisins and cranberries (for oatmeal and snacking)
- brown rice
- steel cut and rolled oats
- [locally grown] black beans
- organic canola oil
- granulated onion and garlic
- an herb blend
Plus some garden goods . . .
- garlic scapes (enough that we didn’t need to buy garlic all week)
- a bit of lettuce and spinach
- a few turnips
- a bit of broccoli and asparagus
On the trip from Atlanta to Destin, we stopped at a fruit stand and picked up some farm fresh eggs, peaches, and tomatoes. And boiled peanuts!
After a couple of days on the road (during which time we actually ate a decent bit of food we’d packed/prepared ahead of time), I was ready to get back in the kitchen (said no one else at the resort). I walked to the nearest grocery store (a Winn Dixie — do any of my southern readers have an opinion on which is better, Winn Dixie or Publix?), list and bags in hand, and stocked up for the week.
- 2-lb bag of carrots
- 1 bunch of broccoli
- 1 head of red cabbage
- 3 onions
- 1 bunch of bananas (a vacation treat and prebiotics!)
- 1 loaf of 100% whole grain bread
- 1/2 gallon of organic milk
- all-fruit strawberry and apricot jams
- 2 boxes of whole wheat pasta
- 1 bag of breakfast cereal
- 1 bag of chickpeas
- 1 bag of black-eyed peas
- 1 bottle of salad dressing
- 1 bottle of barbeque sauce
- 1 jar of dill pickles
- 1 jar of pasta sauce
- 1 bag each of frozen corn, peas, and green beans
- 2 pints of Ben and Jerry’s 🙂
I’m sure I forgot something, but it was a relatively short list, which was good when it was time to me to play pack mule and walk back to our place.
I did a lot of cooking at the beginning of the week, which allowed us to coast later on, enjoying the leftovers and a couple of restaurant meals.
Some of my vacation meal creations:
- BBQ black beans and sauteed veg over rice
- Pasta with broccoli, carrots, and red sauce
- Quinoa pilaf with corn and garlic scapes, with black-eyed peas on the side
- Fritatta with scapes, potato, spinach and mushrooms
- Pasta salad with peas, scapes, and red cabbage
It seems like there should be more, but that might be about it. I’m pretty sure I beat out everyone else at the resort for “most time spent cooking,” but that was fine with me — I needed the breaks from the sun. We had more leftovers than expected, because my MIL supplemented her meals with seafood from some local places she likes.
Our first meal out was at Thai Delights. G requested a dish with noodles, broccoli, tofu, mushrooms, carrots, and tomato sauce. He got everything but the tomato sauce — we ordered the “Drunken Noodles” and added mushrooms. Matthew ordered the Pad See-Iw, and we shared the two dishes. We enjoyed our meal so much that we returned three nights later for a reprise. Same two entrees as the first time, plus we added a masaman curry.
On Friday night, we ordered a carry-out pizza from Mellow Mushroom to round out the odds and ends we needed to finish from the fridge.
For the drive home, we kept it simple with sandwiches for lunch. For dinner, we ate the pasta salad I made in Destin. We had a hard time finding a rest stop, so we ended up pulling over at one of those “Truck Rest Areas,” basically a place for truckers to stop along the interstate, with bare bones facilities. It was not the most picturesque setting, but at least there was a picnic table. To sweeten the deal, we found $50 cash — true story!
So, what are your must-haves if you’ll have access to a kitchen while traveling — those kitchen implements or special ingredients that you won’t leave home without?