Home Cooking Away from Home
Preparing your own home-cooked meals and snacks is one of the best ways to maintain a fresh and nutritious diet. And with the use of Calorie Count’s tools like the Recipe Analyzer, it’s possible to precisely control ingredients and serving sizes to accurately stay within daily calorie limits. But access to a proper kitchen isn’t always possible or practical – like when traveling, living in a college dorm, or scavenging around a cubicle at work. Luckily, there are a number of tools and “hacks” you can use to continue preparing your own healthy and economical food in a pinch.
Tools of the Trade
Investing in a few simple items will allow you to assemble a mobile kitchen you can take anywhere and use to cook and consume many different meals. Generally, this means you’ll need instruments to cut, slice, pour or scoop raw ingredients, a way to combine them together, and utensils to eat the end product. Optionally, a heat source – anything from a toaster oven to an electric water kettle - can be used to make more complex hot meals.
As a budget-minded traveler with limited space in my backpack, I’ve boiled this down to a small utility knife, a collapsible bowl/plate (which doubles as a cutting board), a light-weight titanium spork, and a 1 liter large-mouth canteen. A few simple tools like this can be carried anywhere and used to enjoy everything from a quick snack at the fresh produce market to an entire meal cooked out of a handbag.
While many foods require refrigeration for prolonged freshness, quite a few remain perfectly fine if left unrefrigerated for hours or even days. For example, whole eggs, many hard or processed cheeses, yogurt and UHT pasteurized boxed milk are all available options. If required, a small insulated freezer bag, wrapped in heavy clothes or a towel, can keep refrigerated foods preserved for a couple days. To save space, use water or juice bottles as freezer packs – simply drink the liquids after they’ve melted.
The best ingredients can be reused and combined again and again, while storing and transporting easily. Some favorites include rice, beans, pasta, couscous, peanut butter, canned tuna or chicken. Combined with fresh, canned, or dried vegetables, you can make a number of “one pot” meals such as soup, stir fry, or casserole.
For a quick sandwich, carry pitas, tortillas, rye crisps, or some other flat bread. In addition to saving space and lasting longer than cut bread, you’ll save a dish by using an “edible plate”.
Finally, a small stash of seasonings such as salt, pepper, bouillon, hot sauce, and single-serving salad dressing or condiment packages can be used to spice up and keep your meals interesting.
What are your favorite recipes or hacks for cooking without a kitchen?
Calorie Count co-founder Erik Fantasia and his girlfriend, Heather Curtis, are currently traveling through Central America as part of a trip around the world. You can follow their adventures online with Facebook and their blog.