Cooking on the Road: Fifth Edition

Over the holidays in late 2021, most of our meals were cooked at home with Matt’s and my family, or I made repeats of things from earlier on in our journeys.  Since we resumed our travels after the holidays, I found more time to explore some new cooking ideas. Here are a few fun finds from the road over the past few months.

Veggie ramen

I had Brussels sprouts on hand and was tired of the status quo, so I found this interesting ramen recipe that gave me a more creative way to use them.  However, I made quite a few adjustments, and it was NOT a 30-minute prep time like the recipe states!

When it came to roasting the Brussels sprouts, I did follow the recipe, except I added more olive oil to try and loosen the consistency of the miso so it would coat the sprouts more evenly.  If I make this recipe again, I will bring the miso paste to room temperature first before blending it with olive oil to improve the consistency, or possibly add a tiny bit of water, because it was too lumpy and didn’t stick to the sprouts very well.  Regardless, they still tasted good.

Instead of mushrooms and chicken, we opted for firm tofu.  I drained and cut the tofu into 4 slabs, and soaked up liquid by placing the slabs between paper towels and weighting them between two plates with a few canned goods on top for about 20 minutes, replacing paper towel layers at least once.  Then, I cubed and browned the tofu in a skillet with canola oil, salt and pepper.  I found a tube of gochujang (fermented red pepper paste) at the grocery store, so substituted this in lieu of sambal oelek. 

Finally, I used fresh spinach instead of frozen, and wilted and sautéed it in some canola oil until most of the moisture had been released.  Instead of individual ramen packs, Matt found a box of plain ramen, 4 “pucks” per pack.  I cooked the noodles separately from the broth, using 2 packs, one for each of us, then poured the broth over each serving, and put all of the fixings on top.  We couldn’t find any Fresno chilis or jalapeños, but we garnished with carrot, basil, cilantro, lime, that delicious ginger butter from the recipe and jammy eggs.

This was such a delicious ramen!  You can easily make this vegetarian or vegan by using veggie broth instead of chicken, and an alternative to butter.  I highly recommend keeping most of the components separate until you pull each bowl of ramen together to maintain the desired textures of each ingredient.  The flavors and textures melded together beautifully.  

Veggie ramen

Chicken and wild rice soup

Originally I had planned to make a wild rice salad with romaine, wild rice, cherry tomatoes, grilled chicken, walnuts, and a balsamic walnut vinaigrette, but Matt came down with a stomach bug, and shifting to a chicken and rice soup seemed like the better choice.

I found this instant pot soup recipe and had most of the ingredients on hand, so it worked out well.  Surprisingly, I didn’t have any carrots on hand, and no frozen peas, but I did have sugar snap peas, so I blanched those instead and added them after the rest of the soup was finished.  I also skipped the mushrooms, but that’s a personal choice.  

The interesting addition at the end was eggs to thicken the broth.  This recipe reminded me of a blend between a standard chicken and rice soup and avgolemono, a Greek chicken, lemon and rice soup, but with the meatiness of the wild rice.  Overall, it worked well for an upset stomach, having a gentle flavor profile and a simpler list of ingredients.

Chicken and wild rice soup

Shrimp tacos

I don’t have a specific recipe, but we couldn’t visit the Gulf of Mexico without getting some Gulf shrimp.  Matt sautéed the shrimp with jerk seasoning, toasted flour tortillas, and I prepared a pineapple salsa out of pineapple, jalapeño, cilantro, lime and sea salt.  The tacos were also dressed with a cabbage slaw, lime, jerk seasoned sour cream, and avocado.  The combination of sweet shrimp, subtly spicy seasonings, sweet and sour elements of the salsa, creaminess from the sour cream and avocado, and crunch from the cabbage slaw made these tacos delicious all around.  If you happen upon fresh fish or shrimp, tacos with some fresh veg and fruit are a great way to enjoy flavors from the sea.  

Shrimp tacos

Smoke fish hash with mustard greens

Another favorite from Eating Well, this smoked fish and mustard green hash is a great way to have breakfast for dinner. 😋 It is really flexible, because you can crisp up the potatoes to your liking, use any type of smoked fish you prefer, any kind of sturdy, dark leafy green you have on hand, and prepare your eggs however you desire.  My parents are from Minnesota, so they ice fish every year, then smoke the fish and can it in a pressure canner.  The pressure canner dissolves any little bones, so you are left with large chunks of smoky fish to enjoy however you like.  Typically, they smoke tullibee, which is a common fish where they live. 

For the potatoes, I boiled them, then cooled them in the freezer for about 20 minutes until firm and then cut them into smaller pieces.  If you like crispy potatoes, I recommend putting a cast iron skillet over high heat and getting a good char on the potatoes before flipping them, then dropping the temperature to medium high.  When you start adding other ingredients, drop the temperature again to medium.  

I love the smell and flavor that mustard greens impart, so if I can find them, that’s what I use.  Turnip greens or kale would be my next preference, but collards would also work nicely.  Finally, I love poached eggs and found this article that shared a new technique to add to my repertoire.  You can get rid of wispy pieces of egg white by putting the egg in a fine mesh sieve and letting the runny egg whites run through.  This leaves the firmer egg whites for poaching and works like a charm!  🤩

One addition at the end was a little drizzle of olive oil and green onion for garnish to add a fresh pop of flavor and crunch to contrast with the smokiness of the hash and creamy eggs.  It’s a favorite in our house, and I hope it becomes a favorite in your house as well.

Smoked fish hash with mustard greens

Shrimp étouffée 

After having shrimp tacos, we saved the remaining uncooked shrimp and all of the shells.  I decided to make a shrimp stock out of the shells with a few spices and veggies added to deepen the flavor based on this stock recipe. Then, I was on the hunt for a way to use this stock.  What kept popping up over and over again when searching online was étouffée, and it seemed appropriate considering out next venture was going to be in Louisiana.  

The shrimp étouffée recipe I used called for 1 1/2 lbs of shrimp, but I only had about 1/2 lb remaining, so I decided to use some chorizo we already had on hand instead for the rest of the protein.  If I were to do this again, I would use a different chorizo…this brand didn’t have a lot of substance to it, but in the end it did blend in well with the sauce. 

The sauce was just the right thickness, and the fact that we had less shrimp seemed to actually work well to balance the sauce to shrimp ratio, in my opinion. Finally, étouffée is traditionally served with rice, so we cooked some basmati. The whole dish was well balanced flavor-wise…not too fishy, salty, or spicy…just right! 😍 I would make this again if I had fresh shrimp in shells on hand.

Shrimp étouffée 

Ice-box cake

Normally I stick to just 5 recipes per post, but I couldn’t resist adding a yummy dessert. 😋 We had cherries, blueberries and graham crackers that needed to be used up, so that was the impetus for choosing this ice-box cake recipe.  It was also portable, so easy to share on our Habitat for Humanity (HFH) job site, and a nice treat on a hot day.

Lemon curd is a household favorite, so I opted to make it from this epicurious recipe instead of buying a jar of it.  The fruit compote called for kirsch brandy, but I decided purchasing a whole bottle solely for this recipe wasn’t prudent, so I found a mini bottle of cherry rum instead, and that worked just fine.  Since I didn’t have as many cherries as the recipe called for, I supplemented the compote with blueberries, which made a delicious combo.

Putting the layers together in our loaf pan, I discovered that I didn’t need the extra whipped cream that the recipe called for.  I had plenty of the mascarpone, cream and lemon curd mixture left over for serving, so using just a pint of whipped cream would likely be sufficient.  Using parchment paper was pivotal to getting the cake out of pan, so don’t skip this important step.  Before serving, I used a butterknife to loosen the corners, tipped the cake upside down on a clean, flat surface, and removed the parchment.  

The HFH crew loved it! 🥰 No one had any complaints, but in my opinion the whipped cream content was too high, because it stuck to the roof of my mouth.  I think it is yet another reason to use just a pint of whipped cream.  If you have fresh or frozen berries on hand and an open package of graham crackers that will otherwise get stale, this is a great way to use them.

Cooking on the road is still fun yet challenging at the same time. Finding space in the refrigerator or our pantry is always a game of Tetris, but meal planning and using ingredients that are already on hand help make it all work. 😃

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