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Thursday, July 14, 2016 12:01 am

Road trippin’

A road trip picnic basket.
PHOTOS BY ASHLEY MEYERS

 “Are you going to make deviled eggs?”

This is the question my grandmother asks every time I tell her I’m preparing food to take on a road trip. “They’re just so good to take in the car.” This always amuses me, because honestly, deviled eggs seem incredibly impractical as road food. And yet, although I hadn’t planned to, I inevitably add deviled eggs to my packing list.

For my grandmother, a road trip just isn’t complete without cold fried chicken, deviled eggs and prune cake. In her day, before billboards advertising fast food restaurants lined the interstate and truck stops sold 99-cent hot dogs, mothers and grandmothers would start preparing for the journey at the crack of dawn. Savory smells wafting from the kitchen would pull sluggish family members out of bed and propel them into action, packing, loading the car, and getting ready for the adventure to come.

Even if you don’t feel like breaking out the cast iron skillet and frying chicken at 4 a.m., you can still pack a picnic to take on the road that would make any grandma proud. I prefer to pack roasted chicken legs in our cooler instead of fried, mostly because they are much less messy to prepare, along with cut vegetables and hummus, cubes of melon and granola cookies.

The advantages of packing homemade food to take on vacation are many. For me, eating out is an integral part of traveling. It’s a way to enjoy the regional dishes of the place you’re visiting, and frankly, I look forward to a break from cooking everything we eat. However, planning to pack a few meals to enjoy along the way will benefit not only your wallet but also your health. We know that one of the best ways to improve your health is to cook your own food from scratch, and this is even truer while on the road, where your only convenient options are likely to be greasy, highly caloric, highly processed fast food and junk food from the gas station. Rather than spend $20 on fast food breakfast with mediocre coffee, why not bring a jar of cold pressed coffee, some whole grain muffins and fruit? Then you can feel free to splurge on lunch when you manage to find a roadside BBQ joint or interesting local restaurant. It’s all about balance.

Another reason I love packing my own food for the road is that it provides an excuse to get out and play and enjoy a family picnic. Many rest stops have playgrounds and/or walking trails, and every kid from age three to 103 will benefit from a healthy bout of activity after several hours in the car. Bring along an old tablecloth, maybe even some flowers, and set up on a picnic table under a tree. Enjoy your loved ones and the journey you are on together. Chances are your children won’t look back and fondly remember the indoor play place or the toy they got with their kid’s meal. But a homemade picnic, under the shade of a tree, shared with people they love? That they will remember forever. 


Deviled eggs
• 8 eggs
• 1/3 c. mayonnaise
• 1 T. mustard (I like Dijon, grandma likes ballpark)
• 2 tsp. cider vinegar
• 1/2 tsp. paprika
• A few dashes hot sauce
• Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, cover eggs with 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil; remove from heat. Cover and let stand 15 minutes. Drain eggs, then run them under cold water until cool enough to handle.

Peel and halve eggs lengthwise; remove yolks and transfer to a bowl. Mash with a fork; mix in mayonnaise, mustard and vinegar. Press through a sieve to make smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Alternatively, you can puree the mixture in a food processor.

Transfer the yolk mixture to a quart-sized zip-top bag. Snip a hole in the corner of the bag and pipe the yolk mixture into the egg white halves. Garnish with paprika and chopped herbs if desired.

Grandma’s prune cake

Cake:
• 1 c. neutral oil, like canola or safflower
• 1 1/2 c. sugar
• 3 eggs
• 2 c. flour
• 1 tsp. each baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, salt and vanilla
• 1 c. buttermilk
• 1 c. chopped dried prunes
• 1 c. chopped nuts, lightly toasted and cooled

Icing:
• 1 c. sugar
• 1/2 c. buttermilk
• 1 tsp. baking soda
• 1 T. light corn syrup
• 1/2 c. butter
• 1 tsp. vanilla
• Pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 300 F. Lightly grease and flour a 9x13-inch pan.

First, make the cake. In a mixing bowl combine oil, sugar and eggs and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the egg-oil mixture and stir gently to combine. Do not over-mix. Add buttermilk and stir in gently, then stir in nuts and prunes. Pour batter into your prepared pan and bake at 300 F for 45 minutes.

For the icing, combine the sugar, buttermilk, baking soda, corn syrup, butter, vanilla and salt in a medium saucepan. When the cake has 5 minutes left to bake, bring the mixture to a boil. Continue to boil until it reaches the softball stage (235 F on a candy thermometer). Remove the cake from the oven and immediately spread the icing over the hot cake. Cool cake to room temperature before serving. This cake improves with time. Store it in the fridge or cooler and enjoy for up to one week.

Granola cookies
• 1/2 c. butter, softened
• 1 c. peanut butter
• 1 c. brown sugar
• 2 tsp. vanilla extract
• 2 large eggs
• 1/3 c. milk
• 1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
• 1/2 c. dried milk
• 1 tsp. cinnamon
• 1 tsp. salt
• 1 1/2 c. old-fashioned oatmeal
• 1/2 c. unsweetened dried coconut
• 1 c. raisins or dried cranberries
• 1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
• 1/2 c. sunflower seeds

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of your mixer combine the butter, peanut butter, brown sugar and vanilla. Beat on medium high speed until lightened and fluffy. Add in eggs and liquid milk; mix until well combined. Be sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl once or twice. On low speed mix in the flour, dried milk, cinnamon and salt. Mix until the dough is cohesive. Add oatmeal, coconut, raisins, chocolate chips and sunflower seeds, and mix until all are incorporated. Scoop a generous 1/4-cup mounds of batter and place 2 inches apart on the parchment lined sheets. Slightly flatten each mound.

Bake the cookies for 18-22 minutes, until lightly browned. Do not overbake or the cookies will be dry and crumbly. Cool on cookie sheets for 5-8 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Makes 18-20 cookies, depending on size.
        
Ashley Meyer is the executive chef for genHkids and an avid road tripper. This summer she’s looking forward to navigating the country with an actual paper map, playing car trip bingo, and, of course, picnicking.

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