I typically attend 2-4 conferences per year and, for the last five years (ie: since he was 5 months old), my son has come with me. I knew he was a frequently-flying toddler the first time I heard him pretending something was an airplane: "pbbbb they're flying! Oh no, it's getting bumpy. The plane is turning upside down and the drinks cart is in the middle of the aisle!" Sometimes the inevitable turbulence/near crash is before the drinks, sometimes the cart is secured but people have dinner on their traytables. Whatever happens with his 'planes', it's always about the drinks cart.
Anyway, I'm looking for things to prepare in a hotel room. When we go to conferences, I'm full-on in the professional mode and as a mother. I try to find a balance between must-do tourist sites and quirkier activities that make a city fun. He does some with a sitter, and some with me skipping out of meetings. It's fun and it's tiring. I always take along some food to eat in the hotel, in case one or both of us isn't up to going out to eat. (The time he threw the spoon across the Indian restaurant in San Fran, he probably shouldn't have been out to begin with.) Problem is, I always take the same food. I'm looking for suggestions for something different. Can you help?
Here are the constraints:
must be packable (ie: not too messy or require refrigeration),
must be able to get through security (fine cuisine does us no good if it's in our bags several states away, and we usually don't check anything anyway)
preparation must be possible in a coffee maker (though sometimes we have a micro)
I'm a vegetarian (except for fish and eggs)
as little waste as possible--I generally choose to purchase things with as little packaging as possible
It needs to be a real meal. Trail mix, crackers, and fruit are fine, but not as an evening meal. Likewise, mac-n-cheese in a cup, Uncle Ben's bowl meals, etc taste like fast food. We eat in the room when we need comfort, not preservatives.
It has to be easy. If I had energy to fuss, we'd go enjoy the local scene.
Here's what we typically take:
a bag of boil-in-the-bag rice (to cook in the pot of a coffee maker)
broccoli or carrots (to steam in the part of the coffee maker where grounds usually go)
can of beans (they get warmed by being mixed with the hot rice)
peanut butter (security agents usually wink at my son and let a closed jar go through, but open jars are rejected)
apples or other fruit
oatmeal --quick oats are good if you just pour boiling water on them and let them steep
raisins & cinnamon (to put in the oatmeal)
Danimals yogurt drink--they come in 3 oz sizes that get through security
Tang or some similar powdered drink mix
Better bevs, easy ways to spice up dinner or a pb sandwich, whole new meal ideas, let me have 'em! On our upcoming Boston trip, we'll have more of a kitchen than usual so I'll go shopping during hte week, but one of our in-room meals is usually the first one of the trip, after flying all day, and before a little walk, so I want to have things with me that I can have ready fast. I'd love to find something to eat with angel hair pasta...
Remember that most hotels have ice machines and an ice bucket in the room. You can buy some fruit, veggies, tofu, cheese, milk etc and keep them cold in a pile of ice in the bathroom sink. Make sure you pack zip-lock bags in various sizes before you leave to wrap things in before putting them on ice. Also pack a can opener. If the hotel has a restaurant, you can ask to borrow some eating utensils (knives, forks and spoons), to aid in your "cooking"
Uncle Ben's Ready Rice ( there are now lots of options - whole grain - brown - seasoned) can be heated in the filter part of a coffee maker, if you do not have a microwave, add some canned beans and tofu and you can make a great quick meal. Especially if topped with some grated cheese (which you have purchased already grated and kept on ice in your sink). It is kind of like camping.
if you want to expand your preparation possibilities, get a magic bullet blender. the only reason i purchased mine is for travel, and it's now one of the first things i pack in my suitcase. it's really small & light, and will open up a world of possibilities while you're on the road - from quick soups that you can blend up & just heat in the coffee maker [or make cold soups like gazpacho or creamy cucumber], to healthy breakfast smoothies...even quick, fresh salsa.
will your son eat spicy food?
if so, look for the MTR brand of indian packaged foods. I know you said no packaged food, but these have no bad ingredients and they have no preservatives, etc. They come in boil in the bag pouches, so you can do them the same way you do your rice.
i travel a lot with my kids and they like the chana masala (chickpeas) and the palak paneer (spinach). I usually see these at indian grocery stores, but i recently was surprised to find them at the costco. they need no refrigeration.
what elses can i rec? mix up your pb with other kinds of nut butters. a not-quite-ripe avacado will also travel well. Also, even though most people keep it in the fridge, a lot of cheese doesn't have to be kept cold, so you can bring that. aged cheeses usually hold up best--my kids love extra sharp aged cheddar.
also popular--cereal for dinner. i bring the little boxes and boxed milk, which, though over 3 oz, has never been taken away at security yet.
hope this helps some.
he loves palak paneer--paneer is the cheesiest thing I can get him to eat. We used to buy it in the kind of boxes you describe when we lived near Savannah. The closest we can find in Amarillo is Amy's organic, which is frozen. Come to think of it, the unrefrigerated kind might be a thing to stock up on while we're in Boston.
I will try the milk boxes this time. I generally try to avoid extra packaging, but I really miss having milk available when we travel.
Thanks for your suggestions!