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2 Meals for 13 hour train trip

I'm looking for inspiration and coming up very dry on ideas, and I'm offering this as a bit of a challenge to you folks out there. :) I'll also be searching for other ideas here, just wanted to get this post up sooner rather than later. :)

We're going on a trip to DC on the Vermonter. It's a 13 hour trip. I'd prefer not to eat out of the lunch car if I can avoid it. :) We don't need snack ideas, I have plenty of those. What I'm looking for are thoughts on an actual meal that we could bring along (lunch and dinner). Something more satisfying than we'll find hours of snacks to be. We will have time to eat breakfast before we leave, so at least we'll have that under our belts.

There are no facilities available. No microwave. No fridge. I -could- bring a cooler with a cold pack, but we're going to be gone for a week, so I'd prefer to reduce how much I'm taking with us, rather than increase it. I'd like to avoid things that need to be kept cool. There might be an opportunity to get hot water in the dinette, but I can't count on it. I am willing to make things ahead of time and one can assume I have a well-stocked kitchen and I can stop at the store to pick up things I might not have to hand. I'd also like to avoid things that might be easily crushed (like crackers).

No fish. Cured meats would be OK, but might be too salty to each much of, I'm open to ideas on this but I don't have much by way of a decent deli to work with here. No soups, my husband just doesn't like soup (and this is not the time to argue with him :), and I'd rather not have to deal with a thermos on the trip anyway. We prefer proteins as the fruit we'll probably bring will likely have plenty of carbs. No alcohol at all, we don't drink.

Sandwiches come to mind, but again, we have limitations. We'd prefer things that weren't going to get soggy and that don't need to be kept cold. Peanut butter and jelly, of course, is a possibility, though my husband generally finds that to be an unsatisfying meal (though, he may have to just deal with that). I was thinking hard boiled eggs, since they can go the day without being refrigerated, but I didn't get much beyond that.

Thanks in advance for any ideas you can suggest. :)

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  1. Sandwiches would be my choice. Put mayo, whatever in separate little containers and add to the sandwiches when you're ready to eat. Mayo does NOT need to be kept cool. I've taken leftover steak, cheese, hard rolls, pate', pickles, crackers. You can do small bags of chips and pretzels, cookies. If you want lettuce on your sandwich, again just pack separately. Tuna, ham or something salad. As you mentioned, boiled eggs. Raw vegetables. Really, it's just two meals. No one will pass out with the above choices. No cooler necessary.

    3 Replies
    1. re: c oliver

      Yeah, I know. Just my husband doesn't really like sandwiches that much (doesn't like ham, doesn't care for cold cuts, and has a thing about gristle grossing him out, so roast beef can be risky). No one will pass out but if I can make it nice, I'd like to. It's going to be our us-i-versary. 21 years ago on Saturday we met face to face for the first time. :) I'm thinking we might splurge on some nice italian cured meats, he likes those, but sometimes he gets burnt out on them. Though it's been a while since we've had any, he might be fine with something like some good quality hard salami. Raw veggies is a must, I'll eat those. :) Love raw carrots :)

      1. re: Morganna

        So go to the deli and get the expensive rare roast beef, great cheeses, rolls, etc. I consider that a "special meal" for us at home and when traveling. Good olives and pickles (I love TJs cornichons). Splurging a little makes this an even easier thing.

        1. re: c oliver

          Yeah, that's a good idea. Shame there's no TJ's around here. :) We'll go to the local food coop, though. They have some nice cured meats, too. :) I'll make the sausage pie with some yummy italian cheeses, instead of the usual plain ole mozz. :) Thanks folks!

    2. Will you have a e=room or are you sitting the whole trip? Any heat-generating travel gear such as a travel iron? Do you like cheese? Do you object to disposable containers?

      3 Replies
      1. re: rworange

        We'll be sitting the whole trip. I've been on this trip to NYC before, and it wasn't massively crowded, but there's just not a lot of surfaces around. I usually don't use disposable containers, and we will be making this trip back home, so we could reuse things (I should mention that our hotel also has a kitchen, so I can wash things out and reuse them for the trip home).

        We love cheese but are mildly lactose intolerant (so we usually take lactaid). We don't own any heat generating travel gear at all. :)

        1. re: Morganna

          I am with another poster who asked what you do like to eat regularily and we could work with that.

          As another poster mentioned, cold drinks can be use to cool all the food. You can freeze juice boxes or juices in plastic bottles which would keep everthing cold and still provide a cool refreshing drink later on.

          Fried chicken is something that works well as travel food. Meat loaf would work well too. McDonald's one had salad shakers which were green salad in plastic cups. Markets sell those insulated cups with lids so you could use that for a green salad or oil-based salad.

          1. re: rworange

            Meatloaf sandwich and a salad with a sharp vinaigrette. Just pack all components separately.

      2. There are also wide-mouthed, small thermoses that you could put chili or stew in and each person could eat directly from. This is really easier than a long day in the car when you're not stopping at a restaurant.

        1. Consider a torta or strata filled with your favorite goodies. A bag of washed greens and veggies. Pack croutons separately. Make a vinaigrette in a small glass spice jar, shake before using and pour over the greens. Close the bag and shake. Perfectly dressed salad.

          For sandwiches, I pack the components separately and assemble just before eating. I hate soggy bread. Perhaps a smoked turkey, brie, tomato and spouts sandwich on a nice crusty bread?

          2 Replies
          1. re: smtucker

            Similar to the strata idea, quiche or frittata; if you're concerned about refrigeration, have this one for lunch and something else for dinner.

            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

              Quiche is PERFECT. His eyes lit up. :) And I just realized, he actually likes bologna! :) So *I* can get -real- cold cuts, and HE can have bologna! That'll make sammiches easy enough.

              Sweet, so quiche (we call it sausage pie and make it with hot italian sausage and various cheeses) and cold cuts for sammiches.

              Y'all rock, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I know it can be a pain trying to help out someone who is so picky about things. :)

          2. What types of foods do you and your husband like? I LOVE road trips and have done many kinds of spreads. Lack of a cooler is not a problem as you can use your drinks for ice packs, even alcohol. Bento boxes are my favorite but my husband prefers antipasti. We will both happily nosh on granola bars and water if we get to go somewhere, but for a special occasion like yours I'd think about converting some favorite or sentimental flavors and try to present it nicely or again sentimentally. So what do you both like and/or what holds the memories?

            1. Perhaps chicken roulades. Pounded thin, filled with pesto or tapenade, rolled, cooked and sliced. Do you have problems with goat cheese? If not, you could mix goat cheese, chopped sun-dried tomatoes for the filling and layer a thin slice of prosciutto on the chicken before filling.

              Quinoa salad. Mixed with black beans, roasted vegetables, dressing in a separate container.

              Have a wonderful trip!

              1. You could make a muffaletta. Or, bake/buy bread dough, roll out and fill w/ meats/cheese (peeled hard boiled eggs work great) that will last the day, and fold up and bake. It's a great way to pack sandwiches w/out having it fall apart.

                1. No fish but how about shrimp or crab or lobster? In a salad or with a dipping sauce or in a bisque in individual thermos? If you're husband doesn't like sandwiches, what DOES he eat for a non-dinner type meal?

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: c oliver

                    Fair question. :) I didn't state it very well. He just doesn't care for cold cuts. Ok, it's not just cold cuts. He doesn't like olives, or mushrooms, or vinegary things, either. Yeah, he's a pain in the butt sometimes. :) Mostly his lunches consist of leftovers. He heats them up at work and has a kitchen there to work with. So it doesn't really work in this instance. :)

                    And no, he hates shellfish too. ;)

                    1. re: Morganna

                      Would he eat a frittata? Pizza rustica? Green eggs and ham?

                      1. re: chowser

                        Yeah, he'd eat those things, depending on what I put in 'em. :)

                  2. Rather than taking cold packs you could make your own by freezing water-filled ziplocs. We do this and it works well. Pitch them when you're finished.
                    A small soft-sided lunchbox-sized cooler that can be flattened when empty would be pretty convenient. Chicken salad made with celery, grapes and slivered almonds with nice bread and some cookies would make a nice lunch. Bring along some good ham sandwiches on buttered pumpernickel, some chunky cranberry salad/relish ( add oranges, chopped apple, celery, nuts) to eat on the side and a few pickles for your supper. Simple fare, but tasty.
                    Bring just a few paper plates, napkins, and forks and you're set. The only thing you're left with is the soft cooler that can now be rolled up or smashed flat and stuffed someplace.

                    Happy anniversary!

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: fern

                      Serendipitously, I found the perfect gift for a frequently-flying friend - a sturdy canvas tote bag the bottom of which is a well-insulated compartment that zips open from the outside. It will accommodate a typical meal of drink bottle, sandwich, fruit, and a few snacks. I don't know if these are found elsewhere. This reasonably-priced and very well made one was from www.thedesignermom.etsy.com.

                      As for meals - grilled cheese with bacon tastes pretty good at room temp and can stand at least half a day without refrigeration.

                      1. re: greygarious

                        What a perfect bag. And a great price even with shipping. Thanks, gg.

                        1. re: c oliver

                          I bought it last spring, at $25 with free shipping. Now, I am super-frugal and even I would have thought this bag a good value at twice the price - which is what I said to her in my feedback. So you can probably blame me for the increase!

                        2. re: greygarious

                          I have a bag like this but the compartment is on the top--cold air moves down is the concept, I think.

                          My only problem with it is that sandwich breads tend to get soggy from condensation forming on their plastic wrapper. I wrap them in a paper towel first now.

                          I like the idea of your sausage pie or quiche. Pizza rustica is also good at room temp. Desserty things like fruit cobblers or crisps would also travel well, and be a bit more posh than just plain fruit.

                          The frozen juice box idea is a good one. Mom used to freeze qts of milk when we'd go camping--same idea.

                          I love the "us-iversary". Hubby and I celebrated our 25th on July 4th this year.

                          Hope your trip and time together are especially wonderful.

                          1. re: greygarious

                            Clever bag design! I'll bet your friend has made go od use of it!

                        3. I know you don't want to carry too much but do try to consider some of the accessories. Maybe even a tiny, even artificial flower/vase arrangement. A little votive candle. How about some rose petals for the table. Get silly :)

                          1 Reply
                          1. Whenever I go on a road trip I always make/bring the following (or combination of) for the first leg of the journey: hard boiled eggs, cold roasted chicken, bacon and egg pie (similar to a quiche but has no milk, just eggs), couscous or rice salad. I've found that all of these travel well, can be eaten with a minimum of fuss, provide a nice rounded meal and can sit for a decent amount of time without refrigeration. Yes yes, I am sure most of you wouldn't go with chicken, but what can i say: I *heart* cold roast chicken and realistically, it'll probably be eaten within the first 5hours of your trip.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: aussiewonder

                              +1 on the cold roast chicken. Somehow it's the perfect travel food. A zip-top bag of good salad greens with a small bottle of dressing, a baguette or some good rolls, and you've got dinner.

                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                +2 for chicken; we've always taken chicken on long distance trips, it's just a given..my fave is fried...Ditto what alanbarnes said all the way...

                                Years ago, we traveled from NC to Albuquerque on the train (2 day trip)..I had everything but the kitchen sink in my "lunch" bag, barely bought any of the high priced food on the train but I had three young'uns at the time so I did let them splurge a bit and go to the snack car, which they loved but one meal I do remember in the dining car was the vegetable lasagna..it was surprisingly very good, but was kind of expensive...

                            2. You don't mention children so I'll assume it will be just the two of you? First off, for transporting food you can't beat the Glad (or whatever other brands) plastic containers with lids that are so cheap, on a train trip you can toss them in clear conscience. As for what to put in them, tons of possibilities. Shrimp, lobster or crab cocktail. Caesar (or other) salad with the dressing and croutons in those mini plastic cups. Room temperature chicken wings with the sauce you love most. Any soup you love cold, from gazpacho to mushroom (my fave) or even vichyssoise if you're feeling fancy. Fried chicken. sushi. tyro or spanikopitas. Spring rolls. Pasta salad. One container of crispy fresh croissants, then several smaller containers of fillings such as egg salad, liverwurst, butter, jam, tuna salad, avocados, sliced tomatoes, caviar. Custard (sweet or savory). Rice pudding. Bread pudding. Chocolate mousse. A few splits of wine and/or champagne. A thermos of really excellent coffee. Gazillions of things!

                              Or, if you want to knock yourself out artistically, you can make bento box meals. But I don't have any bento boxes I'd be willing to leave behind on a train. Happy travels! '-)

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Caroline1

                                Hey, C1. I really like the croissant idea. Since he's not a sandwich guy, it's easy to pull off a piece and pile/smear on all sorts of yummy things. And good coffee is a great thought.

                              2. How about an orzo salad with a lemon vinaigrette with roasted chicken and roasted veggies (peppers, onions, broccoli, asparagus) - served with some crusty whole grain bread.? Another option is a couscous salad with a yogurt/curry sauce with raisins, carrots, scallions, etc....

                                Another option is - hummus and pita, cucumber slices, feta, olives - I woud be in heaven!

                                Another option is - Savory palmiers with pizza fillings - include some proscuitto and melon on the side.

                                1. I second the frittata suggestion, as that is good protein and will hold over time.

                                  What about a mezze platter of sorts, like hummus, pita, baba ghanoush, some shish kabobs?

                                  Maybe a deconstructed tostada, if you bring all the components in tupperware and reassemble in the largest one, so nothing gets soggy.

                                  Happy travels!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Emme

                                    Better than the frittata is a tortilla espanola. Kind of like a frittata but more substantial with more potato. I make them for soccer game snacks and in Spain, where it's brutally hot, they sit all day and are served at room temp.

                                  2. Not surprisingly, for my tribe a bento box would be in order: teriyaki chicken or beef or pork; musubi with ume; quick cucumber pickled salad; cold blanched spinach with shoyu, lemon juice, and sesame seeds; ...

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                      Yeah, but for the many of your tribe who still live in the old country, bento boxes are available at or in any train station! <sigh>

                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                        But so easy to make, so convenient to caryy, so delicious to eat, ...

                                    2. One thing I'd add is that if people will be receiving their meals in their seats, all is well, but if they'll be eating in a separate dining car then I'd be careful about bringing eggy things to eat in the passenger car. The smell can be very off-putting, especially to those who feel a bit queasy while traveling anyway.

                                      1. This is the reason travelling by train in North America is such a pain... Elsewhere (India, China, Sri Lanka, Thailand, etc) the food (and great food) comes to you at every stop, pretty much anything and everything.
                                        But I somehow suspect that your husband might not enjoy that either...

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: legourmettv

                                          *chuckle* Yeah, he can be hard to find food for in exotic locales. :) But there's usually some form of grilled meat available. :)

                                        2. This may be too carbohydrate-heavy, but cold sesame noodles with lots of julienned vegetables (napa cabbage, bell peppers, carrots, scallions, snow peas, etc.) is colorful and satisfying. You can add, if you're up for keeping it cold, strips of meat marinated in soy sauce/ginger/garlic/sesame oil and grilled (or strips of marinated grilled portabello mushrooms).

                                          If you don't want to deal with tupperware, pack into hollowed-out bell peppers, wrap in plastic tightly, and eat your bowl. :)

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: 4Snisl

                                            Why would it need to be kept cold?

                                            1. re: c oliver

                                              I'm of the school of thought that uncured meats should not be kept at room temperature for an extended period of time. Offered the alternative of mushrooms....

                                              I'm sure the OP will make an individual choice about what to keep cold or not, but was simply offering a recommendation for the suggestion I was setting forth. Probably could have worded it better for that effect.

                                              1. re: 4Snisl

                                                Well, again with the limitations, my husband hates mushrooms. ;) I know, I know, he can be a pain. ;)

                                                1. re: Morganna

                                                  Whoops, sorry if I missed that piece of fungal info, Morganna. Tofu is another option....

                                                  Please do let us know what you end up deciding to take.- enjoy your vacation!

                                          2. I do a stromboli - dough, meat, cheese and roasted red peppers, that's pretty stable and we've kept it out of the fridge on trips of 10 hours with no problems whatsoever. Hummus with veggies and pita, good olives, etc.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: jeanmarieok

                                              That's along the idea of what I was suggesting above with the stuffed bread dough. It's one of my go-tos for any travelling., easy to make, easy to eat.

                                              1. re: chowser

                                                Grilled chicken legs with ancho cherry bbq sauce-great cold



                                            2. if you can find one, DH has a soft cooler bag he takes his lunches in. It has cold packs built into the walls, and you can stick the entire thing into the freezer for the night before you need it. It also folds down onto itself so it would fit in your suitcase for the trip home. I got it at our local grocery store. It is big enough that you could pack any items you needed to keep cold, but you might have to put non-perishables in another bag.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: jujuthomas

                                                We were trying to avoid carrying another bag, So we didn't do this. I made sausage pie. That's well drained, browned hot italian sausage with beaten eggs, salt, pepper, and grated asiago cheese in a pie shell. VERY stable, and filling and numny and my husband thanks everyone who suggested it. We also bought a small amount of cold cuts and had those early on in the day. Beverages were the problem, though. $2 a can at the cafe car. I think we'll bring something with us on the way back. We're stopping at a cajun restaurant friday night for dinner, and we'll be getting extra meat pies to bring along with us the next day. :) Thanks again for all the wonderful suggestions!