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Food options challenge of a sort

This is a bit complicated, so please do take the time to read through my request. :) I don't even know how possible this will be to meet. I'm a pretty creative cook, but even I am being stumped by these limitations.

I'm trying to come up with foods I can prepare or buy (assume I have a very-well-stocked pantry and very good cooking skills, and plenty of time to do prep) to bring along for a three day weekend with minimal refrigeration (an electric cooler in a hotel room), and no microwave or other cooking options available. There are, however, strict limitations on what sorts of food will be acceptable (I am not interested in the harsh judgements of anyone over these limitations, we have good reasons for them and I don't want to hear "just make him eat X").

Generally speaking, veggies are not going to cut it, at all. Person in question is a picky eater and only actually likes potatoes, onions, cooked tomatoes, peppers, some types of beans, and iceberg lettuce. I am thinking I will bring along some cut up green peppers for snacking. Any salad suggestions should include some sort of protein.

Sulfurous foods can't be brought (foods that generally cause gas, like beans).

Should be high in protein, but low in fat, but limited to beef, pork, chicken, or turkey. No game meats (though ostrich and emu are fine). Cold cuts aren't a good option (Though we might bring some along) because they usually have gristle in them somewhere, and the person in question is highly sensitive to gristle in cold cuts and will not be able to continue eating them if he comes across any (it makes him throw up).

No fish. No eggs. No dairy. No Asian-style food (he dislikes ginger, soy, and sweet spices). No tofu. As low fat as possible. No hummus (he doesn't like it).

Breads and crackers are fine but aren't enough to sustain someone an entire weekend. Person in question is not very fond of sandwiches in general, but will eat them for some meals if required to. He's not very fond of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, for instance.

He DOES like fruit, but fresh fruit needs to be at least mostly ripe, and it generally isn't substantial enough for long-term.

He is also fond of pasta and tomato-based sauces. He likes Mexican food a lot as well.

I know this is very complicated and difficult, and I really do appreciate suggestions from folks. Please give me enough information so I can research recipes, if you can. Thank you all so much.

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  1. my first suggestion would be some kind of stuffed baked potato with a ground meat of some kind. possibly even potato skins or twice baked potatoes (minus the cheese it wont be quite the same, but can follow a similar procedure mixing in say... a ragu instead.

    stews with potatoes and some of the veggies mentioned might fit. or stuffed peppers.

    beans and rice is a good option (depending on what types of beans are OK and what arent) i make a good black beans and rice with chipotle in adobo and some onion for flavor.

    for quick snacking, beef jerky sounds like a great option as it requires no fridge, is high in protein, and easily transportable.

    canned chicken, while not the best chicken ever, is high in protein and great in a pinch. can be mixed with salsa, rice, pasta, etc, and doesnt need to be stored in any special environment.

    i would also definitely look into cereals! easy to store for a weekend, great nutritionally, and some even provide a decent amount of protein. oatmeal, can even be cooked in the coffee pot of a hotel room in a pinch.

    2 Replies
    1. re: mattstolz

      Oh, hmm, hadn't thought about the coffee pot being used for heating water. That opens a few possibilities up.

      1. re: mattstolz

        and yeah, we're totally bringing jerky. :)

      2. Hi Morganna, just want to check I've understood: no microwave or any other cooking/heating appliance? So everything will be served cold and should require minimal refrigeration?

        1 Reply
        1. re: gembellina

          Yes, no cooking options are going to be available. Though I MIGHT be able to scare up access to a microwave, we can't count on it. (HUGE PAIN IN THE BUTT)

        2. For a snack. would nice, whole grain tortilla chips with salsa work, if the traveller likes tomatoes and green peppers? A mild salsa could be nice, if he likes Mexican.

          I and many folks in my family love cold pasta. A light marinara tossed with al dente pasta (his choice of shape/type) would travel well.

          As a snack, would the traveller enjoy non-dairy protein bars, or fruit bars (Larabars?)

          Does the traveller like rice? You have a lot of variety with cold rice salads, or if no rice, orzo salads. Canned chicken (in a pinch, as the other poster wrote) could be tossed in with whatever mix-ins the person likes...light dressing of his choice?

          2 Replies
          1. re: pinehurst

            Oh these are all good ideas. He doesn't dislike rice, but needs there to be more to it than just "rice" if that makes sense. Some sort of cold rice salad might be good, and the tinned chicken is something I'd not considered. I'll try something out this weekend on him for that.

            1. re: Morganna

              Try short grain rice if you're going to cook it in advance and bring it with you. The grains get kind of clumpy and sticky and it doesn't have a mealy grainy texture. If he eats avocado, bring a whole one and top the rice.

              Since he likes peppers, try sauteeing peppers (and onions?) and cooking the rice with those. It adds flavor and makes it something other than plain white rice.

          2. Do you have access to a small crock pot?

            1. Morganna, looking through your list and the posts here, it made me think of the chicken soup they have at some of the Mexican restaurants. It's basically shredded chicken, salsa, rice and chicken broth with some cilantro and avocado thrown in. If you can heat water in a coffee pot, add a little chicken soup base, canned chicken, cooked rice and a cilantro salsa, you'd have a meal.

              There are canned fruits in single servings with pop-tops that you can keep in the fridge - and you don't need to worry about under or over ripeness.

              1. 1. Black bean burritos ~~ use Cosento refried black beans

                2. Lettuce, tomato, fresh mozzarella on Italian rolls

                3. Corn/Black bean salad ~~ mix niblets corn w/drained and rinsed black bean. Toss w/scant amount of ranch dressing and add roasted sunflower seeds to taste.

                1. oops, just reread. Give him beano before beans.

                  1. OK, you have access to power in the hotel room, so why not buy a portable induction cooktop? Take along a small pantry so to speak? These cooktops are safe and reliable and you'll use it at home. Less than 100 bucks. They are small, completely portable, no problem whatsoever. With it, plus one saucepan and a tiny pantry, you can cook up anything. Trust me, I did that for 9 weeks in a hotel room while on a training course that mandated hotel accommodations (with the intent that I would spend a fortune on hotel food, which I didn't LOL). I know this isn't cooking options per se as in cold foods you can take and eat, but it would really allow you to prepare hot fresh food to your taste. Especially pasta, sauce, potatoes, rice and refried beans (waaay less gas), fajitas, and so on...
                    Just a thought

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: freia

                      Well, it's only for three days, and the hotel has a policy against cooking in the rooms.

                    2. The limited choices with vegetables is what I'm most often knocking up against in my head!

                      Maybe the makings for a simple taco salad? Shredded iceberg, cubed up chicken breast with taco seasoning (cumin etc if the flavors are not too offensive), salsa, sliced olives, corn (?), and tortilla chips for the crunch. Some mango might be nice in the mix, but perhaps to "weird" for his tastes.

                      With access to hot water from the coffee pot, couscous could be an option for a meal base....just make sure there's the means to cover the steaming bowl tightly, and let the residual heat warm through some sliced roasted chicken or steak. Maybe season with some olive oil or lemon juice, or stir in a bit of some pre-sauteed pepper, tomatoes and onions that you bring with you?

                      It sounds like peanut butter is not a favorite flavor?.... but a jar to supplement some apple slices or bananas could be a decent, substantial snack option, if the combination is acceptable.

                      Good luck!

                      1. This is very tricky indeed. I really hope you can get a microwave!
                        My primary suggestion is to google for cooking using a coffee maker (which almost every hotel room provides). There are actually lots of great ideas for making soups, heating food, etc.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: milklady

                          I contacted the hotel. There are no microwaves allowed in the rooms. There is a microwave behind the front desk (which is quite a ways from our room), and they'll heat things up in there if we ask them to (though that's sorta awkward).

                          I should add that soup isn't his favorite thing, but he's fine with something like chili. Yes, yes, I know, he's a huge pain the butt. I can't tell you all how challenging his dislike of most veggies is for me. ;)

                        2. New direction/idea:

                          hows the person feel about packing their own food if theyre gonna be this specific and picky?


                          kind of kidding...

                          also, definitely would look more into the coffee machine, like mentioned above. opens up options of oatmeal, quinoa, couscous, easy soups, etc

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: mattstolz

                            Couscous is a great idea, as it only needs to be hydrated in a tightly covered bowl. Use the coffee maker to boil water, pour it over the couscous (I use a 1:1.5 ratio of couscous to water), cover with plastic wrap, and let sit until the water is absorbed, then fluff with a fork. Add salt (and spices if you like) before hydrating, and anything you like after. An easy way to produce a hot dish.

                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                              Definitely couscous, I often sprinkle a bit of veg bouillon powder over the grains before adding the water, and top with roasted tomatoes, onions and peppers. I usually add feta cheese but you could use chicken. Or is the couscous high enough in protein not to need an additional protein component?

                              Also those thin rice noodles that only need soaking in hot water; might have to go a bit mix-and-match with your cuisines if the person doesn't like asian flavours in a dressing! You might be able to add them into say a chicken soup if you can figure out how to heat with the coffee pot.

                              Does canned tuna count as fish?

                              1. re: gembellina

                                I can actually get him to eat canned tuna, but only in the form of tuna salad, or tuna and egg salad.

                                I should add here that we're also going to be eating out at a local diner (they have THE BEST turkey dinner there), so he can certainly get something at the diner that will be OK, like a tuna sandwich or something. So not all of his meals will have to be like this.

                                Just for the sake of complete information (bordering on TMI):

                                We are attending a gaming convention that starts Friday at 1 and ends Sunday at 5. We will be spending the entire weekend in large rooms filled with tables of loads of people, playing various sorts of games. This will be going on in four or five hour blocks with breaks for meals between.

                                Because of gastric bypass surgery, my husband has an increased sensitivity to gas-producing foods (including lactose intolerance) and uhm, other gastric upsets. When we're at home, this is no big deal and we're a lot more varied in our eating. But for the sakes of everyone around us, and his avoiding embarrassment and having to be away from the games for long periods of time dealing with bowel issues, he's trying to limit intake of the things we suspect are the worst culprits. That's why such a strict set of limitations.

                                You have all been very helpful in this, and have given me many avenues for further investigation with him. I do appreciate it a great deal. :)

                          2. Nuts and seeds for snacks and salad toppings. There is shelf stable pasta if you end up with a microwave.

                              1. re: escondido123

                                We will be going to a local diner, but one of the things is we only have X time between sessions, and we are also trying to be cheap about this. :) The food at the hotel is.. eh.. at best.

                                1. re: Morganna

                                  If you can have hot meals at the diner, then I would think things like sliced roast beef, chicken and ham sandwiches could certainly see him through. Along with fresh fruit/fruit salads and muffins/power bars etc that might take care of things.