staying healthy on the road – how to make salad with a teaspoon

There’s something about travel that captures my imagination. Seeing exotic places, meeting interesting people, experiencing things you just don’t get at home. And of course finding new taste sensations (chilli fried grasshoppers with lime anyone?).

Even traveling for work can be fun. Takeoffs and landings. Fancy (and not so fancy) hotels. The security of a corporate credit card. Traveling to places that the average tourist wouldn’t ever think to visit.

But there are times when the constant eating out and room service can make you feel a little bleeah.

Which is exactly what happened to me a few weeks ago when I was traveling for work. Four days into the trip, I found myself badly missing my kitchen and craving a big salad. Not those tiny mixed leaf room service options with bad dressing, floury tomatoes and exorbitant price tags – but a seriously big healthy salad – preferably made by my own hand.

And so it was that I found myself wandering though a supermarket close to the hotel, racking my brain as to what I could cook for dinner that would be:

  • A. Healthy and involve salad and
  • B. Able to be prepared with the cooking equipment in my hotel room – namely a teaspoon.

Lets just say thank heavens for prewashed bags of mixed salad leaves. And for things in cans – with self opening lids. And that lemons can be persuaded to give out their juice with a teaspoon. Who would have thought?

Since then I’ve been experimenting with minimalist, low prep salads. The tuna chilli is definitely a favourite. The chickpea and parmesan comes a close second. I had it for lunch at work the other day. One of the guys from marketing commented on my lunch saying ‘That looks amazing – where did you get your salad?”

Do you think he would have believed me if I told him I made it with a teaspoon?

tuna chilli salad
serves 1

Tuna with chilli oil is my new favourite thing, but feel free to choose plain tuna if you aren’t up for a little spice. I like to use the oil from the tuna as a bit of dressing for the salad. By all means use tuna in springwater (drained) if you have a low fat fetish.

1 bag pre washed salad leaves
1 small or medium can tuna in oil with chilli
1 lemon

Open salad and pick out few leaves to make room for the tuna. Flake tuna and chilli oil into the salad bag and shake a little. Punch lemon with the handle of a teaspoon (see image below) squeeze lemon juice over salad through the hole. Enjoy.

chickpea salad

chickpea & parmesan salad
serves 1

The tricky thing with this salad is that a whole tin of chickpeas can be quite a big eat. If you’re not super hungry feel free to ditch some of the chickpeas. I was also a little worried about not being able to properly wash the chickpeas but they tasted lovely with a little canning juice left on.

It’s been a long time since I last used pre-shredded cheese. If you are preparing in the luxury of a kitchen – or somewhere with a cheese grater handy at least – I’d recommend going with better quality parmesan. But the pre shredded stuff was surprisingly good.

1 bag pre washed salad leaves
1 can 400g (14oz) chickpeas, drained
1 lemon
1 small handful shredded parmesan cheese, optional

Open salad and pick out few leaves to make room for the chickpeas. Add the desired amount of into the salad bag and shake a little. Punch lemon with the handle of a teaspoon (see image below) squeeze lemon juice over salad through the hole. Sprinkle over cheese if using.

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Alternative traveling salads on my list to try:

  • canned red salmon and lemon,
  • cottage cheese with smoked salmon
  • canned lentils, yoghurt & pinenuts
  • ricotta with canned baby beets

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{ 13 comments }

Erin September 22, 2009 at 7:02 am

A fabulous concept, Jules. I often travel for work and find myself in a similar predicament. (So often that I request aparments, where possible, so I don’t have to eat out all the time!)

Other lifesavers include: cous cous (you usually have a kettle for tea and coffee), marinated olives, sundried tomatoes, cheese, salami etc. from the deli (if you’re nice to the server and explain the situation they’ll usually help you out!), and marinated tofu bites.

I’d be keen to hear other suggestions!

Mr. Taste September 22, 2009 at 11:16 am

I used to do this all the time too! Before I got back on the lazy unhealthy fast-food train :(

I’ve still got a stack of cans of tuna on my desk here at work, I think it’s time to start polish them off

Johanna September 22, 2009 at 2:11 pm

I know the travel blurgh feeling – those salad ideas are great – the only addition I think I would make are a punnet of cherry tomatoes which I love in most salads

Sas September 22, 2009 at 11:02 pm

Yum Jul, they also look like a great idea for when i have been too busy playing with baby Jack and need a quick dinner idea, especially with the days getting hotter! Love Sas

Sallyh September 23, 2009 at 12:11 am

Jules, I know exactly what you mean. On a trip mid-year, after a few days of cafe and restaurant food in the UK (‘nuf said), I was absolutely desperate for some vegetables. I needed broccoli! I finally found a supermarket and bought a bag of cauli and broccoli florets. Back in my room I sliced them thinly – I was lucky, the room had a knife – boiled up the jug designed for making cups of tea, and packed the vege slices into a mug. I covered them with boiling water, put the saucer on top and let them steep for a while – and finally had my veggies, just crunchy enough. I even drank the water. It was like a very light stock.
Sally

jules September 23, 2009 at 9:11 am

hey erin
couscous is a great idea – and thanks for inviting other people to give their suggestions

mr taste
enjoy your tuna

johanna
I love cherry tomatoes as well. great idea to add them in especially now it’s getting more summery around here

hey sas
of course quick salads would be great for new mums as well. can’t wait to see jack again

sally
steeping veg in a cup – I love it. will definitely keep this one in mind.
thanks for buying a copy of my book – appreciate the support

Daniel September 24, 2009 at 6:49 am

Jules, I had no idea you were such a MacGyver! I’ll have to remember that teaspoon trick.

Dan
Casual Kitchen

matthew September 25, 2009 at 12:52 am

Great post, Jules! This would make an awesome submission for the “Mastering the Art of Sustainable Cooking” contest we just kicked off at Brighter Planet, judged by Alice Waters and others.

http://blog.brighterplanet.com/sustainable-cooking/

An September 26, 2009 at 5:32 pm

I love the simplicity of the salads, and the teaspoon trick! Great for getting frustrations out. :) Thank you!

Sophie September 27, 2009 at 9:03 pm

It’s amazing how much you take having all of those utensils to hand for granted isn’t it? I spent some time living away from home last year and you really have to plan what you buy carefully to be sure that you’ll actually be able to eat it.

My tip would be to have a mini stash of dried fruit, nuts and seeds for brightening things up. Couscous and thin noodles that you can cook just by pouring boiling water over them are also handy.

Intrigued that the ready-grated parmesan was OK (it’s hard to get that dried storecupboard 70s parmesan that smelt of feet out of your head)

jules September 28, 2009 at 3:47 pm

hey daniel
now I really don’t think my teaspoon antics are anywhere near macgyer territory but I like the idea – something to strive for

matthew
thanks for commenting and for the link – love the idea behind sustainable cooking – will be back to read more of your blog

an
simplicity is golden and as for getting frustrations out with a teaspoon – bit of a hidden bonus

sophie
I think it’s great to live in different environments for that very reason – makes you more adaptable.

Thanks for your tips – rice noodles are an excellent idea

Yeah things sure have come a long way from that 70s smell – I actually meant the shredded stuff not the powdery weird stuff – although it was definitely no reggiano

Janel August 22, 2010 at 9:40 am

I tried out my take on the chickpea and parmesan salad to great success yesterday – I still have it on my mind, actually, and may go out of my way to make sure it and I cross paths again shortly. Took photos and wrote it up, too!

Thanks for the ideas – they’re going to come in very handy shortly as I am moving to Madrid on my own and anticipate cooking for one.

Mari November 1, 2011 at 7:33 am

Hi Jules,
I tried your chickpea & parmesan salad yesterday with great success!

I’m unable to tolerate lemon (due to a salycilate sensitivity) so I used citric acid instead and still found it delicious.

I will definately make this one again!

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