Project Toddler Travel Food

Well, we finally did it – our first family vacation! We spend 2 weeks on the Big Island, Hawaii. We had a truly memorable time, what with A learning to walk and talk! We also visited a bunch of cool places, including a black sand beach, a garden that was modeled after the Milky Way galaxy, an astronomy center from where we could view the Milky Way, and a live volcano! All very unique experiences that need a separate photo essay to do any justice in sharing.

Of course, this kind of travel requires a LOT of planning with a toddler. In fact, it took me nearly a month to put together everything food-related A needed for the trip! Of course, one must keep in mind that my working hours are restricted to A’s sleep time, if I’m lucky, especially during the cold months when her outdoor activities are restricted. Not to mention, Hawaii didn’t have the same availability of groceries and food that we are lucky access in Sunnyvale, and we found out that even Amazon Prime took 3-7 days and hefty shipping fee to deliver. So of course, I had to be very, very organized with this project. I chose to break down the Project Toddler Travel Food into phases, and the instructional designer in me went back to good ol’ ADDIE. While the ADDIE Model is traditionally used in Instructional System Design, it can also be applied to generic processes to have a more systematic approach. Anyway, this is my belief.

So here goes, the 5 Phases of Project Toddler Travel Food:

Analysis:
A quick analysis of my toddler’s needs and our constraints led me to the following conclusions:
1. A’s basic diet consists of rasam/dal/rice + steamed veg for her lunches/dinners and idlies and dosas for her breakfasts.
2. I would have access to a full kitchen during the first week of our trip (we had booked an AirBnB), while during the second week we would be staying at a resort where I would possibly get a microwave depending on availability.
3. I couldn’t carry a ton of food and utensils due to luggage constraints.

Design:
Based on the constraints, I divided up the packing list for this project into three, the food to pack, the utensils, and the food to buy there. Here goes:

Food to take:

  1. Mung dal: Cooks way faster in an electric rice cooker than toor dal, healthy as well.
  2. Rice: Just enough for the travel day, we bought rice there too.
  3. Methkoot: a Marathi preparation, a powder consisting of roasted lentils and fenugreek. To be mixed with rice with salt and oil, or butter in this case since that is what we bought. Known as Menthya Hittu in Kannada.
  4. Vangibath powder: A preparation of roasted and powdered spices, lentils and dry coconut which is mixed with rice and vegetables to create a yummy rice dish. I carried this to mix with rice, butter and frozen vegetables bought there.
    Instant Rasam Powder: A must for me as rasam rice is my daughter’s staple food. Here is a recipe that I developed, tested and got A’s approval on weeks before our trip.
  5. Chutney podi: To be had with idlies or dosas
  6. Instant Dosa Powder: I used a recipe from the trusty Hebbar’s Kitchen for this with success. The AirBnB we were staying at provided a non-stick frying pan and spatulas which I used to make dosas.
  7. Instant Oats Idly Mix: Again, I’ve got a recipe on my blog right here.
  8. Instant Rava Idly/upma Mix: I can get a full recipe up on this site soon but for now, all you gotta do is make the exact same recipe as the oats idly mix, but replace all the oat flour with semolina and rava. This can be used to make quick upma too!
  9. Dhaniya jeera powder: Roasted cumin and coriander seed powder. This is A’s favorite seasoning for steamed vegetables.
  10. Eno fruit salt: I needed this to make the instant idlies and dosas, but can be substituted with baking soda in a pinch
  11. Lime juice concentrate: I used this to give my idlies and dosas the tang that typically comes from fermentation.

Utensils to take:

  1. Electric rice cooker: I have this one, small and handy.
  2. Microwave idly plates: I have something similar to this.
  3. A’s bowls with lids: I have this, convenient for travel and especially when there are no high chairs.
  4. A’s spoons, bibs and sippy cups
  5. Disposable boxes: These were useful to transport food from the AirBnB to the resort. As I wasn’t sure about the availability of a microwave at the resort, I prepared rasam and steamed veggies for A at the AirBnB and transported them to the resort. I chose to use disposable boxes so that I could leave them behind and free up luggage space on the way back.

Shopping list:

  1. Essentials: Salt / butter / milk / yoghurt / seasoning items (pepper/chilli flakes)
  2. Foods which are easy to make: Pasta + pasta sauce, Bread + eggs
  3. Frozen: Frozen meals / Frozen vegetables
  4. Perishables: Vegetables and fruits

Development:

Next came making time to prepare the foods that I couldn’t buy, with links where applicable. These were:

  1. Instant rasam powder
  2. Instant oats idly mix
  3. Instant rava idly mix
  4. Instant dosa mix
  5. Mollaga podi (gun powder) or Chutney podi

Implementation:

  1. In order to cook comfortably while on a holiday, I strongly recommend booking an AirBnB with a full kitchen if that is an option at your destination. Our AirBnB had a full kitchen including a stove range, oven, microwave, toaster, coffee maker and dishwasher. In addition, we were provided with utensils such as pots and pans, plates and cutlery, coffee powder and sugar. If a full kitchen isn’t an option, a microwave would be a minimum requirement for me.
  2. It would also help to look up availability of groceries at your destination. We were fortunate enough to have a Safeway a few miles away, which allowed me to plan on buying pantry staples and some prepared foods as well.
  3. I also established a cooking schedule on Day 1, similar to the cooking schedule I follow at home. While this is certainly hard to do while on holiday, my baby was very happy to have her familiar foods away from home and anything that makes her happy is priceless! I must add that I could count the number of times A ate outside during our 2 week holiday on 1 hand, so everyday cooking proved to be essential.

Evaluation:

As with any project, evaluation is key if we want to travel with our picky toddler again. Food was the biggest challenge for A and she enjoyed everything else about traveling, so I really wanted to put together a travel kit for A’s food which could also serve as a template for future trips. Here are some things I felt I could improve:

  1. Utensils: While the AirBnB provided utensils, of course the resort didn’t provide any (duh!) which was something I had forgotten in my planning! We ended up using the disposable boxes, old take-out boxes, and a couple of plastic spoons and forks we’d gathered along the way. I still didn’t have any plates to eat from. Challenges which can be fixed next time by taking along a couple of plates, spoons and a microwave-able bowl.
  2. Seasoning items: I’d probably take along a couple of sachets of salt/pepper and some dried herbs and spices, since I didn’t have anything on the day we traveled and found it impossible to cook. It also seemed expensive to buy a full box of herbs/spices when all I needed was enough for a couple of weeks.

Well, that was Project Toddler Travel Food. I would say it turned out to be largely successful, especially because we also ate home-made food far more often than we have during our previous holidays. Food is such an important part of life, and a two week holiday would have been very difficult unless we planned this aspect well.

I hope this post was useful to you. Please modify as per your family’s needs and your travel destination. I can’t wait to hear your tips and tricks to help me improve this kit for next time!

Instant dosa mix

A quick shout-out to Hebbar’s Kitchen for their recipe for Masala Dosa Mix! If you have a stove and a tava or a frying pan, and a few simple ingredients, you’re all set! Our AirBnB provides a stove and a non-stick frying pan, so that’s what I used. I also carried with me, from home, the prepared dosa mix (made with the exact recipe in the link), lime juice concentrate and Eno fruit salt. I bought a few staple groceries once we reached here, which included yoghurt (plain!) and salt. Honestly, the batter took less time to come together than the pan took to heat! I whisked 4 tbsp of mix with 1 tbsp of yoghurt, and then around 1/2 cup of water. I added a tsp of lime juice and 1/2 tsp of Eno fruit salt. Made the dosas, and they came out perfectly! Happy toddler, happy mommy!

Thank you, Hebbar’s Kitchen!

Travel Recipes, Part 1: Instant Rasam Powder

If your toddler is anything like mine, chances are that travel plans send you in a frenzy of packing food. Did I say travel plans? I meant pretty much any plan that involves taking more than 100 feet outside your home. Like a switch had been turned on, A developed the typical picky toddler characteristics a week before she turned one. We have a vacation to Hawaii coming up, and I’m busy planning out her meals. In the next series, I’ll be sharing with you a bunch of travel-friendly recipes that you can prepare in advance and then use a microwave at your destination for final boiling / cooking, etc.

On a good day, my daughter is happy with a simple meal of rice-dal-rasam and veggies, finished with a bowl of yogurt. On a bad day, of course, she’ll eat anything between nothing and a handful of goldfish crackers. But when I travel, the optimist in me would like to aim at one balanced meal a day, and I believe firmly in a balanced meal of rice (starch), dal / steamed lentils (protein), rasam (spices which aid greatly in digestion), veggies and yogurt (dairy) form the perfect meal.

With that in mind, I’ve come up with an easy instant rasam / saar mix, which you can just mix with water and bring to a boil, and voila! Rasam on the go!

Ingredients:

dhaniya / coriander seeds – 1/4 cup
whole red chilli – 1/2 cup
whole black pepper – 1 tsp
jeera / cumin seeds – 1 tsp
mustard seeds –  1/4 tsp
fenugreek seeds -1/4 tsp
toor dal / split pigeon pea – 1/2 cup
tamarind – key lime size ball or 1 tbsp

For tempering:
ghee – 1 tbsp
asafoetida – 1/2 tsp
mustard seeds: 1 tsp
cumin seeds: 1 tsp

Method:

  1. Roast the toor dal separately.
  2. Roast all the other ingredients together.
  3. Once all ingredients have cooled, grind them together to a fine powder
  4. Heat ghee. Once ghee is hot, add mustard seeds. Allow them to crackle, and then add cumin seeds and asafeotida.
  5. Mix tempering with rasam powder
  6. When you want to prepare the rasam, mix 1 cup water, 1 tsp rasam powder (or to taste), 1 finely chopped tomato, salt to taste and bring to a boil.
  7. Your rasam is ready! Serve with hot rice.