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Keep calm and cook on: 3 do-ahead recipes to pack for your summer roadtrips

Photo: Dayna McIsaac/Flickr


The end of the school year is fast approaching and that means, for a lot of us, the much-anticipated summer vacation (which is often accompanied by the much-dreaded plane ride). Fear not: pack these high-protein, low-sugar, nutrient-packed meals and snacks in your bag and they will keep little bellies full and happy on your trip. Now the plane or car ride can be almost as enjoyable as the vacation itself.


Spinach, leek and potato hand pies

Hand pies are not only fun crowd-pleasers for kids, but they make a great portable, self-contained meal.  This one, similar in taste to spanakopita, has protein from the feta, a ton of vegetables — and is perfectly delicious eaten at room temperature.

Makes 8 pies


4 yukon gold potatoes

2 tbs olive oil

2 medium leeks, washed and sliced (white & light green parts only)

1lb bag frozen chopped spinach, thawed

salt and pepper

1 cup crumbled feta cheese

½ cup fresh herbs, chopped (any combination of mint, basil, dill)

1 tbsp lemon zest

2 large eggs, beaten

2 frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed and kept cool


  • Preheat oven to 350°F and put a large pot of water on to boil.

  • Boil potatoes until tender, around 20 minutes.  

  • Drain and mash, with their skins, and remove to a mixing bowl.

  • Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat and add the sliced leeks.  Cook until tender and just starting to brown, around 8-10 minutes.  

  • Add the thawed spinach and cook for a further 5 minutes until all vegetables are cooked through.  

  • Season with salt and pepper, then place spinach and leek mixture in a sieve and let the excess moisture drain for around 10 minutes, pushing down with a spatula to help the process.

  • Add spinach and leeks to the mixing bowl, then add the fresh herbs, cheese, lemon zest, and adjust seasoning to taste. Add the eggs, then mix well.

  • Remove one of the thawed pastry sheets from fridge and roll it out on a floured surface just until the seams are even with the rest of the sheet.  Cut it into 4 even squares.

  • Place around ½ cup of the filling in the center of the square and flatten slightly.

  • Bring one corner of the pastry up and over to the opposite corner, turning your square into a triangle.

  • Press the edges together, then fold them slightly to seal.  

  • Move to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and repeat until you have 8 triangular pies.  Brush the tops with a little olive oil, then bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown.


Cold soba noodles with peanut sauce, tofu & edamame

I’ve yet to meet a kid who doesn’t love noodles tossed in a salty and sweet peanut sauce. Soba noodles are made from buckwheat, which gives us less of a carb crash, making it a great choice for long trips. The tofu and the edamame pack this dish full of protein, and everything keeps well (and tastes great) at room temperature.  To make things extra easy on yourself, pack in compostable boxes to free yourself up from transporting dirty containers.

Serves 4


½ cup smooth peanut butter (for those with peanut allergies, tahini makes a fine substitute)

1 tbsp sugar

3 tbsps soy sauce

2 tbsps sesame oil

1 tbsp rice vinegar

1 tsp fresh ginger, minced

8oz extra firm tofu

2 tbsps olive oil

2 cups shelled edamame

12oz dried soba noodles

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 scallions, thinly sliced


  • In a large bowl, mix together peanut butter, sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar, and ginger until it has formed a smooth paste.  Add ½ cup of warm water and mix again until fully incorporated.  Set aside.

  • Cut the tofu into 1” cubes and blot dry with a clean kitchen towel.  Place a skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil.  Sear the tofu cubes in the skillet for 8-10 minutes, turning often, until browned on all sides.  Set aside on a plate lined with a paper towel to drain off excess oil.

  • Put 2 large pots of water on to boil.

  • Cook edamame for 3-5 minutes, until tender.

  • Cook noodles in the other pot according to packet instructions, around 6 minutes.

  • Drain both and rinse under cool water.

  • Toss noodles, tofu, and edamame with the sauce and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.  

  • Top with sliced scallions.


Superhero bran muffins with blueberries

Muffins make great traveling food as they’re light, keep well, and are easy to eat on the go.  These hearty and filling treats taste great at any time of the day, from breakfast to afternoon snack to dessert.  The oat bran packs these muffins full of protein and fiber, which helps keep little tummies full (and kids happier) for longer.  (Feel free to use other fruits if blueberries are not your kids’ favorite.)

Makes 12 muffins


1 cup plain yogurt

¼ cup milk

1/3 cup neutral-flavored oil (such as canola)

1 egg

1/3 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

¼ tsp cinnamon

1 ½ cups oat bran

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 ½ tsp baking soda

1 ½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

5oz frozen blueberries (or the fruit of your choice)


  • Preheat oven to 425°F.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt and milk until smooth.

  • Add the oil, egg, brown sugar, vanilla extract, and cinnamon.  Whisk again until smooth.

  • In a large bowl, combine the oat bran, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  

  • Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry until they are combined, taking care not to over-mix, then stir in the blueberries.

  • Line a 12-cup muffin tin with baking liners, and scoop 1/3 cup of batter into each (I find a spring-release ice cream scoop perfect for this).  

  • Bake for 10 minutes, rotate tin and bake for a further 6 minutes, until a cake tester (or toothpick) inserted into the middle comes out clean.  

  • Let muffins cool in the pan for a few minutes, then move to a rack to finish cooling.

 Note: these can be baked a few days ahead, or even up to 3 months ahead if kept in the freezer.

Jo Eike is a writer and a cook always in search of her next favorite recipe.  She lives in Seattle with her husband and three children.

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