Saturday, July 12, 2014

Vacation - Food

From June 19th through the 29th, we were in Wisconsin for the Tour of America's Dairyland.  Bill has been racing for about 10 years now but he had never done more than a few races during a weekend.  Last year he did 3 or 4 of these races but we thought it would be interesting for him to compete in the full 10-day series.

Personally I am not at all spontaneous and really prefer to stick to my routine.  I've learned to deal with my stress by controlling everything I can!  My main concern for this trip was our food.  I really don't feel well when I eat restaurant food and you can never be too sure if there will be any vegan options other than a side salad.  Bill added another issue to the food plan because, since he would be racing every day, we had to make sure he got enough calories and the right kind of foods to keep him going.  Thank goodness Kayleigh has no issues when it comes to food - two troublemakers are more than enough for any family!
Bill ate lots of bananas.

Because of this we chose to stay in a hotel that offers full kitchens.  Our particular suite had a 2-burner stove, microwave, full fridge/freezer and a dishwasher.  There was also a community grill available.  Although pots, pans, plates, silverware, etc. were provided, we brought along our own pasta pot because Bill eats A LOT of pasta when he is racing.  It took a little maneuvering but we finally figured out how to get it to work in the very tight kitchen.  We also brought along several other small appliances, some more useful than others.  In the future, we can reduce the list quite a bit and save tons of space in the car.

Rice cooker - very helpful, especially since there were only 2 burners.  That's a keeper.
Vitamix blender - another must have.  I used it every morning (probably to the horror of our neighbors) for my smoothies.
Food processor - didn't use
Waffle maker - didn't use.  Turns out the hotel had a free breakfast.  I had my smoothies for breakfast and Kayleigh can eat dairy so she just made waffles downstairs.  I actually didn't notice what Bill ate except for potatoes but he also ate downstairs.
Stick blender - Actually didn't use.  If I wanted to be more considerate and not so noisy, I could have used this instead of the Vitamix, but for whatever reason, I didn't.
Popcorn popper - Leave at home!  Bill just got a new popper and the whole trip up there and back I was scared we were going to break it.  It seemed to always be balanced so that it could easily fall out of the truck when we opened the back hatch.  Somehow it didn't break but Bill only used it once.  He admitted he really only used it because it was there.  We thought he would snack more but he didn't.
Large skillet - We ended up not using it because it didn't really fit on the stove.

So I guess next time we bring just the rice cooker, Vitamix, and pasta pot.  That will help so much when packing the car!  I can't really think of anything that we regretted not bringing.

I tried really hard not to bring too much food with us.  We arrived late Thursday so I figured we needed stuff for breakfast and lunch the next day but then we could get to a grocery store after the first race (they were mostly at around 1 PM).  We also brought a few things  that I wasn't sure if we could get such as non-dairy milk, tofu, tempeh, etc.  Plus we had our favorite energy bars and supplies for PB&Js, but we take that stuff even when we are only going to be gone for a few hours!
Bread, smoothie (vegan!), cookies (non-vegan), kale, beets with beautiful greens,
 asparagus, broccoli, and parsley.

I had researched local farmer's markets. Saturday morning there was one in the town where our hotel was (Oconomowoc).  It was fantastic!  There was so much great produce that we barely needed anything from the grocery store.  We had to get a little creative when cooking though.  I never realized how much we put in the oven.  Luckily we brought foil so we made little packets of the vegetables.

The only seasonings we had were salt, pepper, and lemon juice but it all turned out pretty good.  During the trip Kayleigh discovered a love of grilled potatoes.  Unfortunately we don't have a grill at home but she ate plenty during the trip.  I also made a few sautees.  One was just beet greens, my favorite, but without my hot sauce, it wasn't the same.

Later in the week, I needed to use up the last of the produce so I sauteed tempeh, kale, and broccoli with some stir fry sauce we bought at the grocery store.

We ate out more than we wanted but tried to keep it healthy.  On Saturday we stuck around at the race site longer than expected so we stopped at a vegetarian restaurant.  It is called Cafe Manna and I've never been anywhere like it.  We have vegetarian restaurants in Chicago (not many but some) but they mostly serve diner type food, just vegan.  This was actual food.  I had a curry with eggplant, zucchini, and squash served with quinoa and rice.

Bill and Kayleigh both got pretzel-coated tempeh with mashed potatoes and green beans.

The fork wasn't as long as it looks!

It was like the food I make at home!  Kayleigh really liked hers.  Bill was always hungry so everything tasted good to him!  We also ate at PF Changs one day which was delicious as well.

We always took a packed lunch with us but a few times Kayleigh and I found restaurants to eat at or at least to add to our packed lunches.  My favorite surprise was a bagel shop in the middle of the race course in Beloit.  It had a vegan brownie.  Brownies are my weakness.  That thing was unbelievable and I made it last several days!

 At another race, they had food trucks.  As we walked past I saw one called Urban Caveman and I said to Kayleigh "doubt I can get anything there".

Turns out, that was the only one with a vegan option!  It was riced cauliflower with mushrooms and greens and some kind of sauce.  It was so good I ate half of it before I could even get back to the car and take a picture!

At the Downers Avenue race in Milwaukee, Kayleigh and I found a restaurant on the race route that was so good for lunch that we took Bill back there for dinner.

View of the race from our table.

We ended up with the same waiter so that was pretty funny.  They had vegan pizza as an option which I decided to wait until dinner for only to discover they ran out of vegan cheese.  Dang!  I still got a vegan pizza with lots of veggies and no cheese.  I don't like vegan cheese much but I was still really excited about having that option in a restaurant.
My lunch was a wrap with tons of mushrooms and olives.

Overall I think we did really good.  We balanced trying new places while we were out with regular home cooked meals.  Bill kept his energy up through all 10 races and I didn't have any stomach issues.  I wasn't sure if we could pull it off for so many days but it ended up not being too bad.  The only thing I would change (besides not bringing so many appliances) is to bring some basic spices along with hot sauce and maybe soy sauce.  But in the end, it worked pretty well.

Other pics:

Is that Bill eating tofu?  Yep!  Like I said, he was really hungry!

Kayleigh's favorite grilled potato.  By the way, I took these pictures half way through dinner.  They started with more food than that.

Bill eating another banana.

Our typical sack lunch (besides peanut butter and jelly).  Cherries, rice and avocado, salads from the grocery store and, of course, more bananas.

Here is what Kayleigh picks when I let her go down alone for breakfast - donuts and fruit loops.  Really?!

Yes, we are those crazy people down the hall from you at the hotel cooking sauerkraut!

Links if you find yourself in Wisconsin:
Cafe Manna:
Beloit Bagel Shop with the vegan brownie:
Juice bar with smoothies, juice, vegan chocolate pudding:
Oconomowoc farmer's market:
PF Changs, Wauwatosa:
Urban Caveman:
Fond du Lac restaurant with vegan option:
Staybridge Suites (hotel):
Pick N Save (grocery store):