Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Glamping and some picnic-y food

Can I fess up? I am *longing* for school to start. 

Don't get me wrong, I like having my son around me, but all the time, is a bit much. I was growing tired of coming up with stories and games to keep him amused all day long. To top it all, at Little S's annual Dr. office visit, he failed his vision test and now has glasses. It fair broke my heart.
I am an extremist, the last time little S got hooked to the laptop, I stuffed it away in the closet and the story ended there. Or so I thought... sigh! As he grew,  he started watching TV shows on PBS, Disney etc. With temperatures rising in the afternoon, I allowed it too. It was a mistake and since my birthday in July ( the day he had his physical at the pediatrician's) TV time is rationed out in minutes. Little S, bless him, has accepted this major change without grumbling and has behaved like a true sportsman! 
By evening, these days, I am exhausted and long for a break. 

A break is exactly, what I needed and M set me  to task to find a place where I could relax and feel happy.

My vacation requirement this year was simple. No 'touristy thing'. I wanted to go someplace where it was quiet, close to nature, no crowds, where I could hear birds chirp.

I have been meaning to go camping for a long time now. This is a childhood fantasy that just refuses to fade. I would read Enid Blyton books where children were allowed to go alone on holidays and camping and caravan-ing and put up tents and have adventures.
Two decades and a bit more later all I want is to go 'glamping' (and that is a word, glamping = glamorous camping) I want to be close to nature with all the modern day facilities. 
Sounds unreasonable? Let me assure you, it isn't. 
Imagine a 'sturdy tent' with a bed and air-conditioning = comfortable sleep, a dining table, a stove and microwave and fridge, that part will take care of food and eating. Now that would be perfect, wouldn't it ( and not just out of a Harry Potter novel)?

Let me give you that perfect then! 
In my quest for a good holiday spot, I scanned many state parks nearby camping grounds. I found just what I needed.
Take a peek at some pictures I have for you.

The 'sturdy tent'.  A Yurt.

We booked a Yurt which was 'fully loaded'. It had a bed, a futon chairs, tv + dvd player, a small and fully functional kitchen and to top it all, a washer and dryer.
Not just that, a  large deck with gorgeous, gorgeous mountain views and a hot-tub, yes, a hot -tub.

In and around us
And believe your eyes, it is a hot-tub!

Inside the Yurt

The weather was perfect! The temperatures were between 70-80 all day and dropping a bit more in the evening. Goodbye summer heat! It seemed nature was conspiring to give us a happy holiday.
Early morning the mists would roll in and  we would enjoy our morning cuppa watching the pale sun rays shine thru the clouds.

Waking up to this gorgeous view
The deer kept us company, quite undisturbed by a camera toting human clicking away. 
Visitors on the lawns

We now come to the food part, which is inevitable, seeing that this is a food blog!
Where food is concerned, I  have very fond memories of picnic-lunches taken for a school or family outing in the summer holidays. 
The food was typical, something that would last a few days on the road. 

Typical picnic food means, to me, deep fried goodies like spicy pooris ( tikhat mithacha purya), thepla, sheera and the likes.

Spicy pooris are a treat. They require no side dish or accompaniment. Just pick one and chomp it up.
As they are deep fried, they keep well even without refrigeration.

I do not have a specific recipe or precise measurements, but it is a very forgiving recipe and works out every time.

You need:
1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour ( Atta)
1 tsp Rava/ Sooji
1 tsp smoking hot Oil ( mohan)
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp. Red Chile Powder
1/2 tsp each Cumin and Coriander powder
1 tsp. crumbled Jaggery or Brown sugar ( optional)
Salt to taste
Water to bind the dough
Oil to deep fry

In a mixing bowl , add in the flour and all the spices ( except the hot oil and water) and mix to incorporate the spices well.
Add the hot oil and mix.
Carefully add water and knead. The dough should not be very soft ( like he dough made for Fulkas) but on the stiff side.
Cover and let it rest for 10-15 mins. 
Set oil ( for deep frying) on medium-high
Pinch off a small portion of the dough (key-lime sized) and roll a small disc.
Once the oil is hot ( but not smoking), gently slide a poori in t and deep fry till golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels before stacking and packing.

I place 6 poories on a tissue and wrap the bundle in foil. These can be enjoyed at room temperature  or kept in the fridge and microwaved  just before eating. 

*adding jaggery or brown sugar is optional, but I like how it balances the spice. Leave it out, if you do not like it.

I carried these Lauki (bottle Gourd) Theplas too. I used my Dhebra recipe, replacing grated bottle gourd / lauki/ doodhi instead of methi and used only whole wheat flour (atta).
these stayed well for a week and all I had to do was microwave a thepla for 20-25 secnds and enjoy it.

To make things easier for me, when traveling, my dear friend, Sonali made me a big batch of Handwo. I warmed a piece every morning and munched on it with my hot cup of tea. Bless her!

Sujata made me some 'paratlele batate' which were super tasty. I paired them with  some plain poories I had made for Little S.  She also slipped in a pack of goldfish and jelly packs for him. Bless her too!

It is extraordinary how hungry we feel when on a holiday!
On road trips I carry  munchies like Goldfish, Vanilla wafers, chips for my son, I give him some when he wants to much something after he has  tasted and sampled everything we carry for all of us.

For us, I like carrying green Chutney, and in the cooler I carry whole cucumber, tomato and boiled potato. In addition, I also slice a small cucumber, tomato and potato and keep them in separate ziploc bags so I can make sandwiches on the way.

I also like to pack sheera / sooji ka halwa - I do not use milk when making sheera in this case.
Sheera made with water stays in the fridge longer.
For a change, when I warm the sheera, I also add chopped banana pieces  and enjoy it for dessert.

I carry a lot of water and refill when I get the chance. I dislike carrying juice or even worse soda, I never do.
I like carrying bananas and oranges as these fruit do not need washing.

As always, whether on holiday or at home, we crave comfort food, this literally translates in to khichadi. I like to make packets of 'khichadi-mix' where I wash and dry the rice and moong-daal ( yellow split lentils). I make a ghee tempering (ghee, mustard and cumin seeds, asafetida, green chiles and curry leaves) and roast the rice and daal in the tadka until every grain is coated. Cool the mix completely  and pack in 1 Cup measure in ziplocs.

On a road trip, I carry my small electric rice cooker. To cook the khichadi, I tip the contents of a ziploc into the rice-cooker, add 2.5 cups of water, add salt to taste and cook it.
Store any unused khichadi packets in the fridge.

I also make Upma packets in the same way.
Make a oil+ghee tempering ( oil, ghee- in that order so ghee does not burn, chana and urad daal, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, asafetida, green / dry red chile and curry leaves) - add rava and roast until it is golden brown. cool and scoop into ziploc bags.
To make upma, tip the contents into the rice cooker, add 2 cups of water to 1 cup upma mix, salt and sugar to taste. I also like  to add some grated ginger ( I carry fresh ginger in my cooler, for my morning cup of tea) and set it to cook.
Once the upma is ready, I squeeze lemon juice ( fresh or some of the bottled lemon juice from the lemon shaped bottles available in all grocery stores), serve hot.
While this is not as good as the original upma ( which uses buttermilk), it makes a good and filling breakfast.

The Rice cooker is very handy on our road trips. It is used to cook food ( upma, khichadi, maggi etc.) and also doubles up as a saucepan for making tea. I need my morning cup of tea and become grumpy as a bear with a sore head if I do not get my elixir. In cases where a stove is not available ( like 'real camping' in tents etc.) or in hotel rooms without a kitchen, it comes in handy.

Do you have any specific items you carry when on a road trip? How do you plan when setting out?
Please share your ideas and leave a comment below.

Have a wonderful rest-of-the-week. 
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  1. I did not know such a word as glamping exsisted! Here is India we have several of these places rural exteriors with luxury inside. Most of the time these are very expensive places. Your pics are lovely. You sure had a relaxed time. As for me I hate to cook when I am on a holiday. Oh yes and the camping has been a dream but I remember may be only a couple of times I actually did it. Also your post reminds me of old days when my family did a pilgrimage, we'd stay in dharmashalas and would carry everything from a stove and vessels and supplies and cook wherever we stayed. It was fun then because I was a kid and I did not have the responsibility of cooking.

    1. Anjali, I know what you mena about those old historical type places that are now converted into 5star hotels / resorts.

      I did not ant to be cooking all the time on this holiday and so had packed stuff ready. It was fun and moreover so relaxing in the midst of natural beauty!

  2. You are hilarious! Even so, I completely agree that the Harry Potter way of camping is the way to go! I LOVE the ideas of your homemade packets! They are both awesome ideas - I bet they would come in handy even for busy workdays!

    1. Thank you, Alpa. Tose home made packets of food do come in handy. I started making them when my husband was traveling and many a times craved home made comfort food.

  3. wow enjoyed u r fantastic ideas.nice place.

  4. Welcome back home! :-) this glam-camp looks beautiful! So serene and peaceful...just perfect for a relaxing break. I don't have many tips to share but yours will come handy when we will be travelling with in-laws as they would prefer a khichadi to any restaurant's risotto or homemade theplas-pickle instead of some tacos. I would happily eat outside on a break and don't miss homemade food one bit, I donno, maybe I am weird that way.

    When the two of us go for camping we carry a coolcage/igloo with some homemade and some store-bought goodies and if I miss carrying a big jar of homemade chiwda my hubby reminds me of it throughout the trip no matter how many memorable meals we have at restaurants. :P so that is a must have for our happy journey.

    We carried a really small electric sandwich maker/very compact panini maker on our last road trip to warm up the theplas or frozen parathas, toast some bread for sandwiches or have some grilled brownie with a scoop of icecream :P

    - Priti

  5. Loved reading your story. Thanks for sharing. The "instant" packets idea is so convenient. God bless. May you have many more such vacations with your family. We did travel a lot when the kids were young and they do recall events now and then.

  6. Awesome Pallavi! As you know I love camping & we do it every summer . I pack lot of home made snacks like phoha, murukulu, popcorn,chocolate muffins,namak pare, marshmallows to make smores & fruits like apples & grapes.

  7. Nice! that place is so enticing.. wish I could indulge in that luxury now :)... need to find such a place in the west here. I too am a rice cooker aficionado, can't do without it for our trips.. yes, it is my much-needed chai bartan and I too take rice, home made upma and semiya upma mixes, I take puliodarai mix, and a box of tadka. I also take pasta packs. We also buy frozen veggies from the vacation place and add to these items. I also carry a pocket knife, tomatoes and chutneies for the sandwiches.Loved reading about your adventures..must have felt so rejuvenated.


  8. The place is beautiful. thanks for sharing some wonderful pictures. I went camping and it was nothing like this..Home made is perfect for any vacation, feels comfortable away from home. Hey, kids are fun but their going to school is bittersweet.

  9. Hugs Manasi, i can totally understand...
    I too like the time that i get when Zini goes to school..
    Glamping sure seems fun!! And puri and thepla are my travel food too!! I have made upma mix, but khichdi mix is such an amazing idea!! I should try that..Thanks...

  10. I'm with you on the glamping- I'm a big fan of indoor plumbing :)

    Lovely pics and I am glad you got a break. Entertaining a child 24/7 is no joke.


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