B-Y-O Airplane Food

I have to admit, I always used to enviously read Heidi’s posts about the food she would make and bring on long airplane trips and think, “really, how the heck does anyone have that kind of time before a big trip? She must really have it together…”

My mom is going to read this post in disbelief because I promise you this kind of prepared-ness is so not me. Running for flights and just barely making them… is me. But in recent years, I’ve gotten a little bit better just because it’s no fun traveling for 20 or so hours and being stuck eating crappy airplane/airport food. We’ll probably be eating Ben & Jerry’s during our layover on the way home (no judgement), but I like to at least start a trip on a healthier note.

This time there was the usual: apples because those long flights are so dehydrating, trail mix from the Whole Foods trail mix bar, and yogurt pretzels (ok not so healthy, but they’re Jack’s favorite). I also managed to pack up some leftover chickpea & quinoa salad that we ate for dinner the night before. It’s not so much a recipe, but a “everything I had to use up before we left” kind of meal… with aubergines, courgettes (we’re speaking british now), and some chopped poblanos…

I wasn’t organized enough to write this down (I was busy trying to finish up packing) but this ended up really tasty. Improvise as you wish and taste as you go:

2 eggplants (aubergines), chopped into 1/2 inch pieces, salt them a little
2 zucchinis (courgettes), chopped
a cup or so of cooked and drained chickpeas
spices: paprika, cumin, minced garlic, some minced onion
1 can of chopped tomatoes with the juice (not drained)
pinch of sugar
1 cup or so of chopped scallions
1 pre-roasted poblano, chopped (or a green pepper)
chopped kale or spinach (1/2 bunch, or a few big handfuls)
1 cup cooked quinoa
handful of chopped basil leaves
salt & pepper

Heat oil in a large skillet, add eggplant, zucchini, and chickpeas, salt & pepper, and cook until you get a nice sear, especially on the eggplants. I think 5-7 minutes or so (maybe a bit longer, but not so long that they get soggy.

Mix the spices together and add to the pan. Toss everything around, cooking until they’re aromatic (not too long so they don’t burn), then add tomatoes and a pinch of sugar. Add some more salt and pepper. Reduce heat. Toss in the kale and let everything simmer, uncovered for about 10-15 minutes (again, I’m going from memory here so cook it until you think it’s done).Taste and adjust seasonings. (I think I added some lemon zest and a squeeze of lemon, like I’m known to do).

Remove from heat, stir in quinoa, scallions & basil. This served 2 of us that night and 2 of us the next day on the airplane. (I ate this with some chopped avocado for dinner, but avocado would not last well as a leftover/airplane meal).


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  1. Laura from thespicedlife.com

    I’ve never been this organized on a plane trip either! But I am rather anal about doing it for car trips. We end up eating so much fast food otherwise. Ugh.

  2. Us Brits can’t take any food onto the plane, they’re so strict! Sounds delicious though.

  3. Mom

    Yes, Jeanine, I am amazed. Or as Dad would say “who are you and what have you done with our daughter?”

  4. That looks great! Honestly I never even really thought about bringing proper meals on to the plane, and always sort of assumed there were restrictions to doing so.

    • jeanine

      there are restrictions for liquids not food… so I’m sure soup wouldn’t fly (sorry, bad pun), but I’ve not gotten stopped for food. Technically you’re not supposed to bring produce into other countries, but they don’t care about that until you’re going through customs on the other side.

  5. To tell you the truth, when I read your post title, I thought the same thing we’ve both thought about Heidi: how the heck?! I’m always scrambling to pack enough underwear at the last minute and unplug the toaster, let alone pack snacks. That said, I could pack this stuff up. I always forget that somewhat liquid-y things (salad, apples) are allowed through security!

    • Christina from delacasa.wordpress.com

      Haha me too regarding reading the title. Heidi sure has herself a reputation eh. I too fear what will get through security – what if I forget to eat the apple and face a $500 charge! After one meal on the plane though, I always swear to do it next time.

  6. I’m a fan of apples on planes too. But I usually sputter out after that level of preparedness. I went through a phase of eating Nacho Cheese Combos as my “special airport treat” (Ew!) but now I’ve moved on. Mostly. I need more preparedness in my life, apparently! 🙂

  7. Heather from flourishingfoodie.com

    Sounds like a great start to a perfect holiday. Have fun!

  8. Jennifer from blog.jchongstudio.com

    Definitely need to do some airplane food planning for my japan trip!

  9. Phi from princesstofu.com

    I nearly starve to death when I am flying. As a vegetarian the foods on airplanes tend to de-nourish my body no matter how much I eat. It’s a terrible sacrifice for travelling… though, you and Heidi seem to have it more together than I.

  10. Kathryn from londonbakes.com

    Hurrah for courgettes 😉 Have a great flight, it makes such a difference I find if you bring your own food and, you’re right, it gets the holiday (more English!) off to the best possible start.

  11. Yummy. Looks kid friendly too. I’ll have to remember this the next time we travel! By the way, I meant to thank you for your Austin city guide. My family and I were recently in Austin and visited many of the places and restaurants you suggested. Hope Farmers Market and Hillside Farmacy were our favorites! What a fun place to call home!

  12. I’m the exact same way, I do try to bring trail mix and apples too but I end up barely making the flight every time and usually give in to the salty airplane meal when they wave it in front of my face. I’m going to try this for the next trip though, thanks!

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.