5 Vegan Meals to make on a Budget Family Vacation
I recently returned from a trip to Cabo San Lucas with my family, and y'all-- it was amazing.
Before you judge me, know this: the whole trip ended up costing me very little money. I'm fresh out of grad school with a ton of student loan debt, and the last thing I could afford was a week-long trip to a beautiful beach town. However, my mom and step-dad made the decision earlier this year to purchase a condo in Cabo as a surprise for the family. They missed seeing us over the years, and wanted all the "kids" to be able to afford to spend time with them in a beautiful place at least once a year.
We never did this (because we couldn't afford it) growing up. So there were a lot of emotions when we all found out.
I flew Spirit, brought only a small backpack with two pairs of underwear and a bathing suit, and made it to Cabo for a round-trip total of $250.
We'll talk more about budgets later ;)
I was tasked with finding good meals with local ingredients that could get thrown together in a flash, and satisfy a family of 5 for the week.
After making a meal plan and grocery list, we found out about a few setbacks:
The kitchen had no oven, the only local grocery store was a WalMart, and customs wouldn't allow me to bring more than just a few spices across the border.
Despite these setbacks, overall the best part about eating this way was that it brought us all closer together, made the meal preparations a fun experience full of conversation and laughter, and took a lot of the pressure out of spending tons of money on food to have a good time. We felt like a big family for every meal, which is so hard to come by in life these days.
Without further sappy sentiments, here are the 5 main meals I cooked during the trip. I tried to find the recipes listed on the internet without plagiarizing. Some of them may change later on. If you want the recipe, feel free to purchase the cookbooks on Amazon!
1) Thug Kitchen's Party Grub Nachos
Buy their hilarious cookbook (if you haven't already) here.
The recipe for the Queso-ish Dip is here
For the rest, just add all of the ingredients together. You really don't need a formal recipe for these nachos-- but below are the ingredients you need for their version! It tasted awesome.
Fresh guacamole however you like it! (We added: avocados, cumin, lime, salt/pepper, jalapeno, onion, garlic, tomato)
This recipe was BY FAR the landslide favorite. It includes the staples of local Mexican ingredients such as tomatoes, avocados, purple cabbage, cilantro, black beans and more, and is super filling. That being said, the star of the show for this dish was the butternut squash queso dip that we liberally allowed to ooze all over the massive pile of vegetables and tortilla chips-- one word: orgasmic.
Pros: easy to throw together for a big group, filling, and colorful.
Cons: we had to jerry-rig the butternut squash purée portion of the recipe. Number one issue: we had no steamer, so I used a strainer basket over a pot of boiling water with the lid halfway cocked open for about 15 minutes until the squash was soft. Issue two: no high speed blender! I mashed the ingredients together with a fork instead, which ate up some time.
Overall though, amazing. Plus, we used the leftover queso and toppings for breakfast burritos the next day! YASSS!
2) This Rawsome Vegan Life's Rainbow Wraps
Link to extremely similar recipe on her website here.
For the original recipe, be sure to check out her book here on Amazon!
The Rainbow wraps recipe listed in the link above is slightly different from the one I made on the trip. I used shredded red beets instead of yellow beets, and raw nori wraps instead of spinach wraps. The result was amazing, and the coolest part is that instead of using rice (as you would with traditional sushi) you use guacamole!
I knew that a few of the days we spent in Cabo would entail day-trips to other beach locations. One of our favorite spots was Playa Santa Maria for the amazing snorkeling and free palapas open for public use. I woke up early that morning and prepped these bad boys for a day at the beach, and we snacked on them the whole car ride over!
Next time I would definitely use a cooler and try to find either a mandolin or some sort of box grater to chop up the veggies, but our kitchen supplied a sharp enough knife to get the job done.
Pros: raw meal requiring minimal prep, and no utensils required for eating!
Cons: got soggy after a few hours in the blistering heat of Mexico.
3) Rawsome Vegan Life's Fully Loaded Yams
Recipe found on a fan's book review website here.
Buy her awesome cookbook here
Think baked potatoes, but dress them up in Mexican trimmings and add some beta-carotene. Voila!
Without the oven, this recipe (which was supposed to be super easy) ended up being stupidly frustrating. I found sweet potatoes at a local corner store (they are actually really hard to find in Cabo in October-- not in season) and covered each one in a moist paper towel.
Then... I microwaved them.
I love to cook and prepare fresh, amazing meals for consumption, and it breaks my heart every time I am forced to use the microwave as a main source of energy in heating or preparing a meal. Something about it just seems like cheating to me.
But whatever. The potatoes got cooked, and everyone dug in pretty quickly since the toppings and sauce required no cooking at all.
Pros: filling, easy to make, nutritious
Cons: make sure you have an oven ;)
4) Thug Kitchen's TLTA Sammies
For a link to a Google Book Preview of the recipe, click here.
For the full recipe in their cookbook, get it on Amazon here.
Think about bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches. Good stuff, right?
THEN, think about a marinade that is sweet, spicy, smoky, and savory. Put that marinade on a portobello mushroom for a few hours, then simmer it on a hot skillet, and apply liberally to a sourdough bread sandwich garnished with Dijon mustard, fresh tomato, avocado, and red onion.
You won't miss the bacon, I promise.
Pros: filling for lunch, equally filling for dinner
Cons: subbed mushrooms for the tempeh, which was nowhere to be found in Cabo.
5) Chloe Coscarelli's Tequila Tempeh Fettuccini
Again, a Google Preview of the book has the recipe here.
BUT, you should really get her book. It's awesome! Buy the cookbook on Amazon here.
Tequila in Mexico? No way ;)
Again, since tempeh was in short supply near the touristy region where the condo was located, I chose to substitute it for the meaty texture of the widely available portobello mushroom. We ate on these leftovers for a few days, and it tasted great reheated.
Cons: Mushrooms instead of tempeh
The best part about cooking is it's power to bring loved ones together.
We all shared meals together, ate at the same table, and felt like a big family for the first time in years.
Next time you're on vacation on a budget, consider staying somewhere with a full kitchen! You may be surprised at just how much of an impact it has on the overall feel of the trip. Less money = more time spent together doing things that money can't buy.