Healthy Cooking on the Road

'Red lentils' photo (c) 2011, Theresa Carpenter - license: you ever had to cook when traveling? Maybe you were on a special diet, or simply wanted to save money by avoiding tourist traps.

When I recently attended a conference in Europe, I couldn’t eat much of the food because I keep kosher. Luckily I traveled with my friend Devorah, who has experience cooking in hotel rooms. In advance of our trip, she offered to organize things for the two of us while I was entertaining out-of-town company.  At past conferences Devorah has used a very small electric burner with a compact set of camping pans, enabling her to fry and boil small quantities and enabling a variety of cooking while traveling. However, she was concerned about setting off fire alarms. So this time she asked the conference organizer if she could find us a microwave. Devorah and I really appreciated the effort, as it enabled us to have hot food at least once a day.

For the soup, Devorah brought little bags from home containing red lentils, bulgur and a variety of spices.She chose bulgur and red lentils, because they are healthy foods that require little cooking time. She also brought a one-liter (one-quart) microwave-safe cooking pot, complete with cover, that fit easily into her suitcase. This was the most important item! At home I use heavier glass or ceramic utensils that can break during travel. We had a paring knife and some plastic utensils.

We purchased fresh vegetables at the local grocery store and set out to make our soup. When I complimented Devorah on her resourcefulness she said that I was the one who had suggested the microwave for cooking, and she had been experimenting at home.

When we prepared the soup, I was a little concerned that the onions would stay crunchy. But the soup was completely cooked, and delicious, after only 20 minutes.

When we made it a second time we used more bulgur, which absorbed most of the liquid. It came out more like a risotto.

Recipe: Easy Microwave Soup with Bulgur and Red Lentils

Summary: Simple vegetarian soup that cooks up quickly on the stove or in the microwave. Great for traveling.


  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped zucchini
  • 1/2 cup broccoli, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons coarse bulgur
  • 2 tablespoons red lentils
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Place all ingredients in 1-quart (1 liter) microwave-safe bowl. Add cold water to cover, leaving a couple of inches at the top to prevent the soup from boiling boil over. Cover with the cover that came with the bowl, or use a glass or ceramic plate.
  2. Microwave on High for 20 minutes, or until all ingredients are cooked through. To cook on the stove in a metal pot, heat to boiling, lower the flame and simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Quick notes

The soup may boil over in the microwave, so place a paper or plastic plate underneath and be prepared with something to wipe the tray.

Preparation time:

Cooking time:

Diet type: Vegan

Dietary restriction: Kosher

Number of servings (yield): 2-3

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