Packing Meals For a Pilot + Shredded Chicken Tamale Casserole Recipe
Last week I filmed and shared a little vlog on my YouTube channel that just followed a day in the life with Brynnley and I as Zeb was on a four-day trip. He’s a commercial pilot, so our lifestyle is unique in that he’s gone between 3-5 days a week. That means a whole lot of solo-parenting, and a lot of unique challenges to our family’s schedule. Which is something I thought I could share a little more about here as well!
Until I started dating Zeb, I actually had no idea that pilots spent many nights away from their home. I assumed they had a “route” that they flew back and forth and ended back at home each night. Nope! There’s nothing normal or regular about their schedule! They also do not have a designated “route.” Based on seniority, they can request certain criteria in their flight schedule but very rarely do they fly the same trip twice!
Zeb’s trips can start on any day of the week, including Saturday and Sunday. They can be 2 days, 3 days, or 4 days. Their layover and hotel can be in pretty much any city with a major airport. Sometimes he’s in Burbank, Salt Lake City, and Houston, and other times he’s in Nashville for three nights in a row! Some trips he flies from 5am-noon every day and other trips he’s hanging out in a hotel until 4pm and flying until midnight. It’s ALWAYS different.
One of the interesting aspects that many people don’t think about when it comes to a pilot (or flight attendant) schedule is packing meals and snacks for their trips that can be up to four days long. Most of the airplanes my husband flies actually don’t have microwaves to heat up his meals! He takes a rolling luggage bag and a large cooler bag on each trip. Many days he starts his trip as early as 5am and it might be 12 hours until he can transfer his food into a hotel mini fridge for the evening. So logistically, there are some restrictions to what kinds of food he can take along with him to avoid eating out for all four days. Eating airport and restaurant food is not the healthiest option but it also adds up to so much extra money spent on food!
I don’t mind meal prepping for him so that he has nutritious food to eat on his trip, but it’s taken a while to figure out what types of foods keep well for multiple days in a cooler bag and are something he will actually EAT and not bring back home to dump down the garbage disposal.
This post is only going to contain one recipe that was a hit for his last four-day trip, and I’ll continue to share more as I make them each week! I’ll have to start a new little page on this blog specifically for pilot meals, packing tips, and more about this bizarre lifestyle.
First thing to consider when picking a recipe to meal prep for his trip is that it has to taste good both hot and cold, in case he needs to eat it as lunch or dinner on the airplane and doesn’t have a way to heat it up.
On his most recent trip, I made a shredded chicken tamale casserole that was a hit!
Shredded Chicken Tamale Casserole
- 1 casserole dish , greased
- 1 box cornbread mix (plus ingredients on packaging)
- 4.5 oz diced green chiles
- 2 cups cooked shredded chicken
- 1 cup Monterey Jack cheese
- 1 cup Mexican blend cheese
- 1 cup creamed corn
- 15 oz black beans
- 10 oz green enchilada sauce
- 1 Tbs garlic powder
- 1 Tbs cumin
- salt & pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease a 9×9 casserole dish.
- In a medium bowl, stir together the cornbread mix and the ingredients listed on its packaging. Add diced green chiles, set aside.
- In a separate large bowl, combine the shredded chicken and spices. Add black beans, creamed corn, 1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, 1/2 cup Mexican blend cheese, and green enchilada sauce.
- Pour the chicken mixture into the greased casserole dish and spread evenly.
- Pour the cornbread batter evenly over the top of the chicken mixture.
- Bake for 25 minutes. Then add the remaining Monterey Jack and Mexican blend cheeses.
- Continue baking for another 15 minutes until the cheese begins to brown.
- Allow to cool and enjoy! Optional toppings: sour cream, cilanto, salsa, and avocado.
I divided up some big portions into three containers for Zeb to pack along with some Spanish rice, just in case he was extra hungry!
I had one container left at home for myself and can attest that it was yummy hot AND cold, if necessary!
Some snack staples that Zeb also usually packs along are beef jerky, almonds, and a few of my homemade “Cat balls” (peanut butter energy balls). He has unlimited airplane snacks, including whatever is offered to first class, which have actually come a long way from pretzels! Now there are fun options like pistachios, chocolate covered almonds, and Sun Chips. He brings me home some extras sometimes and I never want to eat another Biscoff cookie in my life haha.
Any other fellow spouses of an aviation crew member? Share your favorite meals to pack with me!