Travelin’ Food, Then and Now

By Ellen Buikema

Travel cookies, from

When I was very young, my parents gathered snacks for us to bring on trips—travelin’ food for the family.

These treats often consisted of sweet things to keep my brothers and me quiet in the backseat while my father drove along country roads and highways. My mother was tasked with navigating using a map or paper TripTik from the American Automobile Association—or as we called it—triple A.

On the Road

Adventure driving, without maps, frequently left us lost, which annoyed my mother to no end. She took to stashing maps of Illinois and Wisconsin in the car’s glove compartment, just in case. We three kids, sitting in the backseat of the rusty, green Chevy with a small hole in the floor, didn’t pay much attention to the road while eating our way into sugar comas.

I sat between my brothers to act as a human seatbelt, throwing my arms across them if Dad stepped on the break too quickly. Also, I served as a buffer between the two boys in case they decided to swat each other as we traveled. Being the eldest was not fun.

Shopping Solo

Eventually, deemed old enough to walk to the candy shop on Lake Street in Oak Park, Illinois, by myself, I freed my mother of at least one chore. Told that I had great taste in candy and chose a nice variety, I headed to the candy shop to purchase five pounds of mixed candies for the next trip.

Opening the old wooden door of the shop, I stepped into a wonderland filled with giant barrels of candies—a sensory delight to the eyes and nose.


Sometimes mom sent me sugar shopping too early. The candy would disappear, and I’d be sent back to buy more. I’m surprised we didn’t have more cavities.

I still bring travelin’ food with us on research trips for writing, recreational daytrips, and sometimes sad trips like a recent one for my brother-in-law’s out-of-state funeral.

Now that I’m in charge of my own health, travelin’ food has changed dramatically, because too much sugar made me antsy, cranky, and hungrier. So, after researching various cookbooks and websites, I found a recipe that would satisfy hunger and keep the taste buds happy. Travel Cookies.

The basic recipe requires three ingredients: almond butter, oats, and bananas. As I can never leave well enough alone, I’ve added a few more. These cookies have been a godsend and freeze well.

Travelin’ Cookies


  • Three large, very ripe bananas, mashed (ripe for sweeter cookies)
  • almond or other nut butter, ½ cup
  • rolled oats, 2 cups (quick or regular, not instant)

Optional additions:

  • chocolate chips, ½ cup
  • crispy cereal, ½ cup
  • raisins or dried cranberries, ½ cup
  • vanilla extract,1 teaspoon
  • Monk fruit sweetener,1 tablespoon
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • A hint of sea salt (I use a pinch of Pink Himalayan salt)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit / 176 degrees Celsius

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease the pan.

In a mixing bowl add mashed bananas, nut butter, and rolled oats. I also add chocolate chips, real vanilla extract, a beaten egg, Monk fruit sweetener, and a bit of pink salt – for extra minerals.

Drop a glop of cookie dough onto the cookie sheet. The cookie will not spread, so make whatever size you want. Two-inch rounds work for me.

Bake for ten minutes or until the tops of the cookies are golden brown. Some of mine were a tad darker, but that still works. Larger cookies will take longer to bake, so you’ll need to experiment a bit with time.

Let the cookies cool for at least ten minutes before removing them from the baking sheet or parchment paper. I typically slide the parchment paper off the sheet right away, but that’s me.

This recipe made 18 cookies. The number of cookies will vary depending upon the size of the drop full of dough and the amount of goodies added.


If you freeze the cookies on a thin cutting board overnight, and then double bag them in freezer bags, they won’t stick to each other.

About Ellen

Author, speaker, and former teacher, Ellen L. Buikema has written non-fiction for parents and a series of chapter books for children with stories encouraging the development of empathy—sprinkling humor wherever possible. Her Works In Progress are The Hobo Code, YA historical fiction and Crystal Memories, YA paranormal fantasy.

Find her at,, and on Amazon.

Bookmark the permalink.


  1. We had those same snacks! I vividly remember a whole bag of M&Ms scattering all over the floor of our van…

    I love the recipe for your cookies! I might give them a try on our next long trip in the car. Thank you!

    • I’m amazed at the amount of candy we ate back then. 🤣

      Let me know if you end up altering the recipe! I’m thinking about changing out the oats for almond flour.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *