Vacation cooking

Last week we were in Park City for Spring Break.  We rented a house with our friends and try to keep costs down a little by cooking in.  The tricky part about cooking in rental houses is you never know what kind of kitchen supplies/utensils you will have and you don’t want to buy a whole bunch of stuff that you will need to throw away.  (Samantha had a great vocabulary word in her homework – equipage.  It was in an article about tea and the increasing popularity of tea drinking in England pre-Revolutionary War.  The article described the interest in the silver service, china cups, etc. – the equipage of tea drinking.  The definition I found indicates that it is an archaic word meaning “the equipment for a particular purpose”.  Keith and I were joking that we would have to check the kitchen equipage before we planned our meals.  Fortunately, it was sufficient for our needs.)

I tried to keep it to meals with just a few ingredients – all of which will be familiar to my blog followers.  We ate in 4 nights as follows:

  • Boursin chicken, oven roasted potatoes and salad in a bag – the Boursin chicken is only 3 ingredients (bone-in chicken with Boursin cheese and a little olive oil), I bought the Little Potato company potatoes with the seasoning packet and a delicious salad in a bag with walnuts, craisins, cheddar cheese and apple dijon vinaigrette.  Simple to fix, simple to cleanup and minimum items to purchase at the store
  • Grilled rosemary and garlic shrimp with pine nut cous cous and grilled asparagus – I marinated the shrimp in rosemary, garlic and olive oil (I did breakdown and buy a small bottle of olive oil), everyone loved the cous cous and the grilled asparagus just needed a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper.  I did also buy a package of wooden skewers for the grilling but they were not very expensive.
  • Salmon dijon with instant risotto and steamed broccoli – I already had mayonnaise and Dijon mustard for lunches so just bought a small bottle of horseradish and some panic.  The risotto mix is excellent and broccoli is always delicious.
  • Grilled lamb chops with horseradish mashed potatoes and salad in a bag – we bought a small bottle of Worcestershire to marinate the lamb chops and Keith used some of the leftover horseradish in the mashed potatoes

Definitely saved some money by eating in and none of these required much in the way of equipage!






What I ate on summer vacation

We just got back from a beach vacation – sorry if you missed posts in my absence but I’m assuming that nobody went hungry!

We were lucky enough to spend a week in the Outer Banks of North Carolina with my family and then close our vacation with a weekend with friends in Virginia Beach.  As is typical for us, we ate well the whole time.  If you read my post about beach cooking, you already know that we have lots of good cooks.  Here is a rundown of what we ate:

Friday – whole beef tenderloin cooked by Graul’s and Mom’s outstanding potato gratin with Caesar salad

Saturday – my brother-in-law made two kinds of enchiladas (beef and chicken), his amazing guacamole, refried beans and Spanish rice

Sunday – my brother-in-law fixed Thai red curry chicken that was really delicious.  My husband loved the leftovers for lunch.

Monday – I made tuna salad Nicoise

Tuesday – we went out to dinner at The Sanderling.  With 11 people it is tough but everything was good and everybody enjoyed it.

Wednesday – we had pizza.

Thursday – I made crab salad rolls and we had sliced tomatoes with Green Goddess dressing

Friday – sushi in Virginia Beach

Saturday – I fixed Steak Florentine and rosemary garlic roasted potatoes for our friends

Sounds like a weight loss spa vacation doesn’t it?  Menu plan for this week and grocery list coming up.

Beach cooking

If you follow blog you know that I am fortunate to have lots of good cooks on both sides of the family.  Unlike some families where everyone fights about who is going to have to cook on vacation or for holidays, we have plenty of volunteers.  I am starting to get in a vacation frame of mind so thought I would suggest some options for a vacation week.  If you plan ahead you can bring any special equipment that you might need (we usually take a good knife, an apron, a cutting board, etc.) and it also helps to bring along spices or condiments that you want (it’s annoying to buy a new jar of a spice you already have at home so you have 1 tsp for a recipe.)  Here are some theme ideas for dinners on vacation with two alternatives for most – a version for those who don’t want to cook and a version for those who do!

Arrival night

The first night is tough.  You don’t know how traffic will be and if you are like us and don’t rent the same house every year, you aren’t sure what you will find.  Bringing dinner for the first night can help give everyone time to get acclimated.  Two ideas we have used successfully are store bought rotisserie chickens or whole cooked beef tenderloin.  If you bring a bagged salad, a loaf of French Bread and some wine, you are all set.  Everyone can relax and start planning the week ahead.

Crab night

One advantage of being near the ocean is ready access to fresh seafood.  Here are two alternatives with crabmeat:

Crab cake casserole

  • 1 lb jumbo lump crabmeat
  • 3/4 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/3 cup panko or bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 2 TB mayonnaise
  • 2 TB melted butter
  • 2 TB grated Parmesan cheese
In a 1 1/2 qt casserole dish, gently combine crabmeat with dry mustard and old bay.  Add egg, panko, mayonnaise and melted butter and stir to combine.  Top with Parmesan cheese and bake at 350 for 25 minutes.  Serve hot.  This makes 3 – 4 servings, increase for more people.

Crab Rolls

This is my Maryland version of the classic Maine lobster roll

  • 1/2 pound of crabmeat
  • 2 TB mayonnaise
  • 1 TB lemon juice
  • 1 stalk celery, minced
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 2 hot dog rolls
  • 1/2 tsp butter

Butter hot dog rolls and toast lightly in a toaster oven.  Combine all other ingredients gently and mound crab salad in hot dog rolls.

Either one of these would be good with sliced tomatoes from a local produce stand topped with Green Goddess dressing.  It’s easier to make the Green Goddess at home and bring it along:

Green Goddess Dressing

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup parsley
  • 1/4 cup chives
  • 2 TB scallion greens
  • 1 1/2 tsp anchovy paste (use this even if you think you don’t like anchovies)  🙂
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic
Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth.
Pasta night
Pasta is easy for a big group.  You can either top with store bought tomato or pesto sauce or make:

Shrimp Scampi

  • 3/4 lb of shrimp, peeled and deveined (this is for 2 people, increase quantities for more)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 TB butter
  • pasta of your choice
  • grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Cook pasta according to package directions.  In a heavy saucepan, combine olive oil and 1 tsp butter over medium heat.  Saute garlic about 1 minute.  Add shrimp and toss, cooking until shrimp have just turned pink.  Add white wine and lemon juice and increase heat to high.  Stir for about two minutes then turn off heat and stir in remaining tablespoon of butter.  Drain pasta and top with shrimp and sauce.

Grill night

Most rental places have a grill.  After confirming that yours is usable, you can either keep it simple with burgers and hot dogs or bring this wonderful shish kabob marinade from home:

Shish Kabob

  • 1 1/2 cups olive oil
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce (low sodium)
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 TB dry mustard
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a bowl or jar.  Marinate sirloin cubes, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and red onions (quartered).  Skewer and grill.  Serve over rice.
Tuna night
The tuna that we get in North Carolina is out of this world.  Simple grilled tuna steaks brushed with olive oil and salt and pepper don’t need much to go with them.  Grilled zucchini would be good and you can either serve plain or try:

Grilled Tuna “Tartare”

  • 1 tuna steak per person, brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper
  • 4 TB olive oil
  • zest of 1 lime
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 tsp wasabi powder
  • 4 dashes Tabasco sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 scallions minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (optional)
  • 2 avocados, chopped
Whisk together olive oil, lime zest, lime juice, wasabi powder, soy sauce.  Stir in scallions and jalapeno and stir into avocado.  Grill tuna until just seared on outside and serve with avocado topping.
Pizza Night
Almost everyone loves pizza and if you are running out of steam you can either cheat and order pizza or buy some individual sized Boboli pizza shells and a variety of toppings – traditional and non and let everyone assemble their own.  Here are a few ideas:
  • sauce (tomato, pesto or olive oil mixed with garlic)
  • cheese (Mozzarella, Parmesan, Goat, etc.)
  •  veggies (mushrooms, olives, artichoke hearts, broccoli, sundried tomatoes, arugula, etc.)
  • protein (pepperoni, shrimp, clams, grilled chicken, etc.)

Other ideas

If none of those appeal to your group, here are a few other ideas on blog that you might consider.  You can search to find any of the recipes:

  • Fajitas
  • Grilled Eastern Shore chicken
  • Tuna Salad Nicoise
  • Shrimp and Black Bean Quesadillas
  • Seafood Cobb salad

Whatever you have, try not to make the cooking a stressful thing – remember you are on vacation!  Enjoy!

Packing for vacation

We’re having a nice easy week – the hoisin pork and sauce make great leftovers and the peanut sesame noodles are a hit with the whole family (my daughter picks out the scallions but otherwise loves them.)  Work is busy so it is a help to have some things ready when I get home.

It’s vacation season and many people spend time at a rental house which means they can save money by cooking in. Rental houses are always interesting because you don’t know what they will have in the way of kitchen equipment (it’s hard to improvise a colander for draining pasta) and the availability of meat and seafood can be quite variable depending upon your location.  If you know you are headed to an ocean resort, you may have great access to fresh seafood and incorporating that into your plan can make for some wonderful and simple meals.  Other items to consider are the size of your group (fixing crabcakes for 10 people is not easy even if crabmeat is readily available for a reasonable price) and the food likes and dislikes of the individuals (if you have a vegetarian, bringing steaks to throw on the grill may not work out as well.)

Our friends came over Sunday night and one of the topics of conversation was packing food to take on vacation.  They are headed to a resort area where they have heard that groceries are pretty expensive.  They know that they want to enjoy vacation without spending a lot of time cooking.  We did some brainstorming about things to take that will give them some great shortcuts.  Here are a few ideas that when combined with fresh corn or tomatoes from a roadside vegetable stand will make for some delicious and quick dinners.  All recipes can be found on blog:

  • Chicken and pesto lasagna (cook ahead, refrigerate overnight and then cut and freeze)
  • Green goddess dressing (great on sliced tomatoes as a side dish)
  • Pork tenderloin with Hoisin sauce (take frozen tenderloins and the hoisin sauce in a jar)
  • Steaks for grilling
  • Chicken stuffed with pesto and sundried tomatoes or
  • Rotisserie chickens (serve for dinner and use any leftovers for chicken salad)
  • Sundried tomato chicken pasta salad
  • Sesame noodles
  • Crab cake casserole (easier to serve to a crowd than individual crab cakes)
  • Pesto sauce (for grilling shrimp)
When we go on vacation different family members take turns fixing meals.  My brother-in-law loves to cook and has been known to bring food items purchased from the Internet to create exotic dishes (seviche with Peruvian corn and frozen pork carnitas).  He enjoys spending time cooking on vacation and we benefit from his interests.  I want to be able to spend time at the beach or on the golf course and still turn out a good dinner – I rely on the availability of great fresh tuna, shrimp and crab on the Outer Banks to streamline the cooking.  A few strategic items from home can really help.  Just like any week – a little advance planning can make a big difference!