Sunday, April 25, 2010

Another Week of Menus

Aloha, people! Spring is in full-swing, and I paid my first visit to our farmer's market yesterday.

 Not much but leafy greens available as yet, but it's still exciting. I need to get off my kiester and get my yard ready and plant some stuff. It's kind of pitiful-looking out there now.

Sadly, it probably doesn't look this good.

I have a few more days of menus for you, along with the recipes and shopping list, if any of you want to play along. Here's what I have:

Day One:
Pecan-Crusted Skirt Steak
Baked Sweet Potatoes with Chipotle Butter

Day Two:
Mixed Green Salad with Red-Wine & Dijon Vinaigrette
Roasted Pesto Chicken
Parmesan Potatoes

Day Three:
Pasta with Sausage, Olives, Sun-Dried Tomatoes & Cream

Day Four:
Romaine Salad with Roasted Garlic Caesar Dressing
Grandmother's Barbecued Chicken
Buttered Corn on the Cob

A note about day four: This is MY grandmother's BBQ chicken recipe. We'd go to her house down the street to eat dinner and the smell of that sweet, vinegary sauce cooking was just heaven. I had some wonderful meals there (and played a lot of gin rummy). This is chicken baked in her bbq sauce. I didn't put her caesar salad dressing recipe up here because it had raw egg in it, and I don't want anyone getting sick and calling me at 2:00 AM to let me know about it.

Now, listen, children. If you don't like the chicken, please keep it to yourself. This meal has superhero-size nostalgic value for me, and I'd probably lose my manners if someone tried to give me helpful suggestions on what proper barbecue means,  or the "right" way to make a bbq sauce (it's THIS way, by the way). MY grandmother was right.  

MY grandmother. Well, OK, John's grandmother too. Early 1940s. I think this was right before she married Granddad.

And with that, I'll stop threatening you and give you the recipes.

Update: I just learned from my mother that Grandmother got this recipe from her brother Johnny's wife, Helen. Sorry, Aunt Helen!

Pecan-Crusted Skirt Steak

1/2 Tbs olive oil
1 1/2 lb skirt steak, trimmed (I've found that skirt steak can be hard to find. Ask the meat guy or girl at your grocery if they have it. Rumor has it the butcher sometimes swipes it for himself. It's a good cut of meat - very flavorful. If you can't get it, use flank steak, but I'd pound the flank steak thin with a rolling pin or something to tenderize it some.)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup pecan pieces
2 Tbs cold butter, cut into small pieces
2 tsp honey
1 1/2 tsp roughly chopped fresh rosemary

1. Position an oven rack about 6 inches from the broiler and heat the
broiler on high.

2. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil and grease the foil with the oil. If necessary, cut the steak crosswise into pieces 8 to 10 inches long. Arrange the steak on the baking sheet in a single layer and season with 1 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Put the pecans, butter, honey, rosemary, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper in a food processor and pulse until well combined and the pecans are finely chopped.

3. Broil the steak until lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip it and broil until it’s cooked nearly to your liking, about 3 minutes more for medium rare. Spread the pecan mixture over the steak, patting the mixture with the back of a spoon to help it adhere. Continue broiling until the pecan coating is toasted and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Set the steak aside to rest for 5 minutes.

4. Thinly slice the steak against the grain and transfer to plates. If the pecan coating falls off the steak as you’re slicing it, spoon it over the top.

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Chipotle Butter
(Oh! this is so hard!)
4 medium sweet potatoes
4 Tbs butter
1 each chipotle chile canned in adobo, plus 1 Tbs. adobo sauce

1. Mash the chipotle and adobo sauce together with the softened butter until
well-incorporated. Chill while the potatoes bake.

2. Prick the potato with a fork in several places, and bake at 400 on a baking sheet until done, about 40 - 45 minutes.

3. Cut open potatoes and serve with chipotle butter.
(Wait. What? We're done? Yep.)

Mixed Green Salad with Red-Wine & Dijon Vinaigrette
1 Tbs red-wine vinegar
3/4 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp minced garlic (I saute’ mine in a little olive oil first. I cannot abide raw garlic.)
3 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 cups mixed spring greens


1. Combine the vinegar with the mustard and garlic in a small bowl and whisk in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

2. Just before serving, toss greens in a large bowl with just enough of the vinaigrette to lightly coat them (you may not need all of the vinaigrette). Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Roasted Pesto Chicken
1 cup pesto sauce
6 lbs roasting chicken
2 Tbs flour
3/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup whipping cream
3 Tbs dry white wine

1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Pat chicken dry. Slide hand between chicken skin and meat over breast and legs to form pockets. Reserve 1 Tbs. pesto for gravy; spread remaining pesto under skin and over breast and leg meat of chicken, in cavity of chicken and over outer skin. Tie legs together to hold shape. Tuck wings under body. Place chicken in large roasting pan. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover and Chill)

2. Roast chicken 15 minutes at 450 and reduce oven temperature to 375F and roast until done., about 1 hour. Transfer chicken to platter.

3. Pour pan juices into glass measuring cup; degrease. Add wine to roasting pan and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits. Add wine mixture and any drippings from platter to pan juices. (Note: If the bottom of the pan is burned and blackened, don’t use the roasting pan – just start with the heavy small saucepan and add the wine and platter juices to that.) Add enough broth to measure one cup. Transfer to heavy small saucepan. Combine 2 Tbs. broth and flour in bowl; stir until smooth. Add to saucepan. Bring to boil, whisking constantly. Boil until reduced to sauce consistency, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Mix in cream and reserved 1 Tbs. pesto. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish chicken with basil. Serve with gravy.

Parmesan Potatoes
4 large russet (Idaho) potatoes, cut lengthwise into eighths
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
chopped fresh basil

1. Position rack in lowest third of oven and preheat to 375F. Place potatoes in a roasting pan. Add oil and red pepper and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Bake until tender on inside and crispy on outside, turning once, about one hour. Sprinkle with parmesan and basil.

Pasta with Sausage, Olives, Sun-Dried Tomatoes & Cream

by Joanne Smart (A Fine Cooking Recipe)
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
1 medium clove garlic, finely chopped
1-1/4 lb. hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup pitted Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
1 cup (about 6 oz.) oil-packed sun-dried tomato halves, drained and coarsely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 lb. dried farfalle or fusilli
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat.

Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it into bite-size pieces with a spoon, until just cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Spoon off the fat if it's excessive. Add the wine, increase the heat to medium high, and cook, scraping up any browned bits in the pan, until most of the wine is evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the olives and sun-dried tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes.

Add the cream, increase the heat to high, bring to a boil, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cream thickens slightly, 2 to 5 minutes. Stir in 2 Tbs. of the parsley and 2 Tbs. of the Parmigiano. Keep the sauce warm over low heat.

Cook the pasta in the boiling water until al dente. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water and then drain the pasta. Return the pasta to its pot, add the sauce and the reserved cooking water, and set the pot over high heat. Gently toss the pasta for 30 to 60 seconds and season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide among warm bowls and sprinkle with the remaining 2 Tbs. Parmigiano and 2 Tbs. parsley.

Caesar Salad with Roasted Garlic Dressing
This recipe is a little fussy, but it's really worth it. If you have a night when you're not racing to throw something on the table, give it a try. A Caesar salad does go well with this menu, though, so if you don't want to do this particular one, add a bottle of good Caesar dressing and some croutons to the shopping list.

1 head garlic
3 1/2 Tbs olive oil, plus 1/3 cup
2 1/4 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
3 cups French bread cubes
2 Tbs lemon juice
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
1 tsp anchovy paste
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 dash Tabasco sauce
1 head curly endive, trimmed
1 head romaine lettuce, torn into pieces
1 1/4 cups parmesan cheese, grated


1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Peel off papery outer skin from whole garlic, keeping head intact. Place in small casserole dish. Drizzle 1 tablespoon oil over garlic. Season with pepper. Cover; bake until garlic is very soft and pastelike, about 1 1/2 hours. Cool garlic.

2. Increase oven temperature to 350°F. Mix 2 1/2 tablespoon oil and rosemary on baking sheet. Season with pepper. Add bread cubes and turn cubes in oil mixture to coat. Bake until lightly toasted, about 15 minutes. Cool.

3. Squeeze garlic to remove cloves from skins. Place in small bowl and mash with fork to form paste. Transfer paste to blender. Add fresh lemon juice, Dijon mustard, anchovy paste, Worcestershire sauce and hot pepper sauce and puree. With machine running, gradually add 1/3 cup olive oil. (Croutons and dressing can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)

4. Reserve outer endive leaves for another use. Tear enough inner yellow leaves into bite-size pieces to measure 3 cups. Place in large bowl. Add romaine. Pour dressing over. Toss well. Sprinkle cheese and croutons over salad. Toss gently. Season with pepper and serve.

Grandmother's Barbecued Chicken
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup water
3 Tbs brown sugar
3 Tbs ketchup
3 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1/2 large lemon, juiced
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
dash red pepper
8 chicken thighs with skin and bones


1. Mix all ingredients together until blended. Salt and pepper chicken thighs and place in a Pyrex pan. Pour sauce over thighs. Bake at 375 for about 45 minutes.

4 Sweet potatoes
4 idaho potatoes
Fresh rosemary
Pesto sauce
Fresh basil
Spring salad greens (about 5 cups)
Yellow onion
Flat leaf parsley
1 lemon
Corn on the cob (as many as you need)
1 head curly endive
1 head romaine lettuce

French bread

1 ½ lb. Skirt Steak (if you can’t get skirt, use flank)
5 lb Roasting Chicken
1 ¼ lb. Hot Italian Sausage
8 chicken thighs (skin and bones on)

Pecan pieces
Kosher salt
Chipotle chiles canned in adobo sauce
Chicken stock
Red pepper flakes
Olive oil
Dijon mustard
Kalamata olives
Sun-dried tomatoes (oil packed)
Farfalle or Fusilli pasta (Penne will work)
Brown sugar
White vinegar
Worcestershire sauce
Dry mustard
Chili powder
Anchovy paste (this is probably going to be with tomato paste and pastas)
Tabasco sauce

Whipping cream (2 cups)
Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano)

Dry white wine

Here's the printable, .pdf copy.

Week of Menus 7

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Kitchen Stuff

I had a friend request this blog topic, which was really nice, since it pointed out to me that someone besides my husband actually reads it. (My brother's wife used to, but I think she got bored with it. And truth - I have to ask my husband to read it.)

Anyway, she asked me to blog about my favorite kitchenware. There are lots of lists out there of "must-have" kitchen equipment, providing an ample variety of other opionions. But for what it's worth, here's mine.

Let me preface this by saying I am not a kitchen gadget freak. I have friends and family with walk-in closets bigger than my kitchen, so I have to be pretty selective about what I put in there. I have a tiny galley kitchen with three crappy drawers and really old cabinets that we've modified to be as organized as possible, but when you start with crap, there's only so far you can go. Honestly, my issues with the kitchen have less to do with the size and more to do with the lack of quality of the fixtures. That's a major gutting project for down the road, though. 

We added these pull out stainless steel racks to maximize the storage. They're marginally effective. I still swear a lot when I use them.

I'll leave out Major Appliances. I think it's a given that you'll want a fridge, a range or cooktop and ovens, and a FREAKING VENT-A-HOOD. I swear one day I'll have one that sucks the chrome off a trailer hitch. For now, I'm stuck with one that works about as well as an octogenarian blowing out a full compliment of birthday candles.

the left side of my kitchen notice the "vent-a-hood" hahahahahaha (sigh)

One large "appliance" that I will crow about until the cows come home is my big, nice gas grill. We have it hooked up to natural gas right outside the back door. I use that thing every bit as much as I use my stove. If meat is going to be cooked in any way other than in a sautee or stewpot, it goes out there. I never cook fish in the house. It stinks the whole house up for days, and yes, my fish is fresh. See "vent-a-hood" above. Also because of the lack of vent-a-hood action, I don't sear meat on really high heat in the house. The fire alarm does not mean dinner is done. The grill works great for this. It will get up to 700 pretty quickly, and I'll put the cast-iron skillet on it to fast sear beef filets, or I'll roast meat on it on a foil and parchment lined pan (helps keep the grill clean and keeps the meat from being charred too much if it's got a marinade or if it's fatty). Thanks to it being right outside the back door, it's really part of the kitchen and I wouldn't be able to cook nearly as well without it.

Here are medium appliances, I use these ALL THE TIME.

  • KitchenAid Stand Mixer

  • Food Processor (mine happens to be Cuisinart - about a mid-range model)

  • Toaster Oven - we don't even have a nice one. It's a 15-year-old Black and Decker that set us back about twenty bucks. (I'm sure it would be more now.) We use it probably twice a day. It's great for reheating, baking potatoes, keeping stuff warm, and cooking small things like sandwiches so we don't have to preheat the kitchen to 350 with the big oven.

  • KitchenAid Burr Coffee Grinder - This is in the category of things I didn't know I needed until I had one. Dad got it for us for Christmas and I LOVE it. It grinds coffee much better than those little frappy ones.

  • Toaster - I could probably get by with just the toaster oven, but I like a standard toaster for bagels and toast. Ours is a two slot one.
  • Coffee Maker - do I even need to list this one? We finally got one we both like - it's a Hamilton Beach Brewstation - NO GLASS CARAFE. I kid you not, we bought a cheapo Mr. Coffee and used it ONCE and then I broke the carafe washing it. It keeps the coffee hot and doesn't make it taste as burned as the hotplate kind. We went through the thermal carafe kinds and they just didn't keep the coffee hot enough.
  • Waring Blender - not the heavy glass one. We bought a plastic one at the restaurant supply place. Price was reasonable.  Pootie uses it every morning to make his breakfast smoothie.

You may have noticed I don't list a microwave. Don't have one. Never have. Couldn't fit one in our kitchen when we first got married and got used to not using one, so I don't miss it. Someone always asks where it is, though, so I figured I should mention it. I have not found one to be necessary. If I reheat leftovers, I use a pot on the stove or the little aforementioned cheapo toaster oven and that suits me fine. Baked potatoes "cooked" in a microwave taste like rubber, and it doesn't save that much time anyway. I split 'em in half and put them in the toaster oven. Takes about the same amount of time and the texture and taste is much better.

Small appliances I use ALL THE TIME

  • An immersion blender - I use this baby every day also. I puree soups with it and mix up salad dressings with it. Love it.

  • Digital instant-read thermometer

  • Digital kitchen scale (really, I use it all the time) 
That's about it. I'm really not into little things like that.

Pots and Pans I use ALL THE TIME
My inventory of pots and pans has obviously grown over time, but I got by without much for a long, long time. I do think it's important to buy quality, which is expensive, but they'll last you forever. I have All Clad and have had some of them for 20 years and they're still just as solid as the day I bought them. They're nice and heavy and they conduct heat evenly. I had a couple of cheapo Revereware pots when we first got married. They're functional, but I burned a lot more stuff in them - it's harder to control the heat in them.
I think the following are essential: (I have more than these now, but these are fundamental, I think.)

  • 1 large cast-iron skillet - I'm talking the cheap plain cast iron that you have to season. You know, like your grandma had.

  • 1 large heavy frying pan - I am not a fan of nonstick. It never lasts and you always have to replace them. I'm not fond of having to replace things. I like to buy my stuff once.

  • 1 small heavy frying pan - again, not nonstick

  • 2 - 4 qt. heavy saucepans

  • 1 - 2 qt. heavy saucepan

Knives I use ALL THE TIME
I can't stress enough how important a couple of good, and I mean GOOD, knives are. I got by with two for probably 10 years. A small chef knife and a large one will get you pretty far. They're versatile and powerful. Over the years, I've added a few others, but the big chef and the small chef are the ones I use over and over. Keep them sharpened. I have a few Henckels and a couple of Wusthofs (I cannot find the umlaut on the fonts in Blogspot) and they've held up very well to many sharpenings over the years. I take them to a guy and have them professionaly sharpened about twice a year.
Along with knives go cutting boards. DO NOT USE PLASTIC!!! They dull your knives and they are not any more sanitary for cutting meat than wood. Some tests they did actually showed that plastic boards held more bacteria than wooden ones. Just wash them with soap and hot water and don't cut raw vegetables where you've just whacked apart a raw chicken and you'll be fine. Two medium ones will do you just fine.

Bowls and Bakeware I use ALL THE TIME

  • Small, medium and large mixing bowls - I have three red plastic ones with rubber bottoms and spouts. I love them. They were cheap.

  • Brownie Pan - get a decent one. Metal, not silicone. Those don't brown properly.

  • Muffin Tin - I honestly think one of mine was my grandmothers. The metal ones last forever.

  • Round cake pans - again, heavy metal.

  • Bundt cake pan - this is necessary if you bake at all. Everyone should bake a coffee cake once in their lives.

  • 2 Heavy, rimmed baking sheets - one large and one small. I mean heavy.

  • Deep dish 9" pie pan - I'm not a huge pie fan, but you'll need one from time to time.
For all my bakeware, I like Chicago Metallic brand stuff. They make good, heavy-weight quality pieces.

Little stuff I use ALL THE TIME

  • A vegetable peeler - mine happens to be Oxo. I like their stuff.

  • A corkscrew - I like the key kind that bartenders and wait staff use. Cheap, too! I probably should have put that first.

  • A shrimp peeler/deveiner - Makes short work of peeling and deveining shrimp, which we eat a lot of here on the coast. I liked my Oxo one best. I broke it recently. I need to replace that.

  • Pyrex measuring cups - 2 cup size.

  • Stainless steel dry measuring cups

  • Stainless steel measuring spoons - I don't know why,  I just don't like the plastic ones. My favorites were actually my grandmother's, and they're aluminum.

  • A teapot - ours is a bargain we got at the Williams-Sonoma Outlet in Memphis (man, we got some serious deals there when Phillip's parents used to live there). It's a Chantal heavy one with a Hohner harmonica in the spout instead of a whistle. Red. I love that thing.

  • 2 or 3 Wooden Spoons - I like ones with long handles

  • Slotted metal spoon - big

  • Soup ladle - Has anyone ever noticed when they put spouts on those things they're backward? (I'm left handed.)

  • Metal Spatula/Pancake flipper - I really loathe those floppy cheap plastic ones. I can't do a damned thing with them except fling food everywhere.

  • Tongs - one long pair, one short pair - I got mine from a restaurant supply place. Cheap.

  • Aluminum Foil

  • Parchment Paper

Those are the things I use either daily, weekly, or monthly. Obviously, I have more gadgets and bowls and servingware and such, but those are the things that I could survive with (and have) if I had to hang on to just the basics.

As for sources for these, save money where you can. I wouldn't advocate going to William$-$onoma, for example. A LOT of the small stuff can be procured at a restaurant supply place for minimal money. (I love going to those. I could stay for hours.) Other items can be had for less online if you're willing to do some searching or at outlet stores. If you're in the Memphis area, get thee to the Williams-Sonoma outlet store there. They put their overstocks there and sell them dirt cheap, in a lot of cases. You can get really high quality products for ridiculous prices. We bought one of those VIPP trash cans there 16 years ago that finally died this year. They'd had it listed in their catalogue for over $200 (seriously? people pay $200 for a trash can??) and they were selling it for $20. Yes. $20. Because evidently other people looked at the price and had the same reaction I did and they were left with a lot of them.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Kayak Camping Food

P. and I had scheduled a little kayak camping excursion for the Easter Holiday weekend. We wanted to paddle over to an area on Masonboro Island on a route we'd been shown once by friends. It led to a more secluded area of the island, and we were pretty stoked about our getaway.

Kayak camping takes a good bit more planning than car camping, but a deal less than backpack camping. You can certainly carry more stuff with you in a couple of kayaks. But space is at a premium. All this plus food and drink had to go into two boats, and still have room for the paddler.

No, not the furniture. We did leave that here.

There is limited room for food, and big coolers are out of the question unless you like capsizing. Thinking about this a while back, I hit upon an idea that makes The Wheel look lame. No coolers, little room for ice - what do you do besides take powerbars and dehydrated food, for which you need water, so that's not really a great trade-off, and oh-so-not-tasty. Well, you come up with the Super Genius (!) Idea of buying a food sealer thingy (technical term), vacuum sealing pre-made GOOD food, and then throwing it in the chest freezer overnight. Wa-La, ladies and gents! I will pause for you to be stunned by my ingenuity.

I know, right!?

Seriously. Don't email me and tell me how it was written up in ten different magazines and you've ALWAYS done this and I'm so late to the party I might as well have shown up in my janitor clothes and cleaned up the mess. Just don't. Allow my my brief moment in the sun, because shortly, this trip is going to deteriorate.

I decided on one-pot meals for our two dinners, so that I could just dump them in the pot to our "boat cool" MSR (not to be confused with MRS.) cook set.
For one night, I made chicken with orichiette and basil, and for the next night, I made a chicken and eggplant curry. I also put together breakfast sandwiches, some pbandj, and turkey sandwiches for lunch. All of this went into the seal-pouches for the vacuum sealer, and we sucked the air out of them and froze the dinners and refrigerated the rest. Next day, packed up and off we went!
P. loved using the vacuum sealer.

(This is where you should start hearing ominous music in your head.)

would you stop following me?!!
We got the boats in the water fine, and were enjoying a gorgeous day of paddling. Then we tried to find the route to the island. (ominous music gets a little louder). Yeah, that didn't go so well. We found the same pissed off great blue heron a few times. (We thought maybe he knew the way.) But we just kept getting choked off in the marsh tantalizingly close to the back side of the island, but too far to slog through weeds and man-eating oysters. (you only think I'm kidding.)
We went North, toward a (very) popular landing and camping spot that everyone and their mother's housecat uses, but hoped to find another path through the marsh to a different area a little further down. No dice. Since we were losing the tide, and we knew from experience the quicksand-like mud flat we'd wind up in, we decided to just bite it and go to the popular landing area. (One of us a little more grudgingly than the other.)

Sure enough, when we got there, two other people had already set up camp and there were probably six kayaks and a couple of other small boats already there. Within an hour of us setting up our camp, another group of kids showed up and pitched camp within spitting distance of ours. For those of you who  don't know me, I am an INTROVERT!!! (including all-caps and exclamation points). I have a cape and everything.  "People I Don't Know" are not a welcome addition to my planned weekend of seclusion and relaxation. I'd like to say I was a good sport about it, but those of you who DO know me would know I was lying. Add to the crowded conditions the fact that it was COLD the first night, and very DAMP (the tent dripped icy water on us all night from the condensation), and the fact that my arm and shoulder were absolutely killing me (I pulled something), and you can maybe understand why I looked like this the second night.

I know. I wasn't even trying, was I? My feet were freezing, and I was waiting for our dinner to heat up.

After I ate, I felt marginally better. Then P. loaned me his socks and became my hero, and I was able to enjoy this a little more.
The sunset silences the whining temporarily.
The second night wasn't as cold, not as damp, and my shoulder was better, so I slept some.
Look what a good night's sleep and scalding hot, strong coffee will do for my attitude! Well, that, and knowing we're going home that day...

I was even able to enjoy the beach and some chill time.

My mother-in-law looked at these and said "where are all the hoards of people Andie was complaining about?" I don't think she believed me. They were over to the left. Obviously, I cut them out. Years from now, I will be able to look at these and maybe forget that there was a tatooed, pot-bellied, crunchy guy with a mullett who was staring at me every time I visited the primitive powder room. You have no idea how much I wish I was kidding.

We got home and it took a month (or, you know, an afternoon - I lost track) to clean the sand off everything and put it away, and I now have a cold. My good friend Mr. Andy Across the Sea told me, "Never underestimate the consequences of cold feet!"

Oh, but this is a food blog, isn't it? I should probably at least mention how my Super Genius Idea went over, shouldn't I? I am pleased to say that it was a smashing success. The first night, the pasta was still frozen, and it simmered over low heat down to a respectable one-pot hot meal in about 15 minutes. The curry was no longer frozen solid by the second night, but it was still very cold, and also reheated well. The sandwiches were good and hadn't gotten soggy. We will definitely use this method again. I just need to come up with new one-pot meals for variety. And pack a pair of warm socks. And yes, we've already looked at the charts and Google Earth and plotted the course we meant to take in the first place for next time.

Next time? Did I just say that?

For a .pdf copy of the recipes and a shopping list, click here. These are repeat recipes from earlier menu posts.