Foolproof Vacation Cooking

BurritoWhile I believe in relaxing while on vacation, I also prefer to cook most of my own meals. And not just because I prefer my own cooking. Not only is eating out for every meal expensive, but . . . it’s just not that great. Let’s be honest: how many mediocre sandwiches or breakfasts or plates of pasta have you eaten just because they’re there? This is why I prefer rental houses to hotels when we’re staying somewhere for more than a few days. But there’s a trick to cooking on vacation–here’s how to make it foolproof:

  • Choose recipes that are simple to prepare: you can’t count on a rental house to have a food processor or stand mixer (heck, I always travel with a chef’s knife and serrated knife). Not only is it better not to rely on specialized tools, but simple meals are usually quicker to prepare.
  • Select dishes that don’t require a million ingredients. During our recent trip to Wyoming, I was tempted to make my grandma’s famous spaghetti sauce, before I realized all the things I’d have to buy: dried spices, brown sugar, etc. Then I’d be faced with two choices: lug it all home, or leave it (knowing there’s a good chance housekeeping would throw it away).
  • In a similar vein, try to select a group of dishes that use the same ingredients. The cheddar cheese I bought on our recent trip to Wyoming went in our eggs for breakfast, and in burritos, cheeseburgers, and macaroni and cheese for dinner.

Sample Menu

I feel we really got vacation cooking right in Wyoming a couple weeks ago! While we did go out a few times, we mainly ate at the condo (and packed picnics for day trips to Yellowstone and the drive home). Plus, I figured out a trick for our final night’s dinner that I will do every time in the future!

Breakfast
Bagels and cream cheese (or peanut butter, or butter)
Yogurt (full-fat Greek mixed with jam or fruit–I also used it in place of sour cream in burritos, below)
Cereal
Scrambled eggs
Fruit

Lunch
Ham and cheese sandwiches
Peanut butter and jam sandwiches
Fruit
Veggies (carrots, sweet peas, jicama, cucumber spears)

Dinner
Burritos
Burgers (twice, to help use up the condiments we purchased and because they were so good)
Roast pork loin with garlic (a very simple recipe that was delicious), macaroni and cheese (my special doctored-up Kraft version), grilled corn on the cob
Veggies (carrots, sweet peas, jicama, cucumber spears)

Condiments/Extras
Salt and pepper
Mayonnaise
Ketchup
Dijon mustard
Pickles

Dessert
Oreos (helpful in “using up” extra milk)
Ice cream bars (so fuss, no muss, no bowl or utensils required)

As you can see, we ate pretty well–and had plenty of “picnic” supplies to take along on day trips to Yellowstone, letting us avoid long lines and high prices for mediocre grub. But at the end of the trip, we stumbled into two easy ways to use up the rest of our food before packing up.

The Cleanup Crew

aka, use it before you lose it (or have to take it home with you)

The Burrito: We did something so smart and yummy for our last dinner that I’m always going to plan on this for future trips. We still had leftover tortillas, so we took everything relevant out of the refrigerator–leftover burrito fixings, roast pork (sliced up), some hummus and tabouli we had for snacks, veggies, cheese–and laid it all out on the counter, heating up things like meat and beans. Then everyone grabbed a tortilla and put whatever they wanted in it. We came up with some pretty cool combinations and got rid of almost everything.

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This is a smoothie I made at home–I didn’t take a lot of photos on my trip, I was on vacation!

The Smoothie: In my experience, the one countertop appliance you can usually find in a vacation rental is a blender. Perhaps rental agencies think we all want to make strawberry daiquiris while on vacation (actually I did that once). But! For our final breakfast, we whirled up all of our leftover yogurt, fruit, and juice into a quick, delicious breakfast that didn’t require a lot of cleanup. We felt very clever.

So what are your vacation cooking tips? Any simple recipes you keep in your back pocket when you need to cook on the fly? Share them below!

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Roast pork loin with garlic

Roast Pork Loin With Garlic

Roast pork loin with garlic

Roast pork loin with garlic, so pretty–so tasty–so easy!

This is a very simple recipe–barely a recipe, really–that I put together while on vacation this summer. I wanted an easy dinner I could cook in our rental condo that didn’t require a lot of ingredients that I wouldn’t use up before we went home!

So play it loose. You can use pork loin, as I did, or you can use pork tenderloin. You could add fresh herbs or ginger, whatever you like–or if you’re staying at a rental house, you might have a bunch of “interesting” ingredients at your disposal. Salt and pepper is necessary, of course.

Roast Pork Loin With Garlic

You need:

3 lb pork loin (I used two 1.5 lb pork loin “cutlets,” or you could use pork tenderloin)
10 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
Drizzle of olive oil (or a bit of butter)

Preheat your oven to 425. Place your pork on a rimmed baking dish or sheet and rub with the garlic, then sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with oil (or top with a little butter).

Roast for approximately 35-40 minutes, until done. I didn’t have a meat thermometer (vacation rental), so I took my pork out on the early side and cut into it to make sure it was cooked through–but not overcooked. Don’t overcook your pork, modern grocery store pork has so little fat in it that it goes tough and dry easily.

When it seems just done, take it out of the oven, cover with foil, and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes. Slice and serve!

Happy Tuesday! So Much Nerd Stuff

Hey folks, happy Tuesday! With both kids out of the house yesterday (Sid to Oregon Humane Society camp, Sarah to Grandparents Camp), I spent yesterday cleaning the house and catching up on some freelance work. It felt great, but I missed blogging.

Let’s get down to business. San Diego Comic-Con was last week/weekend, and while your faithful blogger sat it out (my third year in a row, after years of manning the Things From Another World booth, miss you boo) and testily read updates, there were a few that caught my eye. First up: so many trailers.

Luke Cage looked (and sounded) amazing:

Iron Fist looked promising:

Now, while I have enjoyed both of these characters in comics (and Luke Cage in Netflix’s Jessica Jones series, I’m not super emotionally invested in them. This makes it easy for me to get excited about these shows.

Similarly, the Defenders teaser was intriguing. I loved the inclusion of Nirvana’s “Come As You Are”:

And then there’s Legion. I have actually always been actively annoyed by this character, both his very existence (Charles Xavier has an unknown son? Really.) and by his portrayal as the most powerful, annoying spoiled brat in the universe (multiverse?). Also, his hair is stupid. There, I said it. But. I love Dan Stevens (reminder: watch The Guest again), I loved Noah Hawley’s previous series, Fargo, I trust FX–so this could be really cool. Plus: dancing!

And so we come to the one I have the most complicated feelings about. Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman was, literally, my first love. My earliest memories as a toddler are of watching Lynda Carter on TV and dressing up as her (or so I thought–in retrospect, my costume consisted of a frog bathing suit and Big Bird slippers) for Halloween. Even though I’ve moved away from that character and the bulk of my comics history is Marvel, this trailer still touched a nerve.

I never saw the new Superman or Batman vs. Superman movies because they seemed too dark–both literally and figuratively–especially for a beacon-of-hope character like Superman. So I’ve been ambiguous about WW. Here’s the trailer:

On the one hand, I love the visual of the ocean and Paradise Island, the actors seem capable, and Wonder Woman’s costume is amazing (if a little clunky–jointed armored boots?). But it echoes the previous “dark and moody” DC look, and the trailer is a little battle heavy for me. My favorite moments are those with Steve Trevor and definitely Etta Candy (yay!). I’m hoping there’s a lot more of this in the actual movie. So restrained joy. Yeah, that’s pretty much where I am.

Other stuff! As you may already know, I’ve become the go-to guest host for my favorite podcast, Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men, and I couldn’t be prouder or more grateful. You mean I get to read a bunch of X-books and then discuss them on air? Yay! If Jay and Miles are the Cyclops and Jean Grey of the podcast, I’m like 1980 Polaris: just living a normal life, but ready to go on a superheroing adventure when needed. Yeah!

Anyway, I’ll be hosting episode #119, which will be live July 31, talking about New Mutants Forever, the 2010 throwback to Chris Claremont’s original run, with Miles Stokes. I read 61 issues to get ready for this folks, I hope you enjoy it!

Stay tuned this week: I am determined to get a food and a cheapskate post up. And fill me in on your summer doings!

Peanut Noodles With Shrimp

Heavenly Peanut Noodles With Shrimp

Peanut Noodles With Shrimp

Yummy yummy yummy!

Peanut noodles with shrimp is one of my favorite things to eat these days: crunchy, satisfying, and flavorful, it’s perfect for summer–and good warm or cold. This is based on Leanne Brown’s Cold (and Spicy?) Asian Noodles from Good and Cheap, with a few tweaks of my own. You can easily make it vegan by substituting tofu for shrimp!

I recently made this for some friends who just had a baby, thinking it was the perfect thing to eat on the fly (since you don’t have to heat it up). Both parents immediately texted me asking for the recipe, so I thought I’d jot it down here!

This is very simple to put together. You can substitute your favorite peanut sauce if you don’t care to make it.

Peanut Noodles With Shrimp

Serves 6 Generously

You Need:
12 oz dried spaghetti, soba, or any Asian noodles (I used somen)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
Green parts of a bunch of green onions, chopped
1 cucumber, halved lengthwise and seeded, half sliced into half-moons, half sliced lengthwise into thin strips and cut crosswise into one-inch pieces
1 lb large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tsp vegetable oil
Peanut sauce (see recipe below)
1/4-1/2 cup chopped cilantro, to taste (also great with fresh mint!)
Sriracha, to taste

Prepare the noodles according to the package directions and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Place in a bowl and add the soy sauce, sesame oil, green onions, and cucumbers, mixing gently.

Heat 1 tsp of vegetable oil in a large nonstick pan over medium heat and add the shrimp. Cook, stirring often, until pink and just cooked through–about 5 minutes. Remove shrimp to a plate. Make peanut sauce.

Peanut Sauce

Makes About 1 Cup

You Need:
White and light-green parts of a bunch of green onions, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp vegetable oil
2 tsp red curry paste
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp tumeric
1/2 cup peanut butter (creamy or chunky)

Place the nonstick pan from the shrimp back over medium heat and add 1 tsp vegetable oil. Add the minced onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant. Add the curry paste and cook, stirring. Then add the coconut milk, brown sugar, soy sauce, turmeric, and peanut butter, cooking and stirring until combined. Remove from heat.

Add the shrimp and peanut sauce to the noodle mixture and mix gently. Stir in cilantro. Either eat immediately or chill for a couple of hours. Serve with sriracha to taste!

Happy Monday! Doubleclicks, Betty & Veronica

BettyVeronicaAHSDCCHappy Monday, folks. I know it must sound a little incongruous to be chirping that with so many awful things happening in the world. I’m just trying to keep this corner cheery for now.

So how was your weekend? I had that beautiful unicorn of an experience (since we’ve had Sarah): a spontaneous brunch at a nice place with friends. And they have a toddler less than a year older than Sarah! We went to Screen Door, a very very popular Portland restaurant that’s always packed to the gills. Fortunately, as parents, we were already up by 7:00 am–plenty of time to get dressed and stand in line for the first seating. Sarah and I had shrimp and grits, delicious!

Links!

Geekery

As you’ve probably already heard, a little move called Ghostbusters opened this weekend to a gross of $45 million (not too shabby). My favorite geeky girl band, the Doubleclicks, released a new video last week with their version of the theme song:

Do you live in the Portland area? You have three (three!) opportunities to see the Doubleclicks live and in person:

July 19: Doubleclicks at the Doug Fir Lounge at 8:00 PM with Danielle Ate the Sandwich, Barbara Holm & Lucia Fasano. 21+ show, $10/12.

July 24: Doubleclicks at the Tualatin Public Library at 2:00 PM. Free, all-ages.

July 25: Doubleclicks at Kickstand Comedy for a live Gosh Darn Fiasco podcast recording with special guest Kelly Sue DeConnick! $5 at the door. 7:00 PM.

The Adam Hughes reboot of Betty & Veronica debuts this week. Check out a preview at Entertainment Weekly!

San Diego Comic-Con kicks off this week! Looking for cool stuff to do? How about signings with Joss Whedon, Margaret Atwood, Gerard Way, and Nathan Fillion? Check out Dark Horse Comics’ full SDCC schedule.

Fashion

Nordstrom’s Anniversary Sale is nigh! However, if you’re a Nordstrom cardholder, you can shop the sale early through July 21. I personally shop early every year to stock up on my favorite Hanky Panky underwear, which are $14.90 or four for $54 during the sale. That’s just $13.50 each–more than 30% off the regular price of $20 each.

That’s all I’ve got today! Stay tuned for more . . .

Happy Wednesday! Vacation Wrap-Up, New Iron Man & More

yellowstone_2Well hello: happy Wednesday! I’m nearly recovered from our trip to Jackson, Wyoming, and happy to get back to my blog. Got lots of travel-related links and some nice nerdy news as well.

Our trip was quite an adventure–me, Scott, Sid, and Sarah were joined by Sid’s mom Myndi (my husband’s first wife), her partner, and his two sons on a 10-day trek from Oregon to Wyoming! We caravanned in a car and van, taking two days to reach Wilson, Wyoming (right near gorgeous Jackson), where we had a free week at a comfy condo, thanks to Myndi’s uncle, who owns a timeshare.

Did I mention that the condo had one bedroom? And that there were eight of us, including a 21-month old, two tweens, and a 16-year-old boy? Thanks to bunk beds and a pull-out couch, we were snug as bugs in a rug–plus, we had extra incentive to get out and explore the pool, nearby Jackson, and Yellowstone National Park (which I’d never been to before).

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Scott and Sarah in Jackson, Wyoming’s gorgeous park.

We took two days back as well, staying the night in historic Wallace, Idaho–a tiny, charming, former silver boom town–in the Stardust Motel. Most of the town is for sale at very reasonable prices, so we all dreamed of selling our homes in Portland and moving east (seriously, you can buy two hotels and a cafe for less than $500,000). Plus there was an excellent restaurant, the Blackboard Cafe, which served us delicious Italian food! But we ultimately decided that most of the town being for sale was probably a bad sign, and headed home.

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The Stardust Motel in Wallace, Idaho. Rides in the spaceship are extra.

But Elisabeth, you’re probably wondering. What the heck? What was it like traveling and living with your husband’s ex-wife for more than a week? I guess I haven’t written much on this subject, but while I am lucky in my choice of husbands, I’m even luckier when it comes to ex-wives. All of Sid’s parents have always been close–we live within blocks of each other and do Thanksgiving, Christmas, and birthdays together. On the trip, Myndi and I alternated planning meals and buying groceries. When one cooked, the other cleaned. Plus, each branch spent some time doing their own thing, which gave us a sense of independence and freedom. All in all, it was a great trip, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat!

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Dinner at the Lotus Cafe! Sid, his mom Myndi, Brett, and Sarah, cracking up.

Whew!

Vacation-Related Links

Yellowstone was quite the drive. And smelly (we visited Old Faithful and trekked around checking out countless sulfuric geysers). I admit, the thing that caught my eye was a beautiful hand-embroidered Yellowstone Park pillow by Catstudio in one of the general stores. Unfortunately, the price tag precluded my purchasing it, but you should definitely check them out. They’ve got tons of gorgeous National Park-themed pillows and more.

As you could probably guess, my interests while on vacation (and everywhere else) largely revolve around food. If you happen to find yourself in Jackson, Wyoming (a fantastic, albeit expensive, resort town), the Lotus Cafe is delicious and inventive. Their organic menu includes everything from raw and vegan dishes to elk and bison. I had their Lotus Pad Thai, which was remarkably delicious, even though it was vegan and gluten free (except I added chicken). They are a peanut-free restaurant, so the sauce was made with almonds. I’ve been thinking about it ever since, so I may try to replicate it!

After my experience with GeekCraft Expo PDX, I had to stop by MADE, a shop in Jackson that is dedicated to unique handmade goods from more than 250 local artisans. This shop was amazing. If I had been interested in buying souvenirs, I would have blown my budget there! As it was, I was conscious of the fact that we could barely fit all the luggage we had in the car. Next year we hopefully won’t be lugging a Pack N’ Play with us!

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MADE, a handcrafted-goodies shop in Jackson. I didn’t want to take too many pictures of the items, since they were all original designs.

Besides eating, my other favorite vacation pastime in reading–and boy, did I pick a doozy! All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister inflamed, enraged, and inspired me. Tracing the results of first and second wave feminism, the advantages they’ve given us, the backlash they’ve inspired, and glimpses into our possible future, this book is a must-read by every literate woman, whether you identify as a feminist or not. As a women who married (for keeps) at 37 (much older than the 1950s median marriage age of 20) and who gave birth for the first time at 39, Traister was telling my story–with a richness of context that made my head spin. Read this book.

Geekery

Announced today: the next Iron Man is Riri Williams, a 15-year-old black female science genius. Created by Brian Michael Bendis (creator of Miles Morales, the half-black, half-hispanic, all-awesome Spider-Man) and drawn by Stefano Caselli, Riri debuts in the role at the close of Civil War II.

The Doubleclicks are returning from their 30-city nationwide tour and playing in Portland this July! Catch them at the Doug Fir July 19 with Danielle Ate the Sandwich, Lucia Fasano, and Barbara Holm. This is a 21+ show, but families can also catch them at the Tualatin Public Library (aka my childhood hangout) July 24. There’s also a live podcast recording July 25 at Kickstand Comedy Club!

Want a taste of seeing them live? Here’s a video of one of my favorite songs, “The Guy Who Yelled Freebird”:

So that’s what I’ve got! How are your summers going? Any vacation plans or dreams to share? Post them below!