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The Blonde Cucina: Cooking while on vacation

by on August 12, 2015 4:39 PM

Over the years, my family and friends have been doing the trendy thing, which is going on vacation together and renting condos and houses in locations such as Ocean City, Md., Rehoboth Beach, Del., Myrtle Beach, S.C., or, my favorite and this year’s travel destination, the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

However, we all know how costly those rentals are. How are you going to save money, go to the outlets and eat like you’re on vacation?

Then, you begin to think that, even if you do plan meals, does the house your group rented have a fully equipped kitchen? I mean, honestly, I know my vacation house rental in the Outer Banks has a coffee pot, but I really want to know if it’s a Keurig.

It's little things such as this that makes vacation hard. What should you bring and what should you buy? Do you plan on eating out for all your meals or do you plan to cook them all — or, do you plan on something in between? You need to find a middle ground that works for you and whoever else is vacationing with you.

I have found what works for me is making breakfast, snacking for lunch and eating out for dinner. However, I have also gone on group vacations where each family plans a dinner and everyone else is on their own for breakfasts and lunches. It all gets back to the dynamics of your group.

I’m going to give you some tips that will help you with vacation and meals, from packing that pesky cooler to preparing meals.

If you plan to shop and pack a cooler before you go, you need to remember a few things.

First, stocking your car and cooler with food that travels well will ensure a better time. You’ll eat more healthfully and not have all those fast food wrappers in the car, plus save a heap of cash. However, remember not all food travels well, so even if your perishables are cheaper here in Happy Valley, it might save you a huge headache by just buying those items once you arrive.

Next, let’s get to the nitty gritty of how to pack that cooler.

You’ll want to have dry ice and gel freezer packs (you can us regular ice, but dry ice lasts longer and you won’t have a watery mess when you arrive). Remember, the coldest items go toward the bottom and, once that cooler is packed, don’t open it until you are ready to use it. You may want to bring two coolers: one for meals you'll be preparing at your rental that you don't open and one for snacks and meals while on the road.

Now, let’s talk about vacation meals.

You don’t need to plan huge breakfasts and lunches. When you’re out and about doing the beach thing, most folks are more concerned about getting their prime spot on the sand or going fishing, golfing, etc., then eating a big meal. What really works for me are small meals for breakfast and lunch. You can do coffee and doughnuts, bagels, cereal, eggs and toast or yogurt and granola. These items are not that expensive, so go ahead and buy them at the grocery store at your vacation destination.

Some of these breakfast items can even do double duty for lunch. Bagels make great sandwiches, you can use eggs to make egg salad and you can turn that coffee into an iced coffee when you get too hot and need a pick me up. Buy items that can do double duty saves time, money, space and energy.

I always have lunch meat and cheese, some type of bread, chips and fruit on hand for an afternoon meal after I’ve had enough of the sand. These items are easy and the kids can fend for themselves and not bother you.

Now, let’s talk about dinner. It’s OK to plan fun dinners such as a nacho bar or hot dog bar, or even do something as simple as spaghetti with a jar of sauce. If you want to do something new, here's a easy recipe that is a crowd pleaser and saves you money, so you'll have more to spend at the outlets. Also, you don’t need many tools or ingredients.



Start to finish: 25 minutes

2 1/4 pounds unrefrigerated ripe plum tomatoes

1 tablespoon chopped garlic, plus more if desired

1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1 pound ready-to-eat shrimp, peeled and deveined

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

1 pound dry pasta, such as linguine or angel hair

Grated Parmesan cheese

Finely chop tomatoes, shrimp and garlic, and mix together with oil to make sauce.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta, and cook until al dente. Drain pasta and toss into a serving bowl with the sauce and salt and pepper to taste.

Don't spend too much time in the kitchen during your beach trip. Have some fun and get your tan on!

Ciara Semack is the owner of The Blonde Bistro in Bellefonte. She is the mother of one and a lifelong resident of Centre County. Her column appears every other week in the Gazette. Questions, suggestions and comments can be directed to [email protected]
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