Have Food Will Travel

Family Portrait minus Moo_April 2010

Well we have finally arrived in Vermont! After two days of driving, and two days of settling, I am online, although briefly. We won’t have reliable internet access until next week. But I couldn’t resist coming online to share this post with you, my loyal readers!

We arrived at night, in the dark, but woke the next day to paradise – green grass, flowers blooming, sweet breeze blowing. We had two glorious days like this, and now there is almost 2 feet of snow on the ground! But that is what you can expect at this time of year in Northern New England. In any case, I wanted to talk about food – and more specifically food while on the road…

If you are like me, planning a trip inevitably involves food. Many times I will choose a travel destination based on what the food scene is like there – are there good quality restaurants with local farms to supply them? Are there unique foodie experiences to be had? New exotic foods to try? Etc… But what do you eat on your way there, where often the choices are less than optimal?

If you are driving, your choices are extremely limited. At the airports, there is little better – mostly in both instances it is a sea of fast food, or if you are “lucky”, sit down chain restaurants, none of which are a part of my food plan because you never know what goes into the food they are cooking. Even so called “healthy” choices on the menu can be cooked with bad oils, and salad dressings can have corn syrup, or the worst of the worst, anything can be loaded with MSG, hydrogenated oils, food dyes or other food preservatives. No, you really never know what you are getting, and eating bad food on the way to your travel destination can have you feeling poorly once you get there – which really defeats the whole purpose of enjoying your time away. In my experience, only in Italy was I able to literally stop at a rest stop and get good, fresh and locally made food– but that is a post for another time, perhaps.

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So since I don’t live in Italy, what I have been doing lately is making food for us to take on our trips. This year all of our trips have been road trips, and that makes packing food to take along a little easier, especially if you go with foods that are easy to eat with your hands. All you need is a small lunch box sized cooler (depending on the size of your travel party), a few ice packs, and a smaller grocery bag with non-perishable items. For long trips, remember to pack enough meals for everyone you are traveling with and plenty of water. For Roberto and I, when we head up to New England for example, we need a total of 4 breakfasts, 4 lunches and 4 dinners – 2 of each meal for two days. Imagine how much money that will save you in road meals!

Also, remember, that you don’t need to eat something different everyday for every meal. Usually we take 4 of the same thing for all the breakfasts, and then create a large batch of 2 other choices – one for dinners and one for lunches. If you add some fruit, carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, or maybe even some kettle chips and a little dark chocolate, you have enough variety to keep it interesting, as well as some treats to keep you motivated to keep on truckin’!

Here are some of our favorite meals to take along:

1) Oat Cakes with various cheeses, sliced, smoked salmon, or salami (you can pre-package the cheeses and meats into ziplock bags, and pack the oat cakes separately to keep them crunchy. This is a great breakfast choice.

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2) Hard Boiled Eggs – which you can either have for breakfast with an oat cake or create an egg salad with for one of the other meals and serve on rolls, or wraps, etc.

3) Lettuce Wraps – large romaine lettuce leaves stuffed with tuna, salmon or egg salad, or beans and corn with salsa, or chunks of mozzarella and tomato drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette or any other creation you can come up with. You can even make a “turkey sandwich” and put it in a lettuce wrap.

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4) Homemade Chicken Salad – served on rolls or bread or stuffed in a lettuce wrap. I like putting sun-dried tomatoes in my chicken salad

5) Green Salad Wraps – make a delicious tossed salad full of crunchy veggies, dress it, and fill wraps with the mixture, or one of the other mixtures above, under lettuce wraps.
6) Homemade Maki Rolls – these are the best little finger foods in the world! :)

For our most recent trip – the drive from Florida to our new hometown in Vermont, we took #1 for breakfasts, and #’s 2 and 4 to divide over lunches and dinners. The prep time for this was about 15 minutes. Enough time to cook the chicken for the chicken salad and mix up both the salads (I had hardboiled the eggs in advance). Plus I did this with my kitchen PACKED for the move – so trust me, anyone can do this! LOL! :) We are lucky enough to stay with my aunt in Virginia half way, so she lets us tuck our little cooler in her fridge, overnight and sends us on our way the next morning with full bellies!

What kinds of foods and snacks do you like to bring on your trips? What is your worst road food experience?

You can check out my mom’s posts here and here on her blog Travel Closeup for more road trip food ideas!

Quick Gluten-Free Meze: Potato Canapes

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Here is a quick little treat for you all, and trust me, when I say it is a treat – one that is not only delicious, but healthy and perfect for outdoor party weather! I wouldn’t leave you hanging with anything less than super yummy.

This will be my last post for a week or so – we are migrating to Vermont any day now, and although I will have internet access, it will be quick and sporadic. Then as soon as we get there, we have to get a garden started! I am sorry that I haven’t been around the bloggy world much these past weeks to see everyone’s delicious creations, but I have been up to my ears in boxes, with a quick day off to celebrate 2 years of wedded bliss, yesterday! :)

Anyway, this dish was inspired by two things – one, my ever-present leftover using principles and two, my desire to bring something to a party I knew I could eat. This is the cumulative efforts of pairing delicious raw goat cheese with soaked raw nuts, both of which were leftovers.

I love canapes, crostini, bruschetta and the like, but when I indulge in these generally bready things, I pay for it later. So I figured why not make canapes with potatoes that needed to be used up – which I could enjoy absolutely guilt free! I topped these delicious roasted potato rounds with a raw cashew, raw goat cheese basil pesto, with some sun dried tomatoes mixed in for POP.

These are so good, my extremely picky cat, Nimue, actually went up on the counter to eat the leftovers I had saved for my mom (sorry, mom!).

These were seriously easy to make and ended up looking great and party worthy! I will certainly be making them often this summer for backyard barbecues, parties and potlucks! Hope some of you can join us up at our place in Vermont! :) But be prepared to get your hands dirty!

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Cheese, Glorious Raw Milk Goat Cheese

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I am obsessed with cheese. I really am. I have been fond of cheese for as long as I can remember. I spent a very dismal year as a vegan once. I was already a vegetarian, but I thought that I was lactose intolerant (turned out I was SOY intolerant), so I stopped eating cheese. I was not a happy girl. Maybe it was that I was OD-ing on soy, but I like to think it was the lack of cheese that was messing with my brain chemistry. My brain really likes dairy fat, something I have proven to myself several times over. I mean, my ancestors do have a long history with dairy animals. Plus, if it works for The Slayer, it works for me.

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(image courtesy of DARKHORSE.COM)

Speaking of Buffy, I laughed so hard during a Buffy episode one time, I almost split my side. It went something like this:

Potential Buffy Boyfriend is talking to Buffy’s Best Friend and asks her to tell him more about Buffy – what she likes, hobbies, etc,….

Buffy’s Best Friend, Willow says: “ She likes cheese… I’m not saying it’s the key to her heart, but Buffy… she likes cheese”.

I tried to find a video, but alas it was not available. I am guessing though, that even if I found the video, my readers might not laugh. It is kind of a joke, that only the cheese obsessed could get. I mean, I’d like to think that people who know me well, might say something similar if asked about my likes and dislikes.

For someone that loves cheese and trying new cheeses as much as I do, I admit to having my favorites – Brunost, Pecorino Toscano Fresco, Vermont Sharp Cheddar, all manner of raw milk cheeses, and probably my number one favorite– Goat Cheese.

The thing that I love so much about goat cheese is that it is very easy to make, and extremely versatile. You can eat it on crackers – and enjoy it with pesto on top, just as well as raw honey, put it in eggs, use it in dips, stuff it into lasagna, etc. Plus you can use the whey to make other recipes. Which totally fits into my “Waste Not Want Not” philosophy. There is just so much to love.

I love cheese so much, that I plan on getting my own goats and sheep in a few months, so that I can have fresh raw goat’s milk and sheep’s milk to make cheese from.  That is what I call a commitment to cheese. I have several other cheesy plans in the works as well.

I told you I was obsessed.

Anyway, goat cheese is as easier to make than you would ever dream of. All you need is a gallon of goat’s milk (I got raw goat milk from the farmer’s market, but you can also used pasteurized from your grocery store, you can also make a half recipe), cultures and directions. The only equipment you need is a large pot, a kitchen thermometer, cheesecloth and a container to let it set in – I recommend this one.

This recipe makes about 16 oz. of fresh delicious goat cheese – all for about $6-8 which is about 3x the amount you get at the grocery store for the same price. Which is why you can afford to put it in lasagna. You know you want to.

Come to the dark side, we have cheese.

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Nuts For Nuts

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I love nuts, they are one of the best snacks – quick and satisfying as well as full of nutritional benefits since they are absolutely packed with protein, good fats, vitamins and minerals. They are the perfect snack food, one that will keep you going and quell that craving for something crunchy and salty. Now that is what I call a good snack!

I always like to have a variety of raw nuts in my pantry – my favorites are almonds and cashews. After they have been soaked, you can dehydrate them in the oven (or if you are lucky enough to have a dehydrator!) and mix them with your favorite salts and spices to make your own version of spiced nuts. You can also leave some of them as is (storing them in the refrigerator), to put into smoothies. I like to soak enough for both options. To learn more about the benefits of soaking nuts (as well as legumes and grains), check out this link

Spiced nuts are great for munching on straight out of your hand, serving as a snack for guests, sprinkling on your salads, etc.

Not only does soaking nuts increase their health benefits, but the texture and taste is even better. It could also be less allergenic, based on recent events in my own life. This is not confirmed, but only what I experienced.  I was the recent guinea pig. I have always had an aversion to walnuts, for some reason. But Roberto grew up eating walnuts (they are part of the traditional Sardinian diet) and so we decided to try some. I soaked them, as I know that soaking nuts increases their nutritional profile, by allowing you to be able to utilize more of the vitamins and minerals, since soaking breaks down the enzyme inhibitors. I mixed these soaked walnuts with some soaked almonds. Then I drained and towel dried them, and mixed both nuts with olive oil, sea salt, pepper, and dried rosemary (basically the spices that were left in the bag from my favorite Trader Joe’s spiced Macona Almonds – waste not, want not…). I spread them out on a tray and cooked them in a 200 F oven for about 15 minutes – shaking the tray every 5-10 minutes.

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I really wanted to learn to love walnuts, so I was eating a handful of these mixed (walnut and almond) nuts everyday – either as a snack, or on salads. By the fourth day I wasn’t feeling right. I felt like I had no strength in my hands, and I was more tired than usual. On that day, I decided to pick the walnuts out, and just eat a handful of those, in another attempt to try to like them. Within minutes I started to sneeze, then, my mouth, tongue and lips were starting to itch, and soon my eyes started to get a bit puffy. I was having an allergic reaction! If it hadn’t been for the soaking, I am guessing that the reaction likely would have been much worse! So my taking the extra time to soak my nuts, grains and legumes really paid off and probably saved me a trip to the ER! :)

But really, taking a little extra time (and you really don’t have to do anything – they are doing all the work!) to soak your nuts before eating them makes them much more beneficial, easier to digest and the perfect texture to go in smoothies. If you bake them in the oven, with spices, then you have a whole other great use for them! This is a great way to treat your nuts, and your body!

Disclaimer:  I am not a dietitian or health care professional. My posts reflect my own personal experience. You should always consult a doctor before making any changes to your diet and exercise routine.

A Spring Dinner – Grassfed Beef Steaks with Chimmichuri, Fresh English Peas with Garlic and Pan Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

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It is no secret that I love to eat seasonally and that I am a big fan and customer of my local farmer’s market. Last spring I showed you how to make this really nice dinner that showcases the bounty of spring. When you eat more seasonally it is fun to see now how much you really look forward to certain foods during the year. For example fresh English peas in the pod. These little beauties are like the heralds of spring. Just their very color is indicative of the season – beautiful spring green. I felt this meal was so invoking of Spring, that it was worth posting again, now that spring is in full flourish – and also because I really want to win some grassfed steaks!

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So this is my entry for the Clean Your Plate Challenge over on Nourished Kitchen . This month’s addition is Grassfed Steaks !

We have been trying to eat as seasonally as possible for the past two years, which can be a challenge depending on where you live. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like we have been doing it for this long, because I am still learning more traditional cooking techniques and adding more and more real food to my kitchen repertoire. This past month for example, I have been eliminating processed sugar and white flour from our diet. When we move to Vermont in 2 weeks, these things will no longer have a place in my kitchen. This way of eating will always be a work in progress, but I feel the pluses completely outweigh the minuses, both in health and taste. That is one other thing I am looking forward to with our upcoming move – even more access to local and pasture raised meat and dairy foods!

As I have mentioned before, Roberto and I are very active people. We enjoy activities like archery, martial arts and weight lifting, among other things. With an increased activity lifestyle over the past year, it has come an increased need for good quality protein and food. I feel like this way of eating has given me not only increased physical energy, but also mental energy, and more balanced emotions.

I paired this beautiful grassfed skirt steak with local fingerling potatoes – another spring veggie.  I really loved the combination of these three components – steak, potatoes and fresh English peas.

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I also got some inspiration from my fresh herbs out on the porch. I have always wanted to make a chimmichuri sauce – its vibrant green color and fresh taste is very attractive to me on so many levels, and it just felt like it would go great with this meal.

Chimmichuri is typically made with fresh cilantro or parsley as the main herb, but I don’t have either of them growing. So I used what I did have – basil and oregano. I threw these herbs together with extra virgin olive oil, citrus champagne vinegar and a few other spices to make a fabulous tangy and herbal sauce for the steak.

I pan roasted the fingerling potatoes by throwing them in a large pan with olive oil, salt and pepper and cooking until they were browned on all sides. I then thew them in the oven at 425 F for 20 minutes, and tossed them with fresh chives when they came out of the oven. I sautéed the peas with olive oil and 3 cloves of garlic.

It was a wonderful meal full of the fresh flavors of spring!

Chimmichuri

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup fresh basil leaves
¼ cup fresh oregano leaves
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup citrus champagne vinegar
3 cloves of garlic
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 TBS sumac
salt to taste

METHOD:

Throw it all in a food processor or blender and blend until it becomes a sauce and serve it with the steak and potatoes.

My Sweetie’s Birthday – Lasagna Rolls and Tiramisu Ice Cream Cake

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Ooey Gooey Cheesy Lasagna!

In this household we like to indulge in The Birthday Week(TM). This means that when either Roberto or I are celebrating a birthday, each day of our birthday week, we get to pick out some little thing to do – whether it is to go to the movies, to the beach, out for ice cream or a treat of some kind, and one of those days, have a special meal made. Not expensive things, just fun little things to keep the celebration going. For Roberto’s actual birthday, I took him to a favorite restaurant here in Saint Augustine and gave him a very special and personal gift – after almost 2 years of marriage and a very long story, I am now officially Mrs. Campus!

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Roberto and I with Mom at Easter – at the table where we were most of the weekend! EATING.

So to close out the week of birthday festivities, this past weekend, my mom came to visit and so we of course had to have another celebration for Roberto. I asked him for his menu of choice, and not surprisingly he came up with Lasagna. It is his favorite, after all.

As for a cake, he was looking for something Tiramisu inspired. I know Roberto is a huge fan of ice cream, so I asked him if he’d like me to make him a Tiramisu Ice Cream Cake – and he was game!

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Tiramisu Ice Cream Cake

I spent a few days looking online for Tiramisu flavored ice cream, and a sponge cake or lady fingers to make the cake. We happened to be celebrating his birthday with my mom the day before Easter, which meant we would be baking with my mom too. So I had to plan ahead to make sure all this baking wasn’t going to wreak havoc on me with my wheat issues. Therefore, I modified some Easter bread recipes to include my soaking techniques, and looked for recipes to make cake and bread that was more eggs and less flour. The sponge cake recipe I found for the ice cream cake ended up being more like a big crepe than a cake due to my egg whites not cooperating, but it was perfect for the cake.

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Preparing Lasagna Rolls

As for the lasagna, I decided to make baked lasagna rolls, so I didn’t need to use as many noodles. I used whole wheat noodles and I used a mixture of mascarpone, homemade goat cheese, parmigiano, basil paste and spinach as the filling and I made a simple sauce using a jar of organic tomato sauce, a can of tomatoes, some wine and spices. Roberto loved these rolls, and declared it the best lasagna he has had in the US. So I was pretty happy with that! We served it with a nice bottle of Cannonau, a Sardinian wine, known for its beneficial antioxidant properties :)

This weekend was a very Italian food centered time, which is always great.

To see our Sicilian Easter Dinner with my mom, please check out her blog for the recipes and photos.

Lasagna Rolls:

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Cheesing it UP!

INGREDIENTS:

1 package of whole wheat lasagna noodles (12 noodles)

filling:
8 oz. mascarpone cheese
4 oz. homemade raw milk goat cheese
2 inch piece of parmigiano cheese, grated
3 oz. fresh baby spinach
3 TBS fresh basil paste
salt & pepper to taste

sauce:
2 TBS olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
28 oz. can of fire roasted tomatoes
½ jar of organic tomato sauce
¼ cup red wine
oregano, thyme, and basil to taste

12 round pieces of fresh mozzarella

METHOD:

Bring water to boil for pasta, and cook according to package directions, except cut the cooking time by half. Drain and set aside.

Prepare the sauce. Sauté the onions and garlic in olive oil, until translucent. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, wine and spices. Mix together and cook over a medium-low heat for about 35-40 minutes.

While sauce is cooking preheat the oven to 350F. In a bowl mix all the filling ingredients together. Then divide and spread the filling over the length of each noodle, and roll up. Place noodle rolls into a prepared baking dish – place a little of the sauce on the bottom of the pan before laying the rolls on top. Then place a piece of mozzarella on top of each roll, and pour the rest of the sauce over top of the whole dish. Then grate extra parmigiano on top. Bake for 45 minutes, and then remove the foil, and bake for another 10-15 or until cheese is browned. Serves 6.

Tiramisu Ice Cream Cake

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One recipe of Tiramisu Ice cream from Desert Candy Blog
(the only thing I changed about the recipe, is that I used a tub of tiramisu marscapone, and 8 oz. of sour cream, as well as sweetening with maple syrup instead of sugar)

One recipe of Sponge Cake Roll Recipe
(again I sweetened with maple syrup)

METHOD:

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Preparing Components for Ice Cream Cake

Prepare the ice cream base the night before, so it has a chance to chill. In the morning, bake the cake according to the recipe – don’t forget to roll it in a towel before it cools. While it cools for about 20-30 minutes, churn the ice cream according to the manufacturer’s directions.

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Rolling Ice Cream Cake Roll

Smear the cooled cake with the soft, just churned ice cream, and sprinkle with cocoa powder. Roll up and place in the freezer. After about an hour, sprinkle the cake with some more rum, and then let freeze for about another hour. To serve, slice, and sprinkle with cocoa powder and powdered sugar – and extra maple syrup for those with a sweet tooth. Serves 10

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Cute Pets, thrown in for good measure! Everyone deserves a treat!