Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Beach Food (sniff sniff)

As any of you have been reading this blog recently know, my family has not been able to go to the beach for our annual vacation to the Outer Banks this year due to lengthy (and expensive) renovations on our rental house. Frankly, we haven't been able to do anything fun that we usually do, or that we planned for this summer. However, I see from other blogs that some of my compatriots are headed to the beach and I thought maybe that by posting about beach food and the fun my family has had in the past, I might fell a bit better about my lost vacation (Not!) Well, at least I can share with the rest of you some things that I have learned about eating at the beach.

1) Planning- I usually plan what we are going to eat for the week, with the goal of using all of the food by the end of the week. This has been especially important for us since we take most of the food for the week with us. Why, you might ask? Most importantly, grocery stores in resort areas are notoriously crowded, especially at the beginning of the rental week, and for me, I am not willing to give up two hours of my anticipated vacation time standing in line or elbowing my way down aisles in a grocery store. Secondly, chances are, prices and selection of staples and meats are much better where you live. Thirdly, you can make hamburger patties, freeze flank steak in marinade, other short cuts that will save you time in the kitchen that could much better be used lounging under a beach umbrella (or by a pool with a drink with an umbrella). We can then hit the little farmer's and roadside markets (with much shorter lines) for fresh produce or local specialties. One tip - if you must shop in a resort community, take food for the first day or two so you're not caught up in the Saturday/Sunday mad rush for groceries, and shop early in the morning or late at night to avoid the crowds and lines!

2) Participatory- Vacation is a great time to make food memories, and my family enjoys helping in the kitchen, since cooking is not something they do every day(Katie and I in the kitchen to the left). Even the youngest child can mix pancake batter, stir up a fruit salad, or assemble lunch time sandwiches. Let you older children choose a dish or dessert they want to try, and make it for everyone. Vacation is a great time to play with food. Usually we have a breakfast and dinner planned, but lunch is every man for himself, with lots of deli meats and cheeses, salad fixin's and of course, anyone is welcome to eat leftovers. Since we don't want to carry food back, we try to use leftover meats and veggies in salads or omelets. I have used leftover steamed shrimp to make a shrimp salad for shrimp rolls at lunch, and leftover flank steak for sandwiches or a main dish salad.

3) Easy- You're on vacation, so select meals and snacks that preserve your time as much as possible. I usually make a batch of pimento cheese (posted) and hummus to take with me for easy snacks. We take a precooked spiral ham for the first night that gives us an easy meal the first night when you are busy unpacking, checking out the rental house and heading down to the beach to remind yourself that for an entire week, you will be living like one of the "haves". Then you have leftovers for sandwiches, omelets, ham salad, and eggs benedict. Some our other favorite beach meals are flank steak, hamburgers (with lots of local corn on the cob!), taco or chef salad, "graduation chicken", steamed shrimp. We use lots of local fruits and vegetables, with fruit salad to go with breakfast or as a light side with dinner. Since it is hot, and you are spending lots of time in the sun, go for light meals since heat suppresses your appetite, and fruits and vegetables are a great way to supplement your fluid intake.(Bridget and Molly in the kitchen at John and Cindy's elegant beach house kitchen last year!)

4) Flexibility and spontaneity- Don't be afraid to stray from your planning, if you see something great you want to try. Order a local specialty pizza or barbecue. One of our best beach food memories was a couple of years ago when we had a couple of uncharacteristically cool evening (in the fifties) We went to a local seafood restaurant and ordered two quarts of their clam chowder (who would have thought for a summer beach meal) and had steamy mugs out on the deck watching the sunset!

So for those of you lucky enough to head to the beach in these closing weeks of summer(Above are all the Dowds the last time we were all there at the beach, year before last!) , make the most of it and take the opportunity to use food to make great vacation memories (and post your pix so I can at least live vicariously through you until next year!)

"Graduation" Chicken (for a crowd-we made this for Katie's college graduation party)

3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 15 thighs)
Greek seasoning mix or garlic salt
1 cup your favorite Italian salad dressing

Season chicken with seasoning or garlic salt. Place in Ziploc bag. Add dressing. Marinate overnight, or if you're heading to the beach or camping, freeze and carry with you. Grill thawed chicken until done (can be broiled in oven if you prefer!). I serve this with some artichoke hearts blended in the food processor with mayo and some lemon juice to make a sauce, and it is great!


Anonymous said...

that is good but add more pictures

Kristen said...

What a great article!
I love the Outer, love, love it! You have a beach rental there? I may have to get in touch with you in the future as we always stay in rentals when we go.

I'm sorry you don't get to go on vacation. I would be terribly bummed to. Hopefully you and your beautiful family will get to go soon!

Deborah Dowd said...

Kristen- We are bargain-week people usually the 2nd and 3rd full weeks of June since you can rent so much more house for the money, but I would be happy to let you know the companies we have rented from there that we have been really happy with. And as for a vacation for my family... from your mouth to God's ear!

Anonymous said...

Most helpful sight we found!!!
Thanks for your thoughtfulness!