Friday, January 23, 2015

FridayFoto Post - Sushi Bake

Sushi Bake with crispy shrimp and seaweed salad-My daughter Bridget makes dinner- Pinterest Success!!!
Decided to have a photo post every Friday- here is #1.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Crazy Busy Year and the Big Apple

It has been a very spotty year for Play with Food - with some family health issues and an increased freelance workload meant I had to focus on the writing I have to do and left me with little time to do the fun posting that I love to do here. Demands on my time have taken meals and food from a creative expression to quick necessity. However, there have been some notable food-related events, and I want to begin regular posting by sharing one of the biggest-a 40th anniversary trip for my husband and I to New York City.

In trying to think of something to commemorate something as big as being married for 40 years, I
agonized. Neither my husband nor I are big jewelry people, and a party would just be a ton of work for me, but then I had an inspiration- how about a trip? But the question was-to where? We both love the beach, but we go there at least a couple of times a year, and so it didn't seem special enough, but then I thought-why not NYC?  Gavin had been there before with my daughter for the NFL draft but I had never been, and there would be things there that both of to enjoy and a great way to make new memories to carry us into the next several decades. An additional advantage was that I could meet a new client there and explore new freelance options while there.

Now here's the rub-my husband is not a flier, so I needed to find a way to get to New York that did not involve my husband driving more than 8 hours (I was hoping to continue our marriage and stay out of jail).  So I began making arrangements. Amtrak tickets to and from New York, choosing a hotel convenient to midtown Manhattan so we could get to things easily, deciding how long to stay and what we should try to do while there. Except for the travel and hotel the next biggest expense would be food, but I was determined that we could not skimp there - after all, what is an anniversary without an anniversary dinner? I knew there were places Gavin had gone to with Bridget when they were there - Evergreen Diner, Juniors, Toasties - that my husband would want to go back to,but I was motivated to find some special fine dining experiences while there. But how to eat well in the most expensive part of the city? Groupon turned out to be a great resource- I looked to see what was available in NYC in the area of our hotel, and used Yelp and TripAdvisor to select some great options (more details in future posts).

I really wanted to keep this a surprise until the day before we left,but discretion is the better part of valor so about a week before our departure, I set this at his place on the table. Needless to say,he was first mystified and then delighted! We were ready to take a bite out of the Big Apple!!!!

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Green Pasta Boosts Good Cholesterol

I was so excited to see that eating an avocado a day could increase the "good" cholesterol and improve heart health in a post on NPR's blog.

 As a long-time fan of avocados simply because of their taste and texture, and of course because I am concerned about the health of my readers,  I wanted to share a recipe that is an amazing way to get that extra avocado in your diet.  A delicious side dish, Avocado Pasta is a favorite in our home, and is good hot or at room temp for a pasta salad.  I usually use one of the high-protein pastas  like Barilla Plus or  Ronzoni's Smart Taste.

Avocado Pasta (makes 4 servings)

4 servings of your favorite pasta, cooked

1 whole ripe avocado
1/2 cup half an half (you could use low-fat milk if you are counting calories)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 clove garlic, mashed
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (more if you like it cheesy)
1/4 cup chopped parsley or cilantro
1/4 cup olive oil

Cook pasta and toss with oil or butter, set aside.

Blend all sauce ingredients in the blender until smooth, add more milk bit by bit if needed to make pourable.  Toss sauce with cooked pasta, and enjoy.  I usually top with a bit of cracked pepper and fresh grated parmesan.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

3-D Printed Food?

Since I work in a nuclear physics lab I am very familiar with the capabilities of 3-D printing.  They are used at Jefferson Lab to create prototypes and parts for particle detectors and other uses. Seeing these things work is just amazing, but I never thought they would be used to create food, and yet here it is - 3-D printed food.  A little pricey for Nutella Toast, but its a start.

I'd rather have a 3-D printed robot to clean up the mess, how about you?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Planning is Key to Successful Beach Vacation

This is what beach vacation is about!!!
Unfortunately this year, finances will not allow my family to enjoy our yearly beach vacation in the Outer Banks, but that shouldn't keep you from benefiting from my experience in planning for the beach as you get ready to enjoy the surf and sand. If you search "beach"  on  this site there are several posts that will help you find a beach house, plan meals and pack for a week-long trip. Here are my tips for finding and selecting a home that will be a haven for your family for summer vacation:

1) Know your family -  Are you headed to the beach with a crew of young children? Do you have teens and young adults?  Are you a multi - generational group? Does your family expect all the bells and whistles, or are they happy just to be able to walk to the beach?This will guide you as you select a home to stay in, for example, choosing a home with five bedrooms may sound great on the surface, but if two of those have bunk beds and your kids are grown and coming with their own families, it won't work. Do you have teens who need their own space?  Look for a house with an extra den or game room.
Crab night!!!
2) Know your area -  I have always used a realtor to rent a vacation home.  They usually know the area and the owners and know who has flexibility. But be forewarned -  realtor sites can be deceiving. Your semi-oceanfront home may mean  you have to cross a busy thoroughfare that is fine if your party is adults and teens but not so great with a crew of toddlers. By the same token, your oceanside house may have the same views and even better access than some semi-oceanfront homes (i.e. if your SOF is in the middle of a block and the access is at the end of the block). Google earth and aerial photos can help you determine what location makes the most sense for your family.
3) Shop smart -  Arrival day is crazy and beach grocery stores are their own special kind of crazy, so
I usually make sure to carry enough food to get us through the first night so we can do the bulk of our shopping after we are settled and when the crowds have died down. For us- we carry many of our proteins with us because we buy at Costco to feed a crowd, we buy a lot of produce and small stands that are local, and that  leaves not much that has to be bought up front. We usually have a planned meal that can cook while we unpack that first day- frozen lasagna, a pre-baked ham, or barbecue made at home and brought in the cooler.
Buffet is easy for everyone!
4) Spread the load - When we head to the beach, I plan meals and then families coming can contribute by buying drinks, bread, deli meat, fresh produce, snacks or can provide a meal by buying pizza, or steamed shrimp or steamed crabs.  Breakfast and dinner are common meals but everyone is on their own for lunch- that means that I am not cooking all the time.  Also all guests take turns doing dishes, if you cook, you don't clean.While I love cooking and impressing guests I try to keep beach meals simple, grilled chicken, burgers, or barbecue.  Our most popular meals have been steamed crabs and taco salad!!! Focus on simple foods and lots of local produce. If  you have other cooks in your family, let them take a turn being responsible for a meal- a vacation means that even the cook needs a break
5) Buffet- We never serve food at the beach- everything is put out on the ample counters and everyone serves themselves.  That makes mealtime simple and casual.

Beach vacation has to include a vacation for the cook as well, and these are just some of the tips that will make your vacation go smoothly and make memories that are about fun and family, not stress and drudgery!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

"Kitchen Sink" Rice a hit!

I am not sure about you but since the number of people I feed daily has been reduced,  I often have parts of bags of frozen vegetables in my freezer with not enough to feed my crew but too much to simply pitch.  The other day I had the inspiration to use those bits and pieces as part of a quick side dish using, of all things, frozen brown rice.  Normally I turn  my nose up at ready made foods (frozen mashed potatoes are a mystery to me!), but these bags hold just enough for a side for my family and allow me to assuage those who like white and those who prefer brown rice at the same meal.

This particular day,  I had two ears of fresh corn, part of a bag of edamame and part of a bag of frozen spinach.  I began by melting some coconut oil and cutting the corn kernals off the cob.  I sauteed the corn, some chopped onion, the spinach and edamame while I "cooked"  the rice in the microwave.  Once the rice was ready I dumped it into the veggies and added a teaspoon of  Better than Boullion Chicken (a staple in my house) and cooked until the liquid evaporated.

I served this as a side to steamed shrimp, and it was a HIT!!!  You could make this a main dish by adding some leftover meat or some egg.

Even though this is not a grandiose recipe, I hope it inspires you not to be afraid to use what you have in unexpected ways - when it works out, you will look like a genius!