With our yearly family sailing trip coming up, I’ve had plenty on my mind and plenty in my shopping cart.
With family trips, we usually pair up with a couple different families and that means hoards of children. Sailing with a boat full of children makes for a slightly different trip then when it’s just the two of us. Spending the days sunning ourselves on St. Barths, sipping French wine and nibbling on fancy pants cheese will have to be saved to the confines of my memory. Instead, we’ll be sailing around the more kid friendly and more clothed British Virgin Islands.
I have to mentally prepare myself for a week of constantly reminding children to put on sunscreen, being woken up to tiny footsteps above board, picky eaters, non-stop tween music, evening crying because they didn’t properly put on their sunscreen, headaches, germs and everything on the boat being sticky. When I was provisioning for this trip, I purchased 2 bottles of wine for each day – a much more conservative amount then our “party week” adult trips. It suddenly came to my attention “why on earth would I be purchasing less wine?!” Although it might be a positive thing, considering a morning hangover with screaming children isn’t exactly my idea of a vacation, either.
On a positive note, the children are old enough for slave labor and we now have small arms to help load up the boat before we leave. (The least fun part of sailing.)
I have spent the last 24 hours, only wasting a couple of them on sleep, preparing our food for the trip. I am over caffeinated, covered in marinara sauce (unfortunate bubbling incident) and God help anyone who would like to put anything in the freezer.
I like to prepare all of our dinners ahead of time. We have a full kitchen on the boat, but I like to make the most out of my vacations and spend as little time cooking as possible. Plus, it’s much quicker to just pop a pre-prepared frozen foil pan of dinner in the oven when everyone is ready to eat.
This trip was particularly interesting to cook for since I had to make three versions of each dinner. I’ve been eating lactose free and less pasta lately and one of the kids is a vegetarian. Each dinner, I made a regular version, dairy free -veggilicious version and a meatless version.
The fridge and freezer on the boat is fairly small so you have to be very careful when provisioning. I buy a bunch of those big, foil, throw away, casserole dishes. I put a sheet of foil over the top and wrap them in Saran Wrap to keep them safe from condensation. They’re great, because they stack nicely in the freezer, plus I can just throw them away afterwards. The boat doesn’t have a dishwasher and it’s no fun scrubbing baked cheese off of a casserole dish.
I was racking my brain for a solution to safely package the two single serving modified meals. I was quite proud of myself when I decided to wrap each of them in a foil pouch and stack them in a gladware container two by two so they don’t get squished and are protected from freezer burn. That way, they have the same ease of cooking as the other meals by being able to just pop them in the oven in their foil.
The most important thing about feeding a lot of people on the family trips, is keeping it simple. When it’s just the two of us or all adults, I cook more inventive meals but for trips like these, you’re looking for tasty solutions that will feed the masses.
Our menu goes as follows:
(My apologies for the ugly pictures. Food doesn’t look as pretty when it’s partially frozen.)
Night 1: Baked Ziti
I Pre-made my meat sauce and froze it in the pan. On day of cooking, I’ll just bake the sauce until it isn’t frozen anymore, boil the pasta and stir it into the sauce, and layer the top with the provolone, sour cream, mozzarella mix. 30 minutes in the oven and it will be bubbly delicious.
* Vegetarian version: Ziti with meatless sauce.
* Dairy Free Version: Meat Sauce over frozen veggie mix.
Night 2: BBQ Chicken
Since the grill on the boat is fairly tiny, it’s much easier to heat food on it rather then cook it when cooking for a large group. I seasoned and baked a pan full of chicken thighs in the oven. Meanwhile, I whipped up a batch of my BBQ sauce and poured it in ziplock bags. Once the chicken cooled, I popped them in the ziplocks and froze them. On cooking night, I’ll just defrost the bags and hand the thighs over to “The Grill Master.” Since there was never raw chicken in the sauce mix, I can just microwave the remainder of it for people who like their chicken extra saucy.
* Vegetation version: I bought a tofu meatloaf and marinaded it in the BBQ sauce to oven bake.
Night 3: Chicken fettuccine Alfredo
I cooked the chicken, made my Alfredo sauce and threw it all in a foil dish to be frozen. On the night of serving, I’ll pop the sauce in the oven, boil the fettuccine, and just stir it all together.
* Vegetarian version: I put aside some chicken-less sauce to pour over pasta.
* Dairy Free Version: I put aside some cooked chicken slices to throw over some steamed veggies.
Night 4: Lasagna
I fully assembled my lasagna with meat sauce and froze it. I spared a container of fresh basil to chop up and garnish on night of serving.
* Vegetarian version: I made a mini version in the foil with meatless sauce and doubled the ricotta parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.
* Dairy Free version: I made a mini version with meat sauce, veggies and only 1 layer of pasta.
Night 5: Mexican Casserole
I assembled the casserole and topped it with cheese. I made my enchilada sauce and bagged it separately so the casserole doesn’t get soggy. (Saucy tortillas don’t freeze well.) On the night of serving, I’ll pop it in the oven frozen until it’s thawed out and pour the sauce over the top and bake.
* Vegetarian version: I made one of the tortilla rolls chicken mix free – just bean and cheese – and marked it with a line of olives. ;)
* Dairy Free version: I froze a chicken breast in enchilada sauce and added onions and olives.
Night 6: Pork Chops
I put a layer of pork chops in a pan and coated it in my creamy mushroom sauce. I’ll cook at a high temperature so it thaws out and then bring it down to 225* and slow cook it for three hours.
* Vegetarian version: I put a slice of tofu meatloaf in the creamy mushroom sauce and froze.
* Dairy Free version: I recycled the rest of the obscenely expensive tofu meatloaf and put it in with a handful of frozen veggies, sriracha and curry powder.
Night 7: Turkey Tacos
Pretty straightforward – taco meat and all the fixings. I bought un-domestic goddessy pre-fried taco shells since I didn’t want to have to make an oily mess in the kitchen.
* Vegetarian Version: I bought veggie meatballs that I will ground up and season into taco meat.
As far as sides go, I always make a couple gallon ziplocks full of Parmesan garlic mashed potatoes and I bring frozen veggies to steam. Lettuce doesn’t fare too well in the refrigerator on the boat because the temperature changes so much in them and there’s a good chance the lettuce will freeze. I usually do a green salad the first couple nights but anything after that is a little risky for lettuce. On the Mexican nights, I make a really easy corn salad. A couple cans of corn, cilantro, red onion, and a little red wine vinegar.
I wasn’t the snack master of the trip but I brought a couple easy things for between meal munching.
I cooked shrimp and coated it in lemon juice. Bought pre-made cocktail sauce and some horseradish for the adult version dip.
Trashy “cheese” dip – my better half can’t get enough of this terrible concoction and kids love it, too. I just put a pan on simmer, chop up a brick of “cheese food” and add a can of Rotell. Serve when melted. It’s actually disgustingly tasty. ;)
Bruschetta – My favorite bruschetta recipie I’ve tried is the Double Tomato version I found on allrecipies.com. The mix is fantastic as is, I just quadruple the amount of garlic in it. I keep it in a gladware container and it’s good for like a week in the fridge. Day 6 you may need to “spice it up” with a little more garlic. I buy a baguette and slice it up. We prefer our bruschetta with the tomato mix cold instead of baked like in the recipe. I line the baguette slices on a pan and brush them with an olive oil/Parmesan /garlic salt/garlic mix. I toast them in the oven for about 6 minutes until crispy and serve the refrigerated tomato mix on them. It’s super easy and you looks much more gourmet then when you serve Velveeta cheese dip.
As I’m writing this blog, my mind is racing thinking about all of the potential things I can forget to bring. The caffeine probably isn’t helping anything…. On these trips you ALWAYS forget something. Once you’re out there sailing through the islands, it’s pretty easy to to roll with the punches though. So what.. You don’t have garlic bread one night. You’re in paradise! As long as you have people you enjoy and enough wine to go around, you’ve got it all. :)
… But before I “have it all,” I have to wash the marinara out of my hair.