Mary Mechler, Owner - CookProStore.com
I love my family and I love it when they can visit for an extended time period. A few years ago, my family and my brother's family started getting together at the beach in North Carolina for a week. We rent a condo, and just enjoy the company. It has been such a great time! I am the one who loves cooking (and eating), so that is where I tend to concentrate my efforts. Over the years, I have found the important thing is to plan ahead so that I can spend time with them, and not just focus on food - although that is one of my favorite things in life!
So, I have a few tips that have worked well for us, and made the trip a little more organized and hassle-free. You have all the normal things you have to take to the beach, like wine, soda, water, toiletries, tissues, paper towels, foil, napkins, etc., so just make a master list of those things, and determine which you are willing to purchase at home and take, and those that you want to purchase at the beach grocery stores.
But, let us focus on the food. First, I make a list of the menus that would be enjoyed by the group for the nights we will be cooking, and not eating at a restaurant. And, since the sun takes so much out of you, do not forget the appetizers and the dessert! Breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Let us start with breakfasts.
I usually take a couple of breakfast casserole and coffee cake or muffin recipes along that can be made there. Also, think about cereals, juices and bagels. It all depends on the preferences of the group. Oh, and do not forget the coffee!
Lunches are usually sub sandwiches, tacos, pasta salad, nachos, and peanut butter and jelly or grilled cheese sandwiches for the little ones. Most lunch ingredients are purchased at the beach, but we can make the beef for tacos and pasta salad ahead. The beef can be frozen.
Now on to dinners. We are talking about appetizers, main courses, sides, and desserts. We go out about half of the nights to a restaurant, so 3 to 4 will be spent having dinner at the condo, which we will have to prepare - although we have ordered pizza delivery regularly for a meal.
Because this is always a beach vacation for us, we count on buying and preparing at least one seafood meal. I usually purchase shrimp and scallops and deep fry them with the local breading. Next, pasta and meatballs is always a hit for those huge appetites we build from a long day on the beach. We can prepare meatballs and pasta sauce ahead and freeze them. I also bake a few baguettes and freeze as well. Another idea is to make grilled teriyaki chicken breasts. If there is a fourth dinner, we usually opt to have seafood while we can get it fresh. Our group favorite is shrimp. For this meal, I would normally make some steamed shrimp as well as fried. The local fish markets usually have some great cocktail sauce as well, unless you make some of your own that you would prefer.
So, out of 7 days at the beach, here is what sample dinner menus may look like:
Assorted cheeses, crackers, and artichoke cheese dip with crackers and broccoli, cauliflower and red bell peppers
Pasta with sauce and meatballs
No bake strawberry cheesecake
Warm chili con queso dip and salsa with chips
Deep fried shrimp and scallops with cocktail sauce
Milk chocolate pie
Warm Mustard Dill Gouda in pastry with crackers, salsa and chips
Grilled Teriyaki Chicken Breasts
Sauteed Mixed Vegetables
Leftover desserts from the previous meals
Leftover appetizers from previous dinners
Steamed and Fried Shrimp with cocktail sauce
Steamed Green Beans
Ice Cream with hot fudge sauce
The main thing is to be organized and think ahead about what you will make. Then, it is easy to determine what you can do ahead and what you will need to prepare while there. The more you can have completed before the trip means more time to just relax, and less headaches while you are on vacation.
It is also important to make sure that you take those items that you know you or your family will want to have during the trip, and may not be available at the beach. For instance, your favorite coffee or cheeses. Also, depending on what you decide to make, you might include some of your own cookware or cutlery. You never know what the condo or rental property will stock.
I hope these tips will help you in planning your vacation. I will include a few recipes in future articles that I have mentioned here, although there are many versions available. Keep in mind that you are looking for quick, easy and yummy recipes to cut down the time in the kitchen.
We have planned ahead like this for the past two years, and it only leaves determining where and which nights you are going to dinner to think about. But you can agonize over those decisions while you are hanging out on the beach or in the pool!