Saturday, January 1, 2011

Cooking Kosher Vacation Style!

This year we had the privilege of being in Florida for winter break.  Even though there was no snow, it was still pretty cold for the season.  Don’t worry - not complaining!  We spent part of the time in a local hotel with breakfast service (thanks La Quinta for letting me into the kitchen to check out the hashgachas on the muffins and cereal!) and the rest in an apartment with a full kitchen.

One of the things I love about Southern Florida is the Publix grocery store.  A favorite activity of mine on family trips is to go to stores that we don’t have locally in Chicago and seeing what new and exciting kosher products there are.  It pays to have the CRC (Chicago Rabbinical Council) on speed dial on my cell phone for checking out unfamiliar hashgachas!  My family knows that when it’s time to do the food shopping on any vacation, it will take me at least double the time I say its going to take…it’s the cost of having Mom do the shopping!  At Publix we found kosher bread, yogurt, store brand macaroni and cheese, long grain rice mixes, and even a fresh birthday cake for my son that was actually pretty tasty. 

The only items we couldn’t get locally were meat, cheese (American, mozzarella, pizza), and frozen Bodek vegetables.  Since we were going to be away over Shabbat without an oven I had to come prepared.  I purchased cut up rotisserie chickens here in Chicago and froze them.  I then put the chicken, frozen hamburgers, cheese, frozen pizza and vegetables, along with a few other items in our checked luggage in insulated freezer bags.  Luckily the TSA wasn’t hungry!

I also brought along a George Foreman grill which I purchased for the trip.  I had never used one so I was a little excited to see exactly what it could do!  Aside from the expected hamburgers and hot dogs for a weeknight dinner, we grilled excellent fresh vegetables that we purchased at Publix and at a local farmers market – using store bought Italian dressing as a marinade.  Yum, yum, yum, yum, yum! 

It wasn’t very hard to come up with meals based upon what I had brought and purchases from the local store.  I had brought along a large milchig pot and frying pan (for when we had access to a stove), and we bought big plastic storage containers with lids to microwave everything else.  It worked pretty well.  Tuna noodle casserole, soy grillers, pasta with sauce, grilled cheese sandwiches, rice and stir fried fresh green beans were just some of the dishes included in the everyday simple home cooked meals. We even had some of the fish my brother-in-law caught!

We had enough rotisserie chicken for a few meals.  I knew that if I didn’t come up with a way to change it from “oh no not rotisserie chicken again”, I was going to have a revolt on my hands.  So, I called my girls together and we came up with a great new sauce for the chicken and grilled it on our George Foreman (my son kept asking who George was).  We used the little hotel grape jellies that we had left over from breakfasts from the beginning of our trip, ketchup packets that I had thrown in the suitcase “just in case”, and soy sauce that we had purchased locally (because soy sauce makes everything taste better!).  In a short time leftover chicken went from everyday chicken to exciting and delicious Asian Glazed Chicken (it's fancier if you give it an official name).  We took pictures – it’s one of those you have to see it to believe it kind of things!

We made french fries using Yukon Gold potatoes (that we bought at Publix) and my new french fry potato cutter I bought at the kitchen outlet store (my love of gadgets is a discussion for another time). Everyone was extremely happy, well fed, and enormously impressed with our creativity!

We’re back home now and the temperature yesterday was just about the same as it was in Florida!  We got back just in time for me to cook for Shabbat again…only this time in my own kitchen at home!  The truth is, that no matter where we are or where we go it seems that the kitchen is my home…and that’s fine with me…as long as the tips are good ;-)!

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