Monday, April 16, 2012

UnRecipe: To There and Back Again

Vacations can be stressful. I know that seems like a contradiction in terms, but I should specify: getting ready for a vacation is stressful. I think there's some fuzzy math involved, something to the effect of, it will take about the time you'll be taking off to prepare for the time you'll be taking off. Confused yet? I have some tips to share if you're in that whirlwind of getting ready to go on a trip and don't want to feel like you're behind the eight-ball when you return. Let's get some Wasabi-Wisdom on, shall we?

Upon Arrival, Make Soup - Photo by Wasabi Prime
I wouldn't really call it Wasabi Wisdom, more like I'm Lazy and Don't Want to Worry What's For Dinner When I Get Home. So before any trip, I always make an extra batch of something simple, like stew, a hearty soup or chili. This time, it was chili because at any given time, I'll likely have all the basics to make a big ol' pot of the stuff, which is: dry spices, beans, ground meat, onions and whatever vegetables are lying about in the crisper drawer. I also like to throw in some beer for good measure when I'm making chili -- why not, they kind of go together, right? If you're gone for just a few days, like an extended weekend trip, leave it in the fridge for when you return -- big appliances like that run better when they've got stuff to keep cool, versus chilling an empty space. Gone longer? Freeze it in smaller batches for easy defrosting when you get home, and you can just heat-and-eat leftovers for a few meals, not worrying about grocery shopping until after that grueling Monday where you have to trudge back to work. Yes, you can also call the magical, marvelous Pizza Delivery Man, who we all love and adore, but I'm trying to give an alternative to hitting the Pizza Button. Especially after a vacation -- you've probably been on a weeklong bender of diet-busting proportions, why not ease back into balanced meals with something you made prior to your trip? And then call the Pizza Delivery Guy mid-week.

Beer and bacon chili - it's what's for the Mister while I'm away - Photos by Wasabi Prime
In my case, I made this batch of vacation-chili/stew/whatever for the Mister, as he stayed behind on my last trip. It's worth it to leave some food for whoever's staying at home. There might still be leftovers by the time you get home, but more likely, it's a way of keeping things on the rails if you've got a budget to stick to, or just don't want to leave that take-out temptation behind when you're gone. He's got a pretty good habit of taking lunch to work, and he's busy as all get-out, so having something quick to eat when he gets home is a saving grace. But I did see the leftover pizza sitting in the fridge when I got back, so I know the Pizza Button got hit at least once, but that's fine, I'd have done the same.

By the time I returned, we had a CSA delivery, so it was nice to arrive home to a fridge already stocked with produce. The Mister cooked with some of it, and there was plenty left for me to dabble with when I got settled back into Wasabi HQ. I just wanted something simple and rustic, so I made a big crazy soup, using a little of everything. I caramelized leeks and onions, threw in some Swiss chard, canned garbanzos, and added some pork sausage that Brock had picked up on a whim. I'm  not sure what this soup could be called; maybe it was a bit of a riff on Italian wedding soup, swapping meatballs with sausage chunks, but the week after you return from a vacation, you just want something delicious and easy to prepare. This was the perfect meal to get me back into the swing of kitchen duty while juggling work.

Building the perfect soup-monster! - Photos by Wasabi Prime
And bless the Mister's heart -- I came home to the Best Thing Ever. Fresh cornbread and my most favorite thing in the world -- no, not even Indy -- Chocolate Chip Cookies. Sorry, Indy. Cookies = Winning. I don't say this enough, but Brock's a really good cook and baker. It always comes down to time and how we wish to spend it. At the end of a long day, when the option of Cooking in the Kitchen vs. Playing Mass Effect 3 is placed before you, who you think's gonna win? But before I left, Brock had just perfected the seasoning of his cast iron cornbread pan and a pot of chili clearly demands such accoutrement. I'm sure the smell of just-baked goodness became infectious, so he made incredibly perfect chocolate chip cookies. Seriously, is he half Keebler Elf or what? I should make that guy live in a tree and bake me cookies all the live-long day! So I came home to tasty fresh cornbread, chocolate chip cookies and even a big ol' bottle of bubbly chilling in the fridge. It was the best Welcome Home I've had in a while! 

The best thing about all this good stuff is, it was just waiting for me - Photos by Mr. and Mrs. Wasabi


  1. I came home to a dishwasher full of dirty dishes! But at least the leftovers were gone. I'm totally using Brock's cooking prowess to guilt Jim into cooking for me. If that fails, I'm looking for a Keebler Elf!

  2. Ha! Keebler Elf Upgrade! This was the first time I'd ever come home to such a wealth of baked goods. I personally think the cornbread started a domino effect of baking mania, and I was just lucky enough to show up at the right time. :P


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