I have to confess to you, I had delusions of daily mini-travel-journaling this trip to capture the moments. How’s that going? We’re currently on day 13 of our trip, and well, we’re talking today about days 3 and 4. You know what they say about […]
We have a lot of favorite food memories, and sometimes they are made in funny ways. Two blocks away from the hospital where I’ve birthed my last three children is a street lined with restaurants and cafes. Consequently I now have food memories woven in with baby memories. . .the first being our introduction to Humble Bagel after the birth of baby no. 3. Once our chunky son was born, my hungry husband asked one of the L&D nurses what was good nearby to eat (one works up an appetite birthing babies), and she said that Humble Bagel was dangerously good, and just a few minutes’ walk. (Aren’t the best recommendations always word of mouth??) Off he went, and the nurse was right; it’s dangerously good! My husband returned the next very next morning for another bagel breakfast! We’ve returned numerous times since.
They make their bagels fresh every day; their daily flavors are plain, everything, cinnamon raisin, onion, garlic, sesame seed, poppy seed, salt, and honey whole wheat, plus a special flavor each day they’re open (Monday: Cinnamon Sugar, Thursday: Pumpernickel, Friday: Egg, Saturday: Sourdough, and Sunday: Chocolate Chip). They also make their flavored cream cheeses in-house.
My favorite is their vegetable cream cheese; unlike most kinds I’ve had elsewhere (which are rather anemic on the vegetables), theirs is stuffed full of minced or grated carrots, red bell peppers, green onions, and probably another vegetable I’m missing! The vegetables take center stage, making the cream cheese taste fresh and far more flavorful than most vegetable cream cheeses. I love it. I usually get it on a seeded bagel, either sesame or poppy. (Aannnd now I’m getting hungry typing this up!)
My husband’s favorite item on the Humble Bagel menu is their hot breakfast sandwich; he gets his made on their salt or sourdough bagel, with pepper jack cheese, two eggs, and bacon. It is excellent.
When you walk in, you stand in line to order,then wait until your name is called. There’s not much difference between dine-in and take-out — this is not sit-down breakfast place per se. The inside is small, with perhaps four tables at which to sit, with a couple more outside for when the weather is lovely.
They have local fresh-roasted coffee to complement your bagel, as well as a refrigerator case full of other beverages. (Plus cream cheese to go!)
They are known to sell out, especially on the weekends, so don’t expect to make a last-minute dash before they close!
If you want to place a large order (2 dozen or more), be sure to contact them ahead of time.
4716 Freret St
Let’s talk about easy meals to cook on vacation! As I’ve been gearing up to take my entire little Krewe to France for a month (still in shock!), I’ve been plotting what meals I can make quickly and easily in our AirBnbs. Cooking in saves so much money, not to mention that at the end of the day with tired toddlers, eating dinner in your lodgings is almost always more enjoyable for all concerned! I think this is true no matter where I’m traveling, or how big or small the trip.
However, this mama’s idea of vacation is not to spend a ton of time grocery shopping and cooking. (I suspect I am hardly alone in this.) If we’re taking a road trip I’m happy to prepare some meals ahead of time to bring with us, but if we fly somewhere that’s not really an option. In that case I have to get creative and work with small, minimally-equipped kitchens. So in order for a recipe to quality as an “easy recipe to make on vacation”, it has to meet five criteria:
Easy Vacation Meal Criteria:
1) It must not require a lot of cooking and/or clean-up time. Nothing too involved, not a lot of dishes to wash. No long lead time (usually) after a day of sight-seeing.
2) It must not need any fancy kitchen gadgets or special tools. Vacation kitchens usually only house the basics. Hence, I could make any of these meals in every AirBnb we’ve stayed in.
3) It must not need a lot of ingredients, or ingredients that are hard to find. I don’t want to wind up throwing food away at the end of our trip, and I don’t want to not be able to find something I need to cook with. (You’ll see below that I’ve given suggestions for how to use up extra ingredients, or use them in two meals. Also, I’ve given a sample grocery list at the end.)
4) Generally, I lean towards meals that are methods rather than exact recipes. You’ll find a couple of exceptions in my list, but generally I find it much easier to just get in the kitchen and start prepping rather than needing to look at a recipe. It makes the process of getting dinner done faster.
5) But most of all, it must be tasty and enjoyable!! This is, after all, a vacation, and meals should feel a little celebratory! (But not gonna lie, easy helps in this regard.)
Here are fourteen easy meals to cook on vacation that meet ALL of those criteria!
1. Baked Potatoes
Throw them in the oven, load them up with your heart’s desires: sour cream, cheese, broccoli, chopped ham, bacon, cottage cheese, butter, chives. . . you know the drill! Plus they’re super cheap. It does take an hour in the oven, so perhaps it’s not the fastest, but it made the list for its ease of cooking. Just plan accordingly.
Cook up some spaghetti noodles/ravioli/whatever other noodle you love, and top them with jarred marinara/pesto/olive oil and cheese. Mac’n’cheese for the kids would also fall into this category. (Or hey, here’s an easy delicious grown-up version, too!) If you run across fresh pasta at a market, bring that home for a meal that’s as fancy as it is easy. Or take an extra couple minutes and make this amazing dish. A little side salad goes with it beautifully.
3. Rotisserie Chicken/Veggies/Salad
So this made it on the easy-meal-to-make-on-vacation-list, because I make this all the time at home and have tested how easy it is! Grab a rotisserie chicken from the store, salad fixings (or a prepackaged salad if you want it to be even easier), and throw some frozen broccoli and/or frozen french fries on to a cookie sheet in the oven to roast them up. BOOM. Only work required is putting a cookie sheet with food on it into the oven. If you don’t want to even fool with putting anything in the oven, add a side of hearty bread or raw cut vegetables with a dip.
4. Loaded Salad
A loaded salad is perfect for using up those rotisserie chicken leftovers; put them on top of salad greens with a bunch of veggies and a bit of cheese. If you want a little inspiration, one of our favorite dinner salads is my copycat Newk’s Favorite Salad . Or go Greek (feta/goat cheese, bell pepper, tomatoes, cucumber, olives, maybe chopped ham). Add a baguette or other crusty bread to round it out elegantly.
This meal would be a great way to use up both baked potato and loaded salad leftovers; fill the omelettes with whatever cheese and veggies are laying around, and maybe make a little side salad too. It feels like a step up from scrambled eggs, but is hardly any more work. You just need a skillet and a bowl! Bonus: those leftover baked potatoes make excellent home fries for a tasty side. Slice the cold potatoes and saute them in butter until golden brown and crispy.
6. Fancy Grilled Cheese
All it takes for next-level grilled cheese (aka for grownups) is good bread and quality cheese. Spread some toothsome, crusty bread with butter, and fill it with whatever quality cheese and veggies strike your fancy before you toast in in a skillet. Cheddar is a classic, but I love smoked gouda for its flavor and how well it melts. Maybe I’ll discover a new favorite cheese in the land of cheese! Caramelized onions, sliced tomatoes, and bacon or ham are all next-level additions that make for a grilled cheese that tastes like anything but a shortcut dinner. (You may also notice that all of these ingredients would also work really deliciously in an omelette. . . no ingredients left behind!)
7. Brats with sauerkraut and mustard
Think of this as the German version of fancy grilled cheese; hot dogs get elevated to a proper meal by quality brats and rolls, as well as whatever fancy mustard tickles your taste buds. Serve it with sauerkraut and maybe a side of sliced fruit. All you’re doing is warming up ingredients; what steps it up is the quality of the ingredients you buy! (Hat tip to Michelle for this idea.)
8. Charcuterie Board
Charcuterie boards (aka antipasta) is having something of a moment on social media, it seems, but if you’re not worried about fancy presentation you couldn’t get an easier meal to cook on vacation (it also makes an excellent picnic). Cold cuts, fruit (we like melon), olives (marinated is best!), a block or two of cheese, some nuts, crusty baguette, sliced sweet peppers, cucumbers, and carrots, and you’re done! It’s not “authentic” but my kids love dipping their veggies in ranch dressing; those veggies get eaten up! Everyone can serve themselves. Plus it’s a really fun excuse to explore local markets and sample local foods.
9. Fish/Fish en Papillote
“Fish en papillote” is French for “fish in paper” — fish and veggies encased in parchment paper, then baked in the oven. It’s almost impossible to overcook the fish this way, so it’s virtually foolproof. The folks at “Dinner: A Love Story” whimsically call these “fish presents”; you can also think of it as a present to yourself to have a nice meal that takes little work. Layer fish of your choice with some veggies and pop into the oven (you can read the full recipe/technique over here.) We usually do tilapia, lemon slices, and green beans,then season. Any of the previous meals’ leftovers (salad, home fries, veggies, pasta) complement the fish well. There are no dishes to do because the meal cooks inside the parchment paper, which gets thrown away!
10. Quesadillas (in the States)
I qualify quesadillas as a state-side meal, because I don’t really know if tortillas are common in France or the rest of Europe! (I’ll let you know. But I’d be willing to bet you could find them in Latin American countries. . . hehe.) My favorite way of making this easy vacation meal grownup-approved is by using raw tortillas from the refrigerated section. They’re SO much tastier than the precooked ones! Cook the tortillas according to the package directions (it takes just a minute), then fill with shredded Mexican cheese, and maybe also sliced apples (surprisingly tasty, and a nice variation), ham or rotisserie chicken, or some of those leftover sauteed veggies from omelette night. Serve with sour cream (leftover from baked potatoes!) and whatever veggies and fruit you’d like. (Are you sensing a pattern here? I’m all about overlapping ingredients for both budget and sanity!)
In a similar vein, taco night is quick and easy to achieve in a small kitchen! I’d suggest you buy good-quality guacamole already-made for easiest preparation. If your AirBnb has spices available, I season my canned refried beans with cumin and a little chili. You could also season leftover rotisserie chicken to make chicken tacos.
12. French Onion Soup
Has she lost her mind? French onion soup?? Hear me out– all you need to make this luxurious dish is a pot, a cutting board, some (hands-free!) time on the stove, and a few basic ingredients! Really! It’s the perfect dish for a tiny kitchen, and what could be better to make on a rainy day than hot soup, when you’re at home doing laundry anyway, or are hunkered in for a cozy evening? (Close your eyes and imagine a chilly, drizzly evening outside, while inside everyone’s reading next to a fire, or laughing and telling stories, all while being warmed by soup topped in gooey cheese. Tell me that wouldn’t be a heavenly way to spend an evening or what??) Even better if you have slightly stale bread from earlier meals that needs to be used up — the bread’s being put in the soup anyway! I love Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for French Onion Soup. (Yes, I’ve linked a lot to her site. . . what can I say? We’ve gathered a lot of favorite recipes from her in 13+ years of reading her blog!!) If it’s readily available I think adding beef Better Than Bouillon to the recipe is the perfect touch to deepen the flavor. It’s a great meal as-is.
13. Ham/Cheese/Egg Crêpes
Tender crêpes are wrapped around oozy cheese and savoury ham; there’s a reason that this is another easy dinner staple at our house. The kids love them too, and they’re something a little different that the usual. I’ll grant you that this is a variation of the eggs and cheese theme, but what better way to make ingredients do double-duty? You can read the full recipe and technique over here. (Though note: I find it much easier to put the egg on the crêpe already slightly beaten.) This is another meal that’s nice with a salad, too. Bonus: extra crêpe batter may or may not be amazing with Nutella and bananas. . .dinner AND dessert from one dish!
14. Bodacious Sandwiches/BLTs
Am I the only one who “cheats” and makes a really great sandwich for dinner, only to ask myself why we don’t make them more often?? Make a classic BLT, or load up a long loaf of bread with lots of meats (ham/turkey/chicken/bacon), greens (sprouts, crispy lettuce, thin-sliced cucumbers), tomatoes, cheese, special mayo/mustard, avocado, olive spread for an easy low-prep dinner. . . your imagination is the limit, and we find such sandwiches so satisfying to eat. Also great for picnic dinners/lunches on the go!
Sample Grocery List(s)
So you’re about to get a glimpse of my love of lists. Here’s how I make sure these meals are actually easy to make once I’m on vacation. Pick say, three of these meals, and list all the ingredients you need to make them. You can make this list in the car/plane ride over, or the week before, so all you have to do is walk into a grocery store and follow your list. Lists are good when you’re jet-lagged and/or hangry. If ingredients overlap, I put a “x2” next to it so I know I need enough for two meals. (I didn’t put quantities on these lists, because that depends on how many of you there are.) Here are two examples:
European Café Vibe: Omelettes/Onion Soup/Antipasta: eggs, charcuterie meat, onions (an extra one to cook for omelettes), bell pepper, olives, crusty bread x2, cheese x3 (two to four varieties, your call–soup, omelette, antipasta), fruit/melon, beef broth, white wine (to cook with, you lushes), butter, side salad if desired.
Kid Favorites: Grilled Cheese/Baked Potatoes/Quesadillas: good sandwich bread, potatoes, cheese x3 (cheddar/gouda), sour cream x2, onions (saute), chives, bacon x2, tortillas, butter, apples (inside quesadillas and/or grilled cheese sides), broccoli (ok, maybe not a kid favorite but we can try ;). Optional: Ranch and veggies for dipping.
You’ll notice that these grocery lists wind up being pretty short — easy for shopping and storing, and everything should mostly get used up! As I’ve tried to note above, most of these meals repeat ingredients, so you can mix and match a week’s worth of menus easily.
So those are my fourteen easy meals to cook on vacation that I’ll be making on repeat on my trip! (Or, um, at home. . .) What easy meals do YOU make on vacation?
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Ah, is there anything more delightful than summer reading? I know most people like to post a summer book list for you to gather before the season and read throughout the summer… but around here we’re not that organized! Instead, we’ve compiled a list of the books that we actually got around to reading and loved this summer. But all of these will make great fall reads too! With that, here are the books we stashed in our beach bags or devoured by the side of the pool in those fringe hours that we mamas savor.
Finding Fontainebleau: An American Boy in France is part childhood memoir, part history of Fontainebleau palace (think a château along the lines of Versailles). The author’s father, an air force officer, was assigned to the château in the 50s when it was used as NATO headquarters. It was a fascinating read about post-WWII Europe through the eyes of a military kid, and Francophiles will find his childhood recollections of French public school entertaining. Between reading this and Four Princes (see below), Melissa feels prepped for her France trip, but it’s a charming read even if you’re not going to France. (5 stars ~Michelle)
Four Princes: Henry VIII, Francis I, Charles V, Suleiman the Magnificent and the Obsessions that Forged Modern Europe is an intriguing look at four towering monarchs that ruled (and fought, and skirmished, and betrayed. . .) over Europe during the same time period. I tend to forget that the borders and cultures of Europe did not reach their modern forms until recently; so much territory was fought over and changed hands numerous times. Each of these kings shaped the course of history in various ways. This book illuminates the politics, religion, and power struggles of the time that have echoed for centuries. Barbarossa the pirate, popes, the Reformation, and assassins — what more drama could you ask for? (5 stars! ~Melissa)
The Piano Shop on the Left Bank was Thad Carhart’s first book and a NYT best seller. After telling her how much I enjoyed Finding Fontainebleau, Melissa recommended this book, and as per usual, her recommendation was spot on. You hear more about the author’s childhood (French piano lessons) co-mingled with the story of how he bought a piano and resumed lessons as an adult living in France. Light reading at its finest. (4 stars~Michelle) (Melissa’s note: For anyone who loves piano, it will remind you of why you love the instrument. A must-read for pianists.)
Atomic Habits was a book that sneaked up on me. My initial impression was that it was an easy self-help sort of read that had some good points, but nothing groundbreaking. However, somehow its premises started marinating and seeping into the way I approached things, and the book has indeed helped me start some better habits. The two most helpful points for me were habit-stacking (attaching a new habit to an existing one), and the concept of being a doer of a given activity on a regular basis rather than striving for mastery of it. Worth your time to glean some inspiration for making lasting changes! (4 stars ~Melissa)
The Story of Art is a probably not book that would normally show up on summer book list, and I (Melissa) have only just started reading it, but in light of how much I’m already enjoying it I thought it deserved to be mentioned. (It’s been a best-seller since the 1940s, so I’m hardly alone in my opinion!) This book is an overview of how and why art changed over the centuries and with civilizations, why certain features came to be, and how they’re important. Better yet, it’s filled with plenty of pictures to illustrate his points. I’m loving it! I wished that I had read it sooner so that I understood more of what I was seeing at say, the Louvre, but am hoping it will make future museum trips that much more meaningful. Fun fact: Michelle told me that this is the same author of A Little History of the World! He has an accessible manner of writing that makes the arc of the narrative easy to follow. (in progress, no stars yet!)
In the realm of fact-that-reads-like-fiction, The Greatest Missions of the Israeli Secret Service: Mossad seems more like a movie script than military history. (And I’m now fairly certain that Daniel Silva just rewrites Mossad history a little for his Gabriel Allon books. Not that I blame him one bit. 😉 Stories of derring-do, cunning, and bravery abound, making for the perfect book on your summer read list for an exciting beach read. It seriously does not seem like these could be true stories! (4+ stars ~Melissa)
Any book recommendations for us? Despite appearances, nonfiction and fiction recs are welcomed. 😉 In fact, we’d really really like some good fiction to read!
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