Tuesday, February 8, 2011

There's No Monster Living In The Oven

Recently, we had a friend put out a question on what people like to eat while on board their boats. Most of the responses demonstrated the popularity of pre-packaged foods for most people. After all, it is a short sailing season in this area, and I guess people consider meal preparation to be a waste of time. Either that, or they are afraid of the oven even though I've never had any monsters pop out when I opened the door. It got us thinking about how our eating habits aboard have changed.

A couple of years ago, we posted a blog about cooking on board, and stressed the simplicity of our choices. As with all aspects of sailing, as the time has passed, we have become more comfortable with cooking aboard and a bit more experimental. Although we still tend to concentrate on the simpler options most of the time, simple does not mean uninventive or uninspiring meals.

We have now sailed Obsession through three full summers, and this past year we added a new element to our inventory - a live basil plant. We use basil frequently in cooking at home, and keep two or three basil plants on the go at all times. This summer, we decided to try taking one with us. Most of the time, he lived in his pot in the sink, which prevented him from flying all over the cabin. He was a great addition, enabling us to add fresh herb flavour to our food through the whole trip. (I say "he" because Michelle named him "Melvin".) Only once did he topple over onto the floor, and that wasn't even due to the motion of the boat - we bumped into him while we are at dock. Fresh basil made a great addition to pizza, pasta, lasagne, and some other dishes.

Next summer, we may get more adventurous yet and try to bring along a wider variety of live herbs.

Other than the basil, we use lots of herbs in our cooking, but we've always taken dried herbs. To store them, we use a container made to hold daily pills. The one we use has eight spots (for a week's supply of pills), and use each compartment to hold a different type of herb. Using them judiciously, this will last us for a trip of two weeks or so. We also keep a small bottle of olive oil, and some basic staples such as flour and sugar.

Sailing around PEI and Nova Scotia in the summer there is usually lots of opportunity to buy fresh local produce. Many small towns have farmer's markets and fresh vegetables are always a welcome addition to the menu - whether as a side dish or a main component of a main dish. Some fresh mushrooms, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, snow peas, brocolli and onion sauted in olive oil with some herbs make a great addition to pasta or a stirfry. Leftovers go in a ziploc or colapsible container in the icebox and can be easily reheated atop the stove. Leftover baked potato from an evening meal makes hashed browns the next morning.

The barbecue remains a popular choice on hot days, so the cabin doesn't get too hot, but our oven gets pressed into service often. There is nothing like some hot chocolate chip cookies right out of the oven when it is raining and damp outside. We also make up biscuit mix at home and bring it along in a container, so we just need to add liquid, mix, form the dough into biscuits and pop them in the oven.

Nacho chips smothered in cheese and salsa fresh out of the oven is a popular snack aboard, as are fruit, nuts and chips, because of the salt content.

But along with the barbecue, the oven remains a mainstay during our trips. We've tackled pizza, lasagne, biscuits, cookie, muffins, and other items. They don't have to be difficult recipes, but fresh herbs, fruit, and vegetables can easily liven up any meal. We think it makes the overall sailing experience more enjoyable.

Oh yeah, and we never forget the wine.

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