Food for Thought

Since Tuesday my family and I have been on the road. Traveling with a family of five, the average road trip requires several (and I mean several) stops. A potty break here, the occasional magazine or drink there, and then of course on to the obvious meal stops. In our case, the search for food on the road is a daunting task. Inevitably, the mere mention of stopping the car, let alone for food, opens the door to our usual argument. My husband would say some thing of this nature, “Let’s not stop the car, let’s do drive through.” of which my response would be, “No, I would rather not eat a bunch of junk food on the go. Find a place that we can sit down and have some vegetables for the kids.” Not only does such a place rarely exist along the highway, in our quest to eliminate unwanted travel time, we will cave into our selfish desires and forgo the healthy sit-down meal for the trans-fat laden fast food variety, for the sake of convenience.

Most people find themselves in a similar trap of serving convenience and pre-processed foods that are high in fat, preservatives, and other additives for a party or large gathering. We can easily fall into this trap, especially when added pressures arise from handling other areas of party planning. Best of intentions aside (as I had for my children on the road), the arduous chore of pulling together healthy food options (that are fast and easy) can be challenging at best. I suggest keeping things simple and sticking with the basics. Go for the foods that taste best to you, in their most natural form. This will be a truer reflection of you, by always going with what you know. It is not usually the best idea to spring a new recipe on innocent bystanders! If you decide to work with a particular theme or cuisine, be sure to display a host of choices that that offer a balance of color and texture throughout the menu.

From marinating meats to preparing sauces, have many items stored the night before allowing for easy preparation the next day. Also, look for recipes that can be frozen, then later baked or reheated like these from AllRecipes.com.

Amazing Crab Shells "Pasta shells take a turn as a tasty hors d'oeuvre when stuffed with cream cheese, crab meat and baby shrimp."
Baked Cheese Olives "Rich cheese dough surrounds a savory olive. A great pick-up appetizer or snack. You can freeze the unbaked, dough-wrapped-olives and then bake them right out of the freezer, extending the baking time by a few minutes."
Spinach and Mushroom Pinwheels "For a head start on these appetizers, freeze unbaked slices for up to 3 months."

For a fresh alternative, experiment with tapas-style recipes that are light and sensible and embrace the flavors of the season. Paired with a favorite wine like mine, Marques de Casa Concha Merlot, your guests are sure to be satisfied by these, small, tasty and distinctive food choices. Small plates can still pack a big punch.

For a larger guest list consider a Pasta Party. Pasta is equal parts economical and customizable. Cook a pound of your favorite pasta, and let your dinner guests take it from there. Veggies like diced tomatoes and artichoke hearts are great mix-ins. Provide a few oil- and tomato-based sauce options for topping off their bowls. Don't forget the Parmesan and Romano cheese for color and flavor. Guests can nibble on a quick and easy Antipasto platter while creating their favorite dish. Side with a large, colorful green salad, good wine, and crusty bread and everyone is satisfied.

The main objective here is to avoid the frozen food trap. We are all too familiar with the "pop it in the oven" pre-packaged food choices that can be a staple at many parties. On the flip-side, you never want to find yourself in a last minute crunch in the kitchen just moments before the party is to begin. The key to any successful party is in the preparation. A little early planning goes a long way. That way, you can sit back and enjoy the party with your friends and family, as it should be.

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