We’re (well, Paul and I) are getting ready to head out for a 17-day research trip. 17 days of being in a car. 17 days of living from a suitcase. 17 days of pet-free existence. 17 days of a teenager eating alone.
Now, Patric is perfectly capable of handling himself alone in the kitchen. He can follow any recipe that we’ve ever thrown at him, and he likes to be creative and add touches of his own to the things he makes. So, given a well-filled pantry, meat and vegetables in the freezer, fresh vegetables, cheese, and milk in the fridge, he can do just fine.
But we’re parents. We feel guilty about leaving him alone this long. To be honest, if it weren’t for all of the papers and tests he’s getting into for school, we would drag him along whether he wanted to go or not. (For the record, we did give him the choice, and he’s very certain that he doesn’t want to go on this particular trip because we’re going to be going to so many places.) But since he is staying home, we’re making sure that he’s got some of his favorite foods around to keep him company.
There are plenty of food options within walking distance of our house, but we really want him to eat at home while we’re gone with only a few exceptions — Mother’s Day brunch with his grandmothers being one. So we’ve started planning. First up, there was the Costco trip.
It would be very easy to load up a cart with frozen foods to last him for days at Costco, but we do want him to have some less processed options. That being said, there are things that he likes that he doesn’t get often that are sitting in the freezer for him now – frozen pizzas (thin-crust Margherita and spinach paneer on na’an), chicken taquitos (yeah, I know), sausage, egg, and cheese croissants, and hot dogs (kosher). We also loaded up on fruit juice, peanut butter, a big chunk of Swiss cheese, rice, ramen (his favorite very hot flavor), and, as a special treat because we obviously don’t like him at all, a case of Mexican Coke.
We also picked up canned tomatoes to make a big batch of marinara sauce so that he can whip up pasta for something fresher when he wants it. At the farmers market, we stocked up on ground beef, sausage, and bacon for the freezer, and a flat of strawberries (most of those will go into the freezer for him to make smoothies, but there’s always the chance of shortcake). Before we go, we’ll make sure he has some fresh vegetables, cereal, milk, and bread. Luckily, he’s within walking distance of being able to get more of those when he runs out.
We’ve got some great meals planned while we’re on the road, but in general, I think Patric will be eating better than we will. And since there are strawberries, he can make something at home that we can’t make on the road.
Taste your strawberries before measuring out your sugar. Strawberries at the peak of strawberry season will be sweeter and won't need as much sugar.
The shortcake itself is an often overlooked component. If you make them from scratch, they'll be incomparably better than the sponge cake variety you can buy at the grocery store. A simple recipe for shortcake simply takes a biscuit recipe and adds half again as much shortening and 1/2 cup sugar. A sprinkling of cinnamon, nutmeg, or even cardamom can add a great accent to these simple cakes.
If you don't want to use Grand Marnier, you can still add a little of the flavor to the strawberries. Add a teaspoon of orange extract or orange juice instead. If you want a different flavor, minced fresh mint is a good addition to the strawberry mixture. Or you could drizzle over a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar. Creme de cacao or Godiva liqueur are good replacements for the Grand Marnier if you don't mind using alcohol. If using a different liqueur, consider omitting the orange zest. Slivered almonds complement creme de cacao well.
The whipped cream also offers room for variation. I like to leave mine unsweetened, but you can add some sugar or other flavoring to it if you like. A little bit of cocoa powder will add a note of bitterness to the dish.
- 2 pints strawberries
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
- 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
- 1/4 cup Grand Marnier (optional)
- To serve:
- 8 Shortcakes or slices of angel food cake
- 1/2 pint heavy cream, whipped
- Hull the strawberries and slice them into bite sized pieces.
- In a non-reactive bowl, combine the sugar, vanilla paste, and orange zest. Gently stir in the sliced strawberries, coating them thoroughly with the sugar mixture.
- If using, sprinkle the Grand Marnier over the strawberries.
- Allow the strawberries to rest, covered, in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving.
- If using shortcakes, split them and layer them with strawberries and whipped cream. If using angel food cake, spoon strawberries over the cake slices and top with whipped cream. Be sure to serve with generous amounts of the syrup from the strawberry bowl.