Posts for FOODS Category

Crab Cakes – The Perfect First Meal


Article by Guest Blogger, Deb Panos, first published February 23, 2016 here

Fact:  Everyone loves crab cakes.  Ok, maybe not a fact.  But, for most people, they are a delicious treat.  And so easy to make.  I think people shy away from crab cakes because of the cost of quality crab meat.  Yes, it is not cheap, however, home made crab cakes are much cheaper than restaurant crab cakes and many times, better.

I highly recommend getting your lump crab meat from Costco.  It is pasteurized and in the refrigerated section – where the cheese is.  I’m really not sure who else has it but I’m guessing it is not exclusive to Costco. I think the price hovers somewhere around $20 a pound.  I hear you.  That is more than beef tenderloin.  Keep in mind that one pound of crab meat makes 8 generous crab cakes.  So, for about $5 a person, you have a delicious meal.  Under no circumstance should you use canned crab meat (where the canned tuna is).  You will not be happy.

I love the taste of crab so I like to keep my crab cakes basic.  Here’s the recipe I use.

Crab Cakes

3 slices of white bread, cut the crusts off and crumble or cut into small pieces.  You can even use a food processor to make fresh crumbs if you want
1 egg
6 T mayo (sorry, but please use Hellman’s – crab meat is too expensive to use anything else)
1 T fresh parsley (I have omitted this without serious consequence)
1 t Worcestershire sauce
1 T Dijon mustard
1 t Old Bay
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound lump crab meat

1.  Make sure there are no pieces of shell in the crab meat but try to keep the lumps as large as possible.
2.  Add all the remaining ingredients and gently toss until blended.

At this point, I put the mixture into a plastic storage container.  Don’t use a bag for this because you don’t want to break up those delicious lumps.  You can do this the day before you travel but I wouldn’t recommend any earlier.  Honestly, as simple as this is, you could do it the morning of departure.  Or, take 5 minutes and do it at the beach while your rice is cooking.

Your rental unit will probably have a cookie sheet, but you will absolutely want to bring parchment paper.  Not waxed paper.  The parchment paper serves two purposes.  One, it will prevent your crab cakes from sticking to the sheet.  Two, clean up is minimized since you just toss the paper.  You can just tear one baking sheet sized sheet and bring that.  No need to bring the whole roll.

3.  Form into 8 equal sized cakes, place on parchment papered baking sheet and broil until nicely browned and heated through.

If you like tartar sauce, by all means bring some.  I could go either way.

Crab cakes are very rich so it is possible that someone will only want one.  (I know…crazy!).  There is no better lunch than a crab cake sandwich.  Just warm gently in the microwave or a skillet and put on a bun (toasted if you are feeling ambitious) with some tartar sauce and lettuce and tomato.  Just the crab cake on a plain bun is not bad either.  Neither is just a leftover crab cake on a plate.

I haven’t tried it but I think crab cake eggs benedict would make a great breakfast.

Rice Pilaf is the perfect side dish to Crab Cakes.  You probably have a favorite recipe but here is the one I use.  You can make this a day or two ahead and reheat in the microwave for that first dinner.  Of course I know that everything tastes better when freshly made but we are on vacation after all.

Basic Rice Pilaf

1/2 cup orzo
1/4 cup butter
1 onion, diced
1 cup rice (I don’t normally use Uncle Ben’s but I think it works best here and seems to reheat better)
2 1/4 cup chicken stock

Brown the orzo and onion in the butter.  You don’t want to burn it but you do want to nicely brown the orzo and onions.  Add the rice and broth, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.  The Uncle Ben’s takes less time to cook which prevents the orzo from overcooking.  Regular long grain rice takes longer.

After the rice cools, you can put this in a bag or plastic container.

Both the rice and the crab mixture will go in the cooler the morning of departure.

Add to this some salad greens with your favorite dressing.  Here is a dressing that I like.
I use a Magic Bullet and then just put the lid on for travel.  If you want to get fancy, add some cherry tomatoes and thinly sliced red onion.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

1T garlic – a couple of good sized cloves
1/4 cup balsamic
2 t brown sugar (light or dark) – I think this makes less expensive balsamic taste better
1/2 salt
1/2 t pepper
1 t Dijon
3/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil

Put the garlic in the Magic Bullet ( or chop by hand).  After the garlic is finely minced add the balsamic, brown sugar, salt, pepper and Dijon.  Blend well.  Add the olive oil and blend until nicely thickened.

Open a nice bottle of white wine and enjoy that first beach meal on the deck listening to the waves and watching that beautiful sunset!

Deb Panos and her family own a vacation rental in scenic Fort Morgan, Alabama.

For more tips from Deb, visit her blog at
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Eating Well on Your Beach Vacation

alavhr eat healthy fort morgan

Article by Guest Blogger, Deb Panos, first published September 16, 2016 here

As I sit here, working on a menu and developing a shopping list for our next beach vacation, it dawned on me.  Someone really needs to develop a comprehensive guide for planning meals at a beach (or anywhere really) vacation house or condo.  Maybe someone has already done it but I couldn’t find it so I nominated myself.  Keep in mind, this guide is really for those people that drive to their destination.  If you fly, it is a little harder to prepare to this degree.

So what was my motivation?

“At this point in the day, we are not much interested in showering and getting dressed to go out to dinner…”

When we go to the beach, our favorite time of day is sunset.  We take a few simple snacks, a bottle of wine and our beach chairs and sometimes sit on the beach and gaze at the horizon until well after sunset.  At this point in the day, we are not much interested in showering and getting dressed to go out to dinner.  Our kids are grown now, but when they were younger, it presented even more of a challenge.  Plus, typically we are staying off the beaten trail so going to a restaurant involves a 20 to 30-minute drive.  Not to mention the cost of eating out for a week.

“Planning ahead is crucial”

However, we are not a “box of pasta and jar of sauce” family.  I love to cook and my entire family loves to eat and appreciates good food.  Plus, when at the beach, we have access to fresh seafood (caught that morning) that we simply cannot resist.  Eating well on vacation, to us, enhances the experience tremendously.  I do realize that this approach is not for everyone.  Many people consider cooking a chore and really want to avoid cooking on vacation as much as possible.  I get that. Maybe I can change your mind.  Just a little.

Planning ahead is crucial if you want to prepare fast, delicious meals at the beach.  I am excited about spending a week at the beach so it doesn’t really seem like work.  More like vacation prep.  Kind of like packing.

It is also helpful to plan your menu for the week and be sure to include dinners out.  You want to be prepared but you don’t want to bring a ton of food back with you or even worse throw it away.  Also, be sure and find out if you’ll have access to a grill.  Gas or charcoal?  If it is charcoal, I wouldn’t haul charcoal from home.  For two reasons.  One, a bag of charcoal takes up a lot of valuable car space.  Two, there is a good chance that the previous renters left behind their charcoal.   Use that.   If no grill is available, consider heading to the local Walmart and buying an inexpensive charcoal grill.  You can leave it for the next renters.


Casseroles (like lasagna) can be prepared ahead and frozen.  Meats can be placed in plastic bags along with marinade and frozen.  Baked good, like cakes and cookies, can be made ahead and frozen.  Or, if you like your cookies fresh from the oven, prepare the dough and freeze that.  I like to review each recipe and make sure I take whatever spices and staples I need.  Otherwise, be prepared for sticker shock when you go to the local grocery store for your favorite spice.  Assuming they even have it.  I even go so far as to measure out the exact amount I need and put it in a resealable plastic bag.  If a recipe calls for multiple spices, by all means, combine them into one bag or plastic storage container.

I try and take small sizes of Dijon, olive oil, vinegar (you’ll probably need that if you steam seafood anyway), mayo, ketchup etc.  Partly because I know I can buy it for less at home but also I like to keep my local shopping list as short as possible.  I also buy one of those disposable salt and pepper sets.  Don’t assume your rental has a Keurig.  Bring ground coffee.

“You’ll want to keep it ultra-simple”

Since the first dinner will likely be on a travel day, you’ll want to keep it ultra-simple.  Last trip, I premade crab cakes (did not form them, just mixed the ingredients together) and brought along a boxed rice mix (not something I normally use but it is vacation after all) and a box of salad greens.  I also premade the dressing.  Alternatively, I could have made a rice pilaf and just reheated in the microwave.  Maybe next time.  Anyway, after unpacking, checking out the beach and toasting the beginning of a wonderful vacation we were not interested in getting back in the car to go out to dinner or spending a lot of time preparing.  I formed the crab cakes and broiled them (parchment paper comes in really handy here – just bring one sheet, not the whole roll), made the rice and added dressing to the salad.  Super fast.  Super tasty.  If you have access to a Costco, their pasteurized crab meat (in the refrigerated section) is excellent.  It isn’t cheap but it is less that you’d pay at a fish market.  And it is less than eating out.


I’m excited to share how we prepare for and enjoy great meals on our beach vacations.

Deb Panos and her family own a vacation rental in scenic Fort Morgan, Alabama.

For more tips from Deb, visit her blog at
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