Packing It In

So, for the second year The Kid and I spent the weekend in Raleigh, at the Super Con.  As the word “Con” might suggest, it’s a convention that celebrates, well…it celebrates all kinds of stuff.  Sci Fi, comic books, Steampunk, wrestling, anime, mythology, cult movies, and there’s probably a few biggies I’ve forgotten.

There are actors from TV and movies, writers and artists, and lots of vendors selling all kinds of tie-in merchandise.  Last year we met Brent Spiner, Levar Burton, and Alex Kingston.

Alex Kingston as the consummate badass woman, River Song.

The Kid gave me tickets for the whole weekend as a birthday/Mother’s Day gift.

We had a blast.  Before the end of the first day we had already decided to make it a yearly tradition.  We met all manner of awesome people, and made new friends, including Tony Todd, who had a memorable role as Kurn, Worf’s Klingon brother on Star Trek The Next Generation, and Anya, a rabbit-phobic former demon on Buffy The Vampire Slayer played by Emma Caulfield.

Michael Rooker-Dangerous, but oh so fun.

The Kid’s favorite encounter of the weekend was with Michael Rooker, the blue guy from Guardians of the Galaxy and Grant Grant (not a typo), in the genre-busting, hilarious yet terrifying Slither.  He’s the nutty uncle that takes you on epic adventures and is responsible for your first hangover, tattoo, and maybe even a night in jail.

Tony Todd as Kurn.

Amongst all this fun, there was only one fly in the Supercon ointment—the food.

With absolutely no plan, we ended up eating the closest available grub.  It was a half-hearted rendition of Japanese noodles and veg.  It was neither tasty nor satisfying.  Plus, it was expensive.

On Sunday, the final day of the “con”, we’d lucked out and had brunch at a place called Capital Club 16, on the corner of Martin and Salisbury, about three blocks from the convention center.The food was imaginative and well-prepared.  The atmosphere and service were warm, friendly, and calm; a welcome contrast to the frenetic vibe at the Supercon.  It was decided then and there to make this a part of each Supercon Sunday each year.

For the other meals, we had multiple “planning conferences” (actually casual conversations) to plan our eats.  Each day on our way to the festivities we’d make the necessary Starbucks stop for vast quantities of caffeinated beverages.  And except for Sunday brunch, we’d bring in our own food; for lunches, snacks, desserts, and drinks.We did sandwiches and bought good bread, deli meats and cheeses for the first day.  The second day we did sandwiches, but bought them because I had a really good coupon.  I made a batch of brownies and some lemon white chocolate gooey bars from a new recipe I found (they were ambrosial, and I’ll share the recipe soon, I promise).

We took a couple bags of pretzels and some nabs, and an eight-pack of water. For sides we had broccoli salad, and coleslaw.  Both were homemade.  I’ve shared the broccoli salad recipe already, but the coleslaw was something new that I’ve been tinkering with lately.

Cole Slaw Dressingslaw dressing¾ cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon horseradish

3 tablespoons wildflower honey

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Juice of half a lemon

2 teaspoons caper or dill pickle brine (from the jar the pickles or capers are in)

1 teaspoon celery salt, optional

Salt and pepper to tasteWhisk together all ingredients, taste for seasoning and sweet/sour level.  Adjust according to taste. Refrigerate for at least three hours.  The day before serving toss one pound of finely shredded cabbage and three or four grated carrots with enough dressing to thoroughly coat the veg.  Refrigerate overnight.  Before serving toss and then check for seasoning.  Keep in fridge for up to a week.

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That’s me, in the orange, hanging out with a squad of DC Pinups.  The young woman on the far right made every single costume except for the green dress and horns (Loki).  I didn’t go in costume, but at various times during the weekend, I was accused of being Edna Mode from The Incredibles, and Velma from Scooby Doo.  Jinkies!  Do I look like a cartoon character?

So, don’t settle.  If you don’t want to shell out for indifferent food, plan ahead.  Just remember to pack smart, and keep the food cold and thus, safe.  Nothing can ruin a day like good food gone bad.Thanks for your time.

An almost free lunch

You know, I’m really proud of The Kid.At work, my child is within walking distance of at least twenty really outstanding restaurants.  It would take no effort at all to spend $200 a week on lunches.

But The Kid only goes out for lunch two or three times a month.  My frugal, sensible, little worker bee is a charter member of the brown bag club.

Actually, it’s a box–this box, in fact.  Ain’t my child special?

Sunday is spent preparing large batches of grub which are split up and frozen.  The newest addition is a dish using a spaghetti squash.

So here, in The Kid’s own words is that recipe, along with a little lunch box advice.

Spaghetti Squash bake

spag-squash2 Spaghetti squashes

3Tbs Capers

1C Spaghetti Sauce

2 cans canellini beans, rinsed.

1lb mushrooms, sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 onion, small diced

¼ c Parmesan cheese, grated

¼ c white wine

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Slice squashes into rings, remove seeds and center. Put onto lined baking sheets and brush both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. When oven is up to temp, bake squash for 40 minutes, or until a knife can easily pierce the rings.Let the squash until it is cool until it is able to be handled. Then remove the peel, and delicately break into strands. It will want to break apart on its own, so just follow how it wants to fall. Put the strands into a mixing bowl, and set aside.

Heat a pan to medium. When hot, add a splash of canola oil and add onion to pan. Season with salt and stir occasionally. When it gets soft and translucent, add garlic, and season. When the garlic gets fragrant, add mushrooms, and heavily season with salt. Stir occasionally, and cook until mushrooms are caramelized. Add wine, and cook until pan is dry. 

When mushrooms are done, add to bowl with the squash with beans, capers, and sauce.

Transfer mixture to a 8X8 baking pan and top with cheese. Bake for twenty minutes, and then put under the high broiler until cheese has color.Throw it in the fridge. Once cool, slice into servings, and put into separate containers. Freeze all portions not to be eaten in the next couple days.

*Biggest thing about lunches; have lots of options in the freezer. That way it’s super easy and you don’t have to eat the same thing until it’s gone.

While my child may be an expert on the art of carrying meals to work, I’ve become pretty proficient in healthy snacks, either at home or on the road.

I always keep a bag of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit in the fridge.  I love the salty/sweet and crunchy/chewy contrast.  It’s also great to sprinkle in salads or hot cereal.  Right now my mix is mainly cherries, strawberries, cashews, and almonds.I’m also fond of raw veggies and dip.  Buy whole and cut them to your own desired shape.  For dips, try hummus, whipped low-fat cream cheese with herbs or hot sauce mixed in, or nut butters.  I love carrots dipped into peanut butter.  But for the love of all that’s delicious, please don’t use those bagged “baby” carrots.  They’re just whittled-down regular carrots sprayed with chemicals.

The weather’s getting cooler every day.  Take some tuneage, a book, and your homemade lunch outside and enjoy your break.  At home, grab the kids, some snacks, and go for a walk or climb a tree.

There will be no rescue squad to save you.

*Any injuries sustained during aforementioned tree climbing are solely the responsibility of the climber and in no way the fault of the well-meaning food columnist.

Thanks for your time.