One of the joys of a ski vacation is dining out. But after a few days of paying $30 for a New York strip or $20 for a plate of mushroom-stuffed ravioli swimming in cream sauce, both your wallet and your stomach will be begging for a break. Oblige them by cooking in.
It's not as hard as you think. If you can read, boil water and be trusted with sharp objects, you are on your way to becoming a successful condo chef. Plan ahead, and choose easy recipes. (Easy means you chop, mix and allow fire to do the rest.) Here are a few Asian-inspired (read: healthy) possibilities to get you started. They're guaranteed to save you money and impress your friends and family-or maybe even that cute instructor you met on the chairlift.
Spinach Salad with Mango and Smoked Salmon
2 (5 ounce) bags spinach salad or baby green salad mix
1 red or yellow bell pepper, cut into matchstick-size pieces
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar with garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 (4 ounce) package smoked salmon, cut into 2-by-2-inch pieces
1 large mango or pear, peeled and cut into cubes
1. In a large bowl, combine spinach, pepper, rice vinegar, olive oil and smoked salmon. Toss well.
2. Top with fruit cubes right before serving.
Serve with steamed rice or freshly baked bread.
Tips Wait until your guests arrive and ask, "What can I do to help?" Then hand them a knife and a cutting board.
Nutrition Notes Two cups of chopped spinach give you 186 percent of the RDA for vitamin A. It's also rich in vitamin C, fiber and folate, a B vitamin that's essential for health. Salmon is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which lower cholesterol and keep your body running smoothly.
Baked Baby Back Ribs
Prep Time 10 minutes
(plus 30 minutes to marinate the ribs)
Cooking Time 90 minutes
Makes 6-8 servings
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 (18 ounce) bottle barbecue sauce
2 pounds baby back ribs, cut into individual ribs
1 (one gallon) ziplock bag
1 (11-by-9 inch) disposable baking pan Aluminum foil
1. Mix garlic, lemon juice and barbecue sauce in the ziplock bag. Add the ribs and toss to coat. Seal the bag and store in the refrigerator.
2. Marinate ribs in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour the ribs mixture in the baking pan. Seal with aluminum foil. Bake until the meat on the ribs is tender, about 90 minutes.
Serve with bread, spinach salad (sans salmon, see above) and beer.
Tips Marinate the ribs the night before your ski day. Because this dish takes awhile to cook, start it as soon as you return from the slopes. Instead of a baking pan, you can also cook the ribs in a disposable oven bag.
Nutrition Notes While not the leanest cut of meat, ribs are packed with protein. Garlic boosts your immune system.
Noodles in Spicy Peanut Sauce
Prep Time 15 minutes
Makes 4 servings
8 ounces dried rice noodles
1 cup baby carrots, shredded
2 green onions, shredded
Spicy Peanut Sauce:
(Makes about 3/4 cup)
1/2 tablespoon cooking oil
2 small, fresh chili peppers, minced
2 tablespoons white onion, minced
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup soy milk
1 tablespoon fish sauce, or salt to taste
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1. Place the rice noodles in a heatproof bowl. Cover with boiling water and soak until softened. Drain.
2. To make the spicy peanut sauce: In a small saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until the onion softens (4 to 5 minutes).
3. Add the peanut butter, soy milk, fish sauce and lemon juice. Reduce heat to low. Stir until the sauce is hot and the peanut butterr melts (1 to 2 minutes).
4. Pour sauce over the noodles and mix well. Top with carrots and green onions.
Serve with spinach salad (see above) and soup.
Tips Make the sauce up to five days ahead of time. For more protein, add chicken.
Nutrition Notes Peanut butter is high in fat, but most of it is unsaturated-the kind that's good for your heart. Soy milk lowers cholesterol and provides protein and disease-fighting phytochemicals. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, which strengthens the immune system and vision.
Green Tea Ice Cream
Cap off dinner with a unique treat. This is how many Japanese restaurants make their green tea ice cream.
Time approximately one hour
Prep Time 5 minutes
Makes 6-8 servings
1 quart vanilla ice cream
1 1/2 tablespoons green tea powder (also called matcha)
1. Set the ice cream at room temperature and let it soften.
2. Scoop out ice cream into a large bowl. With a large spoon, gently fold in green tea powder. Mix thoroughly until ice cream turns a consistent shade of green. Put the ice cream back in its container and return it to the freezer to chill.
Serve with fruit or cookies.
Tips To shorten the thawing time, briefly microwave the ice cream.
Nutrition Notes Green tea is packed with antioxidants, which can keep you healthy by fighting cell damage.
Having the right ingredients on hand is half the battle of successful cooking. Everything costs more in a ski town, so buy as much as possible before you go. If you're driving, buy the ribs and produce in advance and store them in a cooler while you travel. The following items can be easily stored in a suitcase whether you're driving or flying:
Anything that comes in a jar or bottle, such as barbecue sauce or peanut butter.
Noodles Buy them at health-food stores or from your grocer's Asian section.
Fish Sauce Check your grocery store's Asian section, or replace with salt or soy sauce.
Smoked Salmon Vacuum-sealed packages travel well.
Green Tea Powder Check a health-food store's bulk tea section, or order it online.