Meals on Keels

Hi, hello, and howdy dear readers! Chris and I are currently holed up waiting out some nasty weather (this gets old, let me tell you), so our journey home has turned from sprint to mosey. However, this gives me an opportunity to finally write this post, which I’ve been meaning to get together for some time now.

Meal preparation is a huge challenge here on “Firefly,” mainly because we don’t have a galley or refrigeration (or, ahem, room to do much of anything). What we do have is a two-burner Coleman camp stove that we hook up to our propane tank (a 10-lb aluminum tank that lives in a stock pot on the stern rail), and a cooler (which sometimes has ice in it and sometimes doesn’t). We also have a nice set of “nesting” stainless steel pots/pans that my in-laws very kindly gave us for a Bon Voyage gift.

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Coleman camp stove, which lives on the counter under the companionway, along with the cutting board and plastic washtub. Every time we make a meal we have to pull out the stove, pull out the propane tank, hook everything up, cook, then put it all away again.


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Nesting cookware tucked away(ish). Note: This photo was taken before we left. The interior of “Firefly” has never since looked this nice, clean, or organized. 

We also don’t really have room for the cooler, so we have made it the second step that you use to come down the companionway.

That being said, we have to buy food that will store well, that (mostly) doesn’t need refrigerated, and that is still (hopefully) yummy. We usually have some combination of the following produce on the boat: Onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, avocados, apples, oranges or clementines, and lemons. They live in a net. We also learned that eggs don’t actually need to be refrigerated (you have to turn them over once every couple days), and these are a staple for us. We have way too much canned food on the boat as well, to include salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, roast beef, chicken, black beans, kidney beans, mixed veggies, canned tomatoes and tomato sauce, soups… well, you get the picture. Then we keep other staples like pasta, brown rice, quinoa, etc around. Excess canned items live in the bilge and the items that we need to get to easily go in what has been dubbed “the meat locker.” Coffee, condiments, etc live on some of the easy-to-reach shelving we happen to have.

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Produce (and a baguette we grabbed before leaving Tavernier)!

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The kind of foodstuffs that live in the meat locker…

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…stuffed unceremoniously into the meat locker.

So, as you can imagine, getting a good, nutritious meal together can be a production, especially while we are underway.

As Chris mentioned a while back in his A Day on the Waterway post, I make coffee and breakfast down below every morning while Chris gets us going and mans the tiller. I think I got the better end of that deal… mornings can be chilly! I very much believe in the cliche that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and I know we burn a bazillion calories while we’re sailing, so I try to pack in quite a bit of food to our first meal of the day.

I make coffee using a stainless steel french press, of which I am now very enamored. We both like Italian roasts and have been really enjoying Trader Joe’s Italian Roast coffee beans. I hand grind the beans with a little stainless steel grinder on the coarsest setting, dump the grounds into the french press, and then get the tea kettle on the camp stove with enough water to fill the press.

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Coffee beans in the coffee grinder.

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Kettle on to boil.

Here are some secrets I discovered (using the Google) to a good cuppa: Let the kettle boil and then set it aside for around 30 seconds to just cool a bit. Then, pour a bit of the water and try to evenly wet the grounds in the bottom of the press. Wait 30-45 seconds (this is also a great time to stick your nose in there and get a good whiff of deliciousness) and then vigorously pour in the rest of the water (you want to agitate the grounds now) so that you get a nice frothy foam in there. Wait another 30-45 seconds before putting the lid on the press.

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Coffee coffee coffee!

Now, after you put the lid on the press, set the timer for 12 minutes (none of this 4 minutes crap like most people tell you). Then, after your 12 minutes, push the plunger down gently and enjoy! You’re welcome!

I’ve also developed a couple different breakfasts that work well for us while underway. One I call “Ryan’s Not-Yet-Famous Underway Breakfast Bowl,” and this is how it’s made:

Ryan’s Not-Yet-Famous Underway Breakfast Bowl

Serves 2.

Slice up 1 Onion and 1 Potato or Sweet Potato (or both!)

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Coat a pan with cooking spray, then add some olive oil. Get the onions sizzling and then throw in the potatoes. Cook until potatoes are done and season to taste.

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Meanwhile, as the onions and taters cook, slice up an avocado and put half in one bowl and half in another.

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When the onions/potatoes are done, add half to each bowl on top of the avocado.

Then, crack a couple eggs into the pan you cooked the potatoes in (we don’t want to do any more dishes than necessary, yes?) and fry over easy. Throw an egg on the top of each bowl.

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Hand one bowl up the captain, and take one for yourself. Devour.

You’re welcome (again).

I think Chris is usually pretty content when I hand him up his coffee and his breakfast bowl in the morning!

I’ve also taken to making a breakfast that I call the Modified Ploughman’s Breakfast. It was inspired by an incredible meal I had at a little British pub in Dania Beach called The Ploughman’s. It’s basically a little of everything you have lying around sliced up on a plate with a few choice cooked items. The version I had at the pub included a Scottish Egg (Google this), sliced up cheeses, a little salad, some sliced up pork, tomato slices… it was awesome. Here’s what my version often looks like:

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Yessah!

Lunch is another story, indeed. We’re usually pretty busy around lunchtime… we’re both above-decks and involved in steering, navigation, etc. Lots of times (especially at the beginning of our trip when we were still getting into the swing of things) we’d sort of forget to eat in the middle of the day.

Lately we’ve taken to eating easy-to-prepare snacky lunches. Since we have no table or anything at the helm either, this is what a typical “Firefly” lunch can look like:

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Sardines on saltines, pretzels, cuties (clementine-y thingies). Sunscreen not included in this meal.

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Sliced up baguette with brie (we found a single-serving cheese wedge packaged version that is fine without refrigeration!), peanut butter, and olive oil/garlic/italian seasoning.

As you might imagine, we are often famished by the time we drop the anchor, especially if we’ve put in a 50+ mile day. Chris and I sort-of take turns making dinner (there’s really not room for two people to cook), though occasionally we will sous-chef for each other. Dinners range from heating up a can of chili (lazy, tired) to putting on a delicious production. If we’re recently coming from somewhere with a grocery store, we’ll have some refrigerated ingredients on ice in the cooler at our disposal.

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Sous chef-ing! Note that the cooler is not only our step, but also our table. 

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The finished product! We keep corn tortillas around and eat them a lot… tacos are pretty sweet after a long day on the water.

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Christmas dinner this year was special in that we had fresh ingredients from the grocery store that day: Meat sauce with leeks and zucchinis over pasta. 

Pretty much nothing beats catching a fish and eating it for dinner (we have only managed to do this a few times)… This one time Chris caught a Crevalle Jack (fish) and we made delicious fish tacos for dinner. Another time, I caught a Blue Fish and Chris made a fantastic meal for us out of it.

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Fish acquired…

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…taco fixin’s prepared. Not the best photos but one of the better meals we’ve had on the trip!

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Blue Fish and veggies, nom!

There have been some days where I’ve been so exhausted, windblown, and over-sunned that I couldn’t muster enough energy to cook dinner at all. But mostly, we’ve gotten pretty good at making sure to get three decent meals in, despite all the work involved.

At the end, there’s dishes and then we do it all again!

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4 thoughts on “Meals on Keels

  1. Great post! Very impressive what you churn out on the Coleman stove! I’m super spoiled now with Celeste’s galley, but can empathize a bit having done most of my sea miles without refrigeration and with the most finicky non-gimbaled burner…

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