Food on a cruise. It’s part of the experience!
My recent river cruise was no exception.
Cruising the Rhine to the Danube was wonderful. So was the food. Being a frugal foodie, I couldn’t help noticing some of their money saving tricks. I’m passing on their secrets (and a couple from restaurants on the trip) to try on your family and friends.
1. Don’t forget the soup!
Every dinner on board started with a small bowl or cup of soup. It was a different kind of soup each night, so no boredom. Most of the soups were creamy which could add calories and fat. But if you puree cooked vegetables they make a pretty good creamy base for soup. You can use bits of leftovers in a soup. Just chop them into small pieces. Add to a creamy base or a clear broth. Either way you have added a few more veggies to your menu and not wasted the leftovers. My dad used to keep a “Soup Bank” in the freezer. He’d add leftovers when they were too few to serve again. When the container was full, he’d make soup! With cooler weather on the way, you might like to have a soup night once a week if you don’t want it as a first course to a meal. Or serve it for lunch with a half sandwich. Soup saves money, gives you extra nutrients, and helps round out a meal. Don’t forget the soup!
2. Appetizers are fancy ways to use up leftovers or when you have just a small amount of something.
I suspect that’s how they got started. Those little slivers of meats and vegetables look so, well, appetizing perched on a cracker or toast triangle. Just spread with a thin layer of of butter, cream cheese, pesto, mustard, hummus, sandwich spread, etc. and arrange those little bits on top. We had an interesting experience at a fun beer garden restaurant in Germany. The centerpiece on each table was a beautiful bunch of red radishes with their green leaves intact. They were the most perfect radishes I’d ever seen. They brought us a loaf of bread and some butter with the instructions to make our own appetizers. We spread butter on the bread and sliced thin slices of radish to put on top. It was very good! You might want to try that at a party sometime. Oktoberfest party? At another restaurant they served sausages with mustard for dipping. When we were finished with the mustard we found a thin slice of radish underneath. It was delicious with the thin layer of mustard on it! I’m thinking of crostini with mustard and slices of radishes arranged on top. Cheap, healthy, and tasty! I have new respect for radishes now. Also they are easy to grow.
Take a look at the first photo here. Isn’t that a clever way to serve a small amount of salad veggies? Just wrap a thin slice of cucumber (sliced lengthwise) around some salad greens and veggies. The spike of carrot stick looks awesome! The prosciutto is actually wrapped around white cheese that is carved to look like a flower. Too difficult and time-consuming for me. But I could definitely do the cucumber bundle. Fancy for a party.
3. Appetizers can be served on a spoon.
I hadn’t seen this before. You might want to try this at your next party. We had a large spoon with a black olive, a dab of cream cheese and a bit of gazpacho on it. This was served at the start of the Captain’s Farewell Dinner. This might be nice with a mini caprese salad on the spoon. Or a bit of avocado, olive, and salsa? For an awesome New Year’s Eve dinner or party, try it with some hard-cooked egg, cooked potato cubes, a touch of caviar and a drizzle of salad dressing. Not enough spoons? Use some of those plastic spoons that look like silverware. To be kinder to the environment, borrow some or buy some at GoodWill, etc. or yard sales for cheap. Obviously this uses less of the food items than if you had larger amounts of appetizers. Not for game day, but very elegant for a dinner party.
4. Small pieces of fruit can be added to ice cream.
This was a pleasant surprise. We found different fruits added to ice cream in a kind of parfait. This was often served with a cookie on the side. Anytime you have fruit that you are not going to eat up soon enough, throw it in the freezer to use later with all sorts of desserts, but especially ice cream!
5. Serve a small scoop of ice cream with desserts.
Nearly every dessert on the cruise came with a very small scoop of vanilla ice cream. Just a bit of ice cream gives you the taste, but not all the calories of a big scoop or a big dish of ice cream. Surprisingly you don’t feel deprived having a small
scoop. Instead you feel like you had a little extra treat. They may be on to something here.
6. Recipes from ethnic traditions are often cheap and good.
We enjoyed regional specialties all along the cruise. It was a wonderful part of the experience. Traditional recipes are often frugal. They are the ones that kept people alive over the centuries and are the favorite ways of sharing with family and
friends. That’s comfort food! Try a few “peasant dishes” or regional cuisines of various cultures for good hearty food that is easy on the budget. Our cooks on the cruise shared their favorite dishes from their own countries one night and we enjoyed it all.
7. For a special dinner, arrange the food on the plates.
I wouldn’t do this often, but for a holiday dinner or a dinner party I might. Plate three cooked vegetables together so that each person gets a small serving of each veggie. We had a broccoli floret placed nestled next to a cauliflower floret with a large slice of cooked carrot between for color and flavor. (See photo.) Very attractive. It’s a version of mixing veggies together when you don’t have enough of one kind to serve alone. Cooks have been doing this forever. Serving them artfully arranged is high style. Not for everyday at my house, but it does dress up a plate! And it costs no more. Actually it could cost less serving restaurant style instead of family style! For a special holiday dinner I love the look of a composed salad. You arrange the ingredients on each salad to look pretty as a picture! Two or three strawberries arranged on top with one partially sliced and fanned out announces that the meal is special.
8. Slices of fried vegetables make great garnishes.
I would not do this probably, but it did look fancy. Our favorite was a thin slice of sweet potato, but they also used slices of eggplant, zucchini, parsnip and turnip. It was interesting and cheap! I could go for having thin sweet potato slices as snacks! Maybe slices of raw veggies could be good. A lot easier too!
9. Buffets can use leftovers.
I don’t think they used leftovers on the lunch buffet, but it reminded me that you can indeed get rid of leftovers that way. We sometimes put out a “smorgasbord” of leftovers for the family. Each person picks what they want. The microwave is handy to reheat when needed.
10. Coffee can be dessert.
Check out that coffee photo. That is Viennese coffee at a fancy cafe in Vienna. I think they added at least a quarter cup of cream to the coffee that had just a hint of cinnamon. (Did they brew it with the cinnamon in with the grounds?) The
slightly sweetened whipped cream on top just made it a totally rich experience. So delicious we didn’t need any other dessert. You might try it the next time friends are over.
11. Dress up plain cake with jam filling.
We had the very famous Sacher Torte in Vienna at the restaurant that made it famous. It was beautiful but disappointing. The chocolate cake under the rich chocolate ganache was dry and not that flavorful. I was expecting so much more. It did have the iconic layer of jam between the two layers of cake. Just not enough for my taste. It was apricot jam, the traditional choice for Sacher Torte. You could also try a raspberry jam or cherry preserves if you like. Of course ganache always dresses up a cake–their ganache included a chocolate medallion with the name of the famous torte. They did serve it with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, but it was not enough to moisten the cake. Do yourself a favor and make a moist cake using one of those pudding included mixes. Then add the jam and/or ganache. Fancy and better than the original!
I hope you try s one of these tricks for high style, low budget foods sometimes. It’s amazing how not wasting food and using every last bit makes for such yummy and satisfying experiences. Now that’s quite a trick!