Sunday, October 24, 2010

PFB #6 | Road Trip - Fun Friday at the Office

My journey continues with the “Next Food Blog Star” contest from Foodbuzz. It has been such a rewarding experience. I have met many new friends, pushed myself to new limits and grown in the process. Challenge #6 is aptly titled – Road Trip. The remaining 60 contestants are asked to undertake creating a meal that will travel well and still look fantastic. It could be a picnic, school lunch, bento box or any other meal on the go. We need to include an entrée, side, drink and dessert to enjoy after hitting the road.

The Bay Area is experiencing an early rainy season this year, which put a bit of a damper (no pun intended) on my original idea for a road trip. With an affinity for planning, I had a contingency strategy to my original thought for a romantic picnic with my husband at the top of Mount Diablo. When the weather cooperates, my original plan will be executed. (Charles, please be ready for a gourmet picnic with a great bottle of wine at the top of the mountain when the weather cooperates, since it has been on our bucket list for a while.)

{ Car is packed and ready for the "Road Trip" to the office }

For nearly twelve years I have worked for an amazing Human Capital Firm based in Northern California. We have numerous locations around the Bay Area/Northern California of which I oversee four branches. One particular branch that happens to be my primary office, relishes any opportunity to celebrate and food typically takes center stage. Several years ago, Joe joined our company and introduced the office to the concept of Fun Fridays.

{ Joe - Fun Friday Creator }

Let me tell you a bit about our Fun Fridays - we typically choose a theme, which has ranged from Hawaiian, Iron Chef to The Apprentice. Many involve simply bringing food to match the theme and others include interactive tasks such as games, decorating the office to actual challenges like completing in an Iron Chef cook off. The primary purpose was to create a cohesive team and build comradery among the different divisions in the branch.

{From left to right: Amy, Toni and Deb}

What began as a weekly event has been scaled back to appproximately every 4 to 6 weeks. However if there is a special reason to celebrate, everyone is up for rallying together. This past Friday was such an occasion. Amy has been a long term employee and recently accepted another position with a company. This is a wonderful opportunity for her career aspirations and everyone wishes her the best of luck. Of course, this was a reason to gather everyone together and bring food to the office. With this “Road Trip” challenge, it was a perfect opportunity to contribute to the festivities and pack up my Project Food Blog cooler.

Our office has several individuals who love to cook however we are a bit challenged since we do not have a sink or stove. We have purchased single electric burners, electric griddles and even a deep fryer. Regarding the sink, Joe and I always joke that we should have a television show titled – “Cooking in the office without a sink”. The good news is that we are moving to a larger office in a few months with a sink and even a dishwasher.

After careful thought and consideration, I created my menu to compliment the items Deb was contributing to the festivities. Each one would travel well, required minimal preparation and was full of flavor and texture. One of the challenges was that everything must fit inside the cooler provided. I found that utilizing a combination of plastic containers and bags enabled me to fit everything inside. I packed a large canvass bag with my dishes, napkins, utensils, table runner and serving dishes. I popped evertyhing into my trunk since it was a relatively short distance and was office bound.

Preparation is the key to a successful road trip!  A few tips I found helpful for this menu:
  • Precook the bacon and store in a large plastic bag
  • Use a smaller plastic bag for the crumbled bacon bits for the salad
  • Slice lengthwise the Ciabatta bread, toast then wrap in foil to keep fresh
  • Prepare the dressing ahead of time for the Brussels sprout salad & toast the croutons and place in a large plastic freezer bag
  • Sauté the Brussels sprouts and onions then store into a plastic container
  • When ready to toss, add the Brussels sprouts and dressing to the bag of croutons and shake to toss. Empty into the bowl and sprinkle with crumbled bacon and pecans.
  • Pre slice the tomatoes and store in a plastic container.
  • Pre-cut the date bars

St. Andre Cheese with Fig Jam and Artisan Crackers

Bring the St. Andre cheese to room temperature by letting it sit out for at least one hour. Place the fig jam in a small bowl and serve with crackers. The combination of the creamy cheese with the sweet fig jam and crunchy cracker is a bite of heaven to start your meal.

Brussels Sprout Salad with Bacon, Pecans and Croutons


1 large garlic clove, minced
1 large shallot, minced
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
7 T olive oil
1 T Flat leaf parsley, chopped fine
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Brussels Sprouts Salad

6 Slices Applewood Bacon
1 Large onion, diced
6 slices sourdough bread, cut into 1/2" squares
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil + 2 t. olive oil
4 C. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
1 C. Pecans, lightly toasted
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

To make the vinaigrette, soak the garlic, shallots, and thyme in vinegar for roughly 45 minutes. After soaking, slowly whisk in the oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper and reserve covered.

Cut bacon into 1/2" squares and cook over low heat until almost crisp; add 2 t. olive oil, drain off the fat & save and set aside bacon.

Heat 2 T. of the bacon drippings until just smoking and cook onions over medium-high heat until golden brown; drain and set aside.

Toss cubed bread with extra-virgin olive oil and toast in a 300-degree oven until golden brown and crispy (approximately 20-25 minutes); allow to cool to room temperature and set aside.

In a large sauté pan, heat remaining bacon drippings until almost smoking and add sprouts; cook for about 3 to 5 minutes until golden brown, season with salt and pepper.

Add reserved onions and bacon and warm until hot; turn off burner, add vinaigrette and toss to distribute. Then add the croutons and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add pecans and toss. Serve either individually or in a large bowl.

*I adapted this recipe by preparing a day ahead and storing the Brussels sprouts and onions in a plastic container. The dressing, croutons, bacon and pecans were also stored separately. You can both bring to room temperature or heat in a microwave the Brussels sprouts and toss everything together in the large plastic bag that houses the croutons for easy preparation.

Adapted from Chef Gordon Drysdale at Pizza Antica

Gourmet BLT’s with Applewood Smoked Bacon, Arugula, Heirloom Tomatoes and Handmade Pesto


1 loaf of Ciabatta Bread, sliced in half and toasted
Pesto, Handmade or purchased
4 C. Arugula
4 large heirloom tomatoes, sliced
1 lb. Applewood smoked bacon, crispy

Spread each side of bread with a liberal amount of pesto. Add half the arugula over the bottom half, then layer half of the tomatoes and add all of the bacon. Then add the other half of tomatoes and arugula. Top with the other half of bread. Using a serrated knife, slice into desired amount of pieces.

Coconut Infused Date Bars


2 c. pitted dates
3/4 c. sugar
1 t. cornstarch
1 c. water
½ c. sparkling apple cider


2 ½ c. flour
1 ¼ t. baking soda
1 ¼ t. salt
1 ¼ c. vegetable shortening
1 ¼ c. packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 T. vanilla
2 ½ c. old fashioned oats
1 ½ c. Sweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use a 9 x 12 baking pan. Spray the bottom with a non-stick spray.

To make the filling, pulse the pitted dates and sugar in a food processor, until well combined. Transfer to a sauce pan. Whisk cornstarch into the water and stir into the date mixture. Add the sparkling apple cider and simmer over low heat until thickened. Remove and cool.

To make the dough, Mix the shortening, brown sugar together until fluffy. Add the egg, salt, baking soda and vanilla. Mix until combined. Add the flour and oats until combined. Toast the coconut over medium heat, stirring frequently, until light to medium brown. Cool for a few minutes and then add to the dough mixture.

Press half the dough into the pan. Add the filling on top and then pour the remaining dough on top. Press lightly so it still looks crumbly. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the top is golden brown. Let cool completely until cutting. Store in an airtight container up to 4 days.

Adapted from Martha Stewart

{Lunch is over and now it is time to go back to work }

Our Fun Friday was another successful event to add to our long list of memorable events. A sentimental note was tied to this particular Fun Friday with it being Amy’s last day with the company. Everyone wishes her all the best in her new adventure and we did not say goodbye, but rather we will see you soon. It was a successful road trip to the office. I wish all of the remaining contestants the best of luck with this fun challenge!

Voting will open at 6AM on Monday, October 25th through Thursday, October 28th at 6PM. Thank you again to my husband, friends, family, co-workers, judges and loyal readers for your support!


  1. It's great to have nice friends at the office...after all, we spend so much time there...Great food, and excellent tips! Well done !!

  2. Hayırlı günler, ellerinize sağlık çok leziz ve iştah açıcı bir görüntüsü var.
    Bugün bloglardan seçmelerde kutsal sofranın cevizli kurabiye tarifi yayınlandı.


  3. Lisa! I love how your contingency plan worked out - very smart thinking! Like you, I had considered Mt. Diablo, it is a beautiful place for a picnic (and overlooked as a destination, in my opinion). The rain was not very helpful, I will say. But I think incorporating this into your Fun Fridays and Amy's farewell worked out very well. Love the menu! Nothing made me happier than to see Brussels sprouts on the menu :)

  4. I love how you brought this to the office! Really fun post... those date bars look absolutely amazing. Joe is definitely on to something with the Fun Fridays! An excellent concept. Good luck with the voting!!

  5. You are the most organized road trip planner! Snacks are a must pack for trips (especially for my husband and I...we think they're the best part sometimes!) and yours are over the top. I love the date bars...yum!

  6. Great job with your backup plan. Can I come to your office the next time you have an indoor picnic? Love all the food you served and all your wonderful tips. Nicely done, Lisa!

  7. Sigh. I want that sandwich. Everything looks so good! And everyone looked really happy. Great job. You have my vote.

  8. Sounds like a fun tradition at your office. And, your coconut date bars looks amazing. Those are a must try!

  9. I'd say "when life gives you lemons..." but life gave you so much more than lemons. Weather be damned. GREG

  10. I love this, especially the sandwich. You've done a great job with this one. I like all your packing tips. I hope I get to see you again next round! Good Luck!

  11. Lisa: Sounds like your office culture/environment is a good one and one that makes going into work so enjoyable! Beautiful spread and layout of food. Must've been difficult to go back to work after a lovely meal like that. :)

  12. Looks like a fun time and great send off for your coworker :) I would have probably needed a nap after though :)

  13. Great packing tips! And your coworkers sure are lucky!

  14. I'm definitely going to try the Brussels Sprouts - they are my youngest son's favorite vegetable!

  15. Your office sounds like such a fun place!!

  16. Delicious post! The whole spread looks fantastic, but those date bars are calling my name. It started raining during my picnic too, but here in OR we are accustomed to that happening. Nicely done! I voted for you!

    Good luck! Hope to see us both in round 7!!! =)

  17. The first photo of your sandwich make me want to reach inside my computer and take a bite! And your tips are also very useful. Lovely post. And how cool your husband came up with Fun Friday! Love it.

  18. I have a feeling this made your workday a wholeee lot more fun!! Everything looks awesome, but I really want that sandwich! :)


  19. Looks delicious. Love the menu & photos! And the road trip tips! Good luck!

  20. This looks so much better than the sandwiches we get where I work! And the brussels sprouts? Love. Nicely done.

  21. I really like that Brussels Sprout salad. Great menu - your co-workers look so happy!
    P.S. Happy to give my vote, good luck!

  22. I love the sandwich and your 'Fun Friday' concept, the heck with the weather- an indoor picnic is just perfect.

  23. It's always good to have a plan B, and maybe a C.

    Lunch at my office is never fun like that!


  24. Congratulation for making to challenge #6!!! You've got my vote again this round! Congrats & Best wishes to making to next round :)

    Have a great week
    jen @

  25. You just made me wish I still lived in the Bay Area and knew you personally. Those sandwiches look incredible! Plain old turkey sandwiches here at home have nothing on those babies. Yum, yum, yum!

    Great job and great pics!

  26. Trying to catch up after being away. Congrats on making it to the next round with this fantastic "Road Trip" to the office :) Sounds like so much fun - makes me miss working in an office. Everything looks so delicious, but I really like your original brussel sprout salad!


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