Monday, January 11, 2016

Cooking on the Road (K is for Kitchen Gear)

We've been on vacation, so I'll start out by saying we didn't really do any recipe development this week.  About as exciting as it got was coating chicken in crushed potato chips to use them up.  (Hey, Damien was impressed!)  Instead, this week, I'm sharing our list of favorite kitchen supplies for when we're on vacation.  With our allergy-restricted diets, it's usually easier to pack food. 

Two summers ago, Luke shared his packing list for big multi-day field trip.  We were only gone for a few days, so we were able to organize everything in our large cooler.  Last summer, we spent 26 days zig-zagging around the country, and had to pack not just for eating, but cooking.  (In addition to allergies, we spent a lot of time literally on the road driving places, so being able to just make up a quick meal in the hotel room when we finally settled in for the evening was a big deal.)  We started our trip with a new cooler - hubby's gift to me for my birthday.

This is probably the best cooler we've ever used.  It plugs into the car - keeping the food cool without filling the cooler with ice - but also into the hotel room wall, so we didn't have to unpack and re-pack it all the time.  (It also is great for grocery shopping!)  It fits several days' worth of cold food, and combined with a large bag of dry goods, we can pack enough food to feed 6 people for almost a week!

Our "Kitchen Bag" is our other must-have item.

It contains items dedicated to road trip, and lives on a shelf in the garage, so it's ready to go when we are.  Whether we have a full-kitchen, or just a microwave, it goes with us.  (You'd be surprised how skimpily "full amenity" kitchens are furnished!) The bag's current contents include:

-a baking sheet
-a 9x13 baking pan
-a collapsible colander
-large plastic container (it doubles as a mixing bowl)
-zip-top bag with basic spices: salt, pepper, garlic powder, apple pie spice
-aluminum foil (we like the No-Stick variety)
-large serrated knife
-flexible cutting sheets
-dish soap
-picnic plates
-bag with plastic utensils & napkins
-gallon size zip-top bags

I'm currently searching for a slightly larger bag, because our Pyrex dishes don't fit in it.  Two 3-cup Pyrex dishes (with lids) also travel with us, because the glass is microwave-friendly.  The 3-cup size is just large enough to cook a package of Daiya macaroni and cheese noodles.  (Drain them with the colander, and then return to the Pyrex dish to mix in the cheese sauce. It's a tight fight, but it works.)  Currently, I need to remember to pack them when we go, so a larger bag will let them remain packed.

We're definitely going to need a larger bag, because after this trip, we've determined we need to add a few more things:
-a paring knife
-a sharpie (for labeling cups)
-a pair of scissors
-collapsible measuring cups

I will admit that 'minimal" is not how I'd prefer to cook every day, but for a week or two on the road, it's adequate. I wouldn't want to be without my good French knife, long term, but for the sake of having ONE multi-tasker, a serrated knife cuts tomatoes as well as raw chicken.  (Just wash between!)  We actually have managed to cook dinner without the baking pan (I once made a roasting pan for meatloaf out of a baking sheet and aluminum foil), but it's definitely much easier to bake brownies with a real pan.  (No-Stick Foil doubles as a pan liner and wrapper for the leftovers.)

We also take our electric skillet (plus spatula and pair of tongs, tucked into the kitchen bag), if we're not going to have access to a real kitchen.  Often we'll make one food item in it (pancakes, eggs, saute-cut meats, etc.) and use the hotel's microwave to heat side dishes (sausage links, baked potatoes, macaroni and cheese, etc.)   We've even "baked" chicken nuggets and cookies in the skillet!

With a little planning and some minimalist packing, hotel eating can be just as good as at home!

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