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Cooking in a hotel room

I'm going to be stuck living in a hotel room for eight days with four kids and a husband on a very limited dining budget. We will have a microwave and small refrigerator in the room, and since we're driving there instead of flying, I can pack a rice cooker and (I suppose) a crock pot.

Here's the real challenge...we do NOT plan to eat out once we arrive. I am a chef but I was subjected to nasty crock pot stuff as a child and I think I was scarred for life...so although I do own a crock pot, I never use it at home. We will be traveling from CA to the midwest, so I will need to use ingredients readily available in a standard, run-of-the-mill grocery store in Nebraska. I can take some ingredients with us, but would prefer to purchase all perishables and most non-perishables there.

So -- any ideas?! Breakfasts are available at the hotel, so I only need dinner ideas. The kids have been raised on every kind of gourmet food imaginable, and they have very eclectic palates...so I don't need food that is particularly "kid friendly" or anything. I just need ideas for what in the world you can cook in a crock pot/microwave that is not in any shape or form similar to pot roast.

Thanks...

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  1. If I were stuck in your situation, I'd also bring along an electric skillet. That way you could do the really easy stuff like hamburgers, hotdogs, pancakes, fried eggs, etc. Even without it you could easily make pulled pork, chili, sloppy joes, etc. in the slowcooker. With an electric skillet you could also make paella, cassoulet, again, just about anything short of something that needs a deep kettle. (What's wrong with pot roast?)

    I don't know what the rules are about cooking in a motel room, but the management will certainly figure it out what with the cooking odors emanating from your room not to mention the housekeeping staff.

    2 Replies
    1. re: John E.

      Thanks...pot roast and I just don't get along. Holdover from when I was pregnant ages ago, I guess, but the smell of cooking potroast is not something I can handle :)

      The hotel includes many units with kitchens, and cooking is definitely allowed...we just didn't make our reservations early enough to get a full kitchen.

      1. re: tsfirefly

        Smells are something to consider in a hotel room. You won't have a vent and the windows in your room probably won't open which means that you (and likely your neighbor) will be stuck with those smells for a long time.

    2. -sandwiches
      -veggies that you steam in their bag in the microwave
      -rice (cook in microwave)
      -can you bring a hot plate? if so, fry/hardboil eggs
      -yogert
      -oatmeal
      -nachos with melted cheese and canned beans
      -salads
      -boxed soup that can be heated in microwave (trader joes makes really good ones)
      -bring pre-made meals with you that u can reheat in the microwave (pasta, etc)

      1. America's Test Kitchen' Family Cookbook has some great c/p recipes - NOT nasty at all. They are not "open and dump," though. You can get a trial subscription to their websites, and they should be there.

        Consider taking a little barbeque, and some aluminum pans from the dollar store. to cook in. I can do anything on one of those. Consider "hobo packs;" meat and veggies cooked in an aluminum foil pouch.

        An electric skillet isn't a bad idea, either.

        1. KSyrah is right about the small bbq. I have a small gas one that I love. I was at a horse show with my trainer in the middle of nowhere and after the first night's dinner at a local restaurant we realized 'pickins were slim'.

          I could microwave baked potatoes, get a "salad in a bag", and grill meat and veggies. Sometimes we'd find a local park and dine there, or back at the motel, or when we'd dine at the horseshow we were the envy of everyone!

          Since it sounds like you are traveling in the summer, you should be able to find good local produce. Grill corn on the cob, or any other veggies. I love asparagus, squash, mushrooms, etc. on the grill. Try to find some interesting dry spices or jar marinades before you leave and use them to spice things up since you may not be able to find them locally.

          Another spinoff option would to buy a good 2 burner camp stove and then that combined with the grill would be your "portable kitchen". I'm sure you could cook to your heart's content in the pool area and no one would mind. And you could dine al fresco.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Barbara76137

            Thanks for the input...I actually run a backpacking camp for girls, so for five weeks following this Nebraska adventure we'll be eating food from camp stoves and campfires...so avoiding the camp stove is sort of a priority :) Same with the foil meal packets.

            Will be picking up an electric wok, something I've been loathe to do before now (not a big fan of excess electric cooking stuff here, and we already have a couple of very nice regular woks), but it sounds like it'll come in handy. I can take my bamboo steamers and use them as well.

            1. re: tsfirefly

              I don't know where you live or much about Nebraska but I have seen electric woks for less than $10 at Goodwill, usually their the red West Bend electric woks. So if you really are not eager to use later at home Goodwill or another thrift store might be the way to go.
              (I recently bought a tri-ply Tramontina 5 quart saute pan for $20 at Goodwill).

          2. Beware of hotels that promise a fridge and a microwave and call it a kitchen. Very often there are no plates, forks, spoons etc. You're thinking of big fancy equipment. Make sure you get plates and utensils.