HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


cooking in a hotel (fridge and microwave only!)

I am going on a super frugal bike vacation. Half the trip we have a full kitchen, easy peasy. The other half we are in cheap motels with a mini fridge and microwave. We may have access to a bbq which makes it easier, but there is a better, cheaper motel we could stay at without the bbq. This means microwave cooking! yikes! I don't even own a microwave.

breakfast is a no brainer, I am bringing a magic bullet and will make smoothies and a kettle for oatmeal. Lunch, we can do sandwiches/salads/bars

now dinner ideas anyone?? Short of buying TV dinners and reheating, what can you do in a microwave? And what should I bring for cookware?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. No need for 'foodie' meals here, just decent, healthy sustaining :)

    1. Bacon! How about BLTs, or club sandwiches? I also really like meatless sausage patties, which nuke just fine. Couscous works well in a microwave. You could bring water to a boil in the microwave, mix in a handful of that bite-sized trail mix, stir in some cilantro, scallions and curry powder, then your couscous, cover and let it rest. WHen it's done, fluff it and toss in some rotisserie chicken and you'll have a pretty satisfying, if not gourmet, couscous pilaf.

      1. I have a plastic cover to put over dinner plates full of food to heat in the micro-wave. It doesn't usually get dirty so it saves you from carrying a roll of plastic wrap around.
        I have a microwave steamer from Tupperware. It's pretty good for cooking vegetables.
        Potatoes and sweet potatoes are easy to "bake" in a microwave. You might think along the lines of toppings such as broccoli (pre-cooked in the steamer) and cheese.
        Scope out any farmers markets that might be in the area. Some have vendors who sell cooked items, sometimes wonderful ethnic treats. A lot of larger supermarkets have ready to heat and eat meals. (Will you have a car following?)
        You might roast some chicken pieces before your trip, freeze them and they might get you thru a couple of meals. Re-heat in the microwave. Let them defrost in an insulated bag and hotel frig.
        Couscous is easy. I haven't cooked it in a microwave but it's probably easy to do. Boil water with flavorings i.e. chicken broth. Add the couscous. Let absorb. Add things like microwaved onion in butter, cooked broccoli, grape tomatoes, etc. Look thru some recipes. Another flavor combination might be a little cinnamon, dried cranberries, apple pieces, chopped scallions.

        Bring a good knife or two (I like a paring knife as well as a good slicing knife). Have some things pre-measured in baggies and ready to throw together.

        2 Replies
        1. re: dfrostnh

          We will have a car. I am not able to bring a lot with me, as crossing the border with fresh fruit or veg can be a pain. A rotisserie chicken and couscous pilaf is a great idea.

          I have some glass dishes with microwave lids, I can bring one of those. I don't think I want to buy any specific cookware for a microwave since I don't have one at home. I am adverse to covering with plastic wrap in microwave.

          has anyone tried those instant brown rices? What about pasta? Can I boil water and let pasta sit covered or nuke it? I wonder about quinoa too? Actually I could precook and freeze brown rice, and quinoa and bring a small cooler.

          thanks, getting the juices flowing!!

          1. re: cleopatra999

            I think you would be happier cooking brown rice ahead and freezing it. Your microwave lids might work to cover food you are microwaving. You need to cover it somehow because the contained steam/heat cooks the food. You can skip buying a plastic steamer although it can later be used as a storage container but I think the re-usable food cover is well worth the purchase. There's a vent hole but otherwise you might try an upside down plastic food container as long as it's microwave safe.

        2. Winter squashes cook up pretty well in the microwave if you perforate them to release steam beforehand. With your blender, you could make squash soups.

          2 Replies
            1. re: cleopatra999

              Eggs turn out pretty good in microwave. Very light and fluffy, all things considered.

          1. My sister cooks jasmine rice in the microwave all the time - I don't but that is her go to method of cooking rice. Always turns out great.

            What about bringing a small crockpot with you? That would really broaden your choices.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Jeanne

              Not sure how useful a crockpot would be unless they're returning to same hotel.

              Frankly, I'd cook ahead at home and freeze, then assemble at the hotel and nuke as needed. Since you've got the car you have room for cooler; stock your frozen foods with frozen water bottles as ice (to be re-used later). Brown rice, as OP asked, freezes fine.

            2. Hotel iron + foil = grilled cheese, paninis or quesadillas.

              1. Back when I was on the road a lot for a defense contractor (at a lot of bases where facilities were marginal) I carried three things. A one cup rice cooker from Panasonic, a mini steamer from salton,
                And if space allowed a 1.5 cup fryer. A package of both raman and rice came with, also a small can of mixed veggies. Some rooms had microwaves, some did not. But this way I knew I had a meal or two before needing supplies at a local supermarket.

                If you know that you will have a microwave, get a microwave fish steamer from a large asian store. Very light, small, etc. very versatile as well. Most anything can be cooked in it, steam veggies, eggs and other things in the lower compartment (make sure the cover is on), etc. You can also buy foil lined disposable bags to "brown" food. Graveyardmall.com had a closeout where you got 1000 bags for $5 plus shipping. A covered microwave soup bowl can be bought at a discount store for under $5 and is a decent container for making coffee, stew, loose ground beef, rice, etc.

                The last possibility is getting a small "microwave griller". I think that you would have to look in a thrift store these days. I have done steak, liver&onions, etc in one that was acceptable.

                If I had my choice, a microwave fish steamer from an asian store (I carry my utensils in it to save space), and a microwave soup cup that is used for cooking and beverages.

                1. I have been in that exact situation in "holiday flats" in Europe, nothing but microwave and mini-fridge. If you can carry it with you (as you will have a car) a 1 1/2 quart size Corningware or Pyrex baking dish will be invaluable as you can put congenial combinations of food in it and microwave them all together and in half an hour you have a substantial dinner. Examples: 1) raw rice, pieces of raw chicken, odd bits of onion, mushroom, and green pepper, frozen green peas, chicken stock from a box. Makes a sort of risotto-type dish that is pretty good. 2) chunks of raw chicken, frozen potato-filled pierogies, chicken stock from a box---comes out as chicken and dumplings. 3) frozen ravioli or tortellini, spaghetti sauce from a jar, extra tomato sauce from a can, water. Make sure you are adding a lot of liquid as the food will take it up in cooking. Then cover tightly with plastic wrap and microwave at highest power for 30-40 minutes or until everything is done.

                  1. dunno if anyone has suggested this (didn't read through posts) but you can also use the iron to make "paninis" just wrap sandwiches in aluminum foil or something and put the iron over it to toast the bread

                    1. Your bike trip sounds like fun!

                      Don't forget you can always make overnight oatmeal with chia seeds, which is one of my favourite travelling breakfasts.

                      For dinner, it depends on what you have access to: find a Trader Joe's and you have tons of options. Make salads with canned beans, pre-seasoned tofu, etc. Sweet potatoes and spaghetti squash also microwave well.



                      1 Reply
                      1. re: blinknoodle

                        Lots of great ideas here. Not sure about a Trader Joe's, or Whole Foods. Both of those I could easily purchase and reheat items. We will be in pretty small towns (with a larger one 20 mins away).

                        I have made and frozen a baggie of brown rice. I will do the same with quinoa. I am going to make a lentil stew and freeze a portion or 2 of that. That should help me out with at least 3 meals.

                        I will bring my glass container with microwave lid with vent for cooking in. I think I am pretty set. I plan to keep in mind the idea of a soup with my magic bullet!

                        I used to do those overnight oats all the time. Much better healthier/tastier than packets. I would use oats, honey, fruit and yogurt. Adding the chia is a good idea. I might do that for our travel days, when I haven't stocked up on smoothie stuff yet.

                      2. Microwave Mexican Restaurant Sweet Corn Cakes

                        Makes 6 cups, 12 servings - On table in 15-minutes

                        Copy Cat Recipe. I wanted a quick recipe to copy the sweet corn cakes (Mexican spoon bread) that are served at Mexican restaurants like El Torito and Chi Chi's. This is ready to eat in about 15 minutes. For a less sweet dish, reduce granulated sugar to 1/3 cup. For a firmer sweet corn cake, microwave an additional 3-minutes.

                        If you've never had these at a Mexican restaurant, they are similar to a firm, sweet, grits or polenta, with a corn tortilla flavor.
                        The corn tortilla flavor comes from the masa harina flour.


                        1 cup yellow cornmeal
                        1/4 cup masa harina flour (or 3 corn tortillas, uncooked, - process in food processor to fine bits, use in place of masa harina)
                        1/2 cup granulated sugar
                        1 tablespoon baking powder
                        1/4 teaspoon salt

                        2 cups milk
                        2 cups water
                        1 (15 ounce) can creamed corn
                        1 egg, beaten
                        4 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted


                        Stir all dry ingredients together in mixing bowl, mix well and set aside until needed.
                        Mix all wet ingredients together in another bowl. Stir until well mixed.
                        Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir out any dry lumps in batter.

                        Pour into a 3-quart covered, microwaveable casserole dish.

                        Cover and microwave on high for 6-minutes.

                        Stir well. Stir bottom and sides of dish well to remove any dry lumps.

                        Cover and microwave on high for another 6-minutes.

                        Stir a few times and serve warm using an ice cream scoop or disher.

                        This gets thicker as it cools and reaches room temperature. If you want a more
                        gritty sweet corn cake, use polenta corn meal instead of regular corn meal.

                        1. Microwave Chocolate Brownie in a coffee mug

                          2 Tbs butter or margarine
                          2 Tbs water
                          1/4 tsp vanilla extract
                          dash salt
                          4 Tbs granulated sugar
                          2 Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
                          4 Tbs all purpose flour

                          In a 12 oz coffee mug, add water, butter and vanilla. Whisk well.
                          Add cocoa powder, whisk well. Add sugar and salt, whisk well. Add flour, whisk well.

                          Microwave for 60 to 90 seconds. Center should be slightly molten. Enjoy with a spoon. Careful brownie will be hot.

                          I used a 1100 watt microwave. 60 seconds makes a molten center brownie. 75 seconds make a uniformly done brownie.

                            1. You've gotten some great ideas already, I will just add to steam veggies, just put a bit of water in a glass bowl (like a couple tablespoons), throw in your veggies (like broccoli), and then throw a microwave safe dinner plate on top of the bowl. Zap it for like 3 minutes, depending on how you like your veggies.

                              There's even the sort of lame option of heating up store bought soup in the microwave and having it with a good loaf of bread.

                              1. cheese and bean burrito in the microwave
                                can add rotisserie chicken or cooked / canned shrimp / fish

                                buy tortillas (corn or flour)
                                open a can of refried beans and spread on the tortillas
                                put cheese on top, roll and microwave - easy

                                add fresh veggies alongside - guacamole etc

                                my friend adds hemp seed cereal to her smoothies and says that really keeps her going for a long time (lots of protein and fat) --- i see you say border crossing somewhere in this thread - i assume it's legal to cross border with hemp seed that's been processed for food use - but i do not know for sure

                                here is my hotel travel kit for when we go by car (not on an aircraft, obviously due to weight and knife and corkscrew)

                                good can opener

                                good corkscrew beer bottle cap opener

                                one good longer length paring knife safely encased in a cardboard knife protector -

                                small cutting board - one that doesn't matter if i forget it somewhere along the line.

                                a couple of decent tumblers (picardie for eg) or wine glasses (go to thrift shop so as not to break up your home set)

                                good sturdy paper plates and napkins (theme for the locale or the season is fun) (or a few good melmac ones) (incl cereal size bowls, larger platter size plates and smaller individual plates)

                                small bottle of dish soap in its own secure zip loc bag

                                some metal cutlery (again, thrift shop so as not to lose any pieces from your home set)

                                roll of paper towel

                                a wide mouth thermos (quart size)

                                some sandwich size ziplocs to pack snacks that won't mind being toted along in your paniers on bike.
                                small spray bottle of bleach and water solution in a secure zip loc bag - i use this to spray off the bathroom counter / sink if that is your prep sink and surface --- or even the small hotel kitchenette sink and counter - i just prefer to know that it's clean - that's me

                                small cooler

                                ice bottles - i make my own ice in re purposed beverage containers - i really like the squarish shape of the low cal lemonade containers at Trader Joe's for example. Make sure it is potable water so you can use it to drink if necess. These bottles stand upright in my cooler - do not leak and make a mess etc.

                                which BORDER are you crossing? Canada?.maybe we can help you with some good bakery recommendations en route etc. Just think of all the bakeries you can hit if you're cycling! And to find Trader Joes locations - go to www.traderjoes.com ---- as someone pointed out above - you will have many inexpensive meals resolved by just going to TJ's - get something frozen, and then microwave it.

                                1. If you have no cookware at all, bacon microwaves just great right on white motel towels. Pay for your room with cash, and leave a false address, as the motel staff will not be amused after you leave.
                                  Yes, I'm bad.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: danbob

                                    hilarious Dadbob. I would have thought more of using paper towels LOL!

                                    Georgiastrait: great suggestions for list to bring. We are crossing in Montana, going from BC to Fruita, CO & Moab, Utah. Driving down, biking there. We will hit up grocery stores once we arrive in Fruita. Not much for options (no TJ or Whole Foods), but we will make do.

                                    Antilope: thanks! great links/recipes

                                  2. >>>> what should I bring for cookware?<<<<<

                                    Three words - electric frying pan

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Gail

                                      that is a good idea Gail, but not worth purchasing for me as it is not something I use at home. I will see if my other travel companions have one kicking around though!