Friday, January 28, 2011

Coconut Curry

This is one of our Asian favorites! It’s spicy, sweet and very filling! It seems a little odd to have potatoes on rice, but it’s quite tasty! You can vary the spiciness by the kind of curry paste you use. Massaman curry paste is a bit sweeter and not spicy. Red curry paste is more hot and spicy! We like red curry best! Soon we’re going to try yellow curry…

Cut up 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts into chunks

Brown the chicken in a large skillet coated with a bit of oil.

Cut up 3 peeled potatoes into small bite-sized pieces

Cut up 3-4 peeled carrots into 1/4” slices

Chop up 1/2 of an onion

Add potatoes, carrots and onion to chicken in skillet.

Pour one can of coconut milk and 1/2 can of water. Mix in 1/4 cup (more or less to taste) of curry paste and mix well.

curry  02

curry  01curry  03

Cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender and the chicken is done.

curry  04 Serve the curry over white rice.

curry  05

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hotel Home Cookin’ (Part 1)

For Christmas this year, we gave our boys a trip to Disneyland for 6 days! This meant driving straight down and staying in a hotel for 7 nights. We have 3 teenage sons and they can EAT!!! I did a bit of figuring and deduced that even if we averaged only $8 per meal eating out (and that’s being really frugal), food alone would be $720!!! Yeah, not on our budget…

Thankfully I was struck with a revolutionary solution: my crock pot! Every hotel room has an outlet and I have a crock pot. Perfect!

Now this plan works even better if the room also has a microwave and a mini fridge. It also is much simpler for shorter stays. A week is probably about the limit, although you could shop while on vacation if necessary.

Here’s a summary of the plan. Eat simple, quick breakfasts and lunches. After lunch, line your crock pot with a slow cooker liner (Reynold’s makes them), pop in your supper, turn it on (use high or low heat depending on how long you will be gone and how frozen your food is when you put it in), and come back to a hot supper with no cooking!

When planning your menu, remember that simpler is better. Also keep in mind what will freeze well and can be reheated in a crock pot (mashed potatoes, for instance, are not a good idea). The fewer things that need to be kept cold, the better. Be sure to plan to eat things that will spoil sooner right away.

If budget allows, treat yourself to at least one meal out. After all, you’ve done all this work and you deserve it! :o) I would recommend waiting until your last day to do this unless you have a really hectic day in the schedule or you are really self-disciplined. I found it really hard to go back to eating out of paper plates while sitting on the end of the bed once I’d eaten out. LOL

This is what our menu for the 6 days looked like: (the items in pink are linked to recipes I like)

Day 1

Breakfast- yogurt, granola, quick bread, fruit, juice, milk

hotel cooking 01

Lunch- bagels with turkey & cheese, chips and fruit

Dinner- turkey rice soup, rolls and salad

Day 2

Breakfast- cereal, quick bread, fruit, juice, milk

Lunch- cup o noodle soup, crackers and fruit

Dinner- chili, corn muffins and fruit salad

hotel cooking 03

Day 3

Breakfast- instant oatmeal, quick bread, fruit, juice, milk

Lunch- PB sandwiches, chips, and fruit

Dinner- BBQs, baked beans, corn and chips

Day 4

Breakfast- yogurt, granola, quick bread, fruit, juice, milk

Lunch- bagels with cream cheese, chips and fruit

hotel cooking 02

Dinner- tacos, Spanish rice, tortilla chips and fruit

Day 5

Breakfast- cereal, quick bread, fruit, juice, milk

Lunch- cup o noodle soup, crackers and fruit

Dinner- hot dogs, baked beans, chips and fruit

Day 6

Breakfast- instant oatmeal, quick bread, fruit, juice, milk

Lunch- PB sandwiches, chips, and fruit

Dinner- Eating out


Don’t forget about snacks and desserts! This will also save you from spending money on junk food while you’re out for the day.

If you are going to be gone for only a couple of days, homemade treats are great! Be sure to individually wrap them for easy eating on the road and while at the hotel. If you know you will just be eating them in the room, you can place them in zipper bags or containers.

If you are going to be gone for several days, you may want to consider bringing some store bought treats/snacks/desserts for later in the week.

Some of our favorite treats were brownies, popcorn, little bags of pretzels, dried fruits, small bags of trail mix, nuts, candies, and granola bars (this recipe is by far our favorite!).

Hotel Home Cookin’ (Part 3)

Now that you’ve arrived. There are a few more things to do.

First, unpack any items that you want to keep extra cold into a fridge (if you have one).

You will also want to take out whatever you want to eat that evening or the next evening. Thaw it in the cooler or fridge. Frozen food doesn’t do well. If it’s mostly thawed it’s best!

I like having an electric tea kettle to boil water for soup or oatmeal. The microwave works but is pretty slow… You can also use it for coffee or tea in the morning.

Some days you may want to take snacks or lunch with you and not return to the room in the afternoon. If you are packing things that can be smashed or crushed, place them in a plastic container with a lid to put in your back pack or bag. This works great for pb & j sandwiches, too!

Don’t forget to bring drinks (preferably bottled water) whenever you leave the room!

I recommend starting your dinner in the crock pot when you go back to the room for lunch. This could present a challenge if you are not planning on going back to the room for lunch, but are bringing it with you instead.

If my dinner was still slightly thawed, I would put the crock pot on high. If it was completely thawed or was going to be heating for a long time, I set it to low.

Coming back to the lovely smell of a hot home cooked meal is so nice after a fun and busy day!

Wash any dirtied dishes as soon as your meal is done. If you’ve brought mostly disposable, it shouldn’t take long and they will be SO MUCH easier than if you let them sit.

Enjoy all your work and just think about all the money you saved!

If you have any questions or have any great tips to share, please post them in a comment!

Hotel Home Cookin’ (Part 2)

Now that you’ve decided to take the challenge and have your menu planned, you’re on to the next step. It’s now time to make a list of all the food you will need to make all the pre-cooked items on your menu. You are also going to need quite a few freezer bags of various sizes. Do all of this a week or two before you leave. You’re going to put it all in the freezer until you leave.

Make all of your items, being sure to slightly undercook things that will get mushy when reheating (ie pasta, veggies…) Let them cool in fridge. Place them in freezer bags, laying them flat so as to take up less space in the cooler and/or fridge.

If you have soups on the menu, pour the cooled soup into a plastic bowl or container. Place soup in freezer until solid. Remove from container and place into freezer bag. You don’t want the soup to leak. 

Pre-slice any homemade bread, pre-grate cheese (if you aren’t already buying grated cheese, which I would recommend) and individually wrap or bag things if desired. The less work you do at the hotel, the fewer things you’ll have to bring along and the more you’ll enjoy yourself.

Anything that you want to make but cannot freeze you will want to make as close to the time that you leave as possible. You also may not want to freeze whatever you are going to eat that first evening.

If you are going to be gone several days, consider buying pre-made things that will stay fresh longer. Having things that you’ve made get stale and/or spoil stinks!

Now make a shopping list of all the food you want to bring along. Depending on your car space, you may want to do some of the shopping once you arrive.

Also be sure to make a list of all the other things you will need for eating in a hotel. This will possibly be a lengthy list.

Here are some things you do not want to forget… (You will probably think of more)

crock pot, liners, serving spoons, can opener, electric tea kettle, small cutting board, sharp knife, sponge, dish soap, towels, serving bowl, 1 or 2 plastic containers with lid, napkins, plates, cups, bowls, spoons, forks, knives.

I would also recommend using disposable napkins, plates, cups, bowls and silverware. You want to keep doing dishes in a hotel bathroom sink to a minimum. You are on vacation… :o)

Also, juices in boxes or pouches are much better than jugs. They are less messy and portable. If you drink soda, bringing your own will save money. The same for coffee. I would also recommend bringing individual disposable water bottles. Losing an expensive water bottle while on vacation isn’t fun! Just remember to bring a Sharpie for writing names on them!

You are now ready to pack!

Place all cold foods in a cooler with ice. Make your ice with jugs of drinking water (not old milk jugs). Be sure to pour a bit out before freezing to allow for expansion. This will also make good drinking water later as the ice thaws.

You may want to take out whatever you are going to eat the first night so it will be thawed when you arrive. You may also need to think of a non-crock pot meal if you are going to arrive at your destination late in the day. Crock pots need a few hours to cook.

All your frozen food should get packed tightly in its own cooler and topped with about 20 pounds of dry ice wrapped in paper bags. This should keep it frozen for about 3 days. You may want to buy more or just let it thaw in a cooler with ice.

And you’re off!!!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Super Soft Pretzels

I made these today for our trip to CA and they were so AMAZING we ate half of them and froze the rest. They are a little more work than my previous pretzel recipe but TOTALLY worth it!

1. In a small bowl, dissolve 4 teaspoons of yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar in 1 1/4 cups warm water (110 degrees). Let stand about 10 minutes until creamy.

2. In a large bowl mix 4 cups flour, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Make a well in the center.

3. Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil into the yeast mixture. Then pour this into the flour.

4. Mix and form into dough. Knead for 7-8 minutes, until smooth. Add water or flour if too dry or to wet.

5. Lightly oil a large bowl, place dough in bowl, cover with damp towel and place in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

6. Preheat oven to 400-425 and spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.

7. Heat 8 cups of water and 3 tablespoons of baking soda to a simmer (180 degrees) in a large pot.

8. Divide dough into pieces and roll into ropes. Twist into pretzel shapes.

9. Gently drop 2-3 pretzels at a time into the soda water. After 15 seconds, flip the pretzels and leave soaking another 15 seconds. Carefully remove pretzels from water and place on baking rack to drain.

10. Place pretzels on baking sheet and sprinkle with coarse salt.

11. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately remove from baking sheet to baking rack to cool.

pretzels 02

12. Eat while warm. These should be eaten the same day or frozen. But they are MUCH better fresh from the oven!

pretzels 01 

Thanks to Will for the great pic!