Published on August 29th, 2011 | by DerbyLife0
Chef Morticia with her setup
Chef Morticia’s Super Rad Hotel Room Rollercon Cooking Challenge
7 days, 5 mouths to feed with a rice cooker, electric kettle, and a clothes iron
My league, Blue Ridge Rollergirls, showed big in Sin City this year. A Rollercon trip sandwiched into our travel season means a big expense in a sea of travel bouts. For me, these costs plus a surgery after returning home meant I needed to eat cheaply for that week and maintain athletic-level nutrition. I’m writing this while recovering from surgery, having had a tumor the size of a new potato removed from my thyroid.
Breakfast today was Blueberry Cobbler with a Sweet Cornmeal and Applesauce Crust, dreamed up yesterday. I think and experience food like other people do art or music. I’d resigned myself to being one of those non-creative folks, fixing arterial bleeds in my job as a nurse and balancing a league ledger to a penny, but not singing the national anthem or drawing bout posters. It was a teammate who made me realize inventing an Orange Cranberry Marmalade Chicken with a Rosemary Balsamic Reduction based on the contents of her fridge is not within the purview of an everyday cooking spectrum. This brings me back to Rollercon…
How the heck was I going to eat tasty, healthy food for a week at the Riviera and do it on the cheap? Cue one of my very favorite cooking appliances: the fuzzy logic rice cooker (best Goodwill score ever at $5)—not just for rice! It makes perfect grains and legumes using the processes of math and philosophy combined. Um, amazeballs. I also brought an electric kettle for making french-press coffee (coffee never, ever, ever optional in my life) and couscous. The iron in the room made a showing as a valuable grilled cheese press/quesadilla maker. These tools would form the cooking wing of the room. Now onto the pantry.
The (not at all) secret to my foodie-style eating habits on a nurse’s wages: discount/salvage grocery outlets. My town is blessed with a few chains that carry lots of organic, gourmet, and imported foods at a fraction of the cost. Great deals to be found: cous-cous ($0.33/package), Camembert ($1.99/14 oz), and Clif bars (5 bars/$1). Since this was going to save a mint, I’d check a bag with dry food instead of buying it all in Vegas.
Food is my favorite subject after derby, so I asked my teammate She-Wrex what her Vegas food plan was. She might have starved, poor thing–she had no plan! Chef Morticia’s Super Rad Hotel Room Rollercon Cooking Challenge began–I would offer a “meal plan” to my nearest and dearest so they could skate more and worry less. Hot breakfasts, hot suppers, and protein bars in between: 4 people signed up in about 30 seconds. Challenge accepted!
First stop: shopping for 5 athletes with the following restrictions: vegetarian, high protein, high fiber, lightweight, and stuff I was physically capable of swallowing (the tumor was pretty restrictive on what I could choke down.) I had the notion that everyone eats like me (lumberjack-style) and bought way too much food. The upside–I only spent around $40 for about 50 lbs of various foodstuffs that I brought, including black beans, devil’s food cake mix, sun dried tomatoes, flax seeds, walnuts, dried peaches, Ghirardelli chocolate powder, etc. I convinced friends flying with me to carry on quinoa, amaranth, and other heavy stuff in their purses. Side note: the Charlotte TSA folks were amused by amaranth (one of the foodstuffs of the Incas and a high-quality source of complete protein) but tested it for drugs and explosives nonetheless.
We arrived in Vegas and I set up the provisional kitchen. A $50 cab ride later, we were at Whole Foods to supplement my supplies with 3 dozen eggs, 3 kinds of cheese, tortillas, fruit and veggies. Next year, I’m finding a closer grocery store, as we spent more on cab fare than on food.
Back safe, it was time to prepare the first meal of the Food Challenge: grilled brie and granny smith apple sandwiches, side of morel mushroom and roasted red pepper couscous.
Making grilled cheese with an iron (without wrecking said iron)
Assemble sammich components as per normal, wrap with foil (shinier side out).
Heat iron to linen, apply to foil package, flip every 30 seconds or so until nicely browned.
*If it’s an “eco” model (aka won’t stay hot) puff lightly with steam setting occasionally to maintain heat.
*If you are making more than a couple of sammies, get the irons from other rooms and have them going as well.
Day One Breakfast! The night before I put ingredients for Chocolatey Almond Steel Cut Oats in the rice cooker, set to “brown rice” and set the timer. Making steel cut oats in a rice cooker is only possible in those with low heat settings, as oatmeal foams a lot when cooking—most rice cookers with fuzzy logic will have multiple settings. After the oatmeal was transferred to a separate bowl, I created Scrambled Eggs with Sauteed Onions and Sweet Red Peppers. This was my first chance to wow folks with eggs in the hotel room.
Sauteed Onions and Sweet Red Peppers
Saute the onions and peppers in a little oil with the rice cooker on steam/quick/high setting.
Whisk eggs with a bit of milk, add to bowl of rice cooker, run 2 cycles of high heat setting, open occasionally to stir, season…
…and you have hot, delicious eggs in a hotel room. I used the towel-under-the-door-crack trick to ward off management from my unlicensed restaurant operation.
Using the secret knock, meal plan participants filed into the room and fell onto the food. Eggs went first, but the chocolate almond oatmeal was soon gone too—and requested as a recurring menu item throughout the week.
A sample of our menu: pepperjack quesadillas with refried beans, thai curry amaranth, red beans and rice, sweet peachy quinoa, eggs with sundried tomatoes and brie, chai spiced steel cut oats with walnuts, devil’s food cake with frosting (hands down favorite.)
Pretty much everything was cooked by dumping it into the rice cooker, adding appropriate amounts of liquid, setting the timer, then going to classes (or sleeping at night.) Eggs took about 20 minutes in the morning, 5 of which was hands-on time. The total cost was around $175, including $18 for my share of a cab ride, $50 for bag check, and at least 1/3 of the dried food was never consumed. Next time I will remember that not every rollergirl or ref eats like an Glamazon.
Why did I do all this? Besides loving food and being thrifty, I wanted to be maximally fueled for derby marathons. While I wouldn’t mind eating chicken wings and cheese fries 24/7, I’m not sure how beneficial that would be for athletic fuel. Honestly, anyone can replicate this and save themselves a lot of cash (Hello, new wheels!) in the process. If it’s a one-pot meal on a stove, it can be made in a rice cooker. If you saute it, you can make it in a rice cooker. Here’s to good, hot, and healthy cheap eats on the road (and those new wheels/skates/Skinz/pads/whatever you’re saving up for!)
PS: I’m happy to coach anyone on how to cook via rice cooker and iron, or there are a bunch of websites out there…just ask my friend Google.
Rigor Morticia (photos courtesy of She-Wrex)