The Hotel Gourmet

Gourmet Cooking from a Hotel Room

Parmesan Chicken and Pasta with Marinara

I’m back in the Panhandle trying out some new recipes.  It’s a short trip this time.  I’m just here for a few days.    I like traveling on a Sunday because I can go grocery shopping in Amarillo and get settled in my room before I have to go to work the next day.  Amarillo has a much better grocery and  wine selection than Borger.  I once bought a bottle of wine in Borger that cost $20.  The cashier said “Wow, that must be some good wine!”  It was the most expensive bottle they had.

Tonight’s dinner is Parmesan Chicken and Pasta with Marina Sauce.  The ingredients include fresh chicken, pasta-your choice, Parmesan cheese, marina sauce, and cheese.  Simple ingredients for a simple dish.

Cook the pasta first by boiling 2 cups of water in the microwave for 4 minutes or until the water begins to boil.

Pour in about 1/2 cup of pasta.  I’m using rotini pasta in this dish.  Cook for 4-5 minutes stirring ever 1 1/2 minutes.  This keeps the pasta from sticking.

Carefully pull the glass dish out of the microwave using a pot holder or towel, whatever is handy. Drain the pasta and put on a plate.

Next cook the chicken.

Wash chicken tenders and place in the glass microwave dish.

Put a small amount of butter over chicken  and heat for 30 seconds.  Coat the chicken with melted butter.

Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on the buttered chicken.

I was trying to think of a way to make this recipe more interesting so I decided to write part of it like the book “50 Shades of Grey”

“I slowly pulled the wrapping off the package to reveal the bare poultry.  The butter glistened in the light on the tender skin.  Should I continue?  I wasn’t sure but I was hungry for more.  I bit my lip (ouch!) and drank more wine.  I’m in total control of dinner and it feels good.”

Whew it’s getting hot in here!  I better continue in the normal fashion.

Cook the chicken for 2 more minutes or until done.

Add the cooked pasta to the chicken and top with Marinara sauce and grated cheese.

Heat for 1 minute in microwave to melt cheese and serve.  Delicious!

My inner Goddess is pleased with the way this turned out.

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Travel Tip – What’s in Your Bag?

What do you carry in your bag or suitcase?  I’m sure I’m like most people.  I carry the usual stuff – clothes, shoes, toiletries, socks, a penguin and cooking utensils, just like the normal traveler.  But do you carry other items that come in handy during your travels?  There are a few things I carry everywhere I go that are really helpful.  Here is my list of  “Extras” that I carry:

1. A Night Light

 

Every hotel room has a different floor plan.  Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, dazed and confused,  and stumble around trying to remember where all the furniture is between the bed and the bathroom.  The quickest way to find it is by stubbing your toe on the coffee table.  A night-light gives a soft glow and just enough light so you can safely make it through the obstacle course.  This one even has a USB port on it in case you need a plug to charge your phone.  I really wanted the Dora the Explorer night-light that changes colors, but they were out at Toys R Us.  I have left a few night lights in my room because they don’t show up in the daytime and I forget about them.

2. A Micro Multi-Tool

This one has a pair of scissors, a bottle opener, screwdrivers, knives and a pair of tweezers.  Plus it folds up to a small size and doesn’t take up much room.  I frequently use the scissors to cut open any thing from oatmeal and tuna packets to cutting out coupons.  I’ve even used the screwdrivers to fix my glasses.  You could also use it to open a wine bottle, in a pinch.  The TSA has several of my micro tools that I’ve forgotten and left in my purse so remember to put it in your checked luggage.

3. A Flashlight

This is a mini Mag Light.  It’s small in size but really bright.  I started carrying a flashlight with me after an out-of-town soccer tournament. One of my team mates that I roomed with, who will remain nameless, but is named after a state in the U.S., would always leave a flashlight and a pair of tennis shoes by the door every time she stayed in a hotel.  Her thought process was, if there were a fire, she would have a light and shoes to make it to safety out of danger.  I don’t know if she had a bad experience to come up with this idea or just read it somewhere but everywhere we went, she would leave her shoes and flashlight by the door before going to bed.  I don’t leave my shoes and flashlight by the door but I do keep it in a place I can get to easily.  I’ll just have to run from the fire bare footed.  A flashlight also comes in handy if you can’t figure out how to turn the lights on in you fancy hotel room.  My buddy Nicole and I stayed at the Aria hotel in Las Vegas one time.  They had a touchpad you used to turn the lights, TV, curtains and music on in the room but I could never figure it out.  I walked around in the dark carrying my flashlight with me.  I finally attempted to figure out the switches near the door when Nicole walked in after a night of gambling.  EKKKKKK! We both yelled at the top of our lungs simultaneously.  I finally figured out the lighting system on the last day we were there.  It also serves well as a night-light to read books under the covers when you convert your bed into a small fort…like I did as a child.

4. A Corkscrew

 

I know this is a shock to most of you, but I like a good bottle of wine.  While traveling, I’ll go out of my way to visit a local vinyard and sample some of the wines that are made there.  I’ve run across some very good wines and some really bad wines.  You just never know when a good bottle of wine will show up at your door. I like this one because it has a foil cutter on one end.  The worst wine I had was in Oklahoma.  I was skeptical about trying Oklahoma wine.  It was not OK in OK.  I can now scratch Oklahoma wine off my bucket list.

I also pack a sewing kit for those loose or missing buttons, a small blanket when traveling during the winter, my running armband and headphones for my iphone to track my exercise progress and a hat.

These are just a few “Extras” I carry to make my hotel rooms seem like Home Away from Home.

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Corn Flakes -It’s not Just for Breakfast Anymore

The Breakfast Bar at hotel “B” that I’m staying at this week, is a little different from hotel “A” I stayed at last time.  It has some good points and some bad points. Every hotel has a different breakfast bar set up so I have to adapt my recipes to what the hotel offers.  This hotel has boxes of cereal, where as the other hotel had the bins of cereal that you scooped out.  Boxes of cereal  are much easier to store and transport so I grabbed a box of Corn Flakes this morning.  I’m not a big Cornflake fan.  They remind me of the Beverly Hillbillies.  In every episode, Jethro eats a bodacious bowl for breakfast. Hilarity ensues.  Oh, boy.  Those Clampetts. What a hoot!  This box will never encounter a big bowl or milk.

The advantage this hotel has, is the evening Manager’s buffet that does offer free food, wine and beer.  It’s not good food or wine but it’s free.  They offer a salad and fruit bar every night with a different main dish.   Is it an advantage?  The jury is still out.

Heather’s wedding is next week so I decided to go work out for 30 minutes before cooking dinner.  I was hoping 10 pounds would magically fall off while I was working out on the treadmill.  Yea, that didn’t happen, so I stopped by and got a glass of wine.  I tend to sleep better at night if I work out while on the road.

After a good workout I was famished and went by the dinner bar.  Yuck!  They had Salisbury Fake, I mean Salisbury Steak in this brown gelatinous gravy that looked gross.  They also had canned mixed vegetables and Instant Mashed potatoes Ewwww!  The dining room was packed with people eating this disgusting food.  But it’s free.  I loaded my plate with the  usual salad and fruit with a little extra ranch dressing.  No matter what I cook tonight, it has to be better than brown spam.  Tonight it’s Breaded Ranch Chicken.

I bought 2 chicken breast at the store on my way home.  I’ve never cooked raw chicken in the microwave, but it was a good time to test it.  Ever since the infamous”Laughing hysterically during a meeting at the picture of CornFlakes curing PMS”episode at work, I’ve wanted to try Chicken with CornFlakes or Breaded Ranch Chicken.

The ingredients include 1 chicken breast, parmesan cheese, butter, 1 box of CornFlakes and ranch dressing.

The one good thing on the dinner bar is the salad with plenty of ranch dressing.  Loaded up on Ranch Dressing just for this recipe.

Melt 1 pat of butter in the microwave.  Clean the chicken breast and coat with melted butter.

Crush the box of Cornflakes in a ziploc bag.  I used a water bottle to crush the CornFlakes.  Die! Die! Die!  Oh, I mean gently crush CornFlakes.

Mix gently crushed cornflakes, ranch dressing and parmesan cheese on a plate.  Place the coated chicken in the cornflake mixture and coat well. Place in microwave dish and cover tightly.  Be sure and cover the chicken while cooking.  There is a lot of moisture in the chicken and it will pop out of the dish if not covered.

Cook in the microwave dish for approximately 2 minutes.  Carefully uncover chicken and turn it over.  Cook an additional 2 minutes.  Check chicken for doneness.  The chicken came out surprisingly juicy but most of the coating fell off.  I had to reapply it after cooking.

This recipe was really good but would probably work better in an oven.  The chicken was flavorful and came out better than expected.  Even if it came out tasting like an old shoe, it was still better and healthier than brown spam in mud.

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Pasta la Vista, Baby!

Welcome back to my food blog!   I’m back in the Texas Panhandle for a week, trying out some new recipes.  I’m staying in a different hotel this time.   Yes, Borger does have more than one hotel, believe it or not.  I arrived late Sunday afternoon after making a quick stop in Amarillo to pick up some groceries for the week.  This hotel has a manager’s buffet in the evening.  They were having chili tonight.  Pffft!  Who wants chili with who knows what’s in it, when you can make a healthy meal in your room!  They did have a mixed green salad, some fresh fruit and free wine that I thought I should sample just to be sociable.  The wine I tried several times to check for freshness.

My grocery run in Amarillo included asparagus, tomatoes, pasta, eggs, cheese, green onions, parmesan cheese, tuna, rice and chicken.  It cost about $30 but will cover all my meals for the week.  The rest of the items I’ll pick up from the breakfast and dinner bar.

Tonight I’m making Pasta la Vista, Baby!

I started by heating up the water until boiling, about 4 minutes.  Then added my handful of bowtie pasta to the boiling water.  Cook until al dente, which I think means “not hard but not mushy” in Italian.

While the pasta is cooking, remove the ends of some fresh asparagus.

Rinse the asparagus and place in microwave bowl with a little bit of water.  Cook for 1 1/2 minutes, just enough to slightly cook it, but keep it crisp.  We eat a lot of asparagus but it always gives me asparagus pee after eating it.  What is Asparagus Pee?  That’s that weird smell your pee has after eating asparagus.  It’s Methanethiol.  I get it about 15 minutes after eating it.  Results may vary.

 

While the asparagus is cooking, rinse and cut up some cherry tomatoes.  I love cherry tomatoes!  They’re so colorful and can add a lot of flavor to any dish.  They’re bite size too which makes them convenient to eat.

Once the asparagus is done, cut it up in small pieces.  Add the pasta, asparagus and tomatoes to the microwave dish.

Add a little parmesan cheese and a little grated cheese to the top.  Return to the microwave for 30 seconds to melt the cheese and then it’s Pasta la Vista Baby!  I added the salad and wine from the dinner bar and had a healthy tasty dinner.

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Richard’s Tuna & Rice

This recipe is compliments of my husband Richard, who ate this for lunch almost every day while we were dating.  We were both on very limited budgets during those years, and it was a tough period for both of us.  He would show up at my office around noon, with his tuna and crackers and spend his lunch break with me and we would talk about our day.  I knew it had to be serious when he shared his crackers with me.  I thought it was very romantic.  The fact that he took the time from his busy schedule to be with me meant a lot.  We still eat lunch together when we get the chance. 

On to the recipe.  Here are the ingredients.  I purchased tuna and brown rice on my weekly grocery trip to stock up on supplies.  

For this recipe you need brown rice in individual cups, tuna cups or packets, chopped onions, a boiled egg, mayo, mustard and pickle relish, and an apple. The apple and egg are from the breakfast bar I snagged this morning, the mayo, mustard and pickle relish are from Subway, and the chopped onion, brown rice and tuna are from the local store.  I started buying pre-chopped onions in a plastic container instead of whole onions because of the onion smell that was permeating from my fridge.  I kept them in a Ziploc bag but they persisted in having a strong odor.  The pre-chopped ones don’t have as much flavor but they’re easier to store and I’m sure my neighbors and the cleaning lady appreciate it.  Follow the instructions on the rice packets and heat in the microwave.

While the rice is heating up, dice  the eggs and apples.  I used 1 egg and about 1/2 apple for this recipe. 

Place the diced apples, eggs, cooked rice, tuna and diced onions into the Microwave dish or bowl.  Add the mayo and pickle relish and mix well.  I also add a packet of mustard to give it a little tanginess.  I used 3 packets of mayo because I like it moist.  Mix well. 

I was so hungry tonight and this looked so tasty after I put it together that I forgot to take a picture of the final product so I’ll substitute this picture instead.

D2 and richard

Richard and I, 20 years later, still happily married and still enjoying tuna and rice.

Richard’s Tuna and Rice

1 cup tuna or 1 tuna packet

1 cup pre-cooked brown rice or rice bowl

1 chopped egg

1/2 chopped apple

1/4 cup chopped onion

3 mayo packets

1 mustard packet

1-2 pickle relish packets

Follow cooking directions for pre-cooked rice.  cook for 1 minute in microwave.  Let cool.  Add to bowl.  Add 1 tuna cup or packet to cooled rice.  Chop 1 /2 apple and 1 egg and 1/4 cup onion.  Add to tuna mix.  Squeeze 3 packets of mayo, 1 packet of mustard and 1 packet pickle relish to tuna mixture.  Mix well.

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Cream Cheese Eggs

Every morning I go downstairs at the hotel and scan the breakfast bar, or BB for short, and see if there’s something else I can use in my recipes.  Today I discovered cream cheese.

There it was, trying to hide from me, behind the bagels. But I spotted it and took it back to my room, along with some bacon, and milk.  They had the yellow gelatinous omelets again today, but I passed on those.  They just don’t look very appetizing.  What I can make in my room will be a whole lot better and tastier. Cream Cheese and Eggs.

The cast of characters for this mornings breakfast  are bacon, cream cheese, eggs, milk, butter, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.

The BB provided the bacon, milk, cream cheese, butter, salt and pepper.  I provided the eggs and Parmesan cheese.  I bought a dozen eggs 2 weeks ago and still have a few left.  They’ve lasted almost 3 weeks.  And, of course, I’m using the Magic Microwave dish. 

Start my mixing the 1 oz. of cream cheese with 1 tbsp. milk until smooth.  Make sure and get as many lumps out as possible.

Mix in the 2 eggs and scramble together. Add 1 pat of butter, parmesan cheese and just a little salt and pepper. Mix well.  Microwave for 1 1/2 minutes stirring every 30 seconds.  It’s very important to stir the eggs frequently or they get hard and lumpy. 

Add crumbled bacon on top and dig in!  OMG OMG OMG.  This came out so delicious and so easy to make!.  Here’s the link for my inspiration of Cream Cheese Eggs.  Try this at home

Note: Do not attempt to heat up bacon strips in the microwave on a Styrofoam plate.  I, of course would never do that.  My friend Joey Jo Jo Jr. Shabadoo told me that little tip.

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Fruit of the Room

Some days, when I return to my hotel room after spending a hard day at work, I’m not particularly hungry or want anything heavy to eat.   Especially if I’ve gone out for lunch with friends or found some unsuspecting coworker to buy my lunch.  A glass of wine and a light but healthy snack are all I want before bedtime.   Here’s a simple fruit salad recipe that’s easy and delicious and almost totally free!  Again, you have to plan ahead. 

I went through the fruit bowl located in the breakfast area this morning and brought back an assortment of fruit.  This recipe will vary according to what fruit is available on the breakfast bar.  I also had some blueberries in my fridge that I had purchased from the store.  Blueberries aren’t mandatory.  It can be only fruit from the hotel.  Slice the fruit in a dish into bite sized pieces.

Squeeze  a packet of honey from the breakfast bar on your fruit and mix well.  So easy and so simple plus good for you.  Note: Wine not included.

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Travel Tip–Powder to the People!

This travel tip is courtesy of my daughter Heather, the computer whiz and my personal IT department.  She travels much more than I do and many of my ideas have been suggestions that she has recommended. 

heather

When it comes to frequent flyer miles, I’m a light weight compared to Heather.  Her grandmother tells everyone she has more miles than the Space Shuttle (before the Space Shuttle Program was cancelled)  This travel tip is geared more toward women but men can pass this info along to their wives/girlfriends.

I like using loose powder when applying make-up.  Pressed powder tends to clog my pores and the pad that comes with it gets filthy.  I just like how loose powder feels and keeps my nose from being shiny.  Most loose powder containers are large and take up a lot of space in my cosmetic bag.  The worse thing about traveling with loose powder is when you reach your destination, much of the powder has drifted to the top of the container and makes a big mess!  I end up dumping some of the excess powder out to keep from looking like a clown.  I don’t like wasting it but I couldn’t figure out how to keep the powder in the container after flying.

I consulted Heather about it and she suggested using a loose powder called “SmashBox”

It’s small and compact and comes with a  tiny brush to apply it with. 

There’s a metal grate at the top that shaves a layer of powder off when you twist the top. The more you twist, the more powder you get. There’s also a mirror on the lid.  Eureka!  (Doing the happy loose powder dance)  My life has completely changed because of this small suggestion from my daughter.  You can purchase this item at Sephora stores.  Thanks Heather!

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Travel Tip – The Bag Lady

I always carry an assortment of bags with me when I travel.  They don’t take up much space and can be left in your suitcase for the next trip if you don’t use them.  Most are multi-purpose bags that have a variety of uses.  Here are some of my favorites bags to travel with:

1. Reusable grocery bag

This one is my favorite.  It’s from Target.  I use it for grocery shopping, to carry my lunch to work, and weekend sight seeing trips.  It folds up to about the size of a billfold and can fit in your purse if needed.

The best part is if you take it back to Target, you get 5 cents off your purchase.  Hey, every penny counts!

2. Laundry Bag

Most people don’t even bother to wash clothes when they travel, but thanks to my mother, who washes clothes every day, whether they need it or not, I have this burning desire to keep my clothes clean and neat at all times.  I may be involved in a car accident on the way to work, so I need to have clean underwear, just in case.  I thought every family washed clothes every day.

I bought this laundry bag at Wal-Mart on a trip to Oklahoma.

It has a strap on it, a pocket on the side to hold your quarters or soap, and a drawstring at the top.  Very handy.  I bought this nice laundry bag after dropping a pair of my underwear in the hallway while carrying my clean laundry back to my room.  In fact I laughed when I first noticed them thinking some schmuck dropped their underwear in the hallway.  Ha, ha, ha…wait a minute, those look familiar?  At least they were clean! ( Thanks to my mother)  So to avoid anymore awkward undergarment  incidences, I purchased this very nice laundry bag.  You can also use a tall kitchen garbage bag as a laundry bag in a pinch.

3. Ziploc Bags and plastic grocery bags

I can’t even begin to list the number of uses for Ziploc bags.  I use them to keep my business receipts, to store my quarters for laundry, to put any leftover food in, especially since I’m cooking in the room, the list is endless.  The same goes for plastic grocery bags.

I put dirty shoes or wet bathing suits in them when I’m packing for my trip home.  I also use them to put some of my toiletries in to keep them from spilling on my clothes in case they explode in my suitcase.  Shampoo soaked clothing does have a nice fresh citrus smell.

Other bags I carry while traveling are a large cosmetic bag for toiletries, a small bag for makeup, a computer bag and bags under my eyes from staying up late and writing this blog.

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You say “Potato” I say “Soup!”

I woke up to a chilly, windy day in the Texas panhandle.  When the weather is cold in the morning, nothing sounds better to me than a big bowl of oatmeal.  I had plenty of oatmeal on hand from my breakfast bar stash.  I added some fresh blueberries that I’d purchased from the store for this weeks recipes. 

I topped it with a little bit of honey and milk and enjoyed a nice warm breakfast before hitting the frozen tundra outside.  Yum!  My husband Richard makes the best oatmeal on the planet.  He cooks the regular oats on the stove with a handful of Craisins until they’re soft.  He then takes it off the stove and adds 1 tsp. vanilla and cinnamon.  It smells so good and fills the kitchen with such  a homey smell in the morning.

For dinner on a cold night there’s only one word-Soup!  I actually look forward to cold weather because soup tastes so much better on a cold night than it does in the summer.  Tonight was potato soup night.  Lucky for me they had bacon on the breakfast bar this morning.  I wonder what the other hotel patrons think about me walking in and grabbing random items from the breakfast bar, including a plate full of bacon, and scurrying back to my room?  Most of them probably never notice or laugh hysterically when I leave.  I also took a carton of milk for my soup recipe. 

For starters I baked a potato in my microwave bowl for about 8 minutes.

Once it was done, I let it cool for a little while so I could pull the skin off of it.

I put the skinless  baked potato back in the microwave dish and mashed it up well with a fork.  It’s OK if there’s a few lumps.  

To the mashed potato add 3/4 carton of milk ( the small carton, like you used to drink in elementary school and spurt out your nose when someone made you laugh), 1/2 cup of chicken broth, 2 pats of butter, and salt and pepper.  You can also add a little bit of chopped onion.  Return to the microwave and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring every minute.  Be careful and not let it boil over and make a big mess in your microwave.  Be careful removing the hot mixture from the microwave.

Heat up the bacon from the breakfast bar until crisp, about 1 1/2 minutes.

Top the potato soup with the crispy bacon crumbled up and grated cheese.

So delicious! It warmed me up on a cold chilly night. 

You say “Potato” I say “Soup”
1 baking potato
1/2 cups chicken broth
3/4 small carton of milk
1/4 cup chopped onion (optional)
salt and pepper
2 pats of butter
3-4 slices pre-cooked bacon
grated cheese.

 

Cook potato in microwave for approximately 8 minutes.  Let cool.  Remove skin from potato and mash.  Add chicken broth, milk, onion, salt and pepper.  Return to Microwave.  Cook for 3 minutes stirring frequently.  Add crumbled bacon and cheese.
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