Mini Travel Oven is Awesome!


etm

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Hi All,

 

I thought I would report in on how my week went staying at a fancy resort for a conference with only a very tiny mini-fridge (provided) and my brand-new mini travel oven.  I don't know if I should mention the brand, but you can easily find it on Amazon (I bought it, they are not paying me for this advert, I just think it's awesome and could really help people out!)

The setup:  5 full days in a hotel, grocery store is 25 minutes away (the good one, anyway), only a mini-fridge and single-cup coffee maker in the room.

Goals: Eat every meal in my room and be Whole30 compliant!  These were days 1-5 for me.  I did a 3-week Whole30 once before (I intentionally did it for 3 weeks before this past Christmas, just because I couldn't wait to start the program but I knew I would quit early to not upset family I was visiting).

The way the mini-oven works is that it's a 6-cup rectangular pirex dish on top of a hotplate inside an insulated cloth bag.  It is calibrated (I checked with water) to bring the contents of the dish up to 165 degrees exactly.  This is high enough to kill any bacteria and cook meat, eggs, etc.  But it is "slow heat" so you're basically looking at reheating already-cooked food (which it does very well) or slow-cooker type performance (1-2 hours to cook meats, 5-8 hours to cook vegetables).

I didn't end up following my plan exactly, but I did stay completely compliant.  Here is what I ate each day:

 

Day 1:

Meal 1:  Coffee and two boiled eggs eaten at 5 AM.  Also had a cup of plain tomato juice on the flight to settle my stomach.

Meal 2: Arrived at noon after early AM flight, STARVING, ordered my only room-service of the trip, a salad with vegetables, avocado and plain grilled chicken, olive oil, and vinegar.  As a bonus, I kept the little pots of vinegar and olive oil and used them throughout the week!  After eating I went straight to the Central Market (the best grocery store in Texas)

Meal 3:  A butterfly pork chop and brussels sprouts (chopped into halves).  I put olive oil and salt on the sprouts, and salt, pepper, and dried mustard on the pork.  Took 2.5 hours to cook and was DELISH.  I saved half the pork for the next day.  Cleaned out the pirex and pre-chopped the remaining pork and sprouts into little pieces.

 

Day 2:

Meal 1:  I woke up at 4:30. I beat two eggs in the pirex, then dumped the chopped up meat and veg and salt in, put it in the oven, and fell back asleep.  Took all of 5 minutes, and I'm the kind of person that can fall back asleep on a dime so this was ok for me (I can see how it wouldn't be for others, but you could just put it in the night before).  I ended up eating it with half a tin of blackberries after working out, around 7 AM. 

Meal 2: I had bought pre-cooked grilled chicken breast at the store, so I chopped this up and made "classic" chicken salad from the Whole30 book: grapes, celery, onion, mayo (I had to buy the paleo kind), slivered almonds, salt and pepper.  I ate it with a bunch of baby power greens and half an apple with cinnamon.  YUM!

Meal 3: I had bought two (raw) prepared salmon patties at the store, so I popped one of these into the pirex along with chopped kohlrabi and small-chopped cauliflower during a coffee break mid-afternoon.  It cooked for something like 4 hours.  I was happy with the salmon (yum!) but the vegetables could have used more time.  They were definitely edible though, if a bit crunchy.  I put lots of ghee and salt on them and "they ate" as my family says.

Day 3:

Meal 1: I slept through my 4 AM alarm! Consequently I didn't follow the plan of eggs with sausage.  I did have some wildway hot cereal (made from only nuts and seeds, technically compliant but "not great") as backup, so I ate that (the one-cup coffee maker was perfect for heating water), along with the other half of the blackberries.

Meal 2:  Two Mild Italian Sausages with half a tin of canned green beans and half a can of souerkrout (just the vegetables and salt in both).  Cooked in just 3 hours. YUM!

Meal 3: I attempted to make a "hot and sour soup", with mushrooms, carrots, onion, remaining pre-cooked chicken breast, spices, chicken broth, vinegar/lemon, and garlic.  It was pretty good but not as good as the previous meat + veg dishes.  The vegetables were mostly cooked after 4 hours but I think 8 hours would have been better.

Day 4:

Meal 1: Leftover omelette time!  I made it around 5:45 AM and ate it after giving my talk at the conference, around 11 AM.  (It was kind of a weird day).  I used tomato, onion, leftover mushrooms.  Before my talk I had the other packet of nut-based "hot cereal", around 7 AM.

Meal 2: omelette that I didn't eat in the morning with half an avocado.  Fruit (leftover grapes)

I snacked a bit on plain pecans and half an apple in the afternoon, plus some dried fruit later (wasn't my best day, I try not to snack at all).

Meal 3: Jambalaya!  1.5 italian sausages, a bit of frozen shrimp, tomato, bell pepper, onion, cauliflower, spices, garlic... etc.  This was pretty good but I made the mistake of FILLING the pirex totally full and it made a huge mess when I went to get it out of the oven. I ate half and couldn't eat any more.  Later I ate some dried fruit (again... not my best day).

 

Day 5 (today):

Meal 1:  I popped the remaining jambalaya in the fridge last night so I'm eating that now with black cofee and the last handful of grapes.

Meal 2:  I'm experimenting now, with a smaller 3 -cup pirex.  I popped the last (frozen) salmon patty in, along with two (WHOLE!) eggs, to see how the eggs would cook alongside the salmon patty.  I'll eat the salmon with greens for lunch and save the eggs for dinner.

Meal 3: "Kitchen Sink" salad: remaining greens and vegetables, avocado, smoked salmon, cucumber, carrots and two eggs.

 

I get back in at midnight so that concludes my five days in a hotel!

Equipment Used:

mini travel oven with 6-cup pirex, a set of lightweight titanium travel cutlery (fork, knife, spoon), can opener, instant-read thermometer (optional), cutting board, sharp knife, 3-cup pirex (optional but useful for leftovers), little baggies with spices (I took salt, pepper, ginger, paprika, garlic cloves, oregano, mustard, cinnamon). LOTS of zip-loc baggies, big and small. Paper napkins and paper plates (optional), a kitchen scratchy sponge (indispensable!)

Overall this makes for a pretty lightweight kit and I was very happy with making my meals.  But I LOVE to cook and this does require planning and work.

Lessons Learned:

Plan, plan, plan.  If you like your vegetables well-cooked you're going to need to get them in the oven for at least 6 hours, maybe 8.  The best meals were actually the simplest, like brussels sprouts with a pork chop, but I had fun trying to make soups and stew-type things. Omelettes were quite good and the 165 temp does NOT turn them to rubber.  Before the trip I attempted to make hard-boiled eggs in the shell by putting them in the pirex in water. They did get to 165 which makes the yolk solid and the white only semi-solid (after 4 hours).  So dont' necessarily expect good boiled eggs (they were edible).

Tip your cleaning staff, because cooking in the bathroom makes a mess no matter how careful you are.  Be SUPER CAREFUL not to clog the sink drain with scraps.  I used an empty container to collect them, and always dumped liquids with stuff in them in the toilet (think of the toilet as your disposal....)

Have some kind of emergency food on hand that can be made quickly in case you sleep in/oven doesn't work/etc.

I ended up throwing away a lot of food, so next time I will try harder to get vegetables form the salad bar, and to really calculate ounces of meat that I need per meal.

 

 

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Wow.  You are very dedicated!  I am traveling next week and it is a 5 hour trip on the road each way with a dog.  We will be in a hotel room for 2 days.  I have heard about a lot of people traveling with an InstantPot, but honestly, bringing a cooking thing of that nature seems like a bad idea....too much room for a disaster in such a small place.  Plus, I'm very curious as to what the hotels would say if people asked if they could bring a George Foreman or toaster oven....I bet they would say no due to the fire risk.

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Me again! lol

So I have been thinking about this all day long and I really don't want my 2.5 day trip for the dog to derail me.  I looked online and found Hilton has Garden Inn suites for about $50 more a night than where we going to stay (normally $100 more a night, but they do a discount since we are going to the University).  These have a full size kitchen with cook-top and full fridge and counters, so for that situation I think I will be more comfortable bringing either my Instant Pot or crock-pot if I think its needed.  Its a little extra, but I figure we would be spending that on food anyhow.

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