You’re probably going think I’m a little nuts after reading this. Eccentric, at least. One of my greatest allies on road trips is a rice cooker. I figured this out a number of years ago: It was the dead of winter and I was headed to a motel in nowheresville, deep in snow. I’d stocked up on some fixings for a meal – because who wouldn’t want a hot meal when it’s super cold out? But there was not only nowhere to cook that meal, there was also nowhere to eat out. So I bought a rice cooker. And it has become perhaps the most useful impulse purchase of my life.
I started experimenting cautiously: rice or quinoa with a few vegetables thrown in. Then I attempted pasta. That worked. And from there, everything was fair game: eggs, pastas, sausage, stir fries. I have made popcorn in a rice cooker! The crowning achievement in my rice cooker escapades, though, was making blackberry jam in a motel in Idaho. There have been some failures as well: a regrettable attempt at making pancakes with an oatmeal pack and an egg. Don’t try that. But that’s how you get to the wins.
(Seriously, mac and cheese with broccoli after a long day of hiking/driving/adventuring is absolutely the best. Make sure to add lots of black pepper.)
Using a rice cooker in a motel room is kind of awkward and bound for a few mishaps. But it’s also an amazing little contraption: you do all of your cooking in one pot, and it’s super lightweight and cleans easily. You throw a couple bowls in there while not in use, a spoon for cooking and a small knife and a dish towel, and you’re almost all set. It really is the best.
The rice cooker across America, in all its unglamorous glory. (PS: There was no cooking done in a bathroom! For the record.)
These recipes work equally well for camping, too, because there is ease in both prep and clean up. Just don’t put that rice cooker over an open fire. Use a travel stove.
Here’s the winning formula:
1. Choose a grain (this is where those lovely boxes of pilaf or pasta that are already seasoned come in really handy!)
2. Match it with a vegetable that travels well (list below)
3. Always travel with a small container of olive oil, salt and pepper, and maybe your favorite spice blend
You add the vegetables at the same time as the rice/pasta/quinoa to a pot of boiling water. When it’s ready, carefully drain it – that steam vent on the lid of the rice cooker doubles nicely as a drain. Use a towel. Add some sauce or some salt and pepper or some hard cheese. You’ve got the best meal in your motel complex.
Produce that travels well:
4. Firm avocados (they’ll ripen while traveling)
5. Cherry tomatoes (big tomatoes don’t travel so well!)
6. Melons of all types
10. Corn on the cob
Have fun! Get experimenting.