Friday, July 18, 2008

Food & Cooking: Cedar Point

Our room at the Holiday Inn Express near Cedar Point did not have a kitchen*, but it did have a bar sink, an itty-bitty counter, a microwave, and a tiny, no-freezer refrigerator. My two pots were not the least bit useful in this context. I used my 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup for all cooking and most mixing.

Needless to say, our meals in that room were not elaborate. On our travel day, we enjoyed a Southwest Corn and Rice Salad**, which a fancy way of saying I mixed a packet of rice with a bag of vegetables and added a few seasonings. On the only day where I actually spent more than 10 minutes throwing together something to eat, we had Cheater's Butternut Squash Risotto with Ham and Sugar Snap Peas. Yay for pre-cooked brown rice packets!

Cedar Point frowns upon outside food and drink within the park, so we planned on buying our meals there. Our shopping list was pretty minimal: water, cat food, the ingredients for the Risotto, and a few things needed for soup on our first night in Madison, WI. The recipe ingredients give you the list, so you don't need to see it here***.

On to the recipes!

Southwest Corn & Rice Salad: At five ingredients and a quick pass through the microwave, this is assembly-cooking approaching its easiest.
  • 1-lb bag Southwest/Fiesta Corn (the freezer aisle is full of corn mixed with various things. In this case, pepper & onions are what I wanted and what I got)
  • 2c cooked brown rice (I used a 10-oz packet. Close enough.)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice (I used a packet from the hotel, originally meant for tea)
  • 1 tsp olive oil (more or less; I'm pretty sure I used less)
  • 1 tsp hot sauce (I used a packet I picked up at one of the hotels and had floating around in my pantry box)
Thaw the frozen corn in the microwave.

When the corn is thawed and slightly warm, put the corn, rice, and all other ingredients into a bowl. Mix well.

Taste the salad. Add salt, pepper and additional hot sauce as desired.

Cheater's Butternut Squash Risotto with Ham and Sugar Snap Peas:
Slightly more involved than the corn salad, this still only has six ingredients and took less than half an hour to make. It's a cheater's risotto because I've never made a risotto in the microwave, and certainly never made one with brown rice. Two strikes against me there, so I just went for flavors of the risotto I wanted to make and let texture take care of itself.
  • 1 10-oz freezer package pureed butternut squash (canned pumpkin would be good too)
  • 2 pinches red pepper flake
  • 2 chicken broth packets (or 2 c chicken broth, cooked until reduced to 1/3 cup)
  • 2c cooked brown rice (Love those pre-cooked brown rice packets!)
  • 6 oz diced ham
  • 2c sugar snap peas, sliced diagonally into half-inch pieces (or whatever you like, really. I just thought diagonal slices looked pretty)
Add squash, pepper flake, and broth to a glass, microwave-safe bowl. Cook according to squash package directions (in my case, microwave four minutes, stir, microwave two minutes, stir). Remove from microwave.

Put the snap peas in a small bowl, add a splash of water, and microwave for 2-3 minutes, or whatever it takes to make them hot and bright green.

Add rice and ham to squash and broth. Mix well. Microwave in 2-minute increments, stirring thoroughly after each one, until most of the squash-broth liquid has absorbed into the rice. The mixture should be very hot****, with a somewhat creamy texture.

Add the steamed snap peas. Stir well. Taste. Add salt & pepper as desired.

* The room did, however, have a bonus window from the jetted tub/shower into the sleeping area. It was very strange to be taking a bath and to see the cats peering in at me through the window. Normally, they just stop in to take a drink of my bathwater. Mmmmm... human-flavored hot water....

** If nothing else, I've learned that no matter what you serve, it's a salad if you say so. I think my favorite definition comes from WordNet:
food mixtures either arranged on a plate or tossed and served with a moist dressing; usually consisting of or including greens
*** I'm pretty sure you didn't need to see the first shopping list either, but I set a precedent with it. I thought I should explain why I'm not following through this time.

**** Another handy use for our infrared thermometer. I heat everything I cook from prepared ingredients to the 165-degree recommended temperature for leftovers. Might as well be safe and kill off potential foodborne bacterial invaders.

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