Monday, April 25, 2016

3 Easy Things to Cook in a Vacation Rental

Well stocked kitchen at a Disney Vacation Club resort
Renting a house or a condo on vacation can be a great way for a family to save money, with more space and a kitchen. But you are on vacation - you don't want to cook elaborate meals, and you don't have your usual arsenal of pots, pans and cookbooks at your fingertips.

The first thing to do is see what your kitchen has: is there an oven, or just a cooktop and microwave? Are there big pots for making pasta or boiling lobsters? Is there even salt, pepper, olive oil?

The next thing to check is access to food. I love when we go to the Hamptons, which has farmer's markets and gourmet food shops everywhere. We sometimes just grab a lot of produce, grill it and call it dinner.

But there are a couple of go to, simple dishes that you can make in even the most inadequately supplied kitchen.

A new website, Vacatia, offers access to condo rentals across the Untied States - foreign rentals will come next year. The condos have full kitchens and let a family enjoy extra space, a kitchen and a living room - all for much less than a couple of hotel rooms.

Unlike AirBnB, Vacatia vetts every listing, and you can find condos, timeshares and resort homes with the right amount of space for your family - and the kind of kitchen where you can whip up a great dinner if you want.

But you're on vacation - you don't want to spend all of your time cooking.

Here are 3 easy to make dinners for a vacation rental - or for quick dinners at home.

Dinner One: Frittata
You can make these as packed with vegetables as your kids will tolerate; in fact, the cheese and eggs do a good job of disguising how many veggies you sneak in.

I start by sautéing an onion in butter (or oil - don't buy butter just for this dish). If you are using mushrooms, slice and add after the onions soften. Then dump in any cooked chopped vegetables you have in the fridge - roasted red peppers, zucchini, eggplant. If you don't have any cooked vegetables, chop up some fresh bell peppers, greens, asparagus, and cook till they soften.

Frittata with mushrooms and greens
This is a great way to use up vegetables if you have leftovers at home, or if you are on vacation, you can take a doggie bag with you from a restaurant.

Beat the eggs with a little milk and season with salt and pepper.  For 4 people, use 6-8 eggs.  Add to the pan and cook until nearly set. If you have an oven, turn on the broiler, sprinkle the top with cheese and broil to eggs are completely set and cheese is melted. If you don't have an oven, just cook till the eggs are done.

If your vacation rental has a cast iron skillet, it's a great stove top to oven dish; be sure to check the pans in your rental to make sure they can go from stove to oven, or finish the dish on the stove, as above.

Voila, dinner.

Beans & rice - added eggs for even more protein
Dinner Two: Beans and rice
Our go to vegetarian meal is beans and rice, on a flour tortilla. You need a can of beans (14 ounce) for about 3 burritos. Brown rice is the best choice and if you don't want to spend time cooking brown rice (it can take 45 minutes) get an order of brown rice from a Chinese restaurant. The one on my corner charges just $.75 for a pint of cooked brown rice.

Generally, I rinse the beans in a strainer, to get excess salt off; if your vacation rental doesn't have a strainer, you can skip this step. Buy low sodium canned beans to cut down on salt.

Our kids ate burritos with rice, beans and cheese only when they were younger; as they got older, we added salsa, cooked veggies, kale. So basically you can go as loaded as you want; you need some cheddar cheese, or spicy Jack, and a jar of salsa. For easy extra veggies, a bag of pre-washed spinach can be put right on top of a beans and rice mixture; the whole thing can be microwaved for each person, or you can bake all the burritos at once. If there are no baking sheets in your vacation rental, use the microwave; make sure the plate are microwave safe first.

One whole wheat tortilla
Brown rice
Grated cheese
Cooked veggies

Bake for about 20 minutes at 350 or microwave for 2 minutes until everything is hot and cheese is melted.

Dinner 3: Use that grill
Once corn is in season, a quick summer meal is super easy. Get at least one ear of corn per person. Pull out the silks but leave most the husk on and grill about 5 minutes per side. We also grill portable mushrooms to go with this, and sliced zucchini; serve with meaty Beefsteak tomatoes sprinkled with salt. You can throw a steak on the grill if you want real meat, but we find the vegetarian version satisfying and filling.

Note: Vacatia sponsored the TravelingMom retreat in Orlando.

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