Feed the Body, Feed the Soul: PantheaCon Meal Ideas
February 4, 2013 in Uncategorized
If you live in the Bay Area and are even remotely involved in the Pagan Community, you have likely heard of PantheaCon. A three day long fest of workshops, rituals and community bonding that draws in people from all over the country, held in a hotel in San Jose. Having the event in a hotel has a lot of upsides. Plumbing, for instance. Always a plus. However, food can often present a challenge – long lines, limited food choices (especially for those with dietary restrictions), and unlike outdoor camping festivals, you can’t just start a campfire and grill up some burgers. Most people bring some food, at least snacks for in-between session refueling, but planning out an entire weekends worth of meals can be daunting.
I’ve attended PantheaCon a few years now, but I didn’t really find my stride with food until last year. Muffins, breads, cookies, and other snacks are a good start, but the key to a happy tummy for me is hot food. The first year I went, it was mostly cold cuts, sandwiches – grab from the cooler and nibble real quick. Unfortunately, I quickly determined that I’m not much for cold food, especially in the winter. But how do you get hot food in a hotel room that doesn’t even have a full sized coffee pot? You may already have the answer in your kitchen. For me, my answer was a toaster oven, but depending on your eating habits, a small microwave, a crock pot, hot plate, waffle iron, etc… Could be just the thing you never knew was missing from your PantheaCon trip. Reevaluate your kitchen appliances. Think about the kind of food you normally eat, and see how you can incorporate it in to one (or maybe two) small kitchen appliances.
The best choice is the one that will give you the most meal options that you enjoy, just try being creative. So here are a few suggestions for some of the appliances I mentioned:
- Mix up Waffle batter and refrigerate until ready to cook
- Use as a Panini Press for Hot sandwiches
- Reheat leftover, frozen, or homemade pizza
- “Grill” a Hamburger, Bacon, pork chop, etc…
- Make waffled quesadillas
- Experiment with anything you might make in a skillet; eggs, hash browns, etc… just make sure to grease the waffle iron well.
- “Bake” Polenta, Falafel, Corn Bread, Brownies, etc – simply by making the batter ahead of time and baking in the waffle iron
- Any of your favorite crock pot recipes can generally be prepped up ahead of time (1-2 days) and freeze/refrigerate until ready to cook; Soup, Stew, a Roast, etc… If you’re cooking for a crowd, this is a great option.
- Start steel cut oatmeal the night before, and have hot fresh oatmeal ready to go for breakfast
- Long cooking Grains such as Brown rice, barley, etc… will work well in a crock pot, just use the same water/grain ratio as for stove-top cooking, and allow for the 6-8 hours normally needed for crock pot cooking. Toss your cooked grains with a variety of pre-sauteed veggies and/or meat, and your choice of seasonings, for a variety of customizable meals.
- Not just for rice, you can make Barley, Steel Cut Oats, and other grains, too.
- Like with the Crockpot, you can use the rice cooker to make a full meal by prepping mix ins like sauteed veggies and pre cooked meats ahead of time, and then stirring in to the cooked grains.
- A Rice cooker is essentially a pot on a hot plate, in an enclosed electric case. So you could use it to reheat soups and stews. (Just mind it carefully, rice cookers are designed to boil and then turn to low, so you could end up with a burnt mess if you aren’t cautious.)
- Some people have had great results using the warm setting in lieu of a Crock Pot, so it’s possible you could duplicate some of the same recipe ideas for the crock pot. Follow manufacturer’s instructions or proceed at your own risk though.
- Most Rice Cookers have a way to steam food in addition to making rice. You can use it to make steamed veggies, fish, dumplings, tamales, etc…
- An electric skillet is extremely versatile. You can pan fry, grill, griddle, saute, simmer – pretty much anything you could do with a stove. It would work well for reheating foods or preparing fresh food. Basically, anything that you could make in a skillet on your stove top is on the table with this option.
- Okay, I’ll be honest – this is my favorite category, and the one that I will be lugging to PantheaCon this year. It slices, it dices, it juliennes! Okay, not really – but like the Electric Skillet, it is very much like it’s big brother original – essentially, it is a small oven. So anything that you can bake, broil, etc.. you can use a toaster oven for. I use my toaster oven for all sorts of reheating and baking applications every day, from reheating food, to baking things fresh – it’s my go-to easy use appliance for meals for one or two people. So, without further ado – some ideas:
- Use wide mouth, half-pint Mason Jars, or Ramekins, to make individual serving mini-casseroles ahead of time, and then bake them right up in the toaster oven. Use your favorite casserole recipes, like Lasagna or Macaroni & Cheese, etc.., and divide in to the jars or Ramekins instead of using a casserole dish. Make sure you grease the Ramekin or Jar well, and most importantly b) Do not put cold glass in to a hot oven. It will Shatter. When baking mini Casseroles, place directly in to a COLD oven, and allow them to preheat with the oven.
- Toasted Sandwiches, Reheat (or bake) Pizza, Quesadillas, etc…
- Any number of store bought convenience food items can be made in the toaster oven, too – if that’s more your speed. You could also use some of these ideas in a microwave, too – although if you wanted the casseroles, I would pre-bake them at home and then reheat in a microwave.
So whatever kitchen appliance you already have, with a little planning and some creativity, could yield all sorts of different hotel-friendly meals.
Del reporting, Pagan Newswire Collective Bay Area