After a long day on your feet, cooking dinner is the last thing you want to think about when you get back to your temporary home. And unless you're fortunate enough to have lodgings with a fully equipped kitchen, you couldn’t prepare a proper meal even if you wanted to. We asked one of our veteran travel nurses how she managed to prepare easy but nutritious food while on assignment, and you might like to try some of her (and a few of our own) practical ideas.
Let’s assume for the moment that your travel abode is a paradise of 21st century culinary splendor and has that busy cook’s idea of nirvana, the Instant Pot® — a combo pressure cooker, slow-cooker, rice cooker, and yogurt maker — so there’s practically no limit to the quick and easy dinners you can prepare after a hard day at work. (If you’ve never used an Instant Pot, especially the pressure cooker feature, reviewing instructions is an absolute must.) With the Instant Pot you can make anything from soup to pot roast to cheesecake (!), like these from Amy + Jacky’s Pressure Cooker Recipes.com.
What, no Instant Pot? If your current cucina has an old-fashioned crock pot, you can still make many of the same recipes, but you may have to assemble the ingredients the night before, refrigerate, and turn on the pot before leaving for work so your dinner will be ready by the time you get home. Here’s a great collection of crock pot recipes from Taste of Home.com.
Since soups, stews, and other one pot dinners usually yield more servings than you can finish in one sitting, it’s a good idea to buy inexpensive food storage containers like Glad or Ziploc at the grocery store. They come in many sizes, but you might like to buy single serving containers and store leftovers in the freezer for a quick thawing in the microwave when you’re really too exhausted. (For the calorie conscious, containers are ideal for portion control.) When you finish your placement, you can take the stackable containers home with you or leave them behind for the next lucky tenant.
If your temporary living quarters lack pots, pans, and other basic kitchen tools, you can take a few items from home with you if you're driving to the assignment, but if you’re flying there you can pick up an inexpensive hot plate from a hardware or big box store, and a trip to a Goodwill or other thrift store could yield a few kitchen essentials, all of which could be donated back to the thrift shop when you leave. Here’s a cornucopia of easy hot plate recipes from Canadian Food Network to get you started.
You’ve probably noticed that a lot of fresh produce like parsley, cilantro, lettuces, and salad greens — or packaged deli meats for that matter — just don’t come in single serving options. But the humble paper towel is your friend. Just loosely wrap greens in paper towels without shaking off all the moisture and refrigerate in a lightly closed plastic bag. For lunch meats in plastic containers, line the top and bottom with a paper towel to absorb moisture, then replace the lid. To prevent cheese mold, wrap lightly in a paper towel and dampen with white vinegar before returning the cheese to the package. You’ll be surprised how much longer your perishables will last!