Every winter Tim and I head out of town for the weekend to a snowy (sometimes) cabin in the woods. We sleep in, drink coffee in the hot tub, spend the day hiking, enjoy a proper cocktail hour and go to bed early. We stare at each other instead of our phones, and we have one rule: no TV. The reality is, the cabin we always stay in is tiny and sort of a shit hole, but it’s rustic, relaxing, and we love it.
The only heat source is an old wood burning oven, which Tim guards over as it fulfills his base, prehistoric instinct to provide warmth. The only cooking source is a toaster oven, and it feeds my prehistoric urge to eat perfectly toasted carbohydrates. It also gives me the opportunity to menu plan, which aside from napping and drinking, is my favorite thing to do. We hit the road, settled into our cabin in the wilderness and I prepared breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack with only a toaster oven, the way nature intended!
We arrived at the cabin around 5:00 on Friday night, and knew we had a big hike ahead of us the next day, so we didn’t want to eat anything too heavy. When we want to eat something substantial, but relatively light, I like to make Chicken Caesar Salads.
Ahead of time, I made Chrissy Teigen’s Sriracha Caesar Dressing. I try to stay away from celebrity cookbooks, but she is impossible to hate, her recipes are simple and whimsical, and she’s hilarious. The cookbook is worth it just for her witty recipe introductions.
So – the dressing was made, I had all the fixings in tow, now I just needed to make the chicken. I’ll admit, I was a little nervous to make chicken in a toaster oven. Chicken is a bird you don’t mess with, dead or alive. I cranked up the toaster oven to 450 degrees, sprinkled the chicken with salt, pepper and minced garlic, lightly coated it in olive oil, set the timer for 20 minutes, and crossed my fingers. The toaster’s timer went off (about a glass and a half of wine later) and I tiptoed over to the kitchen, half expecting to see to a raw chicken breast sneering at me, but alas it was cooked through! It was garlicky, and juicy; the toaster oven god’s had shined down upon me!
While the chicken was resting, I cut up the romaine lettuce, grape tomatoes and shaved the Parmesan cheese. Then I turned down the oven a bit and threw in some nice, crusty sesame bread for croutons. Before the croutons hit the toaster they were tossed in olive oil, salt, pepper, and some red pepper flakes because mama likes her salads spicy. (Apparently I’m referring to myself as mama?)
Then, since I’m working on this thing where I try not to be fat, I’ve been eating vegetables…so boring, I know. Anyway, I chopped up some zucchini, more olive oil, red pepper, salt, and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, and threw those bad boys in the toaster oven next to the croutons. Just about 10 minutes for each and voila! A light meal, made almost entirely in the toaster oven, enjoyed next to a cozy fire, with a good bottle of wine. We went to bed around 11:00 (which is very good for this night owl!) I went to bed dreaming of coffee and breakfast in the morning…
Tim and I have this thing when we go on vacations, we have to have bagels and lox. The first two nights of our honeymoon we stayed in a hotel with one of the nicest breakfasts I have ever seen. It also came with a hefty price tag, but I obnoxiously told everyone that we were on our honeymoon in an effort to get free shit, and of course it worked. We had a complimentary and very bouji breakfast. Every morning, Tim and I sat in a corner booth, sipping espresso and going back for seconds (and thirds) of their smoked salmon buffet. As we made our way to our next destination on our honeymoon we decided to keep the lox train rolling…and on and on it went. For 8 blissful days we ate bagels and lox. So now, whenever we travel, even just to a cabin a few hours away, we always enjoy savory everything bagels, onion cream cheese, and smoked wild caught salmon. So, this weekend breakfast was a no brainer, and wasn’t that complicated: I toasted the bagels to a golden brown and added capers, onion, and tomatoes. Oh, and coffee…of course. Always coffee!
Tim and I got back from our 4 mile hike, which was gorgeous, strenuous and included one person’s (cough, mine) boot breaking with a mile left to go. I got my hiking boots when I was a sophomore in high school, and apparently the glue holding the sole on has a 15 year expiration date. I felt like I was Cheryl Strayed in Wild – except for all the devastation and personal turmoil…but I did come pretty close to throwing my boot into the gorge.
Anyway, when we returned in the late afternoon we were teetering towards hanger (and by we, I mean me) so it was time to get cooking. I bought a few kinds of spicy Italian deli meats, provolone cheese, and sandwich rolls. I spread a nice zesty mustard on the bread, piled on the sandwich fixing and let the toaster oven take care of making them ooey gooey, and greasy in all the right ways. We also housed a bag of Skinny Pop Popcorn, but hanger will do that to a girl.
The post-hike dip in the hot tub turned into a long, lazy nap in front of the fireplace. I woke up at 5:00, more commonly referred to as cocktail hour. I popped open a bottle of bubbly and set about getting some snacks on the table. We had a smattering of olives to nibble on, but the piece de resistance was my toaster oven creation. Prior to leaving town, I made my favorite garlicky hummus: chick peas, olive oil, cumin, tahini lemon, and garlic (of course) blended until smooth. I decided to jazz up the hummus appetizer with some roasted cauliflower. I cut up the florets into small pieces, tossed them in olive oil, garlic and the ever present red pepper flakes. I put them in the oven for 20 minutes at 350. The veggies were then added on top of the hummus with a healthy dose of chopped parsley. The vegetal additions added a nice, spicy, warm texture to the hummus and ensured that Timmy and I swapped some very garlicky smooches the rest of the night.
The meal possibilities in a toaster oven are endless. If you can successfully bake chicken, I’d say you can do just about anything in there. It’s a miracle machine, and while I only use it once a year at the cabin, I look forward to coming up with new creations every time. What are your favorite toaster oven recipes?
Here’s to relaxing weekends, fighting off hanger, and to lots of toasty treats! Cheers and Ciao!