Sunday, January 10, 2010

Tiny kitchen, big cookin'!

We have what we call 'the kitchen' but it isn't what most people think of as a kitchen. Picture an area with counter top space big enough for a toaster and perhaps a microwave and slow cooker, a couple of cupboards above and below the counter top, a small sink, two drawers and you've pretty much seen our kitchen.

Here's the kitchen, boring and messy, as it looks while I'm cooking:

messy kitchen

And here's the kitchen, boring but clean, as it looks after I've cleaned up the mess from cooking:
cooking without a kitchen

Now you've seen my kitchen. All of it. There's no oven or stove. There's definitely no dishwasher, only a very tiny one hole sink in which to wash and rinse dishes and there's not much storage space. There's no space for a refrigerator or freezer so those are in another room. It's something of an adventure and now and then people who visit ask me, "How do you cook in such a tiny space?" The answer is "With thought and planning!"

Recipes and dishes in this blog prior to October of 2007 were prepared in a 'real kitchen' but after that time the dishes have been prepared in our makeshift kitchen. I cook everything now that I always have with the exception of boiled eggs. The single electric burner we had quit working and we didn't replace it, opting instead to use store bought boiled eggs on rare occasions.

And how have I actually performed these feats and marvels? Like I said, with thought and planning!

Seriously, it isn't as hard as it might seem but it requires a few particular appliances and accessories. For us, the main appliances are:

slow cookers - we have three but one would work fine for us. They're used to make chili, soups, and stews, to cook roasts, and to "smoke" chicken.
Cook's Essentials 8 quart digital pressure cooker - this is used mainly to make Ray's 3 Envelope Roast, the best roast I've ever tasted and beef tips to serve over wild rice or riced cauliflower.
Black & Decker countertop convection oven - from cooking frozen fish sticks to roasting a chicken or a hefty cut of beef to baking stuffed mushrooms, this tiny oven will do it.
microwave oven - mainly for cooking vegetables and re-heating leftovers
two slice toaster - used just for toast
Deni indoor grill - produces nicely grilled beef, chicken, fish steaks, and vegetables
bread machine (rarely used)
Aroma heavy duty electric wok - purchased yesterday but so far it's been used for breakfast this morning and now it has green beans, carrots, potato and onion cooking in it.

The accessories, though not necessary, enable me to provide a little more variety in our meals. None of these are outrageously expensive when purchased new and ours were bought for pennies at garage sales. The main accessories we use are:

Pampered Chef small Micro-Cooker (25 cents)
Nordic Ware Microwave Egg Muffin Cooker (25 cents and great for 'fried' eggs)
Master Gourmet Microwave Steak and Burger grill (50 cents)
Nordic Ware Microwave Omelet pan (25 cents)
Various shallow metal and ceramic baking pan, muffin tins, tiny loaf pans, etc.

I can think of a few additional items that would be beneficial if I had more space. An electric skillet would be nice but the new wok will suffice and is more versatile. Some people have suggested a rice cooker as a handy addition but we don't eat much rice or pasta and when we do I cook it in the microwave. Once in awhile I think I need a food processor or blender but have managed just fine without one. However, I am seriously considering an immersion blender.

And where do we keep all this stuff? Ahh, that's an excellent question! If you're standing in the kitchen facing the sink, to the left there's a wall and against the wall is this shelf:
kitchen shelf

The appliances I use the most are kept on this shelf. Things I use less often like the tiny slow cooker and the pressure cooker are kept in another room.

Directly across from the sink is one of those cheap plastic drawer stands and on top of it sits the dish drainer. The drawers have little used utensils and smaller kitchen things in them. The entire kitchen area, wall to wall, is about 12 feet by 4 feet. That's it. And from this small space culinary masterpieces emerge...errr, we manage to eat well.

Breakfast is generally some kind of breakfast meat cooked in the microwave or convection oven along with eggs from the microwave, usually scrambled, and toast. This morning, though, I cooked Sweet Italian Sausages in the new wok and then fried the eggs in olive oil in the wok. It was fantastic and a very nice change of pace from the usual nuked fare. I did a quick test to see if the wok would boil water and it does. It boils 4 cups of water in less than 5 minutes which means I can now make hard boiled eggs.

Lunch is usually leftovers from the night before though sometimes the man person prepares himself a sandwich.

Suppers are normal fare - roasted chicken, beef roast, meat loaf, baked fish, etc. cooked in the convection oven, slow cooker, or pressure cooker with a salad and/or other vegetables, usually cooked in the microwave. The addition of the wok will give us a few more options, especially in the vegetable department.

All in all, we do quite well without a 'real kitchen' so if you find yourself in the position of not being able to cook as you normally do (for whatever reason) don't panic. Just re-think how you prepare the foods you eat the most and punt.

We're remarkably able to adapt and change, we humans, especially if we feel we have no choice.


Laurie said...

Wow, you're amazing! You really are. I remember when I was first married, we had no stove or oven. I had a hot pot, a hot plate, and a microwave. We managed. You are an expert though!

BTW, my dad is doing fine, but my mom not so much. She's in ICU with pneumonia. Dad can't even see her due to the radiation treatments he's taking compromises his immune system.

maheswari said...
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