Wednesday, April 25, 2012
COOKING without a KITCHEN... PART ONE
We've all been camping. More than likely, you've stood before a campfire with a stick in your hand, waiting for the wiener or the marshmallow to cook above the heat of the fire. It's fun, right? I think so, too.
Now imagine that you've moved to house that doesn't have a kitchen. It might be easier to imagine camping full-time, only in a very old house instead of a tent. There's no oven, no stovetop, and no cabinets. There's no awesome kitchen sink with a sprayer nozzle for rinsing dishes. Nope... it's just you, a blank room with shelves that you once used as bookshelves, and a few basic cooking essentials. You can have a mini-fridge and a hotplate. And while you're at it, plug in a microwave, a crock pot, and a toaster oven--- only one appliance at a time, though. You don't want to ruin your one working wall outlet.
Sound crazy yet? We'll you've basically just taken a tour of our current kitchen.
Now before you rush off to call social services, let me assure you that Hubby and I are both brilliant people. We both have college degrees, and we both knew what we were getting into before we made the decisions that have led us to this point. I thought this out LONG AND HARD before moving to this ole' dog-trot. I knew that we wouldn't be able to remodel the entire house in a timely manner unless we hired people to do most of the work, and Shaun and I simply enjoy renovating WAY too much to allow someone else to come in and steal our fun. Plus, we're dedicated to keeping this renovation AFFORDABLE, so that we can use this house as an example of what's possible for those who dare to try. So.... with that being said.... we estimate that it will be four to six months before we finish the kitchen. But because of awesome websites like PINTEREST and the Food Network, we can still have wonderful meals even though we don't have a stove or an oven. You see, I decided that it would be possible to feed my family without the help of a modern kitchen. And believe it or not, I was right!
Yep. You heard me. I was right. One does not need a modern kitchen. I'll even go so far as saying that one does not need a large kitchen full of appliances as long as one has a crock pot and a toaster oven. I've devised enough recipes to keep us eating very lovely foods until the new kitchen is finished, which should be done between now and Thanksgiving. (It had better be finished anyhow, because I can't fit a turkey in a toaster oven!)
So how'd I do it?
Allow me to introduce you to a lovely product line called SISTEMA. They make it easy to prepare lunches, but we're going to use these systems for almost every meal in our temporary kitchen, up until the day that our new kitchen is ready. After that, we'll use these systems for the boys lunches for the rest of our lives, because they're just that awesome.
Ready to see a picture? Here goes nothing. This is my super easy meal of the week... grilled steak salad with sliced strawberries, feta cheese, and creamy balsamic vinaigrette dressing. YUMMIE! We grilled steak and chicken in one night and prepared awesome lunches and dinners in our SISTEMA containers. The strawberry/feta/steak container snaps onto the top of the lettuce container, then it all snaps together with an airtight lid. And the fork and knife are snapped onto the underside of the top container. When we're finished eating, it all closes again and it's airtight until we visit a friend, neighbor or relative's house to wash dishes. We should have the temporary kitchen sink in by the end of this weekend, so things will be a little bit easier for us very soon. But honestly... how AWESOME is this SISTEMA container! And the price is really nice as well... 4 container systems for $10 at our local Black and Decker outlet store.
I would give you the recipe, but it's self-explanatory. (grill steak, wash, cut and add ingredients, eat.)
Another great recipe is a crock pot idea that I found on PINTEREST. It's now a no-kitchen-needed staple in our diet.... CHICKEN SOFT TACOS. Want the recipe?
Add the following in a crock pot: 6 chicken breasts, 1 jar of salsa, 1 packet of taco seasoning. Cook for 6 hours or so, stirring occasionally, and use as the taco meat. I served this yummie chicken meat with sour cream, flour tortillas (soft tacos), diced tomato, shredded lettuce, and a mexican cheese blend. We had it for dinner one night and then packed the leftovers (I made a double batch) in the SISTEMA containers. I also added a cookie and a drink mix to the lunches, and I received a standing ovation from the boys. This recipe is easy as pie!
For those of you who are seriously considering the crazy lifestyle that we now lead, which includes finding an old house and living in it while you're restoring it, allow me to show you what our temporary kitchen looks like. Correction: allow me to show you what PART of our temporary kitchen looks like. You can't see the full room until I have an "after" photo that makes me feel better about it. So here's a pie safe that was in our youngest son's bedroom, holding his toys and books. Now it's one of our temporary kitchen cabinets. CRAZY, HUH!
The wall behind this pie safe will be removed and this will become our kitchen/living room. We'll be using an open floor plan for these two rooms, and this is the only wall that we're opening up in the entire house. (With the exception of the currently enclosed porch, which will become an outdoor porch again.)
Last but not least, allow me to introduce you to the breakfast version of the SISTEMA containers. These are awesome! Two containers, one spoon, and a very easy way to allow little kids (aka Preston, age 6) to make their own breakfast without making an enormous mess. Plus, cleanup's a snap. And these can be used for breakfast cereal and milk... the kids just pour the milk out of the top container and then eat up! They even like to take them to school for lunches, despite the fact that these are meant to be eaten at breakfast.
Above is my whole grain oatmeal... one cup of oatmeal, and in the top container I add maple syrup and brown sugar. Who needs those little packets with powdered ingredients when it's just as quick to make the good stuff in advance!
I can honestly say that I've never really been one to organize my life this thoroughly. But in a situation like this one, where we're renovating one room at a time, organization is KEY. I can stand living in a house with no kitchen. I can stand taking cold showers in the days before the water heater is installed. I can even stand being chased by the occasional skunk. (long story!) But there is one thing that I cannot settle on... I must be able to give my children delicious meals, or I will go insane. And thanks to these time-saving containers, I can do that without cooking very much at all. The kids are THRILLED. They love their lunches and dinners, and they tell me that I'm a great cook. Little do they know that I'm spending less time in the kitchen than ever before. :)
DO YOU HAVE AN AWESOME, EASY CROCK POT OR TOASTER OVEN RECIPE?
Leave it in a comment and I'll give it a try!