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It’s been…the week from “heck.”
That is really all I can say about it. It started on Sunday, when the weather turned colder and I realized the heat didn’t work. We messed with it…went back and forth with the guy who installed the furnace (not even two years ago)…and nothing.
Meanwhile, the hurricane brought strong winds and sleet to Ohio. Our windows are builder-grade and over 25 years old so they don’t seal well. The temperature dropped into the mid-50s in my home. I ran out to buy some space heaters because no one could even sleep at night because of the cold. That helped…some.
But then, the oven broke.
I had turned it on to preheat so I could make some gingerbread and hot chocolate for post-nap snack, when the thing just shut off. Turns out the electric panel shorted out and tripped the circuit breaker. We were able to make it “work,” as far as, the stove top functions, but the control panel displays an error code and beeps incessantly if it is plugged in. So it isn’t. And the oven still doesn’t work.
The guy came to fix the heat on Wednesday. It was “fixed…” for about two hours. Then it stopped working again. The kids have been insane all week, what with being cooped up in the house due to the weather and also the craziness with the heat. They haven’t been sleeping well, which hasn’t made it any easier. They spent Thursday morning destroying their play room (with the babysitter, not me).
Needless to say…it’s been interesting over here.
The Kitchen’s Broken
So there’s the kitchen. My children love to eat. Pretty much non-stop. Unfortunately my meal plan’s had to go out the window since I don’t have a functioning oven. I’d planned to soak some rye bread and use it to stuff pork chops for dinner this week, but I need an oven for that. I don’t like to plug in the stove unless I really *must.* I’ve had to get very creative with what I have on hand so that I don’t blow my budget yet I can still cook.
If your oven’s broken, or you otherwise are “stuck” in a sticky situation, kitchen-wise, I’ve learned some very important tips for dealing with that.
Use a Roaster or Toaster Oven
I don’t have a toaster oven (which is so small that I couldn’t realistically make a meal for my whole family in it anyway), but I do have a roaster oven. These things are pretty big and sit on a countertop. I’m assuming you could even run them off a generator or maybe even your car battery if you didn’t have power, since they don’t take nearly as much as a big, full-sized oven does. And they are big enough to cook for a family. I have two meatloaves and some baked potatoes in mine right now, which will make a decent dinner. The roaster oven will allow me to bake pans of soaked bread, soaked breakfast cookies, and a few other dishes. You can bake either directly in it, or you can put your normal bakeware inside of it — so you can cook multiple dishes in the same roaster. Although I haven’t used it more than a couple times before now (just for roasting a turkey then making stock from it), it’s definitely coming in handy now.
Use a Crock Pot
Crock pots are great because you can cook a one-dish meal without heating up your home. I’ll be experimenting with mine quite a bit over the next several days. I started out with a pot of soup — I used half a chicken, some leftover ground beef, soaked beans, and whatever veggies I had on hand. Surprisingly, everybody ate it. (Some of my kids are not huge fans.) I have an idea for a creamy chicken and mushroom pasta dish, various Mexican dishes…. Depending on how these experiments go, you may see another cookbook! My MIL likes to do baked potatoes in the crock pot, or scalloped potatoes, and baked chicken in another. There are lots of ideas “beyond the stew,” so don’t let anything limit you!
Snacky Meals Are Your Friend
For breakfast I served sourdough toast (I bought the bread at Trader Joe’s), cheese cubes, and fresh pineapple chunks. Quick, easy, and the kids liked it. A lot of meals have been snacky-stuff that I’ve pulled from the pantry and fridge. Lots of fruit, veggies, cheese, and leftover bits of meat. It doesn’t have to be fancy; it just has to feed people.
Try Cold Meals
I have a lot of lettuce on hand, so I’ll be packing salads for us very soon. That doesn’t even require any sort of “cooking” so you can make it no matter what your situation (assuming you have the ingredients). Smoothies or ice cream or sorbet can be part of a meal too. There are always sandwiches, of course! (That’s what I did for lunch one day this week.) Keep fruit on hand that doesn’t necessarily need refrigerated — apples, oranges, bananas. Cheese can stand to be outside refrigeration for awhile too, as can butter. Work with what you have.
Think Outside the Oven
I just might pull out my waffle iron and make some waffles — because that actually works, and the kids really like waffles. If you have a counter-top grill, or an outside grill, use these to cook as well. You can put normal pots on a grill to heat water to steam veggies, make pasta, boil potatoes, and so on. A camp stove may be helpful in these situations as well. We have done this when the power was actually out.
Check the Freezer
If you’re anything like me, you might have some decent meals hiding in your freezer! I have some beef lunch meat in mine, and some chicken nuggets (uncooked). I can heat/cook these easily with what currently works. If you have anything prepared on hand, now’s the time to eat it! This is especially important if you are without power…you don’t want anything to go to waste!
Make Lots of Food
When I have cooked, I have tried to make big batches. Then, when I need something for another meal, I have something I can just pull out quickly and serve. Jacob ate cold soup for lunch yesterday — so what? It fed him. I gave the other kids a piece of leftover fried chicken from earlier in the week. When your cooking situation is tricky, make lots when you do cook so that you don’t have to cook as often.
Hopefully over the next few weeks you’ll see some very creative recipes from me! Some crock pot and some roaster oven ideas for making unique, one-pot, minimal-work meals! Even if you’re not in a sticky situation, you can benefit from these. Who doesn’t have busy nights…or just like to spend less time in the kitchen??
When we face difficult situations, we can break down and order delivery (or go to a restaurant…though you might want to re-think that), or we can pull ourselves up and be creative. Although I’ve definitely felt stressed this week, I’ve also enjoyed the chance to be a little more creative in ways I wouldn’t normally “need” to be.
I’ve definitely been about comfort foods when I can, though. I’ve made the broccoli-cheddar soup from Wholesome Comfort twice this week already! It is soooooo good and so satisfying! Worth hearing my stove beep, even.
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How do you get creative in the kitchen during “sticky” situations?
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