Tag Archives: cooking

More About Self-Cleaning Cooking

Also available on the self-cleaning cooking page, see the menu, above, for a link to the page, all of these posts are there!

I have been working on this, it’s complicated!

There are these considerations:

  • Food storage: put away, recycled, or washed afterwards

There’s not much to be done about food storage. Food comes in whatever packaging or storage it does. You can repackage carrots say to share storage with parsnips, but that doesn’t change the requirement to take the food from storage and manipulate it for your recipe and return the unused portion or clean the storage item or deal with it somehow. Eliminating ingredients doesn’t change this requirement. Buying prefab possibly can, buying Bisquick instead of making pancake batter from scratch can reduce the packaging used: one box of Bisquick, instead of three: baking powder, salt, and flour.

  • Cooking tools used: washed afterwards

Eliminating or cutting down cooking tools is easier. You can decide to not use a peeler and use the knife you’ve already used to top/tail the carrots, as an example.

The easiest for me to eliminate is the tablespoon measure, it’s 3 teaspoons and I have no problem figuring that out. I sometimes look at the recipe and determine the measures required, 1/2 teaspoon, 1 teaspoon, 1 tablespoon. say.  Then I use, deliberately, only the smallest measure for all of them.

I will use one graduated cup measure throughout the recipe instead of using a cup measure, a 1/4 cup measure, etc. Or, I’ll use the 1/4C measure, like above. If it’s sane, I’ll measure the dry ingredients first, then the wet ones. (It’s easy to undo whatever item savings you may have doing this, because you need places to store the chopped onions, etc. for later!)

There’s a point at which this is totally counterproductive and I try and take that into consideration too!

  • Areas messed: washed afterwards

This isn’t as easy to do something about. Even when you reuse an area, a chopping board say, you still should clean it between uses. And, of course, it will need to be cleaned afterwards. You can limit the number of areas used by reusing them, but the quantity of cleaning required is harder, if not impossible, to reduce.

  • Serving tools/utensils used: washed afterwards

There are some obvious ideas, you can use dinner plates, etc. and serve everything together, instead of serving everything in separate dishes. Again, there are limits.

Trying to find ways to do this, I found this article at Bon Appetit. Here’s my comments about the article:

  • Her first idea is to use oven to table pots, instead of using pots & serving dishes.

My take is: Instead of serving items in the pot you cook it, how about plating food in the kitchen? Then the pot doesn’t need to be oven to table ready. If you have a big family or do lots of complicated cooking, this probably won’t work, but there’s two of us. I rarely use “serving” dishes. I sold all my platters because of this. I just don’t do that kind of cooking. When I take food to neighbors, etc. I use baskets, jars, etc. — no serving dishes.

  • Her second idea is to stop using multiple knives for everything, but to use one good knife instead.

My problem with this is that you increase the amount of dish washing mid-recipe, between cutting chicken and onions, say. That said? I set up a loaf pan with soapy water and put used utensils in it as I go. I try and wash them before the meal is served, to save the knives’ wood handles.

  • Number 3 is to get your timing down so as to make the best use of it.


  • The fourth item on that list is an addition to 3, that is, clean whatever you can in the short down times between steps.

Again, I agree! You’d be surprised how many dishes you can wash while the micro is reheating your coffee for 1 minute!

  • Don’t use two items when one will do is her fifth idea.

I’ve worked at this for a while now. [I fixed the typo; I’m an editor, right?]

  • Item #6: Rinse and reuse prep tools rather than using new ones.

Also part of #5. In most cases, I’d probably WASH rather than just rinse. It depends on what I’d used it for, when. Rinsing the spoon you used to add the last of the spices to a cooked dish is fine. Only rinsing a spoon used for the initial mixing a dish with raw chicken? Nope.

  • Her last idea is to buy a scale and never use measuring spoons, etc. again.

That’s fine, if all your recipes have weight as well as volume measurements provided. But, many of my recipes don’t.  I’m not really interested in converting 1,000s of recipes so that I know a 1/2 tsp of salt weighs whatever it does. Might be interesting to do for some things. But even the salt won’t work, because you won’t eliminate anything: you need a container to put the salt into, to measure it. If you’re making a curry dish where all the spices are added individually, yeah, sure, use and reuse the same small bowl, but for a beef roast’s gravy?

Even if you use a scale instead of a volume measure, you still haven’t eliminated an item to wash, so like all of these suggestions, I’d take it “with a grain of salt.” [Couldn’t resist that!]

I’m not sure what conclusions this exercise gave me?

stack of dirty pots & pans

( Image isn’t mine, as usual, via images.google.com )

The four areas of mess making (food storage, cooking tools, cooking areas, and serving/eating tools)  was a moment of clarity I hadn’t had before. Unfortunately, the nature of acquiring/storing food, manipulating it for use, and serving it has only so many ways it can be simplified.

More thought required!

Slow, Snowy Day

except that I think I was rather busy!

Not only did I make soup (see the last post) but I cleared out the top shelf of the freezer, mopped the kitchen floor, made marmalade, kept the fire going and worked on a knitting design.

The yield today is: cleaner and more usable freezer, cleaner kitchen floor, better knowledge of what’s in the freezer, a design idea for the knitting, 1 pt of orange marmalade, less wood, and more warmth.

Much better than my yield for Storm Sandy. (You can read about that here.)

The Plan

is to produce/put away enough produce in the spring/summer/fall that we don’t have to buy any in the winter.

I have potatoes that were sprouting in the bin, planted out in the yard growing. I intend to grow the red seed potatoes I bought yesterday for winter. I also got storage onion starts. Celery was planted, it’s not doing well, but I planted it. I bought 2 celeric bulbs last week, haven’t been able to find the seed or starts. Figure I’ll plant those, either use the stalks, get seed, have it for next year OR the bulbs will grow enough that I can harvest 1 and grow the other.

I have summer squash, red cabbage, brussel sprouts, peas, & beans coming up, home grown broccoli seed sprouting, asparagus making wonderful ferns, etc. The garden is trying hard to produce food. The problem is that my garden sits atop the septic field, all sand. All the nutriends I feed the garden just seep away. I’ve added compost, leaf litter, worms, potting soil, you name it. And, as long as I keep it up, the plants do okay, but stop for one week? And they go back to producing enough to keep us in salads throughout the summer.

Raised beds help, but they don’t entirely change the situation. A giant sponge sits under my yard. The other side of the house is the north side, and is heavily wooded, so that won’t work.

Arg. I’ll manage. But I’ll never have a spectacular garden here, because I have a spectacular leach field, all nearly 1/2 acre of it!


First Garden Harvest & First Plantings (Same Day!)

So how did I do this?

My veggie garden at the end of the summer always looks like a messy jungle. Why? And what does that have to do with the subject of this post?

That “messy jungle” is made up of chicory plants, root parsley, and dill which flower then set seed in the fall. Accordingly, early spring I always have some wilted parsley (I  just leave it alone for a few days after I uncover it) but I also have some radicchio (the overwintered chicory) if I can get it before the chipmunks! The dill won’t surface for a while; it comes up at the same time as the self-seeded mustard greens.

But there’s green garlic  (I’ll use some of the tops), sorrel, and radicchio out there to pick — today! We had a taste of the sorrel yesterday Tonight’s dinner will be stir-fried lettuces and ? (I got a bargain on a container of mixed lettuces yesterday). I’ll add some of the radicchio and sorrel and garlic greens to my bargain greens.

First harvest! 😀

 I also planted the first seeds today. Yes this is almost 6 weeks before our “last” frost date (Memorial Day). I planted mixed lettuces and spinach, cold tolerant, but not tolerant of a hard frost. I’m gambling we won’t have another snow. Could be that I just added the seed in 5 4′ rows to the soil to compost or feed chippers. Or, it could be that I’m a lucky soul and we’ll have some lettuce and spinach in a few weeks. We’ll see!

I sprinkled a little water on the bed after I planted the seed then I got a call from my friends who make the compost I use (I can’t make enough for our garden). I got 3 buckets of the stuff, used 2 immediately: over the bed where the radicchio is, the lettuce/spinach I’d just planted, the rhubarb, the sorrel, and lastly, the raised bed where the asparagus is.

I have 1 bucket left: I think that goes on the thymes (I grow 2 types: pizza and regular), tarragons (3 plants, 1 variety) and the wild grape vines.

The folks who make the compost gave me some of their stock, they don’t have any for sale, yet. It was a favor, and I appreciate it! If you want information about where I get my compost, please let me know in the comments, and I’ll posta  link.

It’s finally spring!


Use It Up Casserole

Well, this kinda worked, but needs to be tweaked!

There’s a raised bed of parsnips, carrots and celeriac in my veggie garden, still. I had bought a dozen eggs as they were on sale for $2 or so a dozen, couldn’t resist that price! So, what to do?

I made a casserole: 2 bread heels, chunked, 3 eggs, 2C milk, about 1C chunked cheddar cheese, 1/2 sweet onion, chopped, 2 ribs celery, sliced, about 1C diced parsnips, 3 carrots, and 1 large patty pan squash. It should have been fine.

I baked it, tested it with a knife in the center, came out clean. Looked cooked through. Top was all dry, so I chunked the cheese, put it on top, then put the thing under the broiler to brown. Pulled it out, dished up a bowl and there’s a layer of liquid on the bottom?

Stirred it all up (mixing the cheese inside) and put it back in the oven. We ate it, but it was NOT the custardy veggie casserole I wanted. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really find a recipe to modify for this, so I faked it. It was tasty, but NOT what I expected, sigh.

Back to the drawing board!

A “Not Real” Food Confession

Okay, I’ve been busy and rather than making everything from scratch, I’ve been using prefab pieces to make things, well, at least I did yesterday.

Last night’s dinner was a veggie soup (squash with peas, carrots added) and BBQ ribs and cake with fruit.

The soup was made two days ago, it’s a squash soup with cider, stock, onion, curry powder. I cooked one butternut squash, needed more squash and opened a can of pumpkin to finish it. Prefab, sort of. Last night we had that as a side dish and the end of the previously cooked veggies in it, and that was our vegetable.

The ribs were put in a Pyrex lasagna pan with a bottle of Lawry’s Santa Fe Chili Sauce and some water, and a little sweet onion, then baked until the pork was cooked through.

The cake is a Dr. Oetker mix, with a package of home-frozen mixed blueberries & peaches. When I find peaches/blueberries cheap in the summer I cut up the fruit then put 1C of each into a plastic bag and freeze. I use the premeasured and prepped fruit  to make our favorite cobbler. (here) Of course, in this case, I added the fruit to the pan with the cake batter.

So, instead of making EVEN SOUP from scratch, which is my normal, I cheated, on everything. It was good, probably mostly healthy, fairly fast and (of course) frugal.

I confess. I don’t always cook from scratch. I think I should, always, but like everyone I just don’t have the time or inclination all the time.

The biggest problem with dinner? The soup, the baked cake and the rib’s sauce were almost all the same color. DH said, in mock horror, “Oh noooooooooo! Food that’s all the same color! nOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!” and we laughed. But if this was a company dinner or I was cooking for kids, I would have made sure I had a green salad, had some corn or peas, mashed potatoes or something to offset the brown, brown, and dark orange-brown food.

(It was tasty just the same!)

More Data and Food

I was curious, what specifically was I short? I did the math.

The tally doesn’t make it look so bad! Yes, I am short on 60% of the items, but that also means I was over or hit my target 40%. And I apparently like cleaning doors!

19 floors, 7 windows short, 2 ceilings short 27 pcs short

0 walls, did the allocated amount

8 more doors than the allocated amount

We had ham steaks and pumpkin soup with sage last night for dinner. The original recipe called for ham in the soup, but I took it out as you couldn’t really taste it.

I spent a lot of yesterday afternoon pulling things out of the vegetable garden (my large tomato vine, one trellis’ worth of beans, etc.). But it actually didn’t get that cold, so I could have NOT done this. Oh well, I guess I’m ahead of the game?

I have parsley, tarragon, dill, three kinds of  thyme, peppermint, etc. to deal with today as a result. I bagged up the 5 basil plants, some parsley plants, etc  in leaf bags yesterday and they’re currently in the kitchen, looking a bit like brown craft paper ghosts! The cat thinks they smell interesting, she keeps sniffing at one of the bags.

Anyway, my time culling things yesterday was spent in the garden, not inside.