Posts Tagged cooking

The Complete Tiny House Kitchen Guide: 11 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Set Up My Kitchen

The Complete Tiny House Kitchen Guide: 11 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Set Up My Kitchen

Complete Tiny House Kitchen GuideWhen I built my tiny house, I knew planning my tiny house kitchen was critically important. After all, the kitchen is usually the center of the home—the command center.

In a small space, having a well-organized and clear setup is critical. Even if you don’t like to prepare or cook food (or prefer to pop an instant meal in the microwave), your kitchen will still get used regularly. I, for one, enjoy cooking and food prep. In my tiny home kitchen, I can’t really accommodate giant meals or parties, but making a delicious meal for one or two people is easily doable and fun. I always keep my tiny house kitchen clean and ready for action.

Questions about tiny house kitchens are some of the most frequent queries I get. Everyone worries about how they should set up their kitchen, what type of appliances they’ll need, and how to make their tiny house kitchens functional, useful, and comfortable. I decided to put together this guide to tiny house kitchens to help you set up a kitchen where you’ll love (or at least, not hate) to cook.

A Video Tour of My Tiny House Kitchen

For a more in-depth look at my tiny kitchen, please enjoy this video tour. In this tour, I’ll walk you through my tiny house kitchen, and what I find useful.

11 Things What I Wish I Knew When I Set Up My Tiny House Kitchen

things i wish i knew when i setup my kitchen

Now, I’ve had several years of prepping, cooking, and eating in my tiny house kitchen, which has been enough time to learn a few things I wish I’d known BEFORE I set up my tiny house kitchen.

Don’t get me wrong—my kitchen is great (and some of what I didn’t know ended up working out anyway as happy accidents), but of course, looking back, there are always adjustments you’d make.

1. Understand How Much Kitchen You Need

Understand How Much Kitchen You Need

If you’re a person who microwaves a burrito a couple times a day, then you probably don’t need a huge kitchen. If you look at people who live in tiny apartments (for example, in New York City), they may not even have a kitchen in their apartment since each square foot is so expensive. They may get by with a microwave and a hotplate, a small fridge or a little kitchenette. So, really assess how much kitchen you need.

For me, I cook all my meals from scratch, so I knew I needed a fully functioning kitchen. I had to fit a lot in a small space. For my needs, I have a stovetop, a fridge, a sink, and counter space for prep. I don’t have a dishwasher, microwave or an oven. Being off the grid, I knew the power requirements for those appliances was high, and I’m okay with handwashing my dishes. Similarly, I don’t bake. I love to cook, but I don’t need an oven. (I have a toaster oven, which I rarely use).

2. Recognize the Challenges of Having a Small Kitchen

The Challengens of having a small kitchen

The kitchen is a very specialized space. Tiny house builders tend to give a lot of square footage to the kitchen. With other single-use rooms, like the bathroom, the tendency is often to go as small as possible. While the same applies to the kitchen, you’ll want to be sure there’s plenty of room to make it functional. Only you know what you need in terms of space. Keep in mind, it’s easier to live with a plan that’s a little too big, rather than planning a kitchen that ends up too small.

3. Figure Out Exactly What You Need to Put in Your Kitchen, First

What you need to put in your kitchen to make it work

Before I started to design my kitchen, I made a whole grocery list of what I wanted in my pantry. This was one of my smartest ideas while planning my tiny kitchen. I was able to measure everything I would want and need regularly, and I built my pantry cupboard to accommodate it all.

Similarly, I went out and bought my pots and pans, as well. I measured all of them and designed around them so they would all fit. After all, nothing’s worse than finding out your cookware doesn’t fit into your tiny home kitchen cupboards, and you must store it in another spot (or go out and buy all new).

Buy dishes, silverware, and utensils—everything you’ll need to equip your tiny house kitchen. Then plan around them.

4. Ditch the Gadgets

Ditching kitchen gadgets

The kitchen is an area where there are hundreds of different gadgets out there. I used to gravitate toward a cool garlic press or a neat spice grinder. Then I realized you could do so much with good knife skills and the basic tools; you don’t need all those extra bells and whistles.

Once I brushed up on my knife skills in the kitchen, I found I could do almost any job faster, better, and with more accurate results with a knife alone. I really didn’t need a whole drawer of extra tools and one-trick-ponies. After living in my tiny house for a while, I’ve pared back more and more, especially as I’ve moved toward a minimalist lifestyle and approach.

5. Clear the Counters

clear off your counters

ryans tiny house kitchen sinkIt’s easy to clog up your counter space with small appliances. After all, there are so many options out there—a bread maker, a toaster oven, a food processor, a big mixer…and the list goes on. I find it’s helpful to assess what you actually use on a REGULAR basis and ditch the rest.

On my counter, I only keep a cutting board, there is nothing else kept on the counter regularly. I’ll pull out my blender (which does almost anything I’d need a mixer or food processor to do), an Instant Pot (replacing the need for a slow cooker), and a toaster oven all of which I store in my cabinets. That’s all I need or use regularly. You may find you need a microwave, or you prefer a food processor to a blender. Whatever you keep, be sure you really need it on your premium counter space.

I couldn’t use the first toaster oven I bought for my kitchen. It was a really nice $200 toaster oven (way more than I’d ever spent on such an item before). I plugged it in, and it pulled way too much power from my house. So it’s still in the box (and way past the return date). Carefully plan your purchases, especially for items taking up valuable spots on your counter.

6. Ventilation is Critical

ventalation is important in a tiny house kitchen

When I cook, my house warms up quite a bit, so my air conditioning will kick on. Food smells permeate the entire tiny house. I would say about every third time I cook, my smoke alarm goes off—not because I’m lighting food on fire, but because it’s a lot of steam in a small space.

Plan plenty of ventilation in your tiny house. Now, this is a bit of a pain because you need an 8 or 9-inch vent tube to go through your entire wall. With a tiny house, this is challenging to fit in, so plan carefully. Ventilation is mandatory, so you’ll need to figure out how to work it into your design.

7. Remember Storage Areas

don't forget storage areas in your tiny house kitchen

It takes time to plan tiny house kitchens that function well. In fact, you may want to let your design rest for a bit, before coming back to it. I find there are three areas people often forget in their planning: pantry space, an area for the garbage can, and an area for recycling. Figure out precisely what you want to store and then design around it.

After building my tiny kitchen and living in my house for quite a while now, I’ll admit I wish I doubled my pantry space (despite my minimalist approach to food storage). Even though I planned it all out, I still struggle with flexibility.

As I said above, purchasing your “go-to” items and measuring ahead really helps, but I found I even had to tweak things along the way to fit everything in my pantry. Chances are, even with the best plans, you’ll need to adjust once you’re living in the space.

8. Counterspace is Nice to Have

extra counterspace is a nice to have

I planned a pretty big countertop space in my kitchen. It was important to me to have enough room that it didn’t feel cramped (but of course, to still fit within my space). Again, it’s because I like to prepare meals ahead, and I do quite a bit of chopping and work on the counter.

Ryan's L shaped tiny house kitchenOther people I know plan more modular designs, where countertops pull out, fold-out, or move around to get bigger or smaller. While these approaches will work, I don’t suggest it for something you’ll need every day or even once a week. It’s kind of like a murphy bed, no one realistically makes their bed and folds it back every day, it just stays out the entire time and is awkward.

Once again, it comes down to how you want your kitchen to function. If you don’t do a lot of food prep, or if you find you’re the type of person who piles up mail, paperwork, or other items on your counter, you may want a small counter to eliminate that tendency. On the other hand, if you love working in the kitchen, give yourself enough room to chop and prepare your meals properly. Cooking will become much more pleasurable.

I also planned in a drawer for my utensils and tools. Some folks prefer a knife block or a crock of kitchen accessories on the counter (my knife block is built into my counter). Keep in mind, while it’s convenient to keep the tools right on hand, it will also begin to eat up your valuable space.

9. Plan Your Lighting Carefully

planning lighting in a tiny house kitchen

Lighting is so important throughout your tiny house, but especially in your kitchen. When I was planning my lighting, I was very careful to take a lot of time, and I put a lot of thought into the functionality of the lighting. I used LED puck lights and plotted out the layout. As a result, in terms of lighting, my tiny house is probably the most well-designed space I’ve ever lived in. There’s enough light, the switches are well laid out, and I can see in every area.

The LED lights are nice because they don’t kick off heat, and they’re low power (ideal for living off the grid or relying on battery power). They don’t take up a lot of space and depth, unlike a can light that has to be inset into the wall by about 12 inches. You may not have space in a tiny house, so surface-mount lights are great. Also consider what lights you want on dimmers or three-way switches and plan them out ahead of time.

10. Organization Will Keep You Sane

organization solutions for a tiny house kitchen

Organization is critical for tiny house kitchens, but also tiny houses in general. The thing about a tiny house is if ONE item is out of place, it will drive you nuts. I’ve found days when I toss my backpack on the floor, I’m bothered until I put it away.

When you live in a small space, you can’t ignore a mess. You can’t live in a tiny space unless it’s neat and tidy. I clean my entire house each morning. That may sound excessive, but honestly, with a tiny house, it doesn’t take long at all and I always feel like my space is calm, inviting, and organized. When you’re in a small space, even a little clutter makes it feel like a disaster zone.
In the kitchen, I created a wall organizer for the items I use every day (tinfoil, salt, pepper, hot sauce, cups, and measuring cups). I also planned open shelving tucked away where I keep all my dishes. The convenient aspect of a tiny kitchen is every item is within arm’s reach. Every item has a home, and keeping it tucked in the proper spot will make your life SO much less complicated.

11. Buy Items Meant to Last

Buy high quality materials and items that last

I’ve found the kitchen is one area where I permit myself to splurge on high-end purchases. You might not own a lot of items, but the items in your kitchen need to last a long time. You will use them over and over daily (and if you don’t use the items over and over again, they probably shouldn’t stay in your tiny house kitchen).

When I was setting up my kitchen, I purchased two very high-quality knives and the best pans I could find. I researched and learned what I was buying beforehand, so I was sure I was purchasing top-of-the-line items that will last a lifetime. Yes, they cost hundreds of dollars, but it was worth the investment for an excellent item I use every single day.

How I Set Up My Tiny House Kitchen

How I set up my tiny house kitchen

Below you see how I decided to set up my tiny house kitchen.

Here is the floorplan design:

tiny house kitchen floorplan
tiny house kitchen diagram

And here are renderings (note the colors changed):

tiny house kitchen cabinets
Sink cabinets in a tiny house kitchen

My Tiny House Kitchen

kitchen overview in a tiny house

Kitchen Overview
Here is an overview of my tiny house kitchen. You see how it all came together, including my counter space and storage. I found it was important when I was planning to avoid worrying about what I like to call “outlier activities.” For example, people worry they need two ovens to cook Thanksgiving dinner once a year. The rest of the time, they don’t need an extra oven at all. If you’re planning a tiny house kitchen, it’s essential to let go of these outlier activities when space is a premium.

Instead, I find you should only consider what you need for your everyday activities. If you need to cook more food, there are induction burner cooktops available to purchase for under $50. When the time comes for you need to cook a big meal, consider the investment. If it’s worth it, go for it. If not, pass on hosting duties (or ask someone else to bring the turkey).

Verona Two Burner Stove
Here is my stovetop with two burners. This is a Verona stove, which was the only one I could find at the time that was a two-burner (it’s actually meant as an auxiliary cooktop for a larger range). I chose gas/propane, which is better for solar, as electric stoves require so much energy. There was one I looked at made for an RV that was cheaply made and useless. This stove has held up quite well, though, so I’m glad I got it. I like this stove overall, but it burns a little hot.
two burner propane stove in a small kitchen in a tiny house
built in knife block into a kitchen counter Built-in Knife Block Above Fridge
This is my built-in knife storage, which takes up very little room on the counter, but keeps my knife set right on hand. This is seriously one of the best decisions I’ve made in my kitchen!

Below, this spot is my fridge. I went with a regular refrigerator-only unit (no freezer). It’s a small, dorm-size fridge, which works for me and my needs. I found a freezer wasn’t necessary, and the freezers in those little fridges didn’t work well anyway. One benefit of not having a freezer is I eat less junk food (Hot Pockets, frozen burritos, pizza rolls, and the like). Since I don’t store ready-to-eat food in my house, I don’t need a microwave either. This saves me quite a bit of space and helps me stay healthy.

If I were to need a freezer for food storage or preservation, I would recommend a chest-type freezer (which you could also keep in a storage shed). Chest freezers are more energy-efficient and run well with solar. There are also other approaches to food storage and preservation, like dehydration, which you may want to experiment with.

Deep Kitchen Sink
My sink is very deep. I wanted a sink to accommodate my pots and pans easily. I also chose this sink because I use it for laundry, as needed. I don’t own a washer and dryer. I HATE doing laundry, and so I pay for a laundry service. For me, it’s worth the investment.

Having a deep sink is quite helpful if you need to wash one shirt or a few pairs of socks quickly. I wash what I need, rinse it out, and hang it up. It’s very functional. The undermount is also nice so I can wipe crumbs right into it and there is no lip to catch anything. You can also throw a cutting board over the top if you need a little extra counter space.

deep tub sink in a tiny house kitchen
haning measuring cups
Hanging Storage
Hanging everyday items like measuring cups is useful, so they’re within your reach at all times. It also keeps them from cluttering up drawers. Find tools that do double duty and you use all the time. Get rid of all those “one-trick pony” items. Chances are you don’t need a waffle iron, fancy chopper, zester, and avocado-pit remover.
Spice & Dry Goods Storage
This is my spice and dry goods drawer that holds uniform bottles. I keep all my spices here for easy access. I only keep spices and items I use regularly. If a few months go by and I don’t use something, then I know it’s not worth the storage space to keep it.

This rule of thumb goes for most of your food storage. Only keep the food you need for the next week or two (within reason, obviously; condiments and other items may last a little longer). Buy items from bulk bins, where you get only what you need. Buy most items in small quantities, so it’s easier to use it up quickly and you don’t need to store them in your tiny home kitchen.

custom spice drawer holder
storage nook in small kitchen
Open Shelving
Open concept shelving is used to hold cups and other items I use regularly. I love these metal cups because they don’t break and they will last forever.
Butcher Block Countertops
I love my counter space. I also like the wooden “butcher block” look for my countertops. They’re maple, sealed with a food-grade polyurethane coating which is going strong even after 7 years! It’s easy to maintain, and I think it looks nice, too. One area to watch on countertops is weight. If you want granite countertops, you may run into a weight concern. Granite counters add about 800 pounds to your trailer, so ensure you factor in the weight.
custom buther block counter tops
kitchen essentials storage area in tiny house kitchen
Easy-To-Access Shevling
In this other shot of my storage area, you see the salt, pepper, and tinfoil I use so often during food prep and cooking. It’s really nice to keep these items accessible.
Deep Utensil Drawers
I designed these drawers deep enough to hold utensils easily. I only keep exactly what I need and use regularly.
custom made utensils drawer

Remember: When it Comes to A Tiny Kitchen, Less is More

Less is more in a tiny house kitchen

I’ve adopted a minimalist mindset when it comes to my kitchen (and life in general). It’s incredible how distilling what you need down to the necessities really brings clarity and helps you feel organized, calm, and less stressed.

When it comes to cooking, I’ve found the simplest way to cook food is to grill. Honestly, I grill a lot! Typically, I’ll put a steak or chicken on the grill 3-4 times a week. Not only is steak delicious (sorry vegetarians), but grilling is so easy to clean up. It keeps the heat outside and there are very few dishes, if any.

Grilling outside to expand your tiny house kitchenSometimes I’ll cook a protein on the grill and cook enough for dinner, breakfast, and even lunch the next day. Usually, I eat similar foods, and I buy only what I’m going to eat within the next few days or week. As a result, I don’t often have food that goes bad or gets spoiled. This also helps me save money on food since I’m not buying extras.

For most people, their kitchen is the central gathering place in their home. When you live in a tiny house, your whole home becomes the gathering place. Having a tiny house kitchen isn’t challenging, though. I don’t feel like I’m missing out at all with a small kitchen, and I actually enjoy meal prep and cooking more.

When I entertain, friends usually gather around my firepit outside. Some people use pop-up tables and other setups for entertaining, as well. Like I said, it’s important not to plan around those big, once-a-year events for your kitchen. If something does come up, you can always borrow an XXL crock pot from a friend or look up ways to roast your turkey outside. There are plenty of workarounds to make your tiny kitchen functional and enjoyable.

Your Turn!

  • What is most important to you in your tiny house kitchen?
  • What solutions have you found for cooking in a small space?

Minimalism & Diet: Simplify Your Food With A Minimalist Diet

Minimalism & Diet: Simplify Your Food With A Minimalist Diet

What does my minimalist diet look like? After minimizing my belongings, my relationships, and my schedule, I took a look at my diet. Minimizing my diet has been one of the biggest money savers that minimalism has brought me and the health benefits have been huge too. Here are tips on how to simplify your diet:

what is a minimalist diet

What Is A Minimalist Diet?

For each person it’s going to be different depending on your preferences, goals and requirements. A minimalist diet is a simplified approach to cooking meals where you balance nutritional needs, ease of preparing, and optimizing your ingredients to have as few as possible while still being able to cooking a variety of meals that you love. You approach it in a way that’s right for you, but you are making sure to be intentional in how your meals fit into your life.

Here are some of the main consideration I took when I wanted to simplify my diet and how I prepared my meals:

1. Learn Staple Meals

Learning how to cook a few simple meals is not only a beneficial life skill, it can drastically reduce your grocery budget. One major shift in my journey was when I was able to leave my job because I no longer had so many expenses, what that meant was I could cook all my meals from scratch each meal.

simple staple meals

I have a few simple breakfasts, lunches, and dinners that I alternate between, which makes it easy to know what to eat when that time rolls around. I know that I love all of these meals, so when I go grocery shopping, I make sure to pick up ingredients for each one.

2. A Minimalist Diet Meal Plan For You

everyday meals for simple meal planning

I tend to get really into a meal, and eat it constantly. By eating the same foods over and over, you’re saving money by not needing new spices, exotic ingredients, or a vast array of groceries. I like to always have staples on hand to create any of the following: smoothies, breakfast muesli, vegan sandwiches, sweet potato and chickpea curry, burritos, and my famous nourish bowls.

Nourish bowls happen when I throw the following into a bowl: some type of grain, some type of protein (usually beans, as they are so high in fiber and minerals!), loads of veggies, avocado, and hummus. This can also be a really simple way to use up leftovers.

When you start out look at your favorite dishes and write out the ingredients that it takes to make them. After you have a list of your favorite dishes, see what ingredients overlap. By choosing the dishes that share common ingredients we can optimize your go to recipes so that you can make the most amount of dishes with the fewest amount of ingredients.

common foods for a simple diet

 

3. Keto Diet For Minimalist Weight Loss

keto low carb dinner

Over the past year I’ve started the ketogenic diet into my daily habit to help with weight loss. Initially I started keto because I wanted to improve my energy levels by reducing my carb intake, primarily by eating only foods that were low glycemic foods.

This is because I’ve noticed that my body seems to have big energy swings around my meals and keto boosted my energy, lets me loose weight, simplifies my diet and just works really well for me.

At first I was just going to go low carb, but after reading up on keto I decided to go all the way with the diet because it closely matched my own diet. I didn’t eat a lot of pasta, I have never been a big sweets person, I don’t drink, and I already had a lot of healthy fats in my diet as it was.

How is the Keto diet a minimalist diet?

At it’s core it’s inherently a “restrictive diet” meaning it limits what you can eat by a good bit. But I’d actually argue another point that is more important for minimalist.

Because the ketogenic diet functions of ketones it’s actually a more efficient way to provide nutrients to your body. In ketosis your energy stems from beta hydroxybutyrate (BHB) and fats yield 9 kcal per gram of fat, and approximately 4 kcal per gram for carbohydrates.

When you get your body optimized for fats you’re staking the deck in your favor. Practically speaking I get satiated much faster and longer. A tablespoon of butter in my coffee has replaced what once was an 800 calorie breakfast. I used to struggle to stay awake at work, now I go full tilt all day and then I go back after work some days to work on passion projects.

You Eat Less Food, Feel Really Full And For Longer:

I was super skeptical of this, but the standard DASH diet recommended by most doctors always left me hungry after cutting out 300 calories a day. After the first three weeks of keto I was eating till I felt stuffed and when I totaled my macros for the day I was astounded to see some days I was eating 1,000 of a deficit! Now as you get back to your healthy weight you’ll find you eat very close to your maintenance intake.

My Daily Keto Meal Plan:

  • Bullet Proof Coffee: Fresh coffee, 1 TB of grass feed butter, 1 TB of MCT oil
  • Breakfast: 3 free range organic eggs with 1 ounce of cheese
  • Lunch: 2 ounces of cheese and 2 ounces of salami or chorizo
  • Dinner: 4 cups of romaine lettuce, Cesar dressing, 1 ounce of cheese, bacon, MCT oil, 6 ounces of grilled chicken

I only really mix up my dinner, but I keep my other meals almost the same every day. For dinners I’ll have hamburgers without the bun and no sugar added ketchup, mustard pork chops, or buffalo wings with ranch. I have also found that keeping all my carbs at dinner helps me maintain energy levels throughout the day to an amazing degree.

food to eat on a keto diet

On average my Macros are 20 carbs per day, 120 grams of fat per day, and 140 grams of protein a day. Generally I’m eating closer to 10 carbs a day, but never more than 20 carbs. The results have been really incredible, I don’t get tired any more, I have the most insane energy levels for sustain periods, I’ve lots lots of weight and because ketosis suppresses your appetite, I don’t get hungry AT ALL even when I’m running a major calorie deficit.

4. Keep Snacks Simple

minimalist diet snacks

I used to be a big snacker – and I was a fan of processed junk food. After minimizing my diet, I’ve switched my snacking habits to do it less and less. Now, my keto snacks are jerky, cheese sticks and salads. During my normal eating I would snack on fresh or dried fruit, veggies with hummus, apples with peanut butter; I try to keep it as whole-food-focused as possible. Not only does this save me money, it is so much better for my overall health.

5. Try Themed Nights

theme dinners for the week

One of my favorite ways to keep my diet simple and minimal, but still exciting, is themed nights. I have a few themes that I like to work around, including tacos and docos (documentaries) night, or meatless Mondays. This is a really fun way to introduce simplified diets to children.

The best part about having a themed night meal plan is that it limits the scope of your shopping so you know it’s breakfast for dinner on Thursday and you don’t wander around the store looking for ideas, you can jump right to the things you need.

6. Intermittent Fasting

intermittent fasting for weight loss

I found that my body naturally fell into to this pattern of 8 hours eating and 16 hours fasting. For me and my schedule it works well. I eat lunch around noon and then dinner around 6:30pm, from there I may have a few pieces of cheese at 8pm if I’m feeling like I need more, but then I’m good for the rest of the night, skip breakfast and then don’t eat until lunch.

This 16 hour window is enough to firmly put yourself into autophagy (where your body weens out under performing cells and builds new cells). What’s interesting is that the amount of autophagy that occurs during a 16 hour fast, up to around 20 hours is very effective.

Longer fasting has been shown to only give an incremental effect, so I don’t see much need for it.

8. Vitamins And Supplements

vitamins

In general supplements and vitamins are largely ineffective be our body’s don’t absorb them very well. The big thing I’ve learned is there are many mitigating factors that help your body absorb them.

For example you need vitamin K2 to be available to facilitate the absorption of vitamin D, which then in turns let your body absorb calcium. Add to this that your body can only take so much in at a time, you sometimes need to space the dose out.

I only take vitamin B12 with Folate, fish oil pill for omega 6 fats, potassium, and magnesium. To this I’ll throw in a dusting of nutritional yeast (vitamin B) and some MCT oil here and there. I also will use Himalayan pink salt for general minerals.

The rest is pretty much a waste of money and I only keep these because there is some decent science behind it or my body responds well to them.

9. Which Cooking Oil Is Good For Health

  • Olive oil
  • Grass fed butter
  • Avocado oil
  • Ghee
  • Coconut oil

Oils was another one I had to learn about and luckily my go to oil, olive oil, was one of the better oils out there. I only keep three oils around for cooking: olive oil, butter and avocado oil. Many people like coconut oil, but recently it’s come under some scrutiny. Ghee is great I just haven’t gotten into it.

healthy oils for cooking

The big thing to understand is smoke points. When an oil hits its smoke point it can start to produce oxidants and other negative by products. The reason I use avocado oil is for high temperature cooking or grilling. Avocado oil has a smoke point of 520 degrees compared to olive oil which is 320 degrees.

10. Keep it Nutritious

wholesome foods for health

A simplified diet is a whole-foods focused, nutritious diet. I like to say I cook with ingredients, not foods. Ingredients are the most basic form, while foods have long list of a combinations of ingredients. Focus your meals around whole grains, beans and legumes, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Don’t forget that you can grow your own food to with these simple steps to setting up a garden with easy to grow vegetables.

I like to get my food as close to the source as possible – this means farmers markets for produce, bakeries for whole grain breads, and bulk stores for whole grain pasta, and dried beans. By constantly having the staples on hand, you’ll be able to make such a variety of meals.

Minimizing my diet has improved my health, relieved stress, and made me a happier person. There are so many benefits to eating more simply and healthfully, your wallet and your body will thank you.

Your Turn!

  • Would you consider simplifying your diet?

Solar Oven Guide & Reviews

Solar Oven Guide & Reviews

Solar Oven Review and Guide

Considering a solar oven? In this comprehensive solar oven guide, I’ll go through everything you need to know about solar ovens and solar cooking. You’ll find comprehensive, honest and unbiased solar oven reviews on every top solar oven available right now, videos explaining my experience testing each solar oven, and even my personal interviews with each solar oven manufacturer. Using this solar oven guide, you’ll find the best solar oven for your needs—or you can even learn how to make a solar oven on your own using simple materials.

CLICK HERE FOR THE GUIDE & REVIEWS

Why I Created This Solar Oven Guide

cooking with solar oven
Moving into my tiny house took many adjustments at first. Not only did I downsize, but I also went off the grid. Off-the-grid living presents quite a few challenges—and one of the biggest was how to cook food without electricity. When you rely on solar power, you can only store so much energy in your battery reserve, so I needed to cook food in a low-powered way. My quest led me to explore how to cook using solar ovens and solar cookers: appliances that capture and concentrate the sun’s heat in a box, to cook up delicious dishes—no grid required!

CLICK HERE FOR THE GUIDE & REVIEWS

 

 

Cooking with and Caring for Cast Iron Cookware

Cooking with cast iron is such a visceral experience, using a pan that could be as old as your grandparents, the oil sizzling in the pan, and the aromas as you create a depth of flavor not possible in a Teflon pan.

egg skillet

My grandma used cast iron in her kitchen every day. The roasts she cooked in her dutch oven were full of flavor and tender as can be. In the morning she would cook eggs in a small cast iron skillet. She had the coating on her pans so fine tuned that she could just slide the egg out of the pan without a spatula. Whenever I pull out one of my cast iron pans I feel connected to her and the commitment she had to feed her family delicious, nutrient-rich meals.

Cast iron is quite inexpensive and will last a lifetime. You can pass them onto your children; they are nearly indestructible. However, there is a learning curve to using cast iron cookware. Here are a few tips to give you a head start.

seasoned cast iron

Preheating is vital

Cast iron heats unevenly but retains the heat wonderfully. Use a heat-tolerant oil like avocado or coconut oil in the pan and heat until the oil begins to shimmer (move across the pan due to the warmth of the pan).

Don’t skimp on the fats!

More and more research is showing that saturated fats are not the demons we used to think they were, so don’t be afraid to throw a glob of your favorite healthy fat in your pan. It will help develop that non-stick surface and depth of flavor. Start with a couple tablespoons for an 8” skillet.

cast iron cooking

Sear it!

Developing rich flavors is one of the benefits of cooking with cast iron. Once your skillet and oil are good and hot, then add in your veg or meat. Allow it sear before stirring or flipping. I especially enjoy caramelizing onions and browning meat in my cast iron.

Deepen the flavor

Flavor develops in the oil and on the surface of cast iron cookware. To create more depth, you will want to build your flavors in what is best described as layers.

Start with the fat, then add in the aromatics like onions and garlic. Next, add flavorful vegetables like mushrooms and celery. At this point, you can do almost anything. You have the base for soup, a casserole or a stir-fry.

Now you can remove all of the vegetables and cook your meat. Make sure to put more oil in the pan. Once the meat is cooked, your pan will be bursting with flavor. If you want to go one step further, you can make a gravy by deglazing the pan and thickening the liquid.

roast beef in cast iron

Stove top or in the oven, cast iron can do both. There are no plastic or wood parts on cast iron pans. That means you can sear your food on the stove top and then move it to the oven to finish cooking. You can also bake a quiche, cornbread or oven pancake in a cast iron skillet.

Use a flexible steel flipper and not a plastic spatula. Cast iron gets very hot and can cause the plastic spatula to melt. Contrary to the way you baby a Teflon skillet to protect the finish you want to very deliberately make contact with the cast iron using a metal flipper.

Wash but don’t soak your pan. Now that you have eaten one of the most flavorful meals ever, it is time to get that pan cleaned up. If you have stuck-on food the easiest way to loosen it is to put about 1/2 inch of water in the pan then put back on the stovetop until it begins to boil. Now you can easily wash it.

cleaning cast iron

It is ok to submerge the pan and to use soap. Just make sure you do not leave the pan in the sink to soak. Rust will develop, and then you will have to season it (a process of sealing the pan with heat and oil). I use a stainless steel scrubby on my cast iron. It doesn’t absorb the oil and seems to preserve the finish on the pan better than anything else.

You Turn!

  • What favorite memory do you think of when you see cast iron?
  • What is your favorite meal to cook in your cast iron cookware?