Reader Allison normally cooks from scratch, but she’s in the midst of a kitchen renovation.
(Oh, the horror! At least for right now. In the end it will be fabulous.)
She’s getting by with a microwave, an InstantPot and a grill, and she asked for some help, especially in getting non-mushy veggies on the table.
So, I asked my readers on Facebook for suggestions, and I’m rounding them up here, including some tips from my friends at How to Home.
Get a grilling basket for veggies.
Or thread them on skewers. Most vegetables do great on the grill if you brush them with oil, sprinkle them with salt and pepper, and grill them until they’re crisp-tender.
No mushiness in sight!
Readers suggested making foil packets of veggies on the grill as well.
Use a slow-cooker.
Soups and slow-cooked meats are both good meal options that work in a crock-pot!
Buy a toaster oven.
You can make a LOT of things in a toaster oven, and this would give you a quasi-oven experience.
You can even make quick breads in a toaster oven, actually. Not large batches, but it’d at least be something.
Readers also suggested cooking veggies in the toaster oven. Yay for dry heat!
Buy a hot plate.
A single burner can help you out significantly, and all you need is a working outlet.
Use an electric skillet.
Again, all you need is an outlet, and you suddenly have a cooking surface for browning meats, making stir-fries…a lot of the things you’d do on a stove.
In a similar vein, you could get an electric griddle, and then pancakes, bacon, sausage, and French Toast would suddenly be on the menu again (and if you have a large crew to feed, a big griddle is a lifesaver for making pancakes and French toast! So, that could be useful even post-renovation.)
One last thought: you could try asking around (friends? family? freecycle? church?) to see if anyone has an appliance listed here that you could borrow. That way you wouldn’t have to spend money, and you wouldn’t have to store the item once your kitchen is up and running!
Readers, if you have some more ideas for Allison (recipes? cooking methods? appliances?), leave them in the comments.
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Sunday 28th of January 2018
I just wanted to add that thrift stores are great places to look for additional, temporary appliances. I had to get a toaster oven for crafting and found one for $10 at the thrift store! At that price you could use it during the renovation and then donate it back again if you didn’t want it in your new kitchen. The amount you could save in takeout costs would make that a totally worthwhile investment.
Thursday 11th of January 2018
One suggestion for the griddle is to make grilled cheese or toasted sandwiches. We do that all the time instead of making them one at a time over the stove. It is also a great way to saute veggies for stir fry.
One other great tool is a rice cooker. That is used at least weekly in our house!
Monday 8th of January 2018
The big key for me was that I know a lot of the science behind cooking, so I could make a pretty good guess as to what I needed to change to make a recipe work in my equipment, or if it was something I just needed to leave to takeout or a friend's kitchen (I also bargained with friends to let me cook in their kitchen, then I would serve dinner, and bring my own leftovers home of whatever it was that I couldn't make in my own little apartment).
So maybe offer to make dinner at a friend's house, and watch some Alton Brown on the science of cooking? :-)
Monday 8th of January 2018
As a young 20-something, I lived in a basement apartment for 9 months that didn't have a range. Everything I ate, I cooked in my electric skillet, George Foreman, toaster oven, crock pot, or microwave.
For non-mushy veggies: There are several "steam in the microwave" containers out there, that are all basically a bowl with a vented lid. The key is to use just a small amount of water, like a previous commenter mentioned, undercook the veggies, then let them finish cooking by sitting in the steam for a few minutes before serving.
The only thing I missed was being able to bake bread and pizza, but I lived within walking distance of several good bakeries and a decent pizzeria.
In the toaster oven: mini muffins, open-faced toasted sandwiches, even s'mores (done on the broil setting to brown the marshmallow without toasting the graham cracker), reheated pizza, etc.
In the crockpot - pretty much anything you would normally make in a soup pot, plus certain "roasted" items like potroast.
I modified a lot of pasta recipes to cook the pasta directly in the sauce, since I only had one electric skillet. I also used to cook small amounts of pasta in the microwave.
I made so much stuff in that skillet - pancakes, seared scallops, chicken marsala, etc. Even a modified cornbread - it was basically cornbread batter that I cooked by dropping in tablespoons on the skillet, almost like crumpets or pancakes.
Friday 5th of January 2018
We lived in a hotel for two months during a move. It had a kitchenette: a small fridge, two burners, a few dishes, and a microwave. I made it for about a month before I bought a toaster oven for the dry heat. Skillet meals and reheated food became old very quickly.