Laundry Room Cuisine – Kitchen Remodeling
My most often asked question is “So do you eat out every night or what?”
It has come from my neighbors, friends, family, and the many people that are coming and going from this kitchenless house. As I write this, I am waiting for plumbers, electricians, dry wallers, and others to arrive and attend to many details. We are inching toward a functional kitchen after gutting the original 1953 model in our new-to-us-home. It has only been 110 days of dishes done hunched over the bathtub. Meanwhile, we are all about laundry room cuisine. You can take a cook out of the kitchen but she or he is probably not going to stop cooking. While I adore eating out and trying new things, my pocketbook, my waistline, and my end-of-the-day energy level during renovations does not allow for this luxury daily.
So if you are wondering how you will get by when you tackle your kitchen renovation, I am happy to share a few tips with you. It is possible to eat delicious, homemade food with a few countertop appliances.
One of the life-saving discovers in my laundry room cuisine adventure has been the use of Slow Cooker Liners. I have seen them in the store but had thought them to be an unnecessary expense. Let me just say that I was totally wrong. The only difficult thing about slow cooker meals is the scrubbing of the crock which always seems to be a stuck-on mess. With the liner, you simply toss it in the trash and wash the lid.
Tips for Going Temporarily Kitchenless:
Choose a designated area to be your “kitchen.” In my case, it was the laundry room. But it could be in the corner of any room.
Create a work surface. It might be a folding table or you might make use of one the old kitchen cabinets and countertops that are being removed from your kitchen.
Clear out some storage space to serve as a temporary pantry and dish storage area. I am using a closet that was already in my laundry room. If I did not have that, I would have moved in some shelving from my garage. (Boxing up the items on the shelves until after renovations so I could use the shelves.)
Stock your new storage area with just the bare essentials. You will not be throwing any dinner parties or having twenty in for coffee during the next weeks so you can limit yourself to enough plastic drinking glasses and coffee cups to get by. Pack up the rest. If you have a dish set for 12, you will probably only want to use a portion of the set and pack the rest. Remember, your new motto is to keep it simple. I have used paper plates when the food was not too heavy or messy.
Notice I suggested that you use plastic drinking glasses. This is because you are going to be washing dishes by hand in either a utility sink or the bathtub and carrying them back and forth. It is going to be easier if you choose the items that are non-breakable and certainly choose your older dishes that you will not be stressed about chipping.
Set up an area for dishwashing. I saved a dish drainer and a deep vegetable bin from the old leaky fridge. It made a handy deep dishpan for my bathtub.
Most of your cooking tools can be packed up. With minimal ways to use them, you really will not miss them. I have been able to get by with a can opener, turner, wooden spoon, big metal spoon, ladle, salad tongs, two good knives, a cutting board and a cork screw!
Do keep your spices, condiments and things like cooking oils and vinegars handy in your new space. From your pantry, only keep out the items that you can cook in your countertop appliances. Anything that would be hard to cook in that manner, like a cake mix, can be boxed up until the kitchen is done.
Choose versatile countertop appliances. My selection included the cannot-live-without-it coffee maker, toaster, slow cooker and electric skillet. You will also want a surge protector strip to make it easier to plug in and use these. I also have an outdoor barbeque grill but at the current temperature of 14 degrees, it hasn’t been used too often.
Planning, Shopping and Prepping:
Allow a bit more time for planning meals as many of your go-to favorites cannot be repeated without a full kitchen or a huge mess. But cheer up as that means you get to try new dishes- always a plus for a cook.
Slow Cooker (Crock Pot) – Do think ahead. With slow cooker recipes, you need to be prepping earlier in the day. I have used my phone alarm to remind me to start items or add ingredients.
Convenience Foods -Take advantage of convenience foods that you probably have not had the need to try. One that has really been helpful is premade rice in a pouch that only takes 90 seconds to heat up. I have been able to add that to my slow cooker pot of gumbo or use with the electric skillet stir-fry. Another favorite is already cooked and crumbled turkey sausage. I have used it as a flavorful and less-fat alternative to ground beef. I browned ground beef and then cleaning up greasy skillet in the bathtub once and decided not to do that again! Both the fresh produce section and the frozen food section have vegetables that can be microwave steamed in the bag. This gives you healthy alternatives without a dish to clean up.
Here are a few of the menus that I came up with. Use these to get you started:
Slow Cooker (Crock Pot):
Turkey breast topped with cream of mushroom and garlic soup
Gumbo – made with chicken breast and precooked sausage
New potatoes with diced red onion, fresh jalapeno and a dap of olive oil
Pinto Bean and Chicken Tacos:
These tacos were made using the slow cooker and electric skillet. The slow cooker allowed me to make a tasty mixture of pinto beans, chicken breast, and salsa. Flour tortillas were warmed in the skillet. Filled and topped with fresh cilantro, lettuce, diced tomatoes, cheese, and fat-free sour cream.
Lots more Slow Cooker – Crock Pot Recipes
Stuffing Mix enhanced with diced fresh celery and onion
Fresh Green Beans – steamed in bag they are sold in
Packaged Rice – steamed in bag
Chicken and Caramelized Onion Meatball Subs – store bought meatballs and “doctored up” pasta sauce
Couscous cooked in chicken broth and topped with scallions and goat cheese crumbles
Frozen Broccoli – steamed in bag
Pan grilled tilapia
One skillet beef stroganoff
Grill or Barbecue:
Marinated and grilled pork chops
Grilled squash and sweet onions
Bakery Hoagie Rolls
Canned and chilled Three-Bean Salad
Fresh veggie salad topped with Mexican seasoned shrimp
Steam fresh green beans, and asparagus in microwave and transfer to cold water to chill and crisp. Drain and add to your favorite salad ingredients. Top salad with shrimp sautd in the electric skillet with cumin, cilantro, a little salt, and a dash or red pepper. Serve with a sprinkle of olive oil and fresh lime juice.
Tossed Green Salad
Author Lea Schneider, a columnist for What’s Cooking America, is a freelance writer and organizational expert whose organizing ideas have been published in many magazines including Woman’s Day, Better Homes and Gardens Kitchen and Bath Ideas, Family Circle, Parents Magazine, as well as numerous newspapers and websites. She is a member of the Association of Food Journalists.
Check out all of Lea Schneider’s helpful home and kitchen columns at Organizing Kitchens, Pantries, Menus and Meals.