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Zoethe

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Living with a small kitchen [Sep. 12th, 2011|04:45 pm]
Zoethe
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I love my new kitchen with all my heart. And I know how lucky I am to have been able to remodel it. It's beautiful, and opening it to the dining living rooms has accomplished the social goals I had in mind.



But it's still a small kitchen.


At 10'x11', it's not the kind of micro-kitchen that New Yorkers famously endure, but it's still small by today's standard of luxury kitchens, it's itty bitty. And in this day and age, when kitchen catalogs are practically pornographic, dripping with shiny, colorful, richly enameled, or fabulously specialized equipment, an itty bitty kitchen can feel limiting. Sometimes I look at all those fancy bit of equipment with lust in my heart.

But a small kitchen doesn't have to be a disadvantage. The trick is to figure out the right equipment to put into the space you have, to pay attention to what you use and what you don't use, and to arrange your storage in such a way that you can get to the equipment you have.

First of all, figure out if there is somewhere besides your kitchen where you can store some of the kitchen items. I don't have a pantry, but I do have my built-in china hutch. Our dishes and wine glasses are stored in the upper area, serving dishes and some appliances are stored below. If you have infrequently-used items such as seasonal dishes, storing them outside the kitchen can free up space.

Second figure out what you really need in the line of appliances. Dedicated use appliances can be lovely, but lots of them serve far too narrow a function to take up space in a small kitchen. Here is a list of appliances I have in my kitchen, in the order of my frequency of use. I initially thought about making the list in "order of importance," but that would be artificial, because what we "think" is important and what is actually used are frequently two different things:

Rice cooker: When my sister gave me a rice cooker for Christmas, I gave her that, "gosh, how wonderful of you" smile. Little did I know that I would use the silly thing more than any other appliance in my kitchen. We eat a lot of rice, I admit, but it can also be used to cook oatmeal, quinoa, and other grains. I love the "set it and forget it" of the rice cooker, and how I don't have the thing boiling over and scalding starch onto my stovetop all the time. It has a permanent place on my counter.

Electric kettle: To most Americans, an appliance designed solely for boiling water might seem like a waste, but no British household would be without their electric kettle - Brits are baffled at how we live without them. And now that I have one, I agree. Besides the ease of tea or coffee brewing, we use it to get a jumpstart on cooking pasta or potatoes or anything else that requires boiling water. It's fast and easy, and everyone who has one loves theirs.

Pressure cooker: Most pressure cookers are stovetop appliances, but ours happens to be a freestanding electric one. It's a very handy device, because it has built-in timers so there's no danger of forgetting and burning the dinner. Pressure cookers have come back into fashion after years of a reputation as the producer of your great-aunt's nasty lima bean stew that exploded all over the kitchen ceiling. The new ones are better designed and no longer a bomb waiting to detonate. They are also a quick way to produce amazingly tasty meals in half an hour. I use mine at least once a week, if not more.

Toaster: If your kitchen is really tiny, you can live without a toaster. The broiler in your oven can be used to toast bread. And if you're going all low carb, a toaster is definitely a waste of space. But if you're a bread baker, well....

Blender: Honestly, we really only use ours for smoothies. But if I'm making these in order, then blender comes next.

Food processor: I use this less than I could because I'm lazy in a really backward way. I would rather chop and grate by hand than clean the processor. This is time-wasting, wrong-headed thinking. Food processors are a wonderfully efficient way to reduce big chunky food into small bits for cooking.

Stand mixer: I would use this more than I do, but I like hand-kneading my bread. If you do any baking, a quality stand mixer is a worthwhile investment.

Microwave: If I didn't have a over-the-stove microwave, I don't think that I would devote the counter space to one. They're handy for reheating leftovers, and defrosting meat, but other than that I don't use mine at all.

Infusion Immersion blender (oops; sorry if I confused anyone): I just started using mine, and it's brilliant. If I didn't have space for a blender, I would definitely want an infusion blender.

Hand mixer: Handy for small jobs like mashing potatoes for two without dirtying more bowls. Not a good substitute for a stand mixer for large jobs, but a perfectly good substitute if you aren't a regular baker.

Other appliances I own but hardly use: I have a slow cooker, and I only drag it out to make spiced cider at the holidays. I have a coffee maker, but since I drink it irregularly it's stored away for when we have coffee-drinking company. The bread maker? Since it's stowed in the top of a linen closet, I just haven't gotten around to throwing it out yet.

Next: cookware.

Crossposting from Dreamwidth now. Sigh. If LJ won't let you comment, you can comment here: http://zoethe.dreamwidth.org/783502.html?mode=reply:
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[User Picture]From: bunny42
2011-09-12 09:05 pm (UTC)
We have very little counter space, but I use the toaster oven almost every day. It is big enough to cook many items one would ordinarily use the big oven for, without heating up the kitchen. And it makes toast, too! 8-)

Also, we have so little cabinet space, I had to get some Rubbermaid cabinets to store large kitchen items outside on the patio! It's challenging when one really enjoys cooking.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-09-12 09:10 pm (UTC)
It's definitely a challenge, but it can be done!

I've considered a toaster oven. They are a handy size.
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[User Picture]From: elfwench
2011-09-12 09:21 pm (UTC)
Things I've wanted for a while are a good stand mixer and a food processor, especially since I'm (a) vowing to myself to eat better, and (b) doing more cooking and baking for church pitch-ins. There's also the fact that cutting, chopping, and grating by hand is becoming more cumbersome as my Ataxia progresses on it's slow course, which is just a fact of life now. Improvise, adapt, overcome. *nod*
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-09-12 09:26 pm (UTC)
If you have access to garage sales, you can often find appliances at them.
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[User Picture]From: mariadkins
2011-09-12 09:23 pm (UTC)
i have a toaster oven, but i've not been using it much. i have a handheld mixer, but i use an old-fashioned potato masher for mashing potatoes. :) i'd be totally lost without my electric kettle.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-09-12 09:26 pm (UTC)
Aren't kettles wonderful?!
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[User Picture]From: redstapler
2011-09-12 09:30 pm (UTC)
My mom grew up in the 'burbs, but lived in Manhattan for pretty much her entire adult life.

She *loved* the galley kitchen in the apartment she lived in from 1972 on.

She loved that she didn't have to run all around to get her cooking done. She was never more than two steps from the fridge to the stove to the counter.

I'm amazed at what she was able to do with such minimal counter space, but now, having a larger kitchen, I definitely see her point about efficiency vs larger kitchens.
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[User Picture]From: mariadkins
2011-09-12 09:30 pm (UTC)
that's what i have - a galley - in my apartment. everything is in arm's reach.
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[User Picture]From: roniliquidity
2011-09-12 09:48 pm (UTC)
Really works for you in the pressure cooker? I use mine for beef stew, and chicken noodle soup and that's it. I've tried other thins and it's just seems to consistently over cook, maybe mine's just awful.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-09-12 09:52 pm (UTC)
I've made terrific chicken paprikash, marsala, and lots of other dishes in it.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-09-12 10:27 pm (UTC)
Rice cooker, blender, kettle, mixer, toaster, and food processor have permanent counter space, and did even when we had less counter.

I do love having all this extra counter.
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[User Picture]From: jojomojo
2011-09-12 10:52 pm (UTC)
Its luxurious by uk standards ;)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-09-12 11:56 pm (UTC)
Yes, those are VERY different standards!

Then again, I've tasted English cooking... ;-)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-09-12 11:58 pm (UTC)
Immersion! That's what I meant! Duh.

I don't hate my food processor, but I have the same issues with it as you. I know it's silly, since it can go in the dishwasher.
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[User Picture]From: brujah
2011-09-12 11:04 pm (UTC)
I'd gladly give up my microwave before my electric kettle. Any day.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-09-13 12:04 am (UTC)
Very much so.
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[User Picture]From: kathrynrose
2011-09-12 11:59 pm (UTC)
I realize you guys live way up in the northland, but if you don't have a Mardi Gras party in that perfectly painted kitchen and dining room, it will be a crime.

Seriously. I'll send you a king cake.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-09-13 12:05 am (UTC)
Hee! I never considered having one, but you're right that we should. I'll take a king cake!
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[User Picture]From: merle_
2011-09-13 12:37 am (UTC)
I'd put mine in the order: microwave, water kettle, immersion blender (which hides away nicely in a drawer), rice cooker, toaster, stand mixer, and if you count it the French press. The regular blender is gathering dust (immersion ones are good enough for smoothies and purees), the slow cooker gets too hot and lives on a shelf far away, and the happy accurate kitchen scale sees more use for envelopes or yarn than for ingredients.

And yes, the microwave is only for reheats or defrosts. Do people actually cook in theirs?

If forced to choose I'd keep a small microwave (it can cook water too), rice cooker, and immersion blender. The rest can be emulated or lived without.
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From: simulated_knave
2011-09-13 02:58 am (UTC)
One of my acquisitions in university was a microwave cookbook. You can actually do quite a bit (and it poaches eggs pretty well, if you get an egg poaching thingy for it).

Microwaves are also valuable when cooking squash and melting chocolate. And cooking frozen vegetables, if that counts.
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[User Picture]From: tormentedartist
2011-09-13 01:22 am (UTC)
I am the same way about the food processor. The only time I will use it is if its clearly superior to chopping stuff by hand or to mix and chop at the same time like if I'm making Pico De Gallo and I want some garlic,jalpeno and cilantro mixed. Much easier to jsut put that stuff in the mini prep.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-09-13 04:29 am (UTC)
I could easily use it almost daily to chop or shred, and yet I don't. Neither do other people, though That's a design flaw.
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[User Picture]From: mrs_kat_tyler
2011-09-13 01:28 am (UTC)
Our kitchen is a tiny one [we have about 6 feet of counter space all together] but I definitely love kitchen electrics.

I agree with the love of electric kettles--so wonderful. Since we don't have A/C, I invested in a counter top convection oven for toast, small baked goods and such during the heat of the summer.

We actually cook quite a bit with our microwave. Its been shown to keep more vitamins in veggies than boiling or steaming, so use it for that a lot. Plus, it makes great steamed-in-parchment fish and a nearly no-stir risotto. We also use our slow cooker quite a bit. I particularly love it for overnight oatmeal.

The last thing I really love is my mini Cuisinart food processor. It doesn't have the slicing and grating functions of a large one, but it chops things up wonderfully and its really small [and it was very inexpensive!]
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-09-13 04:34 am (UTC)
My veggies usually get broiled or sautéd. Not big on steaming or microwave--I dislike the texture most of the time. . I do use my microwave to make cream of wheat, but really not much else!
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From: simulated_knave
2011-09-13 02:55 am (UTC)
You don't slow cook? But slow-cooked chili is a gift from the gods, and eminently freezable...

This is going to be one of those "Ferrett won't eat it" things, isn't it?

Also: know that I love these domestic posts a lot. However, dear god, replace your dishwasher. Or paint it, even. Or cut it out of every photo. Just make it stop CLASHING so... ;)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-09-13 12:17 pm (UTC)
I will have to photoshop it, LOL. it isn't as glaring in day to day living, I promise

No, the slow cooking isn't a Ferrett thing. It's my temperament. Starting dinner in the morning is just something to which I've never taken.
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[User Picture]From: katiger
2011-09-13 03:15 am (UTC)
So is it common for American households not to have a kettle then? I'm from Australia and not having a kettle in your kitchen is unheard of!
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-09-13 12:21 pm (UTC)
I'd never even heard of them until we went to England in 2006, but they are becoming a bit more common now. Still, I doubt that one US household in 10 has them.
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