One Tiny Thanksgiving

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This article first appeared in the Tiny House Magazine Nov 2018

From a culinary perspective, Thanksgiving has never been my favorite holiday.  I mean… when has turkey ever been anyone’s protein of choice?


Yams or Sweet Potatoes with

Particularly baffling  are the candied yams that were often served with the meal… even though they were as sweet or sweeter than the dessert served at the end.  What the heck is this dish?  Roasted sweet potatoes are wonderful.   This.  Is.  Not.

For a number of years I served anything but traditional Thanksgiving food.  One year it was home made pizza and French Silk pie, I remember the pie.  Turkey?  Nobody remembers turkey.  Except the guy who burned down his garage with the fryer.

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As published in the Tiny House Magazine, Nov 2018

71Wh80iIrtL._SX425_Another year I was hosting a number of Korean women who were exchange students who hadn’t experienced a traditional American Thanksgiving.  That year I did the whole nine yards of traditional Thanksgiving food (minus the candied yams) and it was good.  Our guests were so sweet about the food and it was the only meal in our house they didn’t cover with Sriracha so I’m guessing they were pretty much caught in the seventh circle of polite hell for that entire meal.

In those days I had a 288 sq ft kitchen, and I wrote myself a schedule and measured my baking dishes to make sure I could fit everything in the oven to have it all hot and ready at the right time.  Our first tiny home could literally fit inside that kitchen with room to spare!  Same with our Skoolie.  If you really love traditional American Thanksgiving fare, how do you go about that in a tiny house kitchen?IMG_9081

IMG_9103 (2)I took a crack at that this week.  I was going for a one-pot-wonder version of Thanksgiving.  And of course the pot in question would be a cast iron skillet.  We picked out two cute little Cornish Game Hens and I added baby white, redskin, and purple potatoes, carrots, celery, one onion cut into cubes, garlic cloves, butter, and rosemary.  What you can’t see from the photo is that I lined the skillet with bacon, and added a few tablespoons of butter.  I topped it with freshly cracked black pepper and my favorite applewood smoked salt.  Surely this would be a show stopper.

I roasted it in my cast iron skillet for an 1.5 hours at 350 degrees – and it was still pretty cute.  Just like a real chicken, only smaller and cuter.  Perfect for the tiny house community, right?  The simplicity of a dish like this really appeals to me.  To bad it just tasted like chicken. 

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Roasted Cornish Hens with Vegetables


Maybe if it were served with a salad of micro-greens and baby tomatoes?

For dessert, how about these insanely adorable individual pumpkin cakes from the Preppy Kitchen on YouTube?

However, assuming you and I might like to do something besides petting pumpkin cakes during the week leading up to the feast… I’ll pass.  I *might* consider making one pumpkin cake made in a full size bundt pan . . . but making those little individual guys?  Yeah.  Not happening at my house.  Adorable though.  Like bang-my-head-against-the-wall adorable.  Sometimes bigger is better.  Wait… did I just say that in the tiny house community?  I don’t conform well.


Xaver and I went tiny in the fall of 2014 and we loved our cute little mortgage-free house.  It was so cozy and liberating!  Then November rolled around and that’s the one time of the year that I want apple pie.  And as I looked around at my adorable tiny house… the cold hard reality sank in.  A) There wasn’t room for making pastry. B) There wasn’t a reliable oven that could safely bake a pie for an hour and C) do you have any idea how big a little mess is in a tiny house?!  And that’s when I got grumpy.  This is the point in the story when my handsome Austrian husband nods and says “so true” and everyone laughs.  Buggaheads. lol!

IMG_20170107_181712168 (2)That year my “Attitude of Gratitude” was parked on the shoulder of the freeway with everyone else zooming past.  None of it was cute anymore and I just felt poor.  Did I mention grumpy?

I was a happily married woman with no mortgage, taking life on my own terms.  And I was wasting my energy feeling poor?  Yeah.  No!  That’s when I learned that it’s simple enough to ask a friend if I can come to their house and bake apple pies.  Who would say no to that?!  I’ve made apple pies at our favorite AirBNB in Norfolk – the host happened to be out of town at the time.  I knew he wouldn’t mind finding the homemade apple pie in the freezer when he got home.  I didn’t know about the Breville Smart Oven Air at the time, and that would have cleared up my self pity laden, poverty stricken, painful little pie problem.  It’s starting to sound like a rash.

IMG_20170104_134213919_HDRMy blog post on Choosing the Right Oven for our Skoolie Kitchen.

I even made pies in the church kitchen for a group of homeless folks.  That experience gave me something I sorely needed: perspective.  And then I grew some gratitude.  Gratitude is powerful stuff.

I slowly began to realize that living tiny wasn’t about sacrifice and denying myself things I enjoyed.equilibrium of simplicity  It WAS, however, about embracing purposeful simplicity.  The more I embraced simplicity, the more our house that just happened to be tiny became our haven-home.  A few years later my “aha moment” was that a tiny house can’t change your life, a house doesn’t have that kind of power.  However, Simplicity changes everything.  The more you embrace Simplicity, the more your house (whatever size it is) becomes your haven-home.

Smaller is still better unless we are talking about OCD mini pumpkin cakes.  Those are just ridiculous.  

Happy Thanksgiving!

Carmen Shenk Logo Mini




Shrimp Rohini


I recently read Cooking for Ghosts by Patricia V. Davis and came across this fictional dish “Shrimp Rohini” and I knew right away I had to make my own version.

Cynthia, Rohini, Jane, and Angela meet on a food blogging site and bond over recipes.  On impulse, they decide to open The Secret Spice, and elegant cafe on the magnificent ocean liner, the RMS Queen Mary, currently a floating hotel in Long Beach, California.  Chef Christiano creates this shrimp dish in honor of the beautiful and exotic Rohini, an herbalist from India.  This magic of this dish is sprinkled through the story and I don’t want to give away one more detail… you’ll just have to get your own copy to see what I mean.  Suffice it to say I really wanted to create my own real-life version of this fictional (maybe even magical) dish.

The characters in the book don’t give us many clues to their secret spices, but nutmeg is mentioned a number of times among Rohini’s stash of herbs and spices.  Nutmeg has long been one of my favorite spices, especially in savory foods.  I’ve been making chicken sprinkled with freshly grated nutmeg for years, and nutmeg is sometimes the secret spice in Italian cooking.

cooking for ghostsAnother of my favorite secret spices is smoked paprika.  Sorry, regular paprika just won’t do.  Smoked paprika is no longer difficult to find, thankfully, and it is a marvel!  If you haven’t already tried it, cut up your favorite kind of potatoes and toss them with olive oil, sea salt, freshly cracked black pepper, and smoked paprika, spread them out on a pan covered with parchment paper and roast them in the oven.  It’s so simple, but it’s wonderful! Cardamom is one of India’s secret spices, it’s rich, complex, and exotic.  I had a dish at my favorite Indian restaurant that sent me home trying to recreate it, and of course cardamom was the secret spice ingredient.  Yum!  I’ve paired these three marvelous spices with the sweetness of sauteed onions, a hint of garlic, and the bite of freshly cracked black pepper.  If you’d like to add heat to this dish, add a dash of your favorite cayenne pepper.

This is how I imagine Chef Christiano’s Shrimp Rohini.
Yield: Serves 2

From start to finish this recipe goes very quickly, so it’s best to be prepared and focused and use your mise en place skills.

Start the pasta water and cook the angel hair pasta al dente, which happens quickly.  Drain the pasta and add the bell pepper rings, and cover to allow the thinly sliced pepper rings to steam.

cropped-img_7524.jpgIn the bottom of an enamel dutch oven, bloom the smoked paprika, nutmeg, and cardamom by gently stirring them in the dry pan over high heat until you begin to smell their fragrance.  Then add the olive oil and butter and stir until the butter melts.  This deepens the flavor of the spices.  Then add the sliced red onions and finally minced garlic and cook until the onions are soft.  Deglaze the pan with a splash of your favorite dry white wine.  Add the shrimp and saute quickly, watching them carefully.  Just when they begin to lose their translucent quality add the pasta and peppers and toss it all together, tossing to coat the pasta in the flavorful spices.  Plate immediately.  Use tongs to grab the pasta and plate it by twirling it into the shape of a nest, then top it with the shrimp.  Garnish the dish with the sliced spring onions and fresh parsley.  And finally, finish with a sprinkling of freshly cracked black pepper to taste.  Serve immediately.

You may notice that I didn’t put additional salt in the recipe.  As much as I love sea salt (and Manfriend will tell you that I like it a little bit too much) using salted butter may be just the right amount of salt for this recipe.  But as always, salt and pepper to taste.

I’ve made the recipe a number of times now, once with quite large shrimp, and then again with smaller ones and I was surprised to find that I preferred the small ones as the flavor seemed to permeate into the shrimp better.

 Try my Shrimp Rohini recipe and let me know what you think.
And stay tuned, I’ve already got my eye on a number of the desserts mentioned in this book.  Don’t you think Shrimp Rohini would be amazing with Angela’s Black Magic Lemon Tarts for dessert?  I do.

And last, but certainly not least… I’ve entered this Shrimp Rohini recipe in Novel Food, a project of Simona Carini, a food storyteller.  Patricia V. Davis mentioned that I should check this out and I have fallen head over heals for this concept and look forward to adding more recipes as I have time.  As a matter of fact, I really love the concept of a collection of recipes inspired by my favorite books, don’t you?  To enter your own recipe, go here: All the delicious details are there, along with links to previous editions.  I looked through a few and everything looks delicious.




Welcome to the Tiny House Foodie!  I’m Chef Carmen and I’m going to show you how to cook great meals like a chef, but all within the confines of a small kitchen.  It can be done, I promise.  I’ve lived in a tiny house for a number of years and I’ll show you how.  Stay Tuned!  ~Chef Carmen

First blog post

Hey everyone, Chef Carmen here.  I look forward to sharing great videos, blog posts, ebooks, and books with you… all focused on creating great food in small spaces.  It can be done, but it requires a specific mindset and willingness to try.  I know you’ll love it.  Stick around, I’m cooking up something yummy just for you!