Mise en Place

“A place for everything, everything in its place.”  —Benjamin Franklin

There is a cooking practice, called Mise en Place [mizã ‘plas] which means putting each ingredient in place before you begin cooking. This is a classical approach to cooking used by professionals to have every ingredient ready to go at the beginning of service. 28c13-img_7861For example, instead of having a bell pepper on the counter, a chef would prepare a container of bell pepper cut precisely the way she or he prefers. Chef would prepare this before any cooking began. Television cooking shows sometimes do this: every ingredient—even each spice—will be placed out on the counter in darling little bowls. This sort of preparedness and efficiency allows one to enjoy the un-rushed art of focused cooking that can lead to spectacular meals.

Red Black 2To follow “Mise en Place” literally creates a lot of dishes to wash and I have mixed feelings about this.  I do keep some sweet little bowls in my kitchen, because I love them and I have collected them over the years when I see a cute one at a thrift shop.  I don’t cook by recipe though, so I’m not measuring out a teaspoon of this or that and putting it in a lovely tiny bowl – only to empty it into the saute pan in a few moments.  In fact, I enjoy a variation of “Mise en Place” cooking simply by having the lemons, limes, garlic, ginger, and other spices and herbs conveniently located to my cooktop.  In fact, because my kitchen is tiny, everything is already conveniently located – and isn’t that the point of Mise en Place?

Red Black 1The beauty of a tiny kitchen is that you may set it up for efficiency. Everything can be right in its place, and right within reach, not because you got it out of the cabinet to put it there – but because that’s where it lives. The tiny house kitchen has a sort of built in efficiency that guarantees that every ingredient and tool is close at hand. You can still decide to prep ingredients before you begin cooking – such as cutting the vegetables and peeling the shrimp. Efficiency is one of the things I love about cooking in a tiny house kitchen.

49678-img_7877In fact, Xaver and I visited our favorite AirBNB for a working vacation. There is an expansive glorious tricked-out kitchen that is pure perfection in every respect and I love it! I was looking forward to really spreading out and enjoying some cooking and baking in a “real” kitchen after having lived tiny for so long. What surprised me was how frustrating it was to want something that was on the other side of the kitchen and how much time I spent running around gathering up ingredients and equipment – not to mention cleaning it all and putting it back away. I was surprised how much longer it took me to prepare a very simple meal. I was also surprised by how annoying it was to want the plate that was held captive in a dish washer that wouldn’t be done washing for a while. In fact, I was very surprised to find that cooking in a large kitchen equipped with every possible convenience was much more tiring and much less fun than I remembered. Wasn’t this kitchen the holy grail? Surprisingly, no. Not to me. Not anymore.

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Mind you, our entire tiny house could fit inside that kitchen with room to spare – so the scale and proportions are hilarious by contrast.  For many people, a large kitchen is their “normal”. In fact, when we had the restaurant we had an expansive 580 sq ft prep kitchen and a smaller 240 sq ft kitchen where dishes were assembled and plated. I was used to cooking in a tricked-out kitchen… but look how my sense of normal changed after living tiny for a number of years?! Now, I’m perfectly happy to cook a great meal in a very small kitchen where everything is right at hand. In fact, having now tried the various cooking and baking options, I’d have to say that a tiny kitchen is my preference.  I’m as surprised by this as you are.

Shrimp Rohini

Shrimp Rohini, recipe by Carmen Shenk

great-food-simply-preparedWe tend to think of having a small kitchen as a problem to be dealt with.  We wonder if we will have room to cook our favorite dishes or bake our favorite treats.  We fear running out of space and being frustrated by a confining kitchen. But living tiny has taught me that cooking in a tiny kitchen is a wonderful thing.  Everything is right there.  There are no wasted steps.  There is no needless complexity.  It’s just focused, fun, efficient cooking.

We tend to worry about the space we may lose in a tiny kitchen, but what if we focused instead on the efficiency we gain?

What if the tiny house kitchen was the “holy grail” of cooking and we just didn’t know it?!

That’s something to chew on, isn’t it?!

Signature Tiny House Foodie logoBTW, doesn’t that Shrimp dish look amazing?  The recipe I created for Shrimp Rohini is here… (along with the story of what inspired it) and that’s one dish where cooking in the traditional Mise en Place style is a very good idea!  Enjoy!

Introducing the Capsule Kitchen

Creating a “Capsule” of Essentials

Photo Oct 25, 6 31 06 PMIn the 1970’s, boutique owner Susie Faux created a collection of a few essential items of clothing that don’t go out of fashion. The idea was that with a few good basics, you could create a wardrobe of clothing that was infinitely useful, always interchangeable, and came with the confidence that no matter which items you paired – you’d be well dressed. The question of “What will I wear?” was drastically simplified by owning less, while each item was of a better quality. Thus the “capsule wardrobe” was born and various clothing designers, boutique owners, consumers, and bloggers have continued the tradition.

I love my capsule wardrobe and find that I am better dressed than ever. I’m wearing better quality clothing, and I leave the house with more confidence. Plus, once I have my capsule in place, I find it much easier to donate good quality items that didn’t make the cut.

Recently I asked myself… “Why can’t I apply this capsule concept to the kitchen?” And that’s how this Capsule Kitchen idea began.  And really… what could be more perfect for a tiny house kitchen, than a key group of essentials from which you can cook anything?! 

Therefore, I’m bringing you my capsule kitchen with this Tiny House Foodie website. This is a little group of classic foodie essentials that bring cooking back to the age-old basics without sacrificing flavor or contentment.

I’ve recently given my website a big makeover, and set up the material more like a class.  You can see the various modules of the class on the front page of the website.  Take them at your own pace, and as you dive into each section, follow this simple process:

Photo Oct 25, 3 12 54 PMFirst, go through your own kitchen with me, section by section.

And the first thing to do is to take inventory.  Bring everything out of the cabinets (one section at a time) and put it all on the table or on the counter tops, and have a look around at it all.  Does it surprise you that there is so much?

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Second, as you look at the collection, look for items that are not good for you.

Toxic Teflon coatings on cookware, or glasses with chips that have made the edges sharp, or plastic that could be leaching chemicals into your food.  Immediately remove those items from your collection to the trash, and recycle where possible.  Also remove malignant items – things that have a negative memory or sense of shame attached.  We have all outgrown having toxic things around, people and malignant things.  As an act of self care, remove these items.

Photo Oct 25, 3 19 29 PMThird, assess what’s in your collection.

If items are broken, or if a pan has a loose handle that looks like it might let loose at some inopportune moment, remove those items to the trash.  If the mixer has been hanging on by a tattered cord, remove it.  Things that are simply worn out may be removed to the trash.  I know the environment is in crisis, but your home is not the landfill.  You have permission not to live with trash in your home, so quickly remove worn out things from your space.  Recycle where possible.  Donate if there seems to be some life left in an item.

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Now, create the capsule kitchen you want based on the way you cook.

(Not the way you want to cook, or the cook you wish you were… but the way you actually cook today.)

  • Consider what equipment in your kitchen gets used once a month or more often, and remove the rest to be donated.  Donating rarely used items frees you to be who you are, not who you were.
  • Upgrade key items to lifetime pieces using the buyer’s guide on these pages.
  • Never purchase something to match your kitchen – always purchase items in the colors you love the most.  They will inevitably match or blend nicely together.

A friend of mine suggested to her daughter to purchase a white Kitchen Aid because it would always go with everything.  But her daughter was inclined toward a beautiful green one.  My friend told me later that she regretted giving this advice to her daughter because she knew that she would find pleasure in having the green one – and it would always match her kitchen because she’s always loved green.  Choose colors that match you – and those items will always look great in your kitchen.


Before you begin taking things out of your kitchen cabinets, watch this:

I’ve set this up this website like a class, and the first thing I’d mention may not be the first think you think when you enter your kitchen and take a look around with downsizing on your mind.  However, it’s foundational to the process.  So today we begin by asking “What’s your Why?”  Think about it, find me on social media and leave me a comment.  I look forward to hearing from you.


Next, pick your favorites.

Your assignment for the day is to look around your kitchen and choose your favorite items. Get everyone in the family in on this. Choose items that have good memories and stories attached. Choose items that are beautiful and useful. Narrow it down to just three items per person in the household. It may seem like an easy assignment, but it may be harder than you think. This is where the simplicity of the Capsule Kitchen begins.

Photo Oct 25, 6 25 15 PMMy very favorite thing in my kitchen is a vivid fuchsia Kitchen Aid.  When we had the restaurant we had to create a schedule for using the one Kitchen Aid so it was time to purchase another to improve efficiency.  I happened to be walking by when my husband was shopping for the new one and saw the vivid fuchsia one and exclaimed over how beautiful it was.  Then I caught myself, because that wasn’t the wise purchase at that time.  Later when the box came and the gorgeous Kitchen Aid was inside and my Austrian just shrugged and said “It matches you…” and that simple machine became an example of the way he loves me extravagantly.  What a blessing he is to me!  Guess what’s on my counter in my kitchen – even though I don’t bake as much these days because of food allergies?!


Finally, Choose Your Cause

 

Today we talk about selling, donating, and giving away the things in your home that no longer serve your purpose. What is the charity in your area that supports a cause that matters to you? What kinds of donations do they accept? What other options do you have that are unique to your area and your values? How can you use your extra stuff to support these missions in your community? Prepare a few boxes for the things you no longer need and make a plan now to deliver those items to the charity of your choice. I’d love to hear how it’s going with you, please connect with me on social media and let me know how it’s going.

There is an exciting transformation ahead of you!

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Next:

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Sunflower Cake (Apricot Almond Cake)

Welcome back, I am so pleased to bring you my new favorite Paleo treat: “Sunflower Cake” or “Apricot Almond Cake” if you prefer, or even “Cake with Two Names” (or even three)!  No matter what you call it, it is inspired by Mary Berry’s Wobbly Apricot Tart, but it’s CAKE!  PLUS, it’s Paleo, which means no dairy, no gluten, no grains, and no problem.


There is no refined sugar in the recipe, but unfortunately, the almond paste comes with lots of sugar in it and my local stores don’t stock a almond paste that isn’t already sugar sweetened.  Marzipan is one of my favorite flavors, and it’s apricot season here, and the fruit has been marvelous this year!  That means it’s time for this delicious Apricot Almond cake.

So without further ado, here’s the recipe: (And you don’t have to have a mixer to make it!)

  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt (I’m using Pink Himalayan Rock Salt)
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda

Stir together and break all clumps.

  • Then add 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 2/3 cup coconut oil (it’s hot here today, so mine was already liquid, but if yours is pretty solid warm it slightly until it’s soft)
  • 2/3 cup honey (you may sub in maple syrup)
  • 4 large roughly treated fresh eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon almond extract (sounds like a lot, I know.  If you vanilla or almond extracts are extra strong, adjust accordingly.)

Stir together, and pour into a 9 inch round cake pan that has been buttered with coconut oil and lined with waxed paper (the waxed paper is an optional step that zero waste folks will be fine to skip).

  • 2 large fresh apricots, peeled, and sliced thin

Place the apricot slices evenly around the edge of the cake for sunflower petals.  I used two large apricots in the video, but I’ve since been back to the market for more and they were quite small the second time, so use what works for your situation.  It’s never wrong to have a  few left lovely fresh apricots left over for snacking.

  • 4 ounces almond paste

Roll paste into snakes, cut into even rounds and roll into little balls to be used for the middle of the sunflower.  Use a little powdered sugar to keep the paste from sticking to everything.  Any extra almond paste may be chopped and stirred into to the batter.

Bake at 350 degrees, conventional oven, for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

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Let me know what you think of my recipe.  I think it works as a dessert and as a breakfast cake.  And as you can see in the video, it’s easy to make in only 6 square feet plus oven and a sink for doing dishes.

Thanks for visiting my blog and stay tuned for many more great new recipes that you can make, even in a teeny tiny kitchen!  Even if you live in a tiny house like we do, you don’t have to sacrifice flavor!

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Welcome

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!