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

We 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!

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!