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!

Tiny House Yogurt

We don’t live in our Skoolie yet, but I do have the Skoolie oven already… the Breville Smart Oven Air.  I’m exploring what it will do and my favorite thing so far has been using the dehydrate function to make yogurt.

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 Yogurt that you can make and enjoy in your tiny house!

Yogurt is great for gut health, however… grocery store brands load yogurt up with sugar, fruit, and preservatives.  Some kinds of gut problems result from a yeast that feeds on sugar (fruit is a natural sugar), and preservatives are a culprit for other gut health issues – Yikes!  So grocery store yogurt can actually feed the problem instead of helping you heal!  Sucks, right?  Take it from someone who has had a real challenge with gut health – real yogurt – the homemade stuff – is part of the solution, not the problem!  And making your own is rewarding, delicious, good for the environment, and good for the gut health of you and your family!  Did I mention it is delicious?  Good!

When we had our restaurant, we used an Excalibur dehydrator to make yogurt for the fresh yogurt smoothies we had on our menu.  (You know how the VitaMix is the best blender?  Well, Excalibur is the best dehydrator!) We also had green smoothies and fresh juices in the restaurant.  I missed having a dehydrator around for yogurt, kale chips, and beautiful pineapple flowers.  It was one of the sacrifices we made in going tiny, no dehydrator.  No room.

The Breville Smart Oven Air

But when I found the Breville oven with the dehydrate function – SQUEE – I was delighted!  I can have an oven that will bake a pie AND a dehydrator – in one smart package!  We tiny house foodies do enjoy our multi-purpose kitchen tools!!  Plus, this one is $399 which seems like a lot for a toaster oven (it’s not a toaster oven) but when you consider how much less that is than a range it was a no-brainer for us.  (Not for everyone – no worries.)  Since our Skoolie is 128 square feet, we didn’t have room for a full size range, or even a fun-sized one.  I’ve already written about this oven, so check that out if you’re deciding which oven/range/cooktop is best for your tiny haven-home – plus there is a money saving tip at that link as well.

 

Would you like the yogurt recipe I use?

1 gallon whole fat milk.  (I use whole milk because it makes better yogurt and because I’ve read that whole fat is better for you than low fat or non-fat and I’m a purist anyway.  I like things that haven’t been tinkered with too much.)

When I’m ready to make yogurt, I buy some unsweetened whole milk yogurt at the grocery and use that as starter.  Then as long as I don’t eat ALL the yogurt and save some for a starter for the next batch – then there is no need to buy more.  Look on the label for active cultures.

Yep – that’s it.  Milk and yogurt cultures.  Pretty simple, huh?  (And yummy)

I put the milk in my 4.5 quart dutch oven (it just fits) and heat it to 180 degrees.  Since the dutch oven is cast iron, it may continue to rise in temperature a bit once the burner is off but that’s fine.  This step is to kill any bacteria that could be in the milk so that you can add the yogurt bacteria. Getting the milk anywhere between 180 and 195 degrees will do nicely.  Take care to warm the milk gently so that you don’t scald it.  If you think you may walk away and forget about it, set a timer to remind you.  I’ve boiled the milk all over my range before – BIG MESS – that’s why I mention it.  Once the milk hits the right temperature, turn off the heat and let it rest.

Test the temperature periodically until it has cooled to 100-120 degrees.  In my experience this will take about a half hour.  Whisk in the yogurt and transfer the mixture into glass jars.  I like to use the Pint jar with a wide mouth lid, because that way the rings and lids are the same as my food storage quart jars and that way I don’t have to keep two sets of rings and lids around.  Use the 8 ounce size if you want a single serve portion that is perfect to grab and go for a packed lunch.  This is a great way to kick plastic out of your life!  And if you can find milk locally in glass – this is a great zero-waste alternative to all those plastic yogurt containers.  Win!

 

Oh, are you wondering “how much yogurt?” to add to the warm milk?  Yeah, gotcha.  It will work with as little as three tablespoons of yogurt.  I make sure to save one of my jars of yogurt to use as culture – and so I just dump it all in.  Careful not to overflow!

IMG_4116Fill each jar and then carefully clean the jars with a cloth if there is any milk on the outside of the glass, then carefully set them into the Breville oven.  Space them evenly for air flow.  Use the “Select” knob to turn to the dehydrate function, then turn the temperature to 115 degrees.  I set the timer to 15 hours.  You’ll get thin yogurt at 8 hours (overnight works quite well for us) and the longer you go – the more tart and thick the yogurt will become.  Don’t mess with it while it’s in the oven – you won’t be able to tell the consistency while it’s warm anyway.  Just leave it alone in there overnight.  When you get up in the morning, carefully take the jars out to cool on the counter, then transfer them to the fridge.  I’ll put it in there after dinner and let it run all night and I suppose it’s usually in there about 10 hours – give or take.  It turns out delicious!!I suspect this is a project for an overnight where you are plugged in to shore power because it will take some power.  I would not do this while the bus/home is moving.  That could be a rather epic mess.

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My version of “Horse Chow” – our favorite breakfast

I’d love to know it if you make yogurt in your tiny home and what you think of it!

Be well,

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The Tiny House NC Street Festival

Street FestXaver and I had a great time at the Tiny House NC Street Festival in Pink Hill, North Carolina last weekend!  The hospitality of the host, Andrew Odom, and the community was spectacular.  They really did show southern hospitality and it was a joy to be there!

I spoke on Saturday and again on Sunday at “center stage” which was this lovely shaded spot with some bleachers and a sound system.  I spoke on Pain, Pie, Poverty, and Purpose.  We met the most interesting people – plus – touring those tiny homes and skoolies is always energizing to me!

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The best Shrimp & Grits I’ve ever had – from Chef & the Farmer

I tried to get a reservation at the Chef and the Farmer, but they were full.  That was fine, but then Andrew Odom pulled some strings and got us in, and boy are we grateful to him!!  Xaver and I even enjoyed a delectable meal of steak tartare, beet salad, catch of the day, shrimp & grits, and dessert!  That was the best meal I’ve ever had and it challenged me to up my game!  lol!

I’ve been getting really great feedback on the book and that is so gratifying.  After the many solitary months I have invested in getting those words on the page, it really rocks to share this message with the world and see it resonate with other people.  I wrote it to help people navigate the transition to living tiny – and it would appear that it is doing exactly that.  I’m soaking it all up and glowing because of this happy outcome!Screenshot (6)

Tiny houses and festivals are exciting and fun, but the downsizing process may not be.  I created a Super-Simple Kitchen Gear List to help you move gently through the process.  Sign up here to get the FREE PDF.  This is not dogma – just a resource to help you create the simple collection that is right for you.

PLUS, as an added bonusvideo series – here is my Right-Sizing Your Kitchen Video Series.  You will find this practical and helpful as you work through your kitchen at your own pace.  If you find that you need to replace or upgrade a few items, then check out my handy Buying Guide for help in selecting just the right items for you.  I have found that the quality-over-quantity approach really suits me.

I’m passionate about tiny house minimalism because it helped us hit the reset button on our lives and I know there are a lot of folks who would also benefit from a reset.  Plus, TINY house minimalism makes room for BIG dreams!  So I’ll happily travel to meet the people who are interested in tiny house living and I’ll have one message: I’m here to help you navigate through the transition of going tiny – especially in the kitchen.  You can do this, I know you can!

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Derek Diedricksen with my book.  His new book is coming out in November, so make sure to pre-order your copy now.

If you’re in the neighborhood, I’ll see you in Fredricksburg, Virginia on May 12th and 13th.  The festival details are here.  Look me up!  I’ll have the FESTIVAL COPY of my book available – and this is the edition that won’t be available anywhere else but a tiny house festival!  Soon enough (June?) it’ll be on Amazon and a lot of other interesting places.  At the moment – visiting a tiny house festival is the only way to get one.  That means I get to meet folks like you and we will talk together about our challenges and triumphs.  It’ll be great fun!

All my best,

TinyHouseFoodie.com
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Vinnie Vlog #3 – Choosing the Floor for the Skoolie

Welcome back everyone, today I’m talking about the choice we made for the floor of the Skoolie. We ended up with Kronotex USA American made laminate flooring, the color name is “Wilson Pine” that we purchased from The Habitat Store in Charlottesville, Virginia. Plus, Xaver takes over the camera while I give the tour of the space as I’ve imagined it – even a sneak peek at the kitchen! One of his favorite cars even makes an appearance. lol!  We’re having great February weather here in Virginia, so we’ve been able to work outside very comfortably to get the seats taken out and the flooring down.  It looks great so far!

Next, I’ll rattle-can the “baseboard” that came on the bus and the wheel covers, then those can go back in.  I’ll also give the antique a fresh new look to prepare it for it’s next life as the kitchen cabinet in our Skoolie.  I’ll take the camera with me each step of the way so stick around for more stories from our world.  I’m Carmen Shenk reminding you that we can live tiny, embrace simplicity, and still eat really well.

Where are you in your tiny journey?  Looking, building, living?  Have you chosen a floor?  If so, let me know what you chose.  Thanks for following along, I really appreciate it! 29c45-1a2bcarmen

Christmas Layered Mints

I make a number of Christmas treats each year, and this one is so simple and fun, and it’s always so fun to see how people respond.  This year I really stepped it up a notch using a transfer sheet to leave a design on the chocolate, and I’ve also upgraded to Young Living’s Vitality line of essential oils – spearmint and peppermint – and the flavor is fresh, complex, and wonderful.  This is such a fun quick project for the holidays and I hope you try it and let me know how it goes for you.  And as always, thanks for watching, I really appreciate it!29c45-1a2bcarmen

Refrigeration in a Tiny House

I’m back with a video on refrigeration in a tiny house – or in any dwelling that happens to have wheels.  Any time you can unplug your house, that includes unplugging your fridge.  So it may require just a little extra consideration when moving your tiny haven-home around the county or the country.

There’s a little sneak peek of me and the Tiny House Foodie kitchen a few months back before we removed the big monster energy-suck fridge and gave the place a much needed makeover.  It looks better now, don’t you agree?  And the color of my hair is always changing, so you will always be able to tell when I mix up new and old footage!  lol!

fdcd503e4785febee7dee3a6e1bc3d95Keeping foods out of the danger zone in your tiny house is really important so that you don’t get sick.  This applies to cooked foods and proteins such as meat, eggs, and dairy products.  Most other things (aside from a thousand and one plastic salad dressing bottles) don’t require refrigeration – aside from beer and white wine, obvs.

Have you noticed how many tiny house folks are vegan or vegetarian?  I have.  It really is so much easier when traveling especially, to keep those things to a minimum so that you don’t end up throwing away expensive products when you don’t know how long they’ve been in the danger zone, and also so that your health isn’t at risk.  Have you ever looked at a piece of meat and wondered if it is ok or not?  Chances are, it’s fine.  But nobody wants to be wrong about that!

And when you are… that’s when my little friend Digize comes to the rescue!  There have been a number of times when I could tell I was eating something that was not cooked properly, but I didn’t want to offend the host and hostess.  Sometimes you can tell when you bite into a nut or seed that they’ve gone off and the oils are rancid – stop eating immediately!  I’ve even been served some fish that had an ever-so-slight smell… you know the one.  And again… I knew it wasn’t going to sit well, but I did what you do when you love the cook and his or her good intentions.  Sometimes the food doesn’t have to be off for my stomach to freak out over it, just a different cook in a different kitchen with a different set of bacteria.  So I keep a bottle of Digize with me, ESPECIALLY when I’m traveling!  It’s a blend of essential oils formulated for digestive support for those moments when something you ate just wasn’t… right.  More info on the Digize blend of essential oils at Anoint-Ed.com.

In addition, while we are on the topic of cold storage and happy digestion, here’s a handy little chart for cooking various proteins so you get it “done” without turning it into something slightly more flavorful than the neighbor’s driveway. Meat-Temperature-GuideAs always – rules are made to be broken.  Sushi is our very favorite thing and there is a place we love to visit where the Sushi chef has become a friend of ours and he always makes something special and sends it over to our table.  I never know exactly what every component is, I just know the colors, flavors, and textures are divine!  It’s so much fun to see someone who enjoys making food for the flavor and the art of it.IMG_20170312_123415130 I hope you learned something today that will help you as you transition into tiny house living.  Thanks for visiting my blog, I appreciate it.  Stay safe out there and know which risks are worth taking, and keep a bottle of Digize close wherever you roam. 29c45-1a2bcarmen

 

Is the Food Processor really a Time Saving Device?

Good morning Tiny House people, thanks for joining me today.  I want to share with you my epic battle with the Food Processor.  I was curious – is a Food Processor really a time saving device?  The process of finding that answer was pretty interesting, and I drew some conclusions from the experience (that are at the end of this video).  Let me know what you think.  I was surprised to find that many of my friends were already on team #knifeandcuttingboard.  Maybe fewer folks use these space-hogging machines than I realized.  Are you going tiny?  Will you take your food processor with you to your tiny home?  Why or why not?  Let me know in the comments.

IMG_2487What did I do with all those chopped carrots, celery, and onion?  I bought a great big organic chicken and made chicken soup with all of it.  Yum!

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 to my Kitchen!


Hello everyone, I’m happy to finally post my first video in the series on how we transformed this small kitchen.  Soon I’ll be full tilt into sharing my favorite recipes with you, but first we need to finish that kitchen!

I’ve lived in a tiny house on wheels of 125 square feet since September 2014 and we really love it.  As a retired restaurant owner used to having tons of space and gear, it took me a while to get used to cooking in such a small space.  If you’re making the transition from a large kitchen to a small one, I can help!  It might not be a comfortable transition, but it isn’t the end of the world.  You’ll still enjoy marvelous food!

I’ll show you how to cook like a chef, even if you kitchen is very small.

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