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My real Real Food kitchen

July 24, 2011

I’ve been enjoying a wonderful series of posts over at Cheeseslave of virtual visits to the kitchens of Real Food bloggers. What gorgeous kitchens are out there! Mine is not among the gorgeous, but it is very real, so for those who don’t have a perfectly neat, perfectly designed place to cook real food, I say, there’s no shame in working with what you have!

AnnMarie at Cheeseslave featured my kitchen on her series on Real Food kitchens this week. Three kinds of comments: your chickens are cute (they certainly are), that hollandaise looks awesome (it was) and my kitchen’s messy, too! UPDATE: The kitchen has been reorganized quite a bit and has improved, thanks to a new gas range and a new (used) refrigerator, thank goodness. But still messy.

I didn’t clean up before taking photos, hah! I try to keep the dishes washed and the counters wiped down more or less daily. I’m trying to train David to care about cleanliness in the kitchen enough to help out. It’s an ongoing project.

Typical state of chaos for our kitchen.

I love this quote I found in an article about housecleaning tips for the ADHD impaired: “You may find that nobody cares how clean the windows are, but everyone suffers when there are no clean dishes.”

I’ll get no awards for cleanliness in general, but I am a stickler for clean dishes and clean water bowls for the animals. Don’t get me started on all the chicken coops I’ve seen with filthy water dishes that haven’t been cleaned in ages. I don’t just refill the waterers, I clean them with soap and hot water and scrub them each time before refilling with our well water and a teaspoon of raw apple cider vinegar to help keep the water fresh.

Some of my favorite appliances include David’s stand mixer and my VitaMix blender, and of course my crock pot, cooking up beans or lentils that were soaked at least overnight, possibly 24 hours. David has a second crockpot, but it’s oval, better suited to roasts etc. While I’m flirting with a “paleo” approach to diet—no

Some favorite appliances.

grains, no dairy, no legumes—we still eat beans and lentils, and I love using the slow cooker to prepare beans that I’ve already soaked in water and vinegar for 24 hours. Another tip for digestibility: replace some of the cooking water with chicken stock. Mmmm. Be sure not to salt until the

beans are tender. An alternative to soaking in acidic water, which I learned from Cook’s Illustrated, is to soak the beans in salt water, then rinse well and cook in fresh water, which results in a bean that stays intact. The crockpot does that as well. It’s too easy to boil the beans on the stovetop, resulting in broken skins and a less appetizing appearance.

I’ve used my trusty Sharp convection/microwave combo oven for over 25 years now. I only use the microwave function for disinfecting sponges, but the

My trusty Sharp convection/microwave

convection part is great, especially if I don’t want to fire up my regular gas oven.

It’s hard to see in this photo because of the light coming from the window behind, but on top of the oven is one of those wooden thingies you use to dry plastic bags on. I’m passionate about recycling.

Kombucha is a staple in my kitchen. These bottles were poured off the mother culture after the first culturing and bottled with about a quarter cup of juice added to each liter, then capped and left on the counter for 2-3 days for a secondary fermentation, which adds fizziness and more complex flavor.

The shelf where it cultures is next to the refrigerator, and underneath it I store my stick blender, clay pot, crockpots, some Perrier, and parts for my ice cream maker (the main body is in the freezer whenever it’s not in use, so we can use it spontaneously).

The counter between the stove and refrigerator has some freshly made coconut ghee (see my recipe made famous here at marksdailyapple.com).

Fresh ghee on the counter

Ghee is my main cooking fat, and after rendering the ghee from unsalted butter, I pour it off into a jar and combine it with coconut oil. I like to make a true ghee, not just clarified butter, with a bit of caramel flavor going. The fragrance is unbeatable. You can add up to 50% coconut oil for an even better cooking fat, with little discernible coconut taste. Expeller-pressed coconut oil is pretty tasteless, so use that if coconut flavor is a concern.

Chock full of goodness

The fridge is full of ghee, rendered lard, vegetables, butter, meat, lacto-fermented veggies, and assorted leftovers. Yes, the vegetable drawer sits on the floor of the fridge because it’s broken! How I’d love to get a new stainless-steel, French door LG refrigerator like I used to have at my former home. Plus a  range with industrial burners, 5 or 6 would be good, and dual fuel if possible; I love a gas stove and an electric (convection) oven. Sigh.

Don’t ask me why there’s a useless padlock on the freezer door. This kitchen used to be used by a crazy farm crew.

My extensive cookbook collection (with some duplication provided by David) provides lots of inspiration, when I take the time to actually use a cookbook. I do refer to them often, but I don’t necessarily follow recipes exactly. This

probably doesn’t surprise you to learn this about me. I’m trying to bother
remember to write down a recipe when I create something new that turns out well. I usually can’t be bothered. I have often regretted that.

I love to try recipes from Cheeseslave, Kelly the Kitchen Kop, and The Nourished Kitchen. Those are my top three recipe search engines, and definitely my top three food blogs that I follow regularly (and all Read Food Media blogs from time to time).

Some favorite cookbooks include The Joy of Cooking (two copies); Nourishing Traditions (two copies); Full Moon Feast (two copies); Eat Fat, Lose Fat (two copies)The  Primal Blueprint Cookbook; Wild Fermentation; Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, With Recipes; On Food and Cooking, a phenomenal reference on kitchen science. And a few dozen others.

Those bottles of fruit juice on the bottom are for secondary fermentation of kombucha, and I only use 1/4 to 1/2 cup per liter of kombucha, and then let it ferment for two or three more days to let the good microbes metabolize most of the sugar. David says he’s never tasted better, even from Three Stone Hearth in Berkeley.

Of course, no tour of my kitchen would be complete without introducing the chickens who provide our eggs. Here they stopped by to check out the kitchen for themselves, or perhaps they were just hoping for a treat. It’s fun how they run

Chickens come to call, a daily event

towards me when they see me coming. It’s probably a sign that I over-indulge them in kitchen scraps and sunflower seeds, their favorite. Our open door policy occasionally means a little bit of poop on the floor, which I scoop up with a paper towel and throw in the compost. We like living close to nature, very close!

Hollandaise with asparagus

Here’s an early hollandaise attempt, maybe our first? It doesn’t take a special occasion around here to make hollandaise anymore. I’m getting a lot of practice at it, what with all those homemade eggs and all.

Here I’m tossing out treats (sunflower seeds, etc) for the chickens, with our ramshackle chicken coop in the background, along with assorted parts of a baby crib that I repurposed for the chicken yard. (It’s a long story.) I have no carpentry skills, but I made a lot of blanket forts as a kid.

To be continued.

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