The Daily Beet

10 Jul Saving Time with Char: In My Kitchen

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Saving Time with Char

In My Kitchen

I live in an old home, something constructed in the 1930’s.  It is charming, and has served us well.  If you’re a realtor, you know that the word “charming” translates to “small.”  It has four bedrooms, and one of them is also known as “my office.”  My other office is the kitchen, where I am always creating fun recipes for plantstrong meals.  Our home doesn’t have central-air, and yet it stays cool.  My husband and the Home Depot guy figured out that a window unit (the size of a Smart Car) would do well for cooling off the downstairs.

I am in the kitchen a lot.  And somehow,  my neighbors are always complaining about how they can’t cook in the heat (they central air, mind you) because it is too hot.  They do take out while I am eating delicious Novick Burgers.  But, there I am, very early in the morning, cooking up a storm.  No pots are boiling, the oven isn’t even on, but I am cooking up a storm, while I stay cool!  I thought that I would share some of my “summer” time saving tips, because not only do they save you time, they can keep you cool.

Time Saving Small Appliances for Summer Cooking

  • Toaster Oven:  Frankly, a toaster oven is perfect for baking Mighty Muffins, veggie burgers, etc. Save the “pans” that come with the oven, they are ideal for baking burgers.  As for Mighty Muffins?  Well, get  silicone pans, and cut them to size.  I can make a dozen mini’s without any trouble.  Veggies burgers come out nice and crispy, just how I like them.  You use the same settings as you would in an oven.
  • Waffle Iron:  I do make oatmeal waffles all the time.  But, my waffle iron also doubles as the source for grilling Portobello mushrooms, heating corn tortillas, or making a grilled sandwich.  One of the reasons why I enjoy using these small appliances is that the house still smells great.
  • Rice Cooker:  Aside from making rice, it makes amazing quinoa, oatmeal, even farro.  My rice cooker also has a basket for steaming veggies.  It can “over steam” (in my crisp opinion), but if  you allow the veggies to cook full term, they are perfect for mashing into veggie burgers, which I do.  Last week, I attempted to make a cake, and I am on my way to perfecting the recipe.  First go-around needed more flour.  Look for pictures soon!
  • Immersion Blender:  I got my Immersion Blender after I returned from my first Engine 2 Immersion more than three years ago.  It seemed like a fitting gift.  It has many purposes, but its best use is for “creaming” hummus.  Without oil, I have found that the consistency of hummus is almost perfect if you use the Immersion Blender.  It gets extra creamy.  Can’t live without it!
  • Food Processor:  It slices, grates, shreds, mixes, blends and more.  I use it for prepping veggies that I will use in meals that require “minced” or finely sliced veggies.  My garlic is always perfect, and finely grated veggies are just right for burgers, loaves, and say, filling for stuffed collards.  I like this kitchen helper, because it is easy to clean.  That is key.

A few years ago, I treated myself to a Vitamix®.  Many great things come from Cleveland, Ohio, and you can add the Vitamix® to that list.  I use it for grinding my own flour.  I use it to make hot, creamy soups, “ice cream” and more.  I use it all the time.  It is my favorite small appliance, but not the easiest to clean.  But, I still love it.  I really love it.

Notice that I didn’t list the microwave.  The microwave has its role in the kitchen, but it isn’t the focal point of mine.

As we speak?  Well, here’s what’s going on…

  • I creamed a can of beans with the Immersion Blender that I needed for Novick Burgers;
  • The food processor was used for prepping all the veggies;
  • They are presently baking in the toaster oven;
  • I am making more brown rice in the rice cooker, as a side dish for tonight;
  • Think of “ice cream” for dessert, and I will be using the Vitamix®

And, when it is time for dinner, I will heat the rolls in the waffle iron.  Clean-up is a breeze.  In general, clean-up from plantstrong prep is a very easy.  Without oil or animal product involved, cleaning merely requires rinsing and drying.  There’s no steam, no heat from the oven, just a cool place to hang out and make beautiful food.

Dinner is still delicious. The only problem with dinner in the summer is that I have to speak loudly so that I can be understood over the “Smart Car” nestled in the living room window.

These work for me, and I hope they will for you, as well.

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Char Nolan for Engine 2
Char Nolan

Char Nolan is a blog contributor and Engine 2 Extra Coach. She's been plant-strong for almost five years. From Philadelphia, she works in the plant-based whole foods arena, and is also the "vegan features writer," for the "Town Dish." She's lost a great deal of weight from being plant-strong, practices yoga, and is always dabbling in her kitchen to create new, plant-strong recipes. Armed with a degree in public health, Char also holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from e-Cornell.

  • tina
    Posted at 08:18h, 10 July

    I love these ideas! What kind of toaster oven do you have? I will buy one but I am not sure which one is best. Any ideas?

    • Char Nolan
      Posted at 20:40h, 12 July

      Ours is a Black and Decker. Nothing fancy. An Italian one named DeLonghi is great, has all sorts of bells and whistles. Ours has a dial for baking, etc. Looks for the dials. Hope this helps. Char

  • Bill Buerge
    Posted at 09:02h, 10 July

    A listing of the makes and models of your appliances would be awesome. This was very helpful, thanks.

    • Char Nolan
      Posted at 20:43h, 12 July

      My crown jewel is the Vitamix. After that, I am a Black and Decker girl. I have a $29 food processor, and it is basic, but does the trick. The toaster oven should have dials to regulate a baking temp. The Immersion Blender is a Cuisenart. Hope this is helpful.

    Posted at 09:38h, 10 July

    Great ideas! Thanks! This is the time of year where cooking basically comes to a standstill as it’s over 100 every day and even though we have central air, just running out for a quick errand sucks the life right out of you! I buy premade brown rice and frozen organic veggies to keep in the freezer for shorter prep times, but it’s never as good as the stuff you make yourself, not to mention more expensive. I have all those same appliances, except the Vitamix and will try to come up with of ways to make cooking on my days off a bit easier. I’m really a very good cook, but summers in Arizona make me lazy and tired.

  • Yvonne
    Posted at 10:17h, 10 July

    Great ideas.. thank you. In the middle of another Florida summer, I definitely appreciate any idea that keeps the oven off!

  • Jessica
    Posted at 11:38h, 10 July

    Never thought to use my immersion blender on my hummus. I’m definitely going to try that. Thanks for the tip.

    • Char Nolan
      Posted at 20:44h, 12 July

      It will be the BEST hummus EVER!!!! Like silk! Let me know how it turns out!

  • Sandir
    Posted at 12:28h, 10 July

    I use my crockpot more in summer than winter. It is great for cooking whole red potatoes, stuffed peppers, and cobblers.

    • Char Nolan
      Posted at 20:45h, 12 July

      Yes, the Crockpot is good. Can’t live without mine!

  • Sharon
    Posted at 12:44h, 10 July

    What model of food processor do you have Char? I’m intrigued by the “easy to clean.” Mine is not easy to clean. Thanks!

    • Char Nolan
      Posted at 20:46h, 12 July

      It is a $29 Black and Decker, VERY basic!!!!

  • Gayle1942
    Posted at 23:18h, 10 July

    Do you have a pressure cooker? I have several, all digital. I make all sorts of things in them but most often to cook beans and for soup. You can soak the beans overnight and cook them in around 15 minutes depending on the kind. Or you can start from dry and cook them in about 30. Soaking is best, though, because it removes most of the gas-making properties. It’s also great for rice and risotto, quinoa, lentils, grains of all sorts, oatmeal, and all sorts of other stuff. I made the Red Lentil Mulligatawny soup from the “My Beef with Meat” book last night — total time about 20, not counting chopping and such. Four minutes for the lentils after reaching pressure (about 5 minutes or less) and about 10 for the rest. It’s delicious, by the way.

    It’s great for cooking while keeping the kitchen cool. I love mine — all of them. lol

    • Char Nolan
      Posted at 20:47h, 12 July

      I do have a pressure cooker, but it makes too much heat in the summer!

      • Gayle1942
        Posted at 21:02h, 12 July

        Is your’s a stovetop? I have several digital pressure cookers and they don’t produce enough heat for me to even notice it. I can put my hands on the sides and top while any one of them is at full pressure and it’s just barely warm. Can’t do that with a stovetop.

  • m2c
    Posted at 09:56h, 11 July

    Char, this was one of the most useful posts I’ve ever seen! I hope you can find time to supplement it with makes/models. I’m especially interested in the food processor, since I’ve never had one that didn’t make a mess (trying to get into batch cooking so a processor could be very handy). And I have a special request – can you attach a photo of how you do all those things with a waffle iron? I can’t picture it… maybe we just have really styles different waffle irons.

    • Char Nolan
      Posted at 20:47h, 12 July

      I have a $29 Black and Decker and it is awesome!!! Basic and easy to clean!

      • Maggie
        Posted at 22:20h, 15 July

        This is what I have! It works great!

    • Maggie
      Posted at 22:19h, 15 July

      Yes, I am curious about what you mean by scoring with a wooden chopstick! I think I get the gist but a little video would be awesome!

  • Karen
    Posted at 11:55h, 11 July

    Char, thanks for an extremely useful post. We do have a toaster oven and my husband and I remark all the time it is the best purchase we have ever made for the kitchen. If a recipe won’t fit in the toaster oven, it does not get cooked during our Florida summers. Highs in the 90s predicted for today. Some times I divide a recipe, such as the breakfast potatoes, and cook in two parts. Same with veggie burgers as we double the burger recipe for leftovers and the freezer so cook those in shifts. We have a gas stove and the burners heat up the house, never mind the oven, running up both the gas and electric bills as the A/C kicks in every time we use the stove. Would love to hear more about how you cook waffles though. We just threw out our old 25-year-old, non-stick waffle iron as we had to use Pam to keep the non-fat waffles from sticking. How do you cook them and get them to come out without Pam? Haven’t made waffles in many years because of the Pam issue. What model and make do you have? We are in the market for a new waffle iron. Our old one had reversible plates, waffle grid on one side and plain griddle on the other. Please share some of those waffle recipes, too. Also what model and make of immersion blender do you own. Have never had one but very interested in purchasing one. Again, thanks for absolutely fantastic post.

    • Char Nolan
      Posted at 20:48h, 12 July

      A wooden chopstick is the key for getting the waffle out AND overcooking the waffle by about two miunutes. I use oatmeal.

  • Char Nolan
    Posted at 20:21h, 12 July

    Thanks for the great comments. WAFFLE IRON: There is a TRICK. One is to slightly OVERCOOK the waffle. The other is to SCORE each row with a CHOPSTICK, it will lift the waffle. The other thing, I use old fashioned oats, but find that the Trader Joe brand is too dense. The chopstick is where it is at.

  • Chris T.
    Posted at 20:47h, 12 July

    Like the immersion blender idea. Hadn’t thought about that. Thanks for the great tips.

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