Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Cooking in The Caboose - Part 1 - Organization

This is me in my kitchen. I am standing in front of the sink at one end of the kitchen. Behind me you can see a wall - which is directly to the side of our RV size fridge. Yes, it's compact. I refuse to complain (much) as I knew it was small when I jumped onto Michael's dream bandwagon. I've found it fun to change up eating styles or kitchens from time to time - the challenge keeps the excitement of creating nutritious meals alive.
Before we can even talk about how to cook and what to cook, I need to stress ORGANIZATION IS KEY.  Cooking has been much easier now that we are full-time than when we camped because I took the time to carefully organize. I'm sure I'll learn more, but this is what I've learned so far:

It's important to carefully consider each item you will bring into the kitchen. Less is more (unlike the words in this post). From what I observe, many try to cook just as they do at home and the space becomes unworkable.
We removed EVERYTHING from the trailer before packing for our trip. This accomplished several things, Michael could carefully consider weight, we didn't bring duplicate items, or things we really don't use, and I was able to physically see and touch each item that went into my kitchen. Nothing "slid by."

I carefully considered each dish, plate, pan, utensil and appliance which came into The Caboose.  Each item needed to be "essential"  and fit into the spaces I'd allowed for kitchen and be something I truly loved or enjoyed using. My kitchen could have filled all 31 feet of The Caboose.
I brought a set of 5 Corelle plates - and gave my colorful plates, which I LOVED to my daughters whom I LOVE. These are lighter and will travel better. We decided 5 plates (with luncheon plates and bowls) are sufficient for 90% of our meals. We'll buy paper for the few times we have guests, or ask them to bring their own plates. (This is the same theory we used on extra sleeping bags and pillows.)  Note we did not stock up on paper plates at this time.  I brought limited silverware, 5 mugs and 4 glasses - we all have water bottles we use most often.

I checked each pan to see if it would fit on the stove top, in the oven or in the  microwave BEFORE we began full-timing. This is not a "given," most of my favorites did not.
I brought one cast iron skillet. The other various sizes and my wok are in storage.

I brought one set of GOOD pans (and gave the camping stuff away). Within that set I only brought the three pots I use most often and that would FIT on my stove. The huge stock pot, the small sauté pan, omelet pan etc are in storage.
I brought a big plastic mixing bowl and a plastic 4 Cup measuring cup. That's IT...both serve as fruit bowl and serving dishes as needed. I brought one pie pan, one 9x13, one 5x7, one in between size and one muffin tin. I left behind the brick pizza stones, bakers etc as they don't fit in my oven and add lots of weight. I also left behind my brick bread pans. I'll need to buy one small metal one if I really decide to bake bread in the trailer.  

I aimed for appliances to be multi-purpose.
I brought our Instant Pot. This marvel is a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice steamer, soup maker, and sautés - all in one pot.  It was dented BEFORE we moved into the Caboose- it still works fine.
Note - you can see the entire kitchen here...the oats are resting against the fridge
My Zojirushi Hot Water Pot made the cut. I do not leave it plugged in all the time - counter space is at a PREMIUM. I have it hot in the a.m. for tea and/or hot chocolate.  RV stoves are notorious for taking a long time to boil water. I save propane and time by heating water in the instant pot for meals.  It is also pure heaven for the kids to have hot water waiting before they brave the cool air to go to the showers. LOL
I love my Bosch - a big mixer and could knead dough for 6 loaves of a bread at once. It also had a blender a slicer attachment and a food processor. I used the blender daily for smoothies and to make dog food.  In addition, I had a Wondermill to grind wheat berries into flour.  It simply wouldn't all fit in the kitchen space in the trailer. Michael asked what was essential and I decided my blender and food processer were essential. We could mix up cookie dough by hand and we could buy bread - gasp. I put these into storage with the understanding we'd buy a nice blender. The Ninja was the front runner until I noted the sleek lines of the Vitamix - the plump price gave me pause. It was BOTH blender and processor in ONE container. That counts in a trailer. It was expensive...but then we noted it can make soup, juice, grind wheat, mix dough and they say knead bread. We still debated - until we noted the difference in warranty 1 year vs 7 years. Michael told me to buy a Vitamix based on the manufacturers own estimation of their product. The Vitamix replaces  at least 4 other appliances from my stick and bricks (sb) kitchen.

I traded the 4 slice toaster for a 2 slice toaster. I brought an air popper and some utensils - again less was more but I brought some of our favorites....an apple corer/wedger,  toaster tongs, garlic peeler.
I brought two aprons - one for Stacia and one for me. I brought 3 dishtowels and too many dish clothes - haven't used any of them yet.

Finally, I brought two tea cups for Stacia and I - because we DEARLY love our tea parties.
Carefully scrutinizing each item I brought into the trailer made it easier to keep the space tidy and easy to organize.  I also thought outside of our previous camping kitchen box. NONE of the appliances, plates or kitchen linen are stored right in the kitchen.  The great thing is, living in such a tiny space, they are still within a step or two of my kitchen prep area.

And then - I cooked. And then - I re-organized. The toothpicks fell into the open  gas flame. The Instant Pot vented into my food storage cupboard and had to be moved outside. I can't reach the cupboards and the food coming out of the microwave is sure to create a catastrophe one of these days.  Our plan to grill often was foiled by triple digit heat - who wants to grill outside when it's blazing hot? Keeping my sense of humor makes it all a challenging adventure and not a frustration. We've found solutions for each problem.
There you go - everything you wanted to know about kitchen organization - next up, WHAT do we cook in The Caboose and possibly a post on making beds in impossibly tight spaces. LOL
What are YOUR essential kitchen items? What would be the ESSENTIAL EXTRAS you'd bring into a tiny living space?

Cooking in the Caboose Part 2  - How and What to cook is now published.


Debbie said...

I love your multi-steamer, pressure, slow-cooker thing. That makes so much sense. Camper cooker things we love..slow cooker as it is big enough to put in a whole chicken, we have a large cutting board that fits in the oven when not in use but fits on the stove for extra counter space, a small wooden folding table that fits next to our couch when not in use, but is very handy for extra work space. So many things I am sure are specific to our camper and where we can stow stuff. It sounds like you are working out a good method that works for you.

Unknown said...

Oh D, I loved reading this. Felt like sitting in your kitchen having tea when in reality, I am surrounded by Lilly, Worf, and Shadow who is on patrol in my living room lest any car drive by without being barked at. I am lounging on my couch, relaxed having finished my iced mocha.
My current kitchen essentials are a LARGE frying pan that triple duties. It is Wok, fry pan and covered baking dish. My stool is also an essential. Knives with large handles and large and small cuttingboards. I have gained new appreciation for my veggie peeler. Mom arrives next week and with her comes one of those induction burners that heats large pots of water to boiling in 90 Seco ds. I suspect that might be a new essential. To combat the horrific heat we had last summer, I began cooking my meat in advance. Be it crock pot grilled or cook on stove top. If I did it in the morning I could warm it up or put it in a salad at dinner. It worked for the triple digit heat but ours didn't last so long as CA.
My newest essential... wouldn't fit in the caboose, but it is my ice/water dispenser on my fridge. I love ice water, have it at my fingertips. I happy.
Those are my easy life essentials for my kitchen.

DeEtta @ Courageous Joy said...

Debbie, I've been brainstorming about a way to completely cover the stove top - it would double our counter space. I've been setting things on it - noticing it starting to sort of bow in the middle so I wasn't sure this was a good idea....I love having the pressure cooker and the slow cooker options in the trailer. LOL

DeEtta @ Courageous Joy said...

Beth - can't wait to hear what you think about your mom's induction plate. I am really missing a step stool to get into the cupboards...but I'm not sure where it would go on a daily basis.....