• December 21, 2014

Even without a stove, I’ve got a lot cookin’

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Posted: Friday, February 15, 2013 4:30 am

Here’s a little-known fact about me: I haven’t owned a stove or oven for 14 months.

When people visit my home, one of the first things they notice is the absence of the large appliance. The momentary confusion is followed by: “So how do you cook?”

Trust me. The lack of a stove or oven isn’t preventing me from cooking and eating delicious food. Its non-existence prevents me from baking and frying, but little else.

In its place, I have three staple appliances: my crock pot, electric skillet and microwave. I also have an indoor electric grill, and a small outdoor barbecue grill.

Some of my favorite meals include avocado enchiladas, veggie lasagna, grilled salmon patties, grilled veggies, corn-on-the-cob, pancakes and eggs, apple crisp, vegetable stew, acorn squash, steamed asparagus, spinach and feta cheese quesadillas, and tomato basil Parmesan soup.

The only food items I haven’t figured out how to cook with the appliances in my kitchen are things that I don’t need, like homemade cinnamon rolls, cookies and other sweets. I’ve even discovered it’s possible to burn something in a fool-proof crock pot. I made vegetable lasagna one night and put it all together in the crock pot on low, intending to let it cook for a few hours. I fell asleep and woke up the next morning to a less-than-appetizing smell from the kitchen. True to my nature, I saved the un-burned half of the meal, and made a mental note that lasagna shouldn’t cook all night.

On the contrary, I’ve perfected the art of preparing a roast for my meat-loving family members. I gave up meat about a year ago, but I’m proud that my roast-preparation skills haven’t diminished.

Two months ago, a new appliance joined our home, and it’s one I can’t imagine life without: a chest freezer.

It was a significant moment for me, much like buying a vacuum cleaner, my own Internet or toilet paper.

They’re all reminders that I am an adult.

My chest freezer is my new healthy-living tool, and it’s filling up fast as freezer-cooking has become a key component to my weekend routine. For 2½ years, I’ve developed the habit of bringing my lunches to work, but now I’m armed with the advantage of planning (and preparing) my meals weeks in advance.

There’s nothing much more convenient than tossing a veggie chili together and letting it stew for several hours. After it’s cooled, I dish servings into individual quart-size freezer bags, and into the chest freezer it goes.

Who doesn’t love pancakes and eggs for dinner, and instead of tossing out my extra pancakes, I freeze them for later. They’re perfect to pop in the toaster when I get home from work or on the weekends. I also keep a steady supply of fresh fruit in individual containers on the upper freezer shelf that are easy to grab for my before-lunch snacks.

Instead of my mom handing me my lunch bag on my rushed exit out the door in the morning, it’s my freezer.

It happened just this week. I was in a hurry to leave, and with two minutes to spare, I realized I hadn’t packed my lunch yet. But there was no need to panic — the freezer was armed with a plethora of ready-to-grab choices.

I never have to wonder what I’m eating for lunch. I’m never left stranded in the office without any food, nor am I rushing at lunchtime to grab fast food, or overindulging in carbs at a local eatery.

And all because of a chest freezer and a crock pot.

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