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ISO suggestions for home cooking during kitchen renovation

We're in the middle of a first-floor renovation that includes the kitchen, dining room and two adjacent rooms. The whole first floor of the house floor is virtually unusable. I've set up a makeshift kitchen in one upstairs room. I've got a work/prep area that has a coffee maker, coffee grinder, electric kettle, hot plate/burner, microwave and toaster. I've set up a dining/lounge area in another room. I'd like to do more than heat soup and take-out food, without creating a huge mess or load of dishes and pots and pans that need cleaning. I thought about getting a slow cooker, but I know I'll never use it again after the renovation is finished.

I'd really appreciate some suggestions for easy, delicious meals (dinners) that can be prepared with my limited kitchen equipment and space. Thanks!

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  1. Will you have a refrigerator and freezer? Making a lot of meals prior to our kitchen redo helped a lot.
    I set up a mini kitchen in our mud/laundry room. I had a microwave, burner, slow cooker and a toaster oven.
    I also had a refrigerator/freezer and a sink.
    I was actually surprised at how little we got take out or went out!
    You might try to find a cheapie crock pot at a thrift store. Donate it back after. Or, you could borrow one.
    It will come in handy and oh, btw, however long you think the renovation will take, double it, just to get your head in the right space!

    3 Replies
    1. re: monavano

      I do have a fridge and freezer available. I froze a few containers of soup and turkey chili before the construction began, but that's about it. My thoughts about a slow cooker -- and the reason I no longer have one -- I learned that the best slow cooker dishes required some kind of cooking (browning,searing, etc.) prior to being put into the cooker. That more or less took the simplicity and ease out of the use of the cooker.

      1. re: CindyJ

        You are correct. I think that you have to expect less than the "best" outcome if you can not brown and caramelize prior to slow cooking.
        I hope everything is going on schedule!

        1. re: monavano

          If there's one good thing I can say about this renovation project, it's that my contractor is precisely on schedule so far. He gave me a detailed schedule before the project got underway, letting me know who will be at my house and what they'll be doing each day, through to the completion of the punchlist (if needed). So far, I'm pretty impressed.

    2. Can you cook outdoors with a grill?

      6 Replies
      1. re: Raffles

        Agree with Raffles. We found that our grill was a godsend during our kitchen renovation. By cooking directly on the grill (i.e., meats, or skewered vegetables) or using foil-packs, you should be able to keep the dirty dishes to a minimum -- perhaps using the microwave to supplement the grill, in terms of sides like vegetables, potatoes.

        1. re: masha

          Yeah, our grill had died before the renovation and I was too stupid to think of buying one in the summer before we renovated. In October in the Northeast, you do not buy grills. Live and learn.

          1. re: masha

            Do not forget pizza on the grill...ribs,.. roasts using indirect heat,

          2. re: Raffles

            I traded my gas grill for a charcoal grill a couple of years ago. I'm in PA, and outdoor charcoal grilling isn't really feasible this time of year. In hindsight, I realized I should have delayed the whole project until summer.

              1. re: c oliver

                Oh, grilling isn't impossible, it's just inconvenient, especially since we'd have to bring all of the cooked food either to our upstairs makeshift "breakfast lounge" or to our basement "cafe" (where we have dinner).

          3. I don't know how much help I'll be since we *did* do a lot of takeout (pizza and chinese and indian), mainly because I absolutely hated dealing with cleaning up in the bathtub. Yuk. But with that hot plate you can do most anything you'd do on a stove; so pasta and sauce, pasta with pesto, stews with rice. Breakfast for dinner? (pancakes) You can cook fish or chicken on that hot plate. But I really just felt like using paper plates and throwing the whole mess away at the end of the meal. The cleaning was the thing that got me. Good luck- it will be worth it!

            7 Replies
            1. re: DGresh

              I had a two burner hot plate so I really could do just about anything. Along with toaster over and MW. For me, the worst part was doing dishes in the tub so, yeah, we used more paper plates than usual.

              1. re: DGresh

                Not having a sink is a real bummer. That would have meant a lot more paper plates and outside food for us.

                1. re: monavano

                  We set up our auxiliary kitchen in the basement and washed dishes in the utility tub in our laundry room. Not as nice as a kitchen sink, but it was a full size sink where we could do the dishes while standing -- better than kneeling by the bath tub or trying to wash in a bathroom sink. We still used a lot of paper plates but it made washing up of pots and pans a lot easier.

                  1. re: masha

                    Thankfully, we had that too. Sink next to washer/dryer, which doubled as our work surface.
                    Also had a table set up for toaster oven and storage.
                    The pegboard walls that I hate came in handy a la Julia Child!

                     
                    1. re: monavano

                      The real limiting factor in our makeshift kitchen in the basement was that we had not yet upgraded the electrical wiring in the basement (very old house, and we'd just moved in). We had the old refrigerator, which was a very inefficient model from the 80s, that drew a lot of power. A lot of the time we would blow a circuit breaker whenever we were using any other electrical appliances -- say, if we tried to make coffee and toast at the same time.

                      1. re: monavano

                        I'm impressed with your organization!

                  2. re: DGresh

                    I've been using the utility sink in the laundry room for dish washing. It's really inconvenient toting dishes and pots and pans up and down stairs, but it's easier on the back than using the bathtub.

                    Breakfast for dinner is a GREAT idea, though, and you just reminded me that I have a griddle I can use, too.

                  3. Forget the slow cooker, IMO, they're a PIA! I'd grill, and make easy stuff like antipasto's and rely on heating things up from the store or restaurant.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: treb

                      Why are slow cookers a pia for you?

                    2. We mostly reheated things we'd made ahead of time and frozen in 1-meal servings: stews, lasagna, chili, etc. Lack of access to a kitchen-sized sink really kept us from being able to do more than reheating - we would not have been able to wash even a small saucepan in our bathroom sink (no laundry sink).

                      If we were doing this now (different house), I would be thrilled to have my Cuisinart Griddler to do burgers, grilled chicken, pancakes, waffles. What I really missed the most was pasta - so that's what we ate when we ate out.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: truman

                        After reading your post yesterday, I went to BB&B and bought a Cuisinart Griddler. I used it last night for making grilled salmon and veggies. I think I'm going to get a lot of use out of that appliance. Thanks for the recommendation!