The days are getting decidedly cold. For some of us, this chilly weather right now, is paired with social distancing. If you are like me, you want any excuse to keep warm indoors. But with all these holidays and hours indoors and mostly at home, how do we avoid going stir-crazy? Maybe we even have tighter budgets to deal with, with the grim pandemic economy facing us. And if you, like myself, live in a high-cost urban area, like most of California’s urban areas are, your place is relatively compact and every inch of space counts.
You might have been jolted into cooking at home this year because of Covid-19’s emergence and did not know where to start. If you realize that your budget for food delivery services like Doordash and the like, is shrinking, this post might help. Believe me, I understand, if you’re bewildered by the world of cooking and are a newbie. You are not going to venture into the world of sourdough starters and the like as a beginner. I know you need to start from scratch. I started cooking seriously at the age of 19 and there was tremendous pressure for me to rustle up meals because I was already married at the time, in my first marriage. And I was expected to know how to cook, being a woman in a traditional marriage. I was also going to college at that time. That story for another time…
Fire Up the Oven and…
In the summer, I avoid using the oven, as much as I can. But this time of the year is when I love to prepare my meals and treats with the help of an oven. So, I bake and cook at two ends of the day. It helps that the oven warms up my home at the same time. And of course, I love cooking.
Cook – The Dutch Oven
For those of us with smaller kitchens and not much counter space, the instant pot or pressure cooker doesn’t get pride of place on the kitchen counters. You need items that can be put away when not in use. The oven is a big space to cook food in. I, for one, then resort to dutch ovens to take my meats and casseroles from the stove to the oven.
I got my generic brand dutch oven from Walmart. It is big enough to fit a small chicken or a pot roast or a big batch of stew. You aren’t confined to a fancy brand like Le Creuset or the like, to be able to afford a dutch oven. I use this cookware for big batches and not for daily meals. It is a heavy pot and made for heavy-duty cooking to feed the many. Here is my dutch oven in all its glory.
This lovely pot can be brought straight to the table from the oven. It can also be stashed away in a cupboard when not in use and hauled out another time for that big-batch cooking project.
Roast – Pans to Roast In, Sheet Pans
My husband is the disciplined member of the household who bravely faces the dishes and the cleaning thereof, most often. Despite his heroic and constant success delivering clean dishes, he does not love doing dishes.
Enter the sheet pan. It is versatile and therefore, multi-purpose. If you need to deal with greasy clean-up, then foil or paper lining the pan is a godsend. Lined or not, you will find endless uses for the humble sheet pan, to throw food in and roast, pronto. I love doing a spectrum of vegetables and potatoes and root vegetables.
Roasting in roasting pans do beautiful things to your meats and poultry and seafood. For example, if, you like me, are a fan of the crisp golden skin of chicken, you will be well-fed.
Smells and Comfort
I do love cooking with herbs, spices and seasonings. However, my advice to you is to start with basic seasonings so your kitchen cupboards don’t end up exploding with expired spices and herbs. Remember, fresh is better, so you can comfortably use a few favorites and confidently enjoy the flavor and aroma in your food.
There is nothing better than you making an aromatic dinner in the oven while the oven warms up your house and makes it cosy.
I wrote this post for anyone who is a newbie or for those of us trying to pare down our kitchen equipment. We want to make or have space for work from home. At the same time, we want to be cooking filling and comforting food. If you are spending most, if not all your time at home, you know that a functional, tidy home makes for a happier, more peaceful environment.
May we find that happy balance this winter and beyond!