Memoirs of an Oven-less Kitchen

When my oven began to behave in an erratic manner, I began to get worried. At the time I had 8 of my husband’s family staying with us (long story involving a mudslide) in addition to my family of 4.5 (yes, 4.5–I was expecting!), and the oven saw regular usage to the tune of at least once a day.

The first time it failed to heat will remain memorable, because the Dearliest had brought home take n’ bake pizzas. What do you do with two 22″ pizzas that need to be cooked? You cook with whatever you have left, of course, because NO ONE is about to waste that pizza. We cut the pizzas in all manner of shapes and sizes and cooked some in a small toaster oven belonging to my SIL. Other pieces we attempted in skillets on the stove top. Half-way through the laborious and time consuming process, the oven kicked in and we were able to bake the remaining pizza properly. Whew!

The last time the oven heated is also memorable. In my 6-months-pregnant state, there came a day where I Wanted Cookies. Being a good distance from town, this made homemade cookies the logical choice and a chance I was willing to take. I had not bothered to try the oven in a couple weeks at this point, but I so badly wanted cookies that I told the BIL who had offered to make them to give it a go anyway. The oven started right up, and shortly thereafter I bit into a delicious chocolate chip cookie, confirming what I already knew–there is indeed a God, and He wanted me to have cookies that day!

After that, the oven never worked again. Repairs were attempted, but the problem remained undiagnosed, and so I became faced with the challenge of cooking for 12 with only the stove top and a crock pot. For someone who had never been without an oven before, this proved quite difficult for the first couple weeks. We ate a lot of pancakes and potato soup.

Once it became clear that a new oven wasn’t going to happen immediately, I did what any person who cares about food and feeding people would do–I took to the internet to learn. I learned how to use the crock pot for more than soups and roasts. I learned how to adapt certain kinds of casseroles to the skillet. I gathered new recipes and gained hope as I realized that I could, really, live without an oven.

For four months I faced and met the challenge. We never went hungry, although we almost did the one night I tried adding the grill to our cooking options. Dinner all but blew away in the random storm that hurricaned upon the effort! I saved most of it and managed to get it hot in a skillet right before the power went out. Fortunately the cast iron stayed hot enough long enough to finish cooking the food, but I was about ready to throw my hands up to the heavens and shout, “Okay, FINE! I’ll leave the grill alone!”

Ahem.

I won’t say it was a particularly enjoyable period of my cooking life, but it was certainly one of the more valuable. By the end of those four months I had mastered (dare I use so bold a word?) my stove top and crock pot, and while I hope I need not go oven-less again, I at least have the confidence now to know that it can be done, I have done it, and if needed I could do it again!

Cooking for a Crowd With an Oven-less Stove

(* Indicates the popular ones that we generally did once a week.)

  • Skillet Meatloaf
  • Potato Pancakes*
  • Stirfry with Rice or Noodles
  • Beans & Rice with Salsa, Sour Cream, and Chips*
  • Tostadas
  • Chicken Soup
  • Potato Soup*
  • Chili Over Pasta or Bread
  • Alfredo Over Pasta or Bread
  • Lentil Stew
  • Split Pea Soup
  • Chicken Fajitas
  • Shredded BBQ Chicken Sandwiches
  • Hot Dogs
  • Roasts (we did them in the crock pot and my Dutch oven on the stove top)
  • Scrambled Eggs With Toast
  • Pancakes With Fruit*

Those are most of the main dishes I remember making semi-regularly, but there were a handful of others and a number of one-time experiments. If anyone has any suggestions to add to this list, I would be interested in seeing them!

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Recent Kitchen Ventures

Roasted Morrocan Chickpeas

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I thought they were pretty good. I loved the texture but wasn’t a huge fan of the spices (which is unusual since I typically enjoy ethnic foods). I want to try this again with something more garlicky, perhaps, because I think they’re perfect for a crunchy, healthier snack. A nursing 5 month old + high metabolism = hungry all the time, so having this available to munch on (protein!!!) is wonderful.

Almond Roca

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Okay, seriously. Toffee, almonds, and chocolate. What’s not to love? As I searched for recipes this was the only one I came across that didn’t call for corn syrup. It was delicious. Positive feedback was enormous. The Dearliest tried to hide the plate. Twice.

My search for an almond roca recipe began with the boxed roca mixes that the Costco here recently closed out. I didn’t buy any personally, but two of my sister-in-laws did and I had a couple of the resulting bars and cookies. Since the mix was no longer available I figured I could try to backwards engineer it to make my own. The first step was finding a suitable roca recipe, and by Jeeves I think I’ve done just that!

(On a recipe note: I started with 1 3/4 cup whole almonds which I then roasted and chopped.)

Alfalfa Sprouts

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About a week ago the Dearliest and LK sat down and bonded over sprout seeds. LK faithfully rinsed them every day, and today he enjoyed the fruit of his labors! Well, up until he started chewing. His expression quite clearly contradicted the attempted “This is good Mommy.”

The Dearliest grew up with sprouts on cream cheese and olive sandwiches, and so in honor of LK’s first batch of sprouts we put some together for lunch! It made the sprouts more bearable for the little man (who struggles with all things green except split pea soup, go figure), although it still took him a good length of time to consume his lunch.

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Winter Hop

The most recent project, completed! Made for a dear friend who gets more snow than I do in winter. Since I was coming off of several months of larger knitting projects, I was looking for a pattern that wasn’t too involved and wasn’t knitting.

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This pattern was just what I was looking for, and I do like how it turned out! I started with this one and adjusted it to meet winter parameters (that is, wider, thicker, and tighter).

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Asian Inspired Dinner

We had some leftover chicken so I decided to try a recipe that I got off of Pinterest for Asian Lettuce Wraps. I didn’t have mushrooms or water chestnuts, alas, but I did have pecans so I chopped some of those up and used them instead. I intend to try this again sometime as written, but I will keep the pecan idea because it was GOOD. The sauce is what made the recipe, and the Dearliest’s first comment was, “This is good. Really good. Let me know what I need to get so we can make it again.” And so another recipe enters The Wooden Box.*

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The other dish you see is a stirfry noodle thing with cabbage and carrots that I winged together. I can’t remember exactly what I did to it so I’m afraid my commentary is limited to “it was yummy too.”

*The Box is where I keep the recipes that I use at least once a month and seasonal recipes that are used, say, every day for 3 weeks out of the year. It sits on my kitchen counter. All other recipes are in various binders and such on the bookshelves.