Don’t get me wrong — Hot Pockets can be a quick little meal, but after our first kitchen remodeling experience (where we decided Hot Pockets every night would be a great idea), I was determined to have healthier food choices for this kitchen re-do.
Since we were spending a good chunk of change on the renovation, dining out or even takeout every night seemed excessive, so we kept that to once a week. I was determined to keep the remodel meals healthy and with a minimum of prep and cleanup.
The kitchen was basically off limits, save for the refrigerator. That stayed plugged in, but the water was turned off, so if we wanted ice we’d have to make it the old-fashioned way (ice-cube trays).
I needed that ice to make smoothies, which I prepared in the family room powder room, next to the sink. I have a Nutri Ninja, so I used the single-serve cups to cut down on doing dishes. It’s a super convenient way to get in your leafy greens without having to cook them or eat them in yet another salad. The powder room sink doesn’t hold much and doesn’t have a disposal, so (hold your nose for this one) I dumped the messier food bits straight into the toilet. Needless to say, I cleaned that bathroom a LOT.
Next to the blender was an electric ceramic kettle. That beauty was used multiple times a day for making instant oatmeal, tea, Starbucks Via sticks, and even a cup of miso soup. I kept the regular coffee maker in storage due to lack of space in the tiny bathroom.
We have an oversized countertop microwave, and since there were no kitchen counters and the kitchen and dining room tables were stacked with the contents of the kitchen, the microwave stayed on the floor and we made do with cooking in the toaster oven, which was in a corner of the family room. Watching baseball with the smell of cornbread wafting from the oven is a lovely experience. I attempted to make frozen broccoli in the toaster oven, but after scorching it a couple times, I found that thawing it in the fridge made it a great addition to a chef’s salad with deli turkey breast, cheese and other veggies. Sure, I could have found a place for the microwave, but I wanted to see how we could manage without it, and we did. I think it also kept us from relying on frozen meals, which aren’t very satisfying.
One morning I got a hankering for an egg over avocado toast, and I discovered how tricky it is to bake an egg. Mine came out pretty rubbery, so after that I relied on bagged hard-cooked eggs.
I did throw together a “home-cooked” meal of parmesan-crusted chicken, kale and shaved Brussels sprouts salad, and a chunk of baguette with semi-prepared items I found at Target. The chicken breasts simply went on a baking sheet in the toaster oven, the salad was a quick shake in a big Ziploc bag, and the baguette warmed on top of the oven while the chicken cooked.
What else should you have on hand to survive a kitchen remodel? I know some people have whipped out their electric slow cookers, panini presses or pressure cookers but not having a kitchen sink makes it really difficult to clean those.
A Few Other Things We Found Useful
- Disposable kitchenware: We celebrated Halloween, Christmas and a kiddie party all month long with the leftover paper goods that emerged from the kitchen cleanout. Snowflake plates and Go, Diego, Go! bowls were used up, as were the jack o’ lantern napkins. I kept a couple of ceramic coffee mugs in rotation, though, as they’re easy to wash in the bathroom sink. I also hung onto an 8 by 8 inch nonstick square pan for cooking and baking in the toaster oven. And set aside a medium chef’s knife — those little plastic knives are not meant for food prep.
- TV tables: Remember those chestnuts from your parents’ era? We had some inherited TV tables and took them out for mealtime (when we weren’t just cozying up to the coffee table). The kitchen and dining room tables were loaded up with kitchen items, so we pushed together two TV tables for an intimate dining table for three.
- Outdoor grill: Great way to enjoy a real meal — take it outdoors. We grilled chicken breasts, turkey sausages and the occasional steak, along with grilled vegetables. Stock up on heavy-duty aluminum foil to make cleanup easier.
- Frozen burritos, whole-grain toaster waffles, and, yes, Hot Pockets: Sometimes you just have to grab something convenient, and while not as speedy as the microwave, an Amy’s Kitchen Black Bean Vegetable burrito and a salad is a relatively brainless healthier meal, as was the occasional Lean Pocket, as a nod to the last time we survived a kitchen renovation.
Have you gone through a kitchen renovation? How did you manage? — Gail