Friday, February 7, 2020

The Sans Microwave Life

We no longer have a microwave. Our version of this now-ubiquitous kitchen appliance died an honorable death last month and, at this point, we have not replaced it. It is not really a matter of money. I did post on a site for free things, looking for one. And a friend has offered me their "spare" unit but I have yet to take her up on the offer. I am not against the things; far from it. I fell in love with the technology as a child, seeing muffins rise and be ready to eat literally before my eyes, at a home show with my parents. If not for the cost, and my age at the time, I would have been an "early adopter" for sure. When, after several babies, ideas for post-partum gifts of major appliances from their dad had "topped off" my quota of larger units, an Amana Radarange came into our kitchen. The oldest kids were soon entrusted with its use -- supervised, of course, because the food came out hot -- and had no trouble instructing their grandmother in the use of the machine.

In those early days, it was fun to actually cook in the microwave; the very first big entree that the Radarange made for us was a New Years day ham. Recently, I used mine every morning to reheat the diluted, refrigerated cold brew coffee, and found it one of the best ways to reheat veg like beets, greens and mashed squash that was totally, or nearly cooked prior to spending time in the freezer.

However, now that it's gone (or almost gone.. trash day will not be for another couple of weeks so, for now, it waits in the garage) I am experimenting with using its former space for other purposes.

Since moving in here, we have had no place to store my selection of cast iron pots, other than in the oven. I have so many that the actually fill the oven, even stacked up, and if I need oven space for actual cooking, they end up taking space on the range top... crowding that work surface as well. Admittedly I do not always need both cook spaces, but I do more often than one might think. And as I age, lifting the heavy, usually stacked, dutch ovens and lidded skillets from the oven to the back burner and back again is getting more difficult and annoying. I saw the empty space as possible skillet storage, and there they currently sit. It is the right height for me to access them when needed, stores the whole lot out of the way when they are not, and I have truly been enjoying having an oven and stove top free of stored pots.

And I have found that heating the morning coffee on top of the stove honestly does not take much longer than it did in the microwave! My routine was to dilute the brew in a big mug, put it in the "nuker" for 3 minutes (BIG mug...) and then commence to parcel out and take my morning meds. Generally I had to wait a bit on the coffee. Doing similarly with diluted brew in a pot on the stove top burner, on high heat, takes about as long. And since I am still in the kitchen, I do not need to hear the "ding" to tell me that my elixir is ready; I can hear the sound of the bubbles against the side of the pot, as it just begins to boil.

Reheating leftovers and thawing/heating veg required a little more thought. It takes more energy to heat the big oven up than to run the microwave for a few minutes, and going from frozen to serving temperature of, say, a section of turkey roll with dressing actually took longer than baking the sweet potatoes! I was never really happy with the results of the "thaw" setting on the microwave when I used it because I forgot to take frozen raw meat out in advance. Now, though, I have to pay attention, though I have use warm water in the sink to speed the process. For food safety reasons, I cannot recommend this, however.

I have been experimenting with a bain Marie which works well for reheating leftovers (and, if you know me, you know that the water in which the dish to be reheated sits, will be at a much more vigorous simmer than what the linked article mentions for keeping delicate sauces warm, but it is the same principle!) as well as putting those lidded cast iron skillets to work, steam-heating up things like the frozen slices of that turkey roll. That requires the use of lower heat and a flame spreader, for you are not really "frying" in that frying pan, but most frozen foods contain enough water to happily steam-thaw on their own.

And yesterday morning, while making pancakes, I put the glass jar of maple syrup at the back of the stove top, where the heat from the oven rises, which took away its chill quite nicely. *An oven to make pancakes?" you wonder? They cook on a griddle or skillet, but I turn the oven on very low and allow it to heat first, with a heat resistant plate in place, where the pancakes rest and stay warm until I have used all of the batter.

So, while it may not be for everyone, thus far life-sans-microwave is working just fine for me.