Category Archives: Food

How Do You: Cook?

kitchen emptyI get asked a LOT about the challenges I face in cooking. This is an area I struggle with tremendously for a variety of reasons. The reality is, my facilities simply are not adequate to do what I need to do for healthy, varied food for a family. My goal is to eat grain and sugar free as my family does so much better with that. Additionally, I shoot for low carb too since *I* do so much better that way. “From scratch” just doesn’t happen, unfortunately.

My cooking is done primarily in a toaster oven. I also have a crock pot but using that is more challenging because washing it is hard (which leads to another question – how do I do dishes? But that is another post for the future.) The photo above was taken prior to moving aboard. The space to the left of the sink is where my crock pot now lives and the spot to the very right is the diesel stove. I use that flat surface as a dish drainer when I wash dishes.

I do not have a microwave or a hot plate or a stove with a surface on which to use a frying pan.

Challenges I encounter are:
1. Limited food storage:

I have a dorm size fridge and a dorm size freezer. The freezer frosts up significantly and I am not really sure what to do about it. Things get lost in the hoarfrost and the door literally freezes shut. The obvious solution is to simply buy a new freezer. But that means money spent on a new one, the time spent taking out the old and installing the new and then disposing of the old. I get overwhelmed. No judgment, please. If any of you are in the area and want to take care of that for me, I’d love that. Otherwise, know this is simply information, not complaining. (Can you tell I get a lot of “helpful” “advice” from “well-meaning” folks? I’m a little sensitive. I admit.)

So, the size of the units makes keeping too much on hand difficult.

2. Limited counter/flat surface prep space:

Cooking takes a surface to cut meat and veggies, to put the bowls and pans and cutting boards, to put finished product to serve. I am very, very visual. I need to lay everything out that I’m going to use. I cannot do that on the boat. Consequently, I use an inordinate amount of brain space trying to keep track of what I’m doing. Also, many things require a bowl of something to be mixed while something else sautes in a pan, etc etc. If I can’t mix it all together, it just doesn’t happen. There are no side dishes! Ha!

My counter space is occupied by my crock pot and my toaster oven. What I’d REALLY like to do is install a small, propane cook stove in place of my Dickinson diesel stove. It would free up counter space AND I could do more than one thing at a time potentially. This is probably at least a $1000 proposition plus getting the right help to get gas lines properly installed, getting diesel lines properly uninstalled. Not out of the question, but very difficult for this already overwhelmed mama.

3. Small sink

I have a DOUBLE sink!! That is actually pretty awesome. Lots of boats don’t have a double sink. This allows me to hand wash on one side and rinse on the other. But, the sink is SMALL. My crock pot fills it up. And the faucet has to be wiggled to get it up over the lip of the crock. (That can’t be a good thing to do regularly, right?) Washing isn’t the real issue. Getting it RINSED is the issue. There just isn’t adequate clearance. I did go shopping for a new faucet that had more clearance as I figured that would be a good way to significantly ease things without a major overhaul. Faucets that will fit my sink are surprisingly hard to find!

Cooking real food means using actual dishes of a certain size and getting those washed and rinsed is challenging.


So, what do I actually cook? If I can slice it directly into my crock pot, I can cook it usually. If I can warm something in my toaster oven, say breaded chicken tenders from Costco, then I do that. I used to do a lot of alternative baking with coconut and other nut flours and I don’t do that anymore. I shop every couple of days. I go to Costco and think “Hmm. What is an actual MEAL. Oh, chicken tenders. We’ll eat those for dinner today, and lunch and dinner tomorrow. And apples. I’ll grab a flat of apples.” And that’s how it goes. Pretty romantic, no?

When I first bought my boat, I lived on it alone and it was MUCH easier to fix things. I have much simpler desires than my kids. Also, being just one person I didn’t need to cook the quantity that is needed for 3 kids, 2 of whom are teens and have adult appetites. Keeping up with quantity in the toaster oven is difficult. I think we lived a year on the boat before I was able to get the crock pot.

Honestly, cooking on the boat is a lot like camping. It takes a lot of planning and logistical work and is energy intensive.

Do you live in a small space? What challenges have you encountered? What creative solutions have you found? Please comment!



Simple Toaster Oven Breakfast

sausage and hashbrowns

Small space cooking means simple cooking. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I don’t have counter space to do any real prep.  I don’t have a hot plate or a microwave – just a little convection toaster oven and a crock pot.
This easy breakfast takes only 2 ingredients: frozen hash browns and sausage links.

First, I lined the toaster oven rack with aluminum foil. Then I piled up a couple handfuls of organic hash browns (these are the Alexa brand from Costco). Next I lined the potato perimeter (I love alliteration!) with good breakfast sausage links (fresh in the Costco meat department).

Bake at 350 or 375 for a while – say 15-20 minutes. Or more. I’m not awesome at that whole timing thing.

Tip: Turning up the edges of the foil keeps any juice/grease from running into the bottom of your oven.

I did find a thin layer of hash browns stuck to the foil. Someone recommended spraying the foil first. I don’t do that. For me, that’s just one. more. thing. to find a place for AND it’s just one. more. step. I need less stuff and less steps. But, it may be useful for you.

I’d think you could lay the sausages like little logs and put the potatoes on top and that might be a good alternative. The sausages won’t brown up that way, so if that carmalizing, browning effect is important to you, keep that in mind.

Someone else suggested breaking a couple of eggs over the pile. I haven’t tried that, but I’d think it would be good.

Besides this being crazily easy and FAST to prepare I love, love, love that I don’t have a pan to scrub. I seriously love using foil as a pan. Crumple that sucker up and toss it in the trash once it’s cool. From my boat-living perspective, it saves on water which I really appreciate since we have to fill tanks less often when dishes are easy.

I’d LOVE to hear some of your ideas for variations on this. I’m particularly interested in “whole food” additions that can be bought pre-packaged. Diced onions would be awesome. Leave me a comment with your suggestions!

Cheesy Veggie Bacon Soup

Cooking has bcheesy veggie bacon soupeen a major, major challenge since our move to the houseboat. There are sundry reasons, most of which are purely logistical, and I’ll write a post detailing some of those at some point.

However, one thing that does work when everything is aligned, is the crock pot. Unless it’s dirty. And my tiny galley is a mess making clean up unbearable and I just take us to the local shop for donuts… (and yes. I do that. Gut-achingly shameful and delicious. That’s me.)

(Check out this slow cooker. It has a damask pattern! When you’re living small, it’s awesome for appliances to be useful AND decorative!)

ANYWAY… I threw this together in hopes it will be done by dinner. It should be super yum and filling. I call it:


You’ll note that I’m not big on measurements because I am sort of not awesome at following rules… Use what you have. This could be done vegan, vegetarian, and semi-paleo too.


celery (I used about 5 full-size stalks cut into large chunks)

carrots (I threw in 3, 4, 8?? handfuls of baby carrots)

broccoli (I used about a 1/2 bag of florets from Costco)

onion (I used a medium one, chopped into chunks. A nice pile of dehydrated onion would work just fine too.)

bacon (I used those bacon bits from Costco. I seriously love those. I bet I used a 1/4 cup or so? A smallish handful? I just dumped it out of the bag right on top. I’d think 3-4 strips of bacon, crumbled would work too if you’re more cook-y than I am.) (Ok, I know I said above this could be done vegan/vegetarian. The obvious thing is to just leave this out. The other obvious thing is to use one of those faux meat products. I’ve not used one, so I don’t know. But, it’s an option.)

Better than Bouillon (chicken flavor) (This stuff is awesome sauce. The wad I dumped in was more than a tablespoon and less than a quarter cup.) (For vegan/vegetarian opt for a vegetable broth – or just season with herbs/spices that you like)

half & half (3/4 of a quart or so?) (sub out coconut or almond milk for another option. I’ve used both VERY successfully for creamy soups. I just had all this half & half that was going to expire, so I used it. Heavy whipping cream would be awesome too.)

butter (6 tablespoons and I only know that because it was marked on the stick!) (To vegan- or vegetarian-ize, use coconut or avocado oil)

shredded or chunked cheese (whatever was left in the bag. I’d shoot for at least two cups since I want the fat and protein for satiety.) a  


Throw all of the above in a crock pot. Add a couple cups of water. You may want more. I probably will but I wanted it to see how thick it would be. I like a thick soup on these damp days.

(And it’s damp. I’m typing away on my little mini-laptop and it’s raining steadily and softly outside – perfect type of day for a movie or good book – or… in my case, a blog post!)

Anyway, I’ll thin it up if needed.

Cook on your preferred setting. I did high for 4 hours. I’m not a Queen of the Crock Pot like my friend Theresa. So, I don’t know if this will cook more quickly or more slowly. I’ll check it in a couple of hours.

Taste it for seasoning and add salt, pepper, oregano, lemon grass.. whatever your sweet little palette desires. When it tastes yum, you can serve it chunky or you can do what I’m going to do: puree the life into it.

I have this awesome Kitchenaid immersion blender. It’s red like the one in the link. I love it. I pureed sweet potatoes yesterday and today with it. It is definitely a crazy-awesome tool for any small space dweller! Anyway, that soup will be so smooth and delish!!