5 Tools for the Microwave-Free Kitchen

Recently I stumbled across a great post from The Humbled Homemaker on how her family ditched their microwave, and it reminded me of the fact that my own family ditched our microwave about a year ago, too.

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Sometimes I forget that microwaves are a staple in most kitchens. My mother and I are the main cooks in our home, and we had paired down our use of the microwave significantly before finally getting rid of it altogether. Now I rarely even think about microwaves. It has become completely second nature for me to cook and reheat my food without using a microwave. Since I was using it so rarely to begin with the adjustment was completely uneventful for me, but I promise that you can adjust, too, if you decide to follow the no-microwave path.

Erin did an excellent job of covering the “why’s” of kicking the microwave to the curb (although, can we take a moment to remember what a pain it is to clean one? Ugh!). Instead of reiterating the points she has already covered very well, I want to share my personal favorite tools to use in place of the microwave.

1. Get yo’self a tea kettle! I personally love my electric tea kettle, but an old fashioned stove-top kettle would work well too if you are wanting to go off the grid. I was incredibly lucky to stumble upon my tea kettle for $5 at Goodwill. Nothing was wrong with it other than a damaged box! A typical non-thrift store electric kettle will run you anywhere from $15-50, depending on how fancy you want to go, but I have to tell you…my cheap one does just fine!

I love the tea kettle for quickly heating water for things like tea or oatmeal. I also even use it to cheat when boiling water to cook food on the stove top. It heats the water to boiling much faster than our stove, so I will often get my water hot in the kettle and then switch it to the stove top to save a little extra time. I also don’t have to babysit the water in the kettle, because I can hear when it starts steaming (even though it doesn’t whistle). That leaves me free to do other things while my water heats.

2. Erin also mentioned her convection oven, and I have to tell you…I couldn’t live without ours. I love our convection oven so much that I just had to list it even though Erin’s post mentions it as well.

Convection ovens save so much time in cooking because they warm up faster than a larger oven, and they also heat up the kitchen much less. I am always popping sweet potatoes, left overs, and even up to six slices of bacon in ours. They are also excellent to have around during the holidays when many more dishes than usual need to be cooked within a certain time frame.

3. A vegetable steamer is a great asset as well. These can be as simple or as fancy as you want them to be (we go for simple around here), but either way they are a wonderful tool for heating leftovers. In addition to quickly and gently cooking fresh or frozen veggies, these are great for heating leftovers that have a tendency to dry out when reheated. Sometimes foods such as steak are prone to over-cooking and becoming tough when heated again, but steaming helps to keep the food moist and tender.

4. If you don’t have a crock pot yet, run, don’t walk, to the nearest store and grab one! In fact, I recommend two of varying sizes! Why worry about trying to fix supper in a flash by cooking with a microwave when you can make a much better quality meal with no rush? Throw your food in that puppy in the AM and serve it up nice and hot and delicious in the PM. No muss, no fuss, no extra pots and pans. Just supper served simply.

5. Finally, if you’re really new to the concept of cooking sans-microwave, get a good traditional food-based cookbook. Against All Grain is a personal favorite of mine, and I can attest to the fact that you will love her recipes regardless of whether or not you are Paleo or Gluten-Free. I recommend this cookbook to everyone I can, because the recipes are all so, so good in addition to being super healthy and fairly simple. They’re more involved than popping some frozen macaroni and cheese in the microwave, but they’re much better than that, too (and I used to practically live off microwaved mac’n’cheese for lunch). And just FYI, the meatloaf is my favorite recipe in AAG.

Danielle also has a new cookbook out called Meals Made Simple. I haven’t tried as many recipes from it yet, but it looks very promising! I can’t imagine any of her recipes not being fantastic.

There you have it! These are my favorite tools to start transforming your kitchen from microwave-central to a well-oiled traditional cooking machine. I would be lying if I said our meals are now 100% healthy handmade treasures, but we’re getting closer…and saying goodbye to the microwave has drastically reduced our intake of processed foods. When heating a frozen meal would take just as long as making something a little better, suddenly “TV dinners” aren’t so appealing anymore.

Have you ditched your microwave recently? Let me know your tips for living without one!

– Rachel

Breed Spotlight: Nigerian Dwarf Goats

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I love to learn about the many different breeds of livestock. I find the subject fascinating! Typically when we think of a cow, pig, chicken, or what-have-you, an image of a particular breed comes immediately to mind. The Holsteins, Yorkshires, Leghorns, and other breeds popular with commercial growers have redefined our ideas of livestock. Yet these are not the only breeds available! There is incredible diversity among livestock breeds, and oftentimes the less well known breeds are actually a better fit for a homestead than the commercial standards.

Because I love this subject, and because choosing the right breed(s) of livestock is incredibly important for homesteaders, I am doing a video series called “Breed Spotlight.” In this series, each video will focus on a specific breed of livestock, their history, what makes them unique, and what assets they can bring to your homestead. Investing in quality livestock is no small feat; this series will help you make an informed decision so that your time, money, and efforts are not accidentally wasted on a breed that isn’t the right fit for you.

Of course, I had to start with Nigerian Dwarf goats! This is the primary breed of livestock I raise, and they are certainly my favorites. I couldn’t start anywhere else than my own backyard!

I hope you enjoy this series as much as I am enjoying making it. Please let me know if you have a breed you’d like for me to highlight!

– Rachel

Predator Friendly Farming

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Mid-South Homestead Education is launching a series of free educational videos! We have created a YouTube channel specifically to share these videos with you, so go ahead and check out our first video below and subscribe to our YouTube channel as well so you don’t miss anything.

This is the very first video, and is somewhat of a test run (though it certainly contains valuable information!). Please let us know what topics you would like to see covered in future videos!

(Please forgive the sound quality — I did not realize there were issues with the microphone.)

Thanks for watching and sharing with your friends.

– Rachel

New Website — New Beginnings

Greetings from our new home on the web!

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I recently created and shared a survey to find out what needs and wants people have in regards to homestead education. If you haven’t taken that survey, go here to do so. It’s a short survey of only seven questions, and your input is highly valuable!

A few trends have stood out in the survey. I will share the most relevant ones with you here. (These images show the statistics of the survey as of 1/20/2015. I am leaving the survey open for a bit longer for those who haven’t take it yet.)

First, a majority of people who are interested in attending our annual homesteading conference want the classes available for view after the fact. I phrased the question in regards to posting videos online in a members-only webpage, but I also received other suggestions in the comments such as giving the option to purchase a DVD of the classes or having attendees pay an additional fee for video access. I am not sure yet how we will go about it (though it likely won’t be the latter suggestion), but we do hope to have videos available through some means for conference attendees this year.

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The survey also revealed that the most popular class topics are raising livestock, growing gardens, and making value-added products from things grown or raised on your homestead (such as soaps, fiber arts, leather, canned foods, etc). However, interests were also extremely varied. There was no one topic that I had listed that no one was interested in. So, it seems there is a lot of ground to cover and a lot of needs to meet. Getting to all of them in one conference would be impossible, but thankfully the conference isn’t the only means of sharing information — but we’ll get to that in a second.

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And lastly, I also asked if people would be interested in additional educational opportunities throughout the year aside from the conference. Overwhelmingly the response was yes, with only one out of 70 respondents not being interested. Although each “yes” option received some votes, people were most interested in two things: hands-on workshops and short educational videos. In the comments of this section, people were most excited about the possibility of workshops. One person said that more frequent workshops would make them feel more involved. Someone else commented that having more frequent in-person classes would provide more opportunities for people with busy schedules to find a class that works for them. Another suggested the idea of “take away” workshops where attendees could make something and then bring it home with them. All good points, in my opinion.

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The comments and responses to the survey were extremely helpful and really indicate that there is need for homesteading education that is not being met sufficiently in this area. In response to this need, I am going to start incorporating these suggestions in 2015. I have changed the name from “Mid-South Homesteading Conference” to “Mid-South Homestead Education” to reflect the broadening of our scope, and have subsequently changed over to a new website as well and one which I feel will better serve people. Going forward, this website will serve not just as a registration page for our conference (like our former website was), but also as a place to share all of our upcoming events and our online educational resources.

I do want to point out a couple of other things quickly. While I am working toward expanding our educational resources and opportunities through both in-person events and online resources, it will be a work in progress. I am not an expert in all things homesteading (as much as I would like to be!), so meeting everyone’s needs will take a lot of collaborations with other people with specific areas of expertise. I am looking forward to working with other homesteaders who can teach me a thing or two, but it does take time to coordinate schedules and find experts with whom to work in all these many various fields of interest.

MHE is also a fledgling operation. 2014 was our first year to venture into the world of educating other homesteaders (aside from helping people one on one and teaching a couple of soap making classes at other events). We are very new to organizing these kinds of things, so please bear with us as we find our sea legs.  Eventually, through your input and the help of others, I believe we can become a well-oiled machine capable of helping people in the Mid-South area and beyond, but I’m sure there will be a bump or two along the way.

If you have been with us from the beginning, I cannot thank you enough! You know who you are, and your support means the world. If you are new, welcome! We look forward to getting to know you and taking this exciting journey together.

– Rachel