The One Knife Kitchen

Day 133

When we packed our bags to move to Colorado for this temporary stint, I purposely went light on the kitchen items.  In my mind, it was a little like going on vacation and I always make it work with those sparsely equipped condo kitchens.

My rational was that I was just cooking for myself and the kids.   I knew we’d  have to wash things more often, but figured that’s doable.  And we wouldn’t be entertaining that often.  It was a pretty simple plan for our Simple Year.

So, here is where I started to run into a bit of a problem with that line of thinking.    I am fairly serious (OK, OK, some might say a teensy tiny bit obsessive) about healthy eating and I work pretty hard at keeping processed foods out of my kid’s diets.

It is a bit more work, but when you look at all of human history, it has only been just recently that we haven’t had to spend 100% of our waking hours dedicated to hunting or growing enough calories to keep ourselves alive.   Comparatively speaking, the 45 minutes a day it takes me to clean and chop vegetables doesn’t seem that bad.

When we got here, I was excited to join a local organic CSA.   If you aren’t familiar with the acronym, it stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  The theory behind it is that you buy a “share” of the farmer’s crop.   You pay the money up front, to help them with cash flow  the implication being that you will both share risk as well as reward.  Each week during the growing season you get a box of produce that is your “share.”    It is a great way to support local farmers and a good way to ensure that you are getting a variety of fresh summer veggies.


If you have ever belonged to a CSA, you can back me up on this.  The box doesn’t just magically come with all the fresh ingredients you need for your planned weekday menu.  It comes with whatever is ready to harvest and didn’t succumb to powdery mildew or cabbage worms that week.

So, the contents of a box on any given week might look like this:

  • 1 Garlic scape (the shoot with the closed flower bud from the garlic plant, it is delicious, but there isn’t a lot you can do with one)
  • 12 pounds of kale (well maybe not that much, but it sure seems like it)
  • 7 zucchinis (I am convinced the zucchini plant is the key to solving world hunger)
  • A bunch of other stuff in onesies and twosies

It takes a serious commitment to consume the contents of that box each week.   Basically, there is lots of creative fly-by-the-seat of your pants cooking that includes at least one soup or casserole each week with all the leftover veggies thrown in.   I call it “Mama’s Soup Surprise”.  My children call it other not so favorable things, but they usually eat it.  Primarily, because I do the older child equivalent of the here-comes-the-choo-choo-train-trick, meaning, I threaten them.

OK, threaten might be a strong word.  Rather, I give them the opportunity to NOT have Mama’s soup surprise packed in their school lunch the next day if they eat it at night.  They usually end up liking it just fine.  A couple of weeks ago they surprised me by LOVING collard greens cooked with a smoked turkey leg.


Who knew my kids would actually eat collard greens? They also really liked the turkey.


In any case, I often will find myself without some of the highly specialized tools of the at home chef.    As a result I have had to use some of my problem solving skills.

For instance, no meat mallet…

Use a hammer!

No box grater or grater attachment for food processor?

The plane grater works for more than just Parmesan cheese.


Some of  the other things I have discovered include:  a food processor works in place of a blender for smoothies or margaritas.  A spoon works just fine if you don’t have an ice cream scoop.  If you find yourself without loaf pans, make muffins. (or vice versa, I suppose).  Did you know you can wash and dry lettuce with a clean towel and that  you don’t need a salad spinner?

Another interesting thing to note.  I have a full block of knives, but I always found myself picking up the same one.   Well, I just brought that one  knife here and I haven’t missed the others at all.  Although, I do wish I had the sharpener thingy.

So, I guess, what I am trying to say is that the absence of  all my kitchen gadgets doesn’t seem to be a show stopper.  There doesn’t seem to be anything I’ve found yet, that  I absolutely can’t make with the tools at hand.   And believe me, that is no small thing for me to admit given that it wasn’t very long ago that I was a devotee worshiping at the alter of Williams-Sonoma.

...all hail pasta maker, potato ricer and biscuit cutter


If you want to learn more about CSAs in your area (and I haven’t scared you away with my picture of collard greens).   You can search on the Local Harvest Website  here

10 Responses to The One Knife Kitchen

  1. My utinsil drawers are so overpacked it’s a game getting them closed yet I probably only use 1/2 dozen items on a regular basis. And finally had to give up on CSA but we have so many amazing farmers markets it makes sense. My favorite Berkeley market has everything you could ever want…many, many Organic options, locally made cheese, pasta… Zoe is the taste tester. Whatever she likes we buy 🙂

  2. When we were young, we took a 3 week camping trip across the USA. Mt. Rushmore, the Grand Canyon, Disneyland, SF & Mt. Hood to name a few spots on our itinerary. With 5 kids, a dog and pulling a pop-up camper, space was at a premium for packing. My parents had a portable kitchen they thought was well equipped until one night mom made spaghetti on the Coleman camp stove. As the pasta was ready to come off the heat, she realized we didn’t have a strainer. She opened a pair of panty hose she had brought to wear to church, (this was ’69 and no one went to church with bare legs!) and proceeded to strain the spaghetti through them! Us kids that that was genius, dad thought it was funny & mom told us never to tell anyone.

  3. I wonder what it would take to start a small, community-based farm in a greenhouse for year-round growing? We do have this big unincorporated field behind the subdivision. I love the fresh vegetables we get form our small backyard garden and would love to have access to that throughout the year.

  4. I recently went through my kitchen and got rid of all the things I never use. I had to give up a lot of cooking dreams, but now that my cupboards aren’t overflowing, I can find what I need so much faster. And really, why was I hanging onto that stuff anyway?

    Just found your blog and am enjoying it very much. Thank you for sharing your journey with all of us.

  5. I totally love this story about the strainer. My Mom always strained the noodles with the lid that went with the pan, so I don’t miss the strainer at all – even still. I thought everyone did it that way.

  6. I learned to bake from my grandmother. While she did have one of the early food processor type things, it wasn’t like what is now called a food processor. It didn’t make dough, for example. All I can remember it doing is switching between blender and nut/meat grinder. Consequently, I keep baffling my boyfriend and his family by using my grandma’s old Pyrex mixing bowls and a wooden spoon or my hands for batters and doughs.

  7. Pingback: Mr. Carrot | The Simple Year

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