Yes, I bake my bacon in the oven! One of my favorite foods is bacon. That is one of the main reasons I embraced changing my diet to low carbs. Dr. Atkins mentions bacon often. I used to hate the top of my stove getting splatter with bacon grease, but soon I found another way of cooking it that can out much better than frying. Baking it! Yes, it works great. Here is a previous post I wrote about it, Cooking Bacon Fast and Easy. Back then I was still baking it in the oven but using aluminum foil on the pan. It worked very well. Now I have switched from using aluminum anything if I can. I had to research and see what was available. Dr. Mercola, who I have a lot of respect for, having a couple of his books, wrote this article, Is It Safe To Cook With Aluminum Foil. It made me reconsider using it. On to my research.
I tried a silicone baking mat.
I asked my friends on Facebook and some of them recommended the silicone baking mats. I tried this one and absolutely hated it! I could never get it clean once I cooked bacon in it. The grease is hard to wash off anything so I am not faulting the mat itself. It would work for other foods, but I wanted something for bacon. I save my grease and it was easy to pour it off this mat but it still stayed greasy even with lots of soap, hot water, vinegar and baking soda. Nothing would clean it. Into the trash it went. Next……….
I discovered parchment paper!
I learn a lot from the reviews on Amazon. Even though some are fake or written by trolls, there are some good discussions on the reviews themselves. It brought me to Parchment Baking Paper and I ordered a roll to test it out. Needless to say, I buy it regularly all the time. I love it for anything I put in the oven. Remember the old days when you’d cut a piece of wax paper and flour it to put under your cake so it would lift out perfectly? The parchment paper reminds me of that. I even reuse pieces if they are not too dirty, because many times the paper is perfectly clean. I even use it under chicken or just about anything I bake in the oven. The grease will flow right off into your grease can and if you are careful not to tear the paper when taking whatever off it, your pan will still be clean. I love that the most about it.
Raw Bacon on Parchment Paper
One of the things I love about cooking the bacon in the oven is that it comes out big and flat. Just the way I like it. I guess my husband likes it that way too. If you have a freezer, you could cook the whole package this way and freeze it for other meals. Then it would be a quick addition to whatever you are cooking. A BLT salad or wrap. Or a last minute idea and you don’t want to wait to cook up some. Bacon always adds flavor to whatever you add it to. Plus if you are on a Ketogenic or Atkins food plans, bacon is a great between the meal snack.
As you can see the grease stays in the pan and makes for an easy clean up. Just remember to be careful removing the bacon or turning it not to tear the parchment paper. If you do, it will spill into the inside of the pan and you will have to clean it up. Not a fun job! For a long time I did not make bacon due to hating that job. This way it is much easier and comes out so much better. Try it and see. Nice big flat pieces!
Jewel Wood Cook Stove made by The Detroit Stove, Co.
Having lost my wood cook stove has hampered my method of cooking now. The cook stove was old and we had planned on storing it in our barn until we had our kitchen remodeled with an addition. I was going to use it as a place to display and store my cast iron cookware collection since it wouldn’t be hooked up anymore. I planned on buying the Pioneer Princess. When my husband took it apart, it literally fell apart. It was amazing it had lasted as long as it had. Last winter, it smoked horribly and I could not breathe. I knew I did not want to use it another winter even though I dearly loved my Jewel Wood Cook Stove made by The Detroit Stove Co. I saved some pieces of it but most of it went to the metal scrapper place. It did bring in a bit of money since it was very heavy.
My View Now
Once I got over my sadness of losing it and not having a cook stove in my kitchen we opted for a small wood stove for the time being since a cook stove is expensive and we were busy with other projects. After the new small stove was put in, I really liked it. The cook stove blocked the light coming into the kitchen. It was black, dark and a real dust collector. Since it was in front of a good half of the sliding glass doors onto the deck it also blocked my view of the outside. It has changed my mind about even replacing the wood cook stove. I have been looking at modern wood stoves that have no back above the stove and have an oven and a cook top. I didn’t want one with a glass door but so far that is all I have found. So I may have to settle for that, if we even decide to change to a different wood stove. I might get used to this one and not cooking on it so much. Especially if I can use electric appliances for cooking.
Cooking on it
The little stove we got is too small for serious cooking. I can put one small pan on it at a time. We usually have a tea kettle on it all day for refills of instant coffee once the perked coffee is consumed. In the winter though, it is smarter to use the wood stoves for cooking. Then it serves two purposes. I am anxious to get rid of our dependence on propane and want to take our propane cooking range out. No sense paying for that if I am getting free energy from the sun and wind. The wood stoves take work and I am willing to do what I must to use them, but in summer I will be using the electric for cooking. Should be much easier.
Griswold Bolo Oven
I use a Bolo oven made by Griswold for baking on the top of our big wood heating stove. They are not easy to find, but you can also use the camping ovens that people use for baking on grills and campfires. A Dutch oven works good for baking also. In my Bolo oven, which is quite big, I can roast a whole turkey, a ham, bake pies, cakes or cookies, casseroles or whatever. It is wonderful even though it takes up a large part of the top of the wood stove. My heating wood stove’s top is quite large and can handle it along with a couple pots of water.
Our goal is to be self-sustainable as much as possible. What does it mean to be self-sustainable? This is what Wikipedia says about it: “A system is self-sustaining (or self-sufficient) if it can maintain itself by independent effort. The system self–sustainability is: the degree at which the system can sustain itself without external support. the fraction of time in which the system is self-sustaining.”
Planning the 2018 garden is already in the beginning stage. Our garden this year was a waste. Except for the food we ate from it like lettuce, tomatoes, kale and herbs. Larry had too many projects going that he couldn’t stop doing to work in the garden. Bugs were extremely bad and I am not one to whine about them too much. I got some pretty bad stings and bites. In one of the raised beds I uncovered a yellow jacket underground nest! I stayed away from that area. We also had numerous mice and moles digging everywhere. Our two cats were killing at least two a day for awhile. That is reason enough to leave the garter snakes alone. They like to eat the mice and moles, but I wish they would leave my frogs alone! I once rescued one from a snake in the process of eating it.
Wood Raised Beds Removed
When Larry finished some of the major projects we had going on (I’ll share them with you in a future post), he removed the wood raised beds on the side of the house. I was sad to see them go, as I had spent many happy days in those beds. I remember the cats out there with me or even longer ago when I had my pet red hen, Lil’ Red, following me around the garden while I worked. A very peaceful way to spend a day. It was just too much for us to manage. We had fifteen total beds, seven wood ones on the side of the house and six rock ones in the backyard. Then there are two block ones where the guy wires for the wind turbine are anchored. Add in the fact that I am having trouble getting around and my poor husband ends up doing all the hard work. He doesn’t complain though. At least not to me.
The Jurassic Bed
Some of the rock beds in the garden are huge and keeping the weeds down in them is a major job. We plan on changing one or two of them into a hoop house so we can get a head start on the gardening season here in NY. The area where the wood raised beds was is going to be a small fruit orchard with fruit trees and some berry bushes. We have talked of doing this for some time now and next year is the year. No more excuses!
The Snake Bed
As I have been analyzing our garden and what we want to grow, I found these ideas to implement in the garden next year:
Two soil test kits. One for the PH and one for minerals.
Find a good method to start the seeds in the house that keeps them warm.
Fruit trees and bushes in the side garden area.
Order “Blight Free” tomato seeds (NON-GMO hybrids) or we will never have any growing again.
Use Ruth Stout’s “no dig” method of growing potatoes.
Mulch all the beds and make them as “weed free” as possible.
Next fall (2018) plant a cover crop in them and maybe in the paddock too.
Plant a strawberry bed in several hanging baskets or bags.
Build trellis for vine plants.
Tomato cages and red mulch for the tomato plants.
Going to Seed
It sounds like a lot to do but I think buying the items needed will be the most difficult. So going to buy them little by little over the winter so in the spring we are prepared. Once that is accomplished our gardening time will be much more enjoyable. Especially harvest season!
Instant Pot cooking in my homesteading kitchen was not something I expected to be doing. Not with an off the grid alternative energy system that is for certain. Using heating appliances like stoves, irons, dryers, toaster ovens, etc. has always been a no no. Uses too much power when you are limited depending on the size of your system. The amount of sun available affects it too. My husband mentioned that he thought we could start using some electric appliances for cooking. Now we had more power to use so I was eager to try it. My friend, Dawna started talking about her new Instant Pot. She told of the various meals she was making and how fast it was. Made me have to check it out. Reviews on Amazon were impressive. I wanted to buy one! I did.
Meter tells me if I can use electric for cooking today.
The main thing for anyone living off the grid with their own solar, wind or hydro system is to keep an eye on your meter. The meter tells how much power is coming into and going out of your system. Our system has a diversion load charge controller that diverts the power to other uses if our batteries are full. Since we replaced our lead acid batteries with Battle Born LiFePO4 lithium ion batteries, our system is always being diverted. That means we have more power to use! What better way to use it than cooking your food? Cooking for free is what my husband says. I have added a few new electrical appliances to my kitchen since. A blender and an induction cook top (which is like a modern hot plate), as well as the Instant Pot.
Getting chicken ready to cook.
Yesterday I decided to cook chicken in the Instant Pot. Now this post is not really a recipe post. I don’t use a recipe to cook in the Instant Pot when cooking something as basic as chicken or some kind of meat. All I did was to wash the chicken and season it. I was cooking chicken thighs and breasts. I cooked them separately because the thighs need to cook longer. My husband favors the chicken breasts. I prefer the thighs, especially since I follow a Ketogenic food plan. I wanted the skin to be crunchy crisp. Not easy to do that in a pressure cooker or the Instant Pot. I tried it but was not able to make it come out that way. For now, this will do. It was good.
Seasoning the chicken first.
I season my chicken with garlic powder, Himalayan salt, fresh ground black pepper and Bragg’s Organic Sprinkle Seasoning. I add salt to my foods because eating the Keto diet, I need more salt. You can just omit that. At times I add grated cheese to chicken cooked in the oven. Since this was in a pressure cooker, I did not. Whatever types of seasonings you like you can put on it. As I said, this is not a recipe post so whatever sounds good to you.
Browning the chicken in the cast iron griddle.
I began with the thighs, washed and seasoned them. I heated bacon grease in a cast iron griddle on the gas stove and browned them a few minutes on each side. They can be browned in the inner pot of the Instant Pot, but I find it too small to do a good job. I prefer browning meats on the cast iron griddle. They seem to brown better with a nice crust on them. It will hold four big pieces of meat on it at the same time. That saves me a lot of time.
Inside the Instant Pot
I had eight thighs and as each one finished I put them into the Instant Pot inner pot. Added about a cup of water and closed it up. I set the timer to 9 minutes and using the manual setting set the pressure to high. That was it. I got to work on washing and seasoning the four chicken breast needed for the next pot. I know it sounds like a lot of food for two people, but I like to have it all cooked and in the refrigerator for a few days ahead.
Close it up and set the time and temperature.
I can see how handy it would be to have a second inner pot. I plan on buying one very soon. I could have put the first inner pot with the cooked chicken directly in my thermal cooker to keep hot without having to transfer it to another pot. When it was done and the cover had released, I put it in the thermal cooker inner pot and closed it up. That will keep it steaming hot until we sat down to eat. Now I added the browned chicken breasts to the inner pot. Set the timer for 6 minutes. While it cooked, I prepared our vegetables so everything would be ready when the timer went off. It was.
Chicken is done!
Even though I was not able to cook the chicken so it had crunchy crispy skin, it came out really tasty and soft. It fell off the bone. It would have been perfect for chicken and dumplings or biscuits but I don’t eat those anymore. I am planning on trying a few low carb ketogenic dumplings and biscuit recipes and see what I come up with. I know I need to cook with the Instant Pot as much as possible to utilize our free electric cooking power. My long term goal for many years now has been to turn off the propane for good. Now that day looks like it is in the near future.
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