Category Archives: Cooking

Equipping the Galley

hackerBack in early March, I wrote that I had to become better acquainted with the care and feeding of a website. Since then, I've read of a massive, ongoing attack on WordPress sites – and I've felt the effects of that attack, often having nearly 100 attempts to hack the site every day! The arrival of waves of hackers has prevented me from enjoying the arrival of spring and  the zen associated with spending time on the boat & preparing for the Great Loop. Bummer. I think there are lots of sites out there that are more vulnerable than this one, and hope that the hackers will grow weary of beating on my door and take their act elsewhere. Regardless, I'm done hardening the site for a while – life beckons.

On a lighter note, I have taken a little time to check out the CorningWare microwave browning dish as a possible addition to the galley on Magic Moments. My initial test – reheating a piece of pizza – was enough to convince me it was not a match made in heaven. Some of the reasons for I'm leery of the pan are:

  • It's glass, and however tough it may be, it's a liability on a boat that may pitch or roll violently at any moment.
  • It's heavy, and even if it doesn't break when the boat is dancing on the waves, I don't relish getting hit in the head with a brick if it finds its way free of its designated storage spot. Murphy Law says that at some point the CorningWare or its lid will become airborne.
  • It takes a lot of power to heat the tin oxide layer on the bottom of the pan enough to sear meat (or reheat pizza) – and power isn't something in abundance while cruising. I plan on installing two relatively large solar panels (about 250 watts each), but I also plan on conserving the power they generate.
  • It's large, and doesn't fit well in the compact microwave I'm considering. Further, it doesn't lend itself well to storing compactly (with the lid nested securely in the pan).

Microwave browning dishBottom line – I'm going to pass on the browning dish. I am impressed with the pressure cooker though, and still plan to take it along for use in a small microwave – in lieu of having a gimballed stove on board – and the associated flammable fuel. Any searing I do will have to be on the small, gas fueled grill on the pushpit rail.

I'll see if I can find a good home for the browning dish on eBay.

Microwave on Board?


Fast Meals While Cruising

Living and cruising long term on a boat requires some adjustments, as most boats have a fraction of the space available in a small home – and Magic Moments is a small boat. Think of it as living in a closet. Space is at such a premium that everything you own needs to do double or triple duty – a five gallon bucket might be key to cleaning your laundry while underway, carrying tools aloft to repair the masthead light, rinsing salt off the deck, dragging it overboard to slow the boat in stormy weather, or using it to bail the cockpit if you've been pooped by an unruly wave. I hold that same ‘double or triple duty' standard when considering the use of a microwave on board. My post about making bread in a pressure cooker touched on using the pressure cooker in a microwave; here are some further thoughts. Why consider using a microwave when gimballed burners have long been the norm on board cruising vessels?

The answer is somewhat convoluted, and goes something like this:

  • Picture of Chef Pepin, from wikimediaA microwave lets me cook quickly in the storage container (read: Zip Lock bag or Tupperware container), without having to mess up a lot of pots & pans or dishes. The associated reduction in water consumption for cleaning dishes is also noteworthy.
  • The microwave will heat just the food, and not the container it's in or the surrounding area. The boat isn't air conditioned, so this could be a good thing in tropical areas. There may be times I'd like more heat, but I'd like to control how much additional heat is added below decks. Similarly, any water vapor from cooking is limited by both the container and the microwave – also a good thing below decks. Using conventional gimballed burners to cook (or having any open flame below) adds moisture to the air, and can make life below unpleasant.
  • There is no risk of a fire or explosion otherwise associated with propane, butane, or alcohol stoves, nor is there any danger of putting something down on a hot burner. Power will come from two solar panels (240 watts each), run through MPPT controllers, and stored in lithium batteries (LiFePO4) – the subject of another post. Renewable, clean… you've all heard the marketing drill. What you may not have heard is that installing the system may qualify for an energy tax credit (yet another post).
  • The microwave can control the food being cooked while the boat rolls or pitches, without having to resort to gimbals and pot holders. If pushed, I can stuff old socks and tee shirts into the microwave to hold food being cooked in place while underway. Appetizing, eh?
  • I can use small zip-lock type plastic bags designed for steam sterilization of baby bottles to cook different foods simultaneously in the microwave or in the pressure cooker. At only 2.5 quarts, the pressure cooker is too small to stack internal dividers and cook different parts of an entire meal all at once. I can easily stack the sterilization bags in the microwave or pressure cooker though.
  • I can easily cook small, pre-packaged meals I've prepared and stored, and the nature of the beast makes using a microwave while underway quick and easy – very much a plus if the boat is dancing while I'm trying to put together a hot meal.
  • I can do a limited amount of searing of meats or reheating pizza (and keeping it crisp) in a microwave using a browning dish (you've got it, ‘nother post), but to truly grill something, I'll have to press the propane powered grill on the pushpit rail into service. Yeah, it's powered by propane <groan>, but at least the propane won't be stored or used in the cabin.
  • It's never really comfortable being on a sailboat in a thunderstorm with lightning providing a light show – but you can use the microwave as a Faraday cage to help protect some of your electronics.
Inverter Microwave
Click for information about inverter microwaves

The bottom line: I guess the microwave has a secure place on board (I'm eyeing the small Panasonic inverter microwave pictured to the left), but the question remains – where will it fit?

It's time to become re-acquainted with the use of CAD, and to realistically plan how all the pieces of the puzzle will come together by making an accurately scaled drawing of the interior of the boat, and seeing how all the pieces can best come together.

Making Bread – in a Pressure Cooker!!


 A Bit of Culinary Magic

Bread - fresh out of the pressure cooker!!I never would have believed it possible; the concept of making bread in a pressure cooker just seems wrong. How do you get something like bread (relatively dry and fluffy) out of a pressure cooker (very moist and pressurized)? Making stews, vegetables, rice and noodles, soups, potatoes and yams in a pressure cooker… all these make sense to me – but bread?

As unlikely as it may seem, making bread or cake in a pressure cooker is very doable, and the results are both tasty and hearty – meaning they're a treat for your tongue and they'll stick to your ribs. There's not much by way of a crust on the bread, but I don't view that as a deterrent.

If you make a sandwich, you won't have to worry about having any hunger cravings for hours. Don't let the fact that it has substance fool you into thinking it has no flavor – quite the contrary! What's more, you can play with the recipe to your heart's content, swirling in cinnamon or adding vanilla, using different flours, etc. What a wonderful discovery!

Interior - pressure cookerSo I've made room in my thinking for making bread in a pressure cooker. The next hurdle is getting my head around using a pressure cooker inside a microwave. The pressure cooker is ‘old' technology, used for canning and such, right? Why would I even consider putting one in a microwave? It turns out that Nordic Ware makes a ‘real' pressure cooker designed to be used in a microwave – unlike some cookware being marketed as microwave pressure cookers, which don't build up any internal pressure. That pressure is what sets pressure cooking apart from conventional cooking, making it faster, healthier, and more energy efficient than conventional cooking. I even found two recipe books online which Nordic Ware provided with the purchase of the pressure cooker in years gone by, but recently the number of recipes seems to have dwindled significantly. The earlier recipe book has about 150 recipes for appetizers, beef, pork, lamb, veal, and poultry main dishes, soups, vegetables, and desserts, while a newer recipe book offers only a tenth of that number of recipes. You can click on the links to view the recipe booklets (they're in pdf format), or right click on them to download them to your computer. There are also a number of other recipe books for pressure cookers available online, but you'll need to adapt the recipes for use with the smaller pressure cooker.

On top of the questions I've raised above is another, over riding question – who would even think of putting a microwave on a such a small boat? (and why!)

That will be the subject of my next post.

Musings about cooking


Using a pressure cooker in a microwave

I started giving some consideration to life on board while cruising, and cooking came to mind. Magic Moments is equipped with a single butane burner – but it's difficult to find fuel, it has no gimbals, and there's no way to hold onto a pan when the boat pitches and rolls. The bottom line is that I need something different to heat food. What to do?

It would be great to avoid the need to have liquid or gas fuels in the cabin, but the only other option is to cook with electricity – and electric power may not be readily available while afloat. I plan to have two sizable solar panels as my bimini though, about 240 watts each, and use them to charge some relatively inexpensive lithium batteries (LiFePO4 batteries). A microwave is probably the most energy efficient use of electricity to cook, but trying to install a microwave in a tiny galley and powering it from batteries is a fools errand. Still… I've been called worse.

OK, if I steal some of the space allotted to the starboard v-berth, shift the location of the new composting head… maybe. Time to break out the crayons and do a little more accurate planning.

Nordic Ware Tender CookerInterior - pressure cookerWhile reading about cooking on board, I ran across several cruisers extolling the virtues of pressure cookers to speed up meal preparations and even bake bread while on board. Hmm… using a pressure cooker – inside a microwave?? Yes! There are several available – but further hunting online shows most designs are fairly cheesy. I found that Nordic Ware makes the Tender Cooker, a 2.5 quart non-metallic pressure cooker that fits in many small microwaves. Not only would I be able to capitalize on the microwave's efficiency, I could compound its efficiency by cooking in the little pressure cooker inside the microwave.

My next consideration was to address the occasional desire for browning or searing meat in a microwave. It turns out that there's a pan for that too! Corning Ware makes a browning dish that has a special tin oxide coating on it, designed especially for the task.

Microwave browning dishThat's enough for today's post. Time to search for a good deal on the two pieces of cookware – I may as well purchase them and use the winter months to see how well they stack up for cooking. I can even use a kill-o-watt meter to see how much power the microwave will use for meal preparation.

I'll be back in a future post to let you know how they work out. Meanwhile, pick out one of your own dreams and chase it!