Wednesday, February 17, 2016

February 17, 2016

In our journey to go off grid, one of the major items I needed to replace was our oven.  While many people use a gas range, I have allergies to petroleum products, so I was hoping for an alternative.  Of course I was looking for a 110 volt appliance, big enough to bake all the sorts of things I bake, and use a minimum of wattage.  The one I chose was the Oster Model TSSTTVXLDG, as pictured here.  The oven came with two racks and a broiler pan with rack.  It is so exciting that I can run it completely off grid!  So far I have made a pizza (you must try a pizza with sour dough used after the first rise - best crust ever!), a loaf of sour dough bread, cookies, and some blueberry muffins. 
I wish I had taken a picture of the bread before we cut it, but it just didn't happen. 
The first thing I made with it was a pizza.  The way the oven is made, is the back bows out a bit especially to accommodate a round pizza pan.  I use a pizza stone which I put in the oven while it's preheating and it takes less time to cook the pizza.  I had no problems fitting my pizza stone in the oven and it is 15" in diameter.  I have been using the convection bake feature for all the items I have cooked, as it takes less time, and, well, I have never had a convection oven before, so it's a new toy.  The pizza came out perfect.  Next I baked the loaf of bread (next day).  I only baked one loaf in the oven as I had used the rest of the dough on the pizza, so I had it in the middle of the oven with the long way going from the front of the oven to the back.  I set the timer to 25 minutes (a separate timer - I have got to try the one on the oven, but I haven't yet) as I had read to try it 10 minutes less than I use it on a regular oven.  Before I got to the 25 minutes, I heard something beeping and went to check on the oven.  It had shut itself off and said end.  Inside was a perfectly baked large loaf of sourdough bread.  The oven must have some kind of moisture sensor.  I had read that you might have to worry about a large loaf of bread looking cooked on the outside but is doughy on the inside, but this didn't happen in my case.  Yay!  An oven that helps me not forget things in the oven!  Wow! Next I baked the cookies (the next day in the morning.)  While I had two pans, the pans were thin and I was worried about using them on the bottom rack so close to the element, so I only put in one pan at a time on the center rack.  I managed to fit a whole dozen on the baking sheet. 
The oven shut off again, but I noticed that the cookies in the front were not quite done.  This taught me to rotate the pan in the middle of cook time.  They came out great and took about 7 minutes to cook.  Some people on reviews complained about not being able to find the right size baking sheets, but when I got the oven, I measured the interior which was 15 1/2" x 13" (excluding the bowed back).  I found some stainless steel  baking sheets that fit perfectly.   I also made some blueberry muffins.They came out great.  I am wondering if the fluffiness of all these baked goods have to do with the convection oven.  This oven makes me look like the best cook ever! WARNING:  the oven door gets very
hot!  Especially the metal trim on the top!  I have the oven sitting on a Formica countertop and the door opens very wide, so I keep a potholder on the counter to rest the door on.  Also, I have learned not to open the oven door without wearing an oven mitt, as your knuckles hit just the right place to get burned.  Another great thing is that I can unplug the oven when I am done and do not have to reset the clock to cook.  Of course it doesn't have the right time, but who in the world came up with putting clocks on every appliance?  All in all, I love my new oven, it is operating completely off grid, and I have had no trouble with an excessive drain on our batteries or kicking off our system even though it has a well pump, refrigerator and freezer running on it.  It is my plan that if I explore the induction cooktops and they work as I hope, to build a rack with shelves the size of my current range, and put it in where the range goes.  Yes, that is a marble chess board that I leave sitting on my kitchen counter.  It is great to have a beautiful cutting board sitting out all the time so no one is tempted to scratch the countertops while using a knife, and it makes a great place to put hot pads and hot items as well.

Friday, February 12, 2016

February 12, 2016

What to do when it's cold, the water is freezing and it is beginning to snow?  So I gathered the dogs and put them in the basement.  I then took the spare water that we keep in the basement (so one is always thawed out) and went out to the coop to replace their water.  The dogs tagged along.  When I opened up the door to exchange the water, there were only two out of ten chickens in the coop.  I was rather surprised by this, since the chickens really don't like snow.  I then thought about it for a minute and realized that I hadn't seen our chickens for a while, so I put the dogs back in the basement with the extra water and went to find the chickens.  I figured they would be in our little woods area so they would be out of the snow, so I went down that trail first.  When I was nearing the end of the trail, there they were.  I wanted to get them back to the coop, so I picked up a big stick (lest our mean rooster turn on me), and started to heard them back to the coop.  Just to make it fun and help me not worry about the rooster, I made up a little song to sing and started waving the stick in time to the music.  They went even faster (guess I won't quit my day job).  The song was sung to the tune of "skip to my loo".