Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Stove/oven/microwave-free food prep

This week's Change the World Wednesday challenge over at Reduce Footprints was spurred by a green tip from my blog! Pretty neat, huh? Thanks, Small Footprints! Anyway, the challenge this week was:

This week, "plan an oven- and stove-free day, and no cheating and going out to eat! Have sandwiches, cut up fruit, veggies with dip, leftovers from a previous dinner that you can heat in the microwave**. Plan ahead and make a pasta salad you can eat cold for a few days. Have hummus, feta cheese, and spinach on a pita or wrap. There are tons of healthy, delicious meals you can have without having to turn on the stove! As an added plus, many of the meals are quick and easy to prepare!"

**I'd like to bump up What A Card's challenge ... how about including microwave-free, as well.

I thought I'd give some quick background on where this challenge came from. A few months ago, I filled out an online survey on National Grid's site about electricity usage. After you're done, it comes back with a ton of suggestions for conserving energy. Many were fairly obvious, and things I already do, like using a programmable thermostat. Some things were "we can't afford to do that" or "we're saving money to do that" items. But some were things I never thought of. Two of the recommendations were: "Cut weekly oven use in half by baking multiple dishes at the same time: potential savings per year of 292 lbs of CO2" and "Use the microwave instead of the oven: potential savings per year of 1752 lbs of CO2".

I cook a lot. I'm a stay at home mom, and I cook with my kids. Sometimes I'll make three hot meals a day. For dinner, I often have the oven *and* stove going. I love to cook, and I'm still going to do it, but this has made me more aware of my electricity usage related to food. I've been making an effort to reduce my oven and stove usage when possible. For example, I've found that instead of grilled cheese on the stove (which probably takes about 10 minutes), I can make open-faced toasted cheese sandwiches in the toaster oven (about 1 minute). So, this not only saves electricity, it also saves time, not to mention is healthier since it's not cooked in butter. I know that's not a no-electricity meal, but I've been looking for opportunities like this to reduce electricity usage.

So, here are some ideas I've had of meals to prepare without electricity:

Fresh fruit
Granola bars
Baked goods that you cook the night before while you're already using the oven for dinner. For example, muffins, sweet breads, scones, etc.

Fresh fruit
Raw veggies and dip
Cold pasta salad
Cole slaw
Cheese and crackers

Same stuff as lunch

Here's what I made for dinner:

There's baba ganoush, ful medammes, and pita bread that we got at the farmers' market from Samira's Homemade. (As an aside for any locals reading this, that baba ganoush was the best packaged baba ganoush I've ever had!). I made a garbanzo bean salad on the side: 1 can of garbanzo beans, rinsed, a handful of diced tomatoes, juice and zest from half a lemon, and salt to taste (I used Borsari seasoned salt). It's best to let it marinate in the fridge overnight. We also had a simple salad of things we picked up at the farmers' market: spinach, arugula, grape tomatoes, with a few croutons and my favorite dressing, Cindy's Kitchen Wild Maine Blueberry. It was all delightful!

So what do you think, do you have any other meal ideas that don't require cooking?


Green tip for the day: I'll leave you with another weird one from the National Grid recommendations: substitute buffalo for beef once per month for a potential yearly savings of 91 lbs of CO2. We don't eat much beef, and what we do eat I can source locally. I don't believe there's any local (to Massachusetts) buffalo, so I kind of wonder if the transportation would offset any CO2 reduction. But, I thought this was an interesting one, and I've heard buffalo is healthier than beef anyway, so I'll probably try swapping it from time to time.

Oh, and I guess a second tip is to check out the website for your electric or gas provider and see if they offer any energy-reduction tips. I found these pretty useful!


Green Gal said...

Great tips and suggestions for energy-free meals! :-)

Anonymous said...

Good tips and looks like a nice dinner! I would do this challenge in the summer. I hate heating up the kitchen and try to do cold meals then. In the winter I like my food hot!