Friday, February 12, 2010

Being Energy Efficient in the Kitchen -- Plus a "Baked" Apple Recipe to Make in the Oven, Toaster Oven, Microwave or Steamer

Baby it’s cold outside and the gas and electric meters are humming, so I thought saving energy (and money) while you cook would be a good topic for a post.

True, covering your pot won’t save you as much as replacing inefficient appliances, turning down the heat, insulating your home, wrapping your hot water heater and getting your kids to turn off the lights, computer and television, but every little bit helps. Here are some basics to start with:

Don’t preheat your oven – most things will only take a few more minutes to cook if you don’t preheat. Put that casserole in a cold oven and take advantage of all the preheating time and energy.

If you are using the oven, use it – You are already paying for all that energy anyway, so why turn on your stove top and burn money there, too? Make a whole meal in your oven. Roast vegetables and potatoes to go along with that chicken. Make a dessert in there, too. Baked apples with raisins, almonds and honey (see recipe below), maybe? Or cook several meals at once to take advantage of all that hot, hot heat.

Grill friend – All those little kitchen helper appliances could be your worst enemy or your best energy-saving friend. Just use them in place of other cooking resources not in addition to. If your countertop grill saves you from having to preheat your range’s broiler, that’s great. But if you have the oven on anyway, maybe you should bake that chicken breast instead of grilling it. Try to use the toaster oven instead your full-size oven.

Home on the range –If you are using your range or stove top, make the whole meal “on top.” Consider using a multilevel steamer. Boiling water on the bottom, your main course in the middle and some tasty vegetables up top. You can even adapt the baked apple recipe below for a steamer. A personal favorite of mine is to use a pressure cooker. They create wonderful stews and soups in a fraction of the time and energy.

Putting a lid on it – Using a lid for a pot is a good idea. Water will boil faster if you can’t see it. Honest. Another tip is to only put enough water in the tea kettle for what you need at the time. I know some people who fill it up to the whistle. It takes forever to come to a boil and tea really needs fresh water every time to taste its best.

Magic Box – The microwave is one of the most efficient appliances in our kitchen arsenal, especially if you work it right. It’s great for one potato, two. But a family’s worth are better being cooked in the oven with yesterday’s dinner and just warmed in the microwave. Planning ahead to have “leftovers” or “pre cooks” not only saves energy, but your time.

Baked Apples with Raisins, Almonds and Honey
Serves 4

These versatile apples can be baked in an oven, toaster oven or made in the microwave or steamer, so pick the method that saves the most energy for you. Directions below are for the baked version. See the notes after the recipe to adapt it for a microwave or steamer.

4 granny smith apples
Juice of large lemon
1/3 cup apple juice or water
1/3 cup of raisins
1/3 cup of slivered almonds
½ tsp. of ground cinnamon
2-3 teaspoons of honey
1 Tbs. of butter or margarine

Preheat oven or larger toaster oven to 350 degrees. Core the apples, reserving a bit of the core to “plug” the bottom of apple. Place in a baking dish. Pour lemon juice over top of apples. Add juice or water to bottom of dish. Combine raisins, almonds, cinnamon and honey in a small bowl, mix well. Pack the filling into the cored out apples (you may have extra). Cut butter or margarine into small pieces and scatter on top of the apples. Cover the baking dish loosely with foil. Baste occasionally with liquid from bottom of baking dish. Bake for about 30 minutes or until apples can be pierced easily with a knife. Serve with syrup from the pan and with whipped cream, yogurt or ice cream if desired.

Microwave Variation: Use microwave safe baking dish and cover with plastic wrap or waxed paper. Reduce apple juice or water by half. Cook on high until done.

Steamer Variation: Place apples in rimmed dish or pan that fits within a steamer. Reduce apple juice or water by half. Cover with steamer lid. Steam over boiling water until done.
Adapted from an article originally written for the Temple Beth Abraham Omer newsletter.

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