Tuesday, August 3, 2010

No Stove- Preparing Food

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When life gives you no stove, write a post about food preparation without the aid of a stove, while still trying to conserve electricity.

So, without further ado-

Preparing Food With No Stove

We have a gas stove and electric oven, the typical combination found in my area. Our gas is not supplied in gas lines; we have balloons in the back yard filled with gas that get used and replaced as needed. We didn't get around to replacing the used balloon fast enough and now our second gas balloon has finished, leaving us with no gas and no stove top. I'm determined to use my oven as little as possible, so this lack of a stove top is going to get my creative gears churning to prepare food for my family while still using as little electricity as possible.
This isn't going to be a Needs vs Wants Wednesday post simply because I have no plans on getting rid of my stove top. These are just my coping methods until we can get a hold of the gas man and replace our tanks.

Raw Foods
These foods are usually easy to prepare, require no heating element, and are the best way to eat foods while preserving as many nutrients as possible. Best of all, these foods are most refreshing in the summer as they're delicious cold and help you feel cool, no matter the temperature outside.

Fruit and Veggies
Produce is so versatile and can be eaten in a multitude of ways, most of which can be prepared without needing any cooking. Without any heat, you can make veggie spears with dips, lacto-fermented veggies, salads, and raw food soups.
Fruit can be made into delicious smoothies, as well as fruit salads and sorbets, or simply eaten plain.
Zucchini and summer squash can be eaten raw, as can corn, green beans, broccoli and cauliflower. You will want to avoid raw eggplant, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash. Most fruit are better raw, but things like quinces should be cooked.

You have to be careful with these, because not every sprout can be eaten raw. Beans usually need to be cooked to get rid of toxins, so stay away from sprouted beans if you're going stove free. As far as I know, of the beans, only mung bean sprouts (Chinese bean sprouts) and garbanzo beans (chickpeas) are perfectly fine uncooked.
Buckwheat can be sprouted, as can lentils, alfalfa, wheat, spelt, barley, and much, much more. You can read all about the different sproutable foods at sproutpeople.com with instructions for how to make each individual type of sprout.
Sprouts can be eaten in salads, blended up to make dips (raw humus anyone?), put on sandwiches or just munched on as desired.

Animal Products
Milk, milk, and more milk. That's what I'm seeing in my stove free near future. Uncooked milk can be drunk plain, made into smoothies/shakes, or into chocolate milk or eggnog. You can also make paneer cheese, ricotta cheese or yogurt if you have a way to heat up the milk somewhat, perhaps by immersing it into boiling water from an electric kettle.
Eggs can also be eaten raw, and no, I'm not afraid of salmonella poisoning as it is statistically very improbable to get sick from raw eggs. Raw eggs make mayo, dressings, or eggnog.
Fish can be eaten raw, as long as you've got a good source of really fresh fish. You can make sashimi- raw fish eaten like sushi, or ceviche- fish marinated in citrus juices to denature the protein. You can also make lacto-fermented fish.
Meat- if you're really daring, you can also eat steak tartare, but that is out of my comfort zone as well as my budget.

Nuts and Seeds
Peanuts, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds. The list is endless. All these can be eaten raw and are no problem with no oven. You can make raw peanut butter or almond milk or tahini sauce or walnut butter. You can make nut flours in your food processor and even make cookies.
These are a good, raw source of protein.

Solar Cooking
I've made plenty of delicious meals in my old solar cooker, but haven't been having too much luck with my small, portable one.
I've commissioned a carpenter (friend's husband) to build me a more professional solar cooker from amazing wood I found in the dumpster, and hopefully it'll be finished within the next day and I'll be able to share the plans with you. (I could do it myself, but I want something that will look much nicer than what I can do, since it will be sitting on a porch I share with my neighbor and don't want it to look terrible.)
Solar cooking is a terrific way to cook, so long as you have a good solar cooker and a decent amount of sunlight.

Take your cooking outside and cook food on the flame.
Make your own homemade barbecue grill. No need to use gas or charcoal briquettes, just use wood to burn your fire in your BBQ.
So many different types of things can be cooked on the grill.
Chicken and meat are the obvious, with foil wrapped fish next in line. Veggies can also be grilled on the BBQ; you can cook the foods you don't want to eat raw, like that eggplant that has been sitting in your fridge. Corn still in its husk tastes superb on the grill. Shish kebabs can be made with zucchinis, carrots, peppers, and onion. Tomatoes can be put whole onto the fire.
If you're going to be cooking foods for a long while, you can also wrap potatoes in foil and stick them into the fire, but it usually works best if you put them in embers that are less hot.
Did you know that you can also make flatbreads on the grill? I haven't tried this out yet, but I'm eager to make it now!
Even a pot of noodles can be made on the grill if you've got the patience to do so.
Barbecues are a great way of cooking your food with no stove.

Crock Pot
A crock pot does use electricity, but only as much as 1 light bulb, so that is something I feel is permitted to be used, even in an energy efficient and utilities conserving household.
Crock pots are a stupendous way to make foods that wouldn't work so well on a grill and that need to be eaten cooked. You can cook rice in a crockpot. You can cook casseroles and soups, stews and roasts. Not to mention crockpot bread, pizza, and cake.
Franco-American Spaghetti O's, 14.75 ozRead A Year Of Slow Cooking, the blog, for many, many, many crock pot recipes and ideas.

Canned Food
Can't cook for whatever reason but don't want raw? You're in luck- so much is available canned today. All the way from baked beans to Spaghetti Ohs, Manwich to okra, salmon to potatoes. Nearly everything can be found canned, and all canned foods are ready cooked.

The Oven
My nemesis. Ok, not that extreme, but I do try to avoid using it as much as possible. When I do use it, I try to load it up as much as possible so I can cook the most things in the least amount of time, because ovens are big electricity and money sucks.
But, worst comes to worst, anything that you wanted to cook on the non functional stove and couldn't eat raw, couldn't be solar cooked or barbecued, and wouldn't work in the slow cooker could generally be baked in the oven.
Just make sure to load it up so you're not wasting all that electricity!

The Menu
Couldn't leave you without a stove and oven free menu for the week. So here it is:
Breakfast all week: Eggnog, milk shakes, or raw oat cereal.
Lunches are dinner leftovers or sandwiches.
Monday- Rice and eggs and beet salad. (Rice cooked at a friend's house because I found out my stove wasn't working an hour before my husband needed to leave the work and I couldn't use the more time consuming methods. Beets were from the fridge and eggs were also done at the friend's.)
Tuesday- Crockpot Rice, Chickpeas and Spinach, Indian style.
Wednesday- Greens salad with buckwheat sprouts, lentil sprouts and veggies. Grilled eggplant and peppers.
Thursday- Crockpot rice with lentils, cabbage salad, carrot salad
Friday- Grilled flatbread, gezpacho, ceviche salmon/homemade lox, cabbage salad, eggplant salad, lacto-fermented salsa, pickles, barley salad, grilled chicken breast
Saturday- Grilled flatbread, cabbage salad, eggplant salad, lacto-fermented salsa, pickles, barley salad, ceviche salmon/homemade lox
Sunday- Crockpot "chicken pot pie"

So, there you have it. Not by choice, I'm going without something that most people take for granted. Hopefully we'll get our gas up and working again very soon, but in the meantime- I'm having fun!

How much do you rely on your oven or stove? Do you think you'd be able to go without either? 
Have you ever used any of the methods I mentioned? How do you feel about doing a combination of them on a regular basis?

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