Sunday, November 14, 2010

Easy Low Impact Cooking (And a recipe!)

I don't know if I've ever really explained how I justify the amount that I turn my oven on. Because, after all, cooking takes energy, and the way we get our energy hurts the environment.  If I were a true environmental queen I would eat mostly raw foods, but after all this blog is about low impact.  Not no impact.  That kind of perfection really isn't achievable in my life right now!  That being said I do usually eat about 1 salad per day, breakfast is usually oats reheated in the microwave, instead a new pot cooked on the stove for an extended period of time everyday.  And raw fruits, veggies, and nuts are my main source of snackage.  So I think it's ok to treat myself to some nice cooked dinners a couple nights a week.

But I still do a lot of cooking. But you'd better believe I make it efficient cooking.

First I cook in bulk, which means I'm only turning the oven/burners on once but I'm making a meal that will last all week. (Remember my quinoa dishes?)  Besides that I also try to combine foods that are normally cooked separate. 

For example the other day when I made Devil's Vegetarian Chili instead of boiling the pinto beans and the black beans in separate pots, like most people do, I used only one pot. Black beans take longer to cook so I put them in first. Then added the pinto beans. Did the pinto beans turn a little grayish black? Yes. Did they taste any different? No. Instead of using two burners, and double the amount of water I cut down on my water and energy consumption by boiling them together.  Low impact success!

Remember the cupcakes I made yesterday? They weren't all alone in the oven. I roasted a butternut squash as well. Whenever I roast veggies, especially ones with a long roast time like squash, I make sure to plan another dish to cook with it. This time was a great success, I cooked 3 things at once.

The squash, roasted the squash seeds, and baked the cupcake muffins.

Along with using my oven to the max I also try to use my food to the max. I could have just thrown out the seeds from the squash, but why throw them out when I can turn them into a delicious nutrient rich snack?  Now if only I could figure out how to successfully compost in my apartment, I would have created virtually no waste and used energy in the most efficient way possible.  But sadly I am still working on how to make a successful compost in my apartment (fruit flies be gone!).

Spicy Sweet Roasted Seeds


1/2 cup butternut squash seeds (or pumpkin seeds)
2 tsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp chili powder
Ginger, nutmeg, cayenne, and paprika sprinkles

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Rinse and dry seeds. Coat the seed in the coconut oil (heat the oil up in the microwave for 15-20 seconds if solid and un-spreadable). Add in cinnamon and chili powder, mix. Sprinkle layers of the rest of the spice to your taste. Bake for 15 minutes, or until desired crispness. Be careful not to urn them!! (This is the first time I didn't burn roasted seeds!)

Look at that stacked oven!  Instead of turning the oven on 3 separate times, I only turned it on once.

The other plus about cooking this way is that I get all the "annoying" prep cooking out of the way.  Right now I have some garbanzo beans and butternut squash all cooked up and waiting for me to use them.  Now all I have to do is figure out what to make with them and dinner will be ready in about 20 minutes...rather than waiting 45 minutes for a squash to roast.

Spicy sweet seeds to keep me warm on these cold snowy days that are coming up. 

Now I have a big butternut squash roasted up and ready to be made into something...for some reason I'm having a hard time deciding what to do with it.  I originally planned a millet salad for it (and I even walked in the slushy snowstorm to the corner grocery store to get a bag of VERY EXPENSIVE walnuts for the salad) but for some reason I'm just not feeling it.  Stay tuned I'm sure I'll turn the butternut squash into something more exciting that just roasted squash and be posting up a recipe within the next couple days.  (Now that I think about I'm pretty sure I'll make that millet salad- after all it was a lot of effort (ha) and money for those walnuts I better put them to good use!)

But back to the point.  Next time you fire up the stove top or the oven think about the energy you are using.  Making bread? Bake two or three loaves instead of one and freeze the extras.  That goes with any breads/muffins/sweets/soups/sauces they all freeze up remarkably well.  And just think how convenient will it be to just be able to grab one cookie from the freezer when an intense craving hits, instead of having to whip out all the ingredients and make them up.  Or be able to unfreeze some spaghetti sauce when you're too lazy to cook a dinner from scratch.  Being low impact and helping mother nature out can be surprisingly MORE convenient for you, it just takes a little more initial planning.  But I promise you the pay off is well worth it, for both your convenience and Mother Nature's health!

Do you try to stack your oven with multiple dishes when you cook in order to save energy? What low impact activities do you practice in your daily life?

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