Thursday, April 24, 2014


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One-pot Cheesy Farfalle (Bowtie Pasta) with Asparagus, Zucchini & Soy Curls, recipe below

I must apologize for not posting much lately.  I seem to be suffering from bouts of IFS.  I was just thinking of it as "Internet fatigue", but, apparently, it has a name already-- Information Fatigue Syndrome.  So, I've been curtailing some of my Internet activities and reading actual books.

But I have not been totally inactive.  Actually, my husband and I have been (and still are) on a mission-- to use less energy in our home.  And, in two weeks, we have lowered our energy consumption by 40%!  (This is according to our BC Hydro website, our provincial electrical company, where we can see our monthly, weekly and daily electrical consumption.)

So far we have lowered our energy consumption by: 
**Turning the water heater down to 120 degrees F
**Using only cold-water wash and rinse in our front-loader washing machine
**Hanging laundry to dry (outside, or inside on racks + one line) and only using the dryer on medium heat for short time to fluff up towels or get out the wrinkles
**Turning off the power bars for electronics at night and unplugging the laptops
**Putting the laptops in sleep mode between uses during the day
**Being very careful about not turning on so many lights in the house
**Taking short showers and not necessarily every day (bring back the old-fashioned "sponge bath" on some days)
Note: we don't heat with gas or electricity-- only wood-- and our house is very tight, so we are lucky that heat is not wasted.
But we also discovered that many savings can be made in the kitchen. For instance: 
**Not OVER-preheating the oven before use
**Using the "Eco-Wash" cycle on the dishwasher and turning off the heat-dry option
**Not running hot water without really thinking about it-- You can rinse dishes for the dishwasher in cold water, and wash out the sink and wash your hands with cold water and soap.  When I do use hot tap water now, I'm very concious of it and don't waste it down the drain.  I use the electric kettle to boil water for cooking.
** Cooking several things in the stove oven at once, if we must use it; otherwise using the little counter-top oven.
**Using the microwave for making sauces, puddings, etc., and sweating vegetables for soup and other dishes; for steaming veggies in their own juices, with no added water; making risotto, and many other tasks.
**We found out that our electric stove burners use alot of energy. So, I'm now utilizing my small appliances more frequently (pressure cooker--mine is electric-- and slow-cooker; electric frying pan; electric kettle; microwave [which can save up to 80% of the energy used to heat in a stove]; and our small counter-top oven.)
When I do use the stove burners I turn the heat down as low as I possibly can while still completing my task properly, and I turn the burner off slightly before the dish is finished, utilizing the residual heat.
**What more can we do in the kitchen? We plan to replace our ancient chest freezer as soon as we can afford to, and I'm looking into getting an induction burner plate for stir-frying, etc.

I've also been experimenting with some different cooking methods, especially to avoid boiling pots of water.  For instance, when we felt like having mashed carrots and potatoes (a favorite of DH) I cut the potatoes in chunks and the carrots in smaller pieces and pressure-cooked them together, using only 1/2 cup water, in 8 minutes.  Perfect!

These days, our preferred method of cooking pasta is this:  Bring a pot of water to a boil-- but not as much water as you might be used to. I use about 2 qts. for up to a pound of pasta, and I bring the water to a boil in an electric kettle, then pour it into the pot before turning on the heat. When it comes back to a boil, add your pasta, bring back to a boil, stirring a bit, turn the heat off, cover and let stand for 8-10 minutes or so. (Spaghettini will take 8 minutes, other pasta, such as rotini or other shapes will take 10.) Drain and serve as usual.  Trust me-- this works beautifully!  The pasta is tender but al dente and there is no stickiness.

Gemelli pasta cooked by the no-boil method in the paragraph above.

This method can be used for cooking other foods and it is also known as "passive boiling".  It is mentioned in two books that I recommend (actually the ONLY books on reducing energy-use in the kitchen that I could find): "Cooking Green: Reducing Your Carbon Footprint in the Kitchen" by Kate Heyhoe (she calls it "reducing your cookprint"-- clever), and "The Green Kitchen" by Richard Ehrlich, a British journalist. See if your library has them, if you prefer not to buy them-- they are full of good ideas.

Another energy-saving pasta-cooking method (can you tell that we like pasta?) is the self-saucing one-pot method.  I first heard about this about a year ago and I was intrigued by Martha Stewart's recipe for a recipe from the province of Puglia inItaly, in which all of the ingredients, including the dry pasta, are cooked in a pot together with water for about 9-10 minutes (I used vegetarian broth in mine, of course) until the pasta is al dente and a creamy sauce results.I used tagliatelle nests instead of linguine. The dish was quite tasty-- we sprinkled it with Go Veggie! soy parmesan (which used to be Galaxy Vegan).

My version of Martha Stewart's One-Pan Pasta, before cooking.
Now there are many recipes online utilizing this method.  Below is the recipe for one that I threw together the other night-- and very yummy it was.

Anyway, I should get to bed-- work tomorrow!  But I'd be interested to hear your energy-saving kitchen ideas and explorations.

Printable Copy

  Serves 4  
A quick, self-saucing one-dish meal, and only one pot to clean!

1 tablespoon    olive oil   
4 cloves    garlic, chopped   
3 cups    "chicken-y" vegan broth (I like Better Than Bouillon Vegan “No-Chicken” base)
1/2 lb. (8 oz)    farfalle (bowtie pasta)
2 cups    reconstituted Butler Soy Curls (see this post for info) or other sliced vegan chicken sub
1 tsp    dried basil (or some chopped fresh, if you have it)
8 stalks    asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-2” pieces 
2 small zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick "coins"
12    red grape tomatoes, halved   
3    green onions, thinly-sliced   
1/2 cup    vegan mozza cheese shreds (I used Daiya)
1/4 cup    vegan parmesan sub (I used Go Veggie! soy parmesan)  
   freshly-ground black pepper  

In a large heavy pot or skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic and sauté briefly—do not brown the garlic.  Add the broth, pasta, Soy Curls and basil. Increase heat and bring to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 8 minutes. Add the asparagus and zucchini, cover again and cook for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, green onions and the vegan cheeses.  Toss gently, grind pepper over the dish and serve immediately.
 Nutrition Facts 

Nutrition (per serving): 405.1 calories; 21% calories from fat; 9.8g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 1696.0mg sodium; 427.0mg potassium; 60.8g carbohydrates; 5.6g fiber; 4.5g sugar; 55.2g net carbs; 19.3g protein. 



shan said...

Would this method work for whole-grain pasta too?


Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

Yes, it does, Shan-- it worked perfectly with wholewheat spaghetti.

Justine said...

I used this method to cook Catelli spaghetti tonight - 10 minutes and it was perfect!

Michelle said...

This was very, very good. Even the toddler approved (of everything except for the asparagus). Thank you for sharing.