Being able to cook what we want, when we want is a luxury that most of us take for granted. But when the power goes out or a major appliance dies, you may find yourself looking at an immediate future full of worrying takeout dinners.
It doesn’t have to be that way. With a little innovation and a willingness to try something different, you can enjoy delicious, healthy meals while you wait for your new stove to be delivered or the power to be restored.
Healthier Microwave Meals
The first night without your usual cooking routine can be frustrating. When something large like a stove stops working, there are many things to think about as you begin to consider replacing it. In cases like this, sometimes it’s just plain easier to eat microwavable convenience food.
If you choose this route, don’t settle for cheaply-made meals stuffed with fillers and chemicals. There are healthier choices out there, and thanks to the growing interest in dietary change, they’re becoming easier to find. Brands like Amy’s Kitchen, Helen’s Kitchen, and even Ethnic Gourmet offer natural and organic food that you can toss in the microwave and enjoy without hassle. These aren’t tasteless, gummy hippie dishes, either; from tofu lasagna and tamales to Pad Thai and vegetable korma, the variety is amazing and continues to grow.
Crock Pot Slow Cooker
A Crock Pot is the quintessential tool for the busy cook. If your primary cooking appliance buys the farm, it’s the perfect opportunity to pull out the slow cooker and create something warm and satisfying that will be ready when you come home from work. Most slow cooker meals take about six to eight hours to cook, meaning that you can dump the ingredients in before you leave in the morning and not have to worry about the food until you’re ready to eat it.
Although Crock Pots are typically associated with stew or chili, many other meals can be prepared this way. As cookbook author Robin Robertson shows in her Fresh From the Vegetarian Slow Cooker, it’s possible to go beyond the obvious and make things like pot pies, lasagna, stuffed peppers, and even desserts in a slow cooker. You may find yourself inspired to cook like this more often, even when your stove is back in working order.
Can you really have dishes like pasta, curry, stir fries, and pie without doing any cooking at all? Raw food recipes can make it happen. With the growing focus on healthier eating, and vegetarian and vegan diets in particular, the raw food movement is gaining momentum. Websites like Gone Raw and Choosing Raw host a vast collection of recipes for everything from appetizers to desserts, none of which require any cooking at all. Some may call for using a food processor, blender, juicer, or dehydrator and therefore aren’t practical for times when the power is out. But when you don’t have access to a stove or it’s just plain too hot to cook, raw food can be a lifesaver.
Raw food is often defined as food that isn’t heated above 118°F. Common raw dishes include pasta “noodles” made from zucchini that has been cut or peeled into spirals, “rice” made by pulsing cauliflower or other hard veggies in a food processor, fresh juices and smoothies, and raw crackers or breads made from a variety of fresh grain ingredients and crisped in a dehydrator. Chances are if there’s a dish you’re craving, it can be recreated with a raw food recipe.
When you don’t have any power at all, sometimes you have to resort to the old-fashioned way of doing things. Losing power during cold weather means having to find an alternate method of heating as well as eating, and wood stoves are a popular choice. If you already have one fired up to keep the house warm, you might as well take advantage of it to cook dinner.
Pretty much anything that you would cook on a gas or electric stove can be cooked on top of a wood stove, provided that you have a metal hot pad or other method of keeping pans from being in direct contact with the hot stove surface. In a pinch, even things like toast and coffee can be prepared this way.
Being without a stove or without power entirely doesn’t have to be a culinary disaster. These and other alternate methods can help you put together delicious meals at home without having to worry about the expense of takeout or its impact on your health.