Now you have a good excuse to be a lazy cook. The energy you save may be more than your own.
The West is having a ____ crisis (fill in the blank with electricity, natural gas or water, all of which seem to be in short supply this year). So it behooves us all to be more conservation-minded.
The Utah Energy Office is asking us to use less power during peak usage periods — around 2-8 p.m. every day. That's when the utility companies need more wholesale power to augment their own generation — and have to pay bigger bucks to get it. It's also when most families are preparing and cleaning up from dinner, giving our kitchen appliances their biggest workout of the day.
In January, we did a story on saving power, with such tips as baking two or more items at the same time, choosing stovetop burners to fit the size of whatever pot you're using, and using a crock-pot for soups and stews. With summer, there's the added challenge of keeping the kitchen cool so you don't have to crank up the air conditioner.
This isn't the season for making lasagna, where you need to boil noodles, fry ground beef and simmer tomatoes. It's the time for make-your-own deli sandwiches. Pull out the sliced ham and turkey (the folks at Oscar Mayer or Hormel already did the cooking). Slice up some tomatoes, lettuce and/or bell peppers to pile on. Don't feel guilty if someone comments that this looks a lot like lunch. You are conserving energy. Be proud.
Outdoor grilling is another way to keep the kitchen cool, although when I see the clouds of smoke billowing into the atmosphere, I wonder if I'm really being environment-friendly.
Salads are also a boon when it's too hot to cook. Add beans, cheese or chopped cooked meat, and you can call it a meal. If it's a pasta salad you crave, cook the noodles and mix the ingredients the night before (after 8 p.m., of course). Refrigerating the salad overnight gives the flavors time to meld. For dessert, opt for melon slices instead of baking a cake.
Fire up the microwave. It uses less energy and cooks faster than your stovetop or oven. If you use your microwave mainly for popcorn or heating frozen dinners, it's time to get acquainted. Wash baking potatoes, cut them in half (so they'll cook quicker) and microwave them on high for 10-15 minutes or until they are tender when pierced with a fork. Use the microwave to reheat any leftover chopped meats and veggies from the past couple of days (grilled chicken, beef, broccoli, peas and so on), add some shredded cheese, bacon bits and sour cream. Remind everyone that this potato bar is a way the whole family can help solve the energy crisis. If they disagree, let them turn off the TV to save energy instead.
We're getting into fresh corn season, and it's easier to microwave corn-on-the-cob than to cook it on the stovetop. I have friends who wrap each ear individually in waxed paper, but that's way too much trouble. It cooks just fine husked and placed in a large glass casserole dish with about a cup of water. (Depending on the size of your dish, you may need to break the ears of corn in half to get them to fit.) Put a lid on the dish and microwave 10-15 minutes on high — more, if you're cooking a lot of corn.
Rice is another item that cooks easily in the microwave. The ratio is 1 cup of rice to 2 cups of water or bouillon. Cook it, covered, on high for about four minutes. Then turn down the power to low for another 10-15 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed. You can add chopped celery, bell peppers, peas, chicken, ham, etc. to make it into a meal instead of a side dish. Conservation can actually taste good.
When cleaning up, don't feel compelled to run your dishwasher until it's completely full. Remember, you're not being lazy; you're thinking about Utah's energy supply. And your own.