- lohudfood - http://food.lohudblogs.com -

Cooking without Power: Ideas for Using Up Pantry Items

Many people are still without power, more than week after Sandy hit.

At this point, very few items in the refrigerator are likely to be salvageable, though condiments with high acidity and sugar content, such ketchup and jams, might be OK.  But with the cold coming, there is a silver lining: many grocery stores have power back by now, and when the temperature is below 40 degrees (the same temperature as your refrigerator), you can store perishables outside. (Heck, I’m sorry to say, but your house may be cold enough at this point.)

• If you can’t cook on the stovetop, here are some no-cook ideas for suppers: canned black beans, drained and mixed with onion and cilantro; canned white beans, drained and mixed with parsley and garlic; canned tuna or chicken mixed with mayonnaise and pickle relish; bulgur (just add water) with chopped vegetables; granola, nuts and cereals.

• Foil packets can also work for cooking, either in the fireplace or on the grill. Layer food inside a square piece of foil and fold the sides up to seal. A few good ideas: potatoes, ham and onions; leftover chicken with any combination of vegetables; and, for dessert, apples, sugar and butter.

Going forward, here are a few helpful hints for keeping the family fed — and the food safe — during a prolonged power outage.

• If power has been out for more than 24 hours, get perishables out of the refrigerator and into a cooler filled with ice. Eat the most perishable foods first, especially meat and milk, and throw away any leftovers that have come to room temperature for longer than an hour. Condiments with high acidity and sugar content such as ketchup and jams should be OK.

• If you pack your freezer full with ice, frozen foods can last up to 48 hours. Using dry ice can keep things frozen indefinitely, but you need to swap it out as it melts. Be careful not to touch dry ice with your bare hands, and check the New York state health department website for warnings about carbon dioxide safety, too: www.health.ny.gov [2].

• If your oven and range are gas, you may be able to still cook at home. Now is the time to chop up vegetables from the produce drawer and put together a soup. Saute onion and garlic, then add chopped chicken, beef or pork (leftover or raw). Season with salt and pepper. Cook until browned, then fill the pot with chicken stock or water. Throw in whatever other vegetables and herbs you might have on hand: carrots, celery, fennel, potatoes — even greens like chard or kale. Use up the fridge contents. Rice, barley or farro is a nice addition.

And if nothing else — there’s always rotisserie chicken from the grocery store or takeout pizza.

Providing those venues have power, that is.