No Cooking Required

For many, sustainability and sound environmental practices are a way of life.  They automatically sort their trash and seek out the best in green alternatives.  Try as I might, I still need to do more.  I realize that no matter how much I might like to blame the conditions of the earth’s melting ice caps or rising seas  on an industrialized world, we all need to take responsibility; we need to do our part in reducing our personal impact on the planet.

I just discovered Kate Heyhoe’s Cooking Green, a highly informative eco-friendly book published in 2009. She offers plenty of ways to make sustainability more relevant in our lives and suggests how we can practice conservation in our kitchens on a daily basis. It has an excellent selection of thought provoking recipes that further exemplify conscious lifestyle choices.  For further information on eco-friendly kitchen practices check out Kate’s websites www.globalgourmet,com and www.newgreenbasics.com.

Kate points out there are plenty of foods that do not actually require cooking:  a simple soaking is all they need.   That caught my attention, since this summer’s heat has been so oppressive I am always looking for cooking alternatives.

Passive cooking takes advantage of an existing heat source― quickly boiled water from a tea kettle, for example―it’s enough to “cook” such foods as bulgur wheat or bean threads.  Both are perfect candidates for an eco-friendly kitchen because a quick soak is all that is necessary to soften them enough for further preparation.

Here are a few test questions from Kate’s eco-quiz to challenge your energy smarts.   Consider these:

  1. If you’re an eco-friendly cook, should your next cutting board be made of Corian, glass, bamboo, acrylic, or maple?

Glass is more eco-friendly than made-made materials of Corian and acrylic, but chopping on glass is hard on knives.  Bamboo is the most sustainable material, even more so than maple.  It’s strong, hard, and resists bacteria better than wood.  Bamboo’s downside lies in its traveling cookprint:  bamboo comes from China.  Maple hails from North America, but some forests are facing environmental stress.  The best answer is to dig deeper:  check into new cutting boards made of recycled cardboard, plastic, and cork; they perform well and re-purpose materials that would otherwise go to waste. 

  1. Do you save more energy if you run your dishwasher at midnight, noon, or 5:00PM?

Because electricity at power plants is generated more efficiently during off-peak hours, midnight saves fuel at the source.

  1. If your garbage disposal breaks, should you (a) call the repair service, (b) replace it with an Energy Star model, or (c) remove it and without?

Lose it, don’t use it.  Garbage disposals bring unnecessary energy and water consumption to the waste process.  Composting, and even regular trash disposal, are better options.  Garbage disposals don’t come with Energy Star ratings.

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Now that fresh peaches are literally falling off my neighbor’s tree, I am joyfully besieged with bowls of plump, ripe peaches. There is absolutely nothing better than a sweet, juicy peach dripping down your chin to make you thoroughly grateful for any amount of summer heat.Peach tree

These mornings I have taken to beginning the day with a peach smoothie of some sort.  I’ve learned that a heaping spoonful of my favorite raw 6-grain oats will literally disappear into the mix and create a thick luscious power breakfast.  In one cool, creamy glass, I get a healthy supply of fruit, fiber, dairy, vitamins, minerals, and plenty of energy for my morning exercise.  Absolutely no cooking required.

Peach Breakfast Smoothie

Any combination will work, use what is available and tasty and whirl it up―even an immersion blender gets the job done.
 
Ingredients
1-2 Tbsp rolled oats, 6-grain, or other blend
1 tsp chia seeds (optional)
3 Tbsp yogurt
¾ cup milk
1 large peach, peeled and cut up; or 1 cup fresh fruit or a combination
½ tsp vanilla
Handful of ice cubes
1 squirt agave or honey to taste

Method
In blender or processor of choice place all ingredients through ice and blend until smooth.  Taste for sweetness; add agave or other sweetener as needed.   Serves 1

Peach Chutney with a Texas Drawl

peachesThere’s nothing like a tree-ripened peach, one so succulent that its perfumed juices dribble down your chin and slurping noises are the norm.  I have had my share of this year’s Texas peach crop and have specially enjoyed the local Hill Country beauties from Fredericksburg and Stonewall.

With visions of peach season quickly coming to an end, I decided to prolong their presence by transforming a few into mouthwatering chutney [truthfully, another mouthwatering chutney].  Perhaps this was prompted by a recent Saveur splash celebrating its 150th issue, which included a recipe for Major Grey’s Chutney, considered one of the world’s 150 most classic recipes.

Over the years plenty of purveyors have offered their versions of Major Grey’s chutney.  With its roots likely embedded in 19th century British India, it is anyone’s guess whose recipe is most authentic.

chutney 2I was intrigued:  but chutney does that to me.

Saveur’s recipe called for simmering mangoes, plenty of ginger, onion, garlic, raisins and warm spices for two hours. At one time I suspect tamarind paste would have also been included.

My own alterations started with cutting the recipe in half for a first run and the swap out of peaches for mangoes.  I reduced the amount of sugar and glad that I did, because it was still quite sweet.  I recall Major Grey’s as thick, sweet and exotic.  I further increased the lemon juice and threw in half of a juiced lemon during the cooking process.  Since I was making a smaller quantity, my chutney was well-simmered and thickly textured within 1-1/2 hours.

The results were very nice, indeed:  a dark, complex, well-rounded sauce with just enough heat to catch your attention.  Yes, I’d say that the peaches make a worthy contribution.

 

Texas Peach ChutneyChutney 1

A riff on Major Grey’s Chutney; inspired by Saveur’s Major Grey’s Chutney

Ingredients

  • 4 medium Texas peaches, peeled, chopped
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • ½ cup fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice plus rind from ½ lemon
  • 1 tsp dark chile powder
  • ½ tsp each cinnamon and nutmeg, salt
  • ¼ tsp each ground cloves, black pepper, and red pepper flakes

Directions 

In 2-quart pan, place all ingredients,b ring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer about 1-1/2 to 2  hours, stirring occasionally until thick.   Transfer to clean jar and store in refrigerator for about 2 weeks.  Makes 2 to 3 cups.