An elemental change (Day 321)…

January 15, 2008

stove element

Unngggghh. Today is not a good day, fellow Thistlers. Last night, I ended up cooking a rather late dinner of quinoa and steamed collard greens (local, organic … do I even need to point this out?) with olive oil and toasted pumpkin seeds, followed by some stress for dessert, after which I promptly hit the sack. Now, because I’m susceptible to tummy cramps — specifically, tummy cramps that feel as though some demented clown has made a balloon animal out of my intestines — I thought to myself, “Hmm, I just consumed a lot of roughage, got stressed and am now in a horizontal position; perhaps this is not the wisest decision.” So before falling asleep, I took some time to massage my tum, helping things move along.

Yeah, well, come 3:30 a.m., I get woken up by excruciating pain in my mid-section. It feels like a collard green alien is going to burst out of my stomach and start attacking my face. I have no idea if the massage made it worse or just made it come on sooner, but either way, I was up for the next four hours, pacing back and forth, alternating between a hot water bottle and moans of desperation, between sips of chamomile tea and dry heaving. It was lovely, to say the least.

I’m feeling more or less all right now — the bagel with cheddar cheese I just ate is making a much better impression on my bowels than the quinoa and greens (sorry, Meg, I know how you loathe gluten and dairy, but maybe my British genes are just wired this way).

What the eff does this have to do with today’s change, you ask? Well, nothing really, but here’s a bit of a tie-in: While I was cooking dinner last night on my stove, I had to use two elements. Automatically I put the frying pan and pot on the two front burners — the right one is small, the left one is bigger — but then I realized it would save more energy to use the second small burner at the back of the stove instead. Yes, it would require a bit more reaching, but the pan would surely get just as hot as it would on the larger element, and according to Green is Sexy, this could save up to 40% of the energy required.

I’m also going to make sure I keep the surface of the stove clean (it’s glass-top), so there won’t be any crusty collard remnants getting in between the heat source and the bottom of the pan.

Photo courtesy of this guy on Flickr

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Double, double, boil and trouble (Day 209)…

September 25, 2007

I once went to a dinner party hosted by a 20-year-old who had no idea how to cook. When he tried to make spaghetti, he put the pasta in boiling water, then for whatever reason decided to switch the burner off and let it sit there for 20 minutes.

At first, I thought it would turn out underdone because it wasn’t cooking at a rolling boil, then thought maybe it would be overdone because it had been sitting there for more than double the amount of time suggested.

But somehow, it turned out perfectly.

I came to realize that, in almost all cases, a gentle boil is enough to get the job done. Barely anything really needs to be cooked at a full-throttle, spluttering-splashing boil despite what the recipe’s directions may say.

So my change today will be to heat up my soup, cook my pasta and steam my vegetables at as low a temperature as possible, trying not to go beyond the halfway point on my stove dials. This will not only save electricity, it also means reducing the amount of water required in the first place as less of it will be evaporating.