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December 18, 2019

With the holiday season upon us, I get a lot of questions about electric pressure cookers such as the Instant Pot.  These cooking appliances are energy efficient rock stars and I would encourage adding these in any energy efficient-focused kitchen.  Now I’ll be honest, the Instant Pot was a “thing” for a long time before I actually tried it out.  Maybe it was the cheesy name that made me think this was a passing phase or maybe it was that I was already a huge stove-top pressure cooker fan and didn’t want to add another gadget and give in to the latest consumerism craze. Who knows why I resisted?  Eventually, due to the ridiculous amount of questions from people at my outreach events about my thoughts regarding this countertop marvel, I decided to give it a try.

Today, rarely a day goes by that I don’t use this gem…  From a huge batch of black beans (to reduce my purchase of canned beans {post with recipe coming soon}) to super quick stew meat...

November 17, 2019

If you own an insulated travel coffee mug, you have a powerful pasta cooking tool at your fingertips that can cut cooking and cleaning time and energy use!  

First – we need to better understand the science (thermodynamics) of …. WATER.  This will only take a minute but is enormously powerful, critical information for the energy efficient cook (or any human for that matter), so hang with me here.

The water molecule

You see, water (H2O) is made up of 2 hydrogen and one oxygen atoms and is a polar molecule.  This means that due to the way the hydrogen and oxygen connect to each other, the resulting molecule is partially positively charged (on the H side) and partially negatively charged (on the O side).  This creates all kinds of unique properties.

Opposites Attract

Now, we know that electric charges, like many human relationships, opposites attract.  This means that electrostatically, a positive (+) charge is attracted to a negative (-) charge (an opposite charge)....

July 11, 2019

Kitchens are super fun … and messy. Like sometimes really messy!  When reading most laundry stain spray labels, the most common items listed originate in the kitchen (tomato sauce, red wine, mustard, …).  

So why, I ask, do we typically use WHITE linens in our kitchens?  I get that you can’t hide stains on a white towel but stains and germs are completely different things. Stains are visible, germs are typically not.  
 

You can control how often your own kitchen towels are washed and so there’s no need to seek out white linens to “prove” they’re clean.

A little research on the science of fabric cleaning shows that as long as you wash linens in warm water with regular laundry detergent and dry it in a dryer, there will be no germs left on your linens.  But there may still be some stubborn stains.

Over time, our white linens get dingy looking and we toss them out (or degrade them to “rags”) and buy new ones.  This is an endless cycle of consumerism which w...

May 22, 2019

I had the pleasure of spending the past week in Florence, Italy to study the food system there.  I took a group of 12 students to observe the differences in our food system.

We ate WELL 

REALLY well

and learned a LOT.

Huge thanks to our colleagues at Lorenzo di Medici University in Florence for their coordination of our experience, from two culinary classes in Cucina at the Central Market, to a tour of an organic farm tour just outside of Florence.  Also iBike Tuscany provided a charming peek at the rural landscape around Florence including a delicious stop at a Toscan Villa, working olive oil farm and winery.  A tour of restaurants in Florence allowed us to experience first-hand their passion for food, from its local sourcing to the generations-old recipes that are still used today.  ‘Farm to plate’ isn’t a trendy expression in Italy, it is deeply rooted in their traditions.

It is gift to be able to have these open dialogues and learn from each other – ta...

May 11, 2019

It's Friday night and I'm ready for some bubbly pizza!  But...I'm also pooped from the work week and looking for a simple kitchen prep.  The temptation is to head to the grocery frozen food section and pick up a frozen pizza ..... processed miles away ...... wrapped in single use plastic ...... transported to the grocery store in energy guzzling frozen trucks .... kept in the freezer of the grocery and my kitchen until ...  I pop it into my 400 degree oven to bring it back to life.  Impressive embodied energy before it ever reaches my plate!

And, admittedly, sometimes I crumble to the convenience of this frozen pre-made pizza, BUT I am happy to report that this skillet pizza recipe below will get a pizza to your plate in the SAME amount of time it takes you to heat your oven and cook the frozen 'za!  Oh, and it's SO delicious.

I recently submitted this article to Radiations Magazine (see pages 28-29) which highlights this recipe and the benefits of givi...

April 30, 2019

Spoiler… This blog post has no recipe.  It is a short intermission from all food-focused entries to show a graph I think every human should be familiar with…

(Image sourse UNC Charlotte MESAS: https://pages.uncc.edu/mesas/news/)

I know many people would rather read recipes than look at graphs, but this one is critical that we all understand.  The blue line shows the amount of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) (our most abundant greenhouse gas) in the earth’s atmosphere over the last …. 800,000 years!

Let’s put that in perspective…our human predecessor, Homo Erectus didn’t show up until about 250,000 years ago and so this is a record from WAY before humans inhabited the planet.

What is obvious is that there is clearly an “up and down” cycle to the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere but it’s also clear that until VERY recently, we never exceeded 300 parts per million (ppm).

Today, we’re OVER 400 ppm.  This is all new - we’ve never been here before!

What is also clear is that the red line, which shows the ear...

April 23, 2019

Happy Earth Day!  We have only one planet but 7 billions people who can protect it! 

Spring is a perfect time to start preparing for our summery gardens, either in the ground or in containers on our porches.

If you've ever gardened before, you know that mis-formed fruits and vegetables are just part of the process.  Check out this pile of potatoes from my garden last year.

Here is one of my absolute favorites .... I had an awesome crop of purple potatoes and one of them came out of the ground like THIS....

I am not joking here... the "hunchback monk purple spud".  I loved him dearly and kept him on my window sill for weeks before he met his demise and was roasted to perfection.

While this was a "fun" veggie mis-hap, this happens in our commercial food system all the time.  It's just part of growing stuff.  Unfortunately, our grocery stores have come to realize that "ugly" fruits and vegetables that don't look perfect don't sell, and so much of these mis-formed produce goes to waste, ro...

April 8, 2019

There is almost unanimous agreement that in order to realize a sustainable food future AND dramatically reduce atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases to limit the impacts of climate change for our kids and their kids, we’re going to have to eat a lot less beef.  This does not mean a sad and flavorless food future, and it doesn’t mean we have to all turn vegan.  Small changes can result in huge impacts and lentils are a great way to start – BUT you have to know a few tricks to up your game on the lentil / ground beef switcheroo….

Why does this matter to the world?

First of all, let’s all get on the same page regarding our food choices impact on the environment. I’m going to just focus here on greenhouse gas emissions but there are other environmental comparisons such as land and water use and they all also favor a low-beef diet!  Environmental Working Group produced this Meat Eater’s Guide and in it is this graph showing the comparison of the equivale...

March 14, 2019

I feel very fortunate to be able to teach about the physics of food and cooking as part of my faculty position at Appalachian State University.  Here is a link to a podcast about my first year seminar Know Watts Cooking class.  The students are fantastic and always provide great input to the subject!  I think I learn as much from them as they do from me!!

I believe that these college years are a FANTASTIC time to start long-lasting cooking skills that will lead to a sustainable food future.  It's often the first time a person has their own kitchen and gets to decide if they are going actually USE that room or depend on a processed food system for their "nutritional" needs.

Listen to the "Know Watts Cooking" Podcast here.

March 13, 2019

Your oven is a great cooking tool and roasted meals are typically easy and delicious.

The average full-size oven has 30 pounds of steel and so heating all that mass is no small energy feat.  A great energy-efficiency trick is to use it for several meals once it's hot, including tomorrow's breakfast or lunch or maybe precook dinner for a busy evening you see later this week. You'll save energy AND your future self will thank you for an easy warm-and-enjoy meal.  Warming food in the microwave takes much less energy than cooking it from scratch in the oven.  Can't get any more "fast food" than that!

There's so much volume in there and more food does not significantly add to the amount of energy required to keep the oven at a constant temperature.  The main glug of energy occurs when you bring the oven from room temperature to roasting temperature.  Once you're there - have at it!!

So, next time you heat up your oven, think of other uses for this cooking potential.......

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