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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.......

February 22, 2019

Single-use plastic has invaded our lives so completely; eliminating it is effectively impossible. In fact, we often don’t even “see” plastic because it is just threaded into our daily habits.  Single-use plastic is plastic that is used …. well …. a single time … once.  Much of our packaging (milk jugs, to-go containers, detergent bottles, soda bottles, …) is difficult to eliminate, although I can suggest some ways to reduce this in future blogs.

Other examples of single-use plastic are very easy to eliminate, in fact we can do so TODAY.  One example is plastic cutlery.  Many group eating events provide plastic forks, spoons and knives. It is also becoming common in some restaurants and hotel breakfasts. This has come to be mainly because they are cheap and so easy to feed a crowd without investing in a large set of metal utensils.  Also, using them eliminates the need for washing. This can be fixed by carrying your own cutlery with you AND remembering to take it out...

February 12, 2019

A frequent question I receive is if gas or electric stove-tops are more efficient.  As with many of these questions, the answer is a very clear and concise...."Well, it depends."

Here's the summary...

First of all, let's establish three possible options (remember this is just for stove-tops, this is not a discussion about ovens):

1.  Gas

2.  Electric Resistance (coil that gets red hot, either beneath a glass top or as an exposed coil)

3.  Electric Induction (newest option, not familiar to many - see my previous blog post about how these work)

Modernist Cuisine (an absolutely beautiful collection of books dedicated to the science of cooking by Nathan Myhrvold) analyzed the efficiency of these burners AT THE STOVE and came up with the following results.  Efficiency here means the ratio of the energy that made it to the food divided by the energy that was delivered to the burner, either via electricity or gas.  In other words, how effective was this burner at delivering the input energy to...

January 23, 2019

OK, so this blog title may seem like a bit of a stretch but here’s my thinking….

In order to realize a sustainable food future, we have to ‘TAKE BACK COOKING” – reinvigorate a love of home cooking so we replace our dependence on hyper-processed, packaged food with enormous embodied energy with home-cooked food from real, simple, maybe even local ingredients. 

But, competing with the flavors of some processed or take-out food can be challenging, with their calorie dense, tempting aromas and staged packaging photos often promising more than they actually deliver.  This is especially true on a week night after a long work or school day when we have limited time & personal energy to cook.  Getting motivated to throw down an elaborate meal is most difficult these nights and it just looks SO easy to grab something pre-prepared and processed, right?  

Clearly every once in a while we all crumble to this temptation, but my theory is that it’s easier to fight this urge to...

January 8, 2019


 

In the past, there used to be only two mainstream options for stovetop burner selection:  Electric resistance and Gas flame. Now there’s a third option and it demands some attention since it is very energy efficient – electric induction cooktop.  In fact, if I were purchasing a cooktop today, I would choose induction.

These cooktops “look” very similar to a modern electric resistance cooktop with it’s glass top AND is also similar to these electric resistance cooktops since the energy input is all electricity (only a plug, no gas).  BUT the physics that is used to heat the food is quite different.

First, allow me to "geek out" for a moment.  We first have to establish a bit of baseline physics…DON'T STOP READING....this will be fairly easy and painless.  Give it a try...

An induction cooktop relies on two important connections between electricity and magnetism:

ELECTRICITY / MAGNETISM CONNECTION #1: Electric current creates (induces) a magnetic field.  Remem...

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