Excerpted from Cooking Green: Reducing Your Carbon Footprint in the Kitchen—the New Green Basics Way by Kate Heyhoe
These make me jump for joy. Electromagnetic energy drives these burners, though you need pans made of ferrous materials (like cast iron or stainless steel). They consume less than half the energy of standard coil burners, and they’re superior in cooking performance to gas or electric burners. Single induction burners make handy portable appliances, and some conventional cooktops add a separate induction burner. Details on Portable Induction Burners follow.
Portable Induction Burners:
Energy-Efficiency in a Box
Full induction cooktops, with fully-loaded price tags, are creeping into the marketplace. But a single induction burner can supplement your existing gas or electric cooktop more affordably.
Induction cooking works by sending a magnetic field through ferrous metal (as in cookware made of iron, steel, or a combination). The reaction creates heat, and it’s this heat that cooks the food. The heat is created from within the pan’s own material; think friction and fast-moving, excited molecules (like the heat generated between your hands when you rub your palms together).
The result: a near instant transfer of energy, with efficient absorption of over 90 percent of this energy (compared to around 40 percent efficiency with gas burners, and 74 percent of conventional electric burners). Plus, the cooker’s surface stays cool, very little heat is released into the kitchen, and the food can actually cook quicker. Since the cooker surface stays cool, absorbing heat only from the cooking vessel, it’s easy to clean (no stuck muck). Plus, with a nifty portable unit, I can cook anywhere there’s a plug. Like out on our wide country deck, in fresh air, with grazing deer and wild turkeys watching.
The first time I boiled pasta or fried steaks on the induction element, I noticed the differences from conventional electric or gas cooking right off the bat. The water boiled sooner, and the fry pan reached perfect searing heat in a flash. Plus, I had instant control; when I turned the dial from high to low, the unit powered down to the lower setting immediately (essentially adjusting the strength of the magnetic field). No waiting for a hot gas or electric element to slug down in speed. And you can maintain constant simmering and very low temperatures (good for melting chocolate) better with induction.
With induction, there’s no learning curve to get the cook up to speed (unlike microwave ovens or speed ovens). You do need to check your cookware: only ferrous metals are induction-compatible, but fortunately this includes everyday iron and steel based cookware. Basic rule: If a magnet sticks to the pan, it will work with induction. (This eliminates glass, copper, and purely aluminum pans.) Most portable units run between 1400 and 2000 watts, on a standard 120 volt power outlet.
For more info or to buy one, visit Fissler Cookstar Induction Pro.
How Super-Sweet It Is!
By Kate Heyhoe
A food’s color makes an impact on consumer acceptance, and the normal color isn’t always the preferred one. Food coloring, for instance, is added to some farmed salmon to make it look bright rosy-red (not the dull, pastel pink it would be otherwise). Even so-called “natural” foods can be processed, bleached or dyed to enhance their appeal, which is somewhat oxymoronic.
I recently received a bag of Navitas Naturals Organic Stevia Powder. The bag is printed with a pleasant graphic design on all sides, obscuring the contents, which I didn’t notice until I looked inside. The stevia was green! Not what I was expecting, but not bad at all, as it turns out.
We all know that green is good, yet when a food we’re used to seeing as white arrives green, it can be jolting. But this stevia’s green color also makes it greener in a cookprint-shrinking way.
A few years ago, stevia was barely known; today, white stevia is sold in major supermarkets under various brand names as a sugar substitute, and it’s a widespread ingredient in beverages, baked goods and other products.
What’s the appeal of stevia? Zero-calorie, zero-carb and no spikes in blood-sugar levels. It’s made from a South American herb with a sweetening power a hundred times that of sugar. As one person said, “Stevia is God’s gift to diabetics.”
Wes Crain of Navitas Naturals explained why they sell green stevia. “Most Stevia is white as it is highly processed and usually an extract or an isolated chemical of the plant. Ours is the whole leaf milled to a fine powder,” he explains. But what about using it on baked goods, will they turn green? “The color should not affect recipes as the amount you use is quite small.” Also, stevia does not brown or crystallize as sugar does, so don’t use it for meringues or caramelizing.
Indeed, a little stevia goes a long way. Add a few grains too much to tea, for instance, and a sweet surge is palpable. Navitas Naturals recommends very small amounts at a time—start out with a pinch—and gradually increase to avoid over-sweetening a dish. As a sugar replacement, one teaspoon green stevia equals the sweetness of approximately 1/4 cup cane sugar (and for reference sake, 1/4 cup = 12 teaspoons). Green stevia is not as potent as the more processed liquid or white stevia versions, and it’s best used to enhance other sweeteners, to lower the sugar content in recipes. It’s also good in beverages like teas and smoothies.
Even white stevia has a bit of an herby, licorice-like undertone, which is even more pronounced in green stevia. With coffee, I found green stevia’s aftertaste a tad too noticeable, but it’s perfect for offsetting the bitterness of some greens and vegetables. (My husband blends up our daily afternoon green drink using spinach, cucumber, celery, ginger and such, and a little sweet stevia balances the flavors in lieu of apple or fruit juice.) A little green stevia can enhance a salad dressing, where the herby flavor blends in well, or to bring out the sweetness of tomatoes.
Navitas Naturals Organic Stevia Powder is 100% organic, vegan, and kosher, and comes in an 8-ounce resealable pouch (which could last for years, given its potent sweetening power). It’s sold at natural food stores and online. MSRP: $11.99
Green Star Review
This Mother’s Day (and every day) keep Mother Earth in mind, with Alter Eco Organic Chocolate Bars. We’ve been impressed with all nine flavors, from Moka Milk to Dark Mint. Rich and imminently satisfying, these chocolate bars easily stand out among their competitors. Which is not surprising, since they’re made in Switzerland by a master chocolatier using some of the world’s best quality cacao beans from Bolivia and Ghana.
But it’s their good green profile that jumps them ahead of the conventional pack. Alter Eco’s not the sexiest brand name for foods, but it’s accurate. For besides being organic, Alter Eco bars are fair trade certified, vegan, GMO-free, and contain no artificial flavors, chemical additives, or emulsifiers. The brand specializes in fair trade foods cultivated by small-scale farmers in developing countries. The farmers and their cooperatives are paid decent wages, and Alter Eco adds a premium for investing into community projects, like wells for clean water, computers, scholarships, and even micro-credit loans. Besides the chocolate bars, Alter Eco products include coffee, tea, unrefined sugar, jasmine rice, quinoa and hearts of palm.
Our favorite chocolate flavors? Tough question, as they’re all so good, but the Dark Velvet with a touch of organic milk has dark chocolate’s intensity mellowed by a silky texture. As I say in Cooking Green, one way to shrink your cookprint is to shop with your dollar: buy products with good global impact, which in this case is easy, since these chocolates are tasty winners all the way around.
Green Star Review
Two microcannery brands of wild albacore tuna floated across our desks recently: Wild Planet and Wild Pacific Albacore brands have similar names, and both are small but unrelated canneries in the Pacific Northwest.
These days, knowing which fish species to eat can be confusing, even for the most informed good green citizen. Before your inner tuna alarms go off, rest assured these two brands get green stars from NewGreenBasics.com, and here’s why.
- Catch Method: Troll-caught, an environmentally friendly method (unlike longline fishing, whose bycatch-method destroys sea turtles, dolphins and endangered species)
- Sustainability: Albacore from U.S. waters is a Best Choice at Seafood Watch, provided they’re troll- or pole-caught. These populations are healthy and sustainable.
- Health: Low-mercury, high Omega 3 oils, good source of selenium (an antioxidant). These brands select smaller tuna; the smaller the fish the lower the mercury accumulation. They’re higher in Omega 3 oils than major commercial brands.
- Canning Process: Both brands cook their tuna only once, in the can, which retains flavor and texture. (Major commercial canneries cook the fish whole, then strip the meat, pack it in a can, and cook the can yet again, often adding water, broth or vegetable oil; nutrients, firmness, natural oils, and flavor are lost in the process.)
- Why we like them: Tastes like real food. Wild Planet Wild Albacore Tuna consists of hand-cut steaks, sashimi-grade, packed in the tuna’s natural oil with no liquid added (don’t drain the oil!). Wild Pacific Albacore packs theirs in tasty organic olive oil and sea salt.
- AND: Both brands use certified BPA-free cans, a rarity today and an action that helps earn them a New Green Basics Green Star.
Wild Planet tuna is available at Whole Foods, Targets, Ralph’s, Peyton’s, Kroger’s, Earth Fare, Coburg’s, Heinen’s, Wakefern’s, Andronico’s, and many smaller regional chains as well as many upscale specialty and natural stores around the country.
All US troll-caught albacore earn a green rating (best choice) from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Guide.
Troll-Caught Albacore Tuna Recipes
- Grilled Curried Albacore Cakes
- Albacore in Puttanesca Sauce
- Moroccan Tuna Skewers with Zucchini and Oranges
- Thai Style Albacore with Lemongrass and Mushrooms
- Salade Nicoise Sandwiches
CDN ProAccurate® Heavy Duty Refrigerator/Freezer Thermometer
Other than the heater and AC, the biggest energy-guzzling appliance in your house is your refrigerator. To keep fridge and freezer, and the food that’s in them, at their optimum temperatures, use a thermometer. Ideal temperatures extend the life of perishables without burning excess energy or risking contamination.
I’ve been using the CDN ProAccurate® Heavy Duty Refrigerator/Freezer Thermometer (model RFT1). It’s got several features that make it a winner: an easy to read dial (no squinting at thin red bars), at-a-glance indicators to show the ideal range, and mounting options for hanging or sitting wherever you want (no suction cups). It comes with a 5-year warranty but looks sturdy enough to last a lifetime. By using it, you can save energy and prevent food waste. At $7.99 or less, this CDN thermometer is money well spent.
by Kate Heyhoe
This year I’ve picked gifts with either a green sheen or a very practical profile—from stocking stuffers to big family gifts, including handy tools for Thanksgiving and holiday parties. For more ideas: The Global Gourmet Store and the New Green Shopper are filled with tasty treats, great tools and green gifts. Cookbook Profiles and I Love Desserts feature sample recipes from the year’s best books. And come back for more new picks in December, including sweet treats and dessert tools (our past holiday picks may also include products that are just as perfect today, but somehow Santa skipped).
Happy holidays, part one!
Calphalon LX Series 15-piece Knife Set
Sometimes labels help. I know I’m not the first cook to pluck the wrong knife out of the block, then fish around until I got the right one. Calphalon’s LX set was made with me in mind: the bottom of the handles identify the knife, with handy but unobtrusive etchings like 8″ Chef” or 3″ Paring. But user-friendly ID’s would be meaningless if the knives didn’t perform. I’m not saying you need to break out the band-aids for this set, but cooks who appreciate sharp knives will find these babies do the job right. Use these knives with care: they’re sharp! And according to Calphalon, they hold their edge longer than stainless because they’re made of German high-steel carbon with Molybdenum and Vanadium, forged in a single piece (blade, bolster and tang). The ergonomic handles feel good, with enough weight to aid chopping but without causing fatigue. The snazzy black block holds the full set of an 8″ chef’s knife, 5″ santoku, 3.5″ parer, 8″ bread knife, 4.5″ tomato (serrated), 6″ utility knife, and a sharpening steel, shears and 6 steak knives.
Dual Thermometer Tests Food and Oven Temp
CDN’s Dual-Sensing Probe Thermometer/Timer (DSP1) measures both the temperature of the oven and the internal temperature of the food being cooked. My book Cooking Green (March 2009) contains oven-fuel saving tips, including cooking several items at the same time, or skipping preheating. This dual-sensing device tells you if the oven’s cranking at the proper heat, especially handy whenever you cook simultaneously, or after you’ve opened the door to take one dish out, or shut the oven off early so foods cook passively. Instant read-outs of both the internal food temperature and ambient oven temperature help you adjust your oven as needed. You can also program desired settings for both the food and the oven temperature: it chimes one sound when the oven temperature is reached, and another sound when the food is done. It also features a digital timer, and an overtime alert signals when food is left in the oven too long.
Other Features: A 39-inch high-heat resistant sensor cable. The stainless steel probe is 6-3/4 inches long. Registers from 32 to 573 degrees F (0 to 300 degrees C). USDA recommended temperatures for food safety are printed on the thermometer. Can be mounted by magnet or stand. The timer counts in minutes and seconds up to 10 hours. Once the set time has been reached, the timer counts up from zero to indicate how much additional time passes. It runs on one AAA battery (included). Visit www.cdn-timeandtemp.com for where to buy, and information on How to Recalibrate Your Thermometer, Thermometer Technology and 25 Tips for Food Safety.
Designer Porcelain-Bamboo Mortar & Pestle Set
You really connect with your ingredients when you grind or crush them by hand. A mortar and pestle is the most effective tool for releasing the oils and essences of herbs and spices, and it also comes in handy for times when you need to grind medicines for people or pets. The Kuhn Rikon Mortar & Pestle set has details that make this functional, low-tech tool even better. Besides the porcelain pestle, it features two mortars: a porcelain one that nests inside an earth-friendly bamboo mortar and stand. Designed by award-winning Swiss designer, Philipp Beyeler, the set is featured in the Museum of Modern Art’s catalog, and features added functionality in clean, crisp design, including:
- A pouring spout on the coarse porcelain bowl, handy for grinding fresh herbs and spices with wet ingredients as pastes for dressings or marinating.
- A 6×6-inch bamboo base for grinding dry spices such as peppercorns, cardamom and mustard seed, or for homemade curry blends.
- A porcelain pestle with a small hole in the handle to strip leaves off herb stems, and which stores compactly inside the porcelain bowl.
Suggested retail price $50; at specialty and online retailers including Museum of Modern Art catalog (www.momastore.org) or factorydirect2you.com.
2-in-1 Serving Knife Acts as Spatula
Multitasking meets kitchen tool. Kuhn Rikon’s Serving Knife slices like a serrated knife and serves like a spatula. I like to serve at table, but two tools can be awkward and messy; either the knife or the server falls into the casserole or onto the table. Not so with this handy tool; simply slice, twist the wrist, slide it under the food and serve. It’s not as complete as a Swiss Army knife, but it’s got that same Swiss logic. For instance, it features nonstick coating and an offset handle to make slicing and serving even easier, and prevents slipping back into the pan. A protective sheath keeps the knife secure for safe storage and transport, so you can take it to potlucks or tailgate parties. In Red or Metallic Silver, in two sizes: 10-inch knife at $14 msrp, and 12-inch knife at $16 msrp. At specialty and online retailers including factorydirect2you.com.
Versatile Potato Ricer Delivers Two Textures
Never mash potatoes with a food processor: they’ll get gummy. Hand mashing’s okay, but you’ll get the fluffiest results with a potato ricer, especially the Kuhn Rikon Potato Ricer. It’s a handy low-tech tool for all sorts of vegetables and even baby food. The ergonomic design eases leverage, so with a simple squeeze of the handle, light strands of potatoes extrude through the ricer. You can rice one large or two medium sized potatoes at a time, and a handy pull-out clip lets the ricer rest on the rim of a pot or bowl. It comes with two stainless steel disks: larger holes for mashed spuds, and smaller holes for making puree. (Store the extra disk in the ricer’s built-in compartment.) Go beyond the standard mash to create potato pancakes, gnocchi, lefse and spaetzle. What else can it rice or puree? Berry sauce for desserts, tomato puree, parsnips, carrots, baby food and blanched greens. Dishwasher safe, in black or white.
Buy a Kuhn Rikon Potato Ricer
Capresso H2O Plus Water Kettle
This electric tea kettle always makes my list of functional green appliances: It boils water with less fuel than a cooktop, shuts off automatically, and you can use the hot water for more than just tea. This model boils water faster than on a stove, keeps the kitchen cooler, and it’s handy when you want to rehydrate dried mushrooms, dried tomatoes, and powdered soups; or to jumpstart a pot of water for pasta, steamed vegetables, or potatoes. The Capresso H2O sports a glass carafe, so you can see the progress without lifting the lid (and it’s fun to watch the bubbles: like an aquarium without the fish). It holds a manageable amount, letting you boil from 2 to 6 cups. It’s one of my handiest kitchen appliances, in its snazzy black and silver design, and makes a great gift for almost everyone, even non-cooks.
More New Green Basics product reviews include:
- Cuisinart Green Gourmet Cookware
- Hotpan Thermal Cookware
- Kuhn Rikon Pressure Cooker Skillet
- Architec Cork Cutting Boards
- Epicurean Cutting Boards
- Equal Exchange Roasted Nuts and Berries
- Caldrea Scented Cleansers
Emission-free Cooking with a Boost
Solar ovens are obviously not standard kitchen appliances, yet more people are turning to them for emission-free, guilt-free cooking.
You can use them for everything from cooking rice to roasting chickens to baking desserts, and not just in Death Valley weather. Even when the mercury stays in the pleasant zone, solar ovens function fuel-free, simply by reflecting light into a dark box area and retaining the heat with a clear lid. (Think of how hot your car gets in a parking lot.
The Tulsi oven is a unique breed of solar oven and a favorite of tech-minded cooks. It’s a portable hybrid contraption which comes with an electric booster to kick-start the heat or keep things cooking on cloudy days. Even with the electrical boost, it’s still more efficient than conventional ovens. And it comes as a clam-shell type of suitcase, ready to pack up and go wherever the dinner party may be. There’s a small learning curve with solar ovens, but essentially anything that works in a crockpot works in a solar oven.
Buy a Tulsi Hybrid Solar Oven
Cuisinart has launched a new Green Gourmet cookware line of anodized clad pans with an aluminum alloy core, and get this, a ceramic-based nonstick interior that is indeed truly nonstick and safe.
The cookware contains no petroleum products, no PTFE or PFOA, the pans and their metal handles can withstand oven use up to 500 degrees F and is broiler-safe. And because these pans conduct heat so well, they perform best when not used on high heat; medium and low are sufficient (meaning built-in energy-efficiency).
The drawbacks: They’re made in China, so they’ve got a traveling cookprint similar to most cookware these days, and they can’t be used on induction burners (no ferrous material). The ceramic-based surface is tough but not infallible: it can chip, which untreated anodized aluminum won’t do, but so will enamel-cast iron (which is considerably heavier to lift). Avoid sharp or metal utensils (anything that works on a Teflon surface is fine, like silicone or nylon). If you treat the cookware kindly, it should last a long time. Kudos to Cuisinart for the next generation of nonstick cookware. Hopefully, we’ll keep seeing greener improvements from them and other brands in their cookware and in every part of the kitchen.
Currently the cookware is available at Bed, Bath and Beyond stores.
It’s not that Europeans haven’t told us about thermal cooking. After all, they’ve been using this method of energy efficient cooking for centuries, in the form of homemade hay box cookers (in which hot pots were started on a stove, then tucked into straw-lined boxes, and left to cook using only retained ambient heat). Now, with global warming and fuel costs out of control, it’s an idea worth revisiting. And with Kuhn Rikon’s colorful new Hotpan Cook & Serve Sets, embracing the concept just got easier.
Here’s the hip, modern Kuhn Rikon Hotpan version of hay box cookery: Cook food on the stove in a high-end, stainless steel pan with insulated, convex lid (the lid’s shape helps baste the food). Then, before the food is done, remove the pan from the stove, place it in a brightly colored insulated shell to create a double wall of insulation, and let it passively cook, without added fuel, until done. With such gentle cooking, the food remains hot for up to two hours and will never burn or dry out. Plus, actual cooking time on the stove is scaled back.
In fact, Hotpan thermal cooking uses 70% less cooking energy than traditional stovetop methods. For example, simmer brown rice on the stovetop for 10 minutes, then transfer the pot to the thermal shell for 30 minutes. Simmer polenta for 1 minute, then let it passively cook for 20 minutes.
The Hotpan Cook & Serve Sets come in various sizes, from 1- to 4-quart, and in colors pretty enough to serve at table. (The 3-liter is probably the most versatile, if you pick only one size.) The outer shell isn’t a one-trick pony either: when not hosting the Hotpan, it works as a salad bowl or serving bowl, and it keeps breads warm or ice cream cold. You can also buy the shells separately (in orange, black, red, blue, and white), and the sizes nest inside each other for compact storage.
Kuhn Rikon, the same Swiss company behind the Hotpan Cook & Serve Sets, is a leader in energy efficient pressure cookers. Two of their most versatile, quick-cooking products are the Duromatic Pressure Fry Pan and the Pressure Braiser.
I prefer the braiser, because it’s essentially the same pan as the skillet but instead of a long handle, the braiser has two short handles making it more compact for storage. Both are extremely fuel efficient and can replace oven cooking in many instances. At 2-1/2 quarts, they’re the ideal size for smaller recipes and side dishes, and especially handy for couples, small families, and empty nesters. You can use them as a regular skillet, or cook under pressure. The waffle-texture base lets you brown in little or no fat. After browning, you can finish thick chops, small roasts, and chunky chicken pieces by locking on the lid and cooking under pressure.
Another bonus: Pressure cooked vegetables retain more nutrients than cooking by other methods. Weeknight rescue dishes are especially easy. I often make risotto in minutes, without all that pesky stirring at the stovetop; or brown a pork tenderloin, then pressure-braise until perfectly pale pink in the center. If you’re considering replacing a worn out skillet, the Kuhn Rikon Pressure Braiser or Fry Pan make more sense. They’re more versatile, save fuel, and though they come with a ten year warranty, I have a feeling these babies will probably last a lifetime. (By the way, this is not the same thing as a pressurized fryer, the kind used in fried chicken restaurants.)