Power up your plate while powering down your kitchen

Kate Zimmerman

I'm a sometime food writer and the wife of Vancouver barbecue cookbook author Rockin' Ronnie Shewchuk. As such, I am, er – how to put this delicately, so as not to hurt my own feelings? – "well-fed."

I was intrigued to discover that BC Hydro recently produced a set of recipes by its Team Power Smart leaders. I wondered what they might be like – I also wondered why.

What do cutting down on energy consumption and cooking good food have to do with each other? As it turns out, the crucial thing is that they aren't mutually exclusive.

Making practical use of power in the kitchen doesn't mean our meals must be briskly liquefied in a blender and bolted down in the dark. Instead, as I learned from the tips that accompany the recipes, it means being mindful – matching pot-size to coordinating burner, and covering pots and pans while food is cooking so it can be readied more quickly. It also means replacing old faucets with ones that aerate, saving water, and either unplugging or getting rid of old refrigerators that act as "spares."

Neat freaks win out in some regards when it comes to saving power. A clean oven apparently distributes heat more efficiently, as do pristine pans beneath stove burners. But even the fastidious shouldn't rinse dishes in hot water before loading them into the dishwasher; if rinsing is really necessary, we should use cold. We should also air-dry our dishes.

Points taken! And now, to the grub.

I'm no athlete, but I like a good meal as much as the next sportsman, and both the Whitecaps' president Bob Lenarduzzi's Gilded Chicken and its team captain Martin Nash's Butter Chicken called out to me.

I've been looking for an easy way to make the latter dish, a family favourite in restaurants. Usually, butter chicken recipes demand that chicken parts be marinated in yogurt, preferably overnight, then sautéed with numerous other ingredients. This one is amazingly easy, calling for onions, garlic, fresh ginger, tomato paste and a couple of spices. It'll take you half an hour, cooking time included, and is superb.

With it, I served fried potatoes crusted with ginger, garlic and turmeric and a simple, bright salad of avocado and tomato spritzed with lemon. Fabulous.

I was drawn to Lenarduzzi's recipe by the concept of the chicken's coating, which, like a pesto, blends chopped, toasted pine nuts with Parmesan, garlic and parsley.

I brushed each boneless, skinless chicken breast with Dijon mustard, pressed the coating on top, and baked the chicken for 20-odd minutes. I drizzled this otherwise low-fat dish with olive oil before cooking it. Next time, I'd double the recipe for the delicious coating and fully enrobe the chicken.

My teenagers adore the combination of chocolate and bananas, so Global News anchor Steve Darling's Monkey Bread was sure to be a hit. I happened to have a few Callebaut chocolate chips, so I tossed them in along with regular chocolate chips for good measure.

I made the "bread" as muffins; my son and his friends loved these cakey treats. They would have been even moister if my bananas had been over-ripe and oozing with juice.

What a delicious discovery – three great new recipes for my files and a little more information on cutting down my family's energy consumption. Next on my agenda? Checking my fridge to make sure its temperature ranges between 2 and 3 degrees C, and trying the recipe for Seared Scallops With Arugula and Lemon Vinaigrette from Canadian Women's Soccer Team assistant coach Andrea Neil.

One question: is drooling Power Smart?

Where to find the recipes

The first six of 12 recipes, including Lenarduzzi's Gilded Chicken, are now available online, exclusively for Team Power Smart members via the Members' Tool Box and Team Power Smart Offers pages. If you're not a member, join now.

Martin Nash's Butter Chicken recipe will be available online starting December 1, as will Andrea Neil's Seared Scallops with Arugala and Lemon, and Steve Darlings Monkey Bread. Three more recipes will be published January 1, 2011.

Kate Zimmerman is an award-winning writer based in Vancouver. Her story, Duellin' Barbecues was a National Magazine Award finalist in the humour category in 2000.

Source: BC Hydro News