green cooking

Cooking and Being Green

By Nora Lopez

Brrrr … It’s cold!  I want to eat things that warm up my belly once I get home from work. But my schedule is pretty hectic. I am lucky, I only work 10 minutes from the office, but when I get home it is around 5:30 pm and I usually cook a real meal every night as we are not into picking up food on the way home… there is nothing like a home cooked meal! However, I do need to be out of the house by 6:30 pm to go to the gym, every night … a commitment I set for myself once the kids were out of the house :)  Dinner needs to be ready in one hour….oh and by the way, I just started a Paleo diet this week  (if you do not know what it is Google it… and it will open your eyes to a new way of cooking!).

So  what does my ordeal have anything to do with cooking and being green? Let me introduce you to my solution to the rat race: The CROCKPOT! I just put it on early in the morning, before I leave to go to work, and when I come in I have a meal ready, add a salad and voila! Yummy food :)   I am so much into it that I was trying to convince my sister to get one, but she was very hesitant … she lives in Puerto Rico and electricity is extremely expensive there. So she was concerned that having a Crockpot on all day would increase her electric bill.

So the scientist in me was turned on and went digging for information on the energy efficiency of this pot.  What I found was great information that says that it depends on your stove and type of fuel. The following table I found the most helpful because it was simple to understand. Obviously you need to adjust per your watt costs, but it gives you an idea of the energy consumption:

What I also found is that there are so many web sites for people who are concerned about the energy consumption issue; what is better or not; weighing the pros and cons, that it really made me feel good that so many people think about how our behavior can influence how we can save in energy resources.

As for my sister, once she saw all the information I gathered on how she would be saving money in electrical … she ran to the department store and got an energy efficient Crockpot and she invited me over to delicious pulled pork the next time I was in Puerto Rico.

My first convert! …. Anyone else?

About the Author: Nora works out of EPA’s Edison, New Jersey facility, where she manages the Region’s Toxics Release Inventory Program.  After work she can often be found channeling her inner chef.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Green Cooking

By Nora Lopez

After a full day of work at EPA, I like to relax by experimenting with recipes and cooking all my favorite dishes.  One of my favorite dishes is from Puerto Rico and is called pasteles.  Once you mention this magical word to any person from Puerto Rico, you will see their face change. They open up, smile (more so than usual) and maybe start telling you who makes the best pastels.

Pasteles are made of the most natural ingredients ever. And they are wrapped in the most natural green wrapper that you have – plantain leaf.   Some people think a pastel is a tamal from Mexico, but I can tell you it isn’t. Tamales are made with corn flour which you buy in a store and then make a masa or dough and you then stuff with cheese, chicken, hot peppers and then you wrap in a corn husk or plantain leaf.

Pasteles go a little further than tamales on the greening; they are made with potatoes, green bananas, yautia (a tuber), pumpkin, and plantain, all of which you manually peel and grind (you can then compost all the remains). Some people make them out of yuca (cassava) which was what taino indians used to make bread with.  It is all natural healthy ingredients with lots of fiber!  Once you have all the ingredients peeled you need to grind them, and people fight over which way it should be done (manually grinding for the best texture or food processor for those who want to save time) This is called the masa and it has to have the right coloring, so we use another natural ingredient called achiote.  This red seed grows in a small tree, inside the fruit that is spiny. The achiote is simmered in olive oil and that is what is used to color the masa.

A stew is made with meat (pork or chicken) with the lots of natural herbs like recao, oregano, onions, garlic and many other ingredients.  Once this is made you are ready to make the pastel. Usually people gather in the kitchen and form an assembly line.  You take your plantain leaf (which has been cut to an appropriate size), you add some of the achiote and then the masa and meat.  This is folded, tied and boiled for one hour.  And then, voila!  You have your pasteles.  And after eating them you can even compost the plantain leaf.

About the Author: Nora works out of EPA’s Edison, New Jersey facility, where she manages the Region’s Toxics Release Inventory Program.  After work she can often be found channeling her inner chef.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.