Dining in the dark: getting creative in the kitchen during a power outage

By: Vanessa Racine, social media coordinator
 
When a storm or other disaster comes your way and knocks the power out or makes it difficult to leave your home for a few days, preparing meals becomes a major concern.
 
Here are some tips for keeping food safe and eating nutritiously, even when there’s no electricity available at mealtime.
 

Fill your pantry

 
Shop in advance for staples to have on-hand during storm season, while the weather is still clear. Pick up extra packages of non-perishable supplies that you use regularly. This way, you won’t need to run to the store just before a storm hits.
 
Jars and cans full of beans and legumes stocked in a pantrySome useful and nutritious options include: canned goods like beans, vegetables and fruit and dry goods like breakfast cereal, peanut butter, nuts, wholewheat crackers, snack bars, as well as milk or other beverages that don’t require refrigeration.
 
Don’t forget that you’ll need a manual can opener handy, too!
 

Take stock of your fridge and freezer

 
When a storm is predicted, take a look ahead of time and check to see what sorts of ingredients and leftovers you already have in stock, and plan to use those up first.
 
In preparation for a power outage, there are steps you can take to make sure your refrigerated and frozen food doesn’t spoil.

The most important thing you can do is to keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. If unopened, a fridge should effectively keep food cold for up to four hours (though you should keep a thermometer in your refrigerator and check it if you need to open it. Food should be kept at or below 4 degrees Celsius. A full freezer should keep food cold for 48 hours if kept at or below -18 degrees Celsius.

Remember, when it doubt, throw it out.
 
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency includes more information on food safety in an emergency.
 

Know which foods will last

 
In the event of a power outage, many foods normally stored in the refrigerator will keep for an extended period of time at room temperature, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Quebec (MAPAQ). Jam, for example, keeps longer in the refrigerator, but will stay good at room temperature for up to a month. Hard cheeses like parmesan or cheddar will stay good at room temperature for about eight hours.

Depending on the type of produce, fresh fruits and vegetables can safely be kept at room temperature for days or weeks. Butter can stay at room temperature for up to two weeks and certain condiments like soy sauce, mustard, and vinaigrettes will stay edible for several months, according to the MAPAQ. Apples, avocados, citrus fruit, carrots, celery, cucumbers, grapes, green beans, peppers, snap peas, and tomatoes are fresh foods that can be eaten raw and will be good for days unrefrigerated, so consider picking up some of these ahead of a storm.
 

Get creative with dining in the dark ideas

 
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches may be a classic power outage go-to food, but many more ideas for meals exist for moments like these! Check out these ideas:
 
Canned beans are incredibly versatile:
 
Make a quick salad by tossing a drained can of white beans in olive oil and apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. You can also mix in some diced apples, dried herbs, nuts, chopped celery or scallions for added flavour and canned tuna, chicken, or salmon or tofu for extra protein.

Build a smashed bean sandwich by draining canned chickpeas or white beans and mashing them coarsely with a fork. Serve on bread or with whole-wheat crackers for dipping.

Blend carrots and chickpeas for a tasty combination. Grate carrots (unpeeled, uncut carrots will last about a week outside of the refrigerator if stored in an airtight bag or container), then combine with canned, drained chickpeas, a sprinkle of dried fruit and nuts, and toss with orange juice, lemon juice, or vinegar.
 
Canned vegetables to the rescue:
 
Combine drained canned corn with any chopped vegetables you have on hand and simply toss with a dressing for a quick corn salad. Toss in a drained can of beans and some crumbled cheese for added protein.

Chunky gazpacho can easily be created by combining a can of diced tomatoes (with the juice), chopped onion and cucumber and a little Tabasco sauce or cayenne pepper. Try adding chopped red or green peppers, if you have these. To make this a heartier dish, add a can of chickpeas.
 
Vegetable noodles for the win:
 
Carrots, cucumbers and beets can be spiralized into noodles (or, if you don’t have a manual spiralizer, cut into ribbons with a peeler) for a no-cook pasta dish.
 
Taco night without the lights:
 
Combine a can of chopped tomatoes, canned beans, canned corn, avocado and fresh cilantro to create a raw taco salad. You can pile this tasty mix into tortillas or taco shells, eat it like a salad or with chips and enjoy.
 
Canned fish brings quick energy:
 
Canned fish, like tuna or salmon, is a great source of no-cook protein during a power outage. You can eat it with crackers, tortillas, on a sandwich or plain.

Also, jarred, store-bought mayonnaise will stay edible for up to eight hours at room temperature, giving you enough time to make a quick tuna salad with mayonnaise, mustard and chopped onion or celery.
 
Greens for power-outage nutrition:
 
Leafy greens will stay fresh without the refrigerator. Chop up whatever leafy greens you have and toss them together with a simple dressing. You can bulk up your salad with cubed bread, nuts, cooked grains or toss in some canned corn or beans.
 
Powerless breakfasts are simple and sustaining:

Pre-prepare oats for the next morning. Mix rolled oats with water or plant-based milk and let it sit overnight on a counter. The next morning, simply add peanut butter, sliced fresh fruit like bananas and apples, nuts and dried fruit for a fuel-rich breakfast.
 
Why not use power outages as an opportunity to get creative with the food and challenge yourself to master some no-cook meal preparation skills? With practical, quick ideas like these easy-to-assemble power outage recipes, you’ll be well prepared to make mealtime delicious the next time the power goes out.
 
Learn more on what to do before, during and after a power outage

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