Candlelit dinner

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is calling the devastation from Hurricane Sandy “unthinkable.” New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo says it’s nothing short of a catastrophe. Millions of homes throughout the Northeast are now without power. Hopefully, those affected the worst planned ahead and have enough food to last until electricity returns. How prepared are you for emergency situations? Do you know how to cook without power?

Besides the obvious cereal and bread, you can make some tasty meals without power. You’ve likely got quite a bit of spare time on your hands, too, so might as well  give it a try. Here are some useful tips:

Prepare foods that don’t require heat

1. Salad: Your vegetable bin can be a great and quick source of nutrition during a power outage. And you don’t have to cook most items, either. Make up a chopped veggie salad marinated for a few hours in copious amounts of a homemade dressing if you’re using tougher veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, zucchini, celery and kale. Add in dried nuts and seeds for a protein source. Mix in sundried tomatoes, capers, artichoke hearts and olives for tangy, salty flavor. Make a fruit salad with your fresh fruits and marinade in a bit of juice, oil, lemon and something sweet like honey or maple syrup.

2. Slaw: Grate carrots or cabbage (or both) and mix with dried fruits and a bit of oil and vinegar for a sweet and crunchy slaw to serve on the side of a good old-fashioned peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

3. Porridge: Got chia seeds? Let them soak in water or nondairy milk (1 part chia: 2 parts liquid) for a super healthy vegan porridge. Add dried or fresh fruits, nuts, and seeds for a filling and delicious breakfast. You can also soak oats, wild rice and other grains for porridges.

4. No cook pasta: Rice noodles can cook in standing hot water. Simply let noodles sit in hot water for 10-15 minutes or until tender. Mix with curry paste, toasted sesame seed oil, veggies, nuts and seeds for a tasty and filling meal.

5. MREs and canned goods: These are best saved for when you’ve gone through all of your fresh or frozen foods. Make sure you’re buying canned goods that don’t contain BPA in the can linings.

Non-Electric Heat

6. Grill: Firing up the barbecue is a great way to cook when the power is out. It also allows you to use up the foods that will otherwise spoil quickly. You’ve likely got a lot of time on your hands if the power is out, so spend some time marinading veggies in vinegar, lemon, oil and spices. Add a splash of honey or maple syrup or Dijon mustard. Tofu and tempeh marinade well too—and the same goes for you meat-eaters with fresh cuts lying around. Nothing is worse than letting the sacrifice a creature made with his or her life, rot.

7. Make a solar oven: It’s a pretty easy project that’s perfect for kids—and you can cook all kinds of food in a solar oven, even in cooler weather. All you need are a few items you likely have in the house and a sunny spot. You can heat up water in it, leftovers, roast veggies, fry eggs, and even bake cookies.

8. Bust out the camping stove: Propane stoves can boil water quickly for a warm cup of coffee or cooking rice or pasta. Save these for real emergency situations.

9. Use sterno or canned heat: These are alsp important to have on hand for emergencies, and are best saved as a very last resort.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Image: Swami Stream