The last thing you want to do is heat up the house cooking a family meal... but nobody's in the mood for another chef salad.
Take it outside!
Sure, BBQ Grilling is great... but that's not your only option.
Household cooking appliances don't care where they're plugged in and neither should you. With a safe work station and a properly mounted power strip, all of these small cooking appliances can be used outdoors:
- Crock Pot
- Slow Roaster
- Toaster Oven
- Electric Skillet
- Waffle Iron
- Deep Fryer
- Hot Plate
- Single Electric Burner
- Electric Grill
- Emulsion Blender
- Electric Wok
- GF Contact Roaster
- Fondue Pot
- Coffee Maker
- Table top Convection Oven
- Electric Steamer
- Ice Cream Maker (by popular demand ;-)
Get the kids involved... get their input and ideas. This instructable is about conserving energy, but it's also about creativity and "thinking outside the box".
There are about a gajillion kid-friendly Crock Pot recipes... and who says you can't have waffles for dinner? Would you turn down homemade Chicken a la King over whole grain waffles? ;-)
Caveat: If you have itty-bitty ankle biters... (oops! did I say that? ;-), you may want to stick to the BBQ Grill. No doubt, you've already trained your toddlers not to touch a hot stove, but bringing appliances outside will create a curiosity factor for them.
The same goes for pets and fur-babies. Cats jump up on things, puppies like to chew and big dogs can get rambunctious.
Above ALL: Use caution and common sense.
Here's my easy Family go-to recipe for Sausage Pasta Sauce. It's served over fresh Cheese Tortellini with toasted Garlic bread.
You'll be using a Crockpot, a Drip Coffee Maker and an Electric Skillet to cook this entire meal outside... that's it!
Add a tossed salad and this meal will easily serve a family of 4.
For the Sauce you'll need:
- 1- 26 oz can (or Jar) prepared Spaghetti Sauce
- 1- 14 oz can Diced Tomatoes
- 1- 6 oz can Tomato Paste
- 1 4 oz can sliced Mushroom
- 1-2 Tablespoons Chopped Garlic (to taste)
- 3-4 Links of Sausage sliced on the diagonal. (IMO Italian sausage is best. I was out, so I used smoked sausage.)
- 1/2 cup Chopped Onion
- 1 tsp. Italian Seasoning
- A splash of Olive Oil
- 9 oz FRESH Buitoni CheeseTortellini
- a splash of Olive Oil
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 6 cups fresh water IN the cleaned Coffee Maker reservoir
- Sliced French Bread
- Butter, softened
- Grated Parmesan Cheese
- Garlic Salt
- A pinch of Italian Seasoning.
Splash a little olive oil into an electric skillet and saute the sausage and onions over medium heat (350 degrees) until they're browned. Add them to the sauce in the crockpot. Add the Italian seasoning.
Stir the sauce, cover and let the crockpot do it's job. Resist any urge to to take the lid off the crockpot for the next 5-6 hours. Lifting the lid disturbs the temperature and cooking cycle. There's no need to stir the sauce.
While the sauce is cooking, it's time to really acquaint yourself with your drip Coffee Maker... the appliance you'll be using to cook your Tortellini. ;-) You'll need to check the capacity of your Coffee Maker to make sure it can handle this job. Mine has a 12 cup capacity. Even with using 9 oz of tortellini and 6 cups of water, I had plenty of room to spare. (See pics)
Next, wash and rinse the glass pot and the coffee filter tray thoroughly. Wipe with a paper towel to be sure any residual coffee oil/build up is removed so you don't get coffee-flavored pasta. Then rinse(no soap) the water reservoir well. Wipe the reservoir out with a dry paper towel then run the Coffee Maker with water for a cycle or 2. When you're confident the Coffee Maker is thoroughly clean, turn it off and add 6 cups of water to the reservoir. You're waiting for the Sauce to cook.... tick-tock, tick-tock.
I used FRESH Buitoni Cheese Tortellini in this recipe.* Fresh pasta is usually found in the deli aisle of your grocery store. It is more expensive than dried pasta, but the taste and texture are out-of-this-World. (Warning: Once you try it, you might never go back to dry pasta again.)
(tick-tock, tick-tock... sauce is finished cooking in the Crock!. ;-)
Put the tortellini, salt and a splash of olive oil directly INTO the clean glass pot... NOT into the coffee maker reservoir. Hit the "ON" switch to begin cooking the tortellini. It will take 10-12 minutes to cook once the coffee maker has cycled the water through to the pot. When the water has completely cycled, use a wooden spoon to stir the pasta, then return the pot to the burner.
Use the last few minute to toast the Garlic Bread. Spread Butter on one side of each slice then sprinkle with grated Parmesan Cheese, Italian Seasoning and Garlic Salt. Use a butter knife to work the topping into the butter. Toast the bread with the DRY side down for a couple of minutes until the top side is a little melted. Then flip the bread over and toast for another minute or so. Flip the slices over again and turn off the electric skillet. It'll stop cooking immediately but will still keep the Garlic bread warm.
Drain the tortellini in a colander. Shake gently to remove the excess water that like to hide. Plate the tortellini up and smother it with the Sausage sauce. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese. (garnish with a sprig of fresh basil from your herb garden if you have one.)
Turn off all of the appliances or unplug the extension cord... and don't forget your Garlic Bread. ;-)
* Dry Angel Hair Pasta takes about 7-8 minutes to cook in a Coffee Maker and it tastes great! Just follow the same procedure above.