As I admired my fairly new stainless steel oven the other day, I remembered a conversation from a few years ago that preceded our investment in a new oven.
“How was your day?” I asked my husband one day.
“It was interesting,” he said, sounding a little exasperated.
I could sense bad news on the horizon, but he started with the good news.
“I baked some bread. It turned out great,” he announced.
“That sounds good. So, what else happened?” I asked, bracing myself.
“The glass fell out of the oven door,” he said matter-of-factly.
I’m sure my eyes widened at that nonchalant comment.
“Is the bread OK?” I asked.
I guess I should have asked him if he was OK, but I could see that he wasn’t covered with bandages.
“The bread is fine. The oven door handle broke off, too. Everything can be fixed, though,” he added, rather quickly.
I didn’t know what to expect when I walked into the kitchen. I just hoped my husband hadn’t gotten creative or overly frugal with the repair job. Would my white oven have a second-hand avocado green door and a broom handle bolted on it?
Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. Without a door, our oven looked like a mouth waiting to be fed.
Other than having no glass and a broken handle, the oven worked fine, so we didn’t need to invest in a new one immediately. We just needed to fix the door.
While we waited for parts, I discovered how “oven-dependent” I had been. I brought our portable convection oven and other appliances out of storage.
For dinner the next day, we made bread in our bread machine, simmered chili in the slow cooker and baked brownies in our portable convection oven. We fixed the oven and used it a few more years, but eventually we “traded up” for a more energy-efficient oven.
I did a little background research on the energy use of small appliances compared with full-sized appliances and discovered ways to economize our energy consumption.
According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), you can cut oven-related energy use by 20 percent if you use a convection oven instead of a conventional oven. Using a microwave oven instead of a conventional oven can cut energy use by more than 60 percent.
I decided my portable convection oven would spend more time in the kitchen, even if it takes up counter space.
When we decided to upgrade our oven, I paid attention to the labels on appliances, too. The federal government requires most appliances to carry a yellow and black “EnergyGuide” label, which tells you the estimated energy consumption and yearly operating cost.
When selecting new appliances, consider the ones that carry the “Energy Star” label. These products usually exceed federal standards.
Consider these energy-saving tips from the U.S. Department of Energy and ACEEE:
- Keep range-top burners and reflectors clean. They will reflect heat better and save energy.
- Match your cooking pots and pans to the burner size. According to the ACEEE, using a 6-inch pan on an 8-inch burner wastes more than 40 percent of the heat produced by the burner.
- Use electric pans/griddles or toaster ovens for small meals. A toaster oven uses one-third to one-half the energy of a full-sized oven.
- Reduce cooking time and energy use by using a pressure cooker or microwave oven.
- Cover the pot when you are boiling water for pasta or other foods.
- Thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator before cooking.
- Bake more than one item at a time. For example, bake double portions of food. You can freeze one portion.
- Avoid peeking in the oven and losing heat. Turn on the oven light and look in.
Have you used your slow cooker lately? If not, pull it out of storage and try this easy recipe.
Slow Cooker Spaghetti Sauce
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 c. chopped green bell pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1(16-ounce) can stewed tomatoes
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 envelope spaghetti sauce seasoning
1/2 c. chopped onion
1 c. chopped celery
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
2 c. water
Brown meat with onion, pepper and garlic. Drain well and put into slow cooker with remaining ingredients. Cover; cook on high until sauce comes to a boil and then turn to low and simmer for six hours.
Makes 10 servings. Each serving has 160 calories, 6 grams (g) of fat, 12 g of carbohydrate, 2 g of fiber and 730 milligrams of sodium.