Friends, it appears as thought the STORM OF THE CENTURY (AIEEEE ACK ACK DRAMA-FEST OH MY GOODNESS) is about to hit the DC area, and power outages are all but guaranteed. Hurricane Sandy is on her way, and she looks like a tempestuous chica with extra wrath to spare. (Insert bad “hell hath no fury like when Sandy was scorned by Danny Zuko” joke here.) The magic combination of a Category 1 Hurricane, low air pressure, and a serious cold front (thanks, Greenland?) means this strange, perfect storm is due to hit DC in t-minus 5 hours.
Until then, I’m holing up in my apartment, eating pretty much anything perishable and hyperactively charging my electronics before the inevitable power outage hits. I’ve shared my thoughts on disaster-based dining and “Will It All Rot?” fridge-managing earlier this year (all hail the 2012 Derecho), but with the prep-work that THT and I have done of the last few days, I figured a post on prepping your kitchen for potential storm-related drama would be helpful. Plus, it helps me perpetuate the illusion that I’m in control of the weather and its affects. Like Gaia on “Captain Planet!” Win!
So what can you do to prep for an impending hurricane and / or power outage, particularly when it comes to your fridge, pantry, and the like? Here’s a list of my top tips, based on personal experience and the wiser words of others.
1. Stock up on non-perishables that you’ll actually eat: My list includes cans of tuna, soups that I don’t mind eating cold (Hello, Giant-brand Minestrone. Nommy nom nom), crackers, cans of black beans & kidney beans, peanut butter, and the like. You don’t have to go crazy — we’re not talking about replicating a Y2K shelter-style pantry here. Instead, it’s a matter of making sure you have some semi-nutritious staples around for when the going gets tough (and the electricity gets gone).
2. Buy produce that can last on the counter top: Apples, bananas, oranges, etc. are great options when you’re itching for something that doesn’t come in a cardboard box or an aluminum can.
3. When it comes to water, “smart backup” is a good goal: You probably don’t need to raid your local grocery store’s “bottled beverages” aisle for 80 cases of water bottles. THT and I bought one case of 24 as back-ups to prepare for any water pumping issues. (We also filled water bottles and Brita pitchers.) That being said, we’re accounting for two people. Check with your local weather and Red Cross authorities to see what’s recommended for your area, your family size, etc. (We also put a bucket or two in the tub, just in case the toilet gets … uncooperative. That’s a battle I don’t want to fight — when you fight with plumbing, you tend to lose. Big time.)
4. Ice is good; so are freezer packs: Our local grocery store ran out of ice, oh, four days ago (surprise, surprise), but I tracked down a couple of bags at CVS last night. That being said, THT found 50-cent freezer packs at Giant, and we stocked our freezer with 5 or 6 of those bad boys. If all else fails, if and when the power goes out, we can stuff the cooler with ice AND freezer packs to preserve any high-priority perishables.
5. Turn the fridge dial to its lowest possible temperature: This way, if you DO lose power, your fridge has a ways to go before all of your goods turn lukewarm (and you say a tragic goodbye to your shredded cheeses and tubs of yogurt. Sniff sniff).
6. Cook and portion out some meals in advance: In my freezer, I had some uncooked ground beef, and my fridge was chock-full of a heckuva lot of dairy products (eggs, a big ol’ bag of mozzarella cheese, yogurt, etc). So, we whipped up a few dishes in the slow cooker and the oven — Set It And Forget It Beef Stroganoff and Mexican Lasagna — to use up ingredients while we still had power and refrigeration. Then, I rocked that Tupperware like nobody’s business; I stuffed portions of each dish into individual serving-sized containers, tucking some into the fridge and most into the freezer. If the power goes out, we’ll eat the refrigerated ones first. Woohoo for actual food! (As much as I love meals of cocktail peanuts, bananas and cold tomato soup. Mmm … ?)
7. Enjoy eating those dairy / perishable items that just “have to go”: Of COURSE ice cream is its own food group … Well, it is if you’re about to lose all refrigeration and freezing capabilities. In truth, with advanced notice, you can munch on your yogurt, milk, eggs and cheeses in the days before the storm. Being left with a huge, uneaten bag of shredded cheddar isn’t fun for anyone.
8. Remember the essentials, and be smart: Flashlights, batteries, candles, emergency numbers / information in a safe place. Don’t go outside; now is not the time to play “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”
Stay safe, kids! To tide you over, here’s a recipe for my Mexican Lasagna. This will easily make 8 meal-sized portions that you can refrigerate / freeze whenever the storm hits. Good luck, stay dry, and happy eating! (Even if it’s from a can.)
Mexican Lasagna — Serves 8. Or, serves two holed-up teachers for a few days of powerlessness.
- 1 bag flour tortillas (at least 8)
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1-2 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
- 1 16-0z can crushed tomatoes
- 1 large tomato, diced and divided in half
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1-2 carrots, diced
- 1 onion, diced and divided in half
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup prepared salsa
- 1 tsp lime juice
- 1 green pepper, diced and divided in half
- 1/2 cup to 1 cup frozen corn
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 pkg taco seasoning
- 1 16-oz bag Mexican-blend cheese, Mozzarella cheese, or both
- Cooking spray and aluminum foil for pan
Here’s what you do:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- For the sauce: Heat oil in a small saucepan. Add garlic, carrots, 1/2 of the onion, celery, 1/2 green pepper, and 1/2 tomato, along with 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp chili powder (optional), 1/2 tsp garlic salt and 1 tsp black pepper. Saute until translucent, about 5-10 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, frozen corn, salsa and lime juice. Cook on medium heat until flavors meld and sauce thickens.
- For the meaty filling: Saute ground beef and remaining green pepper, onion and tomato. Add black beans when beef is cooked through. Drain carefully to remove excess fat; add package of taco seasoning and mix well.
- To assemble: Cover the bottom of a high-sided baking dish with foil and spray with cooking spray. Begin layering: Sauce, tortillas (about 3 per layer; you may have to rip one in half to fit your pan), met mixture, cheeses, repeat. The top layer should be cheese; you will probably get through two or three layers.
- Bake, covered, for 25 minutes. Uncover and broil for 5-10 additional minutes, or until brown and bubbly. Watch carefully to make sure nothing burns.
- Portion into tupperware containers if prepping for storm-fest 2012, or simply begin the nosh-fest. Enjoy!
What are you guys doing to avoid hurricane drama? How are you prepping your kitchens, apartments and homes? Best of luck and many prayers for your safety!