Two days ago I was looking online for recipes to bake bread on my wood stove. We have our electric prices charged on “real-time pricing” which is usually several cents per kilowatt under the standard rate. Due to this horrendous winter, the real-time prices have been significantly higher. Two weeks ago, the prices were almost ten to twelve times higher than normal. I freaked and hit the main power switch and decided that day we would live “off the grid.” This entailed cooking without my electric stove. We have a wood burning stove in our walk-out basement, that we use to heat the house up, but I looked closely at it on this particular day and decided, “You are doing double-duty, my friend.” I went into the garage where my cast-iron wok was hiding. My husband had purchased this huge, heavy creature for me about 15 years ago…I think I’ve used it once. Tonight, I pulled a bag of mixed veggies out of the freezer and started letting them defrost on the counter as well as several pieces of boneless chicken. After a few hours (the house had the furnace also off, so the temp was around 56 deg upstairs and 70 deg in the basement) I had about 20 candles lit around the house and started to prepare for dinner. I filled the stove with wood, closed the flue, opened the damper and put my wok on it to start warming up. (Since it was in the unheated garage, I’d let it warm up to room temperature most of the morning) and started chopping up the chicken. After about 30 minutes, I put the oil into the wok to start warming and brought my food into the basement to start cooking. I wanted dinner to be ready by 5pm, so I started this around 3.30pm. I put the chicken and some garlic in to fry up, then added my partially defrosted veggies and some flavoured sauce that came in the package. I put the lid on and let it cook. Every once in a while, I took the lid off my wok and gave it a stir. By 5pm, it was all ready. My family and I ate by candlelight and had a great dinner. After dinner, we needed entertainment, but since there was no power, we had to do something else. My son and daughter (aged 6 and 3) were given chem lights to carry to help them not be afraid of the dark. My daughter, Rebekah, who is taking ballet, entertained us by dancing in the dark, holding the chem lights and spinning, singing and dancing. My kids then built forts out of the couch cushions and we all nestled down on the couch in the basement to go to sleep. My husband did not sleep well, since he had to keep getting up to put wood on the fire and my daughter decided to sleep horizontally on the couch, so I had to sleep half on and half off, to keep her from falling off. But was it fun? Yes!! My kids had a great time. In fact, the next day, I threw some more defrosted chicken into the wok with the leftovers of the sti-rfry (which I put into the fridge overnight) and added some chicken broth. Cooked it and made: chicken soup. I used unsalted broth so it was pretty bland. The third night, again, no electric and I added some butter to a cast iron skillet and some flour and reconstituted dry milk and made a roux (on the wood stove.) I added that to the soup and made cream of chicken soup. Wow. It was great. Two nights later I made some tomato soup from tomatoes I canned last summer.
I’m originally from Queens, New York, so this is all foreign to me. I never had family members who canned and the closest I ever came to living off the grid was when we went camping once a year, to the mountains. It’s astounding to me that I am learning to do this. If this city girl can learn, then anyone can. I will be happy to share my recipes and things I learn along the way to help you also learn to rely more on yourself and your family and less on the power company. It’s cheaper and I believe, more fun!