Don't let blackout darken your dinner plans

The Associated Press

From New York to Detroit, Toronto to Toledo, millions of dollars' worth of produce, dairy and frozen food was spoiled within hours when the power went out in August.

And this past week, much of the East Coast felt the effects of Hurricane Isabel.

Blackouts can happen anytime, especially when seasonal storms are in prospect. But just because the electricity is out, it doesn't mean that going to bed on an empty stomach is your only option.

"A well-stocked pantry is the best way to prepare for any mealtime emergency," says Roberta Larson Duyff, registered dietitian and author of The American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide.

"There is a variety of nonperishable foods in the canned food aisle alone, such as canned fruit, vegetables, beans and lean meats and chicken, that are heat-sealed to preserve the foods' healthfulness, safety and flavor," she says.

Duyff offers tips for keeping your pantry ready for whatever comes along, even if it's just unexpected guests.

Evaluate pantry needs: Take a careful look at your shelves to see if they're stocked appropriately for both day-to-day mealtime preparation and emergencies.

Be prepared: Stock up with a variety of nonperishable foods, including cereal, crackers, granola or energy bars, a variety of canned vegetables, tomato juice, a variety of canned fruits, applesauce, fruit juice, dried fruit, canned tuna, canned chicken and canned lean beef, boxed soy milk, nonfat dry milk, salad dressing and trail mix.

Stay hydrated: Buy bottled water and plan for one gallon of water per person, per day. Keep a three-day supply of water at hand.

Rotate supplies: Be sure to rotate your nonperishable food and water supply every year.

Remember the can opener: Make sure that you have a handheld can opener, paper plates, plastic utensils, paper napkins and towels, and garbage bags. Keep a hand sanitizer on the shelf, too.

Use refrigerated foods while they are still cool: Try to keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed so heat stays out and cold stays in. Unopened, most refrigerators stay chilled for at least four to six hours, according to Duyff.

Here are recipes to keep in mind. They're really quick and easy to prepare, with no cooking.

Mango Tango Black Bean Salsa

15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained

7-ounce can whole kernel corn with peppers, drained

15-ounce can mango slices, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon garlic salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

In medium bowl, combine black beans, corn, mango, onion and cilantro. Stir in lime juice, garlic salt and cumin. Serve with baked tortilla chips, if desired. Blackout-proof version: Replace fresh cilantro with dry parsley. Makes 8 servings.

On-the-Go Chicken Salad

Two 10-ounce cans chunk white chicken, drained

1/2 to 3/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise

1/2 cup red seedless grapes, each cut in half

1/3 cup chopped celery

1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted (optional)

Salt and pepper

15-ounce can Mandarin oranges, drained

In medium bowl, combine chicken and mayonnaise. Stir in grapes, celery and almonds, if desired. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Gently stir in oranges just before serving. Makes 4 servings.

Blackout-proof version: Prepare this recipe within the first few hours of a blackout because items like mayonnaise and lettuce will still be chilled in the refrigerator.


The Canned Food Alliance

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