Food & Drink

No power? No problem: How to cook after a storm hits

Hurricane preparations should always include food and drink provisions.
Hurricane preparations should always include food and drink provisions. Miami Herald file

South Florida has been fortunate to avoid a direct hit from a major hurricane for several years. But locals know not to let their guard down, especially as we head into the prime months for tropical systems.

Hurricane preparation always includes food and water provisions. Without power, cooking can become a survival school. Here are some tips and recipes to make post-storm meals more appetizing.

These dishes rely primarily on canned goods and other staples and some kind of heat source for cooking — a camp stove, gas or charcoal grill, a hot plate or electric skillet run off a generator or a plain old campfire. Use them as general ideas and adapt them to what you have on hand.

▪ If you have a charcoal or gas grill and an outdoor area to use them, your cooking options expand greatly. (Do not use a grill indoors, under any circumstances.)

You can cook just about anything in a foil packet; use heavy-duty wrap and make one large package of, say, vegetables, or individual servings. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, dried herbs or other seasonings and seal. You can roast regular or sweet potatoes on the grill, too.

▪ To cook large pieces of meat or whole chicken, use the indirect method. This means building a charcoal fire on the sides of the grate instead of in the middle. (You can do this with a gas grill, too; check the manual or just follow the same principles.) When the coals have burned down, set a foil drip pan in the center (where the coals aren’t) and set the chicken or roast on the rack over the pan. Then cover the grill and cook.

The grill will act like an oven and roast your dinner. Timing will depend on the size of what you're cooking; don’t keep lifting the lid to peek, but wait about an hour to test with a meat thermometer. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, test by pricking with a fork or cutting with a knife to have a look. Poultry juices will run clear.

▪ You can also use a grill to heat canned foods in a saucepan or disposable foil pan, but be careful. Wait until the flames have died down and then watch closely; this is easier on a gas grill that you can regulate. You may heat food in opened cans on a grill; don't do this with unopened cans, which can explode.

▪ Cast iron is good for makeshift cooking on a camp stove or grill because it retains heat well and is virtually indestructible. Its handle gets very hot, so be careful. Disposable aluminum pie pans are also good for this kind of cooking. Otherwise, use old pots and pans over charcoal because they’ll become blackened on the outside.

▪ If you don’t have a grill, consider purchasing a gas two-burner hot plate. You’ll find them in camping departments of sporting, discount and hardware stores. Be sure to buy enough fuel to last for at least 10 days.

▪ If you have access to a generator, hook up an electric skillet with a cover. It uses much less power than a range.

▪ Plan a week’s worth of meals before you shop: it’s wonderful insurance to know you’ll have enough to eat for at least a week.

Toss favorite comfort foods into your shopping cart to remind you of normal times — Oreo cookies, Little Debbies, caramel corn, pretzels, etc.

▪ Be sure to have a manual can opener on hand. Corkscrew and bottle opener, too.

▪ To keep foods cold longer after a power outage, open the refrigerator and freezer only when necessary and lower the temperature beforehand as much as possible.

A full, free-standing freezer will stay at freezing temperatures about two days; a half-full freezer about one day. If a storm is approaching, scrub out empty milk jugs, fill them with water and stash them in the freezer; they’ll help hold the cold as well as augment your water supply.

▪ Buy an ice chest to keep food from defrosting too rapidly once the power goes. Check in advance where you can buy dry or block ice.

This story was adapted from Miami Herald archives and food writer Carole Kotkin.

Other options

At this year’s National Hurricane Conference, Chef 5 Minute Meals unveiled its line of heat-and-eat meals that require no microwave or other heat source to cook and no refrigeration to store. They come with their own heating pad to create a DIY oven, which heats the food in 5 minutes. The traditional flavors (Beef Stew, Chicken Parm, Vegetable Lasagna) cost about $6-$7 for a 9-ounce package. More info:

And for vegetarian- and vegan-friendly hurricane-prep food tips, see Ellen Kanner’s Edgy Veggie column.

Three-Bean Stew with Vegetables

2 small onions, chopped

2 carrots, sliced

1 tablespoon oil

1 (16-ounce) can corn

1 (16-ounce) can red beans

1 (16-ounce) can black beans

1 (19-ounce) can chick peas

1 (4-ounce) can green chiles

2 bottled jalapeño peppers, minced (optional)

1 teaspoon vinegar

Salt and pepper

Cook onions and carrots in oil for a few minutes, then add corn, beans with their juices, chiles and jalapeños. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes to heat through. You can cook up to 45 minutes. Check and stir to prevent scorching. Add a splash of vinegar at the end and cook a few minutes more. Season with salt and pepper and serve hot. Good with rice, tortillas or noodles. Serves 4.

Per serving: 510 calories, 25 g protein, 92 g carbohydrate, 8 g fat, 19.4 g fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 1,743 mg sodium.

Source: Adapted from “The Monday-to-Friday Cookbook” by Michele Urvater (Workman Publishing, $15).

Barbecued Black Beans and Rice

2 cups cooked rice (made from instant rice and very hot or boiling water)

2 (16-ounce) cans black beans

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can Italian-style stewed tomatoes

1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chiles

1 (16-ounce) can corn kernels packed in water (not creamed)

2 tablespoons bottled barbecue sauce, or more to taste

3/4 teaspoon ground cumin

Salt and pepper

Using your heat source, bring water to a boil or near boil and make instant rice following the package directions.

Meanwhile, rinse and drain beans, then combine with tomatoes, chilies chiles, corn, barbecue sauce and cumin in another saucepan. Cook over low heat until heated through. Add salt and pepper to taste.

If the rice hasn’t absorbed all the water, drain it. Season rice with salt and pepper. Ladle rice into bowls, then top with beans and sauce. Serves 4.

Per serving: 488 calories, 22 g protein, 100 g carbohydrate, 2 g fat, 14.4 g fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 1,560 mg sodium.

Source: Adapted from “The Monday-to-Friday Cookbook” by Michele Urvater (Workman Publishing, $15).

Grilled Pizza

1 (12-inch) shelf-stable, prebaked pizza crust

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1/3 cup prepared marinara sauce

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/4 pound thinly sliced pepperoni

When grill is ready, place pizza crust (top side down) on the grill for 2 minutes. Remove from the grill with tongs and place on cutting board grilled side up. Sprinkle top with olive oil and garlic. Spread marinara sauce to within 1 inch of the border. Top with cheese and pepperoni. Return to grill and cook 4 to 5 minutes more, moving pizza about the grill frequently to prevent burning, until cheese is melted. Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 562 calories, 20 g protein, 36 g carbohydrate, 37 g fat, 0 g fiber, 49 mg cholesterol, 1,271 mg sodium.

Chicken Cannellini Soup

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 carrots, sliced thinly

2 celery stalks, thinly sliced

2 small onions, thinly sliced

1 garlic clove, minced

8 cups chicken broth

2 cans chunk chicken, drained (or 2 cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips)

1 (19-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained

1/2 cup to 1 cup grated parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a large saucepan or deep, heavy skillet and cook carrots about 5 minutes. Add celery and onions and cook about 5 more minutes. Add garlic and cook about 1 minute. Add broth, chicken and beans and heat through. Serve in bowls, topped with cheese. Serves 4 to 6.

Per serving: 503 calories, 53 g protein, 34 g carbohydrate, 17 g fat, 24 g fiber, 86 mg cholesterol, 2,309 mg sodium.

Source: Adapted from “Super Meals from Super Markets” by Joe Famularo (Barron’s, $13).