Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I Wish I Liked Squash - or - Long-term Food Storage

I'm not an expert on food storage or nutrition, but it seems to me that there are three basic kinds of food we should store for long-term disasters:  protein, starches, and fruits and vegetables.  Well, four, if you included fats.

Everyone knows that meat is a good protein source.  Fish is also good, and some people argue that it's healthier.  But meat and fish can be expensive to store.  Even if you do the work of preserving it yourself--which is a lot of work--you still have to buy or otherwise acquire it first.  Some people are in a position to raise beef or chickens for food or eggs, but not everyone can do that.

Fortunately, beans and grains can help provide the protein we need, and they're a lot easier to store than meat.  Don't get me wrong, I still want to store lots of meat.  But by adding beans and grain to my diet, I can get by with less meat, and still have enough protein.  Remember, though, that beans and grain are each not a complete protein so you have to eat both of them.  I read recently that "they" are no longer saying that you have to eat beans and grains in the same meal.  As long as you eat them the same day, that's OK.  That said, there are so many beans-and-grains recipes or traditional meals, that it isn't hard to eat them in the same meal.

Starches are important because they have the bulk of the calories that will keep us from starving to death,  and we have lots of options.  The beans and grains you can eat for protein also provide starches.  Beans are chock full of fiber--which most of us don't eat enough of.  And whole grains have lots of complex carbs, and also vitamins and minerals.  And of course, grains can be ground into flour and baked into all kinds of yummy things.  Beans and grains are inexpensive to buy in bulk and they're easy to store long term.  You can buy them already packaged in sealed, airtight buckets, or you can package them yourself.  Delta69Alpha has several youtube videos about how to do that.  You can check out his channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/delta69alpha .  Of course, if you're storing whole grains for use during a disaster, you'll need a hand-operated grain mill.  And you'll want to store whole grains because they store a lot longer than flour or rolled grains.

Potatoes are another great starch option.  Potatoes have a lot of nutrition if you eat the skins along with the potatoes, and they store well.  Potatoes are easy to grow, and they are attractive plants.  You can buy dehydrated potatoes in several forms:  shredded for hashbrowns, sliced, and potato pearls (whatever those are).  And we all know you can get boxes of mashed potato flakes at the grocery store.  I think it's good to have a supply of dehydrated potatoes, because although potatoes store well, they don't store for an entire year.  So you can eat fresh potatoes when you have them, and stored potatoes when you're out of the fresh.

Now, here's the reason I wish I liked squash.  Squash are very nutritious, and can provide a lot of complex carbs.  They are easy to grow, and the plants and flowers are beautiful.  Winter squash store very well, and some of them are gorgeous.   There is carnival, which is small enough for individual servings:  http://www.territorialseed.com/product/9913/221 . There is delicata squash, which has a bush and a vining variety:  http://www.territorialseed.com/product/1121/221 .  There is fairy squash:  http://www.territorialseed.com/product/1119/221 .  There's sweet dumpling:  http://www.vermontbean.com/dp.asp?c=51&P={266797CE-5A61-428F-BEA2-69936D7F5C4B} .  And there is turk's cap squash:  http://www.vermontbean.com/dp.asp?c=51&P={DBD5A95C-2399-45CA-92B8-87D680F7AFF7} , just to name a few.  (Sorry about all the links.  I don't have pictures myself and I didn't want to violate copyrights).  But I simply don't like the taste of squash.  Pumpkin pie is about the only way I like to eat winter squashes.  That said, I'm growing some this year anyway.  I simply can't pass them up, and who knows--I may find a recipe I like.

And that brings us to the fruits and vegetables.  Fruits and vegetables do have carbs, but not enough to rely on them during a crisis.  But with fruits' sugar content, they are often a great pick-me-up.  And fruits and vegetables have lots of vitamins, minerals, and other phytonutrients.  Of course we all know we should eat plenty of vegetables with lunch and dinner.  And fruits are great for breakfast and desserts.  Fresh veggies and fruits are always good when they're in season, and many of them are easy to grow.  You can can them, or make jams and jellies from the fruit.  You can also dehydrate them for use throughout the year.  And you can purchase them already dehydrated or freeze-dried.

There are, of course, lots of other things to consider for long-term food storage, but this is a pretty good place to start.  Now, off to find a good squash recipe.

Monday, December 28, 2009

My Territorial Seed Catalog Came Over the Weekend

My Territorial Seed Catalog come this weekend.  So now, in addition to trying to make up my mind which bushes to plant, I have to make up my mind which vegetables to plant.  I have to admit, I get a lot more excited about planting fruit trees and bushes than vegetables. 

There are a lot of good seed companies out there, but I like to buy from Territorial because they test all their seeds right here in Oregon.  So I know they offer varieties that will do well in the Pacific Northwest.

I always plant their London Springs lettuce mix.  I never let the lettuce grow into heads, I just pick off leaves as I need them.  The London Springs mix has lots of loose-leaf lettuces anyway, so this is OK.  And it seems to work well with the butterhead varieties that are also in the mix.

I also always plant a variety of snap peas and some pole beans.  I get snap peas because I'm too lazy to shell regular peas.  And besides, I like them.  And fresh green beans are so much better than canned or frozen that I have to grow them too.

I also like to grow kale.  Territorial has a Wild Garden Kales mix that I like.  I snip off individual leaves when they're young and mix them in my salads.  Sometimes I'll snip off some kale and mix it in with soup or scrambled eggs.  Or whatever strikes my fancy.

Last year I grew green onions for the first time, and I think I'll do that again this year.  I like green onions in my salad, and they were really easy to grow.

And I'll try to grow beets again this year.  I've never been able to get good beet roots.  The greens grow fine, but not the roots.  So I think I have too much nitrogen in the fertilizer and not enough phosphorous.  So I'll try to tweak my fertilizer.

I'll try cantaloupe and pumpkins again this year.  I've tried them the last couple years, and I've messed them up.  I've procrastinated too long and gotten them in the ground too late to get good fruit from them.  This year I'll do better.  Really!

Ooh, ooh, and I'll try Aunt Molly's Ground Cherries again.  I tried them last year, but procrastinated too long with them, too.  They grow, and produced fruit, but nothing had time to ripen.  So this year I'll get them in earlier and they'll do well.  I've heard so much about ground cherries that I really want to try them.

I want to try Snackjack Pumpkins this year.  They have hull-less seeds, so I really want to give them a try.  But Territorial doesn't offer them any longer.  However, I got a catalog from the Vermont Bean Company, and they do offer them.  So I think I'll get seeds from them and see how the Snackjacks grow.

Oh, and potatoes.  I liked my experiment with them last year, so I'll grow them again this year.  We're supposed to be able to overwinter our potatoes in the ground here, so I tried to do that with my fingerling spuds.  But then we had a week of never-before-in-my-life cold weather and the ground froze much deeper than normal.  The spuds I've found so far have been mushy.  There may be some deeper that are still good, but the ground a couple inches deep is still frozen so I don't know what's beneath that.  I'll probably have to get new seed potatoes this year.  Oh well.  They were easy to grow, and nice looking plants.

That ought to be enough veggies for this non-vegetable grower.

Onion Soup Mix from Mix-A-Meal Cookbook

I've used the Onion Soup Mix from the Mix-A-Meal cookbook a few times, now, and I have to say that I really like it. 

My favorite way to eat it is in a chip dip.  And it couldn't be easier to make.  Just mix 2 tsp Onion Soup Mix into 1 cup sour cream.  It doesn't have a really strong flavor, but it does have a really good flavor.  Of course, you could make it stronger by adding more soup mix.

I also tried using the Onion Soup Mix in the Alfredo Delight recipe from the same book.  This recipe uses both the White Sauce Mix and the Onion Soup Mix.  I wasn't really crazy about this recipe, but I think with some tweaking it would be really good.  First, the White Sauce Mix isn't rich enough.  I know, I know, people are trying to cut down on fat and stuff.  But come on...I'll reduce fat in my spaghetti sauce.  But there's no point in having something like Alfredo if you try to wimp it down so much it doesn't taste like Alfredo.  So...more powdered milk, a probably more butter or margarine powder, in the White Sauce Mix.  Or maybe, more White Sauce Mix and less water in the Alfredo Delight recipe.  And I'm sorry, but Alfredo needs more than a little sprinkling of Parmesan Cheese.  It needs lots of Parmesan Cheese.  So next time I'm grating a bunch of it and tossing it in.  That ought to make really good Alfredo sauce.

The last thing I tried with the Onion Soup Mix is baked chicken.  Mix-A-Meal has a recipe for baked chicken mix, and it was OK, but it wasn't great.  So this time, I just dumped some flour into a 1-gallon zip-lock bag, and added some Onion Soup Mix and some Johnny's Seasoning Salt.  Then I shook the chicken pieces in that mixture, baked it for an hour at 350 degrees, and it was wonderful.  Really made the house smell good, too.

So...what's the Onion Soup Mix recipe?  I'll share it with you, but you should really get this book.  It's only about $15.00 and it has a lot of stuff I'm not sharing with you, including several more recipes using the Onion Soup Mix.  You can get it from Amazon.com.

Onion Soup Mix
2/3 cup dehydrated chopped onions
1/2 cup beef bouillon (soup base)
1/2 cup dehydrated buttor or margarine
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. parsley flakes

Monday, December 21, 2009

There's a new edition of Gaia's Garden

I got the first edition of Toby Hemenway's Gaia's Garden:  A Guide to Homescale Permaculture several years ago, and I found it the most useful gardening book I've ever read.

I'd been trying to decide what to do with my 3 1/2 acres.  I was toying with several different ideas:  native garden:  edible ornametals:  a native forest garden, etc.  But I couldn't make up my mind.

Then I got a copy of Gaia's Garden and learned that I could combine all those ideas into an easy-to-maintain (although not necessarily easty to create) garden that would be beautiful, produce food for me, and provide food and habitate for wildlife. 

There are other permaculture books out there, but I found this one to be the most helpful.  Mr. Hemenway was able to present the information in a way that was both interesting to read, and made me feel like I had everything I needed to get started.

I haven't seen the 2nd edition yet, but I'm excited to get a copy. 

Pondering Spring Planting

The One Green World 2010 catalog arrive a couple weeks ago, and I've been drooling over it, trying to decide what to plant for my food forest next year. 

I don't think I'm going to plant any trees next year.  I have a couple pear trees (Bartlett and Comice), a few apple trees (Gravenstein, Honeycrisp, Resi, Liberty, and Ashmead's Kernal), and 1 plum tree that's still alive (Italian Prune Plum).  I've killed 4 plum trees so far--they were on the moister side of my property and I think it was too moist for them.  The Italian Prune Plum is on the drier side of my property, and it's still alive.  I want to plant a couple more plum trees over there, but not this year.

I also want to plant some edible Mountain Ash or Hawthorn trees, but I think I'll hold off on them for now, too.  I'm leaning towards a Chinese Haw (Crataegus pinnatifida) for the Hawthorn because it has edible fruit and colorful fall foliage.  But not this year.

This year I think I'll start to fill in some of the areas where I already have fruit trees.  Remember, one way a food forest seeks to mimic a natural forest is by using layers.  A tree canopy layer, a shrubbery layer, an herbaceous perennial layer, etc.  So I think I'll work on the shrubbery layer next year.  I have some fruiting shrubs (huckleberries, gooseberries, and blue berries) scattered around my property, but none in the food forest yet.  So that's what I'll do this coming spring.

My fruit trees are almost all semi-dwarf trees, and they're planted about 20 feet apart.  That should allow enough light for at least a couple bushes between each pair of trees, especially if they're planted off line from the trees (not on a direct line between the trees).

I'm thinking of planting Honeyberry bushes.   I need to plant the late-blooming varieties, because I can get frosts until the middle of May.  So I get to choose between Blue Forest, Blue Moon, Blue Pacific, Blue Velvet, and Kamchatka.  They all look good.  How do I choose between them?

And I think I'll add another 3-4 rhubarb plants between the bushes.  I like rhubarb, and they produce big leaves that can be cut for mulching in place.

Then I'll plant a patch of wildflowers.  These should bring in lots of beneficial insects while providing cut flowers for my vase.  And some flowers, like yarrow, have deep roots that are good for bringing minerals from deep in the soil up to the top soil (after they die down in the fall) where they're available to other plants.

That should be good for this coming year.  Of course, once the Raintree catalog comes out, I'll probably change my mind.

Brownie Mix

My goal is to find or develop a brownie mix recipe that makes awesome fudgie brownies, and you need to add only water.  I don't have that yet.  But here's a recipe that you can add only butter and water.  I modified a recipe I found on the Internet.  I actually found the same recipe on several different sites, so I don't know who originated the recipe. If anyone knows who originally created the recipe, please add a comment and I'll update this post.



Brownie Mix Recipe:
Mix together
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cups cocoa powder
1/2 cup unbleached white flour
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
3 Tbsp whole egg powder

Brownie Recipe
1 recipe brownie mix
3/4 cups softened butter ( 1 1/2 sticks)
1/4 - 1/2 cups water

Beat softened butter with 1/4 cup water until well mixed and fluffy.  Add the brownie mix and mix with a spoon.  You may need to add more water to make a thick batter (I needed another 1/4 cup of water).  Turn into greased 13 x 9 baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  Cut when cool.

For thicker brownies, back in greased 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 baking pan for 30-40 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Options:
You could make these into a health food by substituting white bean flour for some of the flour.  Or at least, I tell myself that makes them a health food!

You can make several batches of mix at one time, and store them in individual 1/qt freezer bags.

You can make the mix without nuts for longer storage, then use fresh nuts.

This mix will probably store longer if kept in the refrigerator.  I store my nuts in the freezer for longest storage.

I think adding some powdered milk to the recipe would make a richer brownie, but I haven't tried it yet.

My next experiment will be to replace the 3/4 cups butter with butter powder and water.  But I don't have butter powder yet.

Cheese Crackers from Food Storage

Last night I tried making cheese crackers from my food storage.  I used the Biscuit Mix recipe from the "Mix-A-Meal" book, which is a home-made version of Bisquick.  Did I mention this before?  It makes really good biscuits.  Well, they weren't as crispy as I'd like, but they sure taste good.



You can use Bisquick in this recipe, if you don't have home-made biscuit mix.

Recipe:
2 cups biscuit mix
1/2 cup water
seasoning salt
freeze-dried cheddar cheese

Put about 1/2 - 1 cup freeze-dried cheddar cheese in a liquid measuring cup or a bowl.  Cover with water and let sit for about a minute.  Drain well.

Mix the biscuit mix with water to make a dough.  Pinch off about 1/4 of the dough and roll out very thin.  Using a pancake turner or the rolling pin, place the rolled-out dough on a greased baking sheet.  Sprinkle with seasoning salt and the moistened cheddar cheese.  Use pizza cutter to cut into squares, rectangles, or diamonds.

Bake in 425-degree oven for 7 minutes.  Remove and cool on wire cooling racks.

Repeat with more biscuit dough.

I tried using the cheddar cheese without moistening it, and it just baked into hard little chunks.  They tasted good, but didn't stick to the crackers.  I didn't want to thoroughly reconstitute them because I wanted them to be dried after baking.  But moistening them for about a minute seemed to work well.  You can see from the picture that they melted and stuck to the crackers.  And they were nice and dry.

You can sprinkle with herbs rather than cheese and seasoning salt.  I made some by sprinkling with Mrs. Dash, but I wasn't crazy about them.

I also tried sprinkling some cinnamon and sugar, but I wasn't crazy about them, either.  Too bad.

Obviously, you can be as adventurous as you want and try sprinkling anything you want.  Or maybe add something to the dough itself.  Crumbled bacon comes to mind.  Oh the possibilities!

I used 1/2 whole wheat flour when I made the biscuit mix (a big advantage of making your own):
1 1/8 cups unbleached white flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
5 Tbsp dehydrated shortening
3 Tbsp powdered buttermilk
2 Tbsp whole egg powder
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp baking soda

I think replacing some of the flour with white bean flour would be awesome.  It would add protein and fiber to the biscuit mix.  But I ran out.  I better order some more soon.  BTW, I've used the white bean flour in cookies.  The dough has a slight uncooked-bean flavor, but it goes away in the cookies.  So white bean flour is great to add to lots of baked items to make them more nutritious.  I get mine from Bob's Red Mill (see the link at the right side of the blog).

Welcome Delta69Alpha and BustedNuckles

I'm so excited.  I logged on today and I have two followers.  Thank you so much Delta69Alpha and BustedNuckles.  I hope you find something here that's interesting or helpful.

Sorry I've been neglecting the blog

Sorry I haven't posted the last couple months.  I've been busy with financial stuff.  But I'm back now and have a couple posts for today.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Mountain House Freeze Dried Food on Sale at Emergency Essentials

I got an e-mail from Emergency Essentials (http://www.beprepared.com/).  They're having a 25% off sale on all Mountain House meals in #10 cans. 

According to the e-mail, the Chicken A La King & Noodles is $26.62 (it's normally $35.49).  Their Turkey Tetrazzini is $26.99 (it's usually $35.99).  I've had both of these in the 2-person pouches, and they were very good.  There are similar price savings on the other meals.

The sale goes from Oct. 16th through the 30th.  So if you've been thinking of stocking up on MH meals, now might be a good time.  You might also want to add your e-mail address to their e-mail list so you can get these notices, too.

Now I have to go check my budget to see whether I can squeeze in a couple more cans of food this month.

This Month's Food Storage Purchase

I'm late reporting on my food storage purchase for this month.  It's a tight month financially, so my purchase was smaller than normal.  I got a #10 can of Provident Pantry (R) Freeze Dried Banana Slices, a #10 can of Mountain House (R) Freeze Dried Spaghetti with Meat Sauce, and a #10 can of Scrambled Egg Mix.

I've gone though 1 can of the Scrambled Egg Mix already, so I know I'll eat this.  I know I like the scrambled eggs.  But one of these days I'm going to have to try making french bread with it.  And it should also be good for dipping sliced green tomatoes into before dredging them in the seasoned flour I use when I make fried green tomatoes.  I've been eating lots of those lately.

The freeze-dried bananas are very good.  They have a nice, crispy crunch.  And they taste just like bananas (who would have thought?).  I'm sure I could re-hydrate them and make an excellent banana cream pie.  And they would be good to take on a bike ride--they wouldn't squish like fresh bananas.  Personally, I like the freeze-dried peaches better, but that's because I like peaches better.  Firenzi also gives his stamp of approval.

I've eaten a lot of Mountain House Freeze Dried Spaghetti with Meat Sauce the last three winters when the power's been out for days.  OK, it isn't as good as fresh-made spaghetti.  But it's still very good.  And it's easier to fix. I've always had it in the 2-person pouch before, so it's nice to get it in the #10 can so I can re-hydrate just as much as I want**.

I scooped some of the spaghetti into quart-size freezer bags and wrote directions on the bag for re-hydrating.  I'll be able to re-hydrate them just like a freezer-bag meal:  dump in the almost-boiling water, put in a cozy for 10 minutes, and supper's ready!  These are going into my BOB.  I'll get some MREs for my BOB, too.  It's nice to have a variety of things.  And I'll put a couple bags of spaghetti in my desk at work for those days when I forget to bring a lunch (it happens occasionally).  A bag of freeze-dried spaghetti will be cheaper than going to Subway for a sandwich.  And I won't be hungry a half hour later.  Hmmm, I wonder whether I could make some homemade texas toast and dehydrate it.  It would be good with the spaghetti.

Oh, I almost forgot.  The last thing I got this month is a metallized liner, like for using in food-storage buckets.  You can seal these with an iron (you know...for ironing clothes, which almost no one does any more).  I thought I could cut it up and make individual packets of seasonings for freezer-bag meals.  You can put the seasonings into a zip-lock snack bag, but that seems like overkill for, say, a tablespoon of Mrs. Dash and a teaspoon of Johnny's Seasoning Salt.  If I make packets out of the metallized liners, I can then seal them with my iron.  It should work.

**The web page says that after you open the #10 can of the Mountain House freeze-dried meals, you should eat it within a couple weeks.  I could never understand that.  Most freeze-dried foods last longer than that if you seal them back up again.  It prevented me from bying MH freeze-dried foods in a can, because I knew I wouldn't be able to eat the whole can in a couple weeks.  So I e-mailed Emergency Essentials and asked them why the MH food would last only a couple weeks.  They said that estimate was based on the assumption that someone was taking the food hiking, so it would be in a backpack in the blazing sun and subject to moisture.  They said it should last as long as any other freeze-dried food if stored properly in a cool dark place.  So that's really good to know.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Another Way to Store Cheese

While browsing around the web the other day I discovered that there's another way to store cheese.  You can buy big chunks of cheese and cut it up into portions that you'd use in a couple days.  Then you can dip it in melted cheese wax (or brush on the cheese wax) and store it in a reasonably cool place.

The wax seals the surface so it won't get moldy.

You do this with the hard cheeses:  cheddar, parmesan, etc.  Soft cheese has too much water and might go bad.

You can get cheese wax on the Internet.  Just Google "cheese wax" and you'll be amazed what you find.

Here's a website that tells you more about waxing cheese:
http://www.lacarte.org/calamity/projects/cheese/index.html

There are other websites that talk about how to do it.  Again, just Google "cheese wax".

Pretty cool, huh?

Quesadillas made with Freeze Dried Cheddar Cheese

This morning I made a quesadilla with my freeze-dried cheddar cheese, and it was really good.

Here's how I did it:

First, I measured out 1/2 cup freeze-dried cheddar cheese.  I put it in a 2-cup measuring cup, covered it with warm water, and set it to soak for 5 minutes.

Then I heated my griddle.  It goes over two burners on my stove, so I have room to cook 2 tortillas at the same time.  I lightly oiled the griddle and put on the 2 tortillas.

When the timer went off I drained the cheddar cheese and left it draining until I needed it.

The half of the griddle that sits on the big burner always gets hotter than the half that sits on the little burner.  But that's good because the tortilla on that half of the griddle cooks faster.

When the tortilla over the big burner started to get brown, I turned it over and plopped the drained cheese on it.  I spread the cheese evenly over the tortilla, to within 1/2 inch of the edges. 

By then the other tortilla was ready, so I put it over the cheese, cooked side towards the cheese.

By the time that was done, the bottom of the first tortilla was ready, and the cheese was partly melted--enough to stick to the top tortilla--so I turned the quesadilla over. 

I let it sit for a minute or so until the bottom was brown, then took it off the griddle.  Let cool for a minute, then cut into six pieces with a pizza cutter.

That's it.  Easy peasy quesadilla with freeze-dried cheddar cheese.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Adding to Prepper Blogs

I just went to Prepper Blogs (http://www.prepperblogs.com/) and added Food Storage in Vernonia.  We're now listed in the "Homesteading and Sustainable Living" section.  Yeah us!

Do you know about the "Preppers" blogs?  There's an American Preppers Network, and Canadian Preppers, and lots of State Preppers (including Oregon Preppers Network (http://oregonpreppersnetwork.blogspot.com/) .  And Prepper Blogs is a place you can go to find all the links to them, and to other people's preparedness blogs. 

So if you're looking for more information on food storage and other preparedness topic, check them out.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Whole Egg Powder for Breakfast

I found a way to use the Whole Egg Powder with my Hash Brown Potatoes for breakfast.  Instead of making scrambled eggs with the Whole Egg Powder, I mixed it with water and just dumped it over the top of the hash browns about 30 seconds before they were done cooking.  Then stirred it in to cook.

I reconstituted some dehydrated onion and freeze-dried green peppers and celery along with the hash browns, so I had some veggies in there too.

I really liked it.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Food Storage Spaghetti

OK, I'll admit it.  The hamburger wasn't from my food storage.  I could have used freeze-dried hamburger, or home-dehydrated hamburger.  But I thawed some hamburger I had in the freezer.  So this isn't entirely food-storage spaghetti.

Before crumbling and cooking the hamburger, I set about 1/2 cup mixed freeze-dried green peppers, freeze-dried celery, and dehydrated onion to soaking.  I browned and crumbled the hamburger (seasoned with 3-4 shakes of Johnny's Seasoning Salt) and dumped in the soaked veggies.  Then I added 4 cups of water, 1 cup tomato powder, and 1/2 cup Spaghetti Seasoning (from Emergency Essentials).  As I whisked in the tomato powder, the sauce thickened more than I wanted, so I dumped in more water until I liked the consistency--about 1/2 cup.  I simmered for 15 minutes, and it was done.

I really liked the spaghetti.  OK, it wasn't Preggo, but it was tasty.  I didn't notice that acidy taste I've found when using tomato powder before, so either the cooking or the seasonings got rid of it.

I just dumped the tomato powder right into the water in the pan.  It seemed to dissolve fine, with no clumping.  I just whisked it in with a wire whisk. 

The label on the tomato powder can says to mix a 2:1 ratio of water and powder for tomato sauce.  But remember that when you use tomato sauce from a can, you also add water.  So you really need a 4:1 or so ratio of water to tomato powder for your spaghetti sauce.

It's nice to know that if I have to eat entirely from my food storage I can still have tasty spaghetti.  It'll be even better once I get some food-storage hamburger.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Rolled Oats

This morning I tried the Provident Pantry Rolled Oats I got from Emergency Essentials, and I have to admit that I don't like them as much as those from Quaker Oats.  It's entirely possible that I simply prefer the Quaker Oats rolled oats more because that's what I'm used to.

The ones from EE look like they weren't rolled as much as the ones from QO; the kernals are smaller and thicker.  It takes a little longer to cook them.  And the resulting cereal consists of more discreet kernals with runnier fluid.  The QO oats cook up with more oat goo between the kernals  There is nothing wrong with the EE oats; I just prefer the QO rolled oats, or the rolled oats in the bulk bin at Fred Meyer (which are more like the QO oats).

So now I wonder whether the QO rolled oats will store well in re-used #10 cans with the plastic lids.  I doubt that they'd store as well as the EE ones sealed in the #10 cans.  But I'd think they will last at least for a year, especially if I fill the can right up to the top and put plastic wrap over the oats. 

Maybe I ought to fill up a can with QO rolled oats and put it away for a year.  Then I can see how they are after the year.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Scrambled Egg Mix Better Than Whole Egg Powder For Scrambled Eggs

I ran out of the Scrambled Egg Mix.  Well, it has 36 servings in the can, and I've eaten it almost every day for over a month, so it isn't a surprise.

This morning I decided to try making scrambled eggs out of Whole Egg Powder.  So I added some Buttermilk Powder and a little Margarine Powder to some Whole Egg Powder.  I mixed the powders together, then whisked in some water. 

Scrambled eggs made from Whole Egg Powder just aren't as good as those made from Scrambled Egg Mix.  First, the mixed powders didn't fluff up when I whisked in the water like the Scrambled Egg Mix does.  Also, the scrambled eggs tasted kind of watery.  They had a lot less flavor than scrambled eggs made with Scrambled Egg Mix.

So from now on I'll keep the Whole Egg Powder for baking and use Scrambled Egg Mix for making scrambled eggs.

Monday, September 21, 2009

My Pocket Bread Saga

Last weekend I tried to make pocket bread from the hot roll mix recipe in the Mix-A-Meal book.  I got round flat breads that were very tasty.  They were thick enough that I could slice a pocket into them with a small knife.  But they didn't form a pocket on their own.

So I got on the Internet to read about making pocket bread.  I just did a Google search and visited several of the websites.  I read that you need to roll the dough very thin, and bake it in a very hot oven:  500 F.

So today I tried again.  I made the dough and let it raise for an hour.  Then I formed the dough into 6 balls and rolled them out and baked then in a 500F oven for 2 1/2 minutes each.  The first 5 breads sorta bubbled up.  There were air bubbles that formed small pockets, but the whole thing didn't pocket up.



The bubbles seemed to form mostly around the edges.  I thought maybe I was rolling the dough thicker at the edges, so I rolled the last one a little thicker.  And it pocketed up!




Doesn't that look beautiful?  I don't know whether it worked because I rolled it thicker, or whether I just got lucky.  But I was glad that one of them puffed up properly.  The others are tasty with just butter on them.  They are, after all, still homemade bread, and that's always good!

Here's the recipe I used for the hot roll mix.  I'll admit, I modified it from what was in the book.  I used whole wheat flour, plus some white bean flour for the fiber and protein.  And I added some dough enhancer and vital wheat gluten.

2 2/3 cups wheat flour
2/3 cup white bean flour
1/3 cup dehydrated margarine
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon powdered milk
1 Tablespoon dough enhancer
1 Tablespoon vital wheat gluten
2 teaspoons salt

To make the dough, I just used 2 cups of the hot roll mix, 1/2 Tablespoon SAF yeast, and 3/4 cups warm water.  After mixing the dough, I let it raise for an hour, then kneed for a few minutes, then pinch off 6 balls of dough.  Roll each ball out until it's about 1/16 inch thick.  Bake in 500F oven for 2 1/2 minutes.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

My Pantry

I thought I'd post some pictures of my pantry.  This isn't my food storage area; I don't have a food storage area yet.  But this is some of the food storage in my pantry.

The room is a snuggy 4' X 4'.  It has 4' long shelves on one wall, 3' long shelves on another wall, and some items hanging on what's left of the other two walls.  The door cuts off one corner of the room so it isn't quite square.

I made the shelves using the metal brackets you can get at Home Depot or Lowe's.  You screw the brackets to the wall, then attach the shelf supports to the brackets, then lay the shelves on the shelf supports.  I also screw the shelves to the shelf supports, so they won't tip up if I set somthing heavy on one side of a shelf.

This first picture is of the upper shelves on the 4' wall.  You can see several #10 cans of food, plus some spices and some other things.  The glass jars on the top shelf next to the dehydrator contain some freeze dried shredded cheddar cheese and freeze dried peach slices.  Although it's best to store food in the dark, I feel OK using these glass jars since the light is normally turned off in that room, and since food isn't stored in them for long.  I refill the jars from the cans periodically.

You can also see that I took some advice from one of the other food-storage blogs and put all my small baking items in a plastic box.  So when I make cookies or something, I can just pull out that box rather than all the small containers of salt, baking soda, vanilla, etc.

One other thing I'd like to mention is the boxes of Farm House Rice Pilaf on the shelf.  I wouldn't store boxes like these in my long-term food storage area.  They are just too easy for pests to get in to.  In fact, I usually put them in plastic boxes in my pantry, but my plastic boxes are all full right now, so I left them out.



The second picture is the lower shelves and floor space on the same wall as the first picture.  You can see some of the plastic boxes I keep small food items in, and some of my soapmaking supplies.  And you may notice an Emergency Essentials box that contains a 5-gallon mylar bag of water.



The next picture is of the top shelves of the wall of 3' shelves.  The top shelf has a re-used #10 can that I put pre-measured packages of home-made brownie mix in.  You can also see some clear-plastic containers with freeze dried strawberry slices and broccoli.  Eventually, I'll keep the #10 cans in the food-storage area and re-fill these containers from them.  That'll save a lot of room in this pantry.




And finally, the last picture shows the bottom 3' shelves.  You can see that the food items are starting to encroach on this space, which was once all bowls and other kitchen items.  I don't know whether you can make out the white label on the can on the bottom shelf.  It's the graham-cracker-crust mix I made last weekend.  You can also see the jars of peaches my brother canned (thanks Dan!).



So that's it for my pantry.  As you can see, I'm going to be needing that food-storage area in the back bedroom soon.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Freeze Dried Peach Slices are Awesome!

The Freeze Dried Peach Slices I got from EE (Emergency Essentials) arrived this morning (they'd been back-ordered).  Well, I had to try them.

They aren't exactly as I expected.  I thought the slices would be skinny, like what I made when I dehydrated some canned peach slices last year.  But these were nice and chunky, like you'd find in canned peach slices.




Don't they look good?  And they taste great, and they're crunchy. Firenzi loves them, too.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Freeze-Dried Cheddar Cheese is Awesome Right Out of the Can

It has the full cheddar-cheese flavor. And it's a little crunchy. I think I'll like eating it as a snack. And it would probably be good in trail mix.

This Month's Emergency Essentials Order

This month I spent quite a bit more on my food storage than I have been spending. I've been spending about $100 a month. This month I spent a little over $200. I justify that with two arguments: I'm eating my food storage now, so it reduces what I spend at the grocery store; I purchased several items that I'll use with other items to make them more useful, and save money in the long run.

I got two cans each of dehydrated hashbrowns and sliced potatoes. I polished off the hashbrowns and sliced potatoes I bought earlier, so I needed more. Since I've been making breakfast at home with the Scrambled Egg Mix and either potatoes or biscuits, I haven't felt the need to drive through Micky D's on the way to work. So that's a savings right there!

I got one can each of shortening powder, margarine powder, and instant nonfat dry milk, along with dough enhancer and SAF instant yeast. From these items, together with flour and other baking items I got from the grocery store, I can make mixes for baked goods. By making my own baked goods, and my own mixes for the baked goods, I can save a lot of money, as well as being prepared for power outages (or whatever).

I ordered a can of Original Flavor Swiss Whey D'Lite Drink. It has less lactose than milk (too much lactose being a problem for me). But now I don't see any Swiss Whey D'Lite flavor on the Emergency Essentials website. It looks like they've replaced it with several flavors of Creamy Select Drink Mix, which is lactose free. Maybe I got the last can!

I got a pound each of spaghetti and taco seasoning, and the spice bottles to put them in. I'm particularly looking forward to using the spaghetti seasoning with the tomato powder I got awhile ago, to make spaghetti sauce.

One thing I like about the spice bottles is that they come with a press-n-seal seal. You fill the bottle, put on the seal, and securely screw down the cap. Then the bottle is sealed until you use it. I expect each 1-lb bag of seasoning to fill four 8-oz spice bottles. So while I'm using one bottle, the other three are still seal. It should keep them fresher than using a bigger bottle.

This is going to sound weird, because oatmeal is so cheap at the grocery store. But I got a can of it. And I'll get more cans as time goes on. Why? Because the stuff you get at the grocery store is in cardboard containers, which aren't good for long-term storage. A whole host of pests can get into cardboard containers.

And I got a can of freeze-dried shredded cheddar cheese. It's pricey at $44.95. But I think it will be worth it in the long run. I like cheese, but I waste a lot of it when I buy a bag and don't use it all before it gets moldy. This way, I'll just rehydrate what I need at one time and the rest won't go to waste. I'll be able to make quesadillas with re-hydrated cheese and home-made tortillas (with the tortilla mix from "Mix-a-Meal").


And I got a few things to start on my BOB (Bug Out Bag). No, this isn't for getting out of town if something bad happens. I actually intend to stay home in most scenarios. This is so I can get home from work or somewhere else, if something bad happens while I'm away from home.

For my BOB, I got a couple of 32-oz water bottles (I already have a couple water bottles in the bag, and some Aqua Blox). I got some Katadyn Micropur Purification tablets, and one of those reflective emergency sleeping bags. I don't expect to rely on that flimsy bag, but it might be handy to use along with my sleeping bag.

And that's it for this month. I'll let you know how I like the stuff I bought as I use it.

Monday, September 7, 2009

I Have Plums!

Well, OK, there were only 6 of them, but they're my first 6 plums, so I'm excited.  I should tell you that I've killed 3 plum trees before they could produce fruit.  I don't know what the problem is.  They do fine for 2-3 years, they they start wilting and just die.  Grrrr!

But I have 2 plum trees that are 7 years old.  They were given to me as seedlings by a neighbor when I first moved into my house (actually, she gave me several seedlings, but these are the only 2 to survive).  They just sprouted in her garden, apparently from seeds from plums that fell from her trees.  So there's no telling what their parentage is.  You know, trees from random crosses of named varieties are usually inferior trees producing inferior fruit.  So I wasn't really expecting anything--not even when one of the trees flowered for the first time this spring.

But today I was out by the trees picking blackberries and I noticed that there were some plums on one of the trees, way up high where the deer can't get them.  I was shocked!  So I got a step-ladder and picked the plums.  They were wonderful!  They taste just like Italian Prune Plums, which are my absolute favorite.   Italian Prune Plums are self-fruitful, so maybe that is what they are.

Now I'm really looking forward to plums next year!

Re-hydrated Dehydrated Mac and Cheese

I had a problem I needed to solve:  how to take a single serving of Kraft Deluxe Macaroni and Cheese to work for lunch, and have it taste fresh.  You might think that I could just cook some of the macaroni at work, and put the cheese goop on it.  But we don't have a stove at work, only a microwave.  And microwaved macaroni isn't very good.  Besides, I can't make it without it boiling over in the microwave, and that's a mess to clean up.  And I didn't want to make it at home and bring it to work to heat up, because then it's like rubber.

So it finally hit me.  Cook the macaroni, then dehydrate it.  You can re-hydrate just the amount you want in the microwave.  Then you can put the cheese goop on it (I use part of the goop package at once, putting the rest in the fridge).

So Friday night I tried it, and it worked really well.  I cooked up the macaroni for three packages of Kraft Deluxe Macaroni and Cheese, as usual.  It seemed like I was overloading the dehydrator, but it worked out fine.  I dehydrated it for a couple hours, then turned off the dehydrator and "fluffed up" the partially-dehydrated macaroni.  By that, I mean that on each tray I mixed together the pieces that were getting dry fast with the pieces that were getting dry more slowly, breaking apart the pieces that were stuck together.  I did it again a couple hours later.  Then I left it on to run while I went to bed.  When I got up on Saturday, I had dried macaroni.

Dried cooked macaroni looks almost like dry uncooked macaroni, but a little flatter.  Most people probably wouldn't notice the difference. 

The 3 packages of macaroni filled up a 1-gallon freezer bag a little over half way.

I shook out enough to make a bowl of mac-and-cheese tonight and started it to boil on the stove.  Once the water came to a boil, the macaroni took only 1 or 2 minutes to rehydrate.  Way faster than cooking it from the package!  Then I mushed out some of the cheese goop and stirred it into the re-hydrated macaroni.  I had dinner in less than 5 minutes.  The only difference when I do this at work is that I'll re-hydrate the macaroni in the microwave rather than on the stove-top.

It's going to be nice to have good macaroni for lunch.  It'll also be fast and easy to cook when the power goes out.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Book Review: Mix-A-Meal Cookbook

Mixes and Recipes by Deanna Bean & Lorna Shute.  Old Fashioned Taste...New Modern Mixes.

That sounds intriguing, doesn't it?

This is a mix cookbook for mixes using food storage items.  It's exactly what I was looking for.  And it does not disappoint. 

Most of the recipes are for some form of baking, so it doesn't have all the dinner recipies that Make-A-Mix has.  But there's a mix for just about anything you'd want to bake.

I like the way the book is organized.  It has sections for Basic Mixes, Sauces and Spice Mixes, Instant Meals (so there are some dinner recipes), and Easy Fun Dessert Mixes.  Each section has several mix recipes.  Each mix recipe is followed by a mini-mix recipe (for testing) and the recipes that use that mix.  So you don't have to keep paging back and forth between mix recipe and final recipe.

Here's a list of mix recipes in the Basic Mixes section:  Biscuit Mix, Chicken baking Mix, Cornbread Mix, Homemad Bread Mix, Hot Roll Mix, Instant Potato Mix, Maple Syrup Mix, Muffin Mix, Onion Soup Mix, Pancake and Waffle Mix, Potato Coating Mix, Stuffing Mix, and Tortilla Mix. 

Although some mix recipes are followed by only 1 or 2 recipes, some have a lot of recipes.  Look what you can make from the Biscuit Mix:  drop biscuits, rolled biscuits, pot pie, pizza crust, mexican pizza, fruit breakfast pizza, crackers with several variations, cream puffs, tempura, fritters, braided dinner roll, and breakfast cake.  Whew!  And it's cheaper than buying Bisquick!

I am really looking forward to making the Hot Roll Mix.  But my dehydrated margarine won't arrive until next Wednesday, so I'll have to wait until next weekend.  I eat a lot more rolls than I do loaf bread.  But also, you can make pocket bread from this mix.  And all kinds of dinner rolls.

The book includes recipes for several types of fillings for the pocket bread.  But I think the pockets would also be good with tuna salad, chicken salad, and other things like that.  And they would be so easy to take to work:  just bring a couple of pockets, a container with your filling, and a couple lettuce leaves.

There are recipes for things other than baked goods:  Onion Soup Mix, White Sauce mix, and a few others.  Then, of course, there are recipes for using those mixes.  Several recipes use more then one mix.  And sometimes one mix is used as an ingredient in another mix.  The Italian Tomato Sauce recipe uses both the Italian Spice Mix and the Tomato Sauce Mix.  Then the Spaghetti Supper uses the Italian Tomato Sauce and the Onion Soup Mix.  And the Alfredo Delight uses the White Sauce Mix and the Onion Soup Mix.  There are several recipes for various Cream Soups, although I was disappointed that none of them used White Bean Flour.  Oh well.

This book is great for anyone who wants to use their food-storage items to make mixes to make their everyday cooking quicker and easier.

Book Review: Make-A-Mix

The subtitle is "Over 300 Easy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day".  The authors are Karine Eliason, Nevada Harward, and Madeline Westover.

This book is not geared for using food storage in the mixes--it's written for ordinary people using ordinary ingredients.  So, for example, the Buttermilk Pancake & Waffle Mix recipe does not include powdered shortening or butter powder or powdered eggs (although it does include buttermilk powder).

The book includes recipes for three kinds of mixes:  dry mixes, which use only dry ingredients and should keep for 6 to 8 months on the cupboard;  semi-dry mixes, which use shortening, butter, or margarine (but not powdered), and will keep for 10 to 12 weeks; and freezer-refrigerator mixes, which include perishable ingredients and need to be kept in the freezer or fridge.  And it includes several recipes for using each mix.

As you might expect, there are recipes for all kinds of quickbreads:  biscuits, brownies, corn bread, etc. 

But the freezer-refrigerator mixes include some you might not expect.  Let's look at the All-Purpose Ground-Meat Mix.  In contains 5 lb. lean ground beef, turkey, or chicken; 1 tablespoon salt; 2 cups chopped celery; 2 cups chopped onion; and 1 cup diced green pepper.  You brown the hamburger, then add the salt and veggies.  Then you cover and let it simmer until the veggies are tender.  The recipe says to ladle into six 2-cup freezer containers with tight-fitting lids (but you can use whatever size makes sense for you and your family).  And you freeze it (use within 3 months). 

This ground-meat mix is almost identical to how I begin making spaghetti sauce (except that I don't use 5 lb. of meat).  I never thought to make up a bunch of it and freeze it in portions.  How clever!

The book includes several recipes using this ground-meat mix:  Best-Ever Minestrone Soup, Dinner in a Pumpkin, Hearty Chowder, Saturday Stroganoff, and several others.

The book is organized with all the mixes first, divided into chapters for the dry & semi-dry mixes, freezer-refridgerator mixes, and special mixes, followed by chapters for the recipes. 

There are a lot of good recipes in this book.  Of course, if you have a lot of your own recipes, you could figure out how to make parts of them into mixes to make cooking them easier.  But the book does that for you.  And besides, every cook likes to get his or her hands on new recipes, right?

The only thing I didn't like about this book was the organization.  Looking at the mixes, then looking at the recipes for what I can make with the mixes, took a lot of flipping back and forth between pages.

By the way, the brownie mix is awesome.  I did find that when I made the brownies I needed to add some liquid.  But the brownies are very good.  And they give lots of options for topping the brownies.

All in all, this is a great book and I'm looking forward to trying more of the recipes.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Book Review: freezer bag cooking; trail food made simple

Freezer bag cooking; trail food made simple by Sarah Svien Kirkconnell, is the book that got me started researching dehydrating my own foods.  Mrs. Kirkconnell uses freezer bag cooking while hiking, and hikers are her intended audience.  But the same idea is great for people who want to keep easy-to-fix meals on hand for short-term emergencies or power outages, or simply to have a quick, easy meal when one don't feel like cooking. I also think it would be good to keep some of these meals in a bug-out bag (B.O.B.) instead of, or in addition to, MREs or freeze-dried foods.

This book has several chapters besides the Introduction:  Gear & Techniques, Breakfast, Drinks, Salads & Vegetables, Soups, Lunch, Dinner, and Desserts.

Although the book has no pictures, almost all the recipies are very easy.  She includes directions for making each dish, and directions for preparing it on the trail.  Most recipes use dehydrated or freeze-dried foods and single-serving packets of condiments.

Here's an easy breakfast recipe: 

Trail Oatmeal

In a quart freezer bag put:
2 packets instant oatmeal, your choice of flavor
2 Tbsp dry milk, powdered soy milk or protein powder
2 Tbsp dried fruit

In camp:  Add 1 cup boiling water.  Stir well, put in cozy for 3 minutes.  Let cool a bit and eat.

Yield:  Serves 1

See how easy it is?  You could easily make up several of these packages in 10 or 15 minutes, and keep them on hand.

Here's another recipe that I need to try:

Carrot Raisin Salad

In a sandwich bag put:
1/2 cup dried or freeze-dried grated carrots
1/4 cup golden raisins

Also take:
1 packet sugar or sweetener
1/4 tsp salt (take a small packet)

Carry in a leak-proof container:
1 tsp vinegar (1 packet)
1 tsp oil (1 packet)

In camp:  Soak the carrots and raisins in enough cold water to cover, for 20-30 minutes (soak carrots for only half the time if they are freeze-dried).  Add the dry ingredients to the liquids and shake well.  Toss with the carrot mixture.

Yield:  Serves 3.

The book can be purchased from Sarah's web page, where you can also find more recipes: 
http://www.trailcooking.com/

Sarah's web site also has several videos showing how to cook her meals.  I enjoy the videos; she has a very relaxed, friendly style. 

She also sells the "cozy" she mentions in her recipe.  Basically, it's a quilted bag that you put your freezer-bag meal into so it stays warm while it's hydrating.

Oh, and I highly recommend this book.

Book Reviews

The reason I became interested in Food Storage is that I realized there could be times when the food in my 72-hour kit together with the food in my pantry might not be enough to see me through a disaster.  I live outside a small town in Oregon's Coast Range.  Our little town has been cut off from the rest of civilization 3 times in the last three years.  Once from a nasty storm that knocked trees down everywhere, closing the highway in several places.  Once from flooding over the highway (and in town).  And once from heavy snowfall that the road crews couldn't keep up with.

So, food storage is important.  But once you have food storage, how do you cook with it?  I need to be able to cook delicious meals now, so I rotate through my food storage, keeping it always fresh.  And I need to be able to cook delicious meals during a short-term disaster when the power is out for several days.  And I need to be able to cook delicious meals during a long-term disaster when the power is out for who-knows-how-long (my goal is to have food for a year).

Fortunately, many of the books available for learning to cook with food storage are fairly inexpensive.  So far, I have gone through several book dealing with such topics as freezer-bag cooking, cooking beans, cooking with food storage, and making mixes for normal use and from food-storage items.

I'll write individual book reviews of the books over time.  Please remember that these reviews are simply my opinion of the books.  Other people will probably find different strengths and weaknesses for each book.

Breakfast from Food Storage

I used up my Dehydrated Hashbrowns a little while ago. So when my Scrambled Egg Mix* arrived, I had no hash browns to eat with the eggs.

Dehydrated Potato Slices to the rescue! The Dehydrated Potato Slices make awesome fried potatoes. I like mine crunchy, so I use a really big frying pan and really spread out the potato slices. I fry them until they're almost like potato chips. Yum!

I was anxious to try the Scrambled Egg Mix. And I wanted to make my breakfast all from food storage. So after frying up some potatoes I made Bonnie's Deluxe Food Storage Scrambled Eggs. (You can name your own dishes, too. Go ahead, it's fun. How about "Linda's Caramel Delight Brownies". Wasn't that easy?)

Here's how I made the scrambled eggs:
I took about 1/4 cup mixed (by me) freeze-dried green peppers, freeze-dried celery, and dehydrated onions**, and re-hydrated them (while the potatoes were frying). Then I re-hydrated 1/2 cup Scrambled Egg Mix in 1/2 cup water. The freeze-dried veggies re-hydrate quickly, so after only a couple minutes I drained them and sauteed them in a pan with some butter (oops, not from food storage). When they were nicely sauteed I poured in the reconstituted egg mix, and cooked just like I do "real" eggs.

The eggs were awesome with the fried potatoes. One thing, though. I noticed that if you overcook the eggs they begin to taste sorta powdery. So make sure you leave them nice and soft. I don't think you have to worry about salmonella poisoning, as I'm sure the processing would have killed any bacteria that might have been present in the eggs.

This egg mix is supposed to be good for making french toast, too. I'll have to try that next.

*The Scrambled Egg Mix ingredient list: homogenized and pasteurized blend of whole egg, non-fat milk, vegetable oil, salt. So it's pasteurized; you don't have to worry about salmonella.

**I use green peppers, celery, and onions together in a lot of my cooking. So to make things easier, I just mixed together roughly equal portions of each and put then in a plastic container in the pantry. That way when I cook, I don't have to open 3 #10 cans to get the veggies I always use together anyway. I ASSUME that it's best to use refillable air-tight containers for food that I get in #10 cans. That way I don't have to keep opening the cans and letting fresh air in. I just have to open the cans a few times when I refill the containers.

Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums are one of my favorite flowers in the garden. They're beautiful, they self-seed, and you can eat both the flowers and the leaves.

I usually plant a trailing mix. The mix has flowers with one of two colors: bright orange, or bright gold with an orange splash at the base of each petal. Here's a picture of some that I planted this year. All the flowers are either that bright orange or the bright gold.





But since nasturtiums self-seed, the seedlings come up as mixtures of those two flowers bred to each other and to themselves (compliments of the bumblebees that love them), and there's a greater variety of colors.




These flowers are a result of nasties I planted three years ago, and that have self-seeded every year. Notice the softer orange of the flowers on the left. And look at the soft yellow with orange streaks in the flower below. You never get these colors out of the seeds in the seed package.




I have to admit, though, that I don't eat them. I'm not really crazy about the peppery taste.





Saturday, August 15, 2009

Potato Flowers

I have three varieties of potatoes growing outside, and I think they're getting ready to start harvesting. I have Carola, Russian Banana, and Yukon Gold.




They say that you can start harvesting when the plants are blooming, and my Carolas are blooming now.

They're pretty little flowers, aren't they? I actually planted these Carolas last year. But I forgot what I planted so I never harvested any potatoes. Luckily, they overwintered and started growing again this year.

It's good to know they'll overwinter, because I'll want to grow them again next year.



Friday, August 14, 2009

Making Mixes From Your Food Storage

One of the things you can do to use your food storage on a day-to-day basis is to make mixes from it. Having a nice supply of mixes can make your cooking faster and easier (I'm all about fast and easy cooking--as long as it's good!). And it's cheaper to make your own than to buy them at the store.

To that end, the last time I was at the book store, I picked up a copy of Make-A-Mix, Over 300 Easy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day, by Karine Eliason, Nevada Harward, and Madeline Westover.

So tonight I decided to try making my first mix. I made a half recipe of their Brownie Mix, only I substituted white whole wheat flour for half of the all-purpose flour (so I can tell myself the brownies are a health food). Then, since the brownie and chocolate cookie recipe both call for 2-1/4 cups of the mix, I measured that much out into each of 3 quart-sized freezer bags. I had a little bit left in the bowl when done, so I mixed it with water and ate it. Yum!

I put the bags of mix into a #10 can (I finally polished off my dehydrated hash browns, so I used that can). Next, I made a label to fit the can. I used a full-page label from Avery, cut to fit the can. It didn't go all the way around, but that's OK. On the label, I added the recipes for the brownies and cookies I was interested in making, including the topping options. Then I added the ingredients in the mix. And finally I added the expiration date. The label looks awfully utilitarian, though. I need to add some pictures or something next time.

Once I get powdered eggs and shortening powder added to my pantry, I can add those to mixes and make them even easier to use.

The book also contains a baking mix recipe, similar to Bisquik, but I didn't make that because I have some Bisquik in the pantry. Might as well try that mix when I've used up the Bisquik.

The book also has a recipe for a Snack Cake Mix, and the recipe for several snack cakes you can make from it. The Applesauce Snack Cake sounds good, and I was thinking it might make a nice Christmas gift. Start with a nice jar, than add the Snack Cake Mix. Then add the dry ingredients for the Applesauce Snack Cake, including powdered egg and freeze-dried applesauce. It might be best to put the applesauce into a separate packet. Then it can be rehydrated, adding a little extra water for the egg (which will be mixed in with the mix).

Actually, I think my brother might like a #10 can full of brownie mix for Christmas, too.

Anyway, if you're at all interested in making mixes for yourself or for gifts, this is a good book. There are several others on the market. I went to amazon.com yesterday and oggled them all. I finally ordered a copy of Mix-A-Meal Cookbook. It sounds like it's geared more toward using food storage, so it should be even easier than Make-A-Mix.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

ShelfReliance Sale Items

Since I posted about the Emergency Essentials sale items, I thought I'd check out the sale items at ShelfReliance. Wow! They have a ton of stuff on sale. Some items you can get individually, but some you have to buy by the case (six cans) to get the special price. Here are some of the things they have on sale:

  1. Apple Drink
  2. Whole Wheat Flour (6 cans)
  3. Potato Chunks (6 cans)
  4. White Flour (6 cans)
  5. Apple Slices
  6. 9-Grain Cracked Cereal
  7. Freeze-Dried Chopped Onions
  8. Freeze-Dried Strawberries (6 cans)
  9. Powdered Milk

Emergency Essentials August specials

I've received my August catalog for Emergency Essentials, and I thought I'd post about this month's specials.

  1. Their Scrambled Egg Mix is on sale for $18.99; it's usually $33.95
  2. Their Freeze Dried Scrambled Eggs is on sale for $25.99; it's usually $30.95
  3. Whole Eggs powder is on sale for $17.99; it's usually $27.95
  4. Powdered Egg Whites is on sale for $22.99; it's usually $44.95
  5. Freeze-Dried Green Bell Peppers is on sale for $12.99; it's usually $19.95
  6. Freeze-Dried Peach Slices is on sale for $16.99; it's usually $21.95
  7. Freeze-Dried Neapolitan Ice Cream Slices is on sale for $18.99; it's usually $31.20 (except the web site says it's usually $19.95, so I'm not sure which is correct.
  8. Freeze-Dried Ice Cream Sandwiches is on sale for $20.99; it's usually $31.20 (except the web site says it's usually $21.95, so again I'm not sure which is correct.
  9. Their new 925 All-American Pressure Cooker/Canner is on sale for $279.99; it's MSRP is $384.00

Since I'd been planning on buying most of these items either this month or next month, I bought mostly sale items this month (saving myself $37.00).

I'm really looking forward to trying the Whole Egg Powder in my baking. I usually eat the eggs in my fridge, so I'm often out of eggs when I get a hankering to bake on a Sunday night. Also, once I get some Shortening Powder and can make my own pancake/biscuit mix, and other mixes.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Dehydrated Hashbrown Potatoes review

I made hashbrowns from the dehydrated hashbrown potatoes I got from Emergency Essentials, and I couldn't have been happier with them.

They were super easy to make. I just measured out the potatoes and put them into boiling water with a little bit of salt. I let them boil until tender, only a minute or two. Then I drained them and put them in a frying pan to fry while I cooked my eggs. This was so much easier than parboiling potatoes, grating them, then frying them.

The hashbrowns were very tasty. I couldn't tell the difference between them and hashbrowns cooked directly from potatoes.

These potatoes would be great in a casserole or breakfast skillet (like they serve at Sharri's).

In short, I highly recommend these to anyone who likes hashbrowns.

Friday, July 10, 2009

My wood-burning stove

Here's a picture of my wood-burning stove, when it was first installed.
This is the stove I cooked on when the power was out.
The grill-looking thing on top is supposed to direct warm air out into the room. I'm not sure it works as advertised. And it takes up room that could have been used for cooking. I think it was a waste. But over all I'm very happy with the stove. It really puts out the heat!

Pictures from the December 2008 snow event

Here's a picture of the road outside my house.

And here's a picture of my truck covered in snow.

Why I have a link to TrailCooking.com

You may be wondering why I include a link to www.trailcooking.com. After all, it's a blog/website devoted to freezer-bag cooking, for campers and hikers, not food storage.

Well, it was the freezer-bag cooking that got me interested in dehydrating my own foods, and creating freezer-bag meals for my 72-hour emergency kit (now my 2-week emergency kit).

You see, I've had to delve into my 72-hour kit each December for the last three years, and it was getting pricey to keep replenishing it with freeze-dried meals (although they were very good). At the time I found the website, it was called Freezer-bag Cooking, but is now TrailCooking.com.

What were the emergencies we've had the last 3 Decembers?

December 2006 we had a heck of a wind storm that knocked out power to our area, and was followed by several days of very cold weather. The night-time temps were in the teens, and the daytime temps weren't a lot warmer. My power was out for 3 days. I spent that time feeding wood into the wood-burning stove, and cooking over sterno. So I used my freeze-dried food because it was quicker to cook than "real" food.

December 2007 our town flooded. I don't live in town, and my house didn't flood. But the power company's substation is in town, and it flooded and the power went out for days. Although my house wasn't flooded, all the roads into and out of the area were flooded, and I couldn't go anywhere. The road into town was flooded, so I couldn't get in to the local grocery store, but that was flooded, too, so it didn't matter that I couldn't get to it. Again, I heated the house with the wood-burning stove and cooked my freeze-dried meals with sterno.

December 2008 we had a massive--for us--snowstorm. We got snow almost every day for 2 weeks. At one time I had 17 inches of snow in my front yard. Now, there are lots of people who live in places where this is nothing. But we just don't get that much snow and we aren't prepared for it. We don't have the resources to deal with it. Our local police were being driven around by the National Guard in their Hummers. They said it was the only way they could get around. The power was out at my house for a couple days, then it came on for a couple days, then it was out for a couple days, then it came on for a couple days, then it went out again. Again, I heated the house with wood, and cooked my freeze-dried meals on sterno. But I was also melting snow in pots on the wood stove and realized that I could get water up to boiling. So I started cooking oatmeal on the wood stove. But I still went though all my freeze-dried food. Again.

So I started looking for an alternative to freeze-dried food. Something that would still be quick to fix, taste good, but be cheaper. That's how I found Freezer-bag Cooking. I've learned a lot from Sarah's website, and from there learned more about dehydrating foods.

I've cooked and dehydrated beans, brown rice, vegetables, and Farm House Rice Pilaf--a packaged rice and seasonings item similar to Rice-a-Roni but without the Roni. The nice thing about having the food cooked and dehydrated is that I can rehydrate exactly as much as I need at any one time, so no food goes to waste. And I can rehydrate using Sarah's techniques from Freezer-bag Cooking, so it's quick and easy.

First attempt at Potato Casserole

Although I received my Emergency Essentials order a week ago, I didn't get a change to experiment with the potato casserole I've been thinking of until Wednesday night. Here's what I did.

I put 2 cups of dehydrated potato slices into a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish. Then I added 1 cup of freeze-dried broccoli, 1/4 cup bacon flavored TVP, and 3 Tbsp cheese blend powder shaken up with 1 cup of water. And I sprinkled in a little salt and put the dish, covered, into a 35o-degree oven for 40 minutes.

When I looked at it, the food was all rehydrated and tender, but the sauce was watery. So I added 1 Tbs white bean flour, shaken in a little water, and put back into the oven for 4 minutes (the bean flour needs to cook for 3 minutes). It thickened up the sauce nicely.

So...what did it taste like? Well, it was good, but a little tasteless. I should have added more salt, and probably more cheese blend powder. Next time, I might add some onions, too, and maybe some chicken broth. But it was good. The potatoes and broccoli were very good--I couldn't tell they'd been dried and rehydrated.

The bacon-flavored TVP was interesting. I put it in at the beginning, and was a little concerned it'd be soggy. In fact, it looked and tasted more like little bits of ham than bacon. That's fine, ham is good with potatoes, broccoli, and cheese. Next time, I might try saving it 'til the end and sprinkling it on top.

All in all, it was a good experiment. I had it for dinner Wednesday, for lunch on Thursday, and I'll finish it tonight.

Shelf Reliance

After Shelf Reliance posted a comment to my last post, I had to go check out their website, http://www.shelfreliance.com/. Like Emergency Essentials, they have food in #10 cans, recipes, and other survival products, as well as several informative articles. But they had some other things, too, that are really cool.

http://www.shelfreliance.com/ sells food storage shelves that look really awesome. They look fully customizable. They have units that are designed to make it easy to put your new purchases behind the older ones, so you use the oldest ones first. They work like a pop-can dispenser in the refrigerator, in that you put the cans in at the top, and they roll around to the bottom where you take them out. It looks like they have sizes for #10 cans, #2 cans, and for tuna-sized cans. And they have shelf units that pull out so you can easily see what you have stored in the back. I REALLY want these shelves, so I'll have to save up for them.

http://www.shelfreliance.com/ also has a food storage purchasing program called Thrive Q. It helps you set up a plan: how much of which kinds of food to purchase, how much to spend per month, and when to send the monthly shipments. It looks great. You can adjust your plan at any time, suspend it for a month if you need to, anything you want.

I haven't purchased anything from shelf reliance yet. But I intent to in the future.

I believe it's important to get survival and food storage information from several different sources, and http://www.shelfreliance.com/ is one of the sources I'll use from now on.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

My Second Order from Emergency Essentials

I placed my second order from Emergency Essentials last night.

My strategy for increasing my food storage is to buy a few things every month (more than I eat), and learn to cook with them as I get them. This should gradually increase the amount of food I have stored as well my proficiency in cooking with it.

This time I ordered a can each of freeze-dried hash brown potatoes, sliced potatoes, broccoli, and sliced strawberries. I also ordered a pound each of powdered chicken-flavored broth and onion powder. And I got some more seasoning jars and a book on cooking with home storage.

I'm looking forward to using the sliced potatoes and broccoli to make a casserole with the bacon-flavored TVP and cheese powder I got last time. And I can use the hash brown potatoes to make quick and easy hash browns to go with my scrambled eggs with bacon-flavored TVP and dehydrated veggies.

I'll use the seasoning jars for the broth and onion powders. I already have carrot and tomato powders in the seasoning jars I got last time. And I plan to make celery powder out of dehydrated celery, and some other powders, too. So I need lots of jars.

Now I'm going to have to organize my pantry so I have room for all this food!

Review of Provident Pantry's Bacon Flavored TVP

I wasn't sure what to expect when I opened the can of Provident Pantry's Bacon Flavored Textured Vegetable Protein. The pieces were little nuggets about the size of Rice Krispies. The flavor wasn't exactly like bacon, and was somewhat overpowering when I sniffed the can (well, it was a big can!).

One of my favorite breakfasts is scrambled eggs with chopped bacon, onions, green peppers, and celery, along with homemade biscuits with butter and honey. Hmmm. I'm making myself hungry.

So I decided to try making the eggs with the Bacon Flavored TVP, and dried onions and celery. And it turned out pretty darn good. OK, not as good as if I'd used real bacon and fresh veggies. But it was certainly a good substitute for when I don't have the fresh ingredients on hand.

Next I want to try making a potato, bacon, broccoli casserole with dehydrated potatoes, freeze-dried broccoli, and the Bacon Flavored TVP. But I'll have to wait for me next order from Emergency Essentials to arrive.

Review of Dehydrated Refried Beans

I've used the Provident Pantry Dehydrated Refried Beans I got from Emergency Essentials several times now.

I was not really impressed the first time I tried them. I simply re-hydrated them to use as a dip for tortilla chips, as I often do with canned refried beans. But the flavor was stronger then the canned beans I usually eat. And I didn't like the texture. It seemed like maybe there were a lot of tough bean skins in them.

But after I tried them a few more times I realized that those "tough bean skins" were not actually bean skins. They were little chips of the beans that hadn't been re-hydrated properly.

Once I realized this, I realized that I needed to use more water to re-hydrate than the instructions said to use. Now the texture is much better. And now that I've gotten used to the stronger flavor, I like that, too.

What I really like is that I can re-hydrate as much or as little as I want, so I don't waste any.

One of the things I like about eating at Mexican restaurants is that they always include sides of refried beans and Spanish rice with shredded cheese on top. So one night last week I decided to make some at home. I re-hydrated the beans, making sure I did it properly. And I re-hydrated some brown rice I'd dehydrated with a little bit of tomato powder and some salt and seasonings (I think I used Italian seasoning). Then I sprinkled some shredded cheese over the top of the rice and the beans, popped it into the microwave to melt the cheese, and had wonderful Spanish rice and refried beans. Yum!

So...the verdict? Once you learn how to use these beans they are really good.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

All Those Gadgets Were a Bad Idea

Now that I added all those gadgets the other day, I'm getting rid of most of them. They were cute. They were fun. But they take too long to load when I'm on a slow dial-up connection.

Ah well.

The Kale Was Terrible!

I tried my dehydrated kale the other night, and it was terrible.

I'd come home from work late, and was too tired to fix a real meal. So I decided to make a quick soup out of some of the things I've been dehydrating. I got 1/2 cup of my cooked-and-dehydrated navy beans and 1/2 cup of my cooked-and-dehydrated brown rice. I added some dehydrated carrots, celery, and green pepper. Then I added some of the kale and some herbs and spices and some chicken stock. Then I added boiling water and let it rehydrate everything.

The first few spoonfuls weren't bad. But then I noticed my mouth felt funny. And then I remembered than when I blanched the kale there was a greasy residue in my pot. That greasy residue was now in my mouth. I tried to eat some more, but it just got worse. So I ended up throwing the soup away. And the rest of the kale.

So I guess this is a good example of why you should try your emergency foods before an emergency.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

I Added Some Gadgets

I added some gadgets to this blog, so take a look around the page. There are some quotations and weird facts on the bottom of the page. And there are several gadgets along the right side, too.

The Cool Clouds picture will change every time you refresh your web browser. I left it near the top of the page so you don't have to keep scrolling to see it if you refresh.

The Weather always starts at New York. I've tried to enter Vernonia's zip code, but it won't save it. Of course, you can enter your own zip code to see your current weather.

You can refine the posts visible in your window by using the Blog Archive gadget. Click "2009" to see all this year's posts. Or click on "June" to see just this month's posts.

Right now the Favorite Links gadget just has links to gardening and preparedness websites. I'll be adding more later. I'm hoping to find a way to categorize the links. Stay tuned...

Thoughts on the Cranberry Leather

I've been thinking about the Cranberry Leather that I threw away last week. I think the problem was that the flavor was just way too strong. I think if cranberries were mixed with applesauce the leather would be a lot better. So I'm going to try that when cranberries are available again in the fall.

My Emergency Essentials Order Arrived Today

My Emergency Essentials order arrived today. I ordered a #10 can each of Dehydrated Refried Beans, Cheese Blend, Artificially Flavored Imitation Bacon Bits Textured Vegetable Protein, and Tomato Powder. I also ordered a Bean cookbook and 3 8-oz spice jars.

I'm really excited to try the refried beans. I usually buy them in #2 cans at the grocery store. But I often waste some of it because I just can't eat that much at once. So I like the idea of using the dehydrated stuff. I can mix up just as much as I need.

I'm concerned that I won't be able to use all the food in each can before it deteriorates. But I thought I'd make a cover out of folded Glad wrap to put over the top surface of what's left in the can. That should keep out at least some of the moisture and oxygen then gets into the can when I open it.

I'm planning to use the Tomato Powder to make Spanish Rice (among other things). When I'm eating at a Mexican restaurant I always like to mix my rice into my beans. So this should work well with the re-hydrated beans. And I can make a cheese sauce with the cheese powder to put over the top.

I'm also looking forward to using the Bacon TVP and Cheese Blend with potatoes and broccoli to make a cheesy potato casserole. Yum!

Emergency Essentials

Last Friday I placed a small order from Emergency Essentials: http://beprepared.com/

They have a lot of dehydrated and freeze-dried foods. They carry several of the Mountain House meals, as well as Provident Pantry foods (their own brand). They have an awesome variety of fruits and vegetables, grains and legumes, and meats and meat substitutes. They also carry other preparedness supplies

The foods come in several different options. Most everything is available in #10 cans. Some of the Mountain House meals come in 2-serving pouches. And some staples, such as beans and whole grains, come in 6-lb "Superpails" with metallized bags. The pails and bags are also available separately.

Once of the things I like about Emergency Essentials is that they have lots of recipes using their products. If, for example, you're looking at their Dehydrated Whole Eggs, you can click on "Related Recipes" and get a list of recipes using their whole egg powder.

When I first visited the website, the prices seemed a little high to me. $22.95 for freeze-dried whole blueberries. But when you consider how much you get in that #10 can--80% of a gallon--and what it would cost to get the food and dry it yourself--the price seems really reasonable.

They also have several articles on storing foods and other emergency preparedness topics.

All in all, it's a good website to browse around.

The dehydrated kale turned out great: nice and crispy.

I wasn’t sure how long to blanch it. The directions for most of the vegetables in my dehydrator book say to blanch for a couple minutes or “until the color changes.” So I thought that’s what I’d do. But the color turned to dark green as soon as I dropped the snipped leaves into the boiling water. So I left them for a couple minutes then took them out. The kale wasn’t cooked, but that’s OK because it will cook when I use it

The blanched kale was a soggy green mass—like cooked spinach. I wasn’t about to try pulling out individual pieces, so I just spread globs of kale around on the mesh screens for my dehydrator. And it dried very well.

It’ll go well in soups and stews.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Time To Harvest The Kale

I find myself in an unusual situation: I have a tubfull of mature kale, and nothing to do with them. So I think I'll pick them on Saturday and dehydrate them.

I usually plant kale in the early spring along with my spinach and lettuce mix. And them I mix the young, tender leaves in with my lettuce and spinach salads. But this year my spinach and lettuce didn't come up. Even a second planting of them is yielding only 5 spinach plants. So now I have a whiskey-barrel tub full of kale and no salad to put them in.

I know you can steam kale and eat it like spinach, but I'm not that crazy about cooked spinach. However, I will sometimes snip the kale or spinach into little strips and put them into stew or scrambled eggs.

So I think after I pick all the mature leaves tomorrow, I'll snip them, blanch them, and dehydrate them. Then I can add them to soups, stews, eggs, or whatever.

More Irises opening

This morning when I took Firenzi outside, I noticed that another new iris has opened its first blossom: Mexican Holiday. The description on Schreiner's website says that it has "brassy gold standards and rich maroon falls." I thought the falls looked more plum than maroon. It's beautiful, though.

Here's a link to it's picture:
http://www.schreinersgardens.com/miva/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=SIGO&Product_Code=102125

I planted several new irises last year, and it's a lot of fun seeing how closely the blossoms match the pictures in the catalog.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cranberry Fruit Leather

I tried making Cranberry Leather last weekend. And this morning I finally gave trying to get it dry. It just doesn't want to dry all the way. It's still slightly tacky on top.

I had 3 bags of frozen cranberries left over from last winter, so I decided to try making Cranberry Leather. I thought I'd follow the same procedure I used for my Rhubarb Leather.

But it just didn't turn out as well. Maybe I put too much sugar in it. Maybe I added to much water. I tried rolling it up this morning, even though it's still tacky, and it made a nice roll. But I'm not crazy about the flavor.

Hmmm, maybe I don't like cranberries as much as rhubarb. Ah well.

Spring/Early Summer Flowers Blooming

This morning I noticed that my first California Poppy is blooming.

My first Iris of the year is open too: Passion and Purity. You can see a picture of it on Schreiner's website: http://tinyurl.com/knfszc.

I really like the amoenas. They're the Irises with white standards and darker falls. I'm going to have to find out how to pronounce "amoena."

I just planted this particular Iris last year, so I'm happy to see it doing so well.