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

You may be wondering why I include a link to 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

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, 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. 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. 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 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.