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:

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 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 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.