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.