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 .  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: . There is delicata squash, which has a bush and a vining variety: .  There is fairy squash: .  There's sweet dumpling:{266797CE-5A61-428F-BEA2-69936D7F5C4B} .  And there is turk's cap squash:{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

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.

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.

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.