Monday, April 30, 2012

Weekly Meal Think

Here are some things I am thinking of making this week:

I really need to use up the zucchini from the Bountiful Basket.  It's nearly the last vegetable in the fridge.  So I am thinking of making my friends zucchini soup.

I also have a few carrots and celery so I am thinking of making a chicken pot pie.  I'll attempt a whole wheat pie crust and use canned chicken to save on what's in the freezer.

I have been looking for some new recipes with beans and rice, but most of them are mexican related.  I'd really like to expand my repertoire of bean recipes.  Inspired by this sweet and sour bean recipe, I am thinking of trying to use beans as a replacement in chicken recipes.  It sounds weird I know, but I think that the recipe I used for this peach jam chicken recipe would be good.

I am also thinking of making something less food storage related like a creamy pesto pasta.

What are you making for dinner this week?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

New Recipes Tab

I have done some reformatting of the blog to make way for the new recipes tab.  Now you can find all the recipes from my blog in one place!  Let me know what you think.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Asian Pork Meatballs with Brussel Sprouts

I have mentioned several times that I was thinking about making pork meatballs with brussel sprouts (here  for example).  Well, I finally got around to it.  I am not really a fan of brussel sprouts, but these meatballs are great.  So if you ever have some brussel sprouts that you need to use up, I am thinking that these are the way to go.

1.  Slice up the brussel spouts.  I think I probably had about 12 ounces there, don't you think?

2.  Add 1 pound ground pork.  I ground my own.  This is my little helper who was very impressed with the meat grinding attachment on my KitchenAid.

3.  Add in 1 T. minced garlic, 1 T. grated ginger, 1 T. sesame oil, 1/4 c. soy sauce, 2 T. dried onions, 2 eggs, 1/2-1 c. bread crumbs (enough so that it sticks together).

4.  Form small meat ball and place on a greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 until the middle reaches 160 degrees.  About 30-45 minutes.  I didn't time it.  Don't hate me.

You can enjoy these with a side of rice and any of your favorite Asian sauces.  Sweet and sour would be good, but teriyaki would also be delicious.  And you ate some brussel sprouts.  Pat yourself on the back.

How I started my food storage: Part V--Sugar

Well, friends, this will be the last post in the how I started my food storage series.  I saved the best for last: sugar!

The food storage calculator I used as a reference point when I began my food storage journey 5 years ago suggests 40 pounds of sugar per person for a year supply.  I just use a 6 gallon bucket with a gamma lid.  At one point I had a back up bucket too, but that's now gone.  I should note, however, that if you like to can, especially, jam.  Store more sugar!

The suggested amount of honey at 3 pounds per person won't work for bread makers.  If you are going to be making a whole wheat bread recipe with honey (like mine) then you will need 33 pounds to make 4 loaves a week.  Thanks to my in-laws we have always had a full supply of honey.

I do have a few #10 cans of brown sugar in my storage, but I no longer buy the stuff since I can make it.  But this also means I need a larger supply of molasses.  One pound per person won't cut it.

I haven't ever put together a supply of sugared drinks or gelatin because I just don't use them.  But I have seen recipes on how to make fruit snacks from gelatin.  That could change my mind.

On to corn syrup.  Now I know that high fructose corn syrup has a bad rap, but I will make a plea for storing some corn syrup.  First of all, it's not the high fructose kind.  But more importantly there are a few handy uses.  The first is this pin:

If your kids like to make bubbles as much as mine.  You will love this recipe for bubbles.

1/2 c. Dawn dish soap
1/2 c. corn syrup
2 1/2 c. water

Store some corn syrup.  Make your kids happy.

The second use for corn syrup is that adding a tablespoon to sugar based syrups (think home made maple syrup or even my vanilla recipe) will prevent it from crystalizing.  I  know.  Mind boggling.

So the last sugar item we store is jam.  Three pounds per person is not really enough for us.  I do, however, think measuring jam in pounds is less helpful than say, pints or quarts.  But that is beside the point.

This last year I canned 10 pints, 2 quarts and one 12 ounce jar of peach jam (and a few other jams).  We are down to our last 5 pints.  That's a lot of jam!  It's mostly my husband who loves it.  It's his mom's recipe.  He grew up eating it.  She once told me she canned 50 quarts a year!  Can you imagine?  In any event, we eat a lot of jam.  But then we make a lot of homemade bread.  The two seem to go together.

I hope all of this rambling about my food storage has been helpful.  Let me know if you have any specific questions.  Thanks for reading!!

Friday, April 27, 2012

All Hail the Blendtec! Yes, it can grind your wheat!

Photo from here.

So, my sis has one of these blenders.  They are not cheap.  She has admitted to me that one of the reasons she bought it was because it could grind wheat.  So she invited me over to help her make my whole wheat bread.

The first thing we had to do was grind the wheat.  It can only do 2 cups of wheat at a time, but then it only takes 1 minute.  I confess, I was skeptical.  But, DANG!  That blender can blend wheat flour!  To say I was impressed is an understatement.  The flour was super fine and soft.  And it makes delicious bread.  I know because after making bread we made pizza dough for dinner.

So all you Blendtec users (Fiona, I'm thinking of you) bust out your blender and make yourself some whole wheat bread!!

How I started my food storage: Part IV--Cooking Essentials

In this installment of how I started my food storage I am taking up "cooking essentials" as they are listed in the food storage calculator.  If you are looking for something to purchase that will make you feel like you are making headway on your food storage, I suggest you start here.  These item are not expensive and once you check them off your list you will feel such a sense of accomplishment that you can move on to tackling something like wheat.  That's what I did.

You will need one pound of baking powder and one pound of baking soda per person for a year.  My only thought is that you might want to up your baking soda amount for cleaning purposes and so that you can do things like this with your kids.

It's pretty easy to get 5 pounds of salt per person.  You might, however, want to store more than one kind.  I use more kosher salt than table salt for example.  I also have some canning salt on hand.  But I am thinking of switching to Real Salt because of the trace minerals that are in it.  It's more expensive, but might be worth it.  Have you ever used Real Salt on a regular basis?

Just so you know the 1/2 pound of yeast per person is not really enough for bread making.  According to my calculations, I would need 2.5 pounds of yeast to make 4 loaves of bread a week.  So, for a year's worth I am going to have more on hand.

With regard to the vinegar, 1/2 gallon is not going to be enough if you do any amount of canning.  It's also a good cleaning agent.  I think you might have to decide on your own what is right for your family's use.  Another thought is you might want to have different kinds on hand.  I like to have white and cider in gallon jugs.  And smaller amounts of rice and red wine.  (That's red wine vinegar people.  Sheesh.)

With the exception of the salt, all of these things should be rotated regularly.  So it's a good idea to have the amount you want on hand and then purchase more as you use it up.  If you are a better record keeper than I you could keep track of how long it takes you to go through a box of baking soda for example.  Then you might be better able to determine how much you need.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Yellow Squash Casserole

I think I have mentioned before that I read cookbooks in bed.  The other night I was reading this:

It was written by three women who lived in the ward that I grew up in.  One of the women, Maurine Hegsted, lived across the street from us.  Another, Beth Brown, lived a block or so away.  Her girls were some of my best friends growing up.  This cookbook is really cool.  It had the recipe for 7 layer dip before it was popular.  In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if these ladies invented it!  There is also the most amazing recipe for beef kabobs that has been a family favorite so long we claim it as our own.

Well, the other night I found a recipe for zucchini casserole.  I thought I would give it a try, but I gave it my own twist.  In the first place, I used summer squash.  Here's how I made it:

1.  I diced up three summer squash and half an onion.  I sauted them on medium heat in a little olive oil until they were good and soft.  Maybe 8-10 minutes.  

2.  I also added some small baby carrots sliced up.  

3.  In a separate bowl you are supposed to mix a can of cream of chicken soup with 1 cup of sour cream.  In my case it was about 1/2 c. sour cream and 1/2 c. plain yogurt because that was what I had.  I added in the squash mixture when everything was tender.

Then, in a separate bowl, I melted a cube of butter and mixed in a package of seasoned stuffing.  It makes crunchy stuffing flavored bread crumbs.  Yummy.

I layered a casserole dish with 1/2 stuffing mixture, the squash/soup mixture and the other 1/2 of the bread crumbs on top.  I baked it at 400 for 20-25 minutes until heated through and the stuffing was a bit brown.  You wouldn't have to do it that I, I just had the temperature up for some chicken.

It was so delicious!  Thank you Beth Brown, you are your co-authors created an awesome cookbook.

How I started my food storage: Part III--Fats

I'm back with part three of how I started my food storage.  Today, I take up fats.

I have a confession to make.  Fats have never been my strong suit when it comes to food storage.  I have never had a year's supply on hand.  Perhaps part of the problem is that fats are by nature perishable.  Recommendations are that oil is only good for 6 months to a year.  This is not the kind of thing you can purchase and stick in your garage for 20 years.

Some of the other reasons that I found fats difficult is the list and amounts on the calculator.  Four pounds of shortening is just plain gross given that I try to avoid hydrogenated fats.  And two quarts of salad dressing is just silly when I prefer to make my own.  And there is no way I would go through two quarts of mayo.  If need be I can make that too so long as I have an egg.  I have yet to try it with powdered eggs, but you know I will.

So what have I done about fats?  I try to have a few months supply on hand of what I do use.  I like to cook with olive oil.  I use canola in my bread and for frying.  I keep butter in my freezer and we purchased some Red Feather canned butter--which is super expensive but awesome.  And I like to have several cans of spray canola oil for pancakes and my bread pans.  I don't skimp here either.  If the first ingredient on the can isn't oil, I don't buy it.  Some cheaper brands have the first ingredient as water.  Totally not worth the savings.

I will also let you know that I wanted to have a backup for spray oil in case I ran out so I purchased an oil mister.  I tried it on my bead pans and it was worthless.  I have no idea why.  So if you are thinking of purchasing an oil mister don't expect it to be useful for bread making.  I do like to use it for pancakes and french fries--it's easier to coat fries and uses less oil!

So how much oil should I store?  I am in the process of figuring that out.  I did some calculations and if I make 4 loaves of bread per week (I make about that now) it would use 1 and 2/3 gallons of oil.  That doesn't include any cooking.  But the recommendation is that you have 2 gallons per person for a year's worth.  I actually think that would be pretty close.  Plus I need to factor in olive oil and some other fats like peanut butter.  But you know, food storage is a work in progress.

Before I leave this fatty topic, let me say something about powdered butter and shortening.  I have used powdered butter, but have had mixed results.  See here and here for example.  My feeling is that it works ok for baking and some cooking, but not so much for anything else.  You can't spread powdered butter on bread.  The best use may be in a white sauce mix I have made.  I want to try it in a few more baking recipes, like applesauce cake--mmm  . . . applesauce cake.  I just lost my train of thought.

I suppose that this Self Reliance Experiment is a bit about figuring out what I want to store.  I use this as an opportunity to experiment.  I don't expect to have all the answers anytime soon.  Perhaps you can let me know what you do about storing oil?

P.S. I love butter.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Homemade No Bake Chewy Granola Bars (almost like Quaker)

I have mentioned to several of you that I have this great recipe for chewy granola bars.  Well, I made some today just so I could share them with you.  The original recipe is found here.  They are so easy, I double the recipe.

1.  In a bowl (that can withstand some heat) mix 4 cups quick oats (not rolled) and 2 cups crispy rice.

2.  In a large sauce pan mix 1 cube butter (not pictured because I used 1/2 c. oil.  Butter tastes better but oil can be used in a pinch), 1/2 cup honey and 2/3 c. brown sugar (or 2/3 c. sugar and 2 t. molasses).

3.  Bring to a rolling boil.  Turn it down to medium heat and boil for two more minutes.

4.  Mix in 1 teaspoon vanilla.  Then pour syrup over dry ingredients and mix well until all the oats have been combined.

5.  Press into a greased cookie sheet.  Sprinkle 1/4 cup of mini chocolate chips over the top and gently press in.  They are ready to eat when the chocolate has set back up.  I sometimes use the fridge to help with that because I have no patience.  But careful because the are a bit tricky to cut once they are cooled.

There you go.  A quick snack from (mostly) food storage items.

How I started my food storage: Part II--Milk and Legumes

Well, friends, the journey continues.  If you missed the first installment of how I started my food storage, you can find that here.  I will also link to the food storage calculator again in case you want to refer to it.

Today I am talking about milk and beans.

The food storage calculator calls for 60 pounds powdered milk, 12 cans of evaporated milk, and 13 pounds of "other milk".  What is "other milk"?  Seriously, what other options are there for storing milk?  Sweetened condensed?  What am I going to do with 13 pounds of sweetened condensed milk?  Maybe one of you know?  Well, now that I have that off my chest . . .

I think milk was probably the most expensive of the items to purchase.  60 pounds per person is a LOT of powdered milk.  It took a while to get it all.  I made a trip to the LDS cannery at Welfare Square and dry packed several cases.  But it was time consuming.  Since I had the money at the time, I also purchased several cases from emergency essentials.  We are not using a lot of milk right now (I mostly put it in recipes) because I want my kids to drink whole milk, but we have it available.

Beans.  You'll notice that the food storage calculator has the beans divided up into several kinds.  I don't use lima or soy beans.  I figured that the details were less important that the totals: 60 pounds per person for a year.  That's the same amount the LDS Church recommends.  So I decided what kind of beans I thought we would eat and stored those.  Some I purchased in #10 cans.  I also got a 50 pound bag of pinto beans and put it in a 5 gallon bucket.  It's not sealed for long term storage so I really ought to get working on that bucket.  Plus I have canned cooked beans from the case lot sales.  Now I just need to find some more bean recipes.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How I started my food storage: Part I--Grains

A few weeks ago when I started this second round of the Self Reliance Experiment my sister wanted to know what I had on hand.  Her inquiry resulted in the post about my pantry.  But her real reason for asking was that she wanted to know what I had at the beginning so that she could compare that to what I had in the end and therefrom derive how much to store.

I elected not to indulge her for a few reasons.  First, accurate inventories are time consuming.  You saw that I would have to do this for my garage, my laundry room and my pantry.  Yikes!  Sorry, Sis.  The second reason that that such an inventory would only really help me.  It wouldn't do her much good at all.  I know for a fact that her family and my family eat different things.  But, I do love my sister and I have been trying to figure out what might help her and anyone else trying to get more food storage.

I thought about doing an instructional post to the effect of "Here are the easy steps you can follow to get your food storage."  But the truth is I am no expert and there are a gazillion sites that attempt to help people in that exact manner.  So, here is what I will do.  I will tell you about my food storage journey.  You can pull from it anything you find helpful.  And if you have specific questions, I will answer them as best I can.

I married my sweetheart in January 2007.  Five months after we were married we set a goal to have one year's worth of food storage purchased within a year.  Ambitious, I know.  But without children around to complicate things, it seemed doable.

The first thing I did was use this food storage calculator to figure out what we would need.  Now, there are plenty of things on the calculator that I have never bothered to store.  Mayo, for example.  We just don't use that much.  Or soy beans for that matter.  Who uses those?  So lesson number one: only store what you will actually eat.  But the calculator is a good guideline.  Especially the totals for the grain, legumes and milk.  And that is where I started.

For this post I will focus on GRAINS.

Wheat is obviously the biggest beast--300 pounds for 2 people!  I purchased several large buckets of hard white wheat from Costco.  But soon realized that these would not be the best for long term storage (i.e. 20 years) because they aren't packed in sealed bags with oxygen absorbers.

Second lesson: the price of food storage depends on how you purchase it.  Bulk food is the cheapest but is not properly packaged for long term storage.  You can purchase large superpails that are properly sealed, but they are more expensive.  Or you can package it your self at the LDS cannery.  It's a choice.  And it's a choice that has a lot to do with how long you are going to wait to use it up.

In order to have some wheat for the long haul, I also bought some hard red wheat in #10 cans from the LDS Church cannery.  I don't remember if I had 300 pounds of wheat within a year, but it was close.

Then I learned to make bread.  A necessary step to making your food storage useful.  So lesson three: learn to use what you store.

Flour is not something I was concerned about storing long term because I use it so often.  But 50 pounds is too much for one 6 gallon bucket, so I got two.  On one of the buckets I put a gamma lid.  My plan was to use everything in the one with the gamma lid, then to empty the second bucket into the first and refill the second.

Today, I only use the gamma lid bucket (no back up) because I go through white flour less often.  I try to use more whole wheat.

The food storage calculator calls to store 25 pounds of corn meal per person per year.  I never could figure this one out.  First of all who eats that much corn bread?  Second of all corn meal doesn't store long term.  So I opted to store popcorn.  Popcorn can be processed into cornmeal.  Heck, I've even done it.  Plus you have the added benefit of a snack anytime you want.

I also learned that popcorn is better for you than the commercial cornmeal because it is higher in protein and lower in starch than the corn used to make the store stuff.  As a result your corn bread should be less crumbly.  Just sayin'.

Oats is one of the places I splurged and purchased a large superpail of old fashioned rolled oats.  I don't remember why.  It was probably because I didn't think we would use that much oatmeal.  But then I learned to make granola.  Today I have a 6 gallon bucket with rolled oats and a gamma lid.  I think I bought 25 pounds 2 years ago which fit in two 6 gallon buckets.  I just barely opened the back up a few weeks ago.  I haven't yet busted open the superpail.  I figure since it will last longer it can sit in my garage.

I also have a case of quick oats in #10 cans.  And I have learned a recipe withe these for chewy granola bars and mini chocolate chips that are similar to the Quaker granola bars.  The kids love them.  I'll have to post it soon.

I don't think I have ever had the recommended amount of rice on hand.  100 pounds is a lot.  I do have a 6 gallon bucket with gamma lid.  I am sure I was planning on having a back up bucket or two but never got there.

Last grain is pasta.  Not really a grain, I know.  I do remember stocking up on pasta in that first year.  I don't know that I ever got to 50 pounds.  I didn't bother to package it for long term storage (like #10 cans) because I knew it would get eaten and I would rather rotate it.  In fact, none of what I stored is around today.  Now that I think about it I think there are a couple of cans of pasta in the garage . . . maybe that inventory is a good idea.  In any event, it's a handy thing to have pasta around, but it is also something you can make from scratch.  I've been meaning to try it with powdered eggs.  And when I do, you will of course, read about it here.

Maybe you and your family prefer grains other than those on the calculator.  Well, keep in mind the idea is to store 300 pounds per person for a year's worth.  That means if you eat lots of quinoa and not a ton of rice.  Swap them out.  There is no need to store things you don't eat.  Someday, I hope to add other grains to my food storage, like quinoa, teff, rye, oat grouts, buskwheat . . .

What grains do you like to have on hand?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Weekly Meal Think

I didn't make half the things from last week's meal think.  But then that is why I don't call it meal planning.  Less pressure.  Less guilt when I fail.  I did, however, make the refried beans and the stuffed peppers.  So, yay for me!  I didn't post the peppers because I forgot to take a picture.  (That's almost a tongue twister.)

That means the asian pork meatballs are back on the menu.

I'm scrapping the minestrone in favor of my friend Heidi's creamy zucchini soup, which sounds delicious!  It has cream cheese in it how can it not be?  With cream cheese in the freezer, I can't resist.

Heidi also suggested this lemon chicken, which also sounds fabulous.  I think I should make it before I run out of chicken.

I still have a head of lettuce to use up, so I should make a salad of some kind.  I haven't decided.

The other thing I have been fixating on is a cassoulet.  I tried one last year with dehydrated vegetables and it was mediocre at best.  That is probably one of the things Bryce didn't like and yet failed to tell me.  I am thinking about trying a different version instead.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

How to Can Rice-A-Roni in a Jar: Make it a Party

This is my best friend Fiona.  She's awesome.  A few weeks ago she called me all excited because she had found a deal on a large bag of converted rice.  (If you don't want to follow the link, converted rice is rice that as been steamed before husked and is non-sticky when cooked).  She wanted to make homemade rice-a-roni.

I immediately thought of my friend Chef Tess (aka Stephanie Peterson) and her 52 meals in a jar method.  She cans meals with dry ingredients and oxygen absorbers in mason jars.  It's cool, you should check her out.  I knew this method would be perfect for a rice-a-roni project.

I set about trying to figure out everything else we would need and in what amount.  I gave Fiona my calculations based upon her 25 pound bag of rice and 10 pounds I had on hand.  That's when she told me that it was a 50 pound bag!  Oh.  This was going to be a lot of rice-a-roni!!

I have made rice-a-roni mixes before, but never canned them.  I have to say, canning them was so much more fun.  I especially love knowing these are shelf stable for 5-7 years!  (And it might take us that long to eat it all.  Ha ha.)

Here's how we put together our canning party:

1.  Get all your ingredients together.  I'll put the recipes at the end of this post so you can see what we made.  They are a little different than my last version.  Wash all your jars and make sure they are completely dry.  You don't want any moisture in your jars.

2.  Add 2 cups rice and 1 cup pasta to each jar.

3.  Next you will add all the seasonings.  You can add them straight to the jar like Fiona did, or you can use little sandwich baggies like I did.  The difference comes when you cook it.  You will brown the rice a bit of butter.  Some people like to have their seasonings separate from the rice for browning.  Some don't care.  I've made it both ways and both work fine.  The only thing is that if the seasonings are a part of the mix you run the risk of burning the onions if the heat is too high.  This can of course be compensated for by using a lower heat.  So do what you want.  It's your rice-a-roni.

4.  If you elected to use the bags then tuck them in tight and shake everything so it's snug and there is room for the oxygen absorber.  If you didn't bother with the bags, just jiggle everything in the jar to help it settle.

5.  Wipe the rims of your jar with a dry towel to make sure there are no powdery things preventing the seal. Add your oxygen absorbers and seal with a lid and band.  Label your jars and include instructions to saute rice/pasta in 4 T. butter and then bring 6 cups of water to boil before covering and reducing.  Each jar is at least two boxes of rice-a-roni.  One jar makes a LOT.  I usually only make 1/2 jar for my family of 4.

6.  Step back and admire your work.  In about an hour you will hear your jars "popping" which is evidence that they are sealing.  Yea!

All told, Fi and I made 57 jars of rice-a-roni.  Then since we didn't want the oxygen absorbers to go to waste after opening them, we made another 16 jars of beans with seasonings for quick bean soups.

I thought I was being so clever to create a chart with the recipe, but it's really small on the blog.  Just click on the image to get a downloadable PDF.

Crock Pot Spaghetti Sauce for the Freezer

I'm not a huge fan of raw tomatoes.  Ok, I can't stand them.  So when I order a Bountiful Basket and tomatoes show up I have to find something to do with them.  Although I have been known to simply can them, I am more likely to make spaghetti or pizza sauce.  In fact, I made some yesterday.  Here's how.

1.  I need about 7-8 cups of tomatoes.  This batch only came to about 6 cups so I added in some canned.

2.  Into the crock pot they go.

3.  Next add two chopped onions.

4.  Then 1/2 half green pepper chopped, 1 T. garlic minced, 2 T. italian seasoning, 2 T. sugar, 1 T. salt, 1/2 t. pepper, 2 T. dried parsley.  (I added parsley that was frozen in cubes, but dried works fine.)

5.  1/2 can of a 6 oz. can of tomato paste.

6.  Mix it all together and simmer for 6-8 hours on low.  If you like it chunky then you're done, if not you can use an immersion blender.  If you don't have one of these handy tools then you can blend it in a regular blender in batches, but be careful it will be very hot.

7.  Let it cool and then package it in freezer bags.  I used gallon bags even though I only added few cups.  Hey, use what you got.  Label and freeze for a quick meal later.


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