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Posts tagged “food storage

Dehydrated Vegetables Make Delicious White Bean Chicken Chili

If you are one of the folks who dehydrate food to save money, storage space and preserve the wonderful taste of summer, this recipe is for you.  The growing season is not quite here where I live but my desire for that home grown taste sure is. Since we dehydrated our green peppers and onions from last year we have the taste and all the goodness ready to reconstitute in a pot of white bean chicken chili.

100_1210To make this sumptuous meal we used the following:

  • 2  boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup dehydrated onions
  • 14 cup dehydrated green peppers
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons cumin powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 can great northern beans.

To begin,  I thaw the chicken breasts and get a stock pot to reconstitute the vegetables.  In the 2 cups of water I add the onions, peppers, (you could use fresh vegetables and dice them) and all the spices.  I cut the chicken into strips and add them to the boiling liquid.  100_1211The heat is turned down to a simmer and I put a lid on it and let it go for about 15 minutes. When the chicken is firm to touch I remove it to a plate to rest until it is cool enough to handle.  By now the vegetables are back to their re-hydrated state and have imparted their flavor to the broth and the chicken along with the spices

100_1215When the chicken is cooled I shred it into bite size pieces and add it back to the broth.  I add the whole can of beans with the liquid and everything.  This simmers for about 20 minutes.  I adjust the liquid because re-hydrating vegetables drinks up quite a bit of it.  I also adjust the spices and salt at this time.

100_1218Now we are ready to have a delicious lunch before we tackle the preparations for the coming year’s garden.  This meal makes our plans clear to grow more onions and peppers.  There will also be tomatoes, beans, and all kinds of herbs.  All these foods will feed us throughout summer and what we don’t eat we will can and dehydrate to get us through the next winter.

T100_1225he best part of this chili and most dishes using dehydrated food, no fat is added to get it back to an edible state.  All you need is water.  A bowl of this chili contains about 4 grams of fat and all of the protein you need for the day.  This dish would be great with vegetables sauteed in olive oil but bikini season will be here before we know it!

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Snow Storm And Living Off Stores

A great snow storm is headed our way so I thought having been a Girl Scout and a Scout Leader I would but those skills to work by being prepared…I earned my camping and cooking badges and have always taken the motto and the promise to heart.  I thought I might practice those skills tonight by living off of foods we’ve had in storage.  We have many dehydrated foods that can be re-constituted if need be.  Tonight I prepared some favorites of au-gratin potatoes, fresh baked bread and frozen pork chops.  This meal was delicious and we have plenty more put away to get us through the approaching storm.

49582I don’t want to be caught up in the grocery store frenzy either and by baking bread, we will have both good food and something fun to do.  I’ve stocked up on milk so that is covered, and also, since Easter is coming, I’ve purchased plenty of eggs already.  We now have no reason to go out among the frantic shoppers who must grapple for that last loaf or gallon, and check out in what I like to refer to as the “panic aisle”, because we were prepared long49584 before the storm.

This evening I wanted to use some of my dehydrated ingredients to make potatoes au-gratin with other vegetables all of which have been stored since 2009.  The chops have been in the freezer for about a month, and the bread was made from flour with which we have rotated use from storage under a day bed set in a little nook in the basement that is the perfect height for five gallon buckets.  We’ve done this for years.  Quite a few fit under there and they are all full of things we might need if this storm gets really bad or maybe just if we run out of something in the kitchen pantry.  All we have to do is shop from under the bed.

49588So to make this meal, I put a good handful of potatoes in a pie plate, some dried tomatoes, onions and green peppers also were sprinkled in for added taste and nutrients,  I shredded some Co-Jack and Parmesan cheese, poured 49590milk and a little cream over everything until they were completely 49591submerged then dotted a bit of butter around, seasoned it with salt and pepper, and put it in a 350° oven.  The oven was already warm because I had baked some bread just before and it made the house smell lovely.  The potatoes took about 50 minutes to become bubbly and browned on top and in the last fifteen minutes I started the chops which were now completely thawed, bones 49593removed, and in a skillet, I pan seared them with a little olive oil and spices on both sides.

49594For the last five minutes I turned off the fire, put a lid on them, and gave them a while to rest.  When the potatoes were ready, I removed the chops 49595to a plate and let them rest a bit more under a foil tent while I made a little gravy with the drippings in the pan.  Flour, spices, salt, pepper and water is all I needed for that.  Suddenly everything came together and we found ourselves eating a beautiful meal together.

49597It was amazing how much flavor the potatoes had.  It was as if they were sliced just an hour before.  You could never tell that they had been hanging around the house for the past four years because they were stored well.  Same with the vegetables…the onions, tomatoes and peppers though they were very well cooked, tasted terrific!  If I could, I’d love to have a dairy cow because the milk, butter, cream, and cheese didn’t hurt the flavors in this dish a bit.  You can bet I’ll be looking into ways to store dairy products in the future because that is the only thing I haven’t figured out how to store.  It is so good when it’s fresh, I just never considered any other way to slice cheese or spread butter.  Maybe during this snow storm something will come to me.  I’m open to suggestions.  In the meantime, to all my Mid-West friends, get ready to put your scouting skills to work:  “Be prepared” and take care.


More Dehydrating

As I have posted before, dehydrating is a great way to store food.  When you dehydrate, you only take out the water…all of  the flavor and most of the nutrients stay in the food.  This week there was a great sale on green peppers, onions, and mushrooms.  These are things that I use a lot in my cooking…especially in cooking stews and soups.  Stews and soups are the foods that are really easy to make, and great to prepare when the weather is not the best.  In the summertime I hope to have food from the garden on hand that won’t need cooking.  Even so, the surplus from the garden with all its fresh flavors can be dried and stored as well.

We have a snow storm coming our way just now and besides stocking up last week, we have dehydrated several bags and trays of  mushrooms, onions and green peppers to use another day.  Dehydrated foods last far beyond the shelf life of regular canned items, decades beyond even.  To do this we have sterilized mason jars with lids,  and a special attachment that hooks to our Food Saver vacuum bagging system.  It cost about 25 dollars but is worth a lot more because we can seal up food that we purchase on sale that ten years from now will be maybe ten times the price.

49422The mushrooms we dehydrated cost us 69 cents per container, and the onions were on sale for 79 cents per bag (7 medium onions in each).  We use a lot of onions so roughly a dime an onion is a great deal.  Having them ten years from now because we dehydrated and stored them at that price seems even better.

49436So you might see that purchasing vegetables and even some meat when there is a really good sale makes for some super savings in the future.  It also takes up so much less space  storing these foods when you take out the water.   We  love to store food this way and store lots of vegetables from the garden this way, food on sale from the store, and food that our relatives have hunted and shared like deer meat.  I’ve posted on how to dry deer meat and beef before, also how to store vegetables like broccoli, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, corn, apples, also herbs like parsley, cilantro, and basil.

In this photo you will see four containers of mushrooms in one Mason jar, also a bag of onions in one jar as well.  You could fit at  least three pounds of dehydrated meat in one jar, and a whole two bags of  frozen broccoli in one as well.  Ten green peppers chopped and with the stems and pith removed can fit into an 8 oz jar…yes, this is ten chopped green peppers we can preserve up to 25 years!  At any time we might toss a portion of these jars into a soup or stew and enjoy all the flavor it had on the day we dried it.  People all over the world have been doing this for thousands of years!

If you ever try to dehydrate apples, good luck getting them in storage.  They are so delicious that we can hardly help ourselves from eating the whole batch.  I think that they are  the best treat of all from the dehydrator.  A close second is corn and the tomatoes are third I think.  Corn makes a great crunchy snack and tomatoes are great when baked into bread and bagels.  We’ll have a tons of snack food some day if  stores can’t provide fresh veggies for what ever reason…snow storm, power outage, or the proverbial “Zombie Apocalypse” .  We’ll be OK by having prepared  just a little beforehand.  Anyone can do this if they put their mind to it.


Storing Up Meat For Winter

In the old days folks had to store up food for the winter in order to get by.  Drying meats, storing things in root cellars, utilizing the freezing temperatures, and canning got 48998them by before modern refrigeration.  Drying meat from larger game was and is a great way to store meats for people all over the world in any climate.

My brother in law is an avid hunter and has acreage deep in the woods of Missouri.  He purchases his deer tags every year and is always successful bringing in a few each year either during bow season or gun season.  My brother in law got a couple of deer to process and freeze this year.  He is a generous man and shared with us several packages of venison tenderloin, the deer version of fillet mignon.

48993Yesterday I thawed a package, made two steaks that the kids and I shared for lunch and with the rest I sliced it very thinly, gave it a good salting, added some 48995teriyaki  sauce, soy sauce, and steak sauce…just enough to coat the meat well…about a tablespoon of each.  I let the meat sit 48996in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes then broke out the dehydrator.  The meat soaked up most of the marinate which is what I wanted, and I laid the meat out on the trays, set the temperature for 95°, and let it do its magic overnight.  Just before bedtime, I turned the meat over to allow the other side to get thoroughly dry.  I probably didn’t have to do this but my gut told me to do so anyway.

Well, today I shut off the machine (a Harvest Maid dehydrator which a few years ago we got off Craig’s List for $15) and removed the perfectly dry jerky.  My son and I gave it49005 a taste this morning and it was absolutely delicious!  It gives bacon a run for the money as it is much leaner, full of protein, and just as tasty.  My husband though, doesn’t agree.  He doesn’t like deer meat at all!  Some folks just plain don’t like it.  I don’t understand it.  One can’t expect it to taste like beef because it is an entirely different animal, but to each his own.  Being a native Missouri girl, where deer are abundant, even to the point of pesky, I’m glad to enjoy this ecological, economical, and natural source of food.

Dried meat stores for years especially if kept out of the elements.  We’ve got a gadget that attaches to our vacuum sealing machine (Food Saver) that hooks by hose to the lid of a wide mouth Mason jar and vacuums out the air in the jar.  This will help this jerky store for years and years.  I hope to put up more of this in our stores but it will take a lot of will power because this stuff is sooo good!
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Prepared for Disaster (and my 100th post)

This will be my 100TH  post and since I started my blog on 9/11/o9, I would like to make the topic about surviving disaster.  Last year around this time, several tornadoes touched down in the St. Louis area not to mention the deadly EF-5 that touched down in Joplin MO.  Here in the Mid-West, the tornado is my worst feared disaster because they happen here, and it’s nearly impossible to prepare for a thing that can strike any time, day or night, when a wicked storm front pushes through.  The word nearly gives me a margin of hope though.

One thing, and probably the biggest thing you can do to prepare, is have a plan, a plan that can answer the following questions:  What disaster are you most prone to experience?  Flood?  Earthquake?  Storms? Where will you go during the danger?  How will you survive the aftermath?   How will you communicate with loved ones if you are separated (spouse at work or kids at school etc.)?  Where will you go if your dwelling is ruined?  How will you pay for the damage?  Are you in good physical condition?  Can you cope with a long term and widespread power outage?  Can you stay warm/cool/dry?  Do you have a way to procure drinking water?   What will you eat? Do you have a means of protecting yourself and your family from thugs and looters?  How will you keep up morale during all this?  The rest of this post will give details on how to answer these questions.

The most important questions to answer are the ones concerning shelter, food, water, and safety.   Have a plan to either evacuate or be able to get to the safest spot in your home.  In Joplin, those who knew the safest spots were better off than others.  Sometimes there is nothing you can do.  But do all you can.  If you still have your home but no utilities, you will have to live on your stored resources and hopefully you have some.  A rain barrel you might use to water the lawn in the Summer can be a life saver if you have 55 gallons of water stored in it.  The water can be purified through today’s pitchers and other such water purification devices then boiled to be extra sure dangerous germs are killed.  They are really affordable these days and if you have one, you’ve got the most important survival need covered…drinkable water

Being the Diva of Delicious, food is a major concern.  Everyone needs food too.  The  grocery stores eventually run out and close their doors if new deliveries can’t be made.  So a little shelf in a secure part of the basement or the upper stories if you are prone to floods, could be stocked with canned and dry goods you usually use in the pantry every day.  It’s good to have a manual can opener near by too.  It would be pointless to store food you don’t ever eat or even like.  It’s a good idea to put a disaster recipe folder together.  Fill it with things you can make from your stored foods.  I like to store beans, rice, flour, sugar, salt, spices and canned vegetables.  I’ve learned you need to put these items in critter proof containers.  Five gallon PVC buckets with rubber sealed lids are perfect.  Since I store things I normally eat, I take time once or twice a year to rotate stock.  I’m learning how to pressure can chicken and cuts of beef so I have meat stored as well.  A camp stove and sufficient fuel can be a valuable way to cook or to at least boil water so it is drinkable.  There are many creative ways to rig up a stove you won’t believe...even one that can fit in your pocket.  For any source of heat, you will need to consider what kind of fuel to store.  If I can’t find a way to make a cup of coffee, my poor family might not survive survival…yeesh!

Over the year since those tornadoes I’ve become a little more confident that when a minor disaster strikes We”ll have food water and shelter.   Just little extras like a power inverter and a couple of 12 volt car batteries will enable us to power small appliances, radios (Hubby is a Ham operator and I think that’s pretty cool), cell phones, and light until we can recharge them.  For bigger needs like refrigeration there are generators.  If you have one, it’s a plus.  We have one that we got on sale years ago.  I scoffed at Jeff for spending  over $300 then.  It has already proved itself worthwhile during a five day power outage when it was 105° and very muggy.  We would have had to deal with a refrigerator and a chest freezer full of nasty goo if we didn’t have it.  Yes, I apologized a lot for that one. We were also able to run a small window a/c unit that was in the shed and keep our cool.  Most recently hubby installed a switch to the furnace that would allow the generator to run it.  So now we’re prepared for Winter time power problems as well.

The last thing I want to do is bug-out to some school gymnasium with tons of other huddled masses and leave our home to looters.  We have some seniorly neighbors we care about very much.  Wouldn’t want them left to the thugs either.  I’d want them nearby to tell us stories of how they got by during the Great Depression.  Strong community is as important to survival as anything.  The “every man for himself” mentality won’t do during hard times.  Think of ways to defend yourself (and loved ones) They might need you, and you might need them, so be a good neighbor!  If we do need to evacuate quickly we all have back packs ready and crude survival gear near by to pack and go.

Physical fitness is going to be a large part of survival.  Unless you frequent a gym or walk, run, and exercise regularly, it will be a strain to suddenly find that you have to do things the manual way.  Elbow grease, backbone, and muscle become your fuel.  It’s good to keep fit enough to walk for long distances, or carry something heavy, or both.  If you are a bit out of shape and have stairs in your house, do a few ups and downs, or walk around the block until you feel you don’t run out of breath as easily.  A few push-ups a night won’t go amiss either.  Arm and leg strength even in good times are important, easy to manage, and will make tough times easy to manage as well.  I started a few weeks ago with 5 flights of stairs and can do 30 or so now, and I’m …well… 50 this year (our secret).  A knowledge of CPR, knowing how to swim, and basic first-aid are useful things to tuck away in your cap also.

The last thing I’ll mention is morale.  Things that keep morale high are things that are pleasant for the moment.  Campfire light has a nice merry making effect.  Card games and word games can pass dreary times away.   In your storage, sweet treats can keep young ones spirits up or at least give them a treat to look forward to while things seem dismal.  A little cashe of wine in the cellar might be a good way to celebrate just being alive.  Certain religious verses help keep hopes up as well.    What ever it takes to move your spirits to a higher plane, include those things in your survival storage.  If all else, your very survival is a gift.  If you live through a disaster, remember the rest is just stuff that can be replaced

Know the weather patterns for your area. Keep abreast of the problems that could come your way.  In Japan, no one could have been prepared for such a catastrophe as the tsunami, but staying alert, keeping your head, and knowing where to go for help when it happens is good.  Even though I hate the thought of bugging-out, having a plan to do so is wise.   So now is the time to think those questions over.  Think about where you would go, or what you would need if you decide to stay (if possible).  Think about the first 72 hours post disaster.  Do you have the resources to get you through at least that much time, or until the Cavalry comes?  Candles, flashlights, batteries and blankets will get you through a night or two without power.  Shelter, food, water and safety will help you survive and maybe allow you to help someone else survive for extended periods.

It doesn’t take a whole lot of money to be prepared and it can be done gradually.  Insurance is a wise investment.  When you see a bargain on something that would be useful during an emergency, go for it.  Dollar store bargains on batteries and candles are great.  Think about ways to store supplies where they won’t be ruined.  Ask a lot of what ifs.  Soon you’ll have a plan and more peace of mind when you’ll need it most.  The less people who are rendered helpless, the more people there will be to help.  Thank you for reading this long post and be safe everyone!


Dehydrating Food Is Like Having A Genie In A Bottle

Like a genie in a bottle you can magically fit three bags of carrots into a tiny jelly jar. It's pretty incredible but by taking water out of the equation so much food can be stored in a small space for up to twenty-five years.

 
 

The same goes for corn. Three bags of frozen corn dehydrated fills up this small jar as well.

 
 
 

In this little jelly jar are actually two of these bags of frozen green beans. I've made some of these in soups using the crock pot and cooked them up by themselves with a little salt and bacon drippings. Frozen vegetables are already blanched so all you need to do is crank up the dehydrator and fill up the trays with veggies.

Six pounds of onions pictured here fit nicely in this salsa jar I saved. The lid fits tight and to all of these foods I add an oxygen absorber or two to keep them fresh. Oxygen absorbers can be ordered off the Internet from Honeyvillegrains.com. I recommend that you do the dehydrating apart from the house because they really perfume up the place. Sheewee! Slicing six pounds was no easy task either but I’ve got plenty done to last a while.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

These two jars represent a 10 lb. bag of Russett potatoes. To dehydrate them properly they need to be sliced uniformly and blanched prior to arranging them in trays and dehydrating. I've made some pretty wicked potatoes au gratin with these. As I said before food takes up so much less storage space when dehydrated. With so much snow and ice this year I was fully prepared for the worst. My family and I could have eaten warm stews and dried fruits for quite a while. We aim to store the things we normally eat so that it's not such a drastic change of diet. I try to use the dehydrated foods as I go to figure tasty ways to prepare them so when the time comes that I might need to live off of them for a while like during a power outage or some other disaster that makes food scarce, I know how to make meals in my usual Diva style.

 

The amount of potatoes in this jar are twice as much as what is in the bag in front of it. Roughly six lbs. are safely tucked away for the future. As with the Russetts the sweet potatoes will need to be sliced evenly and blanched before going in the dehydrator. When they are reconstituted you cannot tell that they were a dehydrated product. I can taste no difference. I've mashed them and made a terrific sweet potato pie.

      
 

A whole bag of frozen broccoli doesn't quite fill up this little salsa jar. I could have almost dehydrated another whole bag and fit in this jar. reconstituted, broccoli tastes as fresh as steamed right from raw stalk. Raw broccoli or any other vegetable can be dehydrated as long as they are blanched first. I haven't got a jar of apples just now because I can't seem to keep them around as long. They are so tasty a treat they are eaten almost as soon as they come of the tray. Blanching is not the technique for apples. Instead, I shake them up in a large zip-lock bag with a few tablespoons of lemon juice. The acid keeps them looking and tasting fresh. Without the lemon juice they would turn an unappetizing brown. I hope you too will try dehydrating and enjoying the food you store too. It's good to be prepared for tough times. This is a good way to keep it together.


Potatoes Au Gratin from Dehydrated Potatoes

We’ve been dehydrating food for over a year now, and have a good amount in storage.  There might be times when food is scarce, whether from a loss of power for an extended period, or a job loss, or some other disaster that could befall us.  Just knowing that we have food gives us peace of mind that we won’t starve if things get so bad.  If you read the news on any given day you can see that ice storms, floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes shut down power over wide areas for days on end.  If you are lucky enough to have another place to live, great!  If you need to stay for the recovery it helps to have food stored.  I live in St. Louis so the hurricanes won’t  be a concern, but tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes have happened here.  I’ve never had to pack up and leave and hope I never will.  I like to think we will be able to stay put so we don’t incur the expense of living somewhere else.  Also, staying and guarding our worldly possessions from thieves  and looters has its appeal.  Even if you do have to clear the scene, dehydrated foods can be compact and travel well especially if they are stored in sealed plastic bags. 

Many stews and soups can be blended out of  dehydrated foods and packaged so that all you have to do is boil them in water.  This Potatoes Au Gratin is my rendition of the pre-made ones you buy from a Betty Crocker boxed mix.  The potatoes themselves come back when cooked in liquid, to about the same as before dehydrating.   And sorry Betty, but these were made with a little more love than yours…they were a little cheaper too.  I bought a whole bag of potatoes for the cost of one boxed mix.  A handful of cheese, a bit of milk, half a cup of flour, and a few dashes of spice were still not much of a cost to make a side dish for five.

To make these, I preheated the oven to 350°.  I put half a quart of dehydrated potato slices in a pie plate.  In a mixing bowl I added 2/3 cup water, 1/3 cup milk,  a half cup of flour,  a teaspoon of salt, a sprinkle or two of garlic powder, onion powder and a pinch of pepper.  I shredded about 2/3 cup Cheddar cheese and mixed in with the milk mixture. Then I poured it over the potatoes in the pie plate.  I dotted the top with about 4 tbsp of butter and baked for about 45 minutes or until the potatoes were tender and the top nicely browned.  To finish it I sprinkled a handful of shredded Jack cheese on top and let that melt before serving. 

When the tougher times come I want to be well rehearsed on how to live off of my dehydrated stores.  I’d say I’m off to an OK start.  These were scrumptious!