Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy New Year!

When I think of the New Year, I first think of new beginnings and new goals or resolutions. I don’t usually make a lot of New Year’s Resolutions because it is too depressing when I break them. I do however, like to choose some things – I refer to them as New Year’s Projects – that I want to complete during the year. This way, it is easier because it isn’t something I have to do every day or else I’ve broken my resolution and will never start it again.

This year I decided to choose some preparedness projects that I want to work on during the year. Some things I may have been putting off or just not really thought about doing. I’ve made a list of 10 “projects” I want to complete in 2011 – maybe if I get these done I’ll even add more. (To be honest, I think I have already added more.)

I chose a couple of tough ones – things that are tough for me or that I easily procrastinate. Hopefully I’ll get involved in them this year and wonder why I ever put them off. One of the big projects I finished in 2010 was to organize all my food storage information into one place. It turned out being 3 binders but I love knowing where to find things I have saved for years and never really had a place for.

In my blog this year I’ll be talking more – lots more – about the importance of organization in food storage. There are many different ways to organize but I’ll write some of what has worked for me. I hope that everyone will choose some preparedness projects they want to work on this year. I’d love to hear what you are working on in your preparedness or food storage. I love to hear ideas and suggestions. Also if you have anything specific that you’d like information on I’ll see if I can find it for you. Feel free to leave a message or email me at for any comments or questions you might have. I’d also like to hear what your goals for this year are. Please feel free to share. It is always more fun to work together on any project you are working on.

I will also be redoing my 72 hour kit. If you don’t have one yet or it is out dated, work along with me to get yours put together this year, one step at a time.

We will take an in depth look at some of the food storage suppliers, their products and what sets them apart from their competitors.

One thing I really need to work on is my first aid kits. I have one or two, they either are not fully stocked, or have had things removed and used and not replaced. They are not very strategically placed; need to fix that. How are your first aid kits? Do you have one in your car and in your home and some small ones in your 72-hour kits? We’ll work on that this year.

2011 Preparedness Projects
1) Re-evaluate 72 hour kits
2) Update food storage lists – what I have and what I need
3) Reorganize new food storage recipes and basic food storage information
4) Try at least three new sprouts and use them this year
5) Choose one new item not yet in my food storage and learn how to use it
6) Update water Storage methods
7) Construct some rotating can shelves
8) Try making and using wheat meat this year
9) Try at least one new gardening technique this year
10) Choose some new recipes for my short term food storage and gather ingredients.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Back to Business

I’ve had a nice little vacation from food storage and preparedness activities but it is time to get back to business. I actually have been doing some preparedness things in the last few days. I have been cleaning cupboards (to make room for new kitchen gadgets) and trying to make an organized place for the foods I’ve dried this year and am now trying to rotate into my daily food preparation. I want them to be easily accessible so I am not tempted to substitute prepared foods instead. I think that organization is the hardest part of the actual food storage thing for me. More about that later.

I enjoy reading other people’s experiences and view about food storage and emergency preparedness. I learn a lot that way and found an article I’d like to share with you today. This article is from Emergency Essentials a preparedness distributor headquartered in Utah. After reading it I was ready to get going again on my preparedness.

The Wisdom of Food Storage

America is the land of plenty; a place of security and shelter for its citizens. Would we ever really need to use food storage here? Research has shown that the average American household has less than a week’s supply of food on hand. This is also the case with the average American supermarket. Without being paranoid or panicked, there are many valid reasons to put extra food away. We are all vulnerable to events beyond our control. But most situations are probably closer to home: loss of power, unexpected or unplanned interruptions of life such as unemployment, loss of income due to illness or injury, or high medical bills due to an accident. Food storage is a form of insurance protecting your family from the unexpected. It is a wise investment for anyone.

Food storage becomes a wise investment when you practice storing what you use and using what you store. Making food storage a life-style rather than a make-do will help you maintain your investment. Food storage that matches your family’s lifestyle is food that more likely will be used. Using and rotating your Freeze Dried Foods and Dehydrated & Dry Foods on a regular basis maintains the original investment and prevents it from being wasted.

It is recommended to always start your food storage program by storing the basics. Grains, legumes, dehydrated milk, sugar, salt, oil, and garden seeds have come to be known as the "basics." Do not underestimate the power these foods have, as they have been shown throughout history to sustain life. It is important to know how to prepare and use the basics, especially ways that your family will enjoy. If you are familiar with the food you have stored, you will be better prepared to use it during times of emergency.

If a person has a year supply of wheat on hand it would be an additional 1374 calories per day. If a person had a complete year supply of basics it would add 2000 calories a day more. It is easy to see the value of storing basics and the variety of fruits, vegetables, and mixes as found in our prepackaged year supply units.

Having your food storage can help you have a greater degree of confidence and security. It is important to do your best to prepare your family to be able to eat no matter what happens to the national economy or your job in particular. This confidence in times of crisis can be a most precious commodity. An adequate food supply for your family is a major part of economic security, and possibly the key to survival.

Food storage helps you become self-reliant as in the case of the first three days of an emergency or providing for your family when you lose your employment. With food storage you are better prepared to endure times of adversity without becoming dependent upon the government. Your family’s way of life may be preserved with proper preparation. Self-reliance is often contingent upon a willingness to work. Work can become a source of happiness, and self-esteem, as well as prosperity. Storing, using and knowing how to produce and prepare food and other items that are essential for life create security and stability for you and your family. If a disaster does occur, and you were forced to temporarily change your normal life style, you could do so with minimum discomfort.

Some people are apathetic about preparedness, often because they aren’t sure what to do or where to begin. They may become overwhelmed at the prospect of a crisis and the responsibility of self-reliance and become discouraged before they begin. Others are frustrated by contradictory advice, not sure whose ideas to follow. Still others do nothing, figuring that if trouble comes, an emergency disaster organization will rush to their rescue. A common misconception that can be refuted is that the government will immediately come to the rescue. When a large population is relying solely upon any organization, it is virtually impossible to provide for specific or individual needs of everyone. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) advises, "If a disaster threatens your community, local government and disaster-relief organizations will try to help you. But you need to be prepared as well. Local officials may be overwhelmed after a major disaster, and emergency response personnel may not be able to reach you right away, or depending on the scope of the emergency, at all. What you do to prepare can make a difference."

Preparedness is everyone's job. Not just government agencies, but every individual citizen--should plan ahead for disasters. One woman recently remarked, “I have a half a loaf of bread, a can of green beans, half a gallon of milk and part of a box of cereal in my house. If there is an emergency, the government or my church will come to my aid and I’ll be fine.” What a narrow-minded and ridiculous way of thinking. Aside from the fact that this woman takes no responsibility for her own safety and security, is the fact that the government or a church is not obligated to provide for anyone, even if they could. Being prepared for the unexpected is wise. It provides confidence knowing your family is better prepared to be safe and secure. Families who are prepared can reduce fear, inconvenience, and losses that surround a family crisis or a natural disaster.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Giving the gift of Preparedness

Here are some ideas for food storage or preparedness gifts from under $5 to $50. I bet you can think of many more. If you have a favorite preparedness gift you like to give, or one that you have gotten, post it in the comments.

Preparedness Christmas gift Ideas:

$5 or under
3 ring Preparedness binder with home and food storage information papers or recipes inside and emergency essentials booklet
5 gallon water jug
100 hour emergency candle
A year’s supply of Salt ( 8lbs. per person per year)
Burn cream
Basic car first aid kit
Emergency poncho or sleeping bag
24 pack water & 1 gallon bleach
Hand warmers
Light sticks
Water proof matches

$6 - $10
Tri-fold shovel for car
Portable toilet lid (fits 5 gallon bucket
Flashlight and extra batteries
First Aid kit
Polar fleece blanket for car (or buy fleece & make it)
Dry bean soup mix
Folding saw
Sewing kit (small portable)
24 pack TP
Extra Batteries

Carbon Monoxide Alarm
Bucket Car Kit (Band-Aids’, emergency blanket, food, flashlight, gloves
Flashlight and radio (hand crank)
Fire extinguisher
Respirator masks
Portable Toilet lid & kit
Year supply of Band-Aids
6 #10 cans of oats
Rechargeable lantern (plug in with batteries)
Year supply of toothbrushes, floss and toothpaste

$21- $30
45 lb. bucket of oats
Food storage starter kit
15 gallon water jug
45lb. bucket of wheat
Portable butane stove
NOAA Radio with batteries
Sleeping bag
Fireproof/waterproof briefcase to store important documents
Solar battery charger
Sanitation kit – port-a-potty lid & bucket to store, TP hand sanitizer, bags shower curtain, rope, cat litter
Year supply of pasta 6 #10 cans pasta

Tent – sleeps 4
Food storage starter kit
Large first aid kit with case
Steam canner
Walter filter
Dutch oven
Propane stove
Foldable ladders for 2nd story fire escape
Extra propane tank for BBQ or portable indoor heater
Laundry gift Tub – clothes line, clothe pins, laundry soap and wash board.

Note: Any food storage items you know they like will be appreciated. More ideas:

Give a years supply of salt with a year’s supply of popcorn and your favorite popcorn recipes.

Everyone can always use storage canisters. Give a canister or two filled with different kinds of pasta, rice or beans with some of your favorite recipes.

Honey is a great gift. Give any size container of honey with the recipe for honey taffy, honey popcorn or honey cookies; or include a jar of homemade honey butter.

Give a can of oats with a plate of homemade oatmeal cookies.

Give each member of the family their own emergency flashlight.

Give a jar of homemade jam or syrup and a bucket of wheat with your favorite bread or pancake recipe.

Give a cute Christmas towel with a year’s supply of hand soap or dishwashing liquid.

Homemade hot chocolate mix is the best! Include some mugs and the recipe for homemade marshmallows.

Warm gloves or mittens, scarves or stocking caps for each member of the family will be appreciated.

Candles and matches are a great gift. Lanterns and a bottle of lamp oil make an excellent preparedness gift.

Personalize the gifts you give to the likes and tastes of those you are giving to and any food storage gift will be appreciated. It may not seem like a very exciting gift to you, the giver, but to someone who is trying to prepare it just might be their favorite gift.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Storing Fats and Oils

One thing that is important to store, is fats and oils. However, it is tricky. I want to present a little information about storing and using these important items.

FATS AND OILS ARE NECESSARY The importance of storing fats and oils should be emphasized because fat contains nine calories per gram compared to the four calories contained by either carbohydrates or protein. This makes fat a valuable source of concentrated calories that could be of real importance if faced with a diet consisting largely of unrefined grains and legumes. For small children, infants and the elderly, they may not be able to consume the volume of food that would be necessary in the course of a day to get all of the calories they would need to avoid weight loss and possible malnutrition.

Fats play an important role in our perception of taste and texture and their absence would make many foods more difficult to prepare and consume. Also, a small amount of dietary fat is necessary for our bodies to properly absorb fat soluble vitamins like A,D,E & K.

THE PROBLEM There is a problem with storing oils and fats for the long term and that is because they go rancid rather quickly. Rancid fats have been blamed in increased rates of heart disease, atherosclerosis and are carcinogenic (cancer causing) so we want to avoid them if possible.

Because of this difficulty in storing fats and oils for any long period of time many books and articles on the subject of food storage make only passing mention of them, or they say nothing at all.

Long term storage of fats may be hard, but it is not impossible. There are some general rules you can follow to get the most life out of your stored cooking oils and fats. Exposure to oxygen, light and heat are the greatest factors causing fats to go rancid.

Unless they have been specially treated, *unopened* cooking oils have a shelf life of about a year, depending upon the above conditions. Some specialty oils such as sesame and flax seed have even shorter usable lives.

THE SOLUTIONS If possible, refrigerate your stored oil, particularly after it's been opened. Try to buy oils in opaque, airtight containers. If you purchase it in plastic, particularly clear plastic, transfer it to a gas impermeable glass or metal container that can be sealed airtight. If you have a means of doing so, vacuum sealing the storage container is an excellent idea as it removes most of the air remaining inside, taking much of the oxygen with it. Transparent glass and plastic containers should be stored in the dark, such as in a box.

Regardless of the storage container, it should be stored at as cool a temperature as possible and rotated as fast as is practical. Oils and fats with preservatives added by the manufacturer will have a greater shelf life than those without them, provided they are fresh when purchased.

If you don't use a great deal of it, try not to buy your fats in large containers. This way you won't be exposing a large quantity to the air after you've opened it, to grow old and possibly rancid, before you can use it all up. Once opened, it is an excellent idea to refrigerate cooking fats. If it turns cloudy or solid, the fat is still perfectly usable and will return to its normal liquid, clear state after it has warmed to room temperature. Left at room temperatures, opened bottles of cooking oils can begin to rancid in anywhere from a week to a couple of months, though it may take several more months to reach such a point of rancidity that it can be smelled.

Darker colored oils have more flavor than paler colored; the agents that contribute to that flavor and color also contribute to faster rancidity. For maximum shelf life buy paler colored oils.

If you want to look into the process of adding your own preservatives to your stored oils, here is a site that presents more information and tells you how to add antioxidants to your oils to store them longer.

THE BEST SOLUTION If you have no particular problem with using it, the culinary fat with the most shelf life as it comes from the store is hydrogenated shortening in its unopened metal or metal lined can. The brand most familiar in the U.S. is probably Crisco (tm), but there are many others. Solid shortening is usually composed of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, but there are some that also contain animal fats. Some brands will also contain anti-oxidant preservatives as well. All other conditions being equal, those with preservatives will have a longer shelf life than those without. It is not possible to say for sure, but it is reasonable to expect an unopened metal can of shortening to have a shelf life of eight to ten years if kept reasonably cool, especially if it has preservatives in it.

I have found that shortening in a cool, dry and dark place keeps a very long time. It would give us enough fats in our diets for our digestive systems to function properly.

ALTERNATIVES Another solution is to store Tuna packed in oil instead of water. Many people avoid this because first, they believe it is not as healthy and second, they're concerned about a shortened shelf life because of the oil. You will have to weigh your personal situation and decide which option is the best for you. I’ve had very good luck storing shortening for a long time. Oil, does go rancid fairly quickly and I used to always buy it in gallon containers but have found that it is safer and lasts longer to buy it in smaller containers when I’m not using it very quickly.

Also remember that other items you may wish to store, such as salad dressings and peanut butter also contain some oils and may also go rancid quickly if not stored properly.

This is a good time to emphasize the importance of a cool, dry and if possible, dark storage room or area for your long term storage items. Many things will store longer than you plan if kept in a cool dry place without constant exposure to light.

Using tortillas made with shortening is a good way to incorporate oil into your diets as well as being an easy and quick meal that can be filled with anything. Authentic Mexican tortillas are made with lard. If you want a truly authentic flavor, you should use lard, too. However, shortening works just fine making tortillas a great storage food.

Homemade Tortillas
3 C. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 C. shortening (or lard)
3/4 C. HOT water (as hot as you can handle it)
Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl, and then cut the shortening in with a pastry cutter or with 2 knives. The mixture should look crumbly. If it’s not crumbly, and more resembles flour, you need to add a bit more shortening. Add the hot water and mix with your hands or a fork. Press against the sides of the bowl to pick up all of the dough. If it’s sticking to the sides, you need to add a bit more flour. You should have a nice moist dough that can be formed into a ball. Form the dough into 18 balls, and then let them rest, covered with a damp kitchen towel, for an hour. Lightly flour your working surface, coat your rolling pin with flour, and roll out a dough ball until paper thin. It need not be perfectly round. Heat a frying pan over medium heat, and place the tortilla in the pan. Let it cook until it starts to bubble up, about a minute, then flip it over. Let it cook another minute or so, and place it in between two kitchen towels. Continue process with the remaining balls of dough, and stack them all in between the two towels. Store them in a large Ziploc bag in the fridge to keep them soft. If they do get a bit hard, all it takes is a few seconds in the microwave or in a hot pan on the stove to make them soft and pliable again.

For food storage friendly fillings try any combination of the following fillings: beef TVP, black beans, chili, sprouts, fresh or canned tomatoes or peppers. Try canned chicken mixed with barbecue sauce and topped with sprouts or your favorite beans. Any fresh vegetables, sautéed until tender can be topped with your favorite sauce or seasoning and wrapped in a tortilla. Even pie fillings or thickened fruit can be wrapped or rolled in a tortilla, baked or fried and glazed for a fun dessert alternative.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Old-Fashioned Christmas Candy

When my father was 9 years old, his parents divorced and a few years later, he went to live with an uncle. Actually he lived in an old shed or barn that had a cot and an old stove to keep him warm (I’m using the word “warm” very lightly here). He had a pretty rough growing-up time. However, he would sometimes babysit his cousins and he would make homemade candy as a treat for them. He became very proficient at making fudge, caramels, taffy and other treats. They always looked forward to having him make candy for them and talk about it still today.

As a little girl growing up on the farm, we traveled to town no more than once a week to get groceries. We had milk cows and sometimes chickens; we grew potatoes, hay and wheat, raised beef cattle and had a large vegetable garden as well as a few fruit trees. We had our own milk, eggs and cream, meat, potatoes, vegetables and fruit. We seldom bought bread, cookies or any treats that weren’t homemade. It was an awesome life. We didn’t really have to depend on anyone else for our living. We never wanted for anything, though by today’s standards we didn’t have much.

One of my most fond memories was of my dad making fudge. Not the new mix-it-up-pour-it-in-the-pan-and-you’re-done kind of fudge but old fashioned cook-it-and-beat-it-till-your-arm-feels-like-it-will-fall-off kind of fudge. It was so good. I remember as a little girl, standing and watching him beat and beat the fudge and watching (not always patiently) for it to turn, then waiting for it to set up so we could cut it. We always got to lick the spoon and the pan though and there was nothing better.

As I was making a list of goodies I want to make and share with friends and neighbors this year, I began reflecting on the good times and all the good food (homemade) we had growing up and all the memories it left me with. These memories are the things that really last a lifetime. I don’t remember many gifts I got for Christmas, but I remember making fudge and other candy to give away, singing around the piano, playing games and just the time we spent together.

I started going through my old recipe box looking for recipes for what I call the “Old Fashioned Christmas Candies” and thinking about all the memories they left behind. I’m sharing those here today. If you’ve never pulled taffy with your kids or let them help you make tootsie rolls, or lick the beaters and spoons when you make divinity, you’ll find it’s worth all the mess and extra time to do it. Who knows what they’ll remember when you’re gone!

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Fudge
3 c. granulated sugar
2/3 c. unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 c. milk
1/4 t. salt
1/4 c. butter
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1 1/2 c. toasted chopped walnuts* (optional)
In a heavy 4-qt. saucepan over medium heat combine sugar, cocoa, milk, and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Continue cooking, not stirring, until mixture reaches 235° on a candy thermometer, or until it reaches soft ball stage**. Remove from heat; stir in butter and vanilla. Let stand to cool for about 1 hour, until mixture comes to room temperature. With a wooden spoon, beat until fudge thickens and loses its gloss. Stir in toasted walnuts and spoon into a buttered 8-inch square pan. Cool completely then cut into 1” squares. Makes about 64 pieces. *To toast nuts, spread out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast in a 350° oven, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes. Or, toast in an ungreased skillet over medium heat, stirring, until golden brown and aromatic. **To Test for Soft Ball Stage: A small amount of syrup dropped into chilled water forms a ball, but is soft enough to flatten when picked up with fingers (234° to 240°).

2 ½ c. sugar
½ c. light Karo
½ c. water
2 egg whites, beaten stiff
Beat egg whites. Cook sugar, Karo and water to soft ball stage (234º) stirring ONLY until sugar dissolves. Add 1/3 of the syrup to stiff beaten whites beating at high speed while adding. Cook remaining syrup to hard ball stage (248º). Slow add to egg white mixture. Add vanilla, and mix in then beat by hand about 5 minutes or till candy holds its shape. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper. If desired, add ½ c. nuts before dropping. Y: about 50

Grandma’s Mexican Fudge
3 c. sugar
1 c. milk
Pinch salt
½ cube butter
¼ c. water
1 c. nuts
Grated peel from ½ orange
Caramelize 1 c. sugar in heavy skillet. Thin and dissolve in 1 c. milk and ¼ c. water. Add remaining sugar and cook to softball stage. (240º) Add rest of ingredients. Do not stir. Cool to lukewarm (130º) and beat till creamy. Nuts may be added at the last minute.

Old Fashioned Caramels
4 1/4 c. granulated sugar
6 c. (3 pints) light cream, divided
2 1/4 c. light corn syrup
2 t. vanilla extract
1 c. chopped nuts (optional)
Line a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan with lightly buttered aluminum foil. Set aside. Combine sugar and 2 c. (1 pint) of the cream in a large, heavy cooking pot and cook over medium low heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, cover with a lid briefly to get any sugar crystals off the sides of the pan, or wash down sides of pan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Add the corn syrup and cook to the soft ball stage (240°) or until a small amount dropped into cold water forms a soft ball that flattens when removed from the water. Add another 2 c. of cream; continue to cook and stir until the soft ball stage is reached again. Add remaining 2 c. cream; cook and stir until the soft ball stage is reached again. (Each cooking stage takes about 20 to 25 minutes and can burn easily, so keep stirring). Remove from heat and add the vanilla and pecans (if desired). Pour into prepared pan. Cool completely. Invert pan; peel off foil and cut into 1” pieces. Wrap pieces individually in waxed paper or plastic wrap. Store in covered container at room temperature. Makes about 9 dozen pieces.

Butterscotch Patties
½ c. brown sugar
½ c. granulated sugar
3 T. light Karo
3 T. heavy cream
¼ c. water
¼ c. butter
¼ t. salt
1 t. vanilla
Thoroughly combine sugars, Karo, cream and water. Cook, stirring till sugars dissolve to very hard ball stage (260º). Add butter and cook to light crack stage (270º). Remove from heat and add salt and vanilla. Drop from teaspoon to greased pan. Y: 18 -1” disks. Cool.

Chocolate Orange Sticks
1 pkg. powdered fruit pectin
½ t. soda
¾ c. cold water
1 c. light Karo
1 c. sugar
2 t. orange extract
Orange food coloring
Mix pectin, water and soda in medium saucepan until foamy. Stir sugar and Karo till well blended in large saucepan. Put both saucepans over high heat and cook, stirring alternately till the foam is gone from pectin and sugar mixture boils rapidly for about 5 minutes. Pour pectin into boiling sugar mixture in a thin stream stirring constantly for 1 minute longer. Remove saucepan from heat. Stir in extract and coloring. Pour mixture immediately into buttered pan and let cool for about 8 hours or until candy cools. Cut candy into strips with a knife dipped in warm water. Dip in chocolate. For Gumdrops: omit orange flavoring and add ½ t. oil of cinnamon or cherry or any other desired flavor. Cut into ¾” squares and roll in granulated sugar.

Tootsie Rolls
1 c. honey
½ c. chocolate powder (like Nestlé’s quick)
1 c. instant powdered milk
1 t. vanilla
Cook honey to hard ball stage (255º) Remove from heat; stir in chocolate and vanilla, then add powdered milk and blend well. Pour onto greased cookie sheet until cool enough to handle. Form into balls and roll into a rope the size of a pencil. Cut into bite sized pieces and wrap in waxed paper.

Vinegar Taffy
3 c. sugar
½ c. white vinegar
2 T. butter
½ c. water
Boil till mixture turns brittle when dropped into a cup of cold water. Pour onto buttered platter. Cool and add 1 t. vanilla (white) and pull when cool enough to handle

Honey Taffy
2 c. honey
2 c. sugar
2/3 c. water
Boil to hard crack stage. Add ½ t. salt, and then remove from heat. Pour onto buttered pan. When cool enough to handle, stretch with buttered hands.

Jell-O Popcorn Balls
1 small pkg. jell-o
½ c. sugar
1 c. Karo syrup
Bring sugar & syrup to a boil. Set off heat & stir in Jell-o. Pour over warm popcorn. Covers about a gallon of popped corn.

Peanut Brittle
3 c. sugar
1 ½ c. Karo syrup
1 c. water
1 lb. raw peanuts
2 T. butter
½ t. salt
1 t. soda
1 t. vanilla
Cook sugar, Karo and water together till 232º. Stir in peanuts and cook to 312º. Remove from heat and put in butter and stir till it melts. Mix salt and soda. Add immediately with vanilla to hot mixture. Pour onto greased cookie sheet. Run a knife under it and flip it over once so peanuts aren’t on top of mixture.

Puffed Wheat Balls
12 c. puffed wheat cereal
2 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. corn syrup
2 T. butter or margarine
1 c. evaporated milk
1/3 c. sugar
Place cereal in large bowl and set aside. In heavy saucepan, bring brown sugar and corn syrup to a boil. Add butter. Combine evaporated milk and sugar and add to boiling mixture and continue cooking until a soft ball forms when liquid is dropped in cold water (240º on candy thermometer.) Pour over cereal and stir to coat. Shape into 2” palls. Y: about 3 dozen.

Marshmallow Rice Puffs (Easy)
6 c. Rice puffs
50 large or 5 c. mini marshmallows
1 square butter or margarine
1 t. vanilla
Melt butter and marshmallows. Add rice puffs and let set.

Soak 2 T. Knox gelatin in ¾ c. cold water for 5 minutes. Then set over a pan of hot water to dissolve thoroughly. Boil together 2 c. sugar and ¾ c. boiling water, till it spins a thread. Pour sugar mixture over 2 beaten eggs whites beating rapidly as you pour. Beat with mixer and add 1 T. vanilla and few drops food coloring if desired. When it begins to thicken like divinity, add dissolved gelatin and beat with mixer for 20 minutes. (Best to use a Mixmaster or Kitchen aid) Wet refrigerator trays with cold water and pour mixture into trays. Let stand in fridge for 10 minutes or till firm. Cut into squares and roll in chopped nuts, cookie crumbs, powdered sugar, coconut or dip in chocolate.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Flax Seed: A great food storage item

When I buy something that I think I really need these days, I think twice about whether I could use it in an emergency. That doesn’t mean I go without things I want or need but it means that I always think, “Would this be beneficial in an emergency?” Let me give you an example.

In trying to prepare the things I think my family might need in a time of crisis or with limited resources, I think about how I would do different things. I’ve been using a lot of whole grains lately, and experimenting with different ways of doing things. I read on several blogs how other people do things. One of the big things these days is a small coffee grinder for things like milling flax seed, spices, grains, nuts and etc. I dreamed of being able to walk right into a store and find a non-electric one. It didn’t happen. But with the gift certificate my daughter gave me for my birthday, I got a marble Mortar and Pestle. I love experimenting with it. I can grind up flax seed and all kinds of fun things.

Most grain grinders can't grind flax seed due to it's high oil content. It will gum them up. You can blend them in your blender, food processor, or use a coffee grinder. You may want to find a small grinder which you only use for flaxseed. Try adding flax seed to bread, pancakes, and muffins; it gives them a unique taste. Roasting flax seed and using in bread and granola is also good.

Try adding ground flax seed to homemade bread; it does come out nicer – lighter and moister. Grind just enough to last a couple weeks, and keep it in the refrigerator, along with the whole seeds since oil rich foods tend to go rancid if not refrigerated. Add it to all sorts of baked goods (muffins, cookies, etc.) If you use an excess of whole flax seeds, they may have a laxative effect on you since the seeds are rather sturdy little things to digest. Maybe you want that, maybe you don't. Good to be aware of it. Start with a little and experiment. It is a great addition to your diet to add a little variety. In reading about Flax Seed, I read what one lady said, “I have coronary issues, so I add about 1/4 -1/2 cup flax seed to many of my recipes. It is loaded with those wonderful omega 3's I need for a healthy heart!”

I’m fascinated with the many recipes I’ve found lately that call for flax seed as an egg substitute. Also many recipes using whole grains call for whole flax seed as an ingredient.

Flax seed is high in most of the B vitamins, magnesium, and manganese, but there are three additional nutrient groups which flax seed has in abundance, and each has many benefits.

Flax Seed is Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids which are a key force against inflammation in our bodies. Mounting evidence shows that inflammation plays a part in many chronic diseases including heart disease, arthritis, asthma, diabetes, and even some cancers. This inflammation is enhanced by having too little Omega-3 intake. Flax seed can be a real help.

Flax Seed is High in Fiber: You can’t find a food higher in fiber - both soluble and insoluble - than flax. This fiber is probably mainly responsible for the cholesterol-lowering effects of flax. Fiber in the diet also helps stabilize blood sugar, and, of course, promotes proper functioning of the intestines.

Flax seed is high in phytochemicals, including many antioxidants. It is perhaps our best source of lignans, which convert in our intestines to substances that tend to balance female hormones. There is evidence that lignans may promote fertility, reduce peri-menopausal symptoms, and possibly help prevent breast cancer. In addition, lignans may help prevent Type 2 diabetes.

However, flax seeds need to be ground to make the nutrients available (otherwise they just “pass through”) and the flax seed oil alone contains neither the fiber nor the phytochemicals of whole flax seed meal.

Flax seeds store well unless they are milled, then they need to be used up quickly. Because of the oil in flax seeds, they will go rancid quickly.

Flax seeds are found in many granolas, whole grain breads, crackers and cereals. You can throw some in a blender with a protein drink or a smoothie. Stir some into you yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit. Throw some into your pancake or muffin batter (you may need a little extra water) or use it when you make quick breads. Flax seed can be found in health stores or in your local grocery store by the oat bran and other "hot" cereals. If you buy it by the pound it is very inexpensive.

Storing powdered eggs is a good option for food storage but they can be a little pricey. Being able to substitute the inexpensive flaxseed is an inexpensive and healthy alternative. Because of the nutty flavor, flax seed substitution is generally only used in baking: breads, pancakes, waffles, cookies, etc.

You can also use milled flaxseed as an oil substitute (3T milled flaxseed = 1T fat or oil). It is just like using tried it yet pureed beans as an oil substitute, and both work well (1 part pureed beans = 1 part oil).

Flax Seed as an Egg substitute
1 T. milled (ground) flax seed
3 T. of water (amount of water may vary per recipe, but this is a pretty basic measurement).
Stir together and then let it sit for a few minutes so it can become gelatinous. Add to your recipe instead of the eggs.
Note: Flax seed is like wheat flour in that after it is milled (ground) it needs to be stored in the fridge. So after you open a box of milled flax seed, stick it in your fridge. Actually whole seeds can be stored in the pantry until ground.

Here are some recipes which call for flax seed. Try any of your own recipes using whole flax as an addition to the grains or mill it and use it in place of eggs or oil and see what you come up with.

Cranberry-Orange Muffins
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 T. orange rind
¾ c. orange juice
2 c. all purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
½ t. baking soda
½ t. salt
½ c. ground flaxseed
¾ c. granulated sugar
1 egg
Preheat oven to 350º. Spray or lightly oil muffin tins. In one bowl combine cranberries, 1/3 cup sugar, orange rind, juice and egg. In separate bowl combine flour, baking powder, soda, salt, ground flax and ¾ cup sugar. Combine cranberry mixture with flour mixture, just until blended. Fill baking tins half to 2/3 full. Bake 10-20 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in centre comes out clean. Remove and cool on rack. Yield: 12 muffins

This makes 2 (12”) pizza crusts
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
4 T. flax meal (ground flax seeds)
2 t.instant yeast
1 t. salt
1 1/3 c. water
1 T. olive oil
1 T. liquid honey
Load ingredients into breadmaker and set for "dough" cycle. Roll out into 2 crusts and place onto pizza pans, sprayed and sprinkled with cornmeal, if desired. Brush dough with olive oil and bake @ 400º for 5 minutes. Spread with desired sauce, and then a bit of cheese, meat and other toppings followed by a bit more cheese. Continue baking until crust is done and cheese is melted.

Two-Hour Buns with Flax Seed
1 T. fast rising instant yeast
4 c. flour
1/3 c. ground flax seed
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 c. lukewarm water
In a bowl, mix yeast, 2 cups flour and ground flax. In a large bowl, beat sugar, eggs and salt. Add water and stir. Add flour mixture to the liquid and beat until well blended. Add remaining flour as needed and knead well. Let rise 15 minutes. Punch down and let rise again for 15 minutes. Punch down and form into buns. Place on greased baking sheet allowing 2” between buns. Let rise one hour. Preheat oven to 350º; Bake 20 minutes. Remove and cool on a rack. Yield: 2 dozen 4” buns

Healthy Flax Seed Bread
This health conscious loaf makes GREAT toast & awesome sandwiches!
1 1/3 c. Skim milk
2 T. Olive oil
2 T. Blackstrap Molasses
1 1/2 t. salt
2 c. Whole wheat flour
1 1/4 c. white flour
1/4 c. flax seeds
1 1/2 t. yeast
Mix in your bread machine or as you would regular bread. variations: (These are excellent, and can be added on top of the flour, or wherever..!
1) add 2 Tsp. caraway seed
2) 1/3 cup dried cranberries
3) 2 TBSP wheat germ / or / cornmeal
This is the BEST brown bread recipe I have found.

Healthy Oatmeal Mix
3 2/3 cups of old fashioned oatmeal
1/3 cup ground flax seed (your body absorbs more nutrients when the flax seed is ground)
1 cup wheat germ
1 cup quinoa
Mix the ingredients in an air tight container.
To cook the oatmeal, mix 1/3 cup of oatmeal mix to 2/3 cup of water in a large microwave safe bowl. (It puffs as it cooks.) Cook on medium power for 5-6 min. Stir and enjoy. You can also cook on your stovetop. This is a great basic recipe. Eat plain with a little salt and butter, or add a little cinnamon and brown sugar, dried fruit or berries. Y: 18 servings

Lemon-Glazed Buttermilk Blueberry Muffins
Recipe from
Makes 6 -12 muffins
2 ½ c. flour
1 ½ t. baking powder
½ t. baking soda
½ c. sugar
¼ t. salt
2 eggs, beaten*
1 c. buttermilk*
½ c. melted butter or 1/2 cup vegetable oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1 t. vanilla
1 ½ c. blueberries
For the glaze:
½ c. powdered sugar
3 T. lemon juice
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Sift dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk eggs, buttermilk, butter or oil, lemon juice and vanilla. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in liquid ingredients, mixing quickly. Fold in blueberries. Spoon batter into greased muffin cups, almost to the top of each cup, and bake for 20 -30 minutes, or until golden brown. Wait a few minutes and then transfer muffins to a wire rack to cool. In a small bowl, whisk powdered sugar and lemon juice until it is the consistency of thin icing. Brush each muffin top with about 1 tsp. of the glaze.
*Tip: For a low-fat, low-cholesterol muffin with the same great flavor, try these tips...Instead of buttermilk, substitute 1 c. almond, rice or soy milk. **Instead of egg, make a flax seed "egg." Use 1 T. milled flax seed and 3 T. water. Mix and then let sit for 10 minutes or so (it fluffs), and add to mixture. You can use this as a substitute for eggs in just about any dish

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Short term food storage recipe #9 - Sweet and Sour Chicken over rice or noodles

How are you coming on your 3 month meal supply or your short term food storage as we all lovingly call it? I struggle with it a bit because I buy ingredients, use them and don’t replace them. Rotating and replacing used food items is a must. I don’t have any problem coming up with several good dinner recipes that I want to include in my rotation; I have several of my own and have found many more in the books, “Dinner is in the Jar”, It’s in the bag”, and also “I can’t believe it’s food storage”. Girlfriends on the go” is another great book as is “Dinner is Ready”. If you are interested in one of these books, hurry and talk to Santa before it’s too late to get your requests in.

I’ve talked before about how I love cookbooks. Lots of cookbooks. They make me happy. I love looking at food blogs and more often than not, I find a recipe that sounds really good and can be altered to become a food storage recipe or more correctly a “short term food storage” recipe.

I also find it is easier to think of what I consider “cold weather” recipes for my short term food storage than other recipes. Maybe because soups and stews are more easily adaptable.

If you struggle like I do with your short term food storage, start with 5 of your favorite recipes that can be adapted to food storage and calculate how many ingredients you need to make them each 5 times. Make a list and try to have those ingredients on your pantry shelves by January 1, 2011 (can you believe that is only 1 month?). Then, when we make our New Year’s Resolutions we can start working on more recipes.

Here is one of my favorite quick and easy recipes that adapts well to food storage. I wouldn’t mind having this one a few times a month. Sure beats pasta with bottled pasta sauce 3 times a week! Use fresh ingredients when available but make sure you have the alternate storage items on hand also.

Sweet and Sour Chicken
2-3 c. cooked diced chicken (1 can or bottled chicken breast meat)
4 T. cornstarch
1 t. salt
½ c. brown sugar
½ c. vinegar
1 t. dried onion
2 c. pineapple juice (16 ounces juice)
2 T. soy sauce
1 c. finely diced green pepper (use reconstituted dry pepper if fresh is not available)
2 large cans pineapple chunks
Combine cornstarch, salt, brown sugar, vinegar and pineapple juice. Cook until thickened. Add chicken, green pepper and pineapple chunks. Serve over hot rice or noodles.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Everything you always wanted to know about Pinto Beans....and then some!

When you’re cooking on a budget, beans are a staple. They’re inexpensive, versatile, and tasty. Pinto beans are a great way to start experimenting with different types of beans and different recipes. Here are some pinto bean facts and information:
Appearance : Pinto beans have a beige background strewn with reddish brown splashes of color. When cooked, their colored splotches disappear, and they become a beautiful pink color.
Nutrition: Pinto beans are a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber and they prevent blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly after a meal. They are good for people with diabetes, insulin resistance or hypoglycemia. Pinto beans provide virtually fat-free, high quality protein. They are also an excellent source of molybdenum, a very good source of fiber, foliate and manganese, and a good source of protein and vitamin B1 as well as the minerals phosphorus, iron, magnesium, potassium, and copper.

Pinto beans are rich in fiber. One cup cooked pintos provide 58.8% of the recommended daily intake for fiber. Soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance in the digestive tract that combines with bile (which contains cholesterol) and ferries it out of the body. Research has shown that this fiber helps prevent digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulitis. Certain phytonutrients—shown to be helpful in prevention of some cancers, including stomach cancer—are also provided in important amounts by pinto beans.

Pinto beans have also been shown to lower your risk of heart attack. They give you energy to burn while they stabilize your blood sugar. They also increase your energy by helping to replenish your iron stores and help prevent iron deficiency, especially in women. The added bonus is that they are low in calories and fat free, unlike other iron sources. They are an excellent anti oxidant and have been shown to improve and help maintain your memory because they are a good source of thiamin.

Sorting: Before washing pinto beans, sort beans to check for small stones, debris or damaged beans. Then, place the beans in a strainer, rinsing them thoroughly under cool running water.

Soaking: To shorten cooking time and make them easier to digest, pinto beans should be presoaked (presoaking has been found to reduce the sugars associated with causing flatulence.) There are two basic methods for presoaking. For each, put beans in a saucepan with two to three cups of water per cup of beans.

The first method is to boil the beans for 2 minutes, take the pan off the heat, cover and allow to stand for 2 hours. Drain soaking liquid and rinse beans with clean water before cooking. Tests show no important amounts of essential nutrients are lost when the soaking and cooking waters are discarded.

The second method is to simply soak the beans in water for eight hours or overnight. Drain the soaking liquid and rinse the beans with clean water before cooking.

Cooking: Add 3 cups of fresh water or broth for each cup of dried beans. The liquid should be about 1-2” above the top of the beans. Bring beans to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, partially covering the pot. If any foam develops, simply skim it off during the simmering process. Pinto beans generally take about 1-1 ½ hours to become tender using this method. Do not add any seasonings that are salty or acidic until after beans have been cooked; adding them earlier will make the beans tough and greatly increase the cooking time. Pinto beans can also be cooked in a pressure cooker where they take about one-half hour to prepare.

-To prevent skins from bursting, simmer gently and stir as little as possible.
-Increase cooking time in high altitude and hard water areas.
-Cook the full contents of smaller packages such as the one pound size. Refrigerate or freeze (quick freeze on cookie sheet and store in baggies) leftover cooked beans;
-Store dry beans in airtight glass or metal containers in a cool place.
-Add 1/8th to 1/4th teaspoon of baking soda per cup of beans to shorten cooking time in hard water or use distilled water. Excess soda will cause an undesirable flavor and loss of nutrients.
-A t. of sugar and a clove of garlic enhance the flavor of plain, cooked pinto beans.
-If a recipe calls for tomatoes, lemon juice, wine or vinegar, add when beans are almost tender; acid delays softening.

Measuring beans:
One 15-oz. can pinto beans = 1 ½ c. cooked beans, drained or ½ c. dried beans uncooked
One lb. dry beans = 6 cups cooked beans, drained.
One lb. dry beans = 2 cups dry beans.
One cup dry beans = 3 cups cooked beans, drained.

Pinto beans are very often used in chili in place of kidney beans. Rice and beans are a popular Texas dish. Don’t forget baked beans and even bean salad. Fudge and pie are also made with Pinto beans. Another common use of pinto beans is to make homemade refried beans. There is no comparison between the homemade and the canned beans. Many years ago, a friend of mine who does authentic Mexican cooking, came to my house, taught me how to make homemade refried beans and then used the beans for tostados. They were so good. I learned a lot about beans that night. She told me that the more you eat beans, the more your system gets used to them and the less they bother you. She told me that she always fed her children refried beans or some other beans in a tortilla before school because they didn’t get hungry and stayed healthier during the cold winter months. Here is the recipe for the beans and the tostados.

Homemade refried beans
Here is what you need:
2 lbs. dried pinto beans
Bacon, if desired (not necessary but adds a nice flavor)
Oil (not Olive oil), lard, bacon grease, shortening or butter
1 packet chili seasoning mix or chili powder
2 cloves garlic (optional according to your taste)
½ - 1 medium onion, finely diced (Optional)
Salt to taste
Shredded cheese (optional)
Cooking liquid from beans
In a large pot (about 4 ½ quarts) put 3 - 4 c. of dried, sorted and well-rinsed pinto beans. Soak them in 2-3x that amount water to cover overnight (or use quick soak method above). Drain and rinse beans and put them in the pot and cover them with water to about 2” above the beans. Then add 3 strips of bacon, and onion if desired. Bring beans to a boil then turn down to a simmer and simmer about 3 hours or until tender. Stir them every so often and add more water as needed. (Beans can also be cooked in the crock pot for 6-8 hours on low or until tender.) At about the 2 ½ hour mark, add salt to taste... about 1 tsp. Put less than you think you need as you can always add more later. When the beans are done, remove the pot from the heat and set it aside. Now get a large skillet and heat about 1-3 Tbsp. of canola oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. You can use lard if you like to, or bacon grease or shortening or even a little vegetable oil. Olive oil will change the taste of the beans. If desired, at this point sauté minced or pressed garlic until fragrant. Add the beans with a slotted spoon and about 1/4 c. of the bean liquid. Reserve the remaining liquid in case you need more. Don't overfill the pan, you can do this in batches if you need to or freeze any extra beans and liquid for later use. With a potato masher, mash the beans until they are of desired consistency, adding more bean liquid if needed. Stir well. Add 1 packet chili seasoning mix, or chili powder. You can also add shredded cheddar cheese and stir until mixed well, if you want to. Allow to cool a bit then stir again, if they seem too dry add more liquid and stir again. Add more liquid than you think you need because they will thicken a lot. Once you’ve incorporated all of your beans, taste the beans, add more salt if needed. Just keep adding salt and tasting until they are just right. If they seem too liquid, just keep cooking them and stirring them, the liquid will dry up as they cook. Leftovers can be frozen and reheated in the microwave. You can add a good healthy handful or two of cheese and just dust the top with chili powder or season according to your taste. Stir well before serving and add more cheese on top if you'd like. If you want to freeze some of the beans, freeze the beans in the liquid in freezer bags then thaw them and mash them when you are ready to make the refried beans. Serve them warm with some fresh homemade tortillas and rice you’ve got a really yummy meal!

Corn tortillas
Refried Beans
Taco Meat – browned, drained and seasoned ground beef, seasoned as desired
Chopped onions mixes with oregano leaves
Grated cheese
Shredded Lettuce
Chopped Tomatoes
Sliced lives, if desired
Salsa (for a thinner taco sauce mix salsa with tomato sauce and heat through
Sour cream (can thin with milk for a thinner sauce)
Fry tortillas on both sides in hot oil until crisp and drain on paper towels. Spread flat shells with heated refried beans, taco meat, chopped onion mixture, grated cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and olives. Top with salsa, taco sauce and thinned sour cream if desired. A bit messy to eat but delicious!!!

Another idea for refried beans if you don’t have or like corn or flour tortillas, is this recipe for
Mexican Cornbread Tortillas:
1- Package cornbread mix (normally calls for ¾ cup of milk, instead use 1 cup Milk)
1 c, milk
½ cup of grated longhorn cheese
1 jalapeño pepper finely chopped
3 - 4 T. onion finely chopped.
Mix all together, let chill a few minutes. Put a well greased griddle over medium heat; pour cornbread mixture in and cook 4 or 5 minutes on each side. Cut each one in pie like slices now serve with beans or any desired toppings. This is a thick corn tortilla that tastes like cornbread.

Texas Pinto Beans
1 pound dry pinto beans
1 (29 ounce) can reduced sodium chicken broth
1 large onion, chopped
1 fresh jalapeno pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup green salsa 1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper water, if needed
Place the pinto beans in a large pot, and pour in the chicken broth. Stir in onion, jalapeno, garlic, salsa, cumin, and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and continue cooking 2 hours, stirring often, until beans are tender. Add water as needed to keep the beans moist.

Chuck Wagon Chow
1 pound beef chuck or round cut in 1 inch cubes
2 tablespoons chili powder
11/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoons salad oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 4-ounce can chopped green chile
2 cups cooked and rinsed pinto beans
1 can whole kernel corn
Sprinkle beef cubes with chili powder, salt and pepper. Slowly brown the meat and garlic in the salad oil in a large frying pan. Add onions and green chili and cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Stir often. Drain pinto beans and corn; add liquid to meat mixture; cover; simmer 45 minutes or until meat is tender. Add pinto beans and corn; cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Stir often

Baked (Pinto) Beans
3 c. dry pinto beans
1 medium size onion
3 c. water or unsalted chicken stock
2 level t. salt
1 heaping t. prepared mustard
1/4 t. black pepper
1 t. Worchestershire sauce
1/3 c. molasses
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/8 lb. bacon or salt pork
Cook soaked beans on low heat until tender. Drain and rinse beans. Slice onion in bottom of bean pot and add drained beans. Mix remaining ingredients, except meat, with water or chicken stock and pour over beans. Cut meat into small pieces and stir carefully into bean mixture. Place in 300° F oven and bake for 2 1/2 hours; uncover for the last half hour. Add water if necessary.

Pinto Bean Salad
2 c.s cooked and rinsed pinto beans
1/2 c. diced celery
3 green chile peppers (canned or fresh)
2 medium cucumber pickles, chopped
1/2 small onion chopped
2 T. prepared mustard -
4 T. canned milk or cream
Mix all ingredients thoroughly except mustard and cream. Beat mustard and cream together. Add to the bean mixture. Serve on lettuce. Sprinkle top with red chile powder.

Another common use of Pinto beans if to make fudge. I’m including the recipe I used and two others. I promise you can’t tell there are beans in this fudge. I made it, divided into several portions and added different ingredients for different tastes. I added raisins to one portion, mini marshmallows and chopped pecans to another, chopped dried cherries for cherry-chocolate fudge, and cashews for still another variety. Try this and you’ll be amazed that it really has beans in it.

Pinto Bean Fudge
1 c. warm cooked pinto beans
¾ c. melted butter or margarine
¾ c. cocoa
1 T. vanilla
2 lbs. powdered sugar (about 7 ½ c.)
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
Mash or sieve beans until very smooth. (A baby food grinder would work perfect for this) Add melted butter or margarine, cocoa and vanilla. Mix in powdered sugar gradually. Put on wax paper and knead sugar in until well mixed and not sticky anymore. Add nuts if desired. Press into a 9x13” non-stick pan. Store in the refrigerator.

Pinto Bean Fudge
1 cup Pinto beans, drained and mashed into a thick paste
¼-½ c. milk (or ¼ c. evaporated milk – 1 ½ T. Dry powdered milk + ¼ c. water)
6 T. Butter
6 oz. Unsweetened chocolate
1 T. Vanilla
1 c. of chopped pecans (optional)
2 lb Powdered sugar
Melt chocolate and butter together. Mix mashed pinto beans mixed with milk. Add chocolate and butter mixture and blend well. Add 1 tablespoon vanilla. Stir until slightly thickened. Gradually work in the powdered sugar (easier to knead in by hand) and pecans. Raisins (optional). Spread in buttered pan. Refrigerate.

Pinto Bean Fudge (with dry powdered milk)
1 c. soft cooked pinto beans (if using canned, boil first)
2/3 c. non-instant powdered milk
1 T. vanilla
3 T. cocoa
¾ cube butter
1 ½ - 1 ¾ c. powdered sugar
1 c. chopped nuts or raisins (optional)
Mash beans until smooth. Stir in milk, cocoa and vanilla. Combine with soft butter and stir until smooth. Stir in powdered sugar until well blended and firm. Add nuts or raisins if desired. Spread on buttered pan and cut into squares. Stays well in refrigerator for a long time.

Here are a couple of pie recipes. Give these a try and see what you think.

Mock Pumpkin Pie
2 cups pinto bean puree*
3 eggs
1 12-oz. can evaporated milk
1 c. sugar
3/4 t. salt
1 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. ground ginger
1/4 t. ground cloves
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
1 (9”) unbaked pie shell
*Use tender cooked, unseasoned pinto beans. Rinse well and puree 2 cups beans with 1/4 to 1/2 cup water or chicken stock in a blender until smooth. Scrap down sides occasionally. Mix remaining ingredients in order given. Pour into pie shell. Bake in preheated 425° oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350° degrees and continue baking for 45 minutes or until knife inserted in center of pie filling comes out clean. Cool. Garnish with whipped cream, if desired.

These 2 recipes are both pecan pie knock-off’s. Are you brave? Try the one you think looks the best to you. You never know, it may be your new favorite!!

Pinto Bean Pie
This pie tastes like Pecan pie and can be served with whipped cream, non-dairy whipped topping or a scoop of ice cream.
1 c. of mashed Pinto beans
½ c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar
½ c. butter
2 eggs, beaten
Unbaked pie shell
Note: 1 ½ c. cooked beans equals about 1 c., mashed.
Blend sugars, eggs and butter until creamy. Add pinto beans and blend well. Pour into 9” unbaked shell. Bake at 375º for 20 minutes, then at 350º for an additional 25 minutes or until inserted knife comes out clean.

Grandma’s Pinto Bean Pecan Pie
½ c. hot pinto beans
½ c. melted butter
1 t. vanilla
1 ½ c. sugar
½ c. coconut
2 eggs
1 (9”) unbaked pie shell
Heat the beans till they are hot – not boiling. Drain juice from beans and mash. Add remaining ingredients. Mix well. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake at 350° for 1 hour.
Serving as you would pecan pie. NOTE: This is so much like a pecan pie you will be surprised.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Dry Pack Canning at Home: A Tutorial

I posted this information when I first started this blog but have had a couple of request to post it again along with answering some questions that I have been asked about the Mylar bags, oxygen absorbers and other miscellaneous information. I’ll try to answer those questions and explain the method and reasoning behind dry pack canning.

An iron
Mylar Bags
Oxygen absorbers
A board to iron on – mine is ¾” thick plywood measuring 10x18” but any piece of wood or wooden surface will work.
Purchase the bags and oxygen absorbers at any food storage supplier or from your local home storage center. They are pretty inexpensive. I believe the bags are 35¢ each and the oxygen absorbers are about 8¢ each. Figuring that I cut the bags in half or sometimes in fourths, they are pretty inexpensive in the long run.

How to:
First, decide on how large of quantities you want to can. Most things that I will use up quickly when I open them, I can about a quart or so at a time. That is about the right amount for a half-size bag. So, measure from side to side of a bag with the opening at the top. Cut in half lengthwise. If you want to can a smaller portion, cut bags evenly in fourths. Leaving the top edge open for filling, iron (medium hot iron – no steam) remaining edges closed using about a ½” seam all around. For a half size bag iron only the long edge and for a fourth size bag iron 2 sides, leaving an opening to fill.

Put food in bags, filling evenly and shaking bag slightly to let food settle into the bag well. Add oxygen absorber, sliding it down into the food so that it will not be in the way of the iron when you iron the bag closed. Lay bag flat on your wood, press excess air from bag and make sure no food is in the top where you will iron. Press iron across top of bag to seal properly, making sure there are no gaps in the seal. It only takes a few seconds to see the bag.

Label each bag as you seal it with the food, date, amount if you wish and any special instructions you want to include. I like to use the labels that I can print out on my computer because they are quick to use and I can add any information I want, such as how to reconstitute the food. You can however just use a permanent marker if you like or if you are canning a large quantity of similar items, label the box or tote you plan to store them in.

Why dry pack canning at home?
A friend asked me why don’t you just take what you want canned to the cannery and do it there? There are several reasons I like doing it at home and here they are:
1) I live about 70 miles one-way from a cannery. It is expensive and necessitates loading up all my food and hauling it to the cannery to dry pack. Not to mention the cost of gas and the fact that it would most likely take a whole day to drive there, do the canning and drive home. Besides lugging everything to and from the car several times.
2) I like being able to dry pack a little or a lot depending on what I have to can. Sometimes I spend several hours catching up on my dry packing and other days I can do what I need to in 15 minutes.
3) I’m more likely to stock up on bulk items and dry pack some when I know it won’t mean an extra trip to the cannery and I can do as little as a cup if I want to.
4) I really like being able to dry pack ingredients for an individual meal and have it on my shelf for when I need it.

Why Mylar bags instead of #10 cans?
I like the cans I really do. They are great and every time I go to the cannery to purchase the Mylar bags, the people there always try to talk me out of it, saying the cans are much better. I realize the cans are great for large quantities and they are insect proof. The Mylar bags have their advantages too. I can dry pack a cup of wheat germ or coconut or whatever without having to fill a can. And, best of all, the Mylar bags are reusable. If you cut just the top off and use the ingredients, you can refill them, add another oxygen absorber and seal them again for more time. The bags are harder to store but if you put them in a Rubbermaid tote or a metal garbage can, that works as a great storage bin.

Advantages of dry packing at home:
If you have a vacuum sealer, that is great. This method uses oxygen absorbers and is meant for longer term storage. If you are doing large quantities of beans, rice or whatever, your best bet may be a dry pack canner. If however, you are like me and dry your own produce and want it to be canned properly, this is a great way to do it.

I love shopping the bulk section of Winco and picking up a little of this or that along the way. Some of these items I won’t store much of, or some things I will store in smaller quantities so I don’t have the disadvantage of having food spoil because I can’t use a full #10 can quickly. However, the large cans I already have on my shelf can now be divided into Mylar bags and resealed into smaller portions once I open them.

I mentioned dry packing meals in the Mylar bags. I have several recipes for soups or sauces that call for dry ingredients that I can now have all assembled and just add liquid or fresh ingredients when I make them up. And a list of the remaining ingredients can be printed on the bag so I don’t have to search for a recipe later.

Below are some recipes for meals you can make and dry pack in mylar bags for quick meal additions to your food storage.

Black Bean Soup
1 lb. dried black beans (2 c.)
1/2 t. black pepper
1 t. dried thyme leaves
1/4 c. dried onions
1 bay leaf
1 t. cumin powder
4 beef bouillon cubes
2 – 8 oz. cans tomato sauce
Put beans in Mylar bag. Put remaining ingredients in a Ziploc bag inside the Mylar bag.
Directions: Wash, sort and soak beans in water overnight. Drain beans and place in large stockpot, add soup seasoning mix and 8 cups water; bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook partially covered for two hours. Add tomato sauce and heat through. Season to taste with salt & pepper. If desired, serve with tortilla chips, sour cream and grated cheese. Sprinkle with fresh green onions if desired. Sprinkle with fresh lime juice or hot sauce in individual bowls if desired.

Vegetable Soup Mix
In a blender combine the following dried vegetables: tomatoes, celery, onion, zucchini, peas, broccoli and carrots, and blend to a powder (enough to equal 1/3 cup).
1 T. cracked wheat
1/4 t. dried parsley
Pinch garlic powder
1 T. fine noodles or instant rice
1/4 t. dried sweet basil
Pinch onion powder
Salt & pepper to taste
Dry pack ingredients in a quarter size Mylar bag and seal. Directions: Add mixture to 2 cups boiling water. Allow to set covered for 5-6 minutes. Serves 1.

Beef & Barley Vegetable Soup Mix
1/2 c. barley
1/2 c. dried split peas
1/2 t. dried basil
1/4 c. dried carrots
3 beef bouillon cubes
1/4 t. ground black pepper
1/4 t. dried oregano
1/4 c. dried onions
1/4 c. dried celery dices (can substitute with fresh)
Additional Ingredients:
7 c. water
1 – 14 oz. can petite diced tomatoes, any flavor
3 stalks celery, diced if not using dried
Dry pack all dry ingredients in Mylar bag, seal and label. Directions for making soup: In large pot, bring water to a boil; add additional ingredients and bring to boil. Simmer for 1½-2 hours or until tender. Add meat of your choice if desired.

Curry Soup Mix
2 c. uncooked rice
1/3 c. chopped walnuts
2 T. salt
1 T. sugar
1 1/2 t. dill weed
1 t. ground coriander
1/2 c. raisins
1/4 c. dried onions
1 T. curry powder
2 t. paprika
1 t. dry mustard
1 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. ground cardamon Put rice in Mylar bag. Combine nuts and raisins in Ziploc bag and put in with rice. Combine remaining ingredients in another Ziploc bag and put in Mylar bag; seal. Directions for soup: put 10 cups water in crock pot or large pot. Add soup mix. cook on medium heat until rice is done. May add 2 cups shredded cooked chicken or canned chicken.

Friendship Soup Mix
½ c. dry split peas
¼ c. pearl barley
¼ c. dried onion
½ c. uncooked long grain rice
½ c. alphabet macaroni or other small macaroni
1/3 c. beef bouillon granules
½ c. dry lentils
2 t. Italian seasoning
Add on:
1 - 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 lb. browned hamburger or canned hamburger
1 – 8 oz. can tomato sauce
Put macaroni in a Ziploc bag. Put remaining ingredients in Mylar bag; add baggie with macaroni and seal. Directions for soup: Add all of the mix except for the macaroni plus 1 (28 oz) can of tomatoes in 3 quarts water. Add browned hamburger, browned with pepper and garlic. Cover and simmer 45 minutes. Add macaroni; cover and simmer for another 20 minutes or until macaroni, peas, lentils and barley are tender. *Note: this is also good with a small can of ham shredded in place of the ground beef.

Minestrone Soup Mix
¼ c. dried split peas
4 beef bouillon cubes
1 t. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 ½ t. salt
½ c. dried kidney beans, sorted
¼ c. dried celery (or use fresh)
½ c. dried carrots
¼ c. dried onions
1 t. dried parsley
½ t. ground pepper
1 c. elbow macaroni
1 lb. Italian sausage (optional)
1 – 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
Put kidney beans in a small baggie. Put macaroni in a small bag. Combine bouillon, basil, oregano, salt, parsley and pepper in a small baggie. Put peas, celery, carrots and onions in Mylar bag. Add bags with macaroni, kidney beans and spices to Mylar bag; seal and label. Directions for soup: Wash and soak beans overnight. In a large stockpot bring 9 c. water to a boil. Add beans, veggies and spices from Mylar bag. If desired add 1 lb. Italian sausage, 2 stalks celery (if not using dry celery), and 1 28-oz can tomatoes; simmer for 1 ½ hours. Add elbow macaroni and simmer for 30 minutes, until beans are tender.

Rainbow Bean Soup
½ c. (or more) of each of the following dried beans:
red beans
great northern beans
Dried peas or yellow split peas
black beans
seasoning packet:
1 T. dried onion
1 T. beef bouillon granules
1 T. dried parsley flakes
1 t. dried basil
1 t. powdered lemonade mix with sugar
3/4 t. chili powder
1/2 t. pepper
1/2 t. oregano
Add-Ons: 1 14 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
Meat of your choice, if desired
Put all dried sorted beans except split peas and lentils, into Mylar bag. Put lentils and split peas into a baggie and put into Mylar bag. Put remaining spices and flavoring into a small baggie and put in Mylar bag; seal Mylar bag and label. Directions for making soup: soak beans overnight, rinse and add them to 4 cups of water. Bring to boil, lower heat; cover and simmer 45 minutes. Add 1can of tomatoes, the split peas and lentils and seasonings. Simmer another 45 minutes to 1 hour until tender, stirring occasionally. Y: 12 cups of soup. *Note: Ground beef, shredded ham or diced cooked chicken may be added to this soup.

Taco Soup
¼ c. dried minced onion
½ t. dried minced garlic (optional)
1 T. chili powder
1 T. taco seasoning mix
¼ c. dry ranch dressing mix
½ c. dried corn
1 T. dried chopped bell peppers
1/8 t. red pepper flakes
1 c. dried, sorted beans (kidney beans or black beans)
1 lb. hamburger, cooked or use canned beef
1 can tomato soup
1 can tomatoes
¼ c. salsa (optional)
1 ¾ c. water
Tortilla chips
Sour Cream
Shredded cheese
In a Mylar bag put beans in a baggie. Put onion, garlic, seasonings, corn, and peppers in another jar and put in Mylar bag, add oxygen absorber and seal; add Label. Directions for soup: Remove beans from bag. Soak overnight. Drain and rinse. Simmer beans in 6 c. water, covered, for 2 hours. (Can cook beans in advance.) In a large pot bring to a boil 4 c. water; add cooked beans and seasoning packet into pot. Turn off heat. Cover and let sit for 10 minutes. Return to a simmer, continue simmering adding tomatoes and soup and hamburger. Keep covered and simmer and additional 15-20 , minutes until beans and corn are tender. Line bowls with tortilla chips, fill with soup and top with desired toppings.

Alfredo Noodle mix
1/3 c. instant nonfat dry milk
1 t. grated Romano or parmesan cheese
2 T. dried minced onion
¼ t. garlic powder
¼ t. salt
1/8 t. white pepper or black pepper
Measure all ingredients into a Ziploc bag, seal and shake to combine. In a Mylar bag, put 1 ½ c. uncooked noodles or medium size pasta shells and seasoning baggie; seal and label bag. To use, cook pasta in boiling salted water. Combine sauce mix with 4 T. melted butter and ½ c. milk. Toss with cooked pasta and heat through.

Beef Noodle Dinner Mix
1 cup dry non-fat milk
1 T. onion powder
1 T. garlic powder
1 t. Black pepper
1 t. salt
1/4 t. basil
1/4 t. oregano
1 t. Paprika
1/8 tsp Cayenne
4 T. Brown Gravy Mix
1/4 t. ground celery seed
2 T. Cornstarch
Measure all ingredients into a large Ziploc bag, seal and shake until well combined. Y: about 26 T. mix
Beef Noodle Dinner
1- 12 oz. package egg noodles
1 ½ lb. of lean ground beef
7 ½ T. Beef Noodle Seasoning Mix
1 can mushroom stem and pieces, drained
6 ½ c. water
Brown hamburger & Drain. Add mushrooms & hot water. Stir in the seasoning mix. Add noodles and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover, cook 15-17 minutes. Remove lid and let gently simmer until sauce has thickened, stirring occasionally. *This dinner can also be dry packed in Mylar bags. Divide sauce mix between 3 baggies and pack in 3 Mylar bags with dry egg noodles and spice baggie in each.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Canning Supplies

Years ago when I first started working on my food storage I realized that canning was an important part of it. I also realized that part of being able to can if we were ever faced with a long term emergency, was to have canning supplies as part of my storage. Fortunately for me, I started a long time ago. Prices have drastically increased over the years.

I hear so many people comment that it is so much easier to just buy it than to can it. But what if you can’t just buy it? What if it isn’t available? I used to believe that would never happen, now I think it could happen in a matter of hours. I heard a trucker remark once that even a truckers strike could empty shelves in an hour or two. Not to mention what an earthquake, flood or any other natural or unnatural disaster could do.

Here are a few simple tips on how to stock up on your canning supplies – or get some if you don’t have any:
1) This is the best time of year to buy canning supplies. Especially if you can find them at a store that only carries them as a seasonal item. I recently found a 30% off sale on all canning supplies at C-A-L Store. I found good prices on lids at K-Mart. Any place that wants to make room for more seasonal items will usually discount the canning supplies to get rid of them rather than store them.
2) Make sure you have enough lids stored for the number of jars you have. It’s a good practice to buy a box or two a week when you are shopping until you have a year’s supply on hand. Buy a few extra rings too, because they get bent and rust and eventually have to be thrown away.
3) If you don’t feel that you have enough bottles to can what you’d like, decide how many more you need to bring your supply up to what you’d like. Check the second hand stores and remember yard sales are a great place to pick them up. Keep your eyes open.
4) Do you have all the canning equipment that you need to can the things you’d like such as; Water bath canner, pressure canner, jar lifters etc.? Do an inventory and make a list.
5) Also make sure you have some extra sugar, pickling salt, pickling spices etc. on hand in case those are in short supply. Pectin is not a long term storage product. Check the date on the box if you wish to store it and make sure it will be used by that date. Even if there is no emergency, it is a pain to start a canning project only to realize you don’t have enough sugar, pectin or lids to finish. And more than once I’ve gone looking for a certain spice during canning season and all the stores were out of it. Never hurts to have extra.

My sister-in-law sent me a website where you can purchase reusable canning lids. I’m including that here if you are interested and want to check it out. Thanks, Lynda!

Just for fun I’m including an awesome recipe that I want to share. As I was getting ready to can the pumpkins I bought, I wanted to find out if it was really as good as the canned stuff. I’d made these rolls last year and they were good but a little heavy. I thought I’d done something wrong so I tried again; still good but still too heavy. This year I wanted to try one more time so I tweaked the recipe a bit and cut it in half just in case, but they turned out light and delicious. Wish now I’d made the whole recipe. I’m sharing this with you if you want to try. You can use home canned pumpkin or the fresh cooked pumpkin or, if you want or you can just use Libby’s 15 oz. can. This dough was incredibly easy to work with and had a wonderful texture. And, if you don’t want to make the rolls, just make the icing. It’s to die for! Here is the recipe:

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Caramel Icing
2 ½ t. or 1 pkg. active dry yeast
¼ c. warm water
1 t. + ¼ c. granulated sugar, divided
2 eggs
¼ c. butter, melted
1 – 15 oz. can pumpkin (1 7/8 c. of your own pumpkin)
5 ½ c. flour
¾ t. salt
1 cube butter, very soft
¼ c. granulated sugar
1 c. packed brown sugar
3 t. cinnamon
1 t. pumpkin pie spice
1/8 t. cloves
½ c. butter
1 c. packed brown sugar
¼ t. salt
¼ c. milk or cream
1 t. vanilla
2 ½ c. powdered sugar
Sprinkle yeast over warm water in large bowl. Add 1 t. granulated sugar; let stand till foamy, about 5 minutes. Mix in remaining ¼ c. sugar, eggs, butter and pumpkin. Gradually add 5 c. flour and the salt until soft dough forms. Continue to knead 10 minutes adding more flour as needed until dough is smooth. Place dough in large greased bowl, cover and let rise till doubled. Give it plenty of time to rise. When ready, roll dough out into a rectangle. Combine all filling ingredients and spread evenly over dough. Roll up and cut into rolls. Place on greased baking sheet and allow to rise until doubled. Bake at 350º for 25-30 minutes or till golden and bubbly. Remove from oven and frost while warm. For frosting: melt butter in saucepan; add brown sugar and stir till smooth. Add milk and vanilla and stir to combine. Add powdered sugar and whisk until smooth. Pour warm icing over rolls. Let sit 5 minutes (if you can) and serve. Y: 12-16 rolls depending on size.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cranberry Relish and some fun appetizers

I have 3 quick and easy canning projects for you today. These are fun little goodies that you can put on your shelves or give to friends as a gift. Here is the skinny on each:

I love the Thanksgiving meal. I love turkey and stuffing and the yams, rolls and pies that traditionally go with it. I like all the trimmings, but I must say maybe my favorite is the fresh cranberry orange relish we have every year. I love this stuff and could eat it on almost anything. I usually make a pretty large batch and freeze the leftovers for use throughout the year.

I love the leftovers and even more than going for the leftover pie, my first choice would be leftover rolls, turkey and yes the relish. I have always made the fresh relish and it is hard to beat but this year I decided to try canning it. It worked great. I can't wait to try it with this yummy "leftover turkey pot pie" which is also good made with chicken from the pioneer woman.

The texture is a little different and the color is not as bright as the fresh but it tastes good. I like the idea of being able to open it at any time during the year and have cranberry relish all made and ready to go.

This is the same consistency of the filling that I use in raisin or date filled cookies. I want to try some of this cranberry sauce in a filled cookie. I have a couple of entree recipes that call for cranberries that I want to try the relish in. I’ll tell you another discovery I made about using this relish in a minute.

Here is the recipe for the Fresh Cranberry-Orange Relish which is quick and easy to make and delicious to eat. The canned version follows.

Fresh Cranberry Orange Relish
4 c. fresh cranberries (sort, remove stems and bruised cranberries and rinse well)
2 fresh thin skinned oranges washed, (slice off ends but do not peel) and cut in eighths and remove any seeds
1 ½ c. sugar
Put berries and oranges through a food chopper or use your food processor to chop well. Add sugar (more or less to taste). Stir well until sugar is dissolved. Store in refrigerator until ready to use. Freeze leftovers. Y: 1 quart

Home canned Cranberry Orange Relish
4 c. Cranberries washed and sorted, removing any unripe or overly soft berries
2 oranges, cut in 8 pieces (do not peel, cut off ends of oranges and remove any seeds)
1 ½ c. sugar
Using a food processor, chop cranberries and oranges until no large chunks remain. Put in a kettle and heat until mixture starts to cook. Add sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved. Mixture will start to simmer and will thicken. Stir often to prevent burning. When it starts to bubble in is heated through, put in half-pint jars. Wipe jar rims, put on new flat lids and screw on bands. Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Y: about 4 half pints. (I doubled this and got 9 half pint jars.)

Now here are some fun things I canned this last week. The last few years we have enjoyed snacking on cream cheese with different topping and crackers. We would buy the raspberry chipotle sauce during the holiday season at Costco. This is very good but sometimes it’s too hot for me, sometimes it’s okay but it has just enough heat in it that I can only eat so much and then I’m done. Another problem was that it comes in quart jars so you have to eat a lot quickly so it doesn’t spoil.

I’d been hearing a lot of talk about pepper jelly and looked at a lot of different recipes. I knew my daughter canned it so I asked for her recipe. To be honest I didn’t really think I’d like to that much. I don’t love green peppers and I’m a wimp with jalapenos but decided to give it a try. It is delicious and I can’t seem to get enough so I did another batch last week.

Some people eat the jelly on eggs or toast or with different kinds of meat. We like to spread softened cream cheese on a serving dish and top it with the jelly and serve it with crackers, like a dip. I’ve even found myself spreading the cream cheese on crackers and topping with a little jelly and making lunch out of it.

I decided to try another topping this week. I love the Kraft brand cheese spreads that come in a little jar that are so popular at Thanksgiving time. My favorite being the pineapple spread. Love this on Ranch Doritos or in stuffed celery or just on appetizers. When I saw this recipe for pineapple jam I knew it would be great on the cream cheese with crackers just like the pepper jelly. And it is! I also discovered that the cranberry relish I canned yesterday is awesome that way too. Here is the recipe for the pepper jelly and the pineapple jam. For some quick appetizers, spread some cream cheese on some serving dishes, top with the pepper jelly, pineapple jam or cranberry relish and serve with crackers. It’s quick and delicious. Here are the recipes to can:

Jody’s Green Pepper Jelly
6 large green peppers
1 jalapeno pepper
¾ c. apple juice
¾ c. cider vinegar
6 c. sugar
2 pouches liquid pectin (Certo Brand works best)
Core and seed peppers. Puree half the peppers with half the juice and half the vinegar. Repeat with rest of peppers. Strain; measure 3 ½ c. juice. Put in large pan and add the entire measure of sugar. Stir to dissolve. Bring mixture to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Quickly stir in entire amount of Liquid Pectin. Return to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Fill jars and add lids and bands. Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Let set at room temperature for 12-24 hours. Y: 8 half-pints

Pineapple Jam
1 can (20 oz.) Crushed Pineapple
Pineapple Juice
1 t. butter
1 box pectin
3 c. sugar
Empty can of crushed pineapple and empty it into a 4 cup measuring cup. Add enough pineapple juice to equal a total of 3 ¼ c. Put pineapple mixture into a pot with the butter and pectin. Stir well. Bring to a full boil, then add sugar all at once, stirring to dissolve the sugar. When this has reached a full rolling boil, time it for 1 full minute, then turn off heat. Ladle jam into hot jars. Place lids and rings on. Process 10 minutes in boiling water bath, then leave them in the pot for 5 minutes. Remove from water and cool. Y: 5 half-pints

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cleaning out the Refrigerator!

You know things are bad when you dream about the vegetables in your fridge. I’ve been thinking all weekend about all the things I have to do…and make. I have a very long list of things to try, vegetables to use up, soon, canning I still want to do and fruit that has to be used very soon.

I was dreaming about the cranberries in my fridge. I bought an extra large bag at Costco this year hoping to find a way to bottle the “fresh” cranberry-orange relish I always make at Thanksgiving time. I usually freeze the leftovers in small bottles to use with different dishes I make during the year but I have spent hours trying to decide what to do with the rest of those cranberries. Still thinking on that.

So when I got up this morning I was still thinking about those cranberries and the oranges to go with them in my fridge. Until I opened the door to the fridge and remembered all those carrots that are waiting for me. And the apples that need to be used soon. Thank goodness the pumpkins and squash are waiting patiently. What to do first!?!

I had already decided to make another batch of carrot pudding because it is so good. And it is very nice to have a quick dessert all ready to heat up and serve with ice cream or whipped cream and caramel sauce. So I hurried and grated carrots for another batch and guess what? It didn’t even make a dent in all those carrots waiting for me. Then I remembered this delicious carrot soup I made last fall. I loved it and it made a big batch. It freezes well so I froze the leftover soup in serving size containers and we ate it all up through the winter.

I thought about making another batch of the soup and freezing it again but I am really making an effort to clean out my freezer so I have room for my holiday baking. And because I find myself freezing more leftovers this time of year, I really need the freezer room. Besides, I felt kind of guilty just moving it from the fridge to the freezer. I knew it needed be canned.

After doing some research on how to can it, I was set. I grated more carrots - about 10 cups full – grabbed some of those apples that kept staring me down when I looked in the crisper, and I knew I was on to something good. Never fear, there are still more carrots in the fridge! And more apples! And THOSE cranberries!

I’m including the recipe for the soup and for some carrot cake loaves that are topped with cream cheese icing that my mom always made with her leftover carrots. These loaves freeze well and make a nice little something to give with a card to a friend when they are having a bad day or just because.

This Carrot and Apple Soup is a recipe I found years ago. I have tweaked it a bit and I really like it. It will be great having it ready to heat up. Last year for Christmas I gave a basket of different canned and baked goods along with some of this soup to a sweet friend of mine. She loved the soup and asked for the recipe. This is a thick soup that can be eaten as is or with vegetables, meat or pasta added. It has a slightly sweet flavor with a hint of curry. It calls for cream to be stirred in just before serving, which is so good. I like it just the way it is or with some cooked pasta and shredded cheese on top. It’s good with leftover vegetables or meat added too. If you want to can some, here is the recipe or you can make it and freeze the leftovers if you want. I used my salad shooter and grated the carrots and the apples in no time at all.

Carrot and Apple Soup
3 T. butter
2 onions, finely chopped
5 med. Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored & chopped (I used a couple extra because I had them)
2 ½ lb. carrots, peeled & chopped or grated (I used about 10 c. grated)
3 cans (14 oz.) chicken or vegetable broth
2 T. sugar
1 t. salt
½ t. ground ginger (use fresh if you want)
½ - 1 t. curry powder (according to your taste)
3 c. water
Half-n-half or heavy cream for serving, optional
In large soup pot, melt butter. Sauté onions in butter till tender and golden. Stir in apples, carrots, broth, sugar, salt ginger and water; heat to boiling. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and simmer 20 minutes or till carrots are tender. Puree mixture in blender (I used an immersion blender) until smooth. It is ready to eat or freeze at this point. To can soup, pour into hot jars with ½” of top of jar. Add lids and rings. Process pints in pressure canner at 15 lbs. pressure for 35 minutes. *If using frozen soup, move to the fridge to thaw. Reheat and serve with a swirl of cream or garnish with chives, any of your favorite cooked vegetables or pasta.

Carrot Cake Loaves
2 c. flour
2 t. soda
1 t. salt
2 t. cinnamon
4 eggs
2 c. cooked mashed carrots
2 t. vanilla
2 c. sugar
1 ¼ c. oil
Beat eggs. Add carrots, vanilla, sugar and oil. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Pour into 5 small well-greased loaf pans. (If you use the small foil pans they are ready to give away.) Bake at 350º for about 50 minutes (the smallest pans may require less time so watch carefully) or till cake pulls away from sides of pans. Frost with cream cheese frosting and eat or freeze for later.