Sunday, February 28, 2010

Are we done yet?

When I started this whole adventure a wise friend predicted the following would happen:

1. At first it will be hard because it is so new
2. Then it will be hard because it is so old
3. Then you will wonder why you ever felt the way you did in #1 and #2.

So far she has turned out to be 100% correct. I'm now at #2 and I'm REALLY sick of eating food storage. We are still trying out new recipes everyday so that is at least interesting but it's so much work with so little pay off.

I really miss being too tired to make dinner and just grabbing a pizza. I miss all of our family's favorite recipes. I miss snack foods. I miss super yummy food. I miss feeling like a normal person. I think I even miss grocery shopping.

I keep reminding myself why I started this so I can endure to the end. I'm learning a LOT and I know that I haven't learned all of the things that I set out to learn yet. I know that I will keep going but I just needed to complain a little bit. I just have to make it past #2 and get to the part where it's just normal and I don't even think about it anymore. Any ideas on when that will be?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Word about Wonder Ovens

We have been counseled to store a year's worth of food and fuel where possible. The food I have but fuel is a whole other issue. I quickly realized that it was logistically impossible to store a year's worth of any kind of fuel for a family as large as mine. Especially considering the types of food we store, long grain rice, dry beans, etc. Items that have to boil for hours to be edible. I was looking at mountains of propane, or charcoal, or whatever. Just not feasible.

Then I discovered the Wonder Oven.

The concept is not new, people in poor countries have been using something similar for a long time but now they are being re-purposed for food storage. It's basically an insulating crock-pot consisting of an 18 gallon Rubbermaid, 2 special pillows, and a pot. Together with a one burner stove, it dramatically reduces how much fuel you need to cook your food. You can easily store enough fuel for a year.

How it works is you heat up the food item you want to cook to boiling on your one burner stove, or over a fire, and then boil a short time. Transfer the boiling pot to your wonder oven with the insulating pillows completely surrounding the pot inside the Rubbermaid. Leave unopened the specified amount of time and Ta-Da! Perfectly cooked food using only a few minutes worth of fuel!

I know it sounds like it won't work. That is what I thought the first time I heard of it. But it does work, and it works well. In fact once I got a wonder oven I got mad at how much energy I waste using my regular oven. :)

I mostly bake bread in my wonder oven, but you can do anything in them, even beans. In fact you can boil dry beans, put them in your wonder oven in the morning, and they are ready to eat by evening, no soaking, or cooking on the stove top for hours.

Wonder ovens can be bought or made. I made mine, and one for all my siblings as well. :) You can find the patterns for the pillows online, plus sewing instructions. The pillows are filled with polystyrene pellets, like the ones you find in bean bags. That is what insulates the pot and keeps in the heat for cooking. It is amazing how well it works. Put the boiling pot in in the morning and you will still need pot holders hours later just to get the pot out.

If you would rather just purchase a wonder oven, I have a friend that loved them so much she decided to start making them and sell them. She has a website you can check out. There you will find lots more information, helpful tips, and recipes.

I really feel like this was an answer to my prayer about storing fuel. Of course don't wait until you have to live off food storage to use it. I use mine frequently, especially during the summer. It allows me to bake bread, and cook food without heating up the house. That is almost a miracle in and of itself. It's also useful during a power outage. Take the time to check them out.

Here are some pictures of me using the wonder oven to bake bread.

Make your favorite bread recipe as usual and let rise until double.

Then punch down and divide into 3 equal parts (I use a small scale to make sure they are equal weight). Place into greased large V-8 cans and put in your pot with warm water. Water should come about half way up the can and your pot should be as small as possible while still allowing the lid to close snugly.

Let rise in the pot with the lid on until dough is about 1 inch from the top of the cans. Remove cans from pot and cover with tinfoil.

Secure tinfoil to can with tape or rubber band and place back in pot of water on the stove. Bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes.

Immediately remove from heat but DO NOT remove the lid. Quickly transfer entire pot to wonder oven. Place on bottom pillow and cover with the top pillow. Do not disturb for at least 2 hours. You can leave it as long as you want. Food will not burn or over bake. Feel free to run errands while your bread is baking!

After at least 2 hours remove bread from wonder oven. Slide out of can. You will notice right away that this bread does not have a crust. My kids LOVE it!

Cut into slices and you have nice round bread that is the perfect size for sandwiches!

Here is a YouTube video of how to use a Wonder Oven from the lady that introduced me to it: WonderOven Teaser.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Apple Fritters

Tried this recipe this week and it was fantastic! Very authentic in taste although quite a bit smaller than store bought ones. I got this recipe from another great blog (But Mama I'm Hungry) and just adapted it to my food storage. I am finding that I have a lot more luck with recipes when I find good recipes and then adapt them, rather than trying to find straight food storage recipes which tend to be bland and monotonous.

Here's a picture of my son REALLY enjoying the fruits of my labors. Try them out yourself!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Corn Bread to Die For

Ok, let me just start off by saying, "I HATE cornbread" Seriously. It's dry and bland unless drowned in butter and honey. I don't even store cornmeal because I couldn't think of what I would make with it besides cornbread and corn tortillas (don't like those either). But my friend mentioned to me the other day that you can grind popcorn to make cornmeal and it makes much tastier cornbread.

I do store popcorn for snacking on so I decided to give it a try this week. We were having Mountain House freeze dried chicken stew for dinner and cornbread sounded like the perfect side dish, so I went looking for a cornbread recipe that looked like it wouldn't be totally awful. I found one that looked promising so I ground up some popcorn in my wheat grinder (seriously, you can do that), made cornmeal, and followed the recipe.

OH............ MY.............. GOSH!!! It was SO good! Seriously, I could LIVE off of this stuff.
I don't know if it was the recipe, or the fresh ground cornmeal, but I will never make cornbread any other way. Which is funny because before I would have said, "I will never make cornbread" Not anymore. YUMMY!!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Blender Pancakes

I got home late and only had 30 minutes to make dinner. Normally that would have meant hitting Papa Murphey's on the way home. These days it's cause for panic. Food storage is not 30 minute meal material! I decided to try blender pancakes. I know it's a well known recipe but it was the first time that I have tried them. They were really good! My kids at them up and they were quick and easy. Plus, it's a use for wheat without having to grind it - a definite plus! I put the recipe on the recipe link

Sunday, February 7, 2010

How is your food storage organized?

Ok, so people ask me all the time how I organize my food storage so I'm posting a not-so-brief overview. Let me just start with a disclaimer about myself though. I am a highly organized person. Seriously. Almost to the point of it being a clinical sickness. I literally have lists of my lists. However, I think that the system I have is very user friendly and could be adapted and used by anyone.

First of all, I don't know if any of you have ever seen a year's worth of food for 8 people but it is a TREMENDOUS amount of food, and I do not live in a large house, nor do I have a basement, attic, large closets, or even a walk in pantry. I realized early on that I would have to make some sacrifices to get that much food into the house.

For example, my kids don't have beds. Their beds are a mattress on top of food storage boxes. They are literally sleeping on food storage. You can't see the boxes with the dust ruffle but it's there. That was hard for me. We all want the perfect Martha Stewart home but I quickly realized I couldn't have that and food storage. In fact one day my mother-in-law (who's not LDS) discovered the kids were sleeping on boxes and demanded to know why. Try explaining THAT without sounding like a crazed, religious, hoarder!! LOL

Don't get me wrong, if you come into my house, you won't be able to see the food, but it's EVERYWHERE, and it has defintely limited my decorating choices. When it came down to it though, it's not a hard choice whether to follow the prophet, or Martha Stewart :) And there are SO many creative ideas out there on how to hide your food storage, even in small areas. Here is a link to one of my favorites: Hidden Can Rotator Please don't let a perceived lack of space hinder you. When people tell me they don't have room, most of the time it's not a space issue, but rather a priority issue.

So now I have food masquerading as beds, in the coat closet, in the garage, even in the bathtub, which can make it difficult to keep track of and rotate, so the first thing I did was make up a spreadsheet. This spreadsheet tells me exactly what I have stored, where in the house it is located, and when it is set to expire, plus the cheapest place to buy it so I know where to go when I need to replace it. That is important. Know what you have, where it is, and when it will expire.

Living off food storage presented a unique problem because I am now needing to get into food I normally wouldn't. I don't rotate items that last 20 years or more so those are the foods I was keeping under the beds. Now that I need to get into those foods it's a real bummer to have to lift up the mattress, find the right box, and dig a can out. Then I have to do it all over again every time we empty a can. WAY too much work. So I asked my husband to build me some shelves out in the garage that were just long enough to hold 5 cans. That way, when I open a box I can take all 6 cans out, put one can in my pantry, and the other 5 on the shelves for easy future access.

Typically you do NOT want to store food in the garage since the heat will cause it to spoil much faster but since I am using these cans up so quickly, they are ok out there. There are some items you can store in the garage that can take the heat like sugar, honey, wheat (although it can make it unsproutable), jam, vinegar, and of course, all your non-food items.

I also have my 3 month's supply foods that we rotate regularly in the master bathtub. Normally I would not store food in a bathtub but the brilliant builders of our home built a tub that actually holds more water than my hot water heater, making it impossible to use the tub, and there is no way I could let all that space go to waste, so I bought one of those fancy can rotators. We bought ours from which was somewhat cheaper (this is what I spent my christmas bonus money on) but if you are particularly handy, you can make them like this guy did: Homemade Can Rotator Or you can purchase some relatively inexpensive can rotators that go on your pantry shelves like these.

Finally, my absolute FAVORITE tool for tracking and rotating food storage is an idea that came from someone else. Inside my pantry I have taped small envelopes, each one labeled with a different food storage item. Whenever I open a new can of food, I take one strip of paper and put it in the envelope for that food item. SO easy and simple, and convenient since it's right there where my food is!

Now I can see at a glance exactly what needs to be replaced when I go to the store, or the cannery. If you don't have a convenient place for the envelopes in your pantry, you can also mount them on a large poster board and put it anywhere in your house that is near your food storage.

And last of all, because living off food storage is so different from what we are used to, my family sometimes has a hard time coming up with ideas of what they can eat for breakfast, pack for lunch, or just snack on. So I created lists that I posted inside my pantry cupboard doors with ideas for them for these meals. Plus I arranged my pantry by meals so one shelf is all breakfast foods, one shelf is all lunch foods, one shelf is snack and dessert foods, etc. Normally this is not how my pantry is arranged but it was necessary for the duration of this food storage experiment so my kids don't starve to death. It's a different feeling to open your pantry and have nothing but #10 cans staring back at you. :)

Hopefully you can get something useful out of all of this gibberish. I guess if there is any advice I consistently give to people it is this: Just start small. If you think of all the things you need to do and have, you will quickly get overwhelmed. Don't do that to yourself. Just start where you are and do a little each week. I go to the cannery once a month (date night!!), and check out the canner once a month to can at home. And each week when I make my Walmart list, I add a couple of extra things to the list for storage. You will be amazed how quickly you will be able to gather what you need. We got our whole year's supply doing that.

I am a FIRM believer that the Lord wants us to succeed in the endeavor to follow the Prophet and become self reliant. If we put the smallest effort forward, He will double the returns. That's better than any 401k! :)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Granola Bar Heaven

I have made this recipe several times and just love it! It came from my Bishop's wife originally so I have to give her credit because it has become one of our favorite snacks. The full recipe is posted on my recipe site and there are several variations you can try. Better than the store bought ones for sure.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Flour tortillas

Ok I am SO playing catch up with my life. I usually post a new blog every Sunday but I've been so busy this week and I can't even sit down and post a couple of pictures. Of course I would be less busy if I wasn't COOKING all the time. A quick run through the drive-thru would save me a lot of time! LOL

So I made homemade four tortillas for dinner last night. They were really yummy! I have tortilla flour actually canned in #10 cans that I have used previously but they are white corn tortillas which I do not prefer over flour tortillas so I decided to try to make some from scratch. I added some homemade refried beans and reconstituted sour cream powder. They were delicious so I'm posting the recipe. I think I will use some of my white corn flour to make chips. I'll let you know how that goes.

On a side note, I've blown through most of the recipes I had found to try. (There are a very limited number of recipes that only use food storage) but my friend sent me a link to a book that I bought from a lady who makes up food storage meals in a jar. I bought the book online and I'm REALLY excited to try out some of her recipes. She's one of the few people that also seems to realize if we were all forced to live off food storage, there is very little chance we would be able to supplement off store bought items. The book is called "Dinner is in the Jar" I'll let you know how it is when it gets here.

After that, I have to get really serious and start coming up with my own recipes. That could get really ugly :)