Sunday, June 27, 2010

Milk Taste Test

I decided to find out once and for all which powdered milk my family likes best. I didn't realize how important this was until we started living off food storage. I thought (naively) that if there was nothing else to drink, they would drink it. Wrong. Before we started food storage, my family was drinking 5 gallons of milk a week. On powdered milk it dropped down to less than one gallon per week, and most of that was used in cooking rather than for drinking. So I learned 2 important lessons:

1. People will not eat or drink something just because that's all there is.
2. Don't count on powdered milk for giving your family their needed calcium intake.

But I digress. I have stored only real powdered milk. I purposely stayed away from milk substitutes since they don't have the same nutritional value as real milk. I figured my family would need those nutrients if they were actually living off food storage. What I failed to realize was, it doesn't matter how nutritional the milk is if no one will drink it. :)

So I planned a blind taste test to see which milk my family liked best. I even used store bought milk as one of the testers just to see what would happen :) Obviously I couldn't try every brand out there but I tried to pick some of the more popular ones. They included:

1. Morning Moo's
2. Emergency Essentials
3. Church cannery milk
4. Thrive
5. Store bought milk

I also tried 3 brands of chocolate milk which is one way to get your family to actually drink milk:

1. Honeyville Grain
2. Thrive
3. Morning Moo's

The results were interesting. First of all we had 8 taste testers in my family but didn't count the votes of the 3 year old since he denounced all the cups of white milk as "Yucky!!" and declared all of the chocolate milks "Yummy!" :)

Everyone picked their #1 and #2 favorites. Here are the taste test results in order of number of votes received either as #1 or #2:

1. Morning Moo's - 5 votes
2. Emergency Essentials - 3 votes
3. Thrive - 3 votes
4. Store bought milk - 2 votes
5. Church Cannery - 1 vote

So guess which milk I have stored 400 POUNDS of?


The cannery. :(

The good news is, it doesn't matter when baking what you use, it's only when drinking it straight that it becomes a problem. So, my plan is to replace the cannery milk with Morning Moo's as we use it up. I will still keep plenty of cannery milk in my storage because it is real powdered milk, rather than a milk substitute, so I still want it for baking. But for drinking, you have to go with the milk your family will actually drink.

Isn't it interesting that the store bought milk only got 2 votes? Guess that's what happens when you are living off food storage. Your idea of what is normal tasting begins to shift.

For the chocolate milk we just voted on our favorite:

1. Honeyville Grain - 3 votes
2. Thrive - 3 votes
3. Morning moos - 1 vote

I got shot down on this one since my favorite was actually the Morning Moos. Oh well, guess we'll have to go with majority rules on this one. I don't drink much chocolate milk anyway.

So you can buy Morning Moo's online but I find that Costco often carries it as well. My Costco was having a blow out sale on it just before we started living on food storage so I bought a whole 5 gallon bucket.

I can't say if that is the milk your family will like best (although I found another blog that did a similar test to mine and came out with almost exactly the same results), but it can at least give you a starting point.

One lesson I have learned from all of this is to NEVER, EVER store food you have not tried. I know it's so tempting. Food storage can be expensive and you don't want to waste a whole can just trying it out, but you could be really sorry if you don't. Some of the food I was storing turned out to be completely inedible (like Honeyville Grain Butter) and I had to throw it all in the trash. Now THAT is expensive.

Also, don't believe the myth that if a person is hungry enough, they will eat it. It's absolutely not true. Just ask my 3 year old. :)

Finally just a heads up that I will be taking a long anticipated trip to Nauvoo and will not be able to blog the next few weeks. I'm thinking if I get really lucky though, I might just come across an old fashioned butter churner, or cheese press while I'm there!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Food Storage Utopia

I spent all of last week in Utah (AKA Food Storage Utopia). Man, people there just don't know how lucky they are. I visited all of my favorite places (except Honeyville Grain).

First I went to Emergency Essentials in Orem. I bought their plunger for hand washing clothes, some powdered milk, and some gamma lids. Then my sister tells me, "Oh they sell those lids at Walmart."

WHAT the heck?!! Walmart sells gamma lids in Utah?

It takes me a minute to digest that kind of information. (They didn't have David Archuleta's new book though. Weird.)

Then I went to the holy grail of preparedness stores - Smith and Edwards in Ogden. If you haven't been there, you are REALLY missing out. I bought my own meat grinder since I had borrowed a friend's to make my wheat meat, got another kind of powdered milk to try, and bought my first dutch oven. I'm SUPER excited about that. My next venture is to learn how to cook my food storage in a dutch oven. You just never know when you might have to function without electricity. A dutch oven would be essential IMHO.

Finally, I went hunting for Rennet so I can make cheese. That was a bit tougher. I had read online that you could just go into any grocery store in Utah and get it. That turned out to be a bit of an exaggeration. (Kind of like people who say that everyone in California lives on the beach, or everyone in America is rich and beautiful :) ) I went to quite a few grocery stores. Nada. Finally tried The Good Earth store and.... SCORE! Now I can make cheese. Just have to get my hubby to build me a cheese press this week. BTW, did you know that you can wax store bought cheese and keep it, unrefrigerated, for years? I'll have to try that too.

So much to do - so little time........ sigh

Today I am making 5 different brands of powdered milk and I'm going to do a blind taste test with my family. Whichever they like best is the brand we are going to store to drink. I'll let you know how it goes next week!

Finally I want to give a GIANT shout out to my favorite food storage website in the world - Food Storage Made Easy. I have been with them since they began as a small blog and I was blessed to find out that they featured my blog on their Facebook page last week.

Funny story actually.

My sister-in-law called me up and says, "So you are famous now?" I said, "What are you talking about?" She told me a link to my blog was on the Food storage made easy Facebook page. I couldn't believe it - and immediately regretted that my blog isn't prettier :)

Anyway, just want to say thanks and welcome all my new followers from there! You are awesome and I'm so happy we have this common interest.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Wheat Meat (Don't be scared)

Ok I know the very name wheat meat can make a person cringe. That is what I thought too but hopefully you will be as surprised as I was by the reality. It was really good! I'm not saying all wheat meat is good, but this recipe definitely was. This is going to be a long post so please bear with me. :)

I've been wanting to try wheat meat for some time because the reality is, no matter how much meat you store, you will eventually run out. I was HIGHLY skeptical of wheat meat but I knew I had to at least try it. Plus, my new favorite food storage book (A Bite of Independence Through Self-Sufficiency)has a whole chapter raving about it and since I pretty much trust that book with my life now.....

There were different recipes depending on what you wanted to make: chicken, ground beef, hamburgers, hot dogs, etc. I decided to make meatballs for our spaghetti, and hamburger patties for dinner later in the week. That is all I've tried so far so those are the recipes I'll post on my recipe link.

Let me just say that IT..............WAS..................AWESOME! First I made the meatballs and served them with spaghetti. You seriously could NOT tell it wasn't real meat. It looked like meat, tasted like meat, had the consistency of meat. And the ultimate test - my kids gobbled them up!

Two days later we had our "hamburgers." I didn't tell anyone that they were not real. I even barbecued them on our grill! I accidentally made the patties bigger than the buns so I had to cut off the edges, leaving a lot of pieces of "meat" on the serving platter.

Not one of my kids realized that the burgers weren't real. They gobbled them down and then asked if they could have the leftover "meat" on the platter. I just smiled and said, "Sure." They gobbled that down too, leaving only scraps.

My husband did catch on. He thought they were real burgers until he bit into one and then he realized they were not real meat BUT he still liked them and ate the whole thing. This could be because he eats more real food than the rest of us since he works at the Fire Station several times a week and eats there.

We also had some friends come over later in the evening and when we told them what we had for dinner (people CONSTANTLY ask me what we've eaten that day - probably just morbid curiosity) they wanted to try some. I was reticent since all there was left was the little scraps that had long since grown cold. Still they tried it, and THEY LIKED IT TOO! They couldn't believe it was made out of wheat. In fact one of them said, "Hey, it tastes like chicken!" LOL

One side benefit I was not aware of, is that a byproduct of making wheat meat is bran. I made approximately 2 lbs of wheat meat and ended up with about 2 cups of bran left over. So, I made bran muffins which my kids LOVED. Out of 2 dozen I could barely keep one aside so that my husband could try it when he got back from work.

I'll post the recipe for making the wheat meat but here are a few basics. Wheat meat is made entirely from wheat. The bran and starch is washed out of the wheat and you are left with the gluten. Gluten loves to take on the taste of what is around it but it also absorbs liquid so you want to be careful not to add it to your dishes too early. It needs to be added last or it will take on too much moisture and lose it's meat-like texture.

For my recipe I used 10 cups of freshly ground wheat flour and it made approximately 2 lbs of "meat" and 2 cups of bran. Once you have your gluten prepared (don't worry - it's SO easy!) then you bake it. It looks like large rolls. I then ran the rolls through a meat grinder. You can use a food processor as well but the consistency won't be quite the same as meat. The key here is to trick your brain into thinking what you are eating is really meat so you want the consistency and taste to be as close as possible.

Anyway, I ground up the rolls into ground "meat" (man I'm getting tired of using quotations marks! :) ) and then I added seasoning to give it the flavor of what I was making, which was meatballs and hamburger patties. I then shaped them how I wanted and baked them one more time. It is VERY important not to over bake. Better to bake it a little too short, than a little too long. Also, this recipe calls for eggs to be used to bind the wheat into patties. I didn't try it with powdered eggs because I store fresh eggs for stuff like this. I don't know if it would work with powdered but I do know it will work if you use just the whites of the eggs and not the yolks.

I served the meatballs right away while they were still warm in the spaghetti. The hamburgers patties I kept in the fridge for a couple of days. I threw them on the grill just long enough to reheat them. Both were a hit with my family. Going to try to make chicken next. It's a different process but supposedly I can even use it to make chicken nuggets! What 3 year old wouldn't be happy about that?

Finally, on a nutritional note. Wheat meat contains NO cholesterol, and has 1/3 fewer calories than hamburger. In fact the only thing keeping wheat meat from being considered a complete protein is that is lacks the amino acid Lysine, which can be resolved by using eggs to prepare it. Plus I'm sure you've already guess how much cheaper it is than meat. Of course we aren't all going to give up meat but if you ever do have to, you can at least feel good about the nutrition, and economical value, of wheat meat.