Sunday, September 20, 2009

Moving to

I decided to change the name of this blog, to more accurately reflect the contents.  So I created a new blog at  All new posts will be there.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Freeze-Dried Cheddar Cheese is Awesome Right Out of the Can

It has the full cheddar-cheese flavor. And it's a little crunchy. I think I'll like eating it as a snack. And it would probably be good in trail mix.

This Month's Emergency Essentials Order

This month I spent quite a bit more on my food storage than I have been spending. I've been spending about $100 a month. This month I spent a little over $200. I justify that with two arguments: I'm eating my food storage now, so it reduces what I spend at the grocery store; I purchased several items that I'll use with other items to make them more useful, and save money in the long run.

I got two cans each of dehydrated hashbrowns and sliced potatoes. I polished off the hashbrowns and sliced potatoes I bought earlier, so I needed more. Since I've been making breakfast at home with the Scrambled Egg Mix and either potatoes or biscuits, I haven't felt the need to drive through Micky D's on the way to work. So that's a savings right there!

I got one can each of shortening powder, margarine powder, and instant nonfat dry milk, along with dough enhancer and SAF instant yeast. From these items, together with flour and other baking items I got from the grocery store, I can make mixes for baked goods. By making my own baked goods, and my own mixes for the baked goods, I can save a lot of money, as well as being prepared for power outages (or whatever).

I ordered a can of Original Flavor Swiss Whey D'Lite Drink. It has less lactose than milk (too much lactose being a problem for me). But now I don't see any Swiss Whey D'Lite flavor on the Emergency Essentials website. It looks like they've replaced it with several flavors of Creamy Select Drink Mix, which is lactose free. Maybe I got the last can!

I got a pound each of spaghetti and taco seasoning, and the spice bottles to put them in. I'm particularly looking forward to using the spaghetti seasoning with the tomato powder I got awhile ago, to make spaghetti sauce.

One thing I like about the spice bottles is that they come with a press-n-seal seal. You fill the bottle, put on the seal, and securely screw down the cap. Then the bottle is sealed until you use it. I expect each 1-lb bag of seasoning to fill four 8-oz spice bottles. So while I'm using one bottle, the other three are still seal. It should keep them fresher than using a bigger bottle.

This is going to sound weird, because oatmeal is so cheap at the grocery store. But I got a can of it. And I'll get more cans as time goes on. Why? Because the stuff you get at the grocery store is in cardboard containers, which aren't good for long-term storage. A whole host of pests can get into cardboard containers.

And I got a can of freeze-dried shredded cheddar cheese. It's pricey at $44.95. But I think it will be worth it in the long run. I like cheese, but I waste a lot of it when I buy a bag and don't use it all before it gets moldy. This way, I'll just rehydrate what I need at one time and the rest won't go to waste. I'll be able to make quesadillas with re-hydrated cheese and home-made tortillas (with the tortilla mix from "Mix-a-Meal").

And I got a few things to start on my BOB (Bug Out Bag). No, this isn't for getting out of town if something bad happens. I actually intend to stay home in most scenarios. This is so I can get home from work or somewhere else, if something bad happens while I'm away from home.

For my BOB, I got a couple of 32-oz water bottles (I already have a couple water bottles in the bag, and some Aqua Blox). I got some Katadyn Micropur Purification tablets, and one of those reflective emergency sleeping bags. I don't expect to rely on that flimsy bag, but it might be handy to use along with my sleeping bag.

And that's it for this month. I'll let you know how I like the stuff I bought as I use it.

Monday, September 7, 2009

I Have Plums!

Well, OK, there were only 6 of them, but they're my first 6 plums, so I'm excited.  I should tell you that I've killed 3 plum trees before they could produce fruit.  I don't know what the problem is.  They do fine for 2-3 years, they they start wilting and just die.  Grrrr!

But I have 2 plum trees that are 7 years old.  They were given to me as seedlings by a neighbor when I first moved into my house (actually, she gave me several seedlings, but these are the only 2 to survive).  They just sprouted in her garden, apparently from seeds from plums that fell from her trees.  So there's no telling what their parentage is.  You know, trees from random crosses of named varieties are usually inferior trees producing inferior fruit.  So I wasn't really expecting anything--not even when one of the trees flowered for the first time this spring.

But today I was out by the trees picking blackberries and I noticed that there were some plums on one of the trees, way up high where the deer can't get them.  I was shocked!  So I got a step-ladder and picked the plums.  They were wonderful!  They taste just like Italian Prune Plums, which are my absolute favorite.   Italian Prune Plums are self-fruitful, so maybe that is what they are.

Now I'm really looking forward to plums next year!

Re-hydrated Dehydrated Mac and Cheese

I had a problem I needed to solve:  how to take a single serving of Kraft Deluxe Macaroni and Cheese to work for lunch, and have it taste fresh.  You might think that I could just cook some of the macaroni at work, and put the cheese goop on it.  But we don't have a stove at work, only a microwave.  And microwaved macaroni isn't very good.  Besides, I can't make it without it boiling over in the microwave, and that's a mess to clean up.  And I didn't want to make it at home and bring it to work to heat up, because then it's like rubber.

So it finally hit me.  Cook the macaroni, then dehydrate it.  You can re-hydrate just the amount you want in the microwave.  Then you can put the cheese goop on it (I use part of the goop package at once, putting the rest in the fridge).

So Friday night I tried it, and it worked really well.  I cooked up the macaroni for three packages of Kraft Deluxe Macaroni and Cheese, as usual.  It seemed like I was overloading the dehydrator, but it worked out fine.  I dehydrated it for a couple hours, then turned off the dehydrator and "fluffed up" the partially-dehydrated macaroni.  By that, I mean that on each tray I mixed together the pieces that were getting dry fast with the pieces that were getting dry more slowly, breaking apart the pieces that were stuck together.  I did it again a couple hours later.  Then I left it on to run while I went to bed.  When I got up on Saturday, I had dried macaroni.

Dried cooked macaroni looks almost like dry uncooked macaroni, but a little flatter.  Most people probably wouldn't notice the difference. 

The 3 packages of macaroni filled up a 1-gallon freezer bag a little over half way.

I shook out enough to make a bowl of mac-and-cheese tonight and started it to boil on the stove.  Once the water came to a boil, the macaroni took only 1 or 2 minutes to rehydrate.  Way faster than cooking it from the package!  Then I mushed out some of the cheese goop and stirred it into the re-hydrated macaroni.  I had dinner in less than 5 minutes.  The only difference when I do this at work is that I'll re-hydrate the macaroni in the microwave rather than on the stove-top.

It's going to be nice to have good macaroni for lunch.  It'll also be fast and easy to cook when the power goes out.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Book Review: Mix-A-Meal Cookbook

Mixes and Recipes by Deanna Bean & Lorna Shute.  Old Fashioned Taste...New Modern Mixes.

That sounds intriguing, doesn't it?

This is a mix cookbook for mixes using food storage items.  It's exactly what I was looking for.  And it does not disappoint. 

Most of the recipes are for some form of baking, so it doesn't have all the dinner recipies that Make-A-Mix has.  But there's a mix for just about anything you'd want to bake.

I like the way the book is organized.  It has sections for Basic Mixes, Sauces and Spice Mixes, Instant Meals (so there are some dinner recipes), and Easy Fun Dessert Mixes.  Each section has several mix recipes.  Each mix recipe is followed by a mini-mix recipe (for testing) and the recipes that use that mix.  So you don't have to keep paging back and forth between mix recipe and final recipe.

Here's a list of mix recipes in the Basic Mixes section:  Biscuit Mix, Chicken baking Mix, Cornbread Mix, Homemad Bread Mix, Hot Roll Mix, Instant Potato Mix, Maple Syrup Mix, Muffin Mix, Onion Soup Mix, Pancake and Waffle Mix, Potato Coating Mix, Stuffing Mix, and Tortilla Mix. 

Although some mix recipes are followed by only 1 or 2 recipes, some have a lot of recipes.  Look what you can make from the Biscuit Mix:  drop biscuits, rolled biscuits, pot pie, pizza crust, mexican pizza, fruit breakfast pizza, crackers with several variations, cream puffs, tempura, fritters, braided dinner roll, and breakfast cake.  Whew!  And it's cheaper than buying Bisquick!

I am really looking forward to making the Hot Roll Mix.  But my dehydrated margarine won't arrive until next Wednesday, so I'll have to wait until next weekend.  I eat a lot more rolls than I do loaf bread.  But also, you can make pocket bread from this mix.  And all kinds of dinner rolls.

The book includes recipes for several types of fillings for the pocket bread.  But I think the pockets would also be good with tuna salad, chicken salad, and other things like that.  And they would be so easy to take to work:  just bring a couple of pockets, a container with your filling, and a couple lettuce leaves.

There are recipes for things other than baked goods:  Onion Soup Mix, White Sauce mix, and a few others.  Then, of course, there are recipes for using those mixes.  Several recipes use more then one mix.  And sometimes one mix is used as an ingredient in another mix.  The Italian Tomato Sauce recipe uses both the Italian Spice Mix and the Tomato Sauce Mix.  Then the Spaghetti Supper uses the Italian Tomato Sauce and the Onion Soup Mix.  And the Alfredo Delight uses the White Sauce Mix and the Onion Soup Mix.  There are several recipes for various Cream Soups, although I was disappointed that none of them used White Bean Flour.  Oh well.

This book is great for anyone who wants to use their food-storage items to make mixes to make their everyday cooking quicker and easier.

Book Review: Make-A-Mix

The subtitle is "Over 300 Easy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day".  The authors are Karine Eliason, Nevada Harward, and Madeline Westover.

This book is not geared for using food storage in the mixes--it's written for ordinary people using ordinary ingredients.  So, for example, the Buttermilk Pancake & Waffle Mix recipe does not include powdered shortening or butter powder or powdered eggs (although it does include buttermilk powder).

The book includes recipes for three kinds of mixes:  dry mixes, which use only dry ingredients and should keep for 6 to 8 months on the cupboard;  semi-dry mixes, which use shortening, butter, or margarine (but not powdered), and will keep for 10 to 12 weeks; and freezer-refrigerator mixes, which include perishable ingredients and need to be kept in the freezer or fridge.  And it includes several recipes for using each mix.

As you might expect, there are recipes for all kinds of quickbreads:  biscuits, brownies, corn bread, etc. 

But the freezer-refrigerator mixes include some you might not expect.  Let's look at the All-Purpose Ground-Meat Mix.  In contains 5 lb. lean ground beef, turkey, or chicken; 1 tablespoon salt; 2 cups chopped celery; 2 cups chopped onion; and 1 cup diced green pepper.  You brown the hamburger, then add the salt and veggies.  Then you cover and let it simmer until the veggies are tender.  The recipe says to ladle into six 2-cup freezer containers with tight-fitting lids (but you can use whatever size makes sense for you and your family).  And you freeze it (use within 3 months). 

This ground-meat mix is almost identical to how I begin making spaghetti sauce (except that I don't use 5 lb. of meat).  I never thought to make up a bunch of it and freeze it in portions.  How clever!

The book includes several recipes using this ground-meat mix:  Best-Ever Minestrone Soup, Dinner in a Pumpkin, Hearty Chowder, Saturday Stroganoff, and several others.

The book is organized with all the mixes first, divided into chapters for the dry & semi-dry mixes, freezer-refridgerator mixes, and special mixes, followed by chapters for the recipes. 

There are a lot of good recipes in this book.  Of course, if you have a lot of your own recipes, you could figure out how to make parts of them into mixes to make cooking them easier.  But the book does that for you.  And besides, every cook likes to get his or her hands on new recipes, right?

The only thing I didn't like about this book was the organization.  Looking at the mixes, then looking at the recipes for what I can make with the mixes, took a lot of flipping back and forth between pages.

By the way, the brownie mix is awesome.  I did find that when I made the brownies I needed to add some liquid.  But the brownies are very good.  And they give lots of options for topping the brownies.

All in all, this is a great book and I'm looking forward to trying more of the recipes.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Book Review: freezer bag cooking; trail food made simple

Freezer bag cooking; trail food made simple by Sarah Svien Kirkconnell, is the book that got me started researching dehydrating my own foods.  Mrs. Kirkconnell uses freezer bag cooking while hiking, and hikers are her intended audience.  But the same idea is great for people who want to keep easy-to-fix meals on hand for short-term emergencies or power outages, or simply to have a quick, easy meal when one don't feel like cooking. I also think it would be good to keep some of these meals in a bug-out bag (B.O.B.) instead of, or in addition to, MREs or freeze-dried foods.

This book has several chapters besides the Introduction:  Gear & Techniques, Breakfast, Drinks, Salads & Vegetables, Soups, Lunch, Dinner, and Desserts.

Although the book has no pictures, almost all the recipies are very easy.  She includes directions for making each dish, and directions for preparing it on the trail.  Most recipes use dehydrated or freeze-dried foods and single-serving packets of condiments.

Here's an easy breakfast recipe: 

Trail Oatmeal

In a quart freezer bag put:
2 packets instant oatmeal, your choice of flavor
2 Tbsp dry milk, powdered soy milk or protein powder
2 Tbsp dried fruit

In camp:  Add 1 cup boiling water.  Stir well, put in cozy for 3 minutes.  Let cool a bit and eat.

Yield:  Serves 1

See how easy it is?  You could easily make up several of these packages in 10 or 15 minutes, and keep them on hand.

Here's another recipe that I need to try:

Carrot Raisin Salad

In a sandwich bag put:
1/2 cup dried or freeze-dried grated carrots
1/4 cup golden raisins

Also take:
1 packet sugar or sweetener
1/4 tsp salt (take a small packet)

Carry in a leak-proof container:
1 tsp vinegar (1 packet)
1 tsp oil (1 packet)

In camp:  Soak the carrots and raisins in enough cold water to cover, for 20-30 minutes (soak carrots for only half the time if they are freeze-dried).  Add the dry ingredients to the liquids and shake well.  Toss with the carrot mixture.

Yield:  Serves 3.

The book can be purchased from Sarah's web page, where you can also find more recipes:

Sarah's web site also has several videos showing how to cook her meals.  I enjoy the videos; she has a very relaxed, friendly style. 

She also sells the "cozy" she mentions in her recipe.  Basically, it's a quilted bag that you put your freezer-bag meal into so it stays warm while it's hydrating.

Oh, and I highly recommend this book.

Book Reviews

The reason I became interested in Food Storage is that I realized there could be times when the food in my 72-hour kit together with the food in my pantry might not be enough to see me through a disaster.  I live outside a small town in Oregon's Coast Range.  Our little town has been cut off from the rest of civilization 3 times in the last three years.  Once from a nasty storm that knocked trees down everywhere, closing the highway in several places.  Once from flooding over the highway (and in town).  And once from heavy snowfall that the road crews couldn't keep up with.

So, food storage is important.  But once you have food storage, how do you cook with it?  I need to be able to cook delicious meals now, so I rotate through my food storage, keeping it always fresh.  And I need to be able to cook delicious meals during a short-term disaster when the power is out for several days.  And I need to be able to cook delicious meals during a long-term disaster when the power is out for who-knows-how-long (my goal is to have food for a year).

Fortunately, many of the books available for learning to cook with food storage are fairly inexpensive.  So far, I have gone through several book dealing with such topics as freezer-bag cooking, cooking beans, cooking with food storage, and making mixes for normal use and from food-storage items.

I'll write individual book reviews of the books over time.  Please remember that these reviews are simply my opinion of the books.  Other people will probably find different strengths and weaknesses for each book.

Breakfast from Food Storage

I used up my Dehydrated Hashbrowns a little while ago. So when my Scrambled Egg Mix* arrived, I had no hash browns to eat with the eggs.

Dehydrated Potato Slices to the rescue! The Dehydrated Potato Slices make awesome fried potatoes. I like mine crunchy, so I use a really big frying pan and really spread out the potato slices. I fry them until they're almost like potato chips. Yum!

I was anxious to try the Scrambled Egg Mix. And I wanted to make my breakfast all from food storage. So after frying up some potatoes I made Bonnie's Deluxe Food Storage Scrambled Eggs. (You can name your own dishes, too. Go ahead, it's fun. How about "Linda's Caramel Delight Brownies". Wasn't that easy?)

Here's how I made the scrambled eggs:
I took about 1/4 cup mixed (by me) freeze-dried green peppers, freeze-dried celery, and dehydrated onions**, and re-hydrated them (while the potatoes were frying). Then I re-hydrated 1/2 cup Scrambled Egg Mix in 1/2 cup water. The freeze-dried veggies re-hydrate quickly, so after only a couple minutes I drained them and sauteed them in a pan with some butter (oops, not from food storage). When they were nicely sauteed I poured in the reconstituted egg mix, and cooked just like I do "real" eggs.

The eggs were awesome with the fried potatoes. One thing, though. I noticed that if you overcook the eggs they begin to taste sorta powdery. So make sure you leave them nice and soft. I don't think you have to worry about salmonella poisoning, as I'm sure the processing would have killed any bacteria that might have been present in the eggs.

This egg mix is supposed to be good for making french toast, too. I'll have to try that next.

*The Scrambled Egg Mix ingredient list: homogenized and pasteurized blend of whole egg, non-fat milk, vegetable oil, salt. So it's pasteurized; you don't have to worry about salmonella.

**I use green peppers, celery, and onions together in a lot of my cooking. So to make things easier, I just mixed together roughly equal portions of each and put then in a plastic container in the pantry. That way when I cook, I don't have to open 3 #10 cans to get the veggies I always use together anyway. I ASSUME that it's best to use refillable air-tight containers for food that I get in #10 cans. That way I don't have to keep opening the cans and letting fresh air in. I just have to open the cans a few times when I refill the containers.


Nasturtiums are one of my favorite flowers in the garden. They're beautiful, they self-seed, and you can eat both the flowers and the leaves.

I usually plant a trailing mix. The mix has flowers with one of two colors: bright orange, or bright gold with an orange splash at the base of each petal. Here's a picture of some that I planted this year. All the flowers are either that bright orange or the bright gold.

But since nasturtiums self-seed, the seedlings come up as mixtures of those two flowers bred to each other and to themselves (compliments of the bumblebees that love them), and there's a greater variety of colors.

These flowers are a result of nasties I planted three years ago, and that have self-seeded every year. Notice the softer orange of the flowers on the left. And look at the soft yellow with orange streaks in the flower below. You never get these colors out of the seeds in the seed package.

I have to admit, though, that I don't eat them. I'm not really crazy about the peppery taste.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Potato Flowers

I have three varieties of potatoes growing outside, and I think they're getting ready to start harvesting. I have Carola, Russian Banana, and Yukon Gold.

They say that you can start harvesting when the plants are blooming, and my Carolas are blooming now.

They're pretty little flowers, aren't they? I actually planted these Carolas last year. But I forgot what I planted so I never harvested any potatoes. Luckily, they overwintered and started growing again this year.

It's good to know they'll overwinter, because I'll want to grow them again next year.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Making Mixes From Your Food Storage

One of the things you can do to use your food storage on a day-to-day basis is to make mixes from it. Having a nice supply of mixes can make your cooking faster and easier (I'm all about fast and easy cooking--as long as it's good!). And it's cheaper to make your own than to buy them at the store.

To that end, the last time I was at the book store, I picked up a copy of Make-A-Mix, Over 300 Easy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day, by Karine Eliason, Nevada Harward, and Madeline Westover.

So tonight I decided to try making my first mix. I made a half recipe of their Brownie Mix, only I substituted white whole wheat flour for half of the all-purpose flour (so I can tell myself the brownies are a health food). Then, since the brownie and chocolate cookie recipe both call for 2-1/4 cups of the mix, I measured that much out into each of 3 quart-sized freezer bags. I had a little bit left in the bowl when done, so I mixed it with water and ate it. Yum!

I put the bags of mix into a #10 can (I finally polished off my dehydrated hash browns, so I used that can). Next, I made a label to fit the can. I used a full-page label from Avery, cut to fit the can. It didn't go all the way around, but that's OK. On the label, I added the recipes for the brownies and cookies I was interested in making, including the topping options. Then I added the ingredients in the mix. And finally I added the expiration date. The label looks awfully utilitarian, though. I need to add some pictures or something next time.

Once I get powdered eggs and shortening powder added to my pantry, I can add those to mixes and make them even easier to use.

The book also contains a baking mix recipe, similar to Bisquik, but I didn't make that because I have some Bisquik in the pantry. Might as well try that mix when I've used up the Bisquik.

The book also has a recipe for a Snack Cake Mix, and the recipe for several snack cakes you can make from it. The Applesauce Snack Cake sounds good, and I was thinking it might make a nice Christmas gift. Start with a nice jar, than add the Snack Cake Mix. Then add the dry ingredients for the Applesauce Snack Cake, including powdered egg and freeze-dried applesauce. It might be best to put the applesauce into a separate packet. Then it can be rehydrated, adding a little extra water for the egg (which will be mixed in with the mix).

Actually, I think my brother might like a #10 can full of brownie mix for Christmas, too.

Anyway, if you're at all interested in making mixes for yourself or for gifts, this is a good book. There are several others on the market. I went to yesterday and oggled them all. I finally ordered a copy of Mix-A-Meal Cookbook. It sounds like it's geared more toward using food storage, so it should be even easier than Make-A-Mix.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

ShelfReliance Sale Items

Since I posted about the Emergency Essentials sale items, I thought I'd check out the sale items at ShelfReliance. Wow! They have a ton of stuff on sale. Some items you can get individually, but some you have to buy by the case (six cans) to get the special price. Here are some of the things they have on sale:

  1. Apple Drink
  2. Whole Wheat Flour (6 cans)
  3. Potato Chunks (6 cans)
  4. White Flour (6 cans)
  5. Apple Slices
  6. 9-Grain Cracked Cereal
  7. Freeze-Dried Chopped Onions
  8. Freeze-Dried Strawberries (6 cans)
  9. Powdered Milk

Emergency Essentials August specials

I've received my August catalog for Emergency Essentials, and I thought I'd post about this month's specials.

  1. Their Scrambled Egg Mix is on sale for $18.99; it's usually $33.95
  2. Their Freeze Dried Scrambled Eggs is on sale for $25.99; it's usually $30.95
  3. Whole Eggs powder is on sale for $17.99; it's usually $27.95
  4. Powdered Egg Whites is on sale for $22.99; it's usually $44.95
  5. Freeze-Dried Green Bell Peppers is on sale for $12.99; it's usually $19.95
  6. Freeze-Dried Peach Slices is on sale for $16.99; it's usually $21.95
  7. Freeze-Dried Neapolitan Ice Cream Slices is on sale for $18.99; it's usually $31.20 (except the web site says it's usually $19.95, so I'm not sure which is correct.
  8. Freeze-Dried Ice Cream Sandwiches is on sale for $20.99; it's usually $31.20 (except the web site says it's usually $21.95, so again I'm not sure which is correct.
  9. Their new 925 All-American Pressure Cooker/Canner is on sale for $279.99; it's MSRP is $384.00

Since I'd been planning on buying most of these items either this month or next month, I bought mostly sale items this month (saving myself $37.00).

I'm really looking forward to trying the Whole Egg Powder in my baking. I usually eat the eggs in my fridge, so I'm often out of eggs when I get a hankering to bake on a Sunday night. Also, once I get some Shortening Powder and can make my own pancake/biscuit mix, and other mixes.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Dehydrated Hashbrown Potatoes review

I made hashbrowns from the dehydrated hashbrown potatoes I got from Emergency Essentials, and I couldn't have been happier with them.

They were super easy to make. I just measured out the potatoes and put them into boiling water with a little bit of salt. I let them boil until tender, only a minute or two. Then I drained them and put them in a frying pan to fry while I cooked my eggs. This was so much easier than parboiling potatoes, grating them, then frying them.

The hashbrowns were very tasty. I couldn't tell the difference between them and hashbrowns cooked directly from potatoes.

These potatoes would be great in a casserole or breakfast skillet (like they serve at Sharri's).

In short, I highly recommend these to anyone who likes hashbrowns.

Friday, July 10, 2009

My wood-burning stove

Here's a picture of my wood-burning stove, when it was first installed.
This is the stove I cooked on when the power was out.
The grill-looking thing on top is supposed to direct warm air out into the room. I'm not sure it works as advertised. And it takes up room that could have been used for cooking. I think it was a waste. But over all I'm very happy with the stove. It really puts out the heat!

Pictures from the December 2008 snow event

Here's a picture of the road outside my house.

And here's a picture of my truck covered in snow.

Why I have a link to

You may be wondering why I include a link to After all, it's a blog/website devoted to freezer-bag cooking, for campers and hikers, not food storage.

Well, it was the freezer-bag cooking that got me interested in dehydrating my own foods, and creating freezer-bag meals for my 72-hour emergency kit (now my 2-week emergency kit).

You see, I've had to delve into my 72-hour kit each December for the last three years, and it was getting pricey to keep replenishing it with freeze-dried meals (although they were very good). At the time I found the website, it was called Freezer-bag Cooking, but is now

What were the emergencies we've had the last 3 Decembers?

December 2006 we had a heck of a wind storm that knocked out power to our area, and was followed by several days of very cold weather. The night-time temps were in the teens, and the daytime temps weren't a lot warmer. My power was out for 3 days. I spent that time feeding wood into the wood-burning stove, and cooking over sterno. So I used my freeze-dried food because it was quicker to cook than "real" food.

December 2007 our town flooded. I don't live in town, and my house didn't flood. But the power company's substation is in town, and it flooded and the power went out for days. Although my house wasn't flooded, all the roads into and out of the area were flooded, and I couldn't go anywhere. The road into town was flooded, so I couldn't get in to the local grocery store, but that was flooded, too, so it didn't matter that I couldn't get to it. Again, I heated the house with the wood-burning stove and cooked my freeze-dried meals with sterno.

December 2008 we had a massive--for us--snowstorm. We got snow almost every day for 2 weeks. At one time I had 17 inches of snow in my front yard. Now, there are lots of people who live in places where this is nothing. But we just don't get that much snow and we aren't prepared for it. We don't have the resources to deal with it. Our local police were being driven around by the National Guard in their Hummers. They said it was the only way they could get around. The power was out at my house for a couple days, then it came on for a couple days, then it was out for a couple days, then it came on for a couple days, then it went out again. Again, I heated the house with wood, and cooked my freeze-dried meals on sterno. But I was also melting snow in pots on the wood stove and realized that I could get water up to boiling. So I started cooking oatmeal on the wood stove. But I still went though all my freeze-dried food. Again.

So I started looking for an alternative to freeze-dried food. Something that would still be quick to fix, taste good, but be cheaper. That's how I found Freezer-bag Cooking. I've learned a lot from Sarah's website, and from there learned more about dehydrating foods.

I've cooked and dehydrated beans, brown rice, vegetables, and Farm House Rice Pilaf--a packaged rice and seasonings item similar to Rice-a-Roni but without the Roni. The nice thing about having the food cooked and dehydrated is that I can rehydrate exactly as much as I need at any one time, so no food goes to waste. And I can rehydrate using Sarah's techniques from Freezer-bag Cooking, so it's quick and easy.

First attempt at Potato Casserole

Although I received my Emergency Essentials order a week ago, I didn't get a change to experiment with the potato casserole I've been thinking of until Wednesday night. Here's what I did.

I put 2 cups of dehydrated potato slices into a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish. Then I added 1 cup of freeze-dried broccoli, 1/4 cup bacon flavored TVP, and 3 Tbsp cheese blend powder shaken up with 1 cup of water. And I sprinkled in a little salt and put the dish, covered, into a 35o-degree oven for 40 minutes.

When I looked at it, the food was all rehydrated and tender, but the sauce was watery. So I added 1 Tbs white bean flour, shaken in a little water, and put back into the oven for 4 minutes (the bean flour needs to cook for 3 minutes). It thickened up the sauce nicely.

So...what did it taste like? Well, it was good, but a little tasteless. I should have added more salt, and probably more cheese blend powder. Next time, I might add some onions, too, and maybe some chicken broth. But it was good. The potatoes and broccoli were very good--I couldn't tell they'd been dried and rehydrated.

The bacon-flavored TVP was interesting. I put it in at the beginning, and was a little concerned it'd be soggy. In fact, it looked and tasted more like little bits of ham than bacon. That's fine, ham is good with potatoes, broccoli, and cheese. Next time, I might try saving it 'til the end and sprinkling it on top.

All in all, it was a good experiment. I had it for dinner Wednesday, for lunch on Thursday, and I'll finish it tonight.

Shelf Reliance

After Shelf Reliance posted a comment to my last post, I had to go check out their website, Like Emergency Essentials, they have food in #10 cans, recipes, and other survival products, as well as several informative articles. But they had some other things, too, that are really cool. sells food storage shelves that look really awesome. They look fully customizable. They have units that are designed to make it easy to put your new purchases behind the older ones, so you use the oldest ones first. They work like a pop-can dispenser in the refrigerator, in that you put the cans in at the top, and they roll around to the bottom where you take them out. It looks like they have sizes for #10 cans, #2 cans, and for tuna-sized cans. And they have shelf units that pull out so you can easily see what you have stored in the back. I REALLY want these shelves, so I'll have to save up for them. also has a food storage purchasing program called Thrive Q. It helps you set up a plan: how much of which kinds of food to purchase, how much to spend per month, and when to send the monthly shipments. It looks great. You can adjust your plan at any time, suspend it for a month if you need to, anything you want.

I haven't purchased anything from shelf reliance yet. But I intent to in the future.

I believe it's important to get survival and food storage information from several different sources, and is one of the sources I'll use from now on.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

My Second Order from Emergency Essentials

I placed my second order from Emergency Essentials last night.

My strategy for increasing my food storage is to buy a few things every month (more than I eat), and learn to cook with them as I get them. This should gradually increase the amount of food I have stored as well my proficiency in cooking with it.

This time I ordered a can each of freeze-dried hash brown potatoes, sliced potatoes, broccoli, and sliced strawberries. I also ordered a pound each of powdered chicken-flavored broth and onion powder. And I got some more seasoning jars and a book on cooking with home storage.

I'm looking forward to using the sliced potatoes and broccoli to make a casserole with the bacon-flavored TVP and cheese powder I got last time. And I can use the hash brown potatoes to make quick and easy hash browns to go with my scrambled eggs with bacon-flavored TVP and dehydrated veggies.

I'll use the seasoning jars for the broth and onion powders. I already have carrot and tomato powders in the seasoning jars I got last time. And I plan to make celery powder out of dehydrated celery, and some other powders, too. So I need lots of jars.

Now I'm going to have to organize my pantry so I have room for all this food!

Review of Provident Pantry's Bacon Flavored TVP

I wasn't sure what to expect when I opened the can of Provident Pantry's Bacon Flavored Textured Vegetable Protein. The pieces were little nuggets about the size of Rice Krispies. The flavor wasn't exactly like bacon, and was somewhat overpowering when I sniffed the can (well, it was a big can!).

One of my favorite breakfasts is scrambled eggs with chopped bacon, onions, green peppers, and celery, along with homemade biscuits with butter and honey. Hmmm. I'm making myself hungry.

So I decided to try making the eggs with the Bacon Flavored TVP, and dried onions and celery. And it turned out pretty darn good. OK, not as good as if I'd used real bacon and fresh veggies. But it was certainly a good substitute for when I don't have the fresh ingredients on hand.

Next I want to try making a potato, bacon, broccoli casserole with dehydrated potatoes, freeze-dried broccoli, and the Bacon Flavored TVP. But I'll have to wait for me next order from Emergency Essentials to arrive.

Review of Dehydrated Refried Beans

I've used the Provident Pantry Dehydrated Refried Beans I got from Emergency Essentials several times now.

I was not really impressed the first time I tried them. I simply re-hydrated them to use as a dip for tortilla chips, as I often do with canned refried beans. But the flavor was stronger then the canned beans I usually eat. And I didn't like the texture. It seemed like maybe there were a lot of tough bean skins in them.

But after I tried them a few more times I realized that those "tough bean skins" were not actually bean skins. They were little chips of the beans that hadn't been re-hydrated properly.

Once I realized this, I realized that I needed to use more water to re-hydrate than the instructions said to use. Now the texture is much better. And now that I've gotten used to the stronger flavor, I like that, too.

What I really like is that I can re-hydrate as much or as little as I want, so I don't waste any.

One of the things I like about eating at Mexican restaurants is that they always include sides of refried beans and Spanish rice with shredded cheese on top. So one night last week I decided to make some at home. I re-hydrated the beans, making sure I did it properly. And I re-hydrated some brown rice I'd dehydrated with a little bit of tomato powder and some salt and seasonings (I think I used Italian seasoning). Then I sprinkled some shredded cheese over the top of the rice and the beans, popped it into the microwave to melt the cheese, and had wonderful Spanish rice and refried beans. Yum!

So...the verdict? Once you learn how to use these beans they are really good.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

All Those Gadgets Were a Bad Idea

Now that I added all those gadgets the other day, I'm getting rid of most of them. They were cute. They were fun. But they take too long to load when I'm on a slow dial-up connection.

Ah well.

The Kale Was Terrible!

I tried my dehydrated kale the other night, and it was terrible.

I'd come home from work late, and was too tired to fix a real meal. So I decided to make a quick soup out of some of the things I've been dehydrating. I got 1/2 cup of my cooked-and-dehydrated navy beans and 1/2 cup of my cooked-and-dehydrated brown rice. I added some dehydrated carrots, celery, and green pepper. Then I added some of the kale and some herbs and spices and some chicken stock. Then I added boiling water and let it rehydrate everything.

The first few spoonfuls weren't bad. But then I noticed my mouth felt funny. And then I remembered than when I blanched the kale there was a greasy residue in my pot. That greasy residue was now in my mouth. I tried to eat some more, but it just got worse. So I ended up throwing the soup away. And the rest of the kale.

So I guess this is a good example of why you should try your emergency foods before an emergency.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

I Added Some Gadgets

I added some gadgets to this blog, so take a look around the page. There are some quotations and weird facts on the bottom of the page. And there are several gadgets along the right side, too.

The Cool Clouds picture will change every time you refresh your web browser. I left it near the top of the page so you don't have to keep scrolling to see it if you refresh.

The Weather always starts at New York. I've tried to enter Vernonia's zip code, but it won't save it. Of course, you can enter your own zip code to see your current weather.

You can refine the posts visible in your window by using the Blog Archive gadget. Click "2009" to see all this year's posts. Or click on "June" to see just this month's posts.

Right now the Favorite Links gadget just has links to gardening and preparedness websites. I'll be adding more later. I'm hoping to find a way to categorize the links. Stay tuned...

Thoughts on the Cranberry Leather

I've been thinking about the Cranberry Leather that I threw away last week. I think the problem was that the flavor was just way too strong. I think if cranberries were mixed with applesauce the leather would be a lot better. So I'm going to try that when cranberries are available again in the fall.

My Emergency Essentials Order Arrived Today

My Emergency Essentials order arrived today. I ordered a #10 can each of Dehydrated Refried Beans, Cheese Blend, Artificially Flavored Imitation Bacon Bits Textured Vegetable Protein, and Tomato Powder. I also ordered a Bean cookbook and 3 8-oz spice jars.

I'm really excited to try the refried beans. I usually buy them in #2 cans at the grocery store. But I often waste some of it because I just can't eat that much at once. So I like the idea of using the dehydrated stuff. I can mix up just as much as I need.

I'm concerned that I won't be able to use all the food in each can before it deteriorates. But I thought I'd make a cover out of folded Glad wrap to put over the top surface of what's left in the can. That should keep out at least some of the moisture and oxygen then gets into the can when I open it.

I'm planning to use the Tomato Powder to make Spanish Rice (among other things). When I'm eating at a Mexican restaurant I always like to mix my rice into my beans. So this should work well with the re-hydrated beans. And I can make a cheese sauce with the cheese powder to put over the top.

I'm also looking forward to using the Bacon TVP and Cheese Blend with potatoes and broccoli to make a cheesy potato casserole. Yum!

Emergency Essentials

Last Friday I placed a small order from Emergency Essentials:

They have a lot of dehydrated and freeze-dried foods. They carry several of the Mountain House meals, as well as Provident Pantry foods (their own brand). They have an awesome variety of fruits and vegetables, grains and legumes, and meats and meat substitutes. They also carry other preparedness supplies

The foods come in several different options. Most everything is available in #10 cans. Some of the Mountain House meals come in 2-serving pouches. And some staples, such as beans and whole grains, come in 6-lb "Superpails" with metallized bags. The pails and bags are also available separately.

Once of the things I like about Emergency Essentials is that they have lots of recipes using their products. If, for example, you're looking at their Dehydrated Whole Eggs, you can click on "Related Recipes" and get a list of recipes using their whole egg powder.

When I first visited the website, the prices seemed a little high to me. $22.95 for freeze-dried whole blueberries. But when you consider how much you get in that #10 can--80% of a gallon--and what it would cost to get the food and dry it yourself--the price seems really reasonable.

They also have several articles on storing foods and other emergency preparedness topics.

All in all, it's a good website to browse around.

The dehydrated kale turned out great: nice and crispy.

I wasn’t sure how long to blanch it. The directions for most of the vegetables in my dehydrator book say to blanch for a couple minutes or “until the color changes.” So I thought that’s what I’d do. But the color turned to dark green as soon as I dropped the snipped leaves into the boiling water. So I left them for a couple minutes then took them out. The kale wasn’t cooked, but that’s OK because it will cook when I use it

The blanched kale was a soggy green mass—like cooked spinach. I wasn’t about to try pulling out individual pieces, so I just spread globs of kale around on the mesh screens for my dehydrator. And it dried very well.

It’ll go well in soups and stews.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Time To Harvest The Kale

I find myself in an unusual situation: I have a tubfull of mature kale, and nothing to do with them. So I think I'll pick them on Saturday and dehydrate them.

I usually plant kale in the early spring along with my spinach and lettuce mix. And them I mix the young, tender leaves in with my lettuce and spinach salads. But this year my spinach and lettuce didn't come up. Even a second planting of them is yielding only 5 spinach plants. So now I have a whiskey-barrel tub full of kale and no salad to put them in.

I know you can steam kale and eat it like spinach, but I'm not that crazy about cooked spinach. However, I will sometimes snip the kale or spinach into little strips and put them into stew or scrambled eggs.

So I think after I pick all the mature leaves tomorrow, I'll snip them, blanch them, and dehydrate them. Then I can add them to soups, stews, eggs, or whatever.

More Irises opening

This morning when I took Firenzi outside, I noticed that another new iris has opened its first blossom: Mexican Holiday. The description on Schreiner's website says that it has "brassy gold standards and rich maroon falls." I thought the falls looked more plum than maroon. It's beautiful, though.

Here's a link to it's picture:

I planted several new irises last year, and it's a lot of fun seeing how closely the blossoms match the pictures in the catalog.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cranberry Fruit Leather

I tried making Cranberry Leather last weekend. And this morning I finally gave trying to get it dry. It just doesn't want to dry all the way. It's still slightly tacky on top.

I had 3 bags of frozen cranberries left over from last winter, so I decided to try making Cranberry Leather. I thought I'd follow the same procedure I used for my Rhubarb Leather.

But it just didn't turn out as well. Maybe I put too much sugar in it. Maybe I added to much water. I tried rolling it up this morning, even though it's still tacky, and it made a nice roll. But I'm not crazy about the flavor.

Hmmm, maybe I don't like cranberries as much as rhubarb. Ah well.

Spring/Early Summer Flowers Blooming

This morning I noticed that my first California Poppy is blooming.

My first Iris of the year is open too: Passion and Purity. You can see a picture of it on Schreiner's website:

I really like the amoenas. They're the Irises with white standards and darker falls. I'm going to have to find out how to pronounce "amoena."

I just planted this particular Iris last year, so I'm happy to see it doing so well.

Monday, May 25, 2009

I Really Like Rhubarb

A couple weeks ago I decided to try the Rhubarb Leather recipe in Mary Bell’s Complete Dehydrator Cookbook. I was thrilled with the results—even though I didn’t exactly follow the recipe. I filled up the four leather trays in my dehydrator, and had enough sauce left over to stuff myself on. It was wonderful!

It has that tangy rhubarb flavor, but sweetened just enough with the brown sugar.

So, here's what I did...

I have a couple really productive rhubarb plants out back, so I picked a big armload of rhubarb. I brought them inside and cut off the leaves to put in the compost. You do know not to eat rhubarb leaves, don’t you? They’re poisonous. My dog, Firenzi, was disappointed that he didn’t get to eat the leaves, as I normally give him all the trimmings when I’m fixing something from the garden.

After washing the rhubarb and cutting off the bottom of each stalk, I cut the remainder of each stalk into roughly 1-in pieces. The pieces took up about ¾ of my 4.5-quart stock pot. I covered them with water, added a pinch of salt, and set them on the stove to come to a boil. They were just starting to boil when I poked them with a fork, and they were tender. So I decided that they were cooked enough.

I poured off the water (I shouldn’t have put so much water in), and pureed the cooked rhubarb in batches in the blender. When it was all pureed, I added brown sugar and cinnamon to taste, then spread the sauce on my four leather trays.

I don’t remember how long it took to dehydrate the leather, but it was just perfect--no longer tacky, but soft enough to roll up. So I rolled up the four sheets and cut them into bite sized pieces.

I tried not to eat them too fast, so I made them last a week. They were so good. Now I think I need to plant more rhubarb—I definitely want to make more of this leather!

Welcome and Introduction

Hello, and welcome to the DragonRanch Inn blog. Thanks for dropping in.

This blog will contain notes of my experiments, projects, successes, and failures for my various endeavors. I’m slowly building a food forest, using permaculture techniques. I’ve been learning and experimenting with dehydrating food. I garden, make soap, and make things out of concrete. I make beaded jewelry, too, but I probably won’t post much about that.

I hope that people doing similar things will find my posts helpful and interesting. And I hope that people will comment on them with more tips, questions, and such.