(Mostly) Food Storage Recipe - Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins with Cream Cheese Topping

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Having pre-made muffin mix around is becoming dangerous to my waist-line...  ;)

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins with Cream Cheese Topping

3 eggs (or use 3 Tbsp egg powder and 6 Tbsp water)
3 tsp vanilla
2 cups water
3/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
5 1/2 cups Universal Muffin Mix
2 cups pumpkin puree
1 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice
3 cups mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Beat eggs in bowl; add vanilla, water and oil.  Add dry muffin mix and stir to combine.  Then gently stir in pumpkin, pie spice and chocolate chips - mix just until combined.  Fill muffin tin that has been sprayed with non-stick spray.  (I use a 2oz disher/scoop, it is the perfect size.) In separate bowl, beat together the following:

2 (8oz) pkg cream cheese
2 eggs
1/2 sugar

Drop cream cheese topping by rounded tablespoon on top of each muffin.

Bake 18-20 minutes.

Makes 2 dozen large (and incredibly tasty) muffins.  Nothing says fall quite like pumpkin and chocolate chips!

Okay, so the topping part isn't necessarily food storage, because of the cream cheese and fresh eggs, but these are still good WITHOUT the topping, and that part IS all from food storage!  ;)

Food Storage Meal - Skillet Baked Rigatoni

Saturday, October 19, 2013

This is a recipe I got from the amazingly gifted ladies at Our Best Bites, and modified just slightly to fit our family's needs (and what we had in the pantry/food storage).  It turned out absolutely fabulously!!!  The kids had seconds, the husband had thirds, and I was told to definitely not lose this recipe!  :)

We've done baked ziti before, and it was okay, but this recipe takes it to a whole new level!

Skillet Baked Rigatoni
1 pound Italian sausage
1 (28oz) can whole peeled tomatoes (or 2 14.5 oz cans)
1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. minced garlic (about 6 cloves)
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
3 cups water
12 oz rigatoni pasta
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (yes, I used the stuff in the green can...it was all I had)
1 Tbsp. dried basil (or 1/4 cup fresh chopped basil leaves, if you've got them)
1 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

[Except for needing a food processor, you can pretty much make this in one pot.  But make sure your skillet or pot is oven-safe to 475F.]

Preheat oven to 475F.  Pour tomatoes and juice into food processor and pulse until no large pieces remain. 

Heat a 12-inch or larger skillet (you could use a brazier, if you're awesomely lucky to have one, or a chef's casserole - I love my 5qt chef's casserole from Costco, it worked perfectly for this dish) over medium-high heat and add 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil.  Add sausage and cook, crumbling with a spatula, until browned and fully cooked through, about 3-5 minutes.  Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for additional 1-2 minutes until fragrant.  Stir in the tomatoes and 1/2 tsp. salt.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes no longer taste raw, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the water, then add pasta.  Increase heat to medium-high, cover and cook, stirring often and adjusting heat to maintain a vigorous simmer, until pasta is tender, 15-18 minutes.

Stir in the cream, Parmesan cheese, and basil, and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over the top, and transfer the skillet to the oven.  Bake until cheese has melted and browned, about 10-15 minutes.

Trust me, it tastes MUCH better than it looks in this picture!  Ha ha ha!  I've got to take a photography class one of these days...  ;)

Now, I think you *COULD* make this into a freezer meal if ya' wanted to.  Follow recipe as above, except undercook the pasta by about half of the time.  Then, before the last step of adding the mozzarella cheese, pour into a foil tray or ziptop bag, etc.  and label and freeze.  Then, to fix for a meal, you could either reheat on the stove first, or just place it in a baking dish and toss it straight in the oven (if you do that option, you'll want to double the time, and only put the cheese on for the last 10-15 minutes).

Food Storage Meal - Cranberry Catalina Chicken

Friday, October 18, 2013

This meal is SO easy and SO tasty - I can't believe I haven't shared it on here before!  Shame on me...

Just gather together a few simple ingredients:

You'll need:
(1) 16oz can whole berry cranberry sauce
(1) 16oz bottle Catalina dressing (you can also make this with Russian dressing!)
(1) pkg dry onion soup mix (or a bottle of the make your own stuff)
(1) tsp. apple cider vinegar
Season your chicken with salt and pepper, and sprinkle on about half of the package of onion soup mix.
Heat a pan on medium-high heat.  Add a little bit of oil and brown chicken breasts for 2-3 minutes per side.  Then remove the chicken and place it in a 9x13 baking dish.
In a separate bowl, combine the cranberry sauce, dressing, apple cider vinegar and the remainder of the onion soup mix.  Pour over chicken making sure to thoroughly coat all pieces.

Bake at 350F for 30-60 minutes, depending on size and thickness of chicken breasts.  Or until a meat thermometer stuck in the thickest part of the breast reads 165F.  (I use my Polder thermometer and set it to beep when the chicken gets to the right temp.)

Remove from oven and serve over rice.
You can also make this into a freezer meal!  Just add your chicken breasts to a ziptop bag, pour in the rest of the ingredients, and label and freeze!  You can cook in the crockpot on low for 6-8 hours (in which case you probably don't even need to defrost it first) or you can defrost in the fridge overnight and then bake in the oven the next day.

Food Storage Meal - Chicken, Potatoes and Carrots

Sunday, October 13, 2013
So, *I* personally consider this to be a "food storage" meal, because all of this came from my fridge or food storage.  But I can see how it might not fall into the "food storage" category for some depending on different definitions, and that's okay.  Because I really wanted to focus more on the method of cooking rather than the meal itself.

These are all items I already had on hand.  Carrots from the fridge, potatoes from cold storage and chicken from the fridge/freezer.  (Today's chicken came from the fridge simply because I happened to have some out already.  Usually I use frozen chicken for this.) The only other addition is chicken broth, and today, rather than break open one of the jars of broth I just canned (I just can't bring myself to open them just yet), I used up the last of my jar of Better Than Bouillon chicken broth concentrate from my fridge - love that stuff!  (And I totally forgot the jar of bouillon in the picture above - oops!)

This is my electric pressure cooker - love it to death!  It is really easy to use, and I love being able to stick frozen meat in here and have a fully cooked entrĂ©e in 1/3 the time it would normally take.  That's a miracle for me, who rarely thinks about what's for dinner before 4pm, and is then left scrambling to come up with something and a freezer full of frozen meat that will take hours to thaw and cook...

Anyways, you don't need an electric/digital pressure cooker to do this, you can use the standard stovetop model too.

I just make three layers in my pot - carrots first, then peeled and diced potatoes (I cut them into 1 inch chunks).  I then add salt and pepper on top of the potatoes (before I put the chicken in). 

Then on top of the potatoes go the chicken breasts.  You can use fresh or frozen, whatever you've got handy!  I then season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper, and then either thyme or Montreal chicken seasoning.  Once the chicken is in (make sure to not overfill your pot - check your instructions for the proper amount your cooker can handle), pour 4-6 cups of chicken broth around the outsides of the pot until it fills up to your fill line or halfway up your chicken layer.

Then it's just a matter of putting your lid on and setting the controls.  For this meal, I use High Pressure for 8 minutes.  Once your pressure valve is engaged, just press start and walk away while it does its thing! 

It takes a few minutes to come up to pressure, and then the timer kicks in and the pressure cooking begins.  At the end of the time, I usually do a 4-minute natural release and then quick release after that, but since the chicken really only needs 4 mins at high pressure and then 4 mins of natural release, and we're cooking the pot for 8 mins at high pressure, you can skip the natural release and just go to quick release once the pressure time is over. 

Once the pressure is released, I take out the chicken, set it on a plate, strain out the broth, and use it to make a quick gravy from a roux on the stovetop.  Then we eat!  It's fast, and easy, and there is hardly any mess to clean up! Plus it tastes darn good - this thing makes the BEST potatoes ever!  I use it every year to make garlic smashed potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner - they are fabulous!

Just remember, there is a different between pressure COOKERS and pressure CANNERS.  This model cannot be used to pressure can.  But I do happen to have one that CAN be used as both a cooker and canner, and I HIGHLY recommend it! 

This is the Fagor Duo cooker/canner combo set.  (You can buy just the cooker/canner portion if you already have the canning stuff.)  It is the 10qt model.  I wouldn't recommend less than the 10qt.  It's an appropriate size for family meals, and big enough to handle 4 quart jars for canning. 

You see, I love cooking on a gas stove, but it scares me - a LOT!  I am always bending over the stove and I swear my clothing is always just inches away from catching on fire.  Plus I have little kids and open flames make me nervous when the kids running around anywhere.  So we replaced our gas stovetop with a flat-top induction model.  The ONLY problem I've had with the induction stoves is that you must use certain types of pots/cookware with them (they must be magnetic).  The big pressure canners out there, that I love so much (I have a large Presto that I adore!), are all aluminum, which will not work on an induction stovetop.  This Fagor is the only stainless steel canner option that I've found here in the U.S. so far.  Hoping that that will change, but until then, this is what I've got.  And it's actually working out just fine!  I do have to do more batches, but as far as canners go, this thing COULD NOT BE EASIER!  No checking gauges, no reading dials, no listening for the rocking pressure mounts...you just set the dial to "2" and wait for the steam to come out.  Once it does, you start your timer, and turn your heat down, and THAT'S IT!  I can totally leave the room with this one and know it's still at the right pressure as long as I can hear the steam.

And the reason I bring this all up, is that pressure cookers are a nice option for times when you're needing to conserve fuel.  Because of the high temps they can cook food much faster and more efficiently, so a little bit of fuel goes a long way!  And while my electric pressure cooker won't be much help in an extended power outage situation, my Fagor cooker doesn't have that limitation and can be used in a variety of situations and with different fuel options!

Canned Chicken Broth

Friday, October 11, 2013

Hooray - it worked!!!  ;)  And have I mentioned recently that I love having a pressure canner?  I do - I love it!  I miss being able to use my big Presto canner (I have an induction stove and the Presto is aluminum which doesn't work with induction), but I have a smaller Fagor Duo pressure cooker/canner that is working quite nicely until I can find some way to resolve the induction vs. aluminum dilemma.  But it's small, so it means I have to run more batches.

This is nearly 2 full gallons of chicken broth.  I used quart and pint bottles so I would have a variety of sizes - the pints are equivalent to the 14.5oz cans you buy at the store, and the quarts are equivalent to the 32oz cartons.  I mostly use the smaller cans in recipes, but for chicken noodle soup I need the carton size, so hence a few quart jars will come in handy.

I did manage to get this all into two batches with my Fagor Duo.  The first batch was the 4 quart jars, and the second batch was all 7 of the regular mouth pint jars.

This all came from the scraps and leftovers from the 80 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts I froze or canned this last week.  40 lbs of it was divided and sealed in Foodsaver bags and put into the freezer, and the other 40 lbs was pressure canned.  The big 40 lb boxes come with the breasts split by not separated, and the fat is not fully trimmed off.  So after separating each half of the breast and trimming the remaining fat, I ended up with about 6-7 lbs of scraps.

To make the broth, I used the recipe for chicken stock in the Blue Bible (Ball Blue Book of Preserving) and doubled it:

3-4 lbs chicken, cut into pieces (in my case, I used the scraps)
4 quarts water
2 stalks celery (I skipped this - didn't have any on hand, so used a couple handfuls of baby carrots instead)
2 medium onions, quartered
10 peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon salt

Bring it all to a boil and then let simmer for 2 hours (or more like 3 if you happen to forget to watch the clock).  Then remove from heat and strain out all the stuff, leaving just the liquid.  Let the stock cool until the fat solidifies (I put it in plastic containers in the fridge overnight).  Remove or skim off fat.  Strain through a sieve or cheesecloth.  Bring stock to a boil in a large stockpot.  Ladle hot stock into hot jars, leaving 1-in headspace.  Place lids and rings on jars and process in pressure canner - 20 min for pints, 25 for quarts.

Since I doubled the recipe, this made the equivalent of 15 cans of chicken broth.  I didn't pay anything extra for the chicken, it was scraps and was just going to be thrown out anyway.  I threw in some carrots that were on their way out anyway, and tossed in the four onions from my pantry.  The peppercorns and bay leaves are just from my regular pantry supplies.  I already had the jars, and only had to "pay" for new lids. 

15 cans of broth will run you usually about 7.50 or more (assuming .50/ea, which is a good sale price).  The only things I really had to "pay" for were the new lids, and those were about 1.50 for a dozen.  So in this case, much cheaper to can my own broth/stock with my leftover scraps! 

Interesting Article - 3 Reasons Why Expiration Dates are Worthless

Thursday, October 10, 2013
Ran across this interesting article today in the local news. 

KSL News - 3 Reasons Why Expiration Dates are Worthless

I'm going to have to look up the original study and get more info.  But I do think I agree with what they found in the study.  I'm not one to be locked into rigidly keeping with expiration dates, and I also know that there is a difference between an "expiration" date and "best by" date and I keep that in mind when deciding whether to use an item or not. 

About the only thing that I really worry about expiration dates for is dairy products, and even then I use it as a "guideline".  In fact, I have some sour cream that I just used today that was perfectly good, even though it "expired" yesterday.  And I've been known to use yogurt WAY past the stamped date...  ;)  I generally let my eyes and nose by my guide, whether an item has reached its expiration date or not.  Because sometimes it goes bad even BEFORE that date!

What do you think of expiration dates?  Do you use them? Strictly adhere to them? Only use them as a guideline?

And did you know that bottled water must carry an expiration date, by law?  ;)

Food Storage Meal - Chicken Stuffing Casserole

Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Next up on the list for food storage meals this week was leftovers from Sunday night!  Ha ha ha!  :) 

But the meal was 99% from food storage, so I figured I would share it.  Although, I don't have a good photo for right now.  So sad.

This one is super easy and fast!  The kids loved it the first night, but then apparently decided they hated it last night because they didn't eat any.  Go figure. 

Chicken Stuffing Casserole
(This is basically a modification of the chicken bake recipe on the back of the Stove Top box)

2 box Stove Top stuffing mix
2 cans cream of chicken soup
4 large chicken breasts (I use ones from my freezer)
2/3 cup sour cream (can omit)
3 cups water (reserved from cooking chicken)
1 stick butter
3-4 cubes chicken bouillon

Preheat oven to 350F.  Boil chicken breasts in pot covered with water and add 3-4 bouillon cubes.  Once chicken is done, take it out and shred; reserve 3 cups of the bouillon water.  Spray 9x13 dish with cooking spray.  Spread shredded chicken on bottom of dish.  Mix the cream of chicken soup and sour cream together, and then spread in a layer on top of the chicken.  Open stuffing mix bags and sprinkle over the top of the soup layer.  Melt the butter and add it to the 3 cups of reserved water, then pour both over the top of the stuffing layer.  Bake at 350F for 1 hour until bubbly and the top is golden brown.

We served this with baked potatoes and peas.

Food Storage Meal - BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches and Crispy Parmesan & Herb Oven Fries

Okay, so I may or may not have completely, and totally, and utterly, blown my grocery budget out of the water in the first five days of the month...(We were running out of chicken in the freezer and on the shelves with the canned stuff, so I ended up getting two of the 40lb boxes of boneless, skinless chicken breasts.)  Love the case lots sales at Macey's, but boy are they dangerous for my bank account!!!  :)

Rather than just try to move money around from other budget categories to cover the grocery needs for the rest of the month, I'm going to challenge myself to try to make most, if not all, of the family meals for the rest of the month from our food storage!  I have about $80 left in the budget, and that will cover milk and a few items of fresh produce.  But everything else I'm going to try to take right from the food storage pantry.  I'm terribly, horribly, completely inept when it comes to menu planning, so this is apt to be a hard task for me.

Here is what we had for the first full "food storage" meal:

BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich

I used two pint jars of canned pork, mixed them with one bottle of bbq sauce, and nuked it in the microwave!  That's all there was to it.

Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns

2 Tbsp. active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1/3 cup olive oil, or oil of choice
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg (can use egg replacer if going egg-free, or powdered egg if no fresh available)
1 tsp. salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour

Preheat oven to 425F.  Dissolve yeast in warm water.  Add in oil and sugar and let mixture sit for 5 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients until it forms a soft dough.  Add additional 1/4 cup wheat flour if needed.  Knead dough until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.  Divide dough into 8 pieces.  Form into small balls and then flatten into disks about 4 inches wide.  Place on baking sheet, cover lightly, and let rest for 10 minutes (the longer they rest, the higher they will rise).  Bake for 10-12 minutes until nicely browned.

Crispy Parmesan & Herb Oven Fries

6 russet potatoes
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. ground oregano
1/2 tsp. thyme
4 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese (I use the stuff in the green bottle)
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425F.  Wash potatoes, and cut into 1/2 inch sticks (leave skins on).  Place in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil.  Crush the oregano and thyme in your fingers and sprinkle over potatoes.  Sprinkle in salt, pepper and the Parmesan cheese, and then toss the potatoes with tongs or a spoon, or your hands, until they are all coated with the oil and herbs.  Place on oiled baking sheet in a single layer (will probably need two baking sheets).  Bake for 10-15 minutes then flip the fries over.  Bake an additional 10-15 minutes until browned and crispy.

[The potatoes did indeed come from food storage - we buy 50# bags in the fall and store the potatoes loosely covered in a bin, in the dark, in the basement and they last for several months.  Last year we stored them in plastic bins, in sawdust, in the garage and they did good, too.]

It's Conference Weekend - Do YOU Have 72 Hr Kits Yet?

Friday, October 4, 2013
***This is a re-post from March 2010.***

While not officially part of the food storage program of the LDS Church, 72-hour kits are still great things to have as part of your emergency preparations.

I think we all understand the need for having one, but I think there are still a lot of people with many questions about what to include, how to put one together, and wondering how to start.

When you think about putting something together for an emergency, you naturally try to think of all the possible situations and what you would need in each one. And what starts out as a small list of survival basics can quickly turn into a huge storage container of "stuff" that you would want to have for X, Y and Z contingencies. Then it starts to get a little overwhelming - How do we gather all that stuff? How do we pay for all of it? What do we store it in? How are we going to carry it all? When are we going to find the time to put together this intensive emergency kit?

It doesn't have to be that way. I want to give you an idea for a simple, basic kit you can put together in about 15 minutes with stuff you probably already have around your house. Sure, this isn't the "deluxe" model, but this is fast, lightweight, easy, cheap and most importantly, it will still put you in a much better position in an emergency than having no preparations or kit at all!

So here goes...I started by just jotting down the things that, in an emergency situation, would be directly involved in sustaining or preserving life.

Here are the most basic concerns:
  • drinking water
  • wound care
  • basic sanitation
  • warmth
  • food
To that end, here's what I gathered up:

small backpack [this is a super el cheapo, only one main compartment, backpack]
bottled water [sure, it's not the recommended 3 gallons worth, but it's WAY better than none at all!]
small assortment of adhesive bandages
antiseptic wash [you could use alcohol wipes or iodine, I just couldn't find mine this afternoon]
antibiotic ointment
bar of soap
1 day's worth of food [I just grabbed 6 granola bars - simple, easy, no cooking involved, and easy to ration if needed]
small bottle or individual packets of pain reliever
roll of toilet paper
(for the gals) sanitary pads/tampons

That's it. That's all there is. It took me all of about 15 minutes to round up these items from around my house. Remember, this is not a deluxe kit - this is a bare basics, "only those thing that would be necessary to sustain life" kind of kit.

Sure, it would be nice to have a full change of clothes, or shampoo, or a folding shovel, or a portable toilet, etc., but those things are not absolutely necessary to sustain life. In the context of an emergency situation, those things are "luxuries" - you can survive without a change of clothes, you can survive with dirty hair, you can relieve yourself without having a sit-down portable toilet, you can spend the night without a tent...It wouldn't be pretty, and you might be downright miserable, but you'd survive.

But you CAN'T survive for very long without water. And if you have a wound that gets infected, you WON'T survive for very long without medical intervention.

Here it is all packed in the backpack. There was still a good 6 inches at the top of the backpack AND nothing in the small outside compartment, so you could add additional items if you wanted. All together, even with the water bottle inside the backpack, the entire thing only weighed 5lb 10oz!

The idea is just to give you an example of something quick and easy that you can put together without much expense and in very little time. If you don't have an emergency kit yet, make this your first! You can always add to this later. You can add additional items as time and finances allow. But even just this little basic kit will still get you much further ahead in an emergency than not having anything at all!

Use whatever you have on-hand right now in your home. Even if it's just a can of Diet Coke and a roll of toilet paper thrown in a plastic grocery bag and hung on a nail on the wall of your garage. SERIOSLY. It is still WAY better than having nothing at all!

Handout for the "15-Minute 72-Hour Kit"

It's that time again - Conference Weekend!!!

It's Conference Weekend!!!  Hooray!!!  :)

Time to check on your 72 hour kits and rotate/replenish food and clothes!

It's also a great time to check and change the batteries in your smoke detectors!