Wednesday, February 27, 2013

More Praises for Vinegar

I have said many times how much I love to clean with vinegar. Add some baking soda and you can clean anything!  I am not the only one who thinks this way! It amazes me how many articles you can find on the Internet about the uses for vinegar. You can see how I use vinegar around my house here, here and here.

Lately, I have been collecting some additional websites that offer even more uses for vinegar. Some of the new ways I learned about are listed below. I have not tried any of these ideas yet.
  • Clean rust from tools, bolts and spigots
  • Remove chewing gum from fabric
  • Make splinters easier to remove
  • Soak new propane lantern wicks in vinegar for several hours and let dry. They will burn longer and brighter.
  • Prevent ice from forming on a car windshield overnight
  • Clean a bumper sticker off your car
  • Remove wall paper
There are loads of other ideas on these sites. While some uses of vinegar are common knowledge and repeated on these sites, many are different:

Vinegar is so inexpensive, it only makes sense to stock up. You can even try your hand at making your own! There are many different ways to make vinegar. You can see one way I made vinegar here

Consider throwing out all those chemical cleaning supplies in your cabinet and replace them with vinegar!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Cooking with Food Storage for Man's Best Friend

Today's post is about cooking with food storage for the most loyal member of your family. I have fed these treats to many of man's best friend and not one has complained that they don't like them, or told me they could taste the powdered milk, or even said 'yuck' to the whole wheat in this recipe! I know they will be a hit at your house too!

Molly's Peanut Butter Cookies
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup peanut butter (I always use 2 cups.)
1 cup milk  (I used powdered milk here. It is a great way to help rotate your powdered milk supplies!)

To make this recipe super convenient, I mix it in a gallon size bag. No need to wash dishes if you don't have to. Start with mixing all the dry ingredients in the bag. I usually mix the powdered milk with the dry ingredients.

Next, add the peanut butter and milk (or water if you used powdered milk). Knead the bag well.

To completely mix, mine took about 10 minutes. The dough should look like this.

You can drop them by teaspoon onto a cookie sheet, but I don't do that. I cut off the corner of the bag and squeeze about the same amount onto the cookie sheet. To me, this is easier. My recipe says to grease the cookie sheet. I used parchment paper instead.

You can also roll them out and use bone shaped cookie cutters. I usually save that extra work for Christmas time when we give these away as presents. If I am not using cookie cutters, I flatten them with a fork  (just like with people peanut butter cookies). 

Bake them at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. If you are using a Sun Oven, bake at 350 degrees for about 35 - 40 minutes. They should be a golden brown when they are done.

Give one to your special family member(s).  I bet you will get extra kisses for it!

Friday, February 22, 2013

I Hope This Makes You Smile!

I have been swamped with work projects this week with very little time left to write. So today I thought I would show you a picture I found on the Internet.  This is too cute!

Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Food Storage is More Than Food

How is your food storage coming along? If you are new to the blog, and don't know exactly what food storage is, you can read about it here, here and here.

In order to make your food storage program successful (so you can use when you need it, such as in an emergency, when you loose power or maybe when you have an ice storm) you really need to include other food related items to help you cook and serve meals. For example, I have mentioned many times that you need a few different ways to cook. I discuss 10 different ways you can cook here, in my series on Cooking without Electricity.

Still, that may not cover everything you need. So you will have all that you may need available to keep your family fed, consider adding the following to your food storage program:

  • Aluminium foil, saran wrap and wax paper (include aluminium pans as well so you can eliminate or greatly reduce the amount of pans you need to wash)
  • Hand dish washing detergent
  • Plastic silverware and plastic or paper cups
  • Napkins and paper towels
  • Baby wipes for easy cleanup (the water may be off too)
  • Matches, charcoal or propane canisters (I store charcoal in 5 gallon buckets to protect it from moisture.)
  • An extra can opener
  • A basic first aid kit
Next time you are at the grocery store, add an extra item from this list to your cart. Do that each time you go to the store and soon you will have a supply that will see you through any emergency!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Kefir Banana Nut Bread: Success and Failure

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post on Kefir. If you haven't read it, you can see it here. Overall, I am very happy with culturing kefir. I have been eating it in smoothies. I have also been collecting recipes to attempt to use it in other ways as well. One of the reasons I want to do this is because the kefir doesn't require any work from me to help it culture the milk. No need to heat it to a certain temperature. No need to incubate it either. Not only does it not require any electricity, it doesn't require energy of any kind! Can't say that about yogurt, buttermilk or sour cream cultures!

I have also read that soaking whole wheat in kefir makes the grain easier to digest and provides access to nutrients that our body would not be able to use otherwise. While I am not sure I believe all this, I have been experimenting with cooking this way. This post is my first attempt at making kefir banana nut bread. While the quick bread recipe actually turned out quite tasty, for my lifestyle, I consider it a failure. Let me show you how I made it.

I got this recipe from the Cultures for Health website. Here is the link: Kefir Banana Bread. I have listed the recipe below as well. The changes I made to the recipe are also included.

Kefir Banana Nut Bread
1/2 cup kefir (I actually needed a bit more than this.)
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup bananas mashed (I used freezed-dried bananas.)
1 1/3 cups sugar (I thought this was too much so I only added 1 cup - if I ever make it again,  I will only add 3/4 cup.)
3/4 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts.)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

Let me start by saying that I doubled the recipe. The pictures I am showing have double the amount of every ingredient. Since my goal was to try my hand at soaking the whole wheat flour overnight, the only thing I needed to start was the kefir and whole wheat flour. I mixed 1 cup kefir with 4 cups of white whole wheat flour. I wasn't happy with what I got.

Was the kefir and flour supposed to look like this? I decided that it wasn't, so I added about 1/4 cup more kefir to the flour. This is what it looked like when I was done.

Then, I wrapped it in saran wrap and placed it in a bowl. 

The bowl went into the oven overnight. I didn't turn the oven on at all, the oven was just a place to put it to keep it out of the way.

The next morning, in another bowl, I  mixed the sugar, butter, vanilla, eggs, banana and nuts together.

Now comes the part I didn't understand at all (and still don't). I was supposed to mix the kefir/flour dough thing into my batter. How? I can't knead it in, it needs to look like batter when it's done. I guess this wouldn't be difficult if I had a food processor, I could have put everything in that and turned it on.  Since I don't have one, I decided to break off the dough and put little pieces into the batter.

Then, I mixed until all the pieces were covered with the batter. I was hoping they would be easier to incorporate if I let them sit awhile. Well, one hour went by. Then two. The batter was as lumpy as ever. I tried to smash these things with a fork, then I tried to cut them with a knife. The lumps got smaller and smaller but wouldn't dissolve into the batter. At this point  I thought I was going to have to throw the whole thing out. Then I thought, "Can I find my electric beaters?" I was not sure I even had them any longer. I went up into the attic to look in some boxes to see if I could find them. (I really didn't want to go around my neighborhood knocking on doors saying, "Hi, I'm your neighbor. I don't have any electrical appliances at my house. Could I borrow one of yours for just a few minutes?" I could just imagine the police pulling up next to me as I walk from door to door....)

Fortunately, I found all the parts to one so there wasn't any need for my neighbors to call the police. I pluged it in and turned it on high. And I mixed, and mixed and mixed. 30 minutes later, I had batter. That's right, 30 minutes. I timed it.  I didn't believe it myself! 

The directions said to add the baking soda and baking powder after everything was mixed well. So, I added them at this point. Then, I poured the batter into greased 9 x 5 pans. I was so frustrated with the whole thing, I forgot to take a picture of the batter before I poured it. So here is a combo picture of the batter in the baking pans with a spoon in it so you can see the texture. The little lumps are walnuts.

The day I made this was a bright and sunny day. My original plan was to bake them in my Sun Oven. The directions say to bake 1 1/2 hours in a 300 degree oven. That means 2 1/2 to 3 hours in the Sun Oven. After the problems I had trying to get it to the batter stage, I just wanted the whole thing to be over!  I was not going to wait 3 hours for these loaves to bake! I used my kitchen oven. 

I monitored them during the baking and after 1 1/2 hours, the cake tester came out clean. I had a slice before I remembered to take the final picture.

 I must say, it was really tasty! I was not the only one who thought so. Another member of my family kept asking for more.

So, my mixing horror will pretty much ensure that I will not be making this again. Unless of course, I can figure out a way to make the batter without all the fuss. So dear readers, I ask you, have you ever soaked whole wheat flour before? Did I do it wrong? How on earth do you get the dough to incorporate into the batter (without using electricity)? Google turned up nothing I could get my arms around. All comments and suggestions are welcomed!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Time to Start the Garden Seeds!

This week is typically the week I start my summer garden seeds.  Starting seeds indoors is easy and inexpensive. There isn't any need to purchase seed starting kits, peat moss pots or a lot of other fancy stuff. Let me show you how to do it the frugal way!

The first thing you need are pots for the soil. The seedlings get a better start if you use a pot that can be planted directly into a larger pot when the time comes. Peat moss pots work, but they cost money. I use newspapers instead! Here's how:

Start with a single sheet of newspaper. You will want both sides of the fold. Cut the newspaper into 5 or 6 inch strips.

Excuse the 'toys' at the top of the picture. A member of my household was trying to 'help' me with this project. She kept bringing me things so I would pay attention to her. She was sitting next to me when I took the picture. You can see one of her paws at the bottom left. Anyway, cut a bunch of these. You will need one strip for each seedling pot. 

Next, you will need to have a form to shape the pot. You have lots of choices here. The easiest is a soda can. Here is a picture of some others that will work.

The pot maker wooden form (in the box) cost me about $10 a few years back. Save yourself the money and use a soda can. A canning jar will work too. So will a plastic water bottle. Each of these will make a slightly different size pot. I am going to use a soda can for this post.

Place the can on the paper so that half the can is on the paper and half the can is off the paper. Roll the paper around the can.

When rolling, make sure the paper is fairly snug against the can.

Now, take the paper that is hanging off the end of the can and fold it under. So the pot doesn't fall apart later, start the fold at the end of the rolled newspaper. (If it does start to fall apart, you can use a piece of tape to hold it together.)

Fold it all around the can and press the edges together to make sure they stay together.

You can put a piece of tape on the bottom if it needs it. After you make a few of these, you will get the hang of it and you won't need the tape. Gently pull the can out of the newly made pot.

It is now ready to fill with dirt! You can fill with the dirt of your choice. No need to use fancy potting soil. I have started seedlings in 100% peat moss with excellent results. I have also started seedlings in 100% compost with excellent results. You can make your own compost from leaves and vegetable scraps if you would like. Start a compost pile this year and next year you won't have to purchase any potting soil! You can read about how to start your own compost pile here.

Plant the seeds according to the directions on the package. You can't plant them all the same. For example, tobacco seeds are not planted at all. They are sprinkled on the top of the soil. Tobacco seeds need light to germinate. I usually cover the tomato seeds with about 1/8 to 1/4 inch of soil.

Don't forget to label the pot with what you planted. That way you won't be guessing what it is in a month's time.  (Believe me, you can't tell the difference between two varieties of the same type of plant when they are seedlings!)

Water the seeds so they stay moist. Don't water them like a plant. Gently sprinkle the top of the soil every other day or so. The seeds won't need more then a gentle sprinkle until they have germinated. I have had better luck with my seedlings germinating quickly when I cover them with plastic wrap.  

In this picture I have a few tomatoes, tobacco, parsley and some white marigolds. I still have more tomatoes to start as well as the rest of the herbs. I will also start some regular yellow marigolds for bug control later on in the summer garden.

Place the seeds in a sunny window. I put mine in a west facing window. They should germinate in a few days!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Give Your Clothes Dryer Some Time Off!

I really don't like to use my dryer. You can double my dislike in the winter. I don't purchase dryer sheets (I do have dryer fluff balls) and when removing the clothes from the dryer, they are full of static this time of year. What is the solution? Don't use the dryer! Here are a few benefits of giving your dryer some time off:

  • You will save money. In my opinion, this is the biggest benefit in forgoing the dryer. There is a significant difference in my electric bill between the months I use the dryer and the months I don't. (Your mileage may vary if you have a gas dryer.)
  • It will make your house warmer. Dry your clothes inside the house, and you will add moisture to the air. This will raise the humidity and make the environment in your house feel warmer and more comfortable. You won't get as many static shocks when you walk across the rugs either!
  • Your clothes will last longer. All that lint your dryer produces, isn't good for your clothes. What is lint? It is the breakdown of the clothing fibers. While you can do some creative things with the lint your dryer produces, your clothes will be better off without it.
  • It will help reduce allergens. If you have allergy problems, you can greatly reduce your exposure to pollen by drying your clothes indoors. While I am not opposed to drying clothes outdoors on a clothes line, many neighborhood associations forbid it (including mine). In addition, any sensitivities to the chemicals in dryer sheets can be eliminated when you air dry your laundry.
If you have a basement, you have a ready made area to hang a clothes line. However, not everybody does. I know someone who hangs her clothes on the back of her kitchen chairs. She lives in the southwest and the clothes dry very quickly there. Here in the southeast, our clothes don't dry as quickly, so I need another solution. I use drying racks. I set them up at night so they are not in the way. By morning, the clothes are dry. Here is a picture of mine.

 I usually put them in the family room. With a hot fire going in the fireplace, they can even dry in just a few hours! If you are interested, there are many places you can get drying racks. Google it and you should find lots of sources. 

Consider going non-electric and give your dryer some time off!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Food Storage Gourmet Style

The goal of my food storage program has always been to create out-of-the-ordinary (gourmet) meals. I want gourmet dinners which include ingredients that do not require refrigeration. Over the years I have tried replacing 'regular' ingredients with their food storage cousins in an attempt to create gourmet recipes without much success. I also have lots of recipe books that focus on cooking with food storage. I have found that most of these recipes are very basic and add variety through the use of many different spices. Well, I can't eat spices. Haven't been able to my entire life. So, my results have only been marginally successful. 

But, good news has arrived! My friend, Chef Tess, has created a cookbook that answers my food storage cooking problems!

See all the tabs? They don't come with the book. I added them next to each recipe I am going to try! I must say that this book is amazing! We won't be eating nearly as much macaroni and cheese. Instead, I am going to serve Instant Cheesy Broccoli Rice (page 84) or maybe Cheesy Turkey Noodle Casserole (page 51).

Do you get tired of oatmeal for breakfast? How about Carrot Cake Breakfast Pudding (page 73) or Spiced Samoan Coconut-Cream Farina with Mango (page 80). This recipe uses Honeyville's Tropical Monsoon smoothie mix. I will admit, when I ordered Stephanie's book I also ordered this smoothie mix. It is fabulous!  It arrived about 2 weeks ago and the can is half gone! I do so love a Pina Colada smoothie for breakfast!

Let me stop here and say that I am not doing this review just because I consider Stephanie my friend. If that were the case, I would have just sent her an email congratulating her on the book and left it at that. This cookbook is above and beyond every other food storage cookbook that I have. I am very impressed with all the creative recipes.  I really feel that it will move my food storage cooking to a new level. 

Want to know more? There is a snack section that includes different cracker recipes, rolls, sweet rolls and freezer breads. On page 94 is Tess-A-Roni, a make-it-yourself substitute of the Rice-a-Roni box stuff you can find at the grocery store. Stephanie has also listed different flavored versions on page 95! We have always loved the grocery store stuff at our house, I can't wait to try the food storage version! 

We used to store quite a bit of Stove Top Stuffing Mix in our food storage. Not any more! Stephanie has a homemade version on page 98. (Another two items I can cross off the list of what I must purchase at the store - I am thrilled!!!)

Growing a garden means you can have a fresh salad anytime you want it - spring, summer or fall. This usually means adding bottles of salad dressing to your food storage program. Since salad dressing doesn't have a very long shelf life, I replace them frequently (even the powdered packets).  This is a waste, I know, but I really didn't have a good alternative.  Well, Stephanie shows you how to make your own salad dressing from basic food storage ingredients! French, buttermilk ranch, and a vinaigrette with many variations are all in this book.

There are many spicy recipes you may want to try: Beefy Taco Rice, Classic Chili, Southwest Sweet Potato Gratin, and Bean and Rice Fajita Casserole; just to mention a few. There is also a dessert section and a very large gourmet mix section with all kinds of mouth watering desserts like Pecan Turtle Brownies, White Chocolate Sun-Dried Cherry Almond Chewy Cookies or Lemon Sour Cream Pound Cake with Mixed Berry Cream Glaze. Oh, and I shouldn't forget to mention that there is a section that covers making candy as well! All made with food storage ingredients! Wow! 

Some of the dessert recipes do list real butter as an ingredient. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that you can make your own real butter with shelf stable cream. So, you can have these wonderful desserts and still use all shelf stable ingredients.

Do yourself a favor, go to the Honeyville web site and order this book. If you would like to, you can do that from here (I don't get any compensation for it). You won't be sorry. The book will not disappoint you!

This book is gourmet food storage at its best!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Cooking with Food Storage: Honey & Oats Bread

This is my favorite bread recipe of all! I find it to be a no fail recipe. It turns out perfect every time I make it. Here is the recipe:

Honey & Oats Bread
1/2 cups oat groats flour. (I have successfully used oatmeal as a substitute.)
2 cups whole wheat flour. (I use white whole wheat.)
2 cups bread flour. (I make my own bread flour. You can see here how to make bread flour and other specialty flours from wheat berries you grind yourself.)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
3 tsp yeast
3 tablespoons dough enhancer. (I make my own dough enhancer. You can see here how to make it.)
1 1/4 cup buttermilk. (You can use buttermilk powder. Mix it in with the flour and add 1 1/4 cups water instead.)
1 egg (I use egg powder. 2 tablespoons equals 1 egg.)
2 tablespoons honey

Mix all the dry ingredients together. I usually add the egg powder last. Mix well, breaking up lumps as necessary.

Make a well in the center of the bowl and add the buttermilk or water and honey. Mix well with a spoon and bring the dough together to form a ball.

Add additional water, if needed. Add it one tablespoon at a time. This may be necessary on a very dry day. Normally I don't need to add extra water. However, I did today. I turned the dough out on the counter to add it.

I added a total of two extra tablespoons of water to make the dough come together.

Next, knead the dough 300 - 350 times. This helps to ensure the dough will rise properly. When finished, place the dough in a greased bowl and grease the top of the dough ball.

Let the dough rise in a warm place for two to three hours.  I usually put mine in the oven. You can turn it on for a few minutes to warm it up if you want. Be sure to turn it off before you put the dough in. 

The dough should double in size.

Turn it out onto the counter and gently deflate it. Shape it into a loaf and place it in a greased pan. Since this recipe has four cups of flour, it works best in a bigger pan. Use a 9 x 5 or slightly larger for a nicely shaped loaf.

Let it rise in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours. I put mine back in the oven. Here is what it looked like when I took it out.

Bake at 375 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes.  Here is the final result.

A perfect loaf every time!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Making Fire Starters

One of the yearly chores I do this time of year is to make fire starters. My goal is to make enough to last the entire year. We use a lot of them. Chilly nights at home, camping in the spring and fall - anytime I need to start a fire, I reach for one of them. 

At our house, making fire starters isn't a one day project. Actually, I am making them throughout the year. It takes that long to collect the ingredients I need to make them. I start with lint from the dryer. It takes all year for me to collect a significant amount because I don't use the dryer that often. Most of the lint I collect is from my husband using the dryer. You can read about how to do that here. Not only do I collect lint in toilet paper rolls, but I also collect it in paper egg cartons.

When I collect a year's worth, I dip the lint-filled toilet paper rolls and egg cartons in wax. You can use these without the wax, but they burn longer and steadier once you coat them with wax. It also makes sense to waterproof them for emergencies and times when you need to start a fire in the rain. Dipping them in wax is very easy, but it can be a bit messy. I wanted to do this outside, but we were having severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings the day I made these, so I worked inside instead - I did have to use my electric stovetop to accomplish this task. I covered the counter with freezer paper to make clean up easy. In addition to the dryer lint, you will need wax, string and scissors.

Start with a small amount of water in a pot. You need a double boiler to melt the wax and I don't have one. I used my small soap pot instead. You will also need a container for melting the wax. I used a Christmas cookie tin. I have used this one for years. I leave the left over wax stored in it from year to year.

Put the container with the wax into the boiling water. Once I did that, I turned the heat down some to keep the boiling water from splashing around. 

After this wax started to melt, I added another pound of the Gulf Wax to the container and let that melt as well. Needless to say, please be careful, the melting wax gets very hot. If you touch it, it will stick to your skin and you can get burned. 

While the wax was melting, I prepared the paper rolls. I tied them with string to make dipping in the wax easier. Make the string long enough so you don't need to touch the hot wax. The string also makes lighting the starters easy. Here are the toilet paper rolls.

And here are the egg cartons. I cut the carton into individual pieces.

They don't have to look pretty, they just have to hold together so everything can be dipped in the wax and not fall apart. I dip one at a time so I don't make a mess. While holding the string, dip one and hold it under the melted wax (with a spoon, not your fingers) for a few seconds to let the wax penetrate both the lint and the paper.

When finished, hold the string up and let the wax drip back into the container.

When it stops dripping, place on a piece of wax paper or freezer paper to cool. 

When the fire starters are completely cool and the wax has hardened, store until needed! 
I store mine in a plastic bag with the newspaper logs in the garage.

Easy to do and costs very little money! Can't get more frugal than that!