Taking a Test Run

The girl’s scout group is having an unofficial camp out this weekend.  I am packing the car and decided to unbox and take the Kelly Kettle, which will be tested.  While not regularly posting, and not financially able to do a lot of physical prepping, plus greatly injured … I’ve been doing what I can.  I have the base camp Kelly kettle model with the cooking pot, and I am excited to see what I can do with it.

Just a little stir crazy

How fast a month flies by.  Especially when your kids have 9 snow days on top of winter break, and you are completely snowed in for 16-17 days in two separate winter storms.  The last one we were stuck at home for 8 days, and had a foot of snow.  I just didn’t have much leisurely time to sit down with my computer.

Here in Portland, we simply aren’t equipped as a city for a couple inches, much less the inundation that we received.  The city doesn’t salt the roads, as its an environmental issue.  We have not very many snow plows or trucks to distribute gravel.  State of emergency was declared.  Seattle sent snow plows down to us.  I think the downtown came back to life sooner, but we were still stuck until the weather changed and melted the snow.

4 giant evergreens fell across the road we use to access the outside world, which shut the road down.  Didn’t matter much to us, as we couldn’t get down off the hill to get to that road anyway.

My water barrel tower did finally arrive.  I only have 1/3 barrels for it.  The source I thought I had through my SiL didn’t pan out.  I guess they weren’t in any rush to help someone outside of their church.  So I just ordered a second one during a 60% off sale at Emergency Essentials.   I would have liked to order both that I need to fill the tower, but I have to watch my spending on such things.  Hubby isn’t on board, of course, and we just had all the Christmas expenses.

In better news, we weathered the snowed in days just fine.  I had plenty of food and we didn’t even have to dip into what I have stocked as real SHTF Emergency foods (grain, canned meats, etc).  The fridge was a bit of a barren wasteland by the time we could get out Thursday, and I ended up mostly emptying the chest freezer and need to re-stock meat, frozen fruits and veggies, and put another gallon or two of milk in there to rotate in case we get another bout of nasty weather.  I did a lot of baking to keep us in bread (ok, the cinnamon rolls, banana bread and apple and pear galettes weren’t strictly necessary for survival ;)) and went through several 5 pound bags of bread flour.

We never lost power or water here.  Areas very close to us did, and we did have an above ground outdoor spigot faucet thing up by my raised beds get damaged and start leaking, freezing into a spectacular crystal waterfall.  I was *almost* hoping we would, so I could try out my other preps, but in reality, its just as well.  I am about to pack away everything I had gotten out of the garage, just in case.  Lanterns, water coolers, the berkey, the Kelly kettle and my small stock of fuel for it (a box of twigs and pinecones, etc.)

Cheddar Powder = Cheddar Chex Mix

Over our long weekend (2 snow days + Saturday & Sunday), we did a family movie night at home.  The girl and I made homemade chex mix, the way my family used to do before the company started packaging it.  It’s so much better crisp and still warm out of the oven, redolent of the Worcestershire and a hint of garlic, IMO anyway.  The beauty of it being you can make it your own too.

Chex Mix

1 C. Butter
3 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 tsp. Garlic Powder
2-4 Drops Hot Pepper Sauce
6 C. small Pretzels or Pretzel Sticks
4 C. Wheat Chex
4 C. Rice or Corn Chex
5 C. Cheerios (or Make a Trifecta of Chex)
3 C. Mixed Nuts

On saucepan mix butter, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder and pepper sauce. Heat and stir until butter is melted. In large roasting pan mix remaining ingredients. Drizzle with butter mixture and toss to coat. Bake in 300F oven for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Spread on foil to cool.

I left out the hot sauce; its not much, but my girl is very sensitive to spice.  I also used only cashews.  Two of us don’t like peanuts and I don’t like almonds, so mixed nuts were nixed.  I also did Corn, Wheat and Rice Chex, and no Cheerios, because I forgot to buy them.  But really, you could add a lot of different things to give it your own spin, bagel chips, goldfish, sesame sticks, what have you.  Just stick to about the same volume of the dry ingredients so the butter mixture can have the same coverage.

I dipped into my food storage and tried the cheddar cheese powder I got from Hoosier Hill Farm to season half the batch.  I didn’t really measure.  I just sprinkled on what looked like a good amount when it first came out of the oven, still a little “damp” and hot, and tossed it well.  I’d probably gotten better results and more even coverage if I’d put it in a little mini sifter (like the one I use for powdered sugar on desserts), but it came out just fine.  The cereal bits that got a little too much cheese powder turned out to be the boy’s favorite bites.

He said it was better than the cheddar cheese flavor packaged Chex mix, so if I can’t figure out how to use the cheese powder otherwise, we could have a LOT of cheddar Chex mix. 😉  I am going to use storage powders and see if I can come up with a decent cheese sauce for veggies this evening.  Wish me luck!

Holiday Season

Keeping busy as the holiday season crawls along towards Christmas.  Have holiday baking to do, presents to wrap (last minute thing around here since we still have a Santa believer), but for the most part, I am prepared for Christmas.

We got a couple days of snow, meaning a couple snow days off school for the kids.  Snow is not the norm here, so people aren’t really prepared, no one knows how to drive in it (myself included, I can’t lie!), and pretty much the city shuts down.  Even if they manage to get the main streets clear and things moving, we are stuck, because we live at the top of a series of steep hills.  If you make it to the bottom of the first, and try to move out into the bigger world, you get to a junction with a hill going up left and a hill going up right.  Getting home is a big challenge, even if you make it out.

Besides, we live in the boonies version of suburbia, pockets of homes surrounded by protected wilderness.  So the road deicers never make it this far.

I still haven’t received my water barrel storage unit ordered on 10/28.  Part of me worries that I am getting scammed.  But I did email at the end of November and got a quick response that they are waiting on material from their fabricators, which if the email was accurate they would have received the first week of December.  The website says “Turn around time is typically 3 weeks.   So the sooner you place your order…the sooner it will be ready but there is a lead time for the fabricators to make everything.”  All I can do is hope I am not getting strung along so that it will be too late to register a complaint with my credit card company.  My gut tells me that they are just a small company (or even just “a guy”) and since they have to outsource everything, I just need to be patient, and eventually they will come through. I was “order 204” not 14,204 or 183, 204.  So, I am practicing patience.  And hoping I am not an idiot.

However, I haven’t wanted to fill up my water barrels, only to have to empty them to rack them, so I feel a little vulnerable.  On the other hand, its winter and we get precipitation fairly constantly.  If the SHTF and I didn’t have to worry about legally collecting rainwater (only collecting roof runoff is legal here), then I could put out the kiddie pools and buckets and tarp collectors and have plenty of liquid to run through the berkey.

Initial tests of the dehydrator

I don’t know why I didn’t take pictures, but I ran a semi successful test of the dehydrator.  I used up stuff that I wasn’t going to be able to consume before it went bad mostly.

I had a mix of items.  I was worried that the onions would flavor the fruits, once it started, because the whole house stunk of onions.  It didn’t seem to though.  Also, the noise isn’t too bad.  It sounded a lot like the microwave in use; and aside from the fact I kept expecting the food in microwave to stop (hah), it wasn’t overly disruptive.

I made Kiwi chips.  These are ok, but when we buy dehydrated kiwi, they are much thicker and a little chewier, and my kiddo prefers that to the thin ones I produced.  I sliced them 1/4 inch thick on my V-Slicer, and they dehydrated down to a double thickness of cardstock.

I did some pineapple slices.  I pulled them out a little chewy, but they are still thinner than my kid would like.  I learned that if there is the tiniest bit of the skin left on, after its dried, the skin is VERY prevalent.  It doesn’t shrink up like the flesh and … yuk.  Bits that I didn’t even notice on the 1/4″ slices before drying made it inedible without trimming after drying.

I also had some chile peppers from my CSA box.  Somehow I ended up with 2 bags with 6-8 peppers per bag.  I am not even sure what they were.  They were much longer than a jalapeno, and red.  Not too spicy, but half my household doesn’t like food that is spicy at all. I didn’t roast and remove skin.  And it seems like that is all there is too it once it dried.  It’s all thickened basically inedible skin.  They don’t have nearly as much flesh as a bell pepper, so I’m not sure I could even skin and de-seed them and leave anything else.  They would likely be candidates for going very dry, whole, and then using like dried chiles in Mexican cooking, cooking in a liquidy dish to add a little spice and then removing, or possibly rehydrating, slitting open, removing seeds and trying to scrape some of the flesh out for adding heat to a dish.  They aren’t good for storing as diced peppers, IMO.

Edit: Turns out they are Doux des Landes Chili Peppers, which are only about as hot as an Anaheim or Dried Pasilla Pepper.  They come from the south of France and are often used in a Basque recipe pipérade, which is a stew like dish made of tomatoes and peppers, flavored with a pork product (Bayonne Ham is the traditional product, but pancetta is probably very close and more readily available here).  Sometimes eggs are poached in it, like a shakshuka.  It is also served over scrambled eggs, polenta, or poached chicken.  Interestingly, I am having trouble finding an authentic recipe that actually calls for these chiles.  Everything in English just says red bell peppers, which I suppose would be similar.  I am straining my high school French lessons from 1000 years ago.

La piperade des Landes

LA piperade des Landes, la plus ressemblante à celle de mon arrière-grand-mère (cap-breton) :

– 3 oignons
– 1.5 kg à 2 kg de tomates, bien mure de préférence.
– 5 – 10 piments vert et doux des Landes (on peu aussi y mettre d autres types, notamment des poivrons, mais c plus tout a fais pareil ^^)
– quelques morceaux de jambon de Bayonne, idéalement les morceaux trop dur et les “coin” avec le gras.
– huile d’olive
– sel, poivre, sucre.
– 3 – 4 gousse d’ail
– thym et laurier.
– un peu d’eau (ou vin blanc).

Haché les oignons, les faire colorer dans de l’huile d’olive. Ajouter piments couper en rondelle et sans pépins, les tomates peler et couper en carré, les coins de jambon, le bouquet garni, l’ail, sel poivre et sucre à votre convenance, un peu d’eau.
Laisser mijoter 30 mn à 1h00 (plus c long, plus c bon). Il faut obtenir une sauce un peu épaisse.

Servir avec des tranches de ventrèche ou jambons de Bayonne poêler. Vous pouvez pocher des œufs dedans.

I believe that this is a recipe for pipérade from the poster’s (Great?) grand mother.  Onions, tomatoes, my chile peppers, hard and fatty corner pieces of Bayonne ham, Olive oil, salt, pepper, sugar, garlic, thyme and (Laurel?  We don’t use that as a cooking thing here, and that’s my daughters name, heh), water or whine wine.  The instructions are harder than the ingredients.  Chop onions, sprinkle with the olive oil (I think in the pan?) and add the sliced peppers (in rounds?), peeled tomatoes (couper en carré?  is that “cut into squares”?  meaning diced?).  Tie up the herbs in a bouquet garni, toss those in, season with salt pepper and sugar and then simmer 30 minutes to an hour until it gets thick.  Serve over slices of  “ventrèche” (a cured pork product like pancetta made from pork belly) or steam fried Bayonne Ham.  Or poach eggs in it.

Well, that was a long interlude, oops 😉

I did some onions, both diced and in rings.  These turned out just fine.  I am going to give them a try in a recipe tonight and see how they are after rehydrating in a dish.

I also dried some citrus fruits.  I had some lemons and mandarins.  I will try grinding a few into powder to see how that goes.  The rest I am using for holiday decorating.

All in all, a good first run of the dehydrator.  I am excited about putting up larger batches of things for my LTS.

What’s the hubbub, bub?

Been a crazy week around here.  I’ve got dental stuff going on, multiple days.  Youngest has had multiple doctor appointments, taking her out of school.  She’s got hypersensitivities and has been exhibiting a lot of anxiety; enough to worry us, so trying to get her some help for that.  Oldest broke his glasses, and can’t see anything more than 5 feet away without them.  I had purchased the protection plan for them, thank goodness.  Since I had to take his in anyway, I got around to getting new lenses ordered for me.  They were supposed to be scratch resistant, but look like someone took sandpaper to them.  I haven’t treated these any differently than any other pair I’ve owned in 30+ years and never have had glasses scratch so much that everything looks a little blurry.  Super annoying.  Since I had protection plan on mine too, his frames and my lenses cost nothing.  I think the plans were 79$ each pair, but his frames were 300$ and my lenses were close to 800$ (progressive lenses with anti-glare and scratch resistant coating) so it made the protection plan worth the money I spent.  It’s going to take a week to get son’s frames in, which makes school really challenging for him.  Given his autism, anything out of the norm is even more challenging than the challenges it presents on its own.  My lenses will take longer.  When I first got my glasses it took almost 3 weeks.  I’m hoping they will come before Christmas at least.

Despite my best intentions, I ended up out in public doing some more shopping.  We are supposed to see snow in the next few days.  It may be nothing, but just in case (I can’t forget being snowed in for 13 days on our steep hill once upon a time), I wanted to make sure I had plenty of meat, vegetables, butter and milk in the freezer.  I also ended up having to do a little more Christmas shopping.  Needed new lights for the Christmas tree, and while my girl is 7, she still really believes in Santa and there’s one specific item she wants so badly and is just certain Santa will bring it that I had to break down and get it for her, lest I destroy her still oh so innocent beliefs.

This weekend I plan to do my first run with the new dehydrator (ok, so it was supposed to be a “Christmas present” to myself, sue me!) and need to take the girl to choose a birthday present for a friend; she has a birthday party to attend on Sunday.  Will likely finish up decorating for Christmas, aside from the tree, which we won’t have until Wednesday.  In my spare time at the computer, I am continuing to copy LTS recipes into a document that I can print and have available should we lose power and I need to get creative with food storage meals.

And that’s my life right now.

New Acquisitions

I have been continuing to fill my pantry as I do my normal grocery shopping.  I’ve also picked up some bulk items from Costco and from the online retailer, Boxed.

bananachip

The way my son loves banana chips, I can probably recoup the cost of the dehydrator in record time! 😉

As I build my pantry and gather recipes using LTS ingredients to test, I have felt the lack of the ability to dry and vacuum seal my own foods.  So I took advantage of the online Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, and ordered an Excalibur dehydrator as well as a Food Saver with mason jar attachments while finishing most of my Christmas shopping. Merry Christmas to me!

I also got a few more products to test from Emergency Essentials and Thrive Life, including a couple of pantry cans of freeze dried meat products.

This period from Thanksgiving to New Years is an excellent time for me to test pantry recipes and judge the robustness of the pantry as it is now.  I hate crowded stores.  I do almost all my non-food shopping online as it is.  I don’t like the mall.  And I hate circling the parking lot trying to find a place to park.  Even in non holiday shopping times, I typically go to the grocery store right after they open or shortly before they close to avoid busy times.  But in this 6 week period, no time of day is safe.  The past couple of years, the hubby has done almost all the grocery shopping in this holiday season.

I do plan to have him pick up dairy products and eggs.  I also continue to get a winter CSA box with some produce, although I’ve dropped it to twice a month as the variety is limited in these months.  We mostly get root crops and winter squashes, more than my family can eat in a week, and these items keep well.  For meat, I will mostly be using freezer stores.   The dairy, eggs, and meat are items that I could produce from my pantry, but those items are so expensive in their LTS states (by comparison to fresh) that aside from the small sized pantry cans that I purchased to test recipes, I would prefer to use fresh / frozen ingredients now, since they are accessible.

Happy Thanksgiving!

thanksgivingBeen a bit busy to post, with the holiday preparations.  I am hosting the family this year.  Not a HUGE gathering, but there are 7 adults, 2 just barely teens, and 4 kids.  This strains my seating arrangements since the 2 13 year olds and the oldest “kid” do not want to sit at anything called the “kids table”.  =)

I tried to pare things down, but some how “we have to have that!” kept rearing its ugly head.  I’m sure its way too much food and I will probably be kicking myself when I have to find a way to fit leftovers in the fridge.

In the spirit of developing new skills – I baked some cookies, and learned to make royal icing, and then decorated them with a flooding technique.  I just don’t bake much, and while this particular recipe and technique isn’t something a person would waste their time on in an emergency or TEOTWOWKI situation (I think this must have taken me about 4 hours to make the dough, frosting, bake, cool, and frost in stages), I do want to be more comfortable and less resentful of baking.

thankscookies

As you can see, mine don’t look professional like the ones on the left, and could have been tidier (I think I needed a smaller piping tip for my edging, but I used the smallest I had on hand), but overall, I was pleased with my first attempt at “flooding” cookies, especially since I don’t have any experience with ANY kind of cookie decorating =)

Ironically, these cookies would be very easy to make using all food storage ingredients.  And they taste just like pumpkin pie too.  I think the family will appreciate them.

 

And Speaking of Waxing

agedredwax_largeI have been doing research on waxing cheese for long term storage.  From what I can gather from sources online, the best temperature for storing cheese in this fashion is between 40-55 degrees.  My pantry was being used as a wine storage cupboard by the previous tenants, so they installed insulation on all the walls, and it stays cooler than the rest of the house, but it doesn’t stay that cool.  Still, even at higher temperatures, waxing cheese is supposed to increase shelf life to 6 months to a year.

Every few months, Safeway has a “Just for U” deal on their store brand of cheese.  I don’t usually buy it; we like our Tillamook, but its such a bargain price (typically 99 cents for 8 ounces) that I usually buy my limit and we I use it in shredded applications, tacos, on scrambled eggs, topping a casserole.  It would be no great hardship to lose a block of this cheap cheese, so the next time the deal strikes, I am going to try my hand at waxing cheese.

Lots of info out there on how to do it, and some of it contradictory (one site says only heat the wax just so its melted enough for dipping to avoid overheating the cheese because drawing out the fat will prevent a good seal.  Another says to get the cheese wax up to 200 degree since most germs are killed at 180), so more research for me.

Pinecone Firestarters

I found these on somethingturquoise.com a while back. They were intended to be wedding favors (which is why they each have a tag), but I thought how lovely these would be in a basket on the hearth, and since they don’t seem that difficult to make, I wouldn’t feel too badly using them as they are intended to be, as firestarters.  Pretty and practical sounds like a win to me.  Of course my fire place hasn’t been used in a decade and we have no fire wood, and I need to get my husband on board here since I have no clue how to go about making sure my chimney is clean and safe and functional, but that’s another issue altogether.

pinecone

Her tutorial has tons of pictures and lots of tips. It’s a lot to scroll through and I have the basic idea, so I am just getting the streamlined version down here for easy reference.

Waxed Pinecone Firestarters

2 lb. Soy wax flakes
Pinecones
Candle fragrance oil
Candle dye blocks, chopped into small pieces
Wired candle wicking
Wooden spoon
Large heat proof container
Frying pan / pot
Wax paper
Scissors
Cute tags and twine

Use the heat proof container (such as a glass bowl or large measuring cup) and the frying pan to create a double boiler. Melt the wax slowly over the boiling water, stirring with the wooden spoon. Add color block pieces to the melted wax. Add candle fragrance oil if desired. Pinecones will dip best if the wax is cooled down to 130-140 degrees. This will take 20-30 minutes, but depending on the size of your container, it could take more or less time. Set up your dipping station, protecting your surface with waxed paper or aluminum foil. While waiting for them to cool, wick your pinecones. Use about 12 inches per cone (unless your cones are especially large or small). Fold in half and tie a loop knot in the center of the wick. Hold the loop at the top of the cone and wrap the wicks around the cone, each in the opposite direction. Tuck the ends into the pinecone. When wax has cooled to temperature, hold each cone by the loop and submerge into the hot wax, allowing extra wax to strain off the cone. Set aside on a sheet of waxed paper and repeat for remaining cones. One the first coat is done, the pinecones need to set for about 15 minutes. When dry, break off any extra wax “feet” on the bottom of the cone and set aside to re-melt with your wax later. Each cone should be dipped 2-4 times; it depends on how you want them to look. You will have to re-melt your wax after the second dipping. When pinecones have enough coats, dip the wick loop.

  • If you dip the pinecones while the wax is too hot it will take forever to build the wax coat
  • If you dip too cold you can get lumps in your wax and uneven areas, plus it’s hard to do
  • If your wax gets too hard, re-melt it
  • Strain as much wax off each pinecone as you can
  • Let your pinecones dry for at least 15 minutes in between each dip
  • Use your spoon to help you submerge the pinecones
  • Let them dry on waxed paper
  • Dip each pinecone 2-4 times
  • If the wax on your pinecone looks dull, it means it was dipped in cool wax
  • To get a shiny look on your last coat, use hotter wax