Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Are you a daredevil?

On Saturday we cracked open a jar of the dilly green beans I made a few weeks ago. They are tasty - nice and vinegary with a slight dill flavor. Not mushy, but not crunchy either.

They do pack a wallop. I canned them, per the recipe, with a serrano pepper and a garlic clove in every jar. You don't notice the heat until you're done chewing and swallowing, and then is when it really punches you in the throat.

You're going to need something to drink with these. Fortunately I've made some strawberry lemonade concentrate for my food storage. Come back tomorrow for a look at these beautifully ruby jars!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dinner Idea

I bought an All You magazine a couple of weeks ago to feed my new hobby: couponing*. In the magazine there are all kinds of recipes which I was kind of stoked about. One in particular caught my eye because it uses ingredients I keep in my food storage, namely:
  • green beans
  • salmon
  • olive oil
  • vinegar
  • salt and pepper
Granted, the recipe calls for fresh green beans and a fresh salmon fillet. Also fresh red potatoes. But I used the green beans I had canned the other day, and 2 cans of boneless, skinless flaked salmon. These are items from my shelves. I bought the red potatoes on sale last week for 59 cents a pound. I thinly sliced** the potatoes and steamed them with a little salt in a steamer basket over boiling water. In a large bowl I combined a couple tablespoons of olive oil and a little apple cider vinegar. (Also a blob of dijon mustard which the recipe did not call for but that I like in a vinaigrette.) I added some salt and pepper and whisked together until blended. (I then tasted it and added a little more canola oil because it needed more oil but it did not need any more spicy or fruity or whatever it is that extra virgin olive oil brings to a dressing.) I added the green beans, the steamed potatoes, and the drained, flaked salmon. It needed a little more pepper after it was all mixed together.

It was good. I was tempted to go back for seconds a couple of times last night, but knew that if I did that then I wouldn't have any leftovers for lunch. Now that it's today and I'll be looking for lunch in a few hours, I'm glad I saved some.

*It bugs me a little bit how some nouns have become verbs in our weird, awesome English language like "couponing" or "texting".

**I think it's hilarious when my favorite TV chef Jamie Oliver slices something thinly and calls it "wafer thin". It's the way he says "wafer", rhyming it with "gaffer".

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Be true

Being true is part of the belief system I adhere to, and some of the rich loveliness of being true is so elegantly described by Mr. Irving:

There is in every true woman's heart, a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity, but which kindles up and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity. ~ Washington Irving

It's a quality worth striving for.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


I've finally come up with some menus that I think my family will (mostly) eat, and that I can rotate rarely enough that I'm not sick of eating the same thing over and over again. The purpose of having it all written down is to be able to plan my grocery store sales shopping/couponing into a purposeful trip rather than my usual way of wandering up and down the aisles at the store waiting for something to jump into my cart and say, "Cook me! Cook me!".

I've decided that 25 meal plans per month is enough because it gives me a handful of days every month to eat leftovers or take out. There are other things we have for dinner, but for the purposes of building our food storage these 25 meals X 10 will be our "year's supply". I've set it up so that there is a type of food that we will eat for the five nights in a week but there is lots of flexibility to allow for busy days and seasonal appetites (Beef stew in the middle of summer? Maybe not.):
  • baked
  • stove-top
  • sandwiches
  • soup
  • Tex-Mex
Wanna see?
Roasted chicken and veg
Chicken casserole
Chicken alfredo pasta and veg

dirty rice
tuna tetrazzini
pork fried rice with stir-fry veggies
beef stroganoff
Cincinnati-style chili

salmon patties
sloppy joes
bbq beef on a bun
chili dogs or chili fries

Chicken noodle or rice
Sausage/spinach/white bean
Chunky tomato
Beef stew

Tex Mex:
Bean and cheese nachos
Chicken fajitas
Beef enchiladas
Chicken enchiladas

Like I said, there are other meals we regularly eat like various kinds of homemade pizza, baked or pan-fried tilapia, and of course there's the occasional breakfast for dinner, but this is the menu plan I'll be working my shopping list around.

What do you think?

My next job is to create an ingredients list that contains all the things I will need to make these 25 meals then multiply it by ten!

So far, I am loving having my pressure canner. I've canned beef, chicken, and pork and I can tell you that it is a cinch to make dinner when your meat is already thawed and cooked! I've been looking through cookbooks for recipes and can see that a lot of recipes start with "cut the meat into 1 inch cubes and cook." Sweet!

Monday, May 16, 2011


They came in! They are nice and strong, and the advertisement said they can hold 350 lbs. per shelf. I don't expect that I'll put that much weight on each shelf, but I'm glad they are sturdy and that they fit so perfectly in the space in the closet I had planned to put them. Because you know I didn't measure it before I ordered the shelves, which I will definitely do next time. I promise.

My bff D came over to admire my shelves and spoke aloud what I had already thought - it looked like a lot more food when it was all piled on my kitchen counter!

Saturday, May 14, 2011


I've been diligently watering my little container garden through an extremely dry springtime, and it's beginning to pay off.

There are lots of little tomatoes on my tomato plant, I'm hoping that it will keep us in tomatoes all summer! I'm not so confident over the jalapeno plant - this was the only pepper growing there.

Monday, May 9, 2011

I can't live like this

I'm the kind of person who needs the horizontal surfaces in her home free of clutter. It bugs me when things begin to stack up. It bothers me in a way that I can't explain, but it causes anxiety and insomnia when I have things that need to be put away laying in piles around the house.

I ordered some shelves about a week ago that were supposed to arrive today, and today, instead of shelves, I got an email saying that my shipment has been delayed until next Tuesday.

Next Tuesday. For pete's sake. I have to live with this pile on my kitchen counter for another week. Today it feels like my shelves will never come. If they ever do, all these jars will go up in my food storage closet and I'll have my kitchen counter back.

In the pic you can see on the right the ground beef and diced chicken that I canned over the weekend. On the left you can see the roasted reds I did this morning.

(My camera takes strange pics. My kitchen counter is every bit as white as the tile backsplash but in all my pictures, it looks beige.)

Friday, May 6, 2011


One of last month's jobs was to create an inventory sheet of items needed for a year's supply of food and other stuff my family uses and needs, and organize those things.

I've been working on it and I'm still working on it. It's a really, Really, REALLY big job because I want to acquire and organize these things in an orderly, cost-effective way rather than a random or expensive way. This means figuring out what we actually use and eat, creating menu plans and then breaking down those recipes into ingredient lists in order to form shopping lists, taking into account what I already have in the house, and so on. I wonder to myself as I'm doing this if people who are in the habit of making a weekly or monthly menu and shopping from it would have an easier time of this. I've tried (resolved?) so many times to make menu plans and shopping lists but even though I'm kind of rigid in that I like to know what's going to happen to me on any given day, and have a hand in arranging it, if possible, I eventually forget about my menus and go back to my old way of winging it when it comes to what we're having for dinner tonight or tomorrow or next week.

So anyway I've been making this inventory list of things we need and organizing it by categories. This morning I've been working on my Health and Beauty category because I've scored some amazing deals this week (and so my bathroom closets are filling up) by doing a more moderate form of Extreme Couponing. (Some time I'll blog about the meeting I went to that featured as a guest speaker one of TLC's Extreme Couponing chicks. It was way cool and very helpful and informative.)

Back to my list. (See how I get off task so easily? If people were asked to think of one word that describes me, I think most of them would say "tangent". I recently read an article on MSNBC that people who are able to focus on one thing at a time are generally more happy people than those people whose minds wander. I need brain training. STAT.) To create my Health and Beauty category for my inventory list I mentally went through my "getting ready" routine, and that of my husband's and children's, and listed all the products we use. Then I went through my actual bathroom closets and medicine cabinets to see what else was there that we use and need, but maybe not every single day. I want everything on my list, so that when stuff goes on sale and I have coupons for them, I can shop for the items we are short on.

Are you ready to see the list? The length of it is nothing short of astonishing.
  • soap
  • body wash
  • shampoo
  • conditioner
  • mousse
  • hair gel
  • mens deodorant
  • womens deodorant
  • mens shavers
  • shaving cream
  • womens shavers
  • body lotion
  • vaseline
  • facial cleanser
  • facial moisturizer
  • toothbrushes
  • toothpaste
  • dental floss
  • mouthwash
  • hand soap
  • sunscreen
  • lip balm
  • nail clippers
  • emery boards
  • Q-tips
  • vitamins
  • feminine wash
  • supers
  • regulars
  • foot powder
  • benadryl
  • tylenol
  • ibuprofen
  • allergy meds
It's a lot of stuff just to get ready in the morning, and I've always considered our family to be pretty low maintenance!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

It's soup weather

But don't worry - it will be back to popsicle weather by the weekend.

I made a pot of soup for dinner last night that was so tasty I decided I'd share the "recipe":

  • 1/2 package of sausage (the breakfast kind, that you would form into patties before cooking)
  • 1/2 an onion, diced
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, not drained
  • 1 can white beans, drained and rinsed (I used my newly-canned beans!)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 or 3 big handfuls of baby spinach, chopped
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cook and stir the sausage and onion in a soup pot in a little olive oil until the sausage is broken up into smallish pieces and cooked through and the onion is softened but not brown. Add the chicken stock and stir up any bits that are stuck to the bottom. Add the tomatoes and their juice, the beans, thyme, red pepper flakes and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 15 or 20 minutes. Add the spinach and the parmesan cheese and stir until cheese is melted. Taste for seasonings and add salt and pepper as needed.

Serve hot with cornbread. I'm sure you know that when you eat beans and grains (like rice or corn) together at the same meal, that it enhances the quality protein value of the meal. I have been feeling desperate for protein lately - eating things like boiled eggs for lunch and peanut butter toast for breakfast. This soup/cornbread supper filled me up and made me feel good inside.

I had a bowl of this soup for lunch today and it is even better the second day. Looking forward to it again tomorrow!

Items used in this soup that are "food storage" items:
chicken stock
canned diced tomatoes
home-canned white beans
herbs and other seasonings

Cornbread "food storage" ingredients:
corn, ground into meal by my Little Friend
powdered milk
baking powder
and homemade strawberry freezer jam

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

It's a lot of work

I learned that in my adventure yesterday. And it took much longer than I expected. And the pressure canner made me exceedingly nervous. But at the end of a long day, I have 16 pints of shelf-stable, ready-to-eat beans.

Although I won't let it stop me from continuing, I sincerely hope that the work, time and anxiety lessen over time as I get used to it.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Beans, beans, the musical fruit

Well, you know the rest.

I went to a preparedness fair on Saturday and got lots of information. So much information, in fact, that it's taking me a while to process a lot of it.

One thing I saw, although the idea has been percolating in my head for a while, is pressure-canning dried beans. (I am able to get on this right away because I've already been thinking about it for a while. Are you like that at all? I only have the nerve to do it because I've already thought about it and decided to do it, and have now met someone in person who's done it.) I have cases and cases of dried beans in my food storage that we rarely ever eat because it is such a hassle, for me anyway, to cook them.

Have I ever been guilty of buying a can of beans when I have perfectly good dried beans in boxes upstairs? Uhhhh, no comment.

So on the kitchen counter we have beans soaking in anticipation of canning them in my new toy later this afternoon. Tune in again tomorrow to see my finished results!