Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Valley Food Storage-- A Review

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When someone offers me free food I will most likely take them up on the offer.  Valley Food Storage contacted me and asked if I would try out one of their products and then review it.  This will be an honest review of what my family and I thought of this product.  I was only compensated in receiving the free product, I do not sell this product.  

Valley Food Storage prides themselves on having quality food storage, where you can pronounce every ingredient, and it lasts up to 25 years on the shelf.  From their website:

  • You can pronounce all of the ingredients
  • No hydrogenated oils or distasteful preservatives
  • Up to 25 year shelf life
  • Small, local company
  • Inexpensive! Yep, take a look at the price per serving and compare!
  • Durable, resealable packages
  • Nitrogen flushed
  • Seriously good taste!

I couldn't wait to try out the White Bean and Lime Chili that they sent me to sample.  The first thing that I noticed was that the mylar bag of soup was resealable.  The bag contains 5 servings and if you were single, or had a smaller family, you could easily make half of the soup and reseal it for another time.  Loved this!!  The bag was also a heavy duty mylar and felt like it would stand up to being tossed around in a backpack.  

The instructions for the White Bean and Lime Chili could not be easier to follow.  Boil 5 1/2 cups of water and add the contents of the bag.

Whisk the chili and let simmer for 15-20  minutes and then enjoy!  The directions say to let it sit 5-7 minutes to thicken, but our chili was thick when it was done cooking and we just dug in!

This chili smelled delicious right out of the bag, but it tasted even better!  I haven't had a freeze-dried soup ever taste this good!  I have five children four of them ate their whole bowl, and my picky eater refused to try it.  All four of my kids that ate it, LOVED it!  Even my son, who is pretty picky, ate his whole bowl! My husband is pretty picky too when it comes to Mexican food, but he really liked the flavor of this chili.  I have to say that if all of Valley Food Storage food tastes this good, I am rethinking the food in my 72-hour kits!  

I love that it is real food, with real flavor, and that my family really enjoyed it!  The 5-serving bag that I tried retails for $11.95 on the valleyfoodstorage.com website.  You can purchase their pre-made food storage programs, or customize your food storage order to your family's taste. They have breakfasts, sides, and entrees available.  They also sell 72-hour kits, Berkey water filters, and longer-term food in buckets. With the option to buy the food preselected or you can customize the food for your taste. 

Valley Food Storage's motto is "Store food you'll love to eat", I was very impressed with the quality of this food and I loved the flavor of the White Bean and Lime Chili.  I want to mention that it is a vegetarian chili and you could easily add meat, freeze-dried or canned, to bulk up the chili, and maybe add some freeze-dried cheese too.  But I am a vegetarian and it satisfied me, my husband, and four of my kids. My picky eater will either starve or learn to love new foods ;) This is definitely food storage that I will love to eat!


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Prepare Today Homemade-- Shelf Stable Cheesecake Recipe

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My cheesecake drama, you can read about here, actually turned into an experiment on how to use cream cheese powder.  I purchased a #10 can of cream cheese powder from Honeyville Grain and then attempted to make a no-bake cheesecake out of it.  Attempted because there aren't a lot of instructions on the side of the can to know how to reconstitute it! I asked a friend of mine to help me with measurements and she said 1 1/2 Cups of powdered cream cheese will equal 1 8oz. block of cream cheese.  Adding water to get the right consistency is what took a little experimenting.  I only used about a 1/2 cup of water to get a cream cheese texture that I could mix easily with a hand mixer.  So watch the water amounts when you are making this, you can always add more.

 Shelf stable whipping cream made by Gossner's is one of my favorite items to have in my food storage.  It can be used for whipped cream, you can make butter out of it, and it is great in soups.  I buy mine from Honeyville in Salt Lake City.  Totally worth it to have on hand!  And the cream cheese powder is now another one of my favorite shelf stable ingredients.  I picked that up at Honeyville as well.  It runs about $28 online right now.  I was not compensated for this post.  These are truly products that I have in my storage and that I use. 

As you can see from the picture I figured out this cheesecake craziness!  Much better than my first runny mess of a cheesecake attempt.  You can see that disaster in my last post, read it HERE. I was making the cheesecake for a preparedness class at church so I used a 13x9 pan to feed a crowd instead of a pie pan.  

The crust is simple, I used the same recipe from my last post HERE,  which has graham cracker crumbs, sugar, powdered butter, and then I added the water to reconsitute the powdered butter. 
I mixed it up with a fork and then used my hands to really mix it well.  Then I firmly patted it down into the 13x9 pan and let it chill in the fridge.

Now, onto the making of the filling.  I actually made two different cheesecakes so I could try out my shelf stable heavy cream in one of them.  The other recipe uses sweetened condensed milk with the cream cheese. 

No-Bake Cheesecake Using Heavy Cream

3 C powdered cream cheese (or 2 8oz packages cream cheese)
1/2 C- 1 C water (don't add the water if using real cream cheese)
2 t lemon juice
16oz (1 pint) heavy whipping cream, chilled
1/3 C sugar

Using a hand mixer blend the powdered cream cheese with a half cup of the water.  Slowly add more water until you reach a cream cheese texture.  Don't add too much water!  You don't want it runny. Mix in the lemon juice until well blended.

Add in the whipping cream and mix on medium high until stiff peaks form.  Add in the sugar and mix well.  Mixture should be slightly thick, not runny.  Pour into prepared graham cracker crust and chill at least 2 hours. 

This is the cream cheese powder mixed with a little water.  Don't let it get too thinned out or the cheesecake won't set up.  The cream cheese powder does thicken when it sits in the fridge. 

This is the mixture after adding in the lemon juice and the whipping cream. See the stiff peaks in the middle of the creamed mixture. 

The sugar gets mixed in lastly and mixed well.

Spread the mixture over the crust and chill. 

No-Bake Cheesecake With Sweetened Condensed Milk

Toothpicks held up the cover :)

Sweetened Condensed Milk
In a blender add:
1/2 C hot water
1 C non-instant powdered milk
1 C sugar
3 T melted butter (3 T butter powder+3/4 t water)
Blend until mixed well. Or substitute 1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk.

In a mixing bowl add:
3 C cream cheese powder (or 2 8oz packages cream cheese)
1/2 C-1 C water (don't add the water if using real cream cheese)
Combine the cream cheese powder and water in bowl with hand mixer, slowly add 1/2 C water until well blended, smooth, and has a cream cheese texture. Add more water as needed to achieve the right cream cheese consistency. 
Add in:
2 t lemon juice
1 t vanilla
Blend well.  Add in the sweetened condensed milk from the blender, or 1 can sweetened condensed milk.  Blend well with hand mixer.  Pour into prepared graham cracker crust and chill at least 2 hours. 

This is the cream cheese powder, lemon juice, and vanilla mixed together.  

In goes the homemade sweetened condensed milk.

Chilled and ready for serving. I needed to transport this to where I was teaching and I first put aluminum foil over the top...see where it stuck to the top of the cheesecake!  I added toothpicks to hold up the foil.  I didn't want to mess it up even more by pulling them out before taking the photo. 

The cheesecake made with the shelf stable whipping cream set up a little better and had a firmer texture.  It also cut and held up on a plate better than the sweetened condensed milk version, which was kind of sticky. I preferred the cheesecake made with whipping cream because it had a lighter texture and wasn't too sweet. But they both tasted great!  It's always smart to have options when it comes to food storage. If plan A doesn't work, you can fall back to plan B or even plan C.  I will probably use real cream cheese to make these recipes most often, but knowing I have another option, if the situation arose that I needed one, is a comforting feeling.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Prepare Today Homemade-- Graham Crackers & Graham Cracker Crust Recipes

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If we all looked as good as we portray ourselves on social media most people have perfect lives, with perfect children, and perfect recipes that bake up perfect every time.  Well, I'm here to keep it real.  A lot of what comes out of my kitchen is not blog worthy, but this oops deserved to blogged about.

It didn't quite set up.
 On Tuesday night I am helping out with a preparedness class at church and I volunteered to bring a food storage related dessert.  I thought a no-bake cheesecake would be perfect. I have wanted to try cream cheese powder forever! Thank goodness I decided to try it out on my family first!  That liquid mess in the pie dish above is suppose to be cheesecake.  It never set up.  It sat in the fridge and then the freezer for hours and never set up.  You can see we ate the crust from under it, which was yummy, but the cheesecake part was a total flop.  I may be panicking just a little if I can't figure this out by tomorrow. 

So I am going to share with you my graham cracker recipe and also the recipe for the graham cracker crust.  I did find a cheesecake recipe that worked, thank goodness, and I'll share that later this week.

Homemade Graham Crackers
2 C whole wheat flour
1 C white flour (can use all whole wheat)
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 C butter softened (1/2 C butter powder + 1 1/2 T water)
1/2 C brown sugar
1/3 C honey
1 t vanilla
1/4-1/2 C milk  
extra flour for dusting and rolling out
 Cream the butter, sugar, and honey until fluffy.  In another bowl mix the flours, baking powder, baking soda and slowly add to the creamed butter mixture, alternating with the milk and vanilla.  Only add enough milk for the dough to come together. The dough will be sticky and not quite like a bread dough when you have added enough milk.  (I had to add about 1/2 C more flour to be able to get it out of the bowl) Cover the dough and place in the fridge for an hour or up to overnight. 

Preheat oven to 350°. Divide the dough into fourths. Working with only one section, leave remaining dough in the fridge, roll out onto the bottom of an ungreased jelly roll pan.  Don't be afraid to use a lot of flour to keep the dough from sticking to the rolling pin and your hands.  It's a really sticky dough!

Roll as thin as possible, almost paper thin, using your hands to flatten if necessary.  Prick with a fork and score into graham cracker shapes. Bake 11-14 minutes.  Watch the crackers at the 11 minute mark, the edges tend to burn quickly.  Once done score the crackers immediately after taking out of the oven and remove to a cooling rack.  If they cool on the cookie sheet they will stick.

Repeat with the remaining quarters of dough.

These are a hit at my house, even my husband loves them!  They would be really good with cinnamon and sugar sprinkled on top before baking them. A great use for graham crackers is to make a super simple crust with them.  I needed to make a few crusts for my preparedness class and this was the best part of this whole process.

 It was kind of therapeuticec to bang all those crackers into crumbs.  They broke easily and then I was ready to make a few graham cracker crusts.

 Graham Cracker Crust
1 1/2 C finely ground graham crackers
1/3 C sugar
6 T butter melted (6 T butter powder + 1 1/2 T water)

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  (if using butter powder don't use all the water at first.  Pour about half and stir the mixture and add more as necessary until the crumbs start sticking together.) Don't be afraid to use your hands to incorporate all the crumbs and butter.  Press into pie pan or 13x9 pan.  Chill for 1 hour, or if the recipe calls for a baked crust bake at 375°for 7 minutes. 

Stay tuned later this week for the recipe for the cheesecake that filled this delicious crust!  I found two great ways to make a no-bake cheesecake that use all shelf stable ingredients!!!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Self-Reliant Saturday-- The Right Nutrition In An Emergency

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"In an emergency, the right nutrition becomes a crucial element of your survival and ability to do what needs to be done--whether that's rebuilding your home, searching for other survivors, or evacuating on foot.  Protein is a non-negotiable when it comes to nutrition [and preparedness].  Stock up on your favorites!"
  --quote from the Emergency Essentials monthly catalog

Even if your home isn't destroyed, or you aren't searching for survivors, if we are living in a post disaster world for a while life will be harder physically.  We will be doing work that we aren't used to doing physically.  Digging, clearing debris, cooking over a fire, manually grinding flour, these are all activities most of us don't do on a daily basis.  Protein will help keep you feeling full, and give your the extra strength you'll need in a disaster. I'll list a few examples of protein sources that aren't a slab of meat :)
  • peanut butter and all other nut butters
  • nuts and seeds
  • quinoa/amaranth/bulgur/teff/millet
  • chia seeds
  • protein bars
  • beans
  • tuna
  • canned chicken and other meats
  • protein powder (would be great to make a protein drink with one of those shaker cups)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Organizing -- How Food Storage Fits In My Kitchen?

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Organizing our food storage was the challenge for January.  Click HERE if you missed that post. Now it's time to move out of the storage room and into my kitchen.  Organization is still a big part of my food storage in my kitchen.  Organization, and having a method to my madness, allows me to keep up with my inventory, and it also enables me to cook and use the food before it expires.  

 In one corner of my kitchen I have a dedicated cooking area which allows me to prep meals/bake, and not have to walk around the kitchen to gather what I need.  It is where I have all the measuring spoons/cups, spices, cookbooks that I use most often, mixers, flour, sugars, etc.  I make my bread here, put together dinner here, and pretty much all other food gets made in this area of my kitchen.  

This cupboard is directly above the counter that I use for meal prep.  I keep my baking ingredients and a few spices in this cupboard.  

Next to my spice/baking cupboard I have my surplus spices (which I seal in jars using my foodsaver), vinegars, sugars/agave syrups.  I also keep my liquid measuring cups in here. I can easily reach up for the ingredients that I need and not waste time walking all over the kitchen.   

Below my prep area I keep my spices in these two drawers.  I like being able to see them all at a glance and it keeps them from getting lost in a cupboard.  I also have them organized by ethnic flavors such as Mexican spices and Italian spices. 

On the opposite side of the kitchen I have a few cupboards that were out of the way for storing everyday cooking ingredients. I would be walking around an island to grab an ingredient if I stored the food I used every day here.  I decided to make these cupboards my smaller can storage area.  

I can see at a glance what I am low on and when I shop at the case lot sales I bring the cases right into the kitchen and unload them right into the cupboard.  The extra cases go out in the storage room.  This has worked really well for me and I love seeing all of the cans neatly lined up on the shelves...yes I may be a little OCD.  

 My Pantry

The ingredients that I cook with every day and the snacks my kids live on are stored in my kitchen pantry.  I have a rotating system that works for me.  I store most of my long-term food in my storage room in bulk.  I then have smaller containers, that I fill from my bulk storage, that I store in my kitchen pantry. I usually keep on top of this because if I am out of something in the pantry I go right out to the storage room and fill up  my pantry container from my bulk buckets.  Click HERE to see a post on my bucket storage. Using Gamma lids really makes this process easy.  Opening a bucket and filling a container takes just a few minutes.

This is my pantry.  I didn't clean it or make it pretty for the picture.  I wanted you all to see it exactly as it looks everyday, with 5 kids in and out of it, all day long.  

I have a few #10 cans stored in here. They are mostly the ingredients that I use to make bread, but there are other #10 cans like onions that I use more often, so I keep the opened can in the pantry and not the storage room.  It saves time walking out to the storage room.

The kids' snacks are on the lower shelf and then a miscellaneous shelf and above that are my pastas.  My lesser used cookbooks also have a home in my pantry.  The red and blue storage bins were purchased at the Dollar Tree store.  They are great for corralling fruit snacks, pretzel bags, paper goods, etc.  I keep my bread, peanut butter and bagels in the blue bin in the lower right corner of this picture.  This way I can grab the bin when I am making lunches for the kids and it is all in one spot. 

This is how my kitchen functions and it works for me. What kinds of organizational tips do you have from your kitchens??
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