Friday, April 26, 2013

What’s for dinner?



Today I am taking one of my favorite meals and breaking it down into a list of what you'd need in your pantry or food storage in order to make it in an emergency.

This is the recipe
Cheap easy enchilada meal
·         1 can beanless chili
·         1 small onion chopped
·         1 can tomato sauce
·         1 can sliced olives
·         1 small can mild enchilada sauce
·         1 can pork n beans (this one ingredient is very important!)

Mix all ingredients together
Then layer in a 9x13 inch casserole dish, corn tortillas, enchilada mixture, and cheese - repeat until all is used and top off with cheese.

I add a thin layer of ground beef, diced tomatoes and green chilies to mine and omit the olives but many other substitutions can also be made.

Cover and bake at 350 in over for 1 hour. When I bake this in a regular oven I do not change the cooking time or temp because it ruins it. I have however had it come out quite fine when cooked in a crock pot on low for about 3-4 hours. When cooking in the oven take the cover off at the last 10 min and if you can sprinkle with crumbled tortilla chips during that last 10 min.
Let cool for about an hour otherwise it’s pretty messy.
Cut into squares.   Top with sour cream, plain yogurt or whatever you want.
Very good as leftovers too! Holds together very well after refrigerated!

I picked this because it is a meal that goes a long way and you can keep most of the ingredients on a shelf over a good long period of time. These are just your standard size cans from the grocery store and the last time I made it the ingredients cost me around $8-$10 USD with the following items.

·         1 can beanless chili
·         1 can tomato sauce
·         1 can sliced olives
·         1 small can mild enchilada sauce
·         1 can pork n beans
·         1 can diced tomatoes
·         1 can green chilies
·         1 medium yellow onion
·         1 pkg. 30 count corn tortillas (I only used about 15)
·         2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Any canned food without a pop top is suitable for pantry or long term food storage as long as you are vigilant about rotating your stock so the oldest items are used first. If it has a pop top I prefer to use it within 90 days or by the use by date whichever comes first.

As you can tell there are three items that are not really pantry items. Tortillas, cheese, and onions. So let's talk about those.

Onion-- If you do not have fresh onion available that is ok I have made it without onions. I have also substituted with both onion powder and dehydrated onions, seasoning to taste. It still came out fine.

Tortillas however are a main ingredient. It’s a good thing tortillas are relatively easy to make fresh. You will need a cast iron pan and a varying list of ingredients depending on what type of stores you have and what type of tortilla you choose to make.

The easiest and the one requiring the least supplies is this recipe for basic corn tortillas.

1-3/4 cups masa harina + 1-1/8 cups water.

Mix together masa harina and HOT water until thoroughly combined. Turn dough out and knead until pliable and smooth. If dough is too sticky, add more masa harina; if it begins to dry out, sprinkle with water. Cover and allow it to stand for 30 minutes. Separate into 12-15 balls. Preheat a cast iron skillet or griddle to a medium-high heat. Using your hands pat each ball flat to the desired thickness and size. Place tortilla in preheated pan and allow it to cook for approximately 30 seconds, or until browned and slightly puffy. Turn tortilla over, brown on second side for approximately 30 seconds more, then transfer to a plate. Repeat process with each ball of dough. Keep tortillas covered with a towel until ready to use.

Masa Harina is a flour made from hominy. It is available in the ethnic sections of some stores or at markets specializing in Mexican food. You may find it under its major brand name Maseca or being called Harina de Maiz. It is not equivalent to corn meal and they are not interchangeable.

If you desire to make a corn tortilla with cornmeal you'll need a few more ingredients.
·         3/4 cup cornmeal
·         1-1/4 cups flour
·         1 teaspoon salt
·         2 tablespoons vegetable shortening or oil
·         1 cup boiling water

Put the water on to boil. Combine the dry ingredients. In this case the cornmeal, flour and salt. Using a metal cup to measure the water if possible, measure out the boiling water but do not add it yet. Plastic melts and glass sometimes shatters so a metal container is the safest bet for this. In an emergency a soup can will do. Place the shortening in the bowl with the dry ingredients. Pour the boiling water over everything and stir it up with a fork. You will Stir and stir and stir some more before it turns into dough because it will lump up quite a bit. Allow the mixture to cool. Divide the dough into 10-12 lumps about the size of golf balls. Flour your hands a bit and Pat the balls into the desired sized and thickness and lay the tortilla down on a hot dry skillet. When the underside of the tortilla is dry with a few brown spots, turn it and cook the other side.

The flour tortillas are a very similar recipe and process.
·         2 cups all-purpose flour
·         1 teaspoon salt
·         1 teaspoon baking powder
·         1 tablespoon shortening
·         1/2 cup water

Combine together flour, salt and baking powder. Work in shortening with a fork until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Add the water and mix until the dough can be gathered together. If necessary, add more water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the dough comes together. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let rest for 15 minutes.
Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll into rounds. On a lightly floured surface or with lightly floured hands flatten and stretch each round into a circle about 7 inches across.
Cook on an ungreased skillet over medium high heat until brown spots begin to appear. Keep covered until ready to serve.

The pantry ingredients you need for tortillas can be as simple as Masa Harina and water or as diverse as cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, vegetable shortening or oil and water. Generally speaking this recipe works best with corn tortillas but in a pinch flour ones will do.

That leaves just the cheese which I admit you can omit though it is a bit sloppier as the cheese helps to hold it together. I myself prefer cheddar or pepper jack cheese but nearly any cheese including farmers cheese works in a pinch. You may also choose a freeze dried or dehydrated cheese as an alternative. There are a few I've found to be ok to cook with. On the bonus side If you or a neighbor have a milk cow you can make your own farmers cheese pretty simply but that's a lesson for another day.

Wifeofaprepper


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Butter: Shaken, Not Stirred

In my own opinion, butter done by hand seemed to have a better flavor than when using the electric mixer. Maybe it’s just the slight extra work that goes into it though. Either way works well and is quite tasty.

Once again, your ingredients are one pint of heavy cream and salt, herbs, or spices to taste. Your tools this time will be a quart sized canning jar with a good lid, a largish bowl, a spatula, and your storage container. Are you ready? Here we go!

Your first step is to pour the cream into the canning jar and make sure your lid is good and tight.

Now start shaking it up good and hard. I had to keep switching hands and movements as it took about fifteen to twenty minutes for the first change to occur. This is where it got really thick and quite hard to shake. Take a short break and rest your arms.
 

Now get back to shaking and shaking and shaking until you get to the sudden separation of the curds and whey.

Now pour off the whey and dump your blob into your largish bowl.

This is where you mush and squeeze the blob to get out the excess liquids. This time, I did not rinse with additional water.

Now add in your salt, herbs, or spices to taste, mix well, and put it into your storage container.

As with the last batch we made, your storage time will vary depending on the temperatures in your storage area or your refrigerator. Fridge storage will produce a rock hard chunk. If you want to use it for dinner, it will need to thaw from early morning. Once again, it will last three to four weeks in the fridge, just pay attention to the smell.

If you want to avoid the frustration of rock hard butter, you can keep it on the counter with well sealing lid. It will not last as long due primarily to the warmer temperatures. Also, being much easier to spread, it will be eaten much quicker. Leaving it on the counter will reduce its `shelf life’ to about a week or two. Once again, pay attention to the smell.

Hubbyofwifeofaprepper


As always you can join the Facebook group, like the Facebook community page, and visit the website. All of these are conveniently called “Kaya Self Sufficiency”. I hope you have enjoyed this post and I hope you are getting better at providing as much as you can for yourself and for your family, group, or community.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Easy Butter

We’ve all heard of butter churns. Some of us have heard the horror stories of children being punished by having to make the butter. This involved a very boring time pulling and plunging at the churn for hours on end. Even with these stories, one day I decided that I need to know what real home-made butter tastes like. I’d never had it before.

I jumped online and found that most of the recipes are pretty much the same with varying degrees of salt and some added assorted herbs. I decided to stick with as simple as possible for my first try. My list of ingredients is as follows: One pint of heavy cream, sea salt.

The tools you will need are an electric hand mixer, a largish bowl, and your storage container. Additional useful tools are a wire whisk and a spatula. If you would like, you can use some type of food service gloves. I did not have good luck with them so I got rid of them after my third time having to extract them from a fold of butter. If this is your first time, I suggest using only one pint of heavy cream, though you certainly can use as much as you want. The more you use the longer and harder the process will be. Now, are you ready?

Place your bowl on a counter or comfortably reachable surface and pour in the pint of cream. Place your mixer into the center of the bowl and start mixing at a low speed and slowly turn up the speed.

As you mix, the cream will slowly get thicker and thicker, first resembling whipped cream (which is exactly what it is).

It will continue to get thicker and you will notice little curds appearing. This is where you really pay attention as the change is sudden and can be very messy in the way of splash back. Keep a towel or cloth nearby.

This is where you switch over to your hand whisk as continuing to use the electric mixer will make a splashy mess. Your product will start to separate more and more as you whisk it. You will suddenly have a thick buttery substance and the liquid whey.

Once you have separation, I suggest ditching the whisk and using a spatula, or even just your hands, (the butter will get stuck inside the whisk and make your job harder) and keep stirring.

Now you form the butter into a more solid little ball and pour off the liquid whey and save it for future use (in most recipes that use buttermilk).

Here’s where the gloves came in useless for me. This is where it gets a little messy and the kids might have fun. You need to spread and press the butter glob onto the side of the bowl to get a little more of the excess liquid out of it. Then add a little bit of fresh water and do the same spreading and pressing process to rinse the butter a little more. This batch of water should be discarded, not saved.

Here are my gloves being a pain….

Now take your butter glob and move it to another dish or right into your storage container and add your salt if desired. Start off with a few pinches and slowly add more to taste as you mix it. It’s much better to ere on the lesser side than to suddenly have way too much salt and have to throw it away.

Make sure you mix it in well. You can also add in any other spices or flavorings you want during this step.

Now smooth it out into your storage container and enjoy! Here’s my finished yumminess!

Now, there are various arguments about whether you should use store bought heavy cream or fresh raw milk. I can imagine that there is quite a bit of difference in flavor and that using raw milk will taste much better. I live in Colorado though and it is very expensive, due to FDA laws, to obtain any decent quantity of raw milk. Do try to avoid ‘ultra-pasteurized’ as it will not work as well.

As for storage time, it will always vary based on the temperatures in your storage area or your refrigerator. I found that if it is stored in the fridge, it will get a hard as a rock and be very hard to use. If I wanted to use it for dinner, I took it out and put it on the counter in the morning so it would thaw a little by the time dinner was ready. It will last three to four weeks in the fridge, just pay attention to the smell.

If you want to avoid the frustration of rock hard butter, you can keep it on the counter with well sealing lid. It will not last as long due primarily to the warmer temperatures. Also, being much easier to spread, it will be eaten much quicker. Leaving it on the counter will reduce its `shelf life’ to about a week or two. Once again, pay attention to the smell.

The salt in this recipe is not needed. It is only for flavor. I used it because I like it and I’ve become accustomed to it in my butter during my 45 years on the planet. As time goes by, I will be slowly decreasing the amount of salt and hopefully, eventually, not use any at all. I will also write another butter blog about my second attempt without the use of electricity.

Hubbyofwifeofaprepper

As always you can join our Facebook group, like our Facebook community page, and visit our website. All of these are conveniently called “Kaya Self Sufficiency”. I hope you have enjoyed this post and I hope you are getting better at providing as much as you can for yourself and for your family, group, or community.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Rules of Self Sufficiency?




The way I see it there are a few main ideas in self sufficiency that everyone in the self sufficiency world shares. Zero debt,  providing the basic needs of food and shelter for oneself or ones community  by relying solely on oneself or ones immediate community, the value of doing and creating with one’s own hands, and living with a conscious awareness of how we are all connected to the natural world. I would say there are some basic attributes we all seek in our daily lives as well: Knowledge, preparedness, minimalism, cooperation and independence. People come to self sufficiency not as a life style but as mind set. So what is your mind set?

Do you seek Independence? Want a tiny house? Are you an urbanite with garden envy? A small town denizen with cow envy? A fully self sufficient land dweller living off the grid... with envy for the conveniences of the city?  What do you do about it? What are the "rules" of self sufficiency? How do you deal with the Urban to Rural transitions and things like Cow envy?

There are none! Not one rule! It is all up to you, it’s what you make it! The hardest part perhaps is deciding what is a reasonable expectation to strive for? These expectations can fluctuate greatly depending on your income and area; geographically as well urban versus rural. Many folks interpret self sufficiency as being completely low tech, low impact, organic, and in touch with nature as much as possible. Only consuming what they grow and raise themselves, with a more primitive life style. Others define it as contributing to a community goal such as buy/hire/sell local so that as a community they don't need as many outside goods and products, outside services or even outside energy sources.  Either way the goal is usually determined by your present location and abilities and your desired end result. Not everyone gets cow envy or wants to go off grid. In fact I'd wager a lot of people don't even want to live in a small rural community.

So my first and foremost suggestion as always is "Try it before you buy it!" and "start small". Plant a few veggies in containers before deciding to till up half the yard; It’s hard to get that grass back if hate gardening. Rent a house in a small town or out in the country before buying one. Make friends with people who participate in the things you are interested in. Talk to a 4H group. You could take the 100 thing challenge (click here for the book) or pack all the stuff you think you don't need or would need to get rid of if you plan to downsize your living space, put it in storage, If you find yourself at the storage unit multiple times in a month you either need to prioritize better or perhaps a smaller place is not right for you. Keep in mind you can go too far or be too extreme in your initial excitement. It's easy to fall in love with a calf. Shoveling out stalls and pens is much harder.  A lot will be determined by where you live but it should not completely limit you.

I will tell you that in my opinion you can still be self sufficient and live in the city. You will not be able to provide your own water or energy but there is plenty of potential to work for oneself, pay off ones property, grow a garden, barter or develop a co-op with neighbors who have skills you lack, such as sewing, carpentry or mechanics. In fact in the beginning most human establishments were tribal or clan type settlements and people relied on one another quite a bit while being able to do as much for yourself as you can is quite an accomplishment in today's society it's a relatively new thing.

In most cases when I say we are striving to become more self sufficient the reaction I receive is based on what others perceive that to mean. Their interpretation very often does not match mine. We have literally started life over in our forties... it’s sort of like we moved to a foreign country in the middle of the senior year of high school. Having been in our small town three years now we are finally getting settled in somewhat and beginning to concentrate on growing our goals. We are enlarging the garden and hope to learn to dehydrate and can a great deal of what we grow this year. I have extended myself into the community a bit more (not my strong point) and am working on networking i.e. making new friends! Many of my new friends have horses, cows, chickens, goats and various other animals. We do not thus the cow envy. We do however have a kick butt garden that many of my friends lack. We haven't learned to do canning yet, my friends know how to though. It's a great networking and learning situation. Believe it or not there is a five year old here in town who is swapping lessons. He is learning to crochet and teaching his baby sitter to knit. Our goals may not match yours and that is ok. The main thing is to figure out the main goals that are 'doable' for you no matter where you are. Pay off a debt, learn a skill, grow a plant, try something new, talk to your neighbor, or just read a book about it.

Sincerely,
Wifeofaprepper



As always you can join the Facebook group, like the Facebook community page, and visit the website. All of these are conveniently called “Kaya Self Sufficiency”. I hope you have enjoyed this post and I hope you are getting better at providing as much as you can for yourself and for your family, group, or community.