Monday, November 16, 2009

Food Storage helps

A while back, I joined a food storage website. It has really been a help to me become better prepared for emergencies of all types.

There are lots of reasons to store food, but instead of typing all the reasons people have for storing food, I'll refer you to this blog - Food Storage Made Easy They have a write up that is really good explaining what it is and why people might choose to store food. (Hint: Not everyone that stores food is a "survivalist" living in the woods with loaded guns waiting for the end of the world! In fact, MOST are NOT of that mind-set.)

The second link here is a PDF file that tells about what we found out as we did a week's worth of different types of mock "drills". I participated in this week-long experiment and I learned a LOT. It was a great shake-down of our preparedness. Compared to most of the people I know, I'm pretty prepared and have a lot of different skills and resources, but participating in these drills showed me where I had some holes. Things that I forgot about doing, things I forgot to take with me, things I failed to remember about different ways to use what I had and things I need to acquire/make to fill out my 72hr kits and home storage items.

Gathering some food storage or stockpiling as some call it does not have to entail a lot of monetary outlay at one time. It WILL cut your food budget, if you will start with the principles outlined on this website and actually USE what you've stored. You will learn to shop sales to make your food dollars go farther and they have recipes included to help you use what you have stored.

I've had some type of food storage for 35 years. I've had 72 hr kits for years. I have to tell you, I've learned a lot from this site. Hope you will go look them up.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Harward's give-away and emergency prep

So I entered a give-way on the Harward's blog. She has a nice assortment of items in her give away and her blog looks like it will be interesting to follow. I have never followed a blog before, only done an RSS feed on a couple that I really like.

I've been buying and making items for our 72hr kits and for some food storage items. I've been a canning fool at our local Country Cannery. I'm sad that we didn't find it (and it is JUST DOWN THE STREET!) until Sept of this year. I can't believe I can see it from my house. But since it's an unmarked building and inside the perimeter of the farmer's market. I had NO CLUE that it was a public cannery! Hopefully, they will open on the first Tue after the 4th of July and we will be able to can more items. They can do 108 quart jars in and hour and a half. I can only do 7. Talk about getting your canning done quickly! And it doesn't heat up my house. The cost is 25 cents per jar. You provide your own jars, lids, rings and food for canning. They process it. Or, 50 cents per #2 can. A #2 can holds 3 1/2 cups - or about 1lb of food. All you have to bring is the food.

I've canned soup, chili, meats, potatoes, carrots, tomato sauce, applesauce and pumpkin. One day, my son and I were able to can about 99 cans of food in less than 3 hrs. 150lb of it was potatoes that all we did was wash, cut into chunks and pop into a can. Some was a pumpkin that we cut in half, removed the seeds and they put into the pressure canner for 30 mins. Delivered it back to us and we scraped out the meat, mushed it up, plopped it into the can and sent it back for processing. I think that was also the day we did some apples for applesauce. It was SO easy! We washed them and cut them in half. Put them in the steam kettles with a little water to cook for 15 mins. Drained the resulting fluid off and then put the apples directly into the mill. The mill spit out seeds, skin and stems into one pot and the apple sauce into another. We stirred a little of the juice we drained back into it, along with some ground cinnamon and plopped the results into cans. Easy-peasy! When we opened a can of it - YUM, YUM!

It will be so nice to have this food for an emergency or to just make quick meals when we have those "on-the-go" days. And at least some of that pumpkin will be pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Disaster, pt 2: No running water!

As I indicated in my last post, I lived for about 5 years on land that had no electricity, septic system or running water. During that time, I got married and had 2 of my 3 kids. It wasn't until my son was 9 months old that we were finally able to afford to have a well dug.

How did I survive?

Truth be told, it was easy. At least it was for me. I wanted to be independent - and I was broke. lol So, like the pioneers of old, I made due with what I had an upgraded as I could afford it.

The last post deals with having no septic system or city sewer. This one I'll tell you what I did (and later my family did) to live without running water, but still have sanitation and clean water available to us.

My first water came from getting friends to save their empty milk jugs. (This was back in the days before everyone drank bottled water. (was that REALLY only 24 years ago?)

I would fill the cleaned out milk jugs with water from the spigot at work or church and haul them home. Every Day! See, not only did I cook and drink the water, I was filling a FIVE HUNDRED GALLON water bed with the water. Yup. It was the only bed I had and I needed it filled - so... I filled jugs, and I filled jugs, and I filled jugs. I had about 10 jugs. I had 3 to bathe with, 1 to cook with, 1 to water the chickens, rabbits and dog with, and the other 5 I filled that bed with. Each day - 6 days a week. Perseverance works! At that rate, it took me about 100 days to get it full. Do you know that at 6 days a week it's 16.67 WEEKS! That's about 4 months of dragging home bottles of water. worked. The bed was full (though it still wasn't WARM!)


I had short hair then. Up side - it doesn't take a lot of water to wash short hair. Down side - you have to wash it everyday because mine is curly and sticks up and won't lay down without wetting it.

I washed without running water for several years and I used a variety of different ways to do it.

First I bought a solar shower. That worked, but it used a lot of water. Water that I wanted in that BED! True, I could hang it in the sun, but since I moved onto the land in Feb and it was in NORTH Florida, the water wasn't getting very warm. So I would heat it - first in a pot over a fire, later on a Coleman stove.

I had to shower outside. Ok, I lived in a rural neighborhood. There were LOTS of trees on the land, but still...I did have a couple of neighbors 10 acres away. I used a small, partial enclosed green house aka "the pyramid". (Yes, the former owners built a pyramid greenhouse that had partially decayed siding on it. Why? Something about "energy fields".) However, I was never comfortable showering out there. It felt very vulnerable and even though I would wait until after the school bus came, I was always worried about one of the neighborhood kids spying. On to Plan B.

Note: If you don't have an enclosed bathroom you can use, make a "shower stall" outside. You can buy one at Wallyworld in the camping section or make your own - plans are on the web. You can get fancy and build one of stone or wood. Or you can use tarps or regular shower curtains (you want opaque ones - so they can't be seen through!)

Plan B was just using the water jugs. By then, I had the septic system installed and the electricity coming to the trailer. I had been on the land about 9 or 10 months and it was getting cold again. At least I wasn't showing outside any longer.

I would pour all the water out of the bottle into a pan and heat it on the stove the pour the warmed water back into the jug. It was kinda tricky getting the water warm enough, without scalding myself. And it took a while to heat the whole thing. Then I got married and went to Plan C.

My (now former) husband was from around here and here's what he taught me to do. This is what his family did - a lot of his life they (and the people around here in Appalachia) didn't have running water. They too, just made due with what they had.

Plan C: Take a 1 gal jug of water. Pour off about 1/4 -1/3 of it into a pan and heat it on the stove (over campfire or on your Coleman) almost to a boil. If you're washing your hair, do this with 2 gals of water instead of one.

When the water is hot, pour it back into the jug. BE CAREFUL it's boiling water(duh). Do NOT hold the bottle while you pour the water! (again, duh.) Put the cap(s) back on the bottle(s) and agitate to disperse the hot water.

If you have a large basin, you can stand in it. If you have a tub, put the basin in the tub and then stand in it. Otherwise, use a pan or pail of some sort to collect the water as you wet your hair. There's nothing in the world wrong with this water. You're just wetting your hair and it can be used to then rinse the soap out!

So, your hair is wet.

Use a little shampoo. Here's the point that I wish I had known about baking soda and vinegar as shampoo and rinse. It's SOOO much easier to rinse out the baking soda than it is shampoo! Even after a week and a half of being sick and not washing my hair, I washed it once, rinsed it with water and then used the vinegar and water on it and it was clean. Here, in the middle of the page is where I talk about using baking soda for shampoo and Apple cider vinegar for rinsing it.

Either way, wash your head.

When you're ready to rinse out the shampoo, use the water you wet your hair with to rinse it. If you're in the tub, just pour it over your head and let it wet your body. Then you need even less water with which to wash yourself.

If you want to, lather and rinse again. Pour the water slowly. It doesn't take a lot of water, just a steady drizzle to rinse your hair. Be careful to not over use the shampoo or conditioner. We have been trained by watching the tv ads to use WAY too much shampoo. The commercials shows people with enough lather to wash at least 4 people's hair! It sells THEIR products at a hefty price to YOU. (Just like toothpaste and laundry detergent! We do NOT need the amounts shown on tv.)

If you use conditioner, use it after your done washing. If it's a rinse-out conditioner, rinse it out. Again, you don't need to dump the whole gallon out at once. Just trickle it onto your hair.

Unless you have really long hair that you shampoo twice and use a rinse-0ut conditioner to boot, it should only take 1 gallon or less of water to wash your hair.

To wash your body:

If you're in the tub, your body is already wet from washing your hair. You can just go to step two.

Wet your body with a LITTLE bit of the water. If I've washed my hair, I collect and use the rinse water to wet me down. This gives me a little more water to use for a clean rinse. I'm only wanting to wet my skin to make it easier to wash. It also rinses off any loose dirt.

This sounds stupid, but in case someone's mama didn't teach them how to wash themselves here goes:

Wash and rinse your face first. You can use a slightly soapy wash cloth or just wet a washcloth and get it soapy. Set the wash cloth down where it won't get stuff wet (or get dirt in it) and use the soap from your hands to wash your face. Rinse your face! Don't leave soap on it, it will dry it out.

Next, use the wash cloth on your body Trust me, you'll get cleaner faster and the abrasion from the rag will help remove dead skin.

Rub the soapy cloth all over your body, going from cleanest to dirtiest. So wash neck, arms, chest, back, stomach, arm pits, legs, groin, buttock and then feet. (You don't want to chance transferring any type of fungus to your groin area by washing your feet first.)

Now starting at the top of your neck, slowly pour the water over your skin in the same order you washed yourself. If you don't need the whole 1 gallon of water, do not feel like you HAVE to use it. Save it for something else. However, do make sure you're rinsed off well, otherwise, you probably be itching from the soap drying your skin.

If you'd like, you can dedicate a lid or two from deceased water jugs for “shower heads” . Take the cap(s) and punch some holes in the lid to work like a shower. Try using a nail on a cap you don't want. I'm not sure if it will shatter the cap or not. You could also try heating a nail and pushing holes through the cap with that. When you're ready to use the “shower”, turn the water bottle upside down and the water will come out. I think that after you've used part of the water, you'll get a lock. You'll probably need to loosen the cap or tip it right-side up to get air back into the bottle and get it flowing again.

To wash just your hands:

We were given an old 30 cup coffee/iced tea dispenser (sort of like this one). It had no lid and no electrical parts. We kept it on the kitchen counter behind or to one side of the sink and filled with water. When we need to wash our hands, we opened the spout, wet our hands and then closed the spout. We lathered our hands and used an elbow or forearm to flip the switch back open so we could rinse them off. Close the spout when done.

If you don't happen to have an old coffee urn, use this scout trick. Take a milk jug or bleach bottle, punch a pencil size hole near the very bottom of the jug – about 1” from the bottom edge. Use a piece of twig or a golf tee for a stopper in the hole. Tie a piece of rope through the handle to tie or hang it from a tree/post/whatever you have. Fill it up with water and suspend it over a basin. When you're ready to use it, loosen the top, remove the stick or tee, wet your hands and replug the hole. Lather hands, remove the stick/tee and rinse. Replace the stick/tee and retighten the cap. If you use a bar of soap tied in the leg of an old pair of panty hose or sock, you can tie the soap off through the handle of the water-filled bottle. It will keep it out of the dirt.

Life moved on. We had a daughter and someone had pity on us and gave us a 500 gallon agricultural water tank. It hooked up behind our little pickup truck. My husband would drive it to church, a friend's house or where ever fresh water was available. He'd fill up those trusty gallon milk jugs, then he'd fill up the tank and haul it home. Note: milk jugs will eventually leak. On the carpet. You go to pick it up one day and it just comes apart in your hands. And you have water. Everywhere. Did I mention on your carpet?

After he filled the big tank and drug it home, he would park it near the “water in” port on the trailer, we would put a sump-pump into it, and run the “out” hose from the pump to the “in” port for water for the trailer. We then feed the electrical cord through the window to the wall outlet. Plug it in when we wanted water, unplugged it when we wanted A/C.

Because we didn't know what chemicals had been used in this tank in its prior life, we didn't drink or cook with this water, but it worked for showering, laundry and cleaning. Only we had to turn off the a/c to do the laundry or it would trip the fuse breaker switch! Lol

For we filled up the empty milk jugs that our friends would give us with fresh water and carry those home to use for cooking, drinking and watering the animals.

When son was 9 months old, we took some of our money out of a 409 plan and had a well drilled. It was an 80' deep well, nicely into the Florida Aquafier and we had great water.

(And I would gladly trade the house I'm renting now for that land and trailer back – even if it had no water, septic, electric or phone and sat in the hot FL sun with no fan or a/c!)

Disaster, pt 1: No working bathroom!

Note: This post contains talk of potties and sewage. There is no crude or vulgar language, but it is to the point and perhaps a bit graphic. But...what good is talking about disaster preparedness if you're not going to give necessary information to get people to think about the subject?

Lately there have been a few of the blogs that I frequent having discussions about sanitation in an area that had a long-term, wide-spread disaster. Think; “the water and sewage facilities are all down and will be down for weeks/months/who-knows-when, you're trapped where you are, what do you do now?” type scenarios.

Many people suggest a 5 gallon bucket with a lid and heavy-duty, lawn type plastic bags to line the bucket and you're going to plop a regular toilet seat on top of the bucket to use it. Others suggested a dug latrine. I'm guessing these people have NEVER, on a long-term basis used either of these suggestions.

As I see it, here's the downfall to these suggestions:

5 gallon bucket and plastic bags

  1. Uhmmmm... know how badly a couple of poopy baby diapers smell after a couple of hours in your trash can in the house? Or the smell when you walk in behind a family member who has gone, flushed and it STILL smells in the bathroom? What in the world do they think a bucket that has a plastic bag in it will smell after 1 day of family use?? Can you imagine after THREE days of use? I can tell you! OPEN SEWAGE is what it smells like. And I can say, for a FACT that EVERY TIME you take the lid off to use it, you WILL GAG. Reason: there's nothing between you and the smell of the open bucket. Not to mention that when you go poo, it will back splash on you – remember, it's plopping into a container of liquid.

  2. Then there's that seat that's just plopped on top of the bucket. I'm here to tell you, that baby will shift on you when you or one of the kids tries to wipe themselves and you stand a GOOD chance of tipping a stinky bucket over! Can we all say EEEEWWWWWW at having to clean that up - With. No. Running. Water. Even if you buy a “special” seat that is supposed to go on top of a 5 gallon bucket will cause the bucket to tip if you lean at all. Look at 5 gallon buckets. They are usually smaller on the bottom than on top, making it top-heavy. Leaning kids (or YOU) will cause it to tip over even with the special seat. Unless you want to sit it on your rug in the hopes of taming the slipping of the bucket when sat upon. No? I don't think that sounds like a good idea either! If it spills on carpet you're really toast.

  3. And then what happens when you go to empty it? Chances are, that trash bag will LEAK. Yup, think of how many times your bags leak on you when you have trash in them. Liquid is heavier than the regular trash that is put into the bags. And even if you only use it for one day, it will still be heavy. Plus, what will you do when the bags eventually run out? Where will you bury it? Sewage should be kept 100 feet from any well or running water. If you live in a city, do you even have a yard to bury it in? What about those of you that live in an apartment?

  4. Chemicals to cut the smell. Yes, some of them work. Some better than others. People have suggested lime, dirt, baking soda, or RV chemical solutions. Uhmmm, what are you going to do when the chemicals run out? (Remember, this isn't a day or two things we're talking about here. Think Katrina.)

  5. Children drowning in the bucket. Children drown in 3-5 gallon buckets every year. The child comes up to it, bend over to look in it, loses their balance, topple into the contents, but can't get themselves back out of it! This also happens with mop buckets. And a 2-4 year old may not be deterred by the smell. Do you want to be doing CPR on a sewage-covered child? Eeeewww! Not to mention that your chances of reviving them with no hospital is NOT so good!

Digging a latrine:

  1. Yes, in many places you are still allowed to dig a latrine. Again, you're going to have the problem of it smelling every time you go into it use it. Lime was the way the old folks treated the outhouse. But remember, every so often it needs to be filled in and moved. They worked well in the country where people had some land. Not good at all in the city. Can not do in an apartment. People used to use a “thunder mug” in the house and toss the contents out the window into the street (and sometimes hit passers-by with it).

  2. Can we spell “Cholera”? “Typhus”? “Diphtheria”? Yep, raw sewage helped spread those diseases and many more.

  3. It has to be away from water sources and it has to be deep enough.

  4. You need to build some kind of shelter that will keep the elements, animals (and SNAKES) out. So...that means some sort of roof, and walls for privacy. Oh, here in the south, make sure you sweep the seat before you sit on it. Black widow and brown recluse LIKE outhouses. Actually, so do snakes. It's warm in there on a cold winter's night.

  5. Ever had to go when you're camping and it's pouring down raining? Cold rain or snow is even more fun. What about having diarrhea or having a child with it? Do you want to have to run outside each time the facilities are needed? Do you want to keep a “thunder mug” under the bed and hope it doesn't spill if it's used? Or that your pets don't mess with it under there? Do you want to have to waste water to clean it each day or just live with the smell? Not me!

So, what's an answer?

Years ago, I was able to purchase first a house trailer and later, 5 acres of land. When I moved the trailer to the land, I had no septic system, no electricity, no phone, and no water.

One thing that I bought (and have kept) is a port-a-potty. It doesn't take up any more room than a 5 gallon bucket. It separates into two sections to empty and clean it so that when you are emptying it, you don't have to haul the whole thing around with you.

It has a 1 gal reservoir for "flushing" (it got to where I didn't both to fill that section because it doesn't “flush”, it just sort of “rinses”) and a 5 gal "holding area" that has an outside indicator to show how full it is. It has both a carrying handle integrated into it and an "emptying" handle to control the bottom section of the potty while emptying it. It has a regular seat on it to sit on – there is even a ring to lift (and argue over putting down – just like the real thing. Lol). It also has a place for the TP, if you use tp - I use "family cloths".

The nice thing about them is that until you quickly open the slot between the bottom of the potty and the holding tank to let the wastes drop through, there is no smell to use it. You don't have to worry about running out of plastic bags. You don't have to worry about the SMELL of an open container - a 5 gal bucket, with or without a lid WILL STINK EVERY TIME YOU OPEN IT to use it, FOR THE ENTIRE TIME your using it! Nor will you have to worry about the bag springing a leak or it breaking as you try to wrestle it out of the bucket, nor worry as you pry off the lid of a bucket about splashing the contents on yourself, nor a kid prying the lid off and FALLING IN.

When you empty the port-a-potty, you use a smaller spout that rotates out from the base while pushing an easily accessed air port, so again, very little if any back-splashing. When I was finished emptying it, I would pour about ½ cup of cleaning fluid – Lysol, bleach, something to knock back the odor a bit and kill a little of the bacteria, because, yes it will stink. However, you don't have to put anything into it or you can use a cup or two of water to rinse it out. Remember, even your house toilet stinks when in use. With a port-a-potty you only have to deal with the smell for about 5 minutes total, if that when you empty it and when you use it, it's no worse than flushing the toilet.

I used this potty until my oldest child was a few months old and we were given a 500 gallon agricultural tank to haul behind the Ranger we owned. That means I was pregnant and still used it. Since I threw up constantly, I don't remember it provoking more throwing up (though to this day, the scent of "fake"cinnamon that was in the “Extra tough Glade Air Freshener” that I would spray in the bathroom still makes me want to hurl!)

The one thing I would suggest is to NOT use ANY toilet paper IN a port-a-potty. It makes it harder to empty – a LOT harder. Actually, you almost can't get it OUT. You either have to shake the container to get it out (really perfumes the air doing that!) or let it build up. It's MUCH better to keep a separate trash container (lined would be good) to put paper into – along with any other sanitary products. Every few days, burn the contents of the small trash container.

I bought my port-a-potty in 1984 when it cost about $45. I've seen them in Wallyworld for about $80. Mine weighs about 2-3 lbs. empty and about 30 lbs when it's nearly full. (A 5 gal bucket will also weigh that much when full!) Before we were given the 500 gallon tank, there were 2 adults using it and we only had to empty it about once a week. Even then it wasn't “full”, but it helps to keep down the odor when you open the hatch to “flush” it if you don't let it go too long between emptyings. Though, we were in Florida, so the heat helped the need for frequent emptying along.

When you empty it, you need to dig a deep hole (I dug mine about 3-4 feet deep) and again, make sure that you are more than 100 feet from any type of water. The nice thing is it can be a hole that is only 2 feet wide. When you back fill the hole, don't just throw the dirt in – you don't want sewage to splash back on you. And you can get a lot more holes using this method than if you dug a latrine.

A port-a-potty is not something I would carry if I had to hike out, but wonderful if you're going by car or sheltering-in-place – or like here and the water main breaks once a month and you're without water for some hours.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Southern cornbread and corndog suggestion

Ok, what is with Yankees and the FLOUR in Cornbread????!!! EEEEWWWWW! AND a bunch of sugar? I saw one recipe that calls for nearly a cup of sugar. Not the way we eat it here.

Mamaw's Southern Skillet cornbread:

  • 2-3 Tbs bacon drippin's (ok, butter, oil, shortening, lard - pick your poison, but bacon drippin's are free and no better or worse than any other fat. Just save it in a cup when you cook bacon. If you use it every day, it sits on the counter-top. If not, refrigerate it.)
  • 1 1/2 cups of cornmeal (Home-grind popcorn, dent or flint corn or you can even use store-bought cornmeal - though it's not as good as the freshly-ground stuff!)
  • 2 Tbs sugar
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 1/2 Tsp Baking SODA (NOT baking POWDER! I thought my former husband nuts when he told me his grandma made cornbread with soda instead of powder - until I tried this recipe.)
  • 1 egg, beaten (or egg substitute or flax seen & water, gelatin & water, or whatever you'd sub out for the egg.)
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk (fresh, powdered buttermilk, powdered milk or regular milk that you sour. If you sour your own, you need to reconstitute powdered milk first, sour it and THEN mix it in.) (To sour milk, put 1 Tbs lemon juice or vinegar into the bottom of a measuring cup. Fill to the one cup mark. Stir and let sit for 5 mins.) You can NOT use plain milk - the bread won't rise! I really don't think you can mix the lemon/vinegar into water and mix the milk powder into the dry ingredients and then mix both as directed. I think you need to sour the milk itself and then add it in. But you're welcome to try it and let me know how it works.

Put the drippin's in the bottom of a cast iron skillet or dutch oven. Ok, muffin tin works, so does a 8"-9" cake pan - square or round, 10" pie plate may work (or it may overflow.) My skillet is a 12", we like cornbread, so I just double this recipe so I don't have bread that's only 2" high. (Don't double the grease.) Preheat your oven to 400, then put the pan you're using with the grease in it in the oven for about 3-5 mins. You want the pan good and hot, but if you're using butter, don't burn it! Mix the dry ingredients together, the wet ingredients together, then pour wet into dry and stir together. Since there's no flour in this, you don't have to worry about over-mixing it.

Remove the hot pan from the oven. USE POTHOLDERS, that puppy is HOT! (You don't really want to know how I know this is true!) Swirl the melted fat around to coat the pan, being careful not to get too vigorous with the swirlin' and burn yourself. (sigh) Immediately pour the batter into the hot pan - it will sizzle. It's supposed to - that's why we preheated the pan. Put that bad boy back into the hot oven.

Bake a 9" pan about 20-25 minutes, muffins for about 15-20 minutes and a doubled batch about 25-30 minutes, or until the cornbread is a golden brown and a toothpick stuck into the center comes out with no crumbs on it.

Remove from oven and immediately place a dinner plate over the top of the cast iron pan and then invert both, being careful not to burn yourself. (Yep, done that too.) Set the plate on a counter-top or table (make sure that little hands can't reach the HOT pot!) Gently lift the edge of the pan, making sure the cornbread is releasing from the pan. If it doesn't, just leave the up-side-down pan on the plate for a couple of minutes. The heat from the bread will rise upward, causing the bread to release and drop gently onto the plate. Don't leave it on too long, you don't want the bread to get soggy and lose that nice crust.

Cut the bread however you see fit. I cut mine into 8 wedges - but then I'm feeding a teenage boy. I'd cut a 9" square pan into 9 pieces.

Now to make corn dawgs (that would be corn dogs) to the rest of you. (man, I've been in GA too long!)

  • Preheat your little sandwich maker. The one that makes your sandwich into triangles. Don't have one of those? Then use a cast iron "corn stick" pan. If you don't have one of those, you'll either have to use a muffin tin - in which case you'll have too much batter to dog, but you can still bake it; or put 1/2 of the batter into the hot pan like for cornbread, place hot dogs like spokes of a wagon wheel and then cover with rest of the batter. If I were doing this option, I would butterfly the hot dogs and I wouldn't make a double batch of cornbread in the same skillet - unless I was short on funds. In which case, I'd probably double the batter and cut the hot dogs into pennies and sprinkle over 1/2 the batter, then cover with the rest of it. Normally you want a thin layer of batter, not "hot dog- stuffed cornbread" - unless you do. lol Lastly, you could break down and fry them on a stick like normal people.
  • Make your batter like your were making cornbread.
  • DRY OFF the hot dogs VERY well! They have to be good and dry, otherwise, the batter slides right off of 'em. You might even try coating them with dry cornmeal or flour before trying to batter them.
  • For frying: Skewer the hot dogs onto a stick. Dip the hot dogs in the batter to coat them. Lift gently out of the batter and proceed to fry in deep, hot fat. You can try pan frying them, but I think you'll lose the coating on it that way and it'll stick to the bottom of the pan.
  • Sandwich maker or corn stick pan: pour a little batter into the bottom sections, place a hotdog into the center of each section and cover with a little more batter. Trial and error will tell you how much to use, but if I remember correctly, it was 2 Tbs for the bottom and 2 for the top. Close your sandwich maker and let bake.
  • Muffin tin: Fill the muffin tin 1/3 full of batter. Place cut-up hot dog "pennies" into the batter, or cut the hot dogs into 3rds and stick into the batter. You may be able to get a couple of 3rds into each cup. Cover with another 1/3 of batter - so the pan isn't more than about 2/3 full. Bake for 15-20 mins at 400.
  • You can try dipping the hot dogs like for frying and then placing them onto a cookie sheet and baking. Me thinketh the batter will ooze off of the dogs. You can try shorting the buttermilk a couple of tablespoons and seeing if that makes a difference in the batter's ability to stay put without making the finished bread too dry.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What's cheap for dinner? Roast beef dinner, next day hash!

How about roast beef dinner and next-day hash? No, not the nasty stuff in a can but real hash.

When I was a child, we would have roast beef with carrots and potatoes cooked around the meat. We would heat up our large, heavy, flat-bottomed aluminum roasting pan. Place some oil in the bottom and fry the meat on all sides. While that was frying, mom or I would peel and quarter potatoes, peel and cut into 3 pieces large carrots and set them aside. When the meat was done, it was removed from the pan and set aside. We then fried the potatoes in some oil in that pan. When they were nicely browned, but not necessarily cooked through, the meat was added back while the potatoes were scooted to the sides (so the meat was on the bottom of the pan), and the carrots were placed with the potatoes surrounding the meat. My dad didn't eat onions or garlic, so mom had to sneak onion and garlic powder onto the meat. She then poured about a cup or cup and a half of water over the meat, put the lid on and placed it in a 350 oven. We'd be gone to church for about 3 hours. When we arrived home, the meal was ready. All mom had to do was make the gravy from the pan drippings.

We were free to eat all the potatoes and carrots in the pan, but a portion of the meat was reserved for another meal a couple of days later. If we were still hungry, we were free to have bread, butter, and usually with gravy over it.

A day or two later, the left over meat was made into hash for another dinner.

Chunk/cube up some raw, peeled potatoes and start them frying in a little fat of your choice. Cover potatoes with a lid. While the potatoes are frying, chunk/cube up some left over roast beef. As the potatoes start to brown and cook, you can add the meat and warm it up. (If you don't keep stirring the potatoes every few minutes, they will brown better and have more flavor. Let them sit for 5-8 mins per "side" to brown them up.) After letting the meat heat up - 5 mins or so, sprinkle a handful or two of flour over the meat/potato mix and stir it in. Season with salt, onion powder (unless you use onions in it - we never did), garlic powder, Adobo - whatever floats your boat!) Add enough water to cover mixture. Stir it well and when it gets to a boil, lower heat to simmer, and put lid back on. Let simmer until potatoes are tender. Takes about 30 mins to make this. I never tried it with precooked potatoes, we always just used raw, probably because we'd have eaten all the potatoes and carrots that were cooked with the roast.

This hash is lovely with some buttered bread dipped in the gravy! mmmmmm...mmmmmm

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Homemade baking powder

I just realized that many cooks do not know when a recipe needs baking POWDER or when it needs baking SODA to leaven a product.

Baking SODA can only be used in a recipe where there is an acid ingredient to work with it. So if your recipe calls for lemon juice, buttermilk, vinegar or other "acid" food, baking SODA will work to leaven it. For the soda to bubble, it needs an acid. No bubbles, no raising of the product.

If your recipe does NOT have anything "acid" in it, you HAVE to use baking POWDER. (unless you're using whipped egg whites folded into the batter), but then you wouldn't need anything else for leavening. Baking POWDER has both baking soda AND Cream of Tartar in it. The soda is a base, the Tartar an acid. Get them together and they foam. (Think baking soda and vinegar volcanoes from school.)

Homemade baking powder:
2 Tbs Baking SODA
1 Tbs Cream of Tartar
1 Tbs Corn Starch
Mix together and use as if it were commercial - 1 tsp for each tsp called for in recipe.
This one can sit on a shelf for a while.

1/4 tsp Baking SODA
1/2 tsp Cream of Tartar
Mix together and use right away.
Makes enough to equal 1 tsp commercial baking powder. (If you need 2 tsps, just double the recipe.)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

90 minute bread recipes. Yes, start to finish, 90 minutes!

I have two of these recipes. One is the original, with conversion to an ABM included. The other is my tweaks to it - I use less sugar and salt than the original. Actually, I changed the sugar to honey and also used less than the original honey/sugar conversion would have been.

90 Minute Bread recipe

4 cups
warm water .....................................ABM 1 1/3 cups water
packages yeast ..................................... 1 1/2 tsp yeast
4 tsp
salt ............................................................3/4 tsp salt
8 Tbs
granulated sugar .......................................4 tsp sugar
4 Tbs
vegetable oil .............................................4 tsp oil
7 to 8 cups
flour..........................................................2 2/3 cups flour

1 Dissolve yeast in 1 cup of warm water. Mix in remaining ingredients until dough is soft, but not sticky. Use all whole wheat flour, all white, or mixture as desired. Whole-wheat pastry flour is the most silky and desirable for all baking purposes. When dough is soft and leaves sides of bowl, cut into 4 pieces. Let stand 15 minutes.
2 Pound each piece of dough for 1 minute (use your fists). Form into loaves and put into 4 greased loaf pans. Let stand 30 minutes or until doubled in size.
3 Bake for 20 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees F. Cool rack before removing loaves from pans. If using ABM above, it's already been adjusted to my corrections to the recipe and divided out for the machine.

Cooking Tips
These are the changes that I use with this recipe. To me there is too much salt and sugar in the original recipe. So I reduce salt and sugar to:
2 tsp salt
4 Tbs sugar
I use known good yeast. (I buy the 2lb bags from Sam's and store in freezer the minute I bring them home. I keep it in the mylar bag and just put the mylar bag into a ziplock bag and seal the whole thing.) Make SURE your yeast isn't near the expiration date. If you're not sure, then "proof" the yeast as above.
I mix the yeast into the flour and use water that I heat to 120 degrees in the microwave (I use my probe. Remember, my yeast has been in the freezer.)
I have used whole wheat, white and half and half with good results. Remember that if you use all whole wheat, it won't rise as high. If you let it get to where "double" is for white bread, it will collapse.
You don't need to knead it. Just pound each piece with the sides of your fist. (kneading will make it toughen. I don't know why it makes it tough just that I tried it and had tough bread.)

90 Minute Bread

8 cups
flour (white, whole wheat 1/2 and 1/2 or 5 cups white, 1 cup bran and 2 cups wheat germ)
2 tbs
Vital gluten (opt for whole wheat - makes bread foldable)
4 Tbs
Yeast. Stir in the yeast BEFORE adding the salt. Salt inhibits the yeast.
2 tsp
4 cups
very warm water
4 Tbs
4 Tbs

1 Mix together 4 cups flour, dry ingredients and the wet ingredients. Stir it well. Add enough of the other 4 cups of flour to make a soft dough. Make 2 or 3 balls out of it., cover and let rest 15 minutes.
2 Punch down and let rest 15 minutes more.
3 Beat each piece for 1 minute (with your fists). Do not knead, it makes it tough.
4 Shape into a loaf shape, place in a pan and let rise for 35 minutes or until doubled.
5 Bake @ 350 or 30 mins.
6 Makes 2 large or 3 med. loaves.

Cooking Tips
I had a temperature probe for my microwave and would set the temp to 120 degrees. This did not kill the yeast BECAUSE yeast, flour, and gluten came straight from the freezer. If not using STRAIGHT from freezer, only use 105-110 degree water!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Working on Blog

Well, I just went in and changed almost all of the tags on my blogs. It seemed to me that there were too many "labels" being used, so I condensed them down to a smaller amount. I also added a search bar on the sidebar. I just went in and tested it and it seems to work.

I also found some posts that I had written, but failed to post. I went ahead and deleted one and posted the other one.

I'm also changing the layout a little bit. Just to freshen up the look of the blog. Now I hope I don't lose all my past posts!

Hope you like the changes.

Are you canning food or just sealing your jars?

Time for a post on the difference between CANNING food and meerly sealing the jar (making it "ping" and the lid button go down.)

I just read a blog about canning and someone commented that they had an easier way to "can" salsa. Instead of putting the jars into boiling water (or using a dishwasher on the "sanitize" setting and keep them in there and hot), they put them on a tray in a 250 deg oven. They made up the uncooked salsa then put it into the jars, popped a lid and ring on, closed the jars and put the jars back into the 250 degree oven for 10 minutes?!??!!! That salsa wasn't even brought to a boil before it was "canned"!

Here is the comment that I left. Hopefully, others will see this on the blog in question and not try the suggestion of the other commenter.

re:xxxx's comment:


I took a Master Home Preserver course from the local extension office. One thing people don't seem to understand is the difference between a "sealed" jar and a "canned" jar.

ANY jar of hot food with a sound, dry, chip-free lip and a new lid put on it will normally SEAL. The heat will cause the compound to soften and when the pressure in the jar drops as the food cools, the lid will "ping" and the jar is SEALED. That does NOT mean the food is "safe". All it means is that the mechanical part of "sealing" has been done. This does NOT mean that there is no bacteria in the food, only that the jar lid is "glued" to the jar itself. Which means that any bacteria that is anaerobic (doesn't need oxygen)can multiply and poison you. Can we all spell botulism? These types of instructions are what give canning its bad name. People think the jar is "canned" after all, the lid "pinged" and then eat food that makes them sick.

CANNING is where you prepare food, put it in a jar, put a hot lid on a hot, sterilized jar and then HEAT THE FOOD IN THE JAR in a canner or pressure canner for a specific amount of time and in a specific way so that any bacteria that was in the food is killed. Acidic food can be "water bathed", any other foods need to be pressure canned with a pressure CANNER, not a pressure COOKER. (a big difference having to do with size of pot and amount of time not being correct for "caning" in a cooker.)

Water boils at 212 degrees, but it takes either an acid environment OR 240-260 degrees to kill some types of common bacteria, bacteria that are found in the normal environment that doesn't hurt us as long as the bacteria has to deal with oxygen. However, when we seal a jar, then the oxygen is gone and the bacteria multiplies and when it does, it excretes toxins. It's not the bacteria that kills or sickens you, it's the toxins that the bacteria releases. The only way to get water above 212 deg. is to put it under pressure - hence pressure canning.

Remember that we put meat in a 350 degree oven for several hours and only have meat that gets to about 190 degrees. Stuff put in a 250 degree oven for 10 mins doesn't get even CLOSE to 212 degrees, unless it was put in boiling first. But that STILL doesn't do the trick. Remember that in a water bath, 212 deg water is under, around and over the jars for 20-30 MINUTES FOR ACID foods ONLY. You should not even think about water bathing non-acid foods. Here again, yes, you CAN make the lids "ping", but it's STILL NOT safe!

Hopefully, at least the person who owns the blog and said she was going to try this method will read the post and chose to not try the oven "method of canning".

Saturday, May 16, 2009

On to the Gluten, pt 1

We've made the gluten, we've dealt with the bran and starch water so on now with how to use it.

Gluten is also called "wheat meat". When seasoned, it tastes like meat and also has the texture of meat. Gluten can be made into "vital wheat gluten", the stuff that helps whole wheat bread to rise higher and be tender - foldable even. It's all in the final processing.

Today we're making the dried gluten for adding to bread. This will eliminate our need to spend $2.00 or so for a small box of "vital wheat gluten". This procedure will allow the gluten to keep indefinitely on the shelf.

Take your raw gluten and break/tear off quarter size pieces. (For non-North Americans, that a piece of dough larger than a marble, but smaller than a golf ball.) Flatten it and place the pieces on an oiled cookie sheet or on the tray of your dehydrator. In oven, bake at 350 degrees until hard. In dehydrator, dry out dough. You can also roll dough out into 1/4" thickness and cut shapes with it. Thin shapes will dry more quickly, evenly and be easier to get to grind to a flour.

When dough is very dry, you can place it in an airtight container and place it on the shelf. As another option, you can actually put them in a jar with an oxygen absorber packet and put the lid on. Or use a vacuum sealing device and suck the air out of the jar. Anything is better than zipper bags. I've found after a while that foods put in zipper bags will pick up tastes from the pantry and get a rather odd taste to them.

At some point, you will want to use the dried gluten for bread making. You will need to grind or grate the dough balls to a flour texture. Use of a micrograter, food processor, grain mill, blender, nut/coffee grinder, or mortar and pestle will all work. Youwant a flour with this, so keep grinding the larger chunks until it's flour. Mills will be the easiest and quickest to use. Then the grinder/food processor, next the blender, the grater and last the mortar and pestle. M&P's do work, but it will be WORK to get it ground by hand. You can grind it all ahead of time or just what you need at the moment.

Tomorrow on to "wheat meat".

Thursday, April 30, 2009

What to do with this stuff?? Gluten, bran and starch

Ok, so...we now have a container of bran and starch and a handful of gluten. NOW WHAT?

Well, if you don't want to fool with it, you can pour the contents of the fluid container down the drain. You are pouring off fiber and nutrition, but it's your choice as to what you want to do. No food police will come cart you off if you don't use it.

First off, the bran will last 4-6 days in the fridge or you can freeze it for later use. Do yourself a favor and sack it up in portion sizes. That way you only have to work with a portion worth and not unthaw the whole mess.

The starch water will spoil a WHOLE LOT quicker. It needs to be refrigerated as soon as possible.

To separate the bran from the water:
To use the bran and starch water you need to let the water settle for about an hour. I have a glass "sun tea" jar that I bought to separate some organic raw milk I was able to get. It has a large opening at the top and a small spigot at the bottom. I'm going to put my bran/starch water into it and let the bran settle out to the bottom. I'll then use the spigot to drain off the bran and some of the water. How liquid I take out much depends on how thick I want the bran or starch to be. The more water that goes with the bran, the thinner the bran will be and the thicker the starch water will be. The less water I let go with the bran, the thicker the bran will be and the thinner the starch will be. First draining will be to remove the bran. Then in another container, I will drain off the starch portion. The water that is on top will be used to water my plants with.

So you don't have a sun tea jar and don't want another do-dad in your house. If all you have are canning jars, a bowl or pot, then you will do it differently. Let it settle down so that the 3 layers (bran, starch and water) separate. The pour (or use a turkey baster or meat injector to suck off) the layer of water. Pour or suck off until you start to get some milky fluid. Now you're down to the starch layer. Put the water aside in another container. Now gently pour or suck off the starch layer. When you start to see the brown bran flakes, stop. Put the starch in another container and put the bran in another container. Unless your going to use the starch right away (as in NOW), put it in the fridge and work with it later (as in another hour or more). You may find that the starch needs to be separated from the water a couple of times (3-4) for a thicker starch or just let the water sit overnight in the fridge and you can do it in one pouring.

You can water your plants with it, pour it over the dog/cat/goat/pig/chicken's feed or use it in place of the water in your bread, powdered milk, soup or stew recipes.

Starch water:
You can also water your plants with it, pour it over the dog/cat/goat/pig/chicken's feed or use it in place of water in your bread or powdered milk recipes with this. You can also use it to thicken sauces, gravies, puddings, soups and stews or anything else that you would use flour, cornstarch, arrow root or tapioca to thicken with - with the exception of tapioca pudding - for obvious reasons. lol You can make drinks both hot and cold with it. You can also make hand lotion, floor wax, a paste for matting or hinging art work, a paste to fix torn archival papers and artifacts, and use it to bath the baby.

Thick starch:
Gravy: 4-5 tbs to thicken 2 cups liquid
Stews: 6-7 tbs to 2 cups liquid
Other: use as you would cornstarch. It has a clearer and more delicate flavor than using regular flour to thicken foods.

Tip: After the water has been poured off and before you use it, stir the starch well.

A little different way to make and use gluten and it's byproducts:

I've searched for DAYS (well, since I starting this particular post) and can not find more uses for the starch - like how to use it on your floors. Perhaps someone can post that for us. So, I'm dropping the search for now and I'm going to continue on so this gets posted!

Ok, so now what to do with the bran? Well, you can freeze it to use or work with later.

Thin Bran:
Best for making bran flakes out of it. After the bran has settled, leave at a minimum 2" of the liquid on top of the bran.

Thick Bran:
Best for adding to other ingredients. Let the bran settle, then pour off as much liquid as possible or use a turkey baster or meat injector to suck the liquid from the top, leaving the brown flakes behind.

Dehydrated bran:
Dry on cookie sheet or in dehydrator. Powder in food processor, blender or nut mill. When ready to use, rehydrate or mix in with rest of ingredients.

Bran is good for crackers, cereals, and drinks. It's also good when used in breads, pies, pancakes, waffles, cakes, cookies, muffins and other baked goods.

Bran is good to use if you're "bound up" or if you have the "reverse". One of my girlfriend's twin daughters had GI troubles from the time she was born. The older ladies she knew kept telling her to give the child some bran muffins or bran cereal. She kept think, no! The baby has diarrhea and the bran will make it worse. Dr. after Dr. gave her prescriptions - to no avail. FINALLY, she gave up and tried what the old ladies told her to do. Guess what? A problem that the child had had for the first two years of her life went away! In a couple of days! For free. And the child would not have suffered for the better part of 2 years if mom had listened to the grannies who kept telling her what to do.

Moral of the story, many times Mamaw knows what she's talking about. Unless they're telling you to use something toxic, give it a try, can't hurt and will probably fix the problem. Granny didn't have the money to run the kids to the MD's every time they skinned a knee or had a stomach ache. How many of you remember how you're supposed to deal with a child with measles? Or mumps? or chicken pox? Yeah, the kids are all immunized against this stuff, but what's going to happen when, as they get older, the immunity wears off? My prediction is that we're going to see a whole lot of very sick people! Hopefully, I'll be wrong. I'll be thrilled to be wrong.

Bran can be used at 1/2 cup bran to 2 cups flour without altering the recipe. If it's already wet. If it's been dehydrated, then the bran will take up some of the liquid in the water. So look at your batter/dough as you're making your product. If it looks a little dry, add a tad more water - until it looks like is "should".


Milk group:
1 Cup fresh buttermilk (yoghurt or kefir will probably work too!)
1 Cup sour milk
1 cup water (+ recommended buttermilk powder to make 1 cup buttermilk will be added to dry ingredients. Saves you the time of mixing it together.)
Put 2 tsp vinegar in the bottom of a 1 or 2 cup measuring cup and add milk, evaporated milk, reconstituted powdered milk or 1/2 and 1/2 to make 1 cup and let it sit for about 5 mins to sour.

Egg group:
1 egg
1 Tbs Knox unflavored gelatin + 3 Tbs water. Mix together.
1 Tbs ground Flax seed + 3 Tbs water. Mix together.

Oil Group:
2 Tbs Oil, Melted shortening, butter, margerine (Regular Mayo NOT Miracle Whip, may work. It does in biscuits)
2 Tbs applesauce

To one of the milk group add one of the egg group and one of the oil group. Add 1/4 cup thick, raw bran.
Stir in the following ingredients into the wet mixture:
If you used water above, now add in the necessary buttermilk powder
1 cup whole wheat flour (AP flour will work too)
2 Tsp Baking Powder
1/2 Tsp soda
1/4 tsp salt

Stir until just barely blended.

Cook on heated griddle.

2 cups from Milk group above
Add to milk:
1/2 cup from Oil Group above
3 eggs or equavelent from above
1/2 cup thick raw bran
2 1/2 ww flour
1 cup powder whey (from Health food store OR use your own whey from cheese making and reduce milk choice by 1 cup)
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp soda
3 tsp baking powder

Mix all wet ingredients with electric mixer/beaters. Add dry ingerdients. Stir well but don't overmix. It should still have little lumps

Bake in preheated waffle iron.

When I make pancakes or waffles, I use more than one pan/appliance. If I'm making pancakes or waffles, I double or triple the recipe. I cook pancakes in 4 cast iron pans (all going at one time). If I'm making waffles, I use both of my waffle irons. I cool and freeze leftovers for later breakfasts or snacks. This lets me get done faster! (Is anyone else bored to DEATH watching pancakes or waffles cook?)

Cold Cereal:
2 cups thin raw bran
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbs sugar (raw, brown, white, honey, Blue Agave, whatever you like)

Mix ingredients. Pour a bit of the mixture paper-thin onto an oiled cookie sheet or on the fruit leather tray of your dehydrator. Tip cookie sheet pan from side to side to coat pan evenly. Bake 20-25 minutes at 300 degrees. Lfit sheet of bran from pan right away. Let it cool and break it into pieces. If using dehydrator, tip tray and make a thin layer of batter on it. Put tray(s) into dehydrator and let dry. Remove dried bran from trays, let cook and break it apart.

Part-way through drying times, you can sprinkle cinnamon and sugar over pan/tray, or other topping of your choice over partially dried batter. (jello would work too!)

This is good for cold cereal or for use in granola.

Vital Wheat Gluten aka "wheat meat", bran and starch

Back in one of my first posts I have a recipe for "foldable" whole wheat bread. I mentioned Vital Wheat Gluten as a component of the bread - the one that lets the bread rise higher and lets it fold without crumbling. I'm just now getting around to giving you the recipe to make your own gluten, also known as wheat meat. By making your own, you also get bran and starch to use. Yes, this is the same bran as in what you buy in the stores. You can add some sugar to it and make a cereal out of it, if I look around, I can probably find a recipe for Grapenut Flakes.

Homemade Vital Wheat Gluten aka Wheat Meat


Flour: Whole wheat is best. You get brown gluten, bran and starch from it. AP white flour works and you get a larger yield of white gluten. BUT you don't get any bran with it AND you lose the vitamins that come with whole wheat. Other flours don't work - they don't have much gluten, which is why, for instance, you can't make bread that rises out of all barley or all rye.) Remember to leave out 1 cup of flour and mix the dough well. Then look at the dough. Does it NEED the extra flour. I live in a very humid area (Georgia). I usually need more flour than the recipe calls for. The flour has absorbed the humidity in my house, so it can't absorb the water in the recipe. HOWEVER, if I pop a #10 can of wheat that was canned out west and then immediately grind and use it, I don't always need all the flour a recipe calls for. Since it's easier to add flour than water in a dough. I err to the side of leaving out some of the flour. Then I can always add more flour. This is true for whatever type of baked good I'm making, not just for making gluten.

if it's safe to drink, it's safe to cook with.

Methods: There are several methods for making gluten. Mixing with a bread mixer, portable mixer, bread machine, by hand or by letting the water and wheat flour sit for several hours after mixing it together. I'll touch on all of these methods.

Bread Mixer: Tried this method years ago, works great. (Yields 2-5 cups raw gluten, depending on protein content of flour)
This is nice if you have a Bosch, Kitchenaid, etc. Can't use it if there is no electricity to power the machine.

11-14 cups flour
7 cups of water

Using dough hook, you can either put all the water in and then dump all the flour in the bowl at once, or add the flour in increments. Turn on, knead for 10 mins. When all of the flour has been added and is moistened, knead another 5 mins. Or knead for 15 total mins. Rest of instructions will follow.

Portable mixer: Tried this method years ago, worked great, BUT...since then, they have cut the power of portable (hand-held) mixers down. If you have a wimpy mixer, it's not going to work very well for you. There is a work-around that I haven't tried, but logic says should work. (Yields 2-3 cups raw gluten, depending on protein content of flour)
Saves you some work, but again, if power is out, you can't make it this way.

9 cups flour
6 cups water

Dump in bowl, turn on and mix at med. speed for 5 mins. Let the machine rest for a few minutes and then mix another10 mins. You may have to keep stopping and letting the machine rest. You don't want to burn up your mixer, so if it starts smelling hot. STOP and let it cool off! Rest of instructions will follow.

WORK AROUND for wimpy mixers: Put all the water and about 1/2 the flour in the bowl. Start mixing the flour and water together on medium speed. It should be fairly soupy at this point. Let the mixer work for a few minutes and then start adding in more of the flour. Keep adding flour until the mixer starts to slow down a bit. Kick the speed up to high. Do not add any more flour, just let the mixer run for about 5 mins or until it starts to "smell hot". Let the mixer rest for about 10 mins to cool off. Mix for another 5-10 mins by machine. You may have to let it rest some more. Then remove the beaters and start adding flour by hand. You want a bread dough consistency dough. Too wet and it's a sticky mess, to dry and it's too stiff to knead well. From the time you finish putting in the last of the flour, knead about another 5 mins. Rest of instructions will follow.

Bread machine:Trying this today as it's my invention. (Not sure of yield)
Again, the electricity is an issue. Also, my machine will allow 4 cups flour. Other machines have less capacity. CHECK YOUR OWNER'S MANUAL before trying this so you don't burn out the motor of your breadmaker! If you can't use 4 cups flour, then half the recipe and make more batches until you have the amount of gluten you want.

4 cups flour
2 cups water

Set machine on dough cycle. Let it knead until it goes to the first "rest" period in the cycle. This should be about 15 minutes. If it's not, then let it rest and knead again so you have about 15 mins total kneading time. (I would reset my machine to start, rather than waiting the 30 or so mins that the machine rests before starting to knead again. Rest of instructions to follow.

By Hand: Think I did try this some years ago, don't remember how it worked out. (Yield 1-2 cups raw gluten.)
This is time consuming and more work for you. You're basically kneading it like you would bread and for the same reasons - to activate the gluten. This is nice to know because if the power is out, you can still make gluten.

7 cups flour
3 cups water

Make a dough that is neither sticky nor too dry. You really are shooting for a bread dough consistency. So put all the water and 1/2 the flour into a bowl and then start adding more flour from there. You will need to flour the dough, your work surface and your hands to work the resulting dough.
Once the dough is a bread-dough consistency, you will either knead or pound the dough. You can use your fists, a rubber mallet or a rolling pin to pound the dough flat. (DO NOT use your good marble rolling pin on this one it WILL break!) Keep pounding the dough, turning it over from time to time and adding a bit more flour to your surface so it doesn't stick. It will take 15-20 mins to work the gluten, just like when you make bread. Rest of instructions to follow.

No-Knead: Not tried this yet. (Yield unknown)
No fuss, no muss, no worries if power goes off method.

7 cups flour
3 cups water
more water to cover dough

Mix flour and water into a dough. Cover with cold water and let it sit for 2-3 hours. Pour off water and mix until smooth.

Rest of instructions:
First, test dough to make sure that it's been kneaded enough. To do that simply take a small ball of dough (marble-size is good), flatten it out and then stretch the center of the ball out. If it just tears, it's not kneaded enough and you need to knead it some more. If it stretches and thins out, and you can start to be able to see through it before it finally tears, then it's ready to use. (Same as for kneading bread!)

Now that you have a lump of dough that has been well kneaded, your ready to wash it. You want to wash the dough to extract most of the bran and all the starch from the remaining gluten. We can save the bran and the starch for other purposes. That will be another post as will what to DO with all this goodness you're making.

Washing the gluten:
You need:
Clean pot, dishpan, large bowl, etc to set the colander inside of so you can catch the bran and starch. It needs to be large enough to hold the colander inside it and allow you to cover dough with water.

In the olden days of the 1960's and 70's, when we didn't think about "wasting" water, people just washed the gluten under running water. I reckon ya still can, but it will waste a lot of water. So I'm going to tell you how to do it with less water.

Put the colander in your chosen vessel. Then taking as much of the gluten as you can easily work with, put it into the colander. Cover the dough with warm (not HOT) water. Work the dough with an in and out movement so that you loosen the bran and starch. Keep working the dough in the same water until it toughens up and becomes the consistency of bubble gum. Repeat until all the dough has been rinsed. (Remove the worked dough from the colander before you put in the next piece.) When all of the dough has been washed, set the pan of bran/starch water aside.

Next, hold pieces of dough under a small stream of water and rinse until water is clear and dough is elastic and rubbery. You won't get out all of the bran. That's fine, don't bother trying.

Now you have gluten to make into flour or wheat meat. You have bran to use in recipes calling for bran and starch to thicken and add nutrition to foods, plus to use for pets, household cleaners, etc.

If the gluten doesn't collect or falls apart to the point of going through the colander, you have one of a couple of potential problems.
1.) Your wheat may have been soft wheat for pastries; or a "biscuit" flour like White Lily. You have to use hard red or hard white wheat. The gluten is the protein in the flour. Lower protein, lower gluten. All Purpose (AP) flour works too - if you know your brands. Anything that is touted as making biscuits tender is a pastry flour, not a hard wheat flour. The best way to get tender biscuits, muffins, pastries, etc. is to not over-handle the dough. But since too many people today have not learned how to cook from the older generation, they end up having a "heavy" hand. To fix that the baking supply industry has given us "biscuit" flour. That way, when people over-mix their dough, they don't activate the gluten as easily as in regular flour. The only problem is, most people don't realize that certain brands are using a pastry flour blend instead of regular flour. Then they have all kinds of trouble with any of the bread-stuffs that NEED to be kneaded. Low protein, low gluten = low rising of the dough. The sad thing is, they think it's their fault not the fault of the type/brand of flour they're using. So either grind your own wheat from known wheat types or read the bag of flour. You want to look at the protein content. High protein is about 11 to 18%. (Do I really need to tell you how I learned THIS fact. sigh) Bread flour will work, but it's more expensive. You may as well use bread flour to begin with and save yourself an hour or so of work.
2.) The pounding procedure was not hard enough or long enough. Both will cause the gluten to be underdeveloped. Do the window test to make sure it's been pounded long/hard enough.
3) The dough was not stiff enough (this happens when you use the mixer method or hand method.) You don't want a sticky dough. Add some more flour
4.) The dough was too stiff. This can happen when you mix by hand. You can add water into a formed dough, but it's a pain in the tush to do so. You have to really work it to get the water to incorporate. The best strategy is to not put in too much flour to begin with. You need just enough flour to make a dough that isn't sticky. No more. And if you're doing this by hand, make sure to take it out of the bowl when it's still a little sticky. The flour on your hands and kneading/pounding surface will incorporate into the dough.
5.) It was not kneaded enough. (Do the window test, even with machine kneaded dough!)

If you can, pound or knead the dough longer and test it again. Keep kneading/pounding until it stretches instead of rips. If you've already put the whole thing in water and it's falling apart, then let the mixture rest 4-8 hours and then try washing it again.

Tomorrow, I'll tell you what to do with the gluten, bran and starch.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

No money to eat

One of my ezines has an ongoing forum for people asking what to do when they have already pared down their budget.
One poster was only eating bread and eggs. Here is my reply to her:

It is hard, isn't it? I'm a single mom, so I understand when there is no food budget. I work 2 part-time jobs, plus homeschool. I have kids in church and scouts, so I'm pressed for time as well.

One of the things I've just started doing is using sprouts. It only takes 2 tbs of seed to make a couple of cups of sprouts. I find seeds to sprout in many different places. I bought some mung bean seeds at the health food store. They were $7 for about 2 1/2 cups of seeds. There are 16 Tbs in a cup, so that's about 40 batches of sprouts for that money. Mung beans when they are eaten under 1/2" taste like sugar snap peas!

I have wheat. Whole wheat sprouts. Again, 2 Tbs makes up to a quart jar full of sprouts. They are a little chewier than mung bean, with a sweet taste to them.

You can also sprout raw sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, broccoli seeds, rye, oat groats, any type of dried beans, peas or lentils, etc. Many seeds can be found in the grocery store. As long as the seeds haven't been heated/roasted, etc, you can make sprouts from them. Even in my rural area, the regular grocery stores have a "gourmet" section where you can by grains. Remember, you don't need to buy a pound at a time. Buy a smaller amount so that you can afford it. Even at $8 a lb, a 1/4 lb is only $2. and 1/4 lb will be about 1/4 - 1/2 cup. This amount will make 2-8 cups of fresh veggies for $2.

Make SURE you use FOOD SEEDS, not garden seeds. Garden seeds are usually treated with some sort of chemical to prevent problems with sprouting and to keep them fresh.

Look up sprouts on the net and you will see how easy it is to use grow them, the flavors of the different sprouts and the HUGE nutritional advantage to eating them. Even if you only used them for 2-3 meals a week, at least it's SOME fresh veggies. Also, even people who are "allergic" to a food can many times eat the sprouts. Wheat loses all of it's starch when sprouted for a few days.

Use dried beans/peas to cook with. It doesn't take as long as people think to cook beans/peas. For the price of a dozen eggs, you can buy a 16-24 oz bag of dried beans/peas and they are much more filling than eggs, for the same cost.

1 lb dry beans = 2 1/2 cups dry beans = about 7 1/2 cups cooked beans
1 cup dry beans = about 3 cups cooked beans
14 oz/398 ml can beans = about 1 1/2 cups drained beans
19 oz/540 ml can beans = about 2 cups drained beans

That bag will make 7 1/2 cups of beans. Beans are much more filling than eggs! I cook mine by dumping the bag of beans out onto my table, sorting through the beans and removing any broken, moldy-looking or shriveled beans or stray rocks or dirt clumps. I scoop the good ones into a pot, doing a bit at a time while I sort. I fill the pot 1/2 full of water, swish the beans around, and drain them - to remove dust/dirt. I then refill the pot with water (about 3 cups for each 1 cup of beans, though I don't measure it.) and put on stove on high. Bring to a boil, boil for 1-2 mins. Turn off heat, cover and let sit for 1 hr. At this point, some people drain the beans and refill pot with water. I just turn the heat back on and bring beans to a boil again. Lower heat and simmer for 45 mins to an hour, or until tender. I don't add salt to the beans until they are cooked, as the salt can make them tough. You can season them after they are cooked.

If you won't be home, then either soak them the night before, or do the quick soak in the morning. Then plop them into a Crockpot and let cook.

If you have a pressure cooker, it only takes a few minutes to cook dried beans and you don't have to presoak them.

DO NOT ADD BAKING SODA. Yes, it will make the beans soften quicker. BUT it also kills the vitamins in the food. And if you're not eating them for the nutrition, they WHY are you bothering to eat them at all? No nutrition = a packet of sugar or cardboard. (Ever thought of food that way before?)

You can grow a lettuce "garden". On a patio, in the house or in the yard. All you need is some food grade soil (potting soil for veggies, dirt from your yard, unless you use chemicals on the yard.), and some containers. See Dollar Stretcher for the instructions on growing a lettuce patch in containers.

If you're buying bread, start making your own. Look at "Artisan bread in 5 mins a day". It's wonderful bread, VERY inexpensive to make and you do NOT need a "pizza stone". I went to the local big box home improvement store and bought a 12"x12" unglazed Terra cotta tile for $1.50. Wash it off and plop it in the oven. Use as you would a pizza stone. I actually bought 2 of them, but when I measured my oven, I forgot to allow for the spot where the rack sits. I should have gotten them to cut about 1" - 1 1/2" off the side of one tile and then it would have fit my oven and I could do French bread. But for now, the single tile is working well. With this same easy to make dough, I make pizzas, calzones, rolls and more. I use whole wheat that I grind myself, but I do have a flour mill I got used for $50. The recipe uses flour, yeast and water. That's all. Takes longer to get the ingredients out than it does to make the dough. Dough lasts for a week or two in the fridge. Buy the yeast at a large big-box store in 1lb mylar packages. Bring it home, put in freezer. I had a friend with a Sam's membership bring me two packages that were twin packed (so I had 4 1lb packages of yeast) about 7 years ago. I put them straight into the freezer and I'm still using them. They are WAY past the "expired" date. Total cost then was $4. I'm sure yeast costs more now, but it's still cheaper to buy it in large quantities than the little foil packets or the only slightly larger jars from the grocery store.

Rice. Rice is also your friend. A 2 pound bag costs under $2. Even brown rices is under $3 for a large-ish bag. 1 cup of uncooked long-grain white rice = 3 cups cooked so that's about 6 cups of a very filling grain.

To cook rice the easy way in 24 minutes: MEASURE out 2 cups of water or stock for each 1 cup of rice you wish to cook and bring it to a boil. Add seasonings - salt, onion powder, garlic powder, Adobo, etc. (or cook plain and season when ready to use). Add your premeasured rice. Bring back to a boil. Cover pot, turn down to simmer and let cook for 14 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit another 10 minutes. DO NOT remove lid at any time between time you put lid on and the 24 minutes until it's done! Most recipes I just "eyeball", but this is one of those things, like making bread in a bread machine where you do need to measure carefully to have it turn out well. Also, you want the rice doing a slow boil, without boiling over for the 14 minutes that heat is applied.

Rice, beans and bread all freeze well. So if you work outside your home, making and freezing these basic items will make fixing dinner so much easier. It will take time to fix these recipes, but do it in large portions. It takes no longer to cook 2 loaves of bread at a time or 4 cups of dried beans/rice than it does to make 1 cup at a time. (Well ok, it will take 8 cups of water longer to come to a boil, but that's a few minutes, not hours.) Put cooked items in a zip bag or freezer container in portions that YOUR family needs or that you normally cook with. Then just pull out what you need for that meal. So I freeze my rice in either 1 cup or 3 cup portions. I freeze my chili in 1 cup portions, then take out the number of bags/containers I need for that meal.

Shop sales and look at the reduced meats and produce. Also, don't pass by larger cuts of meat when they are on sale. The only store that I've had NOT willing to cut or grind sale meat is my local Food Lion and they're weird anyway. (I think it's the local manager's decision, not a franchise-wide decision.) Every other store I've ever been to will grind a large on-sale cut of meat to hamburger for me. Make your own "stew" meat. Any roast can but cut up into cubes by you and then stored in 1lb packages for soups/stews/casseroles. When chuck or top sirloin go on sale, have the butcher run them through the cuber 2 times. Tender meat, low cost. Repackage into smaller portions. Google "cube steak" for recipes that don't require frying.

When you come home, repackage any meat products in recipe or serving size packages. Know that 3 oz of cooked meat is the size of a deck of cards! I package 5lb of ground whatever in 1lb zip bags by dividing the package in 5 portions, putting a portion in a zip bag and zipping bag closed. Remove air and then flatten bag out. Makes it easier to store when they are flat. (Flatten all freezer bags and you can stack them more easily or store them upright. Use an empty cereal box like you would a magazine holder to keep them in groups.)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Darning socks

I've learned to darn socks and did a pretty good job of it - as in it looks ok and feels ok.

I noticed when I washed my socks, that the first one I made (and wore with a slipper for the other foot, was looking a little thin in spots. I realized that if I didn't do something NOW, I wasn't going to have that sock in a wearable condition for much longer. And since it took me NINE months to get knit, I wasn't giving up on it and toss it.

So...I Googled "darning" and found several websites that showed or told how to darn.

I started out using an egg. No, not a darning egg. I don't have one of those. I went to the fridge and egg. Worked pretty well for the smaller areas, but I had the sole of the foot that needed major work. So...I got a burned-out lightbulb and hey, that did the trick and it has that "neck" on it that made a really good handle.

I guess I should have taken pictures, but I forgot. Again. sigh

I used a mixture of methods. On some small areas, I did a "swiss darn" aka "duplicate stitching". On the larger, really thin areas, I just "rewove" the missing yarn, over and under or along side the existing stitches.

Also, since these were 100% wool, I left a short bit of wool on each end of length of wool I was darning with and didn't make any knots. I didn't want to be walking on knots or hard spots and knew the wool would felt. The darning felt weird next to my skin for the first day I wore them (worsted weight socks that I wear around the house), but then it packed down and feels fine now. I had enough yarn left over to make another pair of socks, so there was more than enough matching yarn to darn with.

If my darning hadn't worked, I was looking at just knitting another bottom for them. I've done that with a slipper-sock I knitted for my son. It didn't look pretty - most of the bottom was missing, but it's good enough for him to wear to slide around the house in and he said it didn't feel uncomfortable. But then again, it was a double-soled sock and it was the bottom sole that he wore through, with some help from a certain puppy dog who will remain unnamed.

Here are the websites I used:


I also used this technique:

And then here's a good video of how it's done. Make sure you watch to the end, they have some tips in there on what to do and also so the finished darn with a nearly matching color.

I'm sorry that I don't have live links. Today, for some reason, I can not get the hyper-links to set up correctly. Either the published blog give me a blank spot where the link should be or it won't publish at all with the html code. sigh

Happy knit repairing.