If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome. Anne Bradstreet

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. Ether 12:27

Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season therof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart; Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul. And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion. D&C 59:18-20

Monday, March 23, 2015

Recycling No. 10 cans

Many preppers buy dry foods in No. 10 cans.  They are excellent for long-term storage, especially for smaller families or individuals.  But then we have the question:  What do we do with the empty cans?

I've experimented with reusing them to store more dry foods.  I packed the food in a clean can, added an oxygen absorber, put a piece of mylar on top large enough to form a lid, and then the plastic lid.  I wrapped several rounds of duct tape to secure the lid and to (hopefully) make an air-proof seal.  I did some a couple of months ago and the product has kept good, but this is not "long-term" by any means.

Then the other night I saw a youtube video by technician55 on his method of storing dry foods in 5 gallon buckets.  He used another bucket with a mylar bag to form a round receptacle that fits much better into the 5 gallon bucket.  He takes the bucket and inserts it into the mylar bag as far as it will go down.  He then folds over the ends of the bottom and tapes them down, and then pulls the bucket out of the mylar bag.  If this doesn't make sense, you can watch his video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZ1Cum6lkhs.  He then puts his pre-formed mylar bag into another bucket and fills it.

I thought I'd try to make my own pre-formed mylar bag insert for an empty #10 can.  Some of the PETE bottles that my neighbors save for me are rectangular gallon-size water bottles.  One just barefy fits into a gallon mylar bag and I pushed it down as far as it would go.  I folded the bottom flaps over and secured them with a single piece of tape.  I was able to pull my plastic water bottle out of the mylar bag without any difficulty, so I'm not going to bother putting holes in the bottom like technician55 did.  Then I put the pre-formed mylar bag into a #10 can and filled it with the instant potato flakes that I had packaged a couple months ago in another used #10 can.  I was able to compress the flakes and get them all in.  I don't have any oxygen absorbers on hand, so I didn't seal the bag up, but there's plenty of room for a seal using a hair iron.  Fold the top corners over, and then put the plastic lid on.

I'm having difficulty uploading photos so I'll try again later.

I'm very pleased that #10 cans can be reused for long-term storage of dry foods.


Monday, March 2, 2015

Dehydrated home-cooked meal results

I'm still learning how to reconstitute dehydrated foods.  I'm not interested in dehydrating for snack foods, but to use foods in recipes or meals that just have to be reconstituted.

On January 9, 2015, I made a Chicken Helper Fried Rice recipe, using ground turkey instead.  I dehydrated one serving for experimental purposes.  Because it was a bit oily, I put the dehydrated product into a Ziploc bag and into one of the drawers in my refrigerator.  I thought it might go rancid if I just packed it into a jar and vacuum sealed it.

Today, March 2, 2015, I reconstituted the serving and had it for lunch.  I first just added hot water to bring it to the 1 cup mark, because it was a 1-cup serving that I dehydrated.  I put that in the microwave for 5 minutes.  It had absorbed all of the water, but wasn't fully hydrated, so I added about 1/4 cup of water, and put it back in for 3 minutes.  Still didn't seem wholly hydrated, so added about another 1/4 cup of hot water and just let it set for about 10-15 minutes, then ate it for lunch.  It had very good flavor.  the vegetables and the rice seemed fully hydrated, but I think the turkey wasn't as plump as it could have been, but still tasty.

I'm quite pleased.

Last Friday I made some of my 4-can chili, and on Saturday I dehydrated a little more than 2 cups of it.  I did vacuum pack that into a quart jar and put it into my pantry.  I'll wait a while to check it out. 

During the process of dehydrating, I measured out 1 cup of chili and put that on its own tray in the dehydrator, so I could weigh how much 1 cup of dehydrated chili weighs.  I used parchment paper on my trays.  Now, to make one cup, I weigh out the right amount and rehydrate. 

My objective is to get away from so much freezer storage of homemade meals and put some of it in dehydrated meals and also pressure-canned.  I'm seriously thinking of getting a pressure canner this spring. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Using beans as a substitute for butter or oil in baking

I've seen my daughter do this, but I thought it was applicable only in certain, narrow recipes.  However, I found this on the internet.  A great collection of recipes to make mixes for muffins, brownies, and cakes rather than relying on store-bought mixes.  She also gives the recipe for just making one from scratch, if you don't want to store the mixes, that's a bit further down. 

More importantly, she gives very good information on substituting beans for butter or oil in baking recipes.  You must use cooked beans, so canned beans are good to use, or you could cook up some of your dry beans.  I don't know how long the bean puree lasts before having to be used.  She has a link for more recipes using beans.  The information about beans is on pg. 5. 

This is great information for preppers to have since we store a lot of beans. 

You can save this pdf document to your computer so you will always have it. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Dehydrating condensed soup

More experiments with dehydrating in my oven.  I had a larger can of condensed chicken noodle soup, the new size they came out with a while ago -- glad they haven't totally replaced the smaller cans.  This new size gives 3.5 servings, according to the label, so I divided it up into 4 servings and put one on parchment paper on a cookie sheet to dehydrate (one I had for lunch that day, the others went into single-serving containers in the fridge to be used over the next couple days.) 

It dehydrated very well, but the chicken pieces looked dark and I thought they might be tough eating.  But since there's not that much meat in those condensed soups, I wasn't too worried about it.  I dehydrated it over night. 

So for lunch today, I had the dehydrated soup.  I put all the dried pieces into a 2-cup glass measuring cup and added water to the 1 cup level and into the microwave for 2 minutes.  Then I left it in the microwave for 20 minutes.  After that it seemed quite well hydrated, but I nuked it for another minute to get it hot again. 

Very good flavor, noodles and chicken very well hydrated, and the chicken was just fine.

I think it could do with a bit less liquid.  Next time, I'll fill with water only to the 3/4 cup line and see if that is enough liquid. 

I could do 2 or 3 servings at a time, being careful to keep each serving in a circle all by itself so they can be packed as single servings, but I only did one because this was an experiment. 

I haven't yet tried to dehydrate a single serving of a home-cooked meal.  I only "cook" once a week now, as I have plenty of single-serving frozen meals in my freezer and the extra I get from cooking once a week adds more variety.  The Tex Mex Chicken Rice skillet dish I did last night served myself, the sister missionaries, plus 8 single servings in the freezer. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Packing away some food for long-term storage in 4.3 mil mylar bags

I really shouldn't say "long-term" storage because these are dry foods that I use regularly, and I probably don't have much over a year's worth of any of them.  But since I don't know how long it is going to take me to use them up, I am storing them as though it will be long-term, as in 5 years or more.

I had 50 lbs. of flour and 20 lbs of rice in my small chest freezer, plus a few 2-lb bags of beans and rice.  I ordered a pack of 30 mylar bags and oxygen absorbers.  The mylar bags are 4.3 mil.  I used 5 mil bags previously and was curious whether the 4.3 mil bags would be thick enough. 

I packed the flour first.  That can be messy.  I minimized the mess by opening each 5 lb. bag, slipping the mylar bag over it, and then turning over and slowly emptying the flour into the mylar bag.  I shook the flour down as much as possible, and folded the mylar bag over to push as much air out as possible and added 1 oxygen absorber for each mylar bag.  Any little jiggle of the mylar bags made some flour dust on the area to be sealed, so it seemed hopeless to get the seal area totally clean of flour dust.  To ensure a good seal, I first sealed the bag very close to the product, and then I re-cleaned the remaining part of the bag and sealed it. So each flour bag has a very wide seal.

Each 5 lb. bag required its own mylar bag, so that was 10 bags worth.  I've been getting buckets from my local Dillons bakery, and was able to put 3 of the mylar bags into each bucket (15 lbs. worth of flour).  That took 3 buckets with 1 extra bag in a bucket by itself.  I use the buckets to make a shelf in my living room -- 6 buckets with 3 buckets 2 deep. 

I also did the smaller batches in PETE bottles, using one oxygen absorber with each bottle.  That went pretty fast.  I had 3 used #10 cans that I filled, put in an oxygen absorber, and then covered with mylar and the plastic lid.  I then used duct tape to tape all around the lid and totally covering the mylar extending below the lid. 

I put my left over oxygen absorbers in a canning jar, but the lid wasn't sealing, so I became paranoid that I was going to lose my oxygen absorbers.  Waste not, want no.  So I went ahead and did the rice in the mylar bags.  I used 2 oxygen absorbers in each bag in case they weren't still good.  I got the 20 lbs of rice in 4 mylar bags.  I put two of the bags in another bucket with rice, and the remaining 2 in the bucket that had just 1 flour bag.

I checked them later that night and they looked like they were all going to have good, vacuum-packed seals.  Vacuum seals are not necessary with oxygen absorbers, as there can still be air -- it just won't have oxygen in it, only nitrogen.  But like other preppers, I'm paranoid about getting good seals.  I checked them again the next day, and they looked very good. 

So my conclusion is that 4.3 mylar bags are indeed strong enough for the products that I seal -- even the rice, with its pointy ends, didn't cause a problem.