Sunday, August 28, 2011

Don't go into a panic when it comes to preparing

The hurricane pelting the East Coast has us all watching the news a little more closely and wondering just how all those families and individuals are coping with this big storm.

Those who had taken time to prepare beforehand are probably feeling a little inconvenienced by it all, but are not feeling alarm and panic. Hurricanes hit every year. If you live in a region where you know you are at risk for certain disasters, you should take time to prepare for these disasters.

Here is a quote from quite a few years ago. It is still very relevant today.

"Some people have reacted to the theme of preparedness as if it were a doomsday matter. In reality, all six elements of personal and family preparedness are to be emphasized so that the Latter-day Saints may be better prepared to meet the ordinary, day-to-day requirements of successful living.
Our emphasis on this subject is not grounds for crisis thinking or panic. Quite the contrary, personal and family preparedness should be a way of provident living, an orderly approach to using the resources, gifts, and talents the Lord shares with us. So the first step is to teach our people to be self-reliant and independent through proper preparation for daily life."

~~~~ Bishop Victor L. Brown October 1976

We are to use an orderly approach to prepare our families for daily life which includes preparing for possible storms, earthquakes, or other challenges that may require us to evacuate.

Don't go into a panic. Crate a plan and then work through your checklist. Some possible items on your list may be:
     - put together or rotate 72-hour kits
     - keep food and toiletry items at the house that will get you through 3 months
     - determine what is needed to live through an extended power outage and work to purchase these items
     - Create a family evacuation plan. Where would you go? How would you travel? What if your family is in different places when you need to leave? Where will your meeting place be?

These are just a few things to consider. I'm sure as you begin to think about it, you will come up with others. Having a plan drastically reduces the panic and anxiety that comes when a disaster strikes.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fat Free Vegetarian Jerky

This is "heavy duty" provident living - some of you may be ready to try something like this though so I'm putting it out there. The youth committee at church asked me if I could figure out a way to make beef jerky and keep it in the budget for their pioneer trek this summer, I set out to figure it all out.

Inspired by this blog post by Chef Tess and a memory of my mom doing something like this long ago, I set out to make my own "wheat meat" jerky as my family calls it. Chef Tess shares many flavor suggestions for different kinds of meat, but none of them sounded like they would give me the "jerky" flavor I was after so I experimented and then asked for taste testers. The first batch had a very good flavor, but was a little too spicey for our taste. We were all amazed at how much the texture was just like jerky. It took a couple  more batches to perfect the flavoring. The youth loved it and were all amazed at how easy the process was!

Begin by mixing all the dry ingredients.

Combine the wet ingredients in a separate bowl.

Pour the wet ingredients in with the dry ingredients and mix well.

It should pull into a ball.

Shape into a roast or roll tight into a few large hot dog shapes. For my first attempt, I did the roast shape. That is what you see here. For my later attempts, I did hot dog shapes. It really doesn't matter.

Wrap tightly in heavy duty foil. The heavy duty is a must. You will not get the same results with regular foil.

Be sure to twist the ends up tight.

Place in a crock pot and cover completely with water. Cook on low for 2-4 hours depending on how thick you've made your shape.

When done, it will hold together very well.

Allow to cool enough to handle and slice into thin pieces.

Place on dehydrator trays. You could try to do it on baking trays in the oven at a very low temp. You'll have to watch it more closely since your oven will have hot spots. Dry for 1 1/2 - 2 hours. You'll have to do some taste testing. You want them "jerky" texture not brittle like a cracker.

Wheat Meat Jerky

1 1/2 cups gluten flour or vital wheat gluten (as some people call it)
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp paprika
4 tsp beef bouillon
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 Tbsp honey
3 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp water

Makes about 50 pieces

Mix all the dry ingredients together and then add the wet ingredients. Work it into a ball. Shape into large "hot dogs" or a "roast" if you prefer. Wrap tightly in heavy duty foil, being sure to twist the ends of the foil tightly to seal up the edges. Place in a crockpot. Cover with water and cook on low for 2 hours for "hot dog" shapes and 3-4 hours for a "roast" shape.

Remove from foil. At this point, the wheat meat can be frozen for later use. To make jerky, slice in thin pieces and place on a dehydrator rack. Dry for 1 1/2 - 2 hours at 145 degrees F.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

It Was a Bad Bread Day

All I can figure is I must have left the yeast out of the recipe - I've made more than 1000 loaves of bread with this recipe and never had this happen before! It was so      disappointing - 

If you're just getting started making bread, know that even those of us who have been doing it for awhile have bad days so don't give up - 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Apricot Fruit Rolls

Preserving season is in full swing around here. One great way to use ripe, fresh fruit is to make fruit rolls. The kids love them, but adults gobble them up as well. We got a fabulous deal on apricots. I know that my kids are not real fans of apricot freezer jam or bottled apricots, but I knew they would eat them as fruit leather - this is the old-fashioned term for fruit rolls. (I don't feel that old - we grew up calling it fruit leather and I've had to shift gears since they started selling them as fruit rolls.) They are really quite simple to make.

Puree the apricots in a food processor.

You want them good and smooth - 

Add just a bit of lemon juice to help the puree hold its color.

Pour into a large bowl.

If you don't have fresh apricots, that's OK. I had some bottled apricots from 2004 that I needed to use so I drained the juice off and pureed them. They look just as good as the fresh. So you could use canned apricots or peaches and achieve the same results. This also means that you can make fruit rolls any time of year, not just in the late summer and fall when the fruit is in season.

I always add some applesauce to stretch the flavored puree. Applesauce is inexpensive and takes on the flavor of what you mix it with. You could also use pear sauce the same way.

Sweeten with honey or corn syrup to taste. If you use sugar, the fruit roll dries brittle instead of being pliable and will just break apart into fruit chips instead of roll up like you want it to.

I use a dehydrator to create fruit rolls. (You can do it in the oven, but it is much more difficult to keep a consistent low temperature without hot spots. You can search online for tips about using your oven.) You need to purchase the special fruit roll trays to go with your dehydrator. Spray the trays with oil before spreading the fruit puree on them. This will make them easy to pull off when they are done.

Spread your puree out very thin and as uniform in thickness as possible. Cover any remaining puree and store in the fridge until you have room in your dehydrator for another batch. I always wait until I'm all finished with my puree to wash the trays. Just re-spray and use again.

Stack all the trays on your dehydrator base and dry at 130 degrees for about 8 hours.

When they are done, they will not feel sticky to the touch, just dry and leathery. (These pictures are from a different flavor of fruit roll so that is why they appear red.) Peel them up carefully off the tray.

Cut in half using kitchen scissors so they can fit on plastic wrap.

Roll up 

Once you are finished rolling all your fruit rolls, store in a gallon ziplock bag or airtight container for a year or more or as long as you can hide them from the kids.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Tomato Cucumber Salad

This is one of those tastes I crave in the summertime. My sister learned how to make this simple salad when she was living in Brazil. Mix cucumbers and tomatoes together. Add a little bit of chopped onion and then drizzle with a tablespoon or so of lemon or lime juice. Salt to taste.

So simple yet delicious!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Freezing Rhubarb

Rhubarb is so very easy to freeze. Wash and chop into desired size pieces and then freeze. I put 2 cups in each bag since the couple of recipes I use on a regular basis call for 2 cups of rhubarb. There is no need to blanch or cook in any way.

If you've got a plant, you don't have to only enjoy this tangy fruit in the Spring and Summer months. Freeze some to preserve the taste for later.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Best Kept Laundry Secret

This little bar of soap is the best stain remover I have ever found! It usually costs about $1.00 and can be found near the laundry detergent in many stores. It lasts a very long time. Just get the stain wet and then rub with the soap. Drop into the washer and wash as usual. Every now and then I have to wash something a second time, but usually the stains come right out. It works for watermelon, red punch, baby stains, grass stains, etc. It has really extended the length of time we can wear our clothing and how many kids can use the hand-me-downs. I'm sure it has saved us thousands of dollars in new clothing costs over the years we have had children.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

One Happy 4 Year Old!

My son, Timothy, just had a birthday. He is my boy who has been most into cars, trucks, planes, and motorcycles. Last year he wanted a motorcycle cake for his birthday. This year he requested an airplane. My mom had been given some copies of cut-up cake patterns from my Grandma Ormond when I was a little girl. I remember looking through the patterns every year to choose my birthday cake. I borrowed those tattered pages a few years ago and made copies for myself. I've found a color version of some of the patterns that has been posted online. If you are interested you can look here. We've found it to be best to make a "from scratch" cake instead of using a mix. There are far less crumbs that pull into the frosting with a "from scratch" cake.

Timothy asked for a spice cake with cream cheese frosting. I used my Any "Old Fruit" Cake recipe and pureed apricots to add to the batter. The recipe follows.

I also added white bean puree in place of all the oil. The recipe says to add 1/4 cup oil and 3/4 cup bean puree. I thought I'd try it without any oil.

It baked into a beautiful fat free healthy cake!

Once it had cooled, it was time to get creative. The pattern is pretty specific telling me just how many inches wide to cut the different pieces.

We put it all back together to form the airplane. At this point, I had to put Tim to bed. We had stretched him too far already. I frosted it after the kids were all tucked in for the night.

I cheated this year and just used Betty Crocker cream cheese frosting. It took a little more than one tub.

I added cut gumdrops to create the decorations. We actually ate his birthday cake for breakfast the next day since we were leaving on a trip and it wouldn't travel well in the car. The kids had no objections to eating cake for breakfast, and I knew it was quite healthy, or so that was my reasoning. Tim was one happy little 4 year old! It was a fun project to work on together, and it cost lots less than a custom cake from the bakery.

Any "Old Fruit" Cake

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 quart any bottled fruit and its juice
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup oil
4 tsp baking soda
¾ cup mashed white or pinto beans (or
1 tsp salt
additional oil)
2 cups sugar
Caramel Topping:
2 tsp cinnamon
½ cup margarine
1 tsp nutmeg
1 cup brown sugar, packed
½ tsp cloves
½ cup evaporated milk

1 tsp vanilla

Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Puree fruit in blender and add to dry ingredients. Add oil and mashed beans. If batter seems too runny, you can add up to ½ cup more flour. You can stir in chopped nuts, raisins, or coconut if desired before baking. Pour into a greased 9x13-inch pan and bake at 350° F for 40–45 minutes or bake as muffins for 15–20 minutes or until it tests done with a toothpick. To make topping, mix margarine, brown sugar, and milk together and boil until thick, stirring constantly. Add 1 tsp vanilla when done. You can stir in powdered sugar to gain a frosting consistency if desired. We love to serve this cake as muffins with caramel topping drizzled over the top and a dollop of whipped topping or vanilla ice cream. It actually is quite a fancy dessert served this way.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Money Saving Habits

Any of you with children will agree that summer is a time that is challenging to get routine things done. My blog has suffered from that challenge. I can't promise that it will be any better the next few weeks, but I am stealing a few minutes today to blog about money matters which is supposed to be my Monday topic. It's been a few Mondays since I was able to snatch the time away from my kids -

Today I want to talk about changing some habits that could end up saving you a good deal of money in the long run. Changing habits is challenging so before reading any more, decide how committed you want to be to saving money. If you are ready to be fully committed and realize that it will require a certain amount of work then read on.

Review Your Insurance Costs - It takes some time to price check. Call around and schedule to have the agents of different companies run some quotes for you. Be sure you are asking about similar coverage levels. We did this a couple of years ago and the company we chose to go with charged a little more for our car insurance but were significantly lower for our home owner's insurance so we ended up saving over $600 a year. To save even more money, we pay the bill all at once instead of monthly. This meant that we had to save some aside each month to have the money ready to cover the entire bill when it comes due.

Check Your Bank Accounts - Many checking accounts charge fees. They seem little $1.00 here and $2.00 there, but these fees can really add up. You are not married to your bank - you don't need to stay with them for sentimental or commitment reasons. Check around and determine which bank can fill your needs without requiring you to pay fees each month. You may also find banks that will pay you better interest than your current one. Go to the work it requires and switch banks.

Limit Your Trips to the Store - Research suggests that you easily spend $20 on impulse buys each time you go to the store. Challenge yourself to stretch out your trips and you'll be saving money at the same time. If you regularly go once a week, stretch it to 9 or 10 days. Get creative with your leftovers. Fill your time with a hobby you enjoy or catch up on some other chores you've been meaning to get to. You'll be saving money and not missing what you could have bought at the store.

Here's just a few ideas. Habits and attitude make a big difference when it comes to saving money. Challenge yourself and see what you can save!