Friday, February 24, 2012

Chili and Cornbread

What tastes better after a day of early spring yard work? We had fruit trees and raspberries to prune. By the time we were done, it was just starting to drizzle. It was just slightly chilly. To walk into the house and smell the chili in the crockpot was heavenly. Precooked beans and hamburger in the freezer make it a snap to mix up this meal. Simmer in the crockpot for a few hours or heat quickly on the stove top depending on the demands of your day. Any leftovers freeze well for lunch or dinner another day.

Quick and Easy Chili

½ lb hamburger
1 can condensed tomato soup
cup dried, minced onion
2 cups precooked red beans
1 tsp dried, minced garlic
2–3 tsp chili powder
2 Tbsp dehydrated green pepper
½ tsp dried basil
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes
¼ tsp black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a pan or slow cooker. Add water as needed to achieve desired consistency. Simmer for 15–20 minutes or until heated through and vegetables are tender. In a slow cooker, heat on low for 5–6 hours or on high for 2–3 hours.

I have a couple of cornbread recipes that I use. This one is very moist while my other one is more dry. It is all a matter of what you are in the mood for. This recipe calls for plain yogurt and bean puree to significantly lower the fat content. To learn more about making and using bean puree, click here. Enjoy!

Moist and Delicious Cornbread

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups plain yogurt
2 cups corn meal
¾ cup white bean puree
½ cup sugar
2 Tbsp oil
1 tsp baking soda
2 Tbsp honey
1 ½ tsp salt
¼ cup water

Combine the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients and mix just until moistened. Pour batter into a greased 9x13-inch pan and bake at 400° F for 20–25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. You can cut the recipe in half and it fills an 8x8-inch pan. Bake for 15–20 minutes.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Shelf Life of Household Bleach

I recently attended a class on water storage and things to consider. It was a great reminder of many of the things I have learned in the past, and I also learned something quite important. Household bleach has a shelf life! Many of us at the class had not heard that bleach will break down and lose its potency beginning at about 6 months. If your bleach is older than 6 months you will have to add more bleach to your water storage to be sure it kills all the unwanted germs. It is recommended that you replace your bleach every year so you can trust its potency level.

I've included a link to an article from clorox that supports this information.

For more information on water storage click here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Emergency Preparedness - Food

I've already written a few thoughts on shelter and water needs in an emergency. Today, I plan to share a few thoughts on food during an emergency. You should begin with a goal to put together a 72 hour kit of food and supplies to help you survive a disaster. This kit should be packaged in such a way that you could very quickly load it into your car and evacuate the area if called on to do so. We store our kit in the garage in 2 Rubbermaid bins.

The food in a 72 hour kit should be high in protein and very easy to prepare. We have canned chili and beef stew in our kit since these meals are actually fully cooked so we could eat them straight from the can if we needed to. My kit contains an emergency stove and a little fuel so we could heat a few things. I also have a can opener in our kit so we could open the cans. We also have granola bars, peanuts, beef jerky, crystal light mix, crackers and peanut butter and a few comfort items like gum and hard candy. I have a menu typed up that is included in our kit to help us know how to ration the food to last the 72 hours. A quick internet search for 72 hour kit menu will give you a few more ideas.

Here is our Menu - some of the kids prefer beef stew over chili, so we have substituted for them.

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
1 granola bar
1 fruit snack
1 apple cider
1 oatmeal
1 apple cider
1 oatmeal
1 juice packet
Ramen soup
Beef stick
Pork & beans
Ramen soup
1 apple cider
1 applesauce
1 granola bar
4 pieces candy
1 piece gum
4 pieces candy
2 pieces gum
4 pieces candy
2 pieces gum

Add to your kit:
1–2 gallons of water

Be sure your family kit contains:
Small stove and fuel w/matches or another way to heat your food
Mess kit or small saucepan and utensils
Can opener

What is important is that you include items that everyone will eat, especially when you are responsible for young children. They are not old enough to understand that they have to eat even if they don't like what you have. The food should be rotated about every 6 months to make sure it is fresh. We pull it into the house and the kids take the snack items in their lunches and I put the canned items in the pantry to rotate through with meals at home. We then restock the kit. By having the kids help with this process, it gives me an opportunity twice a year to talk about our emergency planning. A few weeks ago, we were reading about earthquakes and one of the kids said, "But we'd be OK right Mom - we have what we would need." I was able to assure them that we had planned as best we knew how.

It was one of those moments that makes you grateful you take the time to go through the preparations.

Once you have your 72 hour kit taken care of, then you should begin planning a 3 month meal plan and collect the food you would need to feed your family for a longer period of time. Many recipes and ideas already posted on this site will help you in that process. Each family cooks and eats uniquely enough that your food storage should not look exactly like anyone else's. I've really found over the years as I've coached many through the process, that taking the time to make it your own plan gives you confidence that you could cook the food and that your family would eat it. This confidence brings a great deal of peace to the entire family.

After you have food in a 72 hour kit taken care of then you need to work up to a 3 month supply or more.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine's Day Marble Heart Cookies

I had some frozen cookie dough in the freezer from when I made a huge batch ahead of Christmas using my All Purpose Christmas Cookie dough recipe. My daughter, Sarah, and I got creative and turned it into some fun marble heart cookies for Valentine's Day.
We had less red dough than the neutral color. We rolled the neutral color dough out between two pieces of plastic wrap and then tore it into pieces. We then rolled the red dough into "snakes" and placed them between the pieces of neutral colored dough.

At this point, we replaced the top piece of plastic wrap and rolled it flat again to about 1/4" thick.

We cut hearts out using a cookie cutter. 

We collected the scraps of dough and rolled them again. This time we got a great marble effect.

The third time we rolled the dough, the marbling was almost too much leaving them more pink. My favorite hearts came from the 2nd rolling. You can see them on the right in the photo below.

Bake at 375 degrees for 8-11 minutes our until just barely turning brown on the edges. Mine only took about 8 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. No frosting needed. These freeze very well after being baked so don't hesitate to plan ahead next year and get them done a week or two early for the parties at home or school.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins

Remember these Applesauce Oatmeal Muffins?  I had some pumpkin thawed out that I needed to use so I put it in this recipe in place of the applesauce and then substituted pumpkin pie spice for the cinnamon. It was delicious! A bonus for those families with allergies is that they are egg and diary free. 

I'm sure any mashed winter squash such as acorn or butternut would be fine in these muffins. You could even used mashed sweet potatoes. They all have a similar texture to applesauce so they work similarly in recipes. Depending on how moist your pumpkin or squash puree is, you may need to add  a Tablespoon or two of additional water to the batter before spooning it into muffin pans. You'll know if the batter seems too thick.

I will definitely be making up some pantry mixes of this versatile recipe! In my mixes, I will just put cinnamon in as the spice, knowing I can add a little nutmeg if I end up using pumpkin or squash instead of  applesauce. Muffins freeze well so don't hesitate to make a double or triple batch. When I am baking multiple batches of muffins, I re-spray my muffin tins between batches, but I don't wash them until all the muffins are baked. It saves quite a bit of time in the kitchen to do it this way.

Applesauce Oatmeal Muffins

1 cup quick cooking oats
1 cup water
½ cup applesauce
½ cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt         
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp white vinegar
1 Tbsp oil (optional)

Soak the oats in the water for 10-15 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and stir just until moistened. Fill muffin cups ⅔ full. Bake at 400° F for 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. If you choose to leave the oil out, the muffins just won't brown as nicely. They will still taste great.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Emergency Preparedness - Water

Water is probably the most important item to make sure you are storing to be ready for an emergency. We can live longer without food than we can without water! It is also important for sanitation purposes.

At the very minimum, you should store 3 gallons of water per person. This is meant to be part of your 72-hour kit and should get you through 3 days. It is better to plan on a 2-week supply of at least 14 gallons per person.

Many families have enough in their hot water heater. This water has already been treated and is very safe for drinking. Everyone should learn how to shut the water heater off from receiving new water in case the source is contaminated during the emergency. You should also learn how to drain it to access the water.

If your water heater is not large enough to hold what your family will need, there are many other options for safely storing water.

A quick search on the internet will lead you to appropriate information. This blog post is not meant to share all the details for proper storage, it is meant to encourage and inspire you to do something to build your supply.

In addition to the water that we store here at the house, we also have a backpacking water filter that will allow us to filter water from the nearby river and ponds. We store a large package of coffee filters as well. The backpacking filter will remove all the harmful bacteria, but it will not remove the floaties. By straining the water through a coffee filter it will be easier to drink.

For more on how we store and rotate water, you can check out my post from last Spring.

FEMA also has some good information on their page here.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Emergency Preparedness - Shelter

When thinking about emergency preparedness, take some time to think about our basic needs. What would you do to meet the needs of water, food, shelter, and sanitation if your everyday solution was no loner available?

This is where you allow yourself to start brainstorming the answer to the "What if?" question. Where would my family go if . .  . our home was left unlivable by a tornado, fire, or flood? Maybe your emergency will be as simple as a furnace that is not working in the dead of winter - you will still need somewhere to go or a plan to keep you and your children warm enough until repairs can be made. Shelter really is a big need in this life. 

I'll share a few thoughts that we have come up with and maybe they can provide some direction for you.

We are blessed with quite a bit of family in the area as well as close friends. We know that a disaster is unlikely to take out the entire Boise area. We know we would be able to stay a short while with friends or family until a long term solution could be reached. We have homeowners insurance that will cover the cost of living somewhere else while our own home is being repaired or rebuilt. It may take a few days to work this out so our quick solution would be to stay with family. 

We have a kerosene heater that would allow us to keep the master bedroom of the house quite warm. We could all sleep on the floor in there for a few days if our furnace were out or the power was off for some reason. It will be easier to keep one room of the house warm and all huddle together. We have collected quite a few blankets, sleeping bags, coats, snow pants, etc. over the years that can also work to keep us warm. We store enough fuel to keep the heater going for a few days. This is not a long term solution. It is meant to get us through a short term emergency.

We have a tent large enough to sleep our family. Again, this would be used as a short term solution if needed as we worked out more permanent shelter.

Hopefully, these thoughts get you thinking about your own situation. Everyone lives in different areas where the likelihood of certain disasters is different. Take some time to learn about what disasters are more likely to hit your area and then brainstorm a plan with your family as to what you would do if . . . A plan brings a lot of peace when you are faced with an emergency. It brings hope to know you have thought about it and you have an idea of what you would do.

Check out for more ideas.