My Foray Into Food Storage

A regular gal learning about Food Storage, Home Cooking, Canning, Gardening, and more!


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The Final Ground Beef Dish From My 20 Pound Stash, And It Can Be A Freezer Meal!

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Sorry it took me so long to write this post about the final thing I made with my Zaycon Premium Ground Beef.  (The first two are here, pressure canned ground beef, and here, pre-made hamburger patties.)  What did I do with the final bit of ground beef?  I made Shepherd’s Pie.  For those unfamiliar with Shepherd’s Pie, it is a meat pie with a potato “crust” of sorts.  It originated in Great Britain and is enjoyed worldwide.

 

One thing I love about making Shepherd’s Pie is that I can make several at once which allows me to buy larger quantities of the basic ingredients and save a ton of money.  Another thing I love is that it is pretty fast and easy, and it is made with mostly shelf stable ingredients.  Even with the processed ingredients, it is better than fast food and many other ultra processed meals.  Sometimes, the day is so crazy that I’m thrilled that I got some sort of homemade food on the table.  This is better than a lot of other quick and easy things I could serve, so it’s guilt free for me.  Sure, if I were so inclined, I could make some of the canned items this calls for, but I don’t have to and I haven’t done it yet.  Maybe someday.  Baby steps, right?

 

Let me begin with the recipe.

 

Shepherd's Pie just before putting it in the oven.

Shepherd’s Pie just before putting it in the oven.

 

Shepherd’s Pie

Adapted from The Essential Mormon Cookbook

 

1 pound ground beef (or ground meat of choice.  I’ve done a 1/2 turkey and 1/2 ground beef Shepherd’s Pie, and it was delicious!)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon dried onion (can use 1/2 c fresh diced onion)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 28-oz can cut green beans, drained (you can use fresh, but you will probably want to add more salt, because this recipe takes into consideration the salt in the canned beans)

1 10 3/4 oz can tomato soup, condensed

4-8 servings of instant mashed potatoes, prepared, depending on your preference (you may use fresh mashed potatoes instead)

1-2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese, depending on your preference

 

 

Brown ground beef in olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add onion, when beef begins to brown.  When meat is almost cooked through, add salt and pepper and saute another 2-3 minutes.  Transfer ground beef mixture into a greased 9″x13″ baking dish.  Top with drained green beans.  Spread condensed tomato soup over beans.  Do not reconstitute the soup!  Spread prepared instant potatoes (or fresh mashed potatoes) over the mixture.  Top with grated cheese.  Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes.

 

If freezing, stop after you spread the potatoes over the mixture.  Cover tightly with aluminum foil and label.  When read to serve, place Shepherd’s Pie in a preheated 400 degree Fahrenheit oven, and bake for 1 hour.  Remove from oven, remove foil, and sprinkled grated cheese on top.  Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for an additional 30 minutes until the cheese is melted and the pie is heated through.

 

Here’s my photo step-by-step.

 

I began by gathering my ingredients.  You will notice that the cheese is missing, because I was planning to freeze all three pies.

I began by gathering my ingredients. You will notice that the cheese is missing, because I was planning to freeze all three pies.

 

I cut off about 3 pounds of meat from my 10 pound tube.

I cut off about 3 pounds of meat from my 10 pound tube.

 

I transferred that huge hunk of meat to my pan and started browning the meat.

I transferred that huge hunk of meat to my pan and started browning the meat.

 

Once I broke up the meat and it started to brown, I added the dried onion.  (Please note that I am tripling the recipe above.)

Once I broke up the meat and it started to brown, I added the dried onion. (Please note that I am tripling the recipe above.)

 

When the meat was almost cooked through, I added the salt and pepper and continued to cook the meat.

When the meat was almost cooked through, I added the salt and pepper and continued to cook the meat.

 

Once the meat was cooked through, I was ready to almost assemble my Shepherd's pie.

Once the meat was cooked through, I was ready to almost assemble my Shepherd’s pie.

 

The only thing left to do was make the mashed potatoes.  I used Idahoan Instant Red Mashed Potatoes.  You may use the mashed potato recipe of your choice.

The only thing left to do was make the mashed potatoes. I used Idahoan Instant Red Mashed Potatoes. You may use the mashed potato recipe of your choice.

 

With everything ready, I set up my pans. I use foil pans, because I do not have enough pans to freeze as many things as I'd like and still have pans to use for every day cooking. I get these at Costco or Sam's Club. They're around $6.50 for 30 pans which works about to just under 22 cents a pan.

With everything ready, I set up my pans. I use foil pans, because I do not have enough pans to freeze as many things as I’d like and still have pans to use for every day cooking. I get these at Costco or Sam’s Club. They’re around $6.50 for 30 pans which works about to just under 22 cents a pan.

 

With everything ready, I set up my pans.  I use foil pans, because I do not have enough pans to freeze as many things as I'd like and still have pans to use for every day cooking.  I get these at Costco or Sam's Club.  They're about $8 for 18 pans.

Next, I split the meat evenly between the pans.

 

Then came the green beans.

Then came the green beans.

 

And the tomato soup.

And the tomato soup.

 

And, finally, the mashed potatoes were spread on top of the other ingredients.

And, finally, the mashed potatoes were spread on top of the other ingredients.

 

I covered the pans with foil, labeled them, and put them in the freezer.

I covered the pans with foil, labeled them, and put them in the freezer.

 

On Saturday, I decided to pull out a Shepherd's Pie for dinner.  Please note that the instructions I wrote on the top of the pan differ from the ones I listed with the recipe.  When I cooked this before, I didn't keep track of my exact method, so I wrote down what I thought it was.  However, after trying it on Saturday, I realized it would have turned out better if I'd turned the oven up to a higher temperature.  My recipe (above) reflects that change.

On Saturday, I decided to pull out a Shepherd’s Pie for dinner. Please note that the instructions I wrote on the top of the pan differ from the ones I listed with the recipe. When I cooked this before, I didn’t keep track of my exact method, so I wrote down what I thought it was. However, after trying it on Saturday, I realized it would have turned out better if I’d turned the oven up to a higher temperature. My recipe (above) reflects that change.

 

After about an hour, I removed the pan from the oven, removed the foil, and sprinkled the sharp cheddar on top.

After about an hour, I removed the pan from the oven, removed the foil, and sprinkled the sharp cheddar on top.

 

See?  It took another 30 minutes in the oven before it was ready to serve.

See? It took another 30 minutes in the oven before it was ready to serve.

 

Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of the completed dish for you.  We had unexpected guests for dinner, and I just plain old forgot.  Oops!  I promise I’ll take a picture next time and share it with you.   Being able to pull a pre-made dinner from the freezer made it easy to accommodate last minute dinner guests.  Dinner was a success, and it didn’t require too much work.  I simply made a quick salad and cut up a loaf of fresh, homemade bread (recipe here), and dinner was ready!

Do you have any favorite freezer meals that are your “go-to” meals? 

If not, what would you like to learn to make ahead of time and freeze?

 

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My March Preps: You Get To Hold ME Accountable!

Although I started this blog because my friend, Alisa, encouraged me to do so, I had another motivating factor.  I wanted some accountability.  Like most people, I can talk a good game about what I am “going” to do.  But sometimes, maybe a lot of times, I allow time to get away from me, and I don’t do as much as I would like to do.  To keep me moving along a self-reliant path, I’m going to report to you at the start of each month and tell you what I did to build my food storage during the previous month.

 

Some months will be better than others.  I’m telling you that right now, but my goal is to keep going and doing and building.  If I do that, I will eventually get to where I want to be.  I hope, also, that by sharing my experiences, it will help you think about how you can prepare and then act!  Thought without action will not help you or me very much if we find ourselves in an emergency situation.

 

Without further ado, here’s a summary of my efforts to build my food storage in March.  Remember!  All of this came from my regular grocery budget (click here to see how I do it).  I did not use money from any other budget category.

 

Food and Water

 

Filled three old soda bottles with water after washing and sanitizing them.  I now have 7 2-liter bottles of water in addition to my water barrels (you can see them here) and regular bottled water.

Filled three old soda bottles with water after washing and sanitizing them. I now have 7 2-liter bottles of water in addition to my water barrels (you can see them here) and regular bottled water.

 

Last year, the GFCI outlet my chest freezer uses tripped, and I didn't notice for several days.  It was a very sad discovery when my son told me that the meat in the freezer felt warm.  I lost everything!  While a good lesson in not only checking my chest freezer daily (it's in the garage), it also reminded me that I cannot rely on my freezer alone for meat storage.  This month, my local Wal-mart had some great markdowns on meat.  I bought quite a few and feel that my "back-up" meat supply is good.  I used some of what I purchased this month, but this is the excess from March's purchases.  This is helpful, not only because I have some extra food on hand, but also because it allows me to wait until meat is on sale, so I never pay full price.

Last year, the GFCI outlet my chest freezer uses tripped, and I didn’t notice for several days. It was a very sad discovery when my son told me that the meat in the freezer felt warm. I lost everything! While it was a good lesson in checking my chest freezer daily (it’s in the garage), it also reminded me that I cannot rely on my freezer alone for meat storage. This month, my local Wal-mart had some great markdowns on meat. I bought quite a few and feel that my “back-up” meat supply is in good shape. I used some of what I purchased this month, but this is the excess from March’s purchases. This is helpful, not only because I have some extra food on hand, but also because it allows me to wait until meat is on sale, so I never pay full price.

 

I organized two group purchases through one of my favorite food storage companies, Emergency Essentials, one in February and one in March.  Since the February order didn't come until March, I'm counting it as a March prep.  I love these group food storage purchases, because I get an AMAZING price on long term food storage and free shipping.  I let my friends know what the special is and those who are interested order a few and I order a few, so we reach the minimum number of items.  February's special was Organic Freeze-dried Blackberries ($16 for a #10 can).  March's special was Freeze-dried Beef Brisket for $28 (per #10 can).  Freeze-dried foods, when properly stored unopened, can last 30 years and retain their nutritional content.  They are easy to use and are often preferred over dehydrated food as they retain much of their texture.  If you want to organize a group purchase in your area, please visit Emergency Essentials' website.  You can order directly online.  If you desire, you can sign up as a group leader.  It's free with no obligation to buy anything ever!  You receive advance notice for group specials and occasional bonus items with your shipment.  Click here to find out more.

I organized two group purchases through one of my favorite food storage companies, Emergency Essentials, one in February and one in March. Since the February order didn’t come until March, I’m counting it as a March prep. I love these group food storage purchases, because I get an AMAZING price on long term food storage and free shipping. I let my friends know what the special is and those who are interested order a few and I order a few, so we reach the minimum number of items. February’s special was Organic Freeze-dried Blackberries ($16 for a #10 can). March’s special was Freeze-dried Beef Brisket for $28 (per #10 can). (They extended the group special through April, so you can still get it for this great price!) Freeze-dried foods, when properly stored unopened, can last 30 years and retain their nutritional content. They are easy to use and are often preferred over dehydrated food as they retain much of their texture. If you want to organize a group purchase in your area, please visit Emergency Essentials’ website. You can order directly online. If you desire, you can sign up as a group leader. It’s free with no obligation to buy anything ever! You receive advance notice for group specials and occasional bonus items with your group shipment. Click here to find out more.

 

I canned beans for the first time with my pressure canner.  Find the details here.

I canned beans for the first time with my pressure canner. Find the details here.  I ended up with 17 pints and 3 quarts, and they are DELICIOUS!

 

Thrive was having a great sale on their entire inventory last month, so I picked up two cans of dried eggs.  If you've read my blog before, you know how much I love them.  See here and here.

Thrive was having a great sale on their entire inventory last month, so I picked up two cans of dried (powdered) eggs from my friend, Jenny. (She’s sponsoring my next giveaway which starts this week!) If you’ve read my blog before, you know how much I love to use powdered eggs in baking. See here and here.  Think chocolate chip pumpkin bread and cheesecake brownies!  Powdered eggs are a must have in my kitchen as they are shelf stable and make baking easy!

 

Garden

 

I planted two tomato plants.  They're growing and are starting to get flowers already!  Click here to see details.

I planted two tomato plants. They’re growing and are starting to get flowers already! Click here to see details.  Here’s the first one.

 

And the second one.

And the second one.

 

My spaghetti squash is not looking so hot.  I'm going to keep an eye on it and hope it improves.  Any suggestions from my experienced gardener/farmer readers?

My spaghetti squash is not looking so hot. I’m going to keep an eye on it and hope it improves. Any suggestions from my experienced gardener/farmer readers?

 

I planted a zucchini squash plant, and it's doing well.  You can also see my onion greens starting to push through the ground.

I planted a zucchini squash plant, and it’s doing well. You can also see my onion greens starting to push through the ground.

 

My eggplant is doing okay, but the bunnies like it.  I am going to put some metal mesh around it so they don't eat the entire plant.  I planted onions around it as well.

My eggplant is doing okay, but the bunnies like it. I am going to put some metal mesh around it so they don’t eat the entire plant. I planted onions around it as well.

 

 

Surprise Garden Finds!

 

I planted a bare root peach tree last year, and it's bearing fruit already.  Not a ton, but I have almost 30 peaches growing on it.  I can't wait to harvest them!

I planted a bare root peach tree last year, and it’s bearing fruit already. Not a ton, but I have almost 30 peaches growing on it. I can’t wait to harvest them!  I thought I’d have to wait at least another year.

 

My best find was this: a Valencia Orange tree.  I though it was a sickly bush for the past couple of years.  I almost pulled it last year, but I cleaned up the planting bed and fertilized it, hoping to save my "bush."  While I was weeding this month, I discovered a tag on it which said it is a Valencia Orange Tree.  If you look, you can see little oranges forming already.  Yeah!

My best find was this: a Valencia Orange tree. I though it was a sickly bush for the past couple of years. I almost pulled it last year, but I cleaned up the planting bed and fertilized it, hoping to save my “bush.” While I was weeding this month, I discovered a tag on it which said it is a Valencia Orange Tree. If you look, you can see little oranges forming already. Yeah!

 

New Skills

 

I learned to make Yummy Knock-off Auntie Anne's Pretzels.  Click here to watch me.

I learned to make Yummy Knock-off Auntie Anne’s Pretzels. Click here to watch me.

 

 

I made crackers for the second time, and they turned out much better than my first attempt.  This new skill will add variety to our diet now, and especially if I need to live exclusively off of my food storage.  Here's the post with the recipe, if you want to take a look.

I made crackers for the second time, and they turned out much better than my first attempt. This new skill will add variety to our diet now, and especially if I need to live exclusively off of my food storage. Here’s the post with the recipe, if you want to take a look.

 

 

Now it’s your turn!  What did you do in March to help build your food storage or to become more self sufficient?

If you didn’t do anything last month, what will you do this month?  Commit, comment, and come back next month to “report.” 


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What Happened When I Made Up A Recipe? Wheat, Flax, and Chia Bread!

You know how I said that I make my own bread?  Well, I do.  Most of the time.  Last week, it was really crazy, so I picked up some Oroweat at Costco for the boys.  They were quite happy, but did say that they like my bread better for “just eating,” meaning not for sandwiches or toast.  Buying bread for the boys allowed me to freedom to experiment with bread making this week, because I didn’t have to deal with complaints or “the look.”  They have their super, non-nutritious white bread, and I can experiment with super uber healthy whole grain bread.

 

As much as I love bread, I have some dietary restrictions, so I have to seriously limit how much I eat.  There’s a little more flexibility when I eat a true whole grain bread, so I decided to make some this week.  I pulled out my family cookbook (Thank you Erin for assembling this as a Christmas gift a few years ago), and looked at the wheat bread recipes.  They looked good, and I’m sure they were good, as they were my mother’s recipes, but they all made several loaves of bread.  I wasn’t sure if anyone else would eat the wheat bread, and I wanted to start small.

 

Rather than doing the smart thing and simply reducing the amount of ingredients and making less bread, I decided to wing it and completely change my favorite white bread recipe and make it a whole grain bread recipe.  That’s a risky thing to do!  But I am a “wing it” kind of gal.

 

Shall we see how “winging it” turned out this time?

 

Whole Grain Bread with Flax and Chia Seed.

(Adapted from Pound-it-Bread by Joan Miller)

 

1/2 cup raw honey (can use regular honey)

1 tablespoon molasses

2 tablespoons yeast

1/4 cup cream (or half-n-half, milk, evaporated milk, almond milk, etc.)

1 3/4 cup warm, not hot, water

1/4 cup flax seed, ground

1/4 cup chia seed

2 1/2 cups bread flour

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 tablespoon dough enhancer

1/4 cup vital wheat gluten

2 tablespoons salted butter, melted

2 teaspoons salt

 

Dissolve yeast in warm water mixed with some of the honey, and let sit for 5 minutes.  It should begin to “bloom” (see picture below).  Put remaining ingredients in bowl and add yeast when ready.  Mix well until all ingredients are moist and forms a ball.  Dump dough onto a floured surface and cut in half.  Form two lumps of dough.  Let them sit and rest for 15 – 20 minutes.  Pound each dough lump for one minute on a floured surface with a rolling pin.  Form into a loaf and put into a greaseed pan.  Let dough sit in pan and rise until the loaf is 1 inch over the top of the pan.  Place bread in preheated 400 degree F oven and bake for 10 minutes.  Place a piece of foil over the top of the loaves and cook for an additional 15-20 minutes, until done.  Total baking time is 25-30 minutes.

 

Now for the fun part…  The pictures!

 

Ingredients.  Well, most of them.

Ingredients. Well, most of them.  See my little ziplock bag of whole wheat flour?  I used my Nutrimill to grind it*  from white winter wheat about a month ago.  I keep it in my freezer to keep it fresh, and I pull it out whenever I need whole wheat flour.

 

Can't forget these babies!

Can’t forget these babies!

 

Or these!

Or these!

 

Or these...

Or these…  Chia seed and ground flax seed

 

I ground 1/4 cup of flax seed in a coffee grinder.  It measured a little over 1/4 cup after I ground it, but I put the entire amount in the dough.

I ground 1/4 cup of flax seed in a coffee grinder. It measured a little over 1/4 cup after I ground it, but I put the entire amount in the dough.

 

Now, we can begin!!

 

Start with the yeast.  Dissolve it into the water mixed with some of the honey.  When the yeast has "bloomed," it will look like this.  When it does, it's ready!

Start with the yeast. Dissolve it into the water mixed with some of the honey. When the yeast has “bloomed,” it will look like this. When it does, it’s ready!

 

Now, add everything to your mixing bowl.  I use a Kitchen-aid.  You can use a Bosch or whatever mixer you have, or you can mix it by hand.

Next, add everything to your mixing bowl. I use a Kitchen-aid. You can use a Bosch or whatever mixer you have, or you can mix it by hand.  This is a heavy dough, so make sure your mixer can handle dough before you begin.

 

Mixing.  I think it needs a little more flour (as I initially only put in 2 cups of bread flour), so I added 1/2 cup of bread flour.

Mixing.  This needed a little more flour (as I initially only put in 2 cups of bread flour), so I added an additional 1/2 cup of bread flour (making 2 1/2 cups total as listed in the recipe).

 

And it turned out like this.  This dough is not as wet as my white bread recipe.

And it turned out like this. This dough is not as wet as my white bread recipe.

 

Dumped it on a floured countertop.

Dumped it on a floured counter top.

 

 

Cut it in half and let it sit for a little over 15 minutes.

Cut it in half and let it sit for a little over 15 minutes.

 

Here is the same dough 15 minutes later.  See?  It's beginning to rise.

Here is the same dough 15 minutes later. See? It’s beginning to rise.

 

I pounded it out.

I pounded it out.

 

Then I shaped it into a loaf, but as you can see, it's not very pretty.  Is it?  I should have just rolled up the dough to form the loaf, but I shaped it the way I do with a wetter dough.  Next time, I'll roll it for a prettier loaf.

Then I shaped it into a loaf, but as you can see, it’s not very pretty. Is it? I should have just rolled up the dough to form the loaf, but I shaped it the way I do with a wetter dough. Next time, I’ll roll it for a prettier loaf.

 

Here's the other one.   Better, but not beautiful.

Here’s the other one. Better, but not beautiful.

 

I let them rise for close to 40 minutes.  They look better now, but, still, they're not pretty.

I let them rise for close to 40 minutes. They look better now, but, still, they’re not pretty.

 

Here they are 10 minutes into baking.  I put foil on top to keep the loaves from getting too brown.

Here they are 10 minutes into baking. I put foil on top to keep the loaves from getting too brown.  And boy!  It’s time to clean my oven!

 

Here they are, fresh out of the oven.

Here they are, fresh out of the oven.

 

Not bad, but not the prettiest bread I've ever made.  Of course, taste is king, so let's see how it turned out.

Not bad, but not the prettiest bread I’ve ever made. Of course, taste is king, so let’s see how it turned out.

 

The texture of the bread was really nice, but it is a tad bit too sweet (even for me and I like a sweeter bread).  I forgot to account for the fact that honey is twice as sweet as sugar.  I adjusted for it's water content, but not the sweetness.

The texture of the bread was really nice, but it is a tad bit too sweet (even for me and I like a sweeter bread). I forgot to account for the fact that honey is twice as sweet as sugar. I adjusted for it’s water content, but not the sweetness.

 

Overall, a decent bread.  Not my favorite, but definitely edible.  I’ll continue to tweak this recipe and let you know what I come up with.  I will most definitely be reducing the amount of honey.

 

If you’re interested in the nutritional content, here’s what “My Net Diary” told me.  Each slice has 150 calories, 4 grams of fat, 23 grams of carbs (with 4 of those from fiber), and 6 grams of protein.

 

What do you think? 

Do you have a favorite whole grain bread recipe?  I’d love it if you’d share it with me!

 

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