Thursday, February 28, 2013

Kid Conversation

I just love listening to The Frog and Peach do pretend play.  They are so creative and I especially love their dialogues.

overheard while The Frog plays alone:
[manly sounding voice] "Meet me at the town square.  Wait, no!  Town rectangle!"

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Emergency Preparedness Month- Broccoli Cheese Soup with Powdered Milk

Here's a great way to use some of your milk powder. My non-soup-loving husband likes this (and so do we all!) It's surprisingly very hearty and super fast! I like to serve it with my French Bread.

5 ½ + ½ c water 
6 chicken bouillon cubes
2- 16 oz packages frozen cut broccoli (this is the only way I am willing to eat frozen boccoli... fresh also works just great and is usually my preference.)1 small onion, coarsely chopped OR 2 T dried onion1 t bottled minced garlic (or press maybe 3 cloves)1 ½ c Instant Nonfat Dry Milk powder OR 3/4 c non-instant milk powder¼ c all-purpose flour (wheat is also fine)1 c (4 oz) shredded cheddar cheese (I probably use twice that)

Heat 5½ c water and bouillon in a large pot to boiling.  Add broccoli, onion and garlic. Return to a boil.  Reduce heat to low; cover.  Cook for 5-7 minutes, or until broccoli is tender.
Use immersion blender to blend to desired consistency
Remove from heat; cool slightly.  Transfer half soup to blender or food processor (in batches if necessary) and blend to desired consistency. Return to saucepan
Combine dry milk, 
½ c water and flour in med bowl;  mix well, stir into soup.  Season with salt and pepper, if desired.  Heat through.  Add cheese and stir over low until melted.  Can sprinkle with additional cheese if desired.
Combine dry milk, ½ c water and flour in med bowl;  mix well, stir into soup.  Season with salt and pepper, if desired.  Heat through.  Add cheese and stir over low until melted.  Can sprinkle with additional cheese if desired.

salt and pepper (optional)

Sorry no pic!  I haven't made this since being off dairy...  But it's green.  Might be fun for St. Patrick's Day!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Kid Conversation

The Frog was blasting through the kitchen, in his typical energetic fashion, fairly early- before his 2 sisters were awake, while I started breakfast.  He often sort-of beat boxes some music/a-verging-on-heavy-metal-rhythm while he plays, and this morning seemed to be particularly loud (although I tend to be overly paranoid about my kids being awoken prematurely...)

me: [Frog]!  Can you, please, be quiet?  I'm worried you might wake up your sisters...
The Frog: Mom!  I can't be quiet!  This is my theme song!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Emergency Preparedness Month- Delicious Dinner Rolls with Powdered Milk and Eggs

So, I can't believe with how many times I've made these amazing rolls, I have never taken a photo!!  (And I haven't made them since I've been off dairy, and don't plan too.  That would be pure torture!)  So I had to use the one from the original source- Our Best Bites.  If you haven't checked out this food blog, you should.  Everything I have made from there has been good!

Anyway, I have adjusted their amazing recipe so that I can use food storage and they didn't seem any different, AT ALL.  Also, since we're using powdered milk, we don't have to heat it up, so it saves time as well!  Also, I just use instant yeast, so I also don't proof the yeast.  (Cue laughter from Jay, "so you say you used their recipe, eh?"  Alright, so I made a few changes...)  So, here goes:

1/3 c butter, melted (OR 1/3 c pureed beans- preferably light colored ones.  However, there is a detected difference when you swap out the butter, as you might imagine.  They are a bit denser and have little flecks, but they were still good.)
1/2 c sugar
2 t kosher salt
8-9 c all-purpose flour  (I have not tried subbing any wheat yet.  I'm sure it will affect them, and I'm not ready... I definitely would not sub more than half the flour for wheat if you want to keep them light.)
3 T dehydrated egg powder (or whatever your can says to use to get 3 eggs)
6 T non-instant milk powder (or 3/4 c instant milk powder or whatever your can says to use to get 2 c milk)
2 3/4 c warm water (should feel warm to your hand, but not so hot you get burned)
1 1/2 T instant yeast
Melt butter in microwave.  Add sugar and salt until dissolved.

(or, if you're using bean puree, just add the sugar and salt to the dry ingredients in the next step, and add the beans after those are combined.)

Start with 3 c flour in your mixer, add egg powder and milk powder and mix until combined.

Mix in butter/sugar/salt mixture until thoroughly mixed in, about 30 seconds on low.  Now pour in water and sprinkle yeast on top.

Now mix everything on low 30 seconds and then high for a couple of minutes.

Now add flour, 1 cup at a time, until you get a soft dough that begins pulling away from the sides.  (I put my KitchenAid mixer at a 2)  The dough will still be rather sticky.  Don't worry!

Put the bowl in a warm place, covered with a towel, and let rise for an hour, or until doubled in size.

Punch down the dough and divide into 2 balls.  Roll out one ball onto a well-floured surface into a square and use a pizza-cutter to cut into 12 equal rectangles.  (Good luck with this part.  Mine are never really that even... I sometimes have to steal bits from large rectangles and squish them in with smaller ones).

Form the rectangles into balls by tucking the corners under continuously until you have a nicely formed ball.  Place them onto a jelly-roll pan sprayed with Pam or preferably with a Silpat.  (If you don't own one of these and like to bake, you should!)  I put my balls on the sheet in a 4x6 grid, giving you 24 rolls, after repeating the process with the other ball of dough.  (Note:  I tend to put my larger balls on the outside and my smaller ones on the inside.  Not sure if it makes a difference, but it's a nice idea, right?)

Cover again, and let rise again 30 minutes.  Preheat your oven to 375 when they've risen 15 or 20 minutes (depending on how long it takes your oven to preheat).  Now bake these beauties for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Your mouth will be watering well before they come out.  They will make your house smell wonderful!

Eat hot with butter.  (obviously!)

Do it.  You can thank me later!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Emergency Preparedness Month- Pancakes, 2 ways

Now that you know the basics about powdered milk, eggs, and whole wheat flour I want to share some recipes we use regularly.

This is the pancake recipe I make about every other day:
(adapted for food storage use from Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook)

In a large (mine is 6 c, you could use 4 c) liquid measuring cup whisk together:
1 3/4 c whole wheat flour*
3 T buttermilk powder**
2 T white sugar
1 T egg powder
2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt

In another 2 c liquid measuring cup combine:
1 1/2 c water
3 T vegetable/canola oil

now, pour the liquids into the dry ingredients and whisk until there are no more dry patches, but it can still be lumpy.  Then finish as you would cook an regular old pancakes- pour on a griddle/in a pan into nice round circles or fun shapes, and flip when the edges start looking dry and the bottom is nicely browned.  (If you want to add banana slices or blueberries, I always just place them in while waiting for the first side to brown).  Serve with butter and pure maple syrup.  (or pancake syrup, if you must...)

*I grind the wheat from my food storage into flour- I actually prefer the Hard Turkey Red for this.  I prefer the taste of whole wheat, but all-purpose is actually what the original recipe calls for
**You can also use dry milk powder and just add 1 T lemon juice or vinegar to the liquid ingredients.

This is a recipe from Everyday Food Storage (you are all going to think she's paying me for all this free advertisement, but no.  I wish!) that looked sooo awesome, I just had to try it!  You use whole wheat berries in it, and blend them after a soak, so you never have to use a wheat grinder, if you happen to not own one yet.

Blender Pancakes from unground wheat berries!

Since I'm off dairy right now, I used coconut milk instead of regular (or milk powder).  I think there might be a typo in the recipe- it say's to use 1 1/2 t salt, which is WAY more than my regular recipe uses with similar quantities of everything else.  So I put in only 1 t salt, and Jay and I still thought they were too salty.  Perhaps she meant to put 1/2 t?  They do have a different texture, not as fluffy as my regular ones, but I liked it- almost like it had cream of wheat in it.
Jay thought it was weird but said he could get used to it, but the kids ate theirs no problem, so I guess you'll just have to try it!
I decided to try making them the next morning, but using my recipe above, except with 1 c red wheat berries blended into 1 1/4 c milk (I used almond milk this time, just to try it).
Blend 1 c dry wheat berries (I used red) into 1 1/4c water until smooth (a couple of minutes) (may as well add the oil here too...)
Add rest of dry ingredients from above (from buttermilk powder to salt) and blend to combine.

I think they turned out much better!  Not too salty.  Much more fluffy.  I think I may up the milk to 1 1/2 c, though, because they were quite dense.  The kids only ate half as much as usual because they were full.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Emergency Preparedness Month- Powdered Milk

A great link at Everyday Food Storage that talks about the different kinds: Instant, Non-Instant, and Milk Alternate.  Here's a link to an awesome conversion chart she made as well.

The Summary:
Instant milk powder is just non-Instant with air whipped into it, meaning you have to use twice as much volume (same weight) of it to get the same amount of milk.  To me, this means store the non-instant, so it doesn't take up as much space.  (Even if it does mean non-instant takes more mixing to get it to dissolve.) Non-instant is usually cheaper as well.

Milk alternate isn't really milk.  It's not as nutritious.  I, unfortunately, didn't realize some companies sell something that is not really milk and so I bought a few #10 cans when it was on sale, not reading the label closely.  boo.  So I'm stuck trying to use it up, but at least now I'm wiser for it.

Powdered milk will last 20 years in storage and is most often found in fat free varieties.

Powdered Milk is Great for:
  Thickening homemade yogurt (and I've heard you can make yogurt with it.  I mean to try)
  Rolls  (recipe soon.  sooooo good!)
  Really anything baked that calls for milk! (muffins, cakes, breads, etc)
  White sauces- Everyday Food Storage even has something called Magic Mix, that I haven't tried yet, because you have to store it in your fridge, (it contains butter) but it makes white sauces quick and easy.
  Creamy Soups- I've got at least one recipe to share.
  Making your own pre-made mixes: muffins, cornbread, pancakes, cake, etc.
  Make your own sweetened condensed milk (I haven't tried this yet)
  Make your own evaporated milk- don't you hate it when the recipe doesn't use a full can?  Well, now you can make the amount you need!
  Make your own buttermilk for a recipe.*
  Protein supplement in a smoothie or shake!

I know a lot of people drink this straight up, but that's a bit much for me.  I probably wouldn't even put in on cereal, unless it was an emergency, because I'm snobby like that.  I would have tried it, just to let you know my thoughts, but since I'm off dairy now, (for baby Hazel) my recent experimentation will be limited.

Where can you get it?
  If you live in Utah, a lot of local grocery stores, like Macey's, carries a lot of Emergency Preparedness items.  The cheapest place (works out to $1.46 per gallon of milk), however, is an LDS Cannery (they only sell the non-instant), but they, unfortunately, don't sell powdered milk online because you have to go and put it in cans yourself, and they're not as convenient to get to if you live, say, back East.  You can find a location nearest you here.

So for the rest of you:
Shelf Reliance (They only have instant.  Works out to $5.70/gallon of milk)
Emergency Essentials (They only have instant. Works out to about $4/gallon of milk)
even (Many to choose from.  There is one brand of non-instant but it's PRICEY- about $10/gallon of milk! Yikes!)

Are you sick of this yet?

*note: I have powdered buttermilk that I use regularly too, but I may stop storing it to take up less space, since you can make it with the powdered milk.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Emergency Preparedness Month- Powdered Eggs

Say what? Powdered eggs?  Gross!

That's what I said...  BUT, imagine being unable to buy food and having no eggs at all!  Powdered eggs would certainly be better than none, so I figured it might be a good idea to learn how to use them.  (BTW: The brand I've been experimenting with is Morning Moo's, whole eggs- I'm sure they were on sale and Macey's when I got them to try.) Here's what I've found

The cheapest brand appears to be Thrive at about $1.18 per dozen eggs (for a #10 can).  They happen to be having a sale right now too!  (Not sure how much shipping is...)

Dehydrated eggs are great because they last 5-10 years packaged in a can, they take up less space than a comparable number of eggs, you never have to worry about fishing out egg shells in your food or getting salmonella if they're undercooked.  (bring on the raw cookie dough!)

Note: I have not tried the dried egg whites, and so have no comments about being able to whip it into merengue, which I'm curious about, though I have read online that it works!  Anyone else tried that?

Great used for:
Pretty much any baked goods:
-dinner rolls (I have a reeeeallly good one to share)
-cakes (from scratch or boxed ones)
-making your own pre-made mixes (for cakes, cornbread, pancakes, etc)
My family and I can't tell any difference, at all- the one exception being when I made these black bean brownies, subbing in powdered eggs, they didn't stay together as well as usual.

I haven't tried yet, but I have read online that they can be used to thicken puddings, make mayonaise, and even eggnog!

Meh used for:
French Toast-  Honestly, it wasn't bad.  It tasted exactly the same (probably because I always use lots of cinnamon) but it did soak into the bread more (since they don't have the same slimey texture fresh eggs have) and so it was slightly mushier.  However, if I was eating like that in an emergency, I would not complain one little bit.

Scrambled eggs-  I was scared.  But I did it! I made and ate scrambled eggs using the dehydrated egg powder.  I was really surprised... they actually looked like scrambled eggs!  The texture was very similar, but not quite as rubbery.  They didn't taste exactly the same, but it wasn't bad, exactly.  BUT I normally cook scrambled eggs with a little milk and lots of cheese, and I just cooked these straight up with a little salt and pepper.  (So I could taste them "pure" and because I'm off dairy right now for Hazel.)  I probably won't make them for breakfast for the family outside of an emergency, but I could see myself sneaking in one powdered egg for several regular ones and getting away with it.  After tasting the scrambled eggs plain, I put them in a tortilla with salsa and green onion (mmm, avocado would have been great) and it tasted just like a regular breakfast burrito!  Obviously, cheese and sour cream would be great too.

Don't use for:
 Browning egg wash- it's not terrible, and the bread/pie will still brown, but it gives it a bit of a funny taste, and I'm going for invisibility here...

Where do I get them?
I just bought my Morning Moo's eggs at Macey's (our local grocery store) but I can't find those online anywhere.  I have found these online sources, though (not sure about shipping costs): right now on sale for $21.39 for 216 eggs (best deal) - $21.95 for 94 eggs - $21.15  for 71 eggs.  (+ 4.99 shipping for <$50 merch.)

I have no idea why they are all sold in a #10 can, yet they have a different number of eggs.  I do know that some brands have 1 T = 1 egg, and some brands have 2 T = 1 egg, so maybe some brands whip air into the powder to help it dissolve better (as is with instant vs. non instant powdered milk)

A cool note about storing fresh eggs:
So fresh eggs, straight from the hen, don't need to be refrigerated.  Did you know that?  The only reason we much refrigerated is because they are thoroughly washed before we get them, removing the protective coating that allows them to spoil.  If you coat your eggs in mineral oil, they will last quite a long time outside your fridge.  I haven't tried it personally, but my neighbor does it all the time.  I'm not sure how long they last... an experiment for another time. :)

Once I blog about the staples, I plan to share some recipes I've made with powdered eggs.

Are you sold?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Emergency Preparedness Month- Cracked Wheat

The blender wheat pancakes inspired me to try and find other ways to eat unground wheat.  Here's what I ended up trying.

So, Everyday Food Storage has a little video about cracking your own wheat in your blender.  She also has a recipe for a jello salad (yuck!) with cracked wheat, but I really wanted to try just eating it for breakfast plain as I would eat cereal- with fruit and/or yogurt etc.  Here's a picture of what my wheat looked like after I cracked it.  Who knows if that's what it should look like... I felt like if I did this long enough, I might even get some flour out of the deal, because there was definitely a lot of powder clouding my view inside and floating out the top when I peaked in.  I decided to strain that away before cooking.

I'll be the first to admit, I'm terribly impatient and I loath tedious activities (which is why I hate making cut out cookies...) so I'm pretty sure the cracked wheat in the blender thing is not going to be a regular occurrence around here.  If I could set my blender to pulse it automatically for a set time, while I did other stuff, I definitely would.  OR if I could get my kids to do it.  But it took way too long for me.  I'm not sure how long it took, but it felt like forever.  I would probably pulse for a minute at a time and then look at it and wonder if anything had even happened yet, and then keep going.  Repeat 7ish times?  Perhaps I had too much in my blender?  I used about 1/3 of a cup.

Which is another thing-  if I'm going to do something tedious, it would have to be for big results, and 1/3 cup is not big enough for me.

Despite this, I cracked a full cup of wheat (in 3 batches) and cooked them in two different ways.
what my cracked wheat looks like.  not very uniform...
#1- The microwave method:
I put 1/3 cup in a 4 c pyrex measuring cup with 2/3 c water and microwaved for
6 minutes.  Still liquid.
2 more minutes.  Very slight liquid and still very very chewy.
2 more minutes.  No liquid and it was all getting hard and stuck together.  Yikes!  I added another 1/3 c and put it back in for
2 minutes.  still liquid. still chewy
1 more minute.  The liquid looked adequately gone and though chewy, it wasn't bad.
I gave some to Peach and she said it was yummy.  (but she's quite forgiving to my cooking.)
I added about 1 T of honey and stirred it up and gave some to Jay (with a scrunched look on his face) who decided he could eat that for breakfast and The Frog said it was gross before I even got it past his lips.

The verdict?  5 minutes of pulsing in a blender + 13 minutes in the microwave is on the verge of not fast enough for this mamma.  I could easily have pancakes ready in that time, so it probably won't happen around these parts much.

Way #2: rice cooker method
I put 2/3 c cracked wheat in the rice cooker with 1 1/3 c water.  I didn't watch it closely, but they were done when I checked on it about 30 minutes later.
cracked wheat from the rice cooker looked fluffier than the microwaved counter-part
I made several bowls with different toppings to try them different ways- banana and coconut milk, raisins and honey and (coconut) milk, maple syrup, agave, and (coconut) yogurt.  I think my favorite was the raisins and honey- the texture of the dried fruit just blended in very nicely.

The verdict?  I think I'm more likely to do it in the rice cooker, where I feel more comfortable leaving it unattended.  I could get it started and then go take a shower.  However, I would consider another method of cracking them, or even buying them cracked.  I do like the texture and it makes a nice alternative to oatmeal, but the blender cracking is just too tedious for me.

California Cousins in Town!

Since my parents are moving from the home I grew up in, my brother's family decided to come for one last trip over President's Day weekend, and play in the snow and take it in before it's gone.  It was so good to see them!
Showing off her California surfing skills while The Frog sits behind

cousin A, looking like a mini blue marshmallow

Uncle John and Peach

Uncle Mat- the mastermind behind the snow fort.

Grandpa pulls the sleds behind his tractor for the last time ever. *sob*

Grandma even gave it a shot!!

The snow fort! (The Frog, Jay and cousin S are inside playing)

Needed a Hazel & grandma shot. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Emergency Preparedness Month- Whole Wheat

Did you know that wheat berries, when stored under the right conditions, can easily last up to 30 years without going bad? (and this may be a Mormon wives-tale, but I have heard that some wheat was found in the tomb of King Tut and it was still able to sprout!  Don't know if it's true, but it's kind of believable, right?)

This is one of the reasons why it is such a staple for emergency preparedness.  If you're intimidated by it, you can always store it and never use it.  OR, hopefully, you won't feel the pressure to use it all up in a couple of years.  You have plenty of time to rotate it.

I grew up with a mom who subbed and snuck home-ground whole wheat into everything, so for me it feels quite natural.  And actually, I grew up with whole wheat pancakes and to me, white pancakes are not nearly as good.  They must have syrup to have any flavor and they turn into paste in your mouth.  GROSS.  I love pancakes, but rarely get them at a restaurant because white ones are far inferior to their whole wheat counterpart.  (and much less nutritious besides!)

Anyway, most things, wheat works as a fine substitute but there are always slight changes.  First, I'm going to link to two Everyday Food Storage links on whole wheat.  The second gives you some guidelines for knowing when it works best in baked goods.

Now, I'm going to tell you a bit of what I've learned.

The two main kinds you can buy are Hard Turkey Red, and White Whole Wheat- a newer invention.  The fact that it is genetically engineered, makes me a bit twitchy, but it does work so much better as a white flour substitute that I use it anyway.

Rather than having to store two different kinds of wheat flour for different things, I always grind half Turkey Red, and half White Wheat, every time I grind.  (I just dump both kinds of berries in the grinder at once.)  You get the most nutrition from your wheat flour if it is freshly ground, because the nutrients begin to deteriorate from the moment it is ground, but you can slow the process by storing the flour in your fridge or freezer.  (and this is another reason why it's better to grind your own wheat, rather than buying whole wheat flour at the store.)  However, I don't give up precious fridge space to something like that.  Rather, I just keep a small-ish container in my cabinet so that I must grind every week. (usually Saturday mornings, in time for pancakes :D)  I find having a mix of half red and half white gives me the nice flavor of the red, with the versatility and lightness of the white.  Honestly, though, I still prefer my pancakes made with all Turkey Red ground wheat.

Wheat flour can be easily substituted (particularly white wheat) in pretty much everything- especially if it's a recipe with more brown sugar than white (or you can just substitute brown for white).  The main difference is your baked goods will not be as white (duh) and will have a slightly stronger wheaty flavor.  Also, if you use it to make a roux, it will give your white sauce a bit of speckliness, which may turn people off.  You're call.  It's totally fine for flouring chicken, though.  No difference, whatsoever.

With yeast breads, you must be the most careful- the wheat flour is much heavier and will change the texture quite a bit.  Usually you don't need as much liquid if you use wheat flour.  People will often add gluten or dough enhancer to help out.  I find you can usually get away with subbing about half the flour for a yeast bread, and even less for dinner rolls.  Your best bet, though, is to just follow a wheat bread recipe.

Here is the recipe I grew up with.  Its fantastic fresh out of the oven with butter or jam, but as a kid, I always loathed when my mom made sandwiches with it.  It dries out pretty easily, and the crust gets really hard. (Though, I've since realized that's probably because my mom never wrapped it in anything.)

Here is the Everyday Food Storage Recipe I've been meaning to try, but I haven't yet been able to get my hands on some potato flakes.  It's especially great because she has included videos, for someone who has really never made bread before.  It can give you that extra boost of confidence.  She also shows you how you can "trick" people into thinking it's not whole wheat by not letting it brown (and therefore keeping it a lighter color)

Here is my French bread recipe- I usually do 1/3 wheat when I'm giving it away, but I'll do 1/2 wheat for my family.  This one is particularly good if you don't own a mixer.

I'm going to try out cracked wheat next week and report back on it.

Where do you get wheat?  
Well, I can get the big 45 lb buckets at Costco, but probably ones outside Utah won't carry it.  I can even get it at the Macey's grocery stores- in 45 lb buckets or 50 lb bags.  However, the rest of you can buy it online.  The cheapest place to get it, already packaged for long-term use being the LDS cannery online store.

How do you turn it into flour?
Wheat grinders:
  I use the Blendtec Kitchen Mill on recommendation from my mom, that I actually bought directly from them, since they are a company based in Orem, UT.  You can also buy one online or at a Bosch store.  I've never used any other one and don't go around talking about wheat grinders with all my friends (despite how it may look here :D) so I don't really know much about any other one.  But this one has worked great for us!

I also just got a hand wheat grinder, in case of emergency and no electricity. I haven't used it yet, but am committing to try it out next week as well.  I'll tell you how it goes.

Anyone have any favorite whole wheat recipes, tips or tricks?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Emergency Preparedness Month: Getting Started

So.  What should I do first to feel like I can take care of my family, in case of emergency?

1) For me, the first thing I wanted to make sure I had was getting a 96-hour kit put together for everyone.  It's still not totally complete - I need to put together a more complete first aid kit.  Feeling like I can take care of my own kids in an emergency gives me great peace of mind-- especially if we ever had to leave from forest fires or were stranded from flooding or earthquake.  Since we have 3 small children that can't carry their own, I have one large rolling duffle with all of their stuff in it, and a backpack for Jay and one for myself.  Everything is in individualized baggies inside, so when they get old enough to carry their own, I can easily transport it.

I made a google template here, if anyone wants to keep track of what they have in their kit.  I decided it would be less hassle to just get MREs, so that is what we have done to avoid needing to rotate the food every 6 months.  (it just gets so expensive!)
(note: I originally made it for 72 hours, but the the church suggested we now have a 96-hour kit, so I have added extra clothes and an extra day of food to mine.)

2) After that, I wanted to make sure we had enough water.  Scientists have said you can go up to 8 weeks without any food, as long as you have water, however, 8 weeks of water is a LOT of water!!  So, my plan is to have enough water for everyone for at least 2 weeks (14 gallons per person), and then have methods of purification.  We have 2 55 gallon water barrels (don't buy them for more than $50, they always go on sale) full and waiting that we will rotate every April and October, and then I also keep water bottles from Costco that Jay and I just drink regularly, so they get automatically rotated that way.  (We'll use one bottle for a week or two, refilling it from the tap, and then recycle it and get a new one.)
(If you want the awesome storage like we have, you can get the plans here.  Though, my dad realized if it was raised off the ground a bit more, you could more easily fit a bucket under the spigot, so he raised it by attaching some more wood under.  maybe 4 extra inches?  He also put in additional supports, which you can see by the blue-painted wood.  Thanks dad! You did an awesome job!)

Next, what I would do is just every time you need to buy something for dinner, if it is something that lasts a long time (pasta, rice, oats, oil, bouillon, canned goods, condiments, etc.), buy extra- whatever your budget will allow.  This way, you will at least have things on hand that you know you use and you may end up saving yourself a trip to the grocery store in the future!  However, you must stay stocked up.  Every time you use one, be sure to add it to your grocery list, otherwise it will be depleted without your noticing, and you're back to square-one.

Now for building up to a year's supply...

How do you know how much to store?
I like this food storage calculator because it's just a spreadsheet and you can adjust the number of adults, kids, and months you want to save up for.  I would start saving for 1 month.  Once you have that, work on saving for 2, etc.  However, if wheat ever goes on sale, I would just buy extra to stock up. is free to sign up and you can actually keep track of what you have and tell it when you use something or buy something and it will tell you what percentage you have.  It's pretty too.

Just so you don't all feel like I'm perfect- we don't have a year supply.  Not even close.

a glimpse of my awesome storage room

notice the wheat buckets on bottom, and the water bottles we cycle through

Only you will know what would work for your family.

How do I rotate through it so it doesn't go bad?
  The trick is to only store things you would actually eat, which means you need to incorporate it into your cooking!  I'm going to talk more about using wheat and powdered milk and eggs in your cooking, but other things like pasta, rice, oatmeal and beans, you probably already use regularly.  So just buy the types of pasta, rice, etc. you like!  Everyday Food Storage and  Food Storage Made Easy also has lots of recipes.

Also, if you are like me and need a plan, I decided to make a one week menu- breakfast, lunch and dinner- and calculate how much food I would need for each thing on there.  Then you can multiply that by 5 for one month storage, 27 for 6 months, or 52 for a whole year.  Then if you just eat one of those meals every week, you can rotate through the things you have.

My hope is to eventually get a 2 week list of recipes, because if you know me, I enjoy variety in my food.

This isn't pretty, and it's all in the works, but you can see what I've done so far here.  When I'm done, I'd like to make a template so other people can actually use it.

I'd love any food-storage menu item ideas!

Are you overwhelmed yet?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!

The Frog comes up behind me while I'm perusing Valentine lunch ideas (mostly sandwiches cut out to look like hearts.)
The Frog:  "Mom, when it's a special day, we should have heart pancakes."
me: "okay!"
The Frog: "the kind of heart that's in your body.  A big splot."
me: "okay?"
The Frog:  "But only for a special day."

I at the last second, thought of a way to make our french toast look like hearts by cutting the French Bread on a diagonal and then flipping the other half upside-down.
Valentine French Toast
 This is the first year of the Valentine-for-classmates obligation and this is what I convinced The Frog to do.

 I got the free printable here.
 We had our Family Home Evening Lesson on Love at Home.  We wrote things we love about each family member and these our the extent of our Valentine's decor.
I actually made these red velvet cupcakes for a Chinese New Year celebration we went to (because they're the lucky color- red!) but they feel valentine'sy and they've lasted all the way until today...
 I love it when the kids have loving moments like this :D
 Nothing like bonding over a bag of Doritos on my white, kitchen rug (that I had to wash after this adventure.  Orange hand prints?  Adorable, but not cute on my rug.)
 I spent the afternoon on these for my visiting teaching families.
 And our traditional Valentine's dessert is Jay's favorite- Créme Brûlée.  However, I made myself a special non-dairy one using coconut creme (the solid part from a can of coconut milk) instead of heavy whipping cream.
It was actually pretty good!  It looked exactly like the richer version and MUCH fewer calories.  Though, still didn't have the je ne sais quoi.  (créme brûlée makes me Frenchy, apparently)

I'll for sure be making the regular kind for myself next year.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Food Fun

I've noticed that with kids, they appreciate small spices of fun among the every day.  I'm trying to find ways to add that, but ways that don't require more than 30 seconds of extra love (because I'm too lazy and I don't like messes...)  I've realized that we all have to eat.  Several times a day.  So giving my kids their food arranged more "fun" makes a big difference to them, and takes almost no extra effort from me.  Some things I do:

My kids (me too!!) love pancakes.  They eat them almost every day.  Some fun things we do with them:
smiley face pancakes.  pour the smiley face, let them cook a bit, then pour the circle on top.

Letter pancakes.  Make sure you pour them backwards so they end up looking correct on the 2nd side.

Pour mini pancakes (especially the "baby" ones from drips) and give them a little stack.

And I've discovered two triangles of a sandwich can make lots of pictures
butterfly: the body is a mini bell pepper from Costco with the top (seeds and stem) cut off.  carrot antennae.

Sailboat with blueberry "water" and carrot "seagull".
and wraps are arguably the most obvious:
ok, i admit it.  i let my kids eat fruitsnacks... but I feel better about it if it looks like hair :)

Anyone else do something easy, but fun?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Emergency Preparedness Month: Dairy-Free No-Bake Cookies


Little Hazel has had a goopy eye since birth and lately, that has been so extreme that she would wake up in the morning with one eye completely sealed shut with mucus.  :(  I asked about the eye at both her 2 week and 2 month appointments, but the doc just said it was a clogged tear duct- very common in newborns and it should sort itself out.  So, I didn't worry too much about it, though it did make me feel bad for her having to deal with me wiping out her eye every 20 minutes, or so, when she was awake. 

Right after her 2 month appointment (and her immunizations) she became really congested, which I thought was maybe a product of that, but then it kept coming back, and sometimes it would wake her up because she can't breath! (and eating is tricky too!)  

Also, when it's time to sleep- so after having eaten about an hour ago, she would start having a very high pitched cry, and become very squirmy, like she was uncomfortable.  Usually she is gassy, but sometimes she finally falls asleep out of exhaustion, and then would wake up crying 30 minutes later.

I was reading "Happiest Baby on the Block" (because I really liked "Happiest Toddler on the Block") hoping it would give me some tips on how to get her to sleep better.  Turns out, it was a pretty good book (most of the things in it I figured out by trial and error, but had I read it before The Frog, my life would have been MUCH easier..) and he casually mentioned that the number one food sensitivity in infants is dairy and it can make them congested.  It occurred to me that I had been experimenting with cheesey pasta dishes for the past week and we had one almost every night.

The same week with middle-of-the-night booger extractions.
The same week with extra fussiness.
SO, I decided to try going off dairy for a few days, just to see if I noticed anything.
HOLY COW!!  After less than 48 hours, she woke up with NO congestion!!  AND, bonus! NO goop in her eye, AT ALL.  I couldn't believe it!  Not really a clogged duct!

So.  I'm dairy free for a few months and that might put a bit of a damper on my Emergency Preparedness week- I had all kinds of powdered milk experiments I was planning to try out and blog about, but I won't be able to taste them myself if I do so.

The first few days were pretty hard because I had all these cheesy leftovers in the fridge I was planning to eat the next few days and I couldn't go out and buy anything because it's not just that simple anymore.  Timing is everything lately, and I just go to the grocery store if the stars align that morning.  (Or I'll go at night when Jay is home.)  

On Monday night, it hit me when we had family home evening and I couldn't have the treat that ALL normal, delicious, baked goods have dairy in them!!! (except oatmeal raisin cookies, which I will never choose over chocolate chip...)  And suddenly, I had an intense craving for something sweet and chewy and delicious!
However, the kids were just in bed and I had things to do.  I didn't want to spend too much time on this, so I started looking for no bake peanutbutter cookie recipes.  ALL had butter and milk in them.
I started getting desperate.  So I went out to my pantry, grabbed the last can of coconut milk I had, and double checked the Crisco ingredients label and substituted my heart out.  
I couldn't believe it, but they were actually really good!  (and I even took out half the sugar because the amount was so appalling.  I can't even imagine them being any good if they were sweeter.)  AND, it just occurred to me that they can be made using all food storage items :)

I'm including the original recipe and my version in parentheses:

2 cups sugar  (I did 1 cup)
1/4 cup margarine  (I did crisco, and next time I'll try coconut oil or buttery soy spread)
1/2 cup milk (I did coconut water- take a can of coconut milk, unshaken, poke 2 holds in the botton, and drain out the watery part. Serendipitously, It ended up being exactly 1/2 c!  I will save the solids and try subbing for butter in something else later.)
1 cup peanut butter (I used chunky)
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups rolled oats (old fashioned)
In lg saucepan, mix sugar, margarine (crisco), and milk (coconut water); bring to a full, rolling boil over med heat. (full, rolling boil = large bubbles rising to surface that can't be stirred down).
Boil for one minute, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter and vanilla, stirring until peanut butter is melted; stir in oats.
Working quickly, drop by spoonfuls onto waxed paper.

They really do have a nice chewiness about them.

(recipe originally from

Monday, February 11, 2013

Kid Conversation

Though I admit I didn't see what happened, Peach was crying and The Frog was running away...

me: Frog, the fact that you're running away tells me that you did something you know you shouldn't have.  I'd like you to come back and apologize to Peach.
The Frog: But I didn't do anything!
me: Then why did you run away?
The Frog:  Because I like running! It's good for your body.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Kid Conversation

The setting is irrelevant.  I just want to remember that it has been said:

The Frog: Actually, dad, mom's right.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Future Ballerinas?

I installed a mini ballet barre in my laundry room some time ago, and so the kids know about ballet and that I like to do ballet.  I don't have any pictures of them, but awhile ago I walked in the room and they were both standing on one leg and pulling their mouths wide with their pointer fingers (as is typical for Peach).  
Jay: Guess what they're doing.
Me: No clue.
Jay: Ballet.

hm.  I hope I don't look like that...

Anyway, the home I grew up in is now under contract to be sold to someone and they are planning to move as soon as the buyer sells their home.  As a result, my mom has been big-time cleaning out the house and making me take all my old stuff :)  I just received a garbage bag full of these:
 my old pointe shoes that used to be hanging up over my closet.  Not knowing what to do with them, I thought I'd at least take pictures before I chuck them.
 I, of course, couldn't stand it, and had to try a pair on:
 For some reason, it was surprising that they still fit, even though they are all mine...
Of course, this whole activity sparked questions from the kids, and I had to show them what they're for.  So, they wanted in on the action:
 Peach quickly decided they were not for her (which is surprising because she's always traipsing around the house in other people's shoes),
 but The Frog wanted to try them out...
maybe we have a future ballerino on our hands?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Kid Conversation

Hazel had just spit up on me with The Frog nearby-
me: (to Hazel) Are you trying to slime me, Hazel?
The Frog: She's trying to turn you into a burp monster.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Emergency Preparedness Month!

I was looking at my calendar, and apparently (probably last September when I was doing crazy nesting things) I decided February would be Emergency Preparedness month!

ok.  let's do it!

So, I thought I'd share some of the emergency preparedness things I learned during my nesting episode last fall.

# 1:  I found an awesome site the helps you learn about emergency preparedness and also tons of recipes to help you rotate through it.  Turns out, if you bake with powdered milk/buttermilk and powdered eggs, you actually save money!  I'm not the type to drink powdered milk or eat powdered eggs as scrambled eggs for breakfast, but I've done quite a bit of experimenting the last few months and in most cases for baked goods, and even some cooked foods, you cannot tell when you substitute powdered milk for regular, etc.

So, if you are at all interested in storing extra food to be prepared in case of emergency/disaster/job loss or you would like to save money and time cooking for your family, you should totally check out Everyday Food Storage.

#2: I also found this cool "meal in a jar" idea from Chef Tess Bakeresse that I haven't explored at all yet, but have been meaning to.  Check it out!  I can see it being a great way to throw dinner on the table super fast, when you don't have anything planned.

anyone else know of any other great sources?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Kid Conversation

Peach came running to me in tears
Peach: The Frog clawed me (sob)
Me: (picking her up and sensing a learning opportunity) How did that make you feel?
Peach: Sad.
Me:  So, what can we learn from this?
Peach: Cry.

not exactly the lesson I had in mind...

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Kid Conversation

I was at Lowe's with Peach and The Frog and despite losing sight of The Frog many times while shopping, we all managed to end up at the check-out line together.  Being distracted by trying to decide if another line would move faster, I suddenly realized I didn't know where The Frog was.  I assumed he was probably looking at something nearby, but when he didn't show up after the transaction was  complete, I started getting nervous.  I started walking up and down the main aisle, looking down each one, trying to find him.  Nowhere!  By this time I'm convinced he's been kidnapped and I was trying to figure out how to break the news to Jay when a thought occurred to me to check the car.  Turns out, he was playing on the flat-bed carts people had abandoned in between the two sets of doors leading to the outside.

Me: The Frog!!!  You scared the heck out of me!!!
The Frog: (laughing) I scared the hiccups out of you?

When I got home from Lowe's, I proceeded to make use of the screws we just bought, and had the drill and bits and lots of other tools out.

Peach: I like these drill bits.
Me: (sensing she wanted to take them all out) Please just look at them, ok?
Peach: I wish I could get drill bits like these when I'm a mommy...
Me: (not giving in to the cuteness) You do, huh?
Peach: These drill bits are my favorite color...

now you see what I'm up against!!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Train Smuggler

Hazel was lying on the ground while Peach played with trains.  I was off quickly doing something-or-other and thought nothing of it.

At Hazel's nap time, wrapped her as always and she was having quite a hard time falling asleep.  Eventually, though, sleep won over.  Sadly, she woke up only 30 minutes later... it had taken her long enough to fall asleep, that I figured I could feed her again and so I unwrapped her and took her to the changing table.  While carrying her unwrapped, I felt something hard on Hazel's stomach!  Her little outfit has a cute (but unnecessary) double-handed pocket on the front (like a pull-over hoody might have) and when I reached inside, I pulled out a train.

I still feel bad about making her fall asleep with that lumpy train in her pocket.