Big Batch Burrito Bowls (Freezer Meal)

Yields 6 portions

This seems like a lot of prep, but it actually comes together pretty quickly. The secret is that few of the individual parts need to be *cooked* before assembling the bowls in freezer containers…just mixed or lightly heated.

For the rice (cook the rice first; it’s the part that takes the longest and you can do other prep while it cooks):

  • 1 c brown rice
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 c minced cilantro

Cook the rice in your usual way. Allow to cool. Add lime juice, salt, and cilantro to taste. Mix well.

For the beans:

  • 2 cans black beans, mostly drained (leave a little juice to make it saucy)
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 Tbl dehydrated onion

Mix everything together in a bowl. No need to heat.

For the TVP:

  • 1.5 c textured vegetable protein (TVP)
  • 2 c water
  • 1 packet taco seasoning mix

Mix all ingredients together in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cover, remove from heat, and let stand 10 mins or so. Note, if you don’t like TVP, you can omit, or sub more beans, or brown a pound of ground beef, turkey, or pork with the taco seasoning.

For the veggies:

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 med onion, diced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, diced (you can also add hot peppers, if you like)
  • 1 large zucchini, diced
  • 2 c corn kernels (cut from 4-5 cobs of corn, or frozen)
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp salt

Sautee the onion and pepper in the olive oil until the onion starts to go translucent. Add remaining ingredients and cook until crisp-tender (a little undercooked).

To assemble:

Use 3 cup flat containers. Fill each corner with one of the dishes. Put a hefty dollop of salsa in the middle. Cool, seal, and freeze.

 

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Why do I need a root cellar?

I’ve been gardening for about 15 years now. I’ve gardened at home, at a neighbor’s house, at a community garden, in full sun, in half-shade, in the ground, in raised beds, in containers of all sizes, in a small greenhouse, on the windowsill, under lights, and in the weedy strip between two parking lots. I’ve gardened for joy, for science, for security, for reducing my carbon footprint, and for taste. I have explored all kinds of ways of extending the homegrown food season, from  lights to row covers to that greenhouse I mentioned.

And what is the #1 piece of equipment I recommend if you are serious about growing your own food? A cool storage space, like a root cellar.

Why? Root cellars:

  • allow you to eat locally-grown food pretty much all year long
  • are very low-maintenance – much less work than a greenhouse
  • are perfect storage for high-calorie, nutrient-dense crops like root vegetables
  • if you have a bad garden year, you can stock them with food from the market
  • unlike a greenhouse, they let you take the winter off from gardening
  • unlike canning, prepping food for the root cellar takes very little time and energy
  • zero ongoing energy costs for storage

Ways to do cold storage

Cool storage, for winter squash, sweet potatoes, and onions, can be up to 50 degrees, so a cool corner of a basement can work. But true cold storage, for root vegetables, apples, and cabbage, needs to be around 35-40 degrees, but can never freeze. This space will need to be vented to the outdoors (this assumes your winters get down to freezing). Some options include:

  • Large buckets or tubs layering crops between peat moss or wood shavings, stored in an attached garage or unheated breezeway
  • Wall off a corner of the basement that has a window that can be opened/closed as needed
  • Bury a fridge (with a vent installed) in a hillside – see instructions in Anna Hess’s book $10 Root Cellar along with some other DIY ideas!

 

Strawberry Rhubarb Yogurt

Every year we make big batches of strawberry jam and raspberry jam, 95% of which gets used to flavor Scott’s homemade yogurt. Today was strawberry jam day, and as per usual, we were wondering about quantities and comparing relative ease and price of different types of jam. Raspberry takes a lot less work than strawberry because there’s no hulling or slicing, but raspberries cost twice as much per quart (seriously, $8 a quart now!). Blueberry would be a nice compromise, but Scott’s not a huge fan, and he’s the one eating it, so, no.

As it turns out, I had 2 pints of rhubarb compote in the fridge – jars that didn’t seal from a massive batch I did a couple weeks ago. I’d been intending to re-can them today, and I thought…rhubarb yogurt? We immediately dished up some plain yogurt, added a dollop of rhubarb and…you know, not half bad! We then decided to gild the lily and add a couple scoops of strawberries to the rhubarb and – perfection. Added a nice bit of that berry sweetness and brightness – the rhubarb on its own is a fairly subtle flavoring.

Advantages:

  • Rhubarb is incredibly easy to grow, and pests don’t bother it, so it’s basically free.
  • Rhubarb takes a lot less prep than the strawberries.
  • You don’t have to cook it nearly as long since you’re not waiting for pectin alchemy to happen.
  • If you want a rhubarb cobbler or pie, just pop open a jar.
  • It tastes really good!

Strawberry Jam Recipe

For each pint of jam:

  • 4 c. sliced strawberries
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 Tbl. lemon juice

Stir all together in a pot or big frying pan until it’s jammy. Then can it (15 mins water bath).  You can safely do three or even four batches in one big pot (make sure the pot isn’t more than half full because it will boil up at one point).

Rhubarb Sauce Recipe

This is how I make it to eat straight. This is good in a dish as dessert, baked with a crumble topping for cobbler, used instead of applesauce in baked goods or on meat. I also want to try making a BBQ-ish sauce by adding some roasted hot peppers and onions (and maybe a little tomato paste). For each pint of sauce:

  • 1 lb. rhubarb, washed and sliced into 1-inch pieces (about 4 cups sliced)
  • 2 Tbl. maple syrup
  • 1/2 c. sugar (might need more to taste)
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped

Simmer all ingredients until it purees itself. Take the vanilla pod out before canning. Leave extra head space when canning; it expands like applesauce. 15 mins water bath.

Strawberry Rhubarb Yogurt Sauce

For flavoring yogurt, I might try this next year:

For 8 pints:

  • 7 lb. rhubarb, washed and sliced into 1-inch pieces (about 7 quarts)
  • 1 quart strawberries, washed and sliced
  • 8 c. sugar
  • Does it even need lemon juice?

Simmer until saucy. It won’t set like jam, but if you’re stirring it into yogurt (or eating it as cobbler or pie), who cares? Water bath 15 mins in pints.

Instant chicken pot pie

In our house, chicken pot pie is topped with mashed potatoes, not pie crust.

I tried layering this in a jar to get the “mashed potatoes on top” look, but the seasonings all stayed at the bottom and the potatoes had sifted down, anyway, so I ended up stirring it all together. Tasted fine…hits the warm and soothing notes well!

  • 1 c. freeze-dried potato “dices” (and their attendant potato powder)
  • 1/2 c. freeze-dried chicken
  • 1/2 c. freeze-dried green beans
  • 1/4 c. freeze-dried corn
  • 1/4 c. freeze-dried cauliflower
  • 1/4 c. freeze-dried bell pepper
  • 1 Tbl. freeze-dried onion
  • 1 tsp. chicken bouillon granules
  • 1/4 tsp. Mrs. Dash seasoning mix

Rehydrate with 2 c. water.

Nearly Instant Chicken Vegetable Curry

If you use quick-cooking brown rice, you’ll need to simmer this in a pan for 10 mins or more, rather than pouring on boiling water and waiting. I used canned coconut milk (cream), but apparently you can get it in powder form, too. Using that and instant white rice would make this a good camping food candidate.

  • 1c. “instant” brown rice
  • 1/2 c. freeze-dried chicken
  • 1/2 c. freeze-dried cauliflower
  • 1/2 c. freeze-dried green beans
  • 1/4 c. freeze-dried spinach
  • 1/2 c. freeze-dried zucchini
  • 1 tsp. freeze-dried onion
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. curry powder
  • 1/4 c. canned coconut milk

Rehydrate with 2 c. water

I couldn’t stop eating this one, and it’s the only recipe I’ve made that can rescue Auguson Farms freeze-dried chicken – stuff tastes like cardboard in everything else and seems to stick in the throat. This is saucier, spicier, and cooks longer, so it really helps the sub-standard chicken.

Instant Cajun Mashed Potatoes

Ok, so this one was supposed to be sort of a hash made with cubes of potato, but the freeze-dried potatoes were more than half potato dust with a few cubes. So the texture came out like “mashed potatoes with stuff in,” but it was really tasty.

  • 1c. freeze-dried potato dices
  • 1/2 c. freeze-dried sausage crumbles
  • 1/2 c. freeze-dried zucchini
  • 1/4 c. freeze-dried corn
  • 1/4 c. freeze-dried bell pepper
  • 2 tsp. freeze-dried onion
  • 1/2 tsp. Tony Cachere’s Creole Seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder

Rehydrate with 2c. water.

Freeze-dried meal recipes

Our area sees a lot of power outages. Maybe more in another post about longer-term thoughts on dealing with them, but in this post, FOOD! During our last outage, I realized how much it mattered to be able to make a tasty, familiar meal at home. I tried a camping meal I had around, and found it to be heavy on the starch and salt and low on the…food.  Not to mention it’s hard to find many of those without dairy, eggs, or beans. But the convenience of “just add water” was undeniable, so I started experimenting with building my own vacuum-sealed, freeze-dried meals assembled out of components I bought separately. These are basically freeze-dried versions of things we eat at home – though with white rice instead of the brown we’d usually have.

So far, here are the ones that have passed muster. All recipes make a normal dinner-sized serving. That means my husband eats the whole thing in one sitting, and I eat maybe 2/3 for dinner and 1/3 of it before bed. 🙂

Freeze-dried sausage, greens, and rice

Place in a 1-quart vacuum bag (preferably the kind with a zipper), in this order:

  • 1 c. instant white rice
  • 1 Tbl. no-salt “broth powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 Tbl. freeze-dried onion
  • 1/2 c. freeze-dried sausage
  • 1/2 c. freeze-dried spinach

Freeze-dried salsa fry-up

Place in a 1-quart vacuum bag (preferably the kind with a zipper), in this order:

  • 1 c. instant white rice
  • 3/4 tsp. chili powder (the spice mix, not straight cayenne)
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. salt (smoked salt is great!)
  • 1 Tbl. freeze-dried onion
  • 1/2 c. freeze-dried ground beef
  • 1/2 c. freeze-dried corn
  • 1/4 c. freeze-dried spinach
  • 2 Tbl. freeze-dried bell pepper
  • 2 Tbl. freeze-dried tomato

Directions

Flatten ingredients out a bit, then seal with vacuum sealer. Mark on the bag what it is, when you sealed it, and “Add 1.5c water.” When you’re ready to eat it, boil 1.5c water, unseal the bag, pour in the water, zip it back up, smoosh the ingredients around, and put it someplace that will retain its heat (in a small cooler, in the microwave, wrapped in a towel, etc.). It will rehydrate in maybe 6-8 minutes. You might need to add a bit more water if it’s still looking dry.

Notes

  • At 2017 prices, these cost $6-7 each. About the same as Mountain House, but way less sodium and way more veg.
  • The assembly order was chosen to trap the spices within the other ingredients, or else the whoosh out of the bag when you vacuum seal it.
  • Be sure you are using freeze-dried, not just dehydrated, vegetables. Dehydrated veg really need to be simmered to cook up, and never rehydrate 100%.
  • You could probably sub chicken bouillon granules for the broth powder and salt, but I am not sure how much to use. Maybe 1 tsp?
  • “Instant” brown rice isn’t really instant – it needs to be kept boiling for nearly 10 mins. – so it won’t sub well into these recipes.
  • I think these are pretty flavorful, but YMMV.
  • I’ve been really happy with the quality of ThriveLife products. Their chicken, for example, is WAAAAAY better than Auguson Farms chicken (which tastes like cardboard to me.) Most of their items only have one ingredient – like “Green beans” or “Chicken.” You have to buy online through a local “consultant,” but shopping is easy and you  can get small or large vacuum-sealed cans. Small cans yield about 7 servings.

Sausage and Squash Pastsa

Sausage, butternut squash, and sage go great together. Just add a little pasta, and it’s a meal!

  • 3 c. whole wheat rotini (uncooked) – more if you want a higher-carb meal
  • 1 lb sausage. If you use vegetarian sausage, add some extra oil when you brown it
  • 1 onion, sliced into quarter-moons
  • 4-5 c. butternut squash cut in 3/4″ cubes
  • 1 Tbl. dried sage, or a handful of fresh chopped sage leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbl cream or coconut cream (opt)
  • Parmesan or cashew parm (opt)

Cook the pasta according to package directions.

Crumble and brown the sausage and onions, adding more oil, if needed. When it’s cooked, remove it to a bowl but leave any remaining oil in the pan.

Add the squash cubes to the pan and cook 2-3 minutes until the squash starts to brown.  Pour about 1/3 c. water into the pan, cover, and let cook 6-7 minutes until almost done. There should be a little liquid in the bottom of the pan. Season with sage, salt, and pepper. Add the cream (if using). Leave the lid off for a few minutes to evaporate and thicken the sauce – you’re looking for just a bit of liquid in the bottom of the pan, enough to coat the pasta. Add the sausage and pasta to the pot and toss to coat. Garnish with Parmesan, if desired.

Homemade electrolyte powder

I’ve been finding lately that plain water is not doing it when I’ve been working in the sun or exercising.  I tried half a dozen electrolyte powders out there, and settled on DripDrop as one that seems to do the job and tastes good enough  that I’ll actually drink it (though I use a packet in about 3/4 liter of water, not 1 cup as recommended). Nuun is not too bad, either.

The problem is, this stuff is like drinking dollar bills – $1.25 per serving.

So after a bunch of research and calculations, here’s my homemade equivalent.  It tastes vaguely lemony and feels like its doing its job.  It’s so cheap, I almost can’t calculate the price per serving maybe 5-10 cents?  You may have most of the ingredients in your kitchen already.  If not, home brewing stores are your friend.

Makes enough to enrich 6 liters of water.  Use 1/2 tsp. of this powder in a 12-oz glass of water, or 3/4-1 tsp. in a liter bottle.

  • 2 Tbl sugar (carbohydrates)
  • 3/4 tsp salt (sodium chloride)
  • 1/4 tsp NuSalt (potassium chloride)
  • 1/2 tsp Epsom salts* (magnesium sulfate)
  • 1/2 tsp brewer’s gypsum (calcium sulfate) – optional; available at homebrew store. Bonus: you can use it to make tofu from soy milk.
  • 1 tsp citric acid or Fruit Fresh (available where they sell canning supplies).  This is for flavor and balances the high pH of the gypsum; Fruit Fresh also adds some vitamin C

I haven’t tried it yet, but I was thinking of adding some pulverized freeze-dried fruit for flavor.

Shake everything up in a jar – or better yet, whir it in a perfectly dry blender for a few pulses to distribute everything evenly and to grind some of the larger particles finer.  Store in a jar with a tight lid.  Use 1/2 tsp. per 12 oz glass of water – stir to dissolve well.

Nutritional information:

Homemade

DripDrop

Nuun

Sodium

288mg

305

350

Potassium

110mg

175mg

101mg

Sugar

4g

9g

0g

Magnesium

39mg

40mg

25mg

Calcium

82mg

13mg

Zinc

2mg

Vit C

117mg (if made with FruitFresh)

38mg

I also figured out that if I were out and about, a glass of water with a scant 1/8tsp (just a pinch or two) of salt, a packet of sugar (1tsp), and 2 oz of orange juice gets you the first three nutrients on the list.

* Yes, Epsom salts can have a laxative effect. However, the laxative dose is 2-4 tsp in 1 cup of water; this recipe calls for 1/2 tsp in six LITERS of water. Unless you are unusually sensitive, you should be fine.

Emily’s favorite canning recipes

Canning JarsThis is a compilation of the recipes I most commonly can each year. I mostly wrote them down so I’d have them in a uniform format (Four pounds? Two quarts? Eight tomatoes?), with the modifications I’ve settled on over time, and notes on how much of each raw ingredient to buy to yield the quantity of chopped ingredients to go into each recipe. I also dug through my notes from the last several years and added a note on how much of each item we usually eat in a year, so I can more easily figure out what I need to can each year.

It occurred to me that some of you might also find these interesting or helpful…so here you go!

Emily’s Canning Favorites

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