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

Apple Compote

Apple CompoteIt’s another great feral apple year! I improvised this dish two years ago when the tree branches were literally breaking under the weight of the apples and pears and I was able to glean literally all the fruit I could eat. This stuff tastes amazing on its own, and it makes a super-quick apple pie or cobbler – just dump a jar into a crust (or put crumble topping on it) and bake until the crust is done.

Measurements are approximate – use any combinations, substitutions, or omissions, though I recommend keeping the pears to no more than 1/3 the volume of fruit so it retains some “bite.”

  • 4 parts apples, chopped in 1″ cubes (peels on or off). Some combination of sweet/tart/firm/juicy is a good idea.
  • 1 part pears, chopped in 1″ cubes (peels on or off)
  • A handful of chopped crystallized ginger
  • A handful of dried cherries
  • Dried cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and/or a hint of cloves
  • Sugar and/or lemon juice to taste – depending on your fruit, it might not need any at all, or you might need a couple tablespoons per quart of fruit

Heat all ingredients until it’s juicy and the apples are cooked through.

An important word about canning this recipe:

This recipe has not been tested for safe canning. Similar apple recipes have notable differences: applesauce is much more fluid, and apple pie filling has a very liquid syrup. That’s important, because in addition to the acidity of a food, the way it moves around in the jar (i.e., water activity) has important ramifications for its safety in a water bath.

That being said, I do can this in pints (20 min in water bath). I feel comfortable with this because a) all the ingredients are high-acid (well, maybe not the ginger, but it’s preserved already by the sugar, and it’s swimming in acid ingredients) and b) it’s not that much thicker than a super-chunky applesauce. HOWEVER – can this at your own risk.  You can freeze this recipe with no worries at all.

Winter storage slaw and old country BBQ pork

So I’m inordinately pleased with how tonight’s dinner came out.

Pork and slaw

Totally unphotogenic but immensely tasty bbq pork and tangy slaw

First, the slaw.

Since I wasn’t teaching a workshop every weekend during this canning season, I actually felt like getting creative with my own canning. For the first time, I tried making some relishes instead of just doing straight tomatoes and salsa. I found that three recipes with a lot of overlap that I could make essentially at the same time: Corn relish (with cabbage instead of celery), beet relish, and Dixie relish (cabbage and peppers). All these came from the Ball Blue Book. I made fractional batches of each, and in a surprisingly short time, I had four pints and two half-pints of relishes. They are tasty, but WOW. Very, very heavy on the vinegar. My sweetie loves them as-is, but I can only eat a few mouthfuls before my tongue goes numb and my stomach is rebelling at the acid.

Relish recipes

Fractional recipes for three relishes to be prepared at once

So my brainstorm was to shred several cups of cabbage and some carrots and mix about a cup of slaw into maybe 4 cups of shredded vegetables. Add a little salt, stir, and let sit…and let me tell you, it’s the best sweet/sour slaw I’ve ever had. This one was made with the corn relish, which is less sweet and more zippy because of the mustard and turmeric. The Dixie relish will be more sweet and sour. The beet one has horseradish, and will be an entirely different kind of flavor, but I think it’ll work well.

I love so many things about this dish. First, it’s made from all local ingredients (hm, except the vinegar, though theoretically this area could produce scads of cider vinegar). Second, it’s a storage food, because cabbages and carrots can keep all winter, and the “interesting” ingredients are canned and will keep indefinitely.  And after a winter of plain cabbage and carrots, that hit of vinegar and spice is a real tastebud wake-up.  Third, I like sweet and sour slaw, but it’s usually too sweet. This is not. And it doesn’t come in a plastic tub, so it comes out way ahead of store-bought. We’d had the idea to make our own slaw many times, but somehow that feels like a lot of fuss on a week night. Shredding cabbage and stirring in half a jar of stuff is not.

With the slaw, we had some really good bbq pork. On the old Irish holidays, we like to stick to foods our ancestors would have used before they had access to spices and foods from the western hemisphere and Spice Islands, so this bbq has no tomatoes, peppers, sugar, molasses, ginger, cinnamon, etc. – but it still came out really well, and really “like barbecue.” It reminds me of the barbecue my grandmother (raised in Tennessee) made, only with far less vinegar.

Old World BBQ Pork

  • 3 lb pork shoulder, whole
  • 2 onions, quartered and sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (not sure when the Celts got garlic, but I know they had local alliums like leeks, so…pretty close)
  • 1/4 c honey
  • 1 apple, in large wedges
  • 12 oz hard cider
  • 12 oz water
  • Salt

Brown the onions and garlic in oil or fat. Sprinkle the pork roast with salt and brown on all sides. Deglaze the pot with cider. Add apples, honey, and water. Either pressure cook for an hour, or bring to a boil and stew for 3-4 hours. The sauce will boil down a lot – don’t let it burn completely away. After cooking, shred the pork, put it back in the sauce, and simmer until thickened.

I finished the sauce with salt to taste, a little mustard powder, and a splash of vinegar. If I hadn’t been serving it with a strong vinegar slaw, I might have used more vinegar, but opted for a more sweet taste to balance.

Serve with cider (sweet or hard), and raise a toast to the ancestors and the spirits of your place with a hit of homemade mead, if you have it.

Slainte!

Make-in-jar beef broth

I like a good bone broth. I think it has more flavor and minerals than broth made with just meat. Making and canning broth takes a lot of time – 2-3 hours to make the stock (or an hour or so in the pressure cooker), then 25-90 minutes to can.

I found myself wondering if you could pressure cook and can stock with bones right in the same jar. I found that it’s safe to can meat with bones, and of course raw-packed meat is safe to can. Stock (with or without meat) only needs to be canned for 25 minutes, though meat (with or without stock) needs to be canned for 90 minutes. I’m still not exactly sure where you draw the line between “meat with stock” and “stock with meat,” but I figure if half the jar (or less) is meat, you’re probably in the “stock-with-meat” range.

So what I decided to try was to put 2 beef short ribs – each a chunk of bone and some meat – into a quart jar, top with boiling water, salt, and seasonings, and can it for 90 minutes. For the “plain” jars, I added a squirt of Bragg’s and half a teaspoon of salt; for the “ginger” ones, I added two thick slices of fresh ginger root, a tablespoon of Bragg’s, and a big clove of garlic.

The result is a scant quart of ok broth and just enough meat to make the soup register as “meat soup” and not “plain broth. The stock is not incredibly rich; I’m used to stock so flavorful that you can add a quart of water to a quart of stock and have two quarts of really tasty soup. This broth can’t really be diluted, and of course there’s a lot less of it. It does taste good, though – so, we’ll see. It’s definitely a lot less work, but I’m not sure it results in enough of the kind of food we want to really be worth the savings.

Soba salmon skillet

Um. Ate this one too fast for a picture.

  • 8 oz. soba noodles or whole-wheat linguini
  • 2-3 scallions, chopped
  • 2-3 heads baby bok choi or similar greens
  • 14 oz can of salmon
  • 2 Tbl soy sauce
  • 1 Tbl vinegar
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • Chili-garlic paste, cayenne, or hot sauce to taste (or omit sesame oil and substitute wasabi to taste)
  • Big handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

Cook the noodles. Meanwhile, flake the salmon (you may want to remove skin and large bones at this stage). Sautee the scallions and greens in a little oil. Add the sauce and salmon. Stir in noodles. Top with cilantro.

Hooray! A new way to eat canned salmon that is fast, non-dairy, and has enough interesting flavors that it’s not super-fishy.

Ginger beef noodle soup

Yahoo! Tonight I concocted a recipe from mostly-local, wintery foods that do not taste like Midwestern Winter Food: and Asian-style ginger beef noodle soup. It was quite simple:

  • A pint of home-canned stew beef with its broth. You could sub any cooked beef in slices or chunks.
  • Carrots
  • Cabbage
  • Mushrooms
  • Fresh ginger
  • Soy sauce/tamari/Bragg’s
  • Rice noodles
  • Fresh scallions (put an onion or two in a flower pot on the window sill for scallions all winter)
  • Chili/garlic paste or hot sauce

Bring to a boil the meat, broth, vegetables, ginger, and soy. Boil about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the rice noodles according to the package directions. Drain noodles and put some in each bowl; cover with the soup. Top with scallions and hot sauce, if desired.

This has me thinking I might can some beef with proportionately more broth and less meat, and put some ginger and soy into the jars before canning.

Food prices at Ann Arbor market skyrocketing!

Having been thinking lately about the lack of summer veggies in my garden, I pondered a few summer recipes and went to the farmers’ market on Saturday to stock up.

Yikes!

The thing that jumped out the most was the price of sweet corn.  I had finally wrapped my brain around corn being $3/doz, and 50 cents an ear for organic…but every stand was selling their corn for 50 cents and ear, usually without any discount for buying a dozen. I’m sorry, but $6 for a dozen ears of corn? Holy cow.  Mike, the farmer at the produce stand around the corner, said his seed corn prices went up 40% last year so I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that much.

On the up side, I found corn was $4/doz at the Dexter market, and only $2/doz at Jenny’s Farm Stand.  So maybe it’s as much a matter of “what the market will bear” as actual increases in prices.

Other shocks: raspberries $7/qt, cabbages $3 each for a small head (usually $2).  Glad I put in a raspberry bed this year, and we have enough raspberry jam to last until next summer.  And given the way this year’s kale crop is going, I might swap out some kale in favor of growing my own cabbage next year. Well, if this year’s crop comes to anything…

Nightshades and quinoa

Um...it tastes better than it looks...

Here’s what I made with my market haul today:

  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 Tbl minced garlic
  • 1 lb ground beef (optional)
  • 3 Japanese eggplant – large cubes
  • 1c breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 summer squash – large cubes
  • 6 tomatoes – large cubes
  • Olive oil, salt, and Italian spices

Sautee the onion, garlic, and beef until brown; set aside. Beat eggs with a fork in a large bowl.  Add the eggplant and coat with egg.  Add breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning, and salt and toss to coat.  Brown this mixture. (If you get any eggy rafts of breadcrumbs, fish them out as a snack for the cook.)  Set eggplant aside.  Brown squash, then add tomatoes.  Simmer until the tomatoes break down and start to thicken.  At this point, you have two choices: cook this until it’s thick, add the beef and eggplant at the end, and serve as-is or as a pasta sauce.  Or, add the beef/onions and eggplant plus 2/3 c of rinsed quinoa and let the tomato juice cook into the quinoa.

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