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.

Vegetable quantity converter

Where has this been all my life?? If you’ve ever wondered “how many tomatoes are in a quart of chopped tomatoes?” or “how many peppers do I need to to get three cups of chopped peppers?” this site can help:

http://www.howmuchisin.com/produce_converters/

There’s also a chart from the Old Farmer’s Almanac, which also includes pound conversions: http://www.almanac.com/content/measuring-vegetables-recipes

Yay!

MOOC musings

So…if I were to teach a free online course about procuring and preparing locally-sourced foods, open to the entire world (so you’d also get to see what local food looks like in London and Delhi and Caracas), would you be interested in taking the class? It would be as much about community as the particular skills taught, and together we’d create a vast repository of local food sources, recipes, and tips.

This month’s menu

For the next 4 weeks

Week 1

• Sushi

• Salmon burgers and salad

• Out? Prep for Thurs. dinner with colleagues

• Pork loin, pasta, grilled veg

• Pizza

• Pot roast

Week 2

• Sushi

• Fried rice

• Roast chicken

• BBQ chicken, slaw, buns or cornbread

• Pizza

• Salsa fry-up

Week 3

• Sushi

• Soup and/or salad

• Beef and broccoli

• Sausage and grilled veg

• Pizza

• Chicken korma

Week 4

• Sushi

• Pasta cilantro pesto – chicken & veg

• Salmon burgers or grilled beast

• Veggie stir fry or fried rice

• Pizza

• Fajitas

Boiling water on a Hearthstone stove

20130203-191443.jpg

Usually, I can’t get water to actually boil on the stove – but I found if I stoke the fire and get a full load of wood crackling, I can actually get a full, rolling boil on the soapstone stove.

Fwiw, I’ve also found that a lot of the cooking I do doesn’t actually need boiling temps.

First Fen Snow

firstFenSnow by espring4224
firstFenSnow, a photo by espring4224 on Flickr.

This morning was the first snow we’ve seen in the new house!

Winter sunrise over the lake

Winter sunrise over the lake

Winter sunrise over the lake

What’s not working…yet

So, this passive solar home had a lot of features that were good in theory but need some changes in practice. The rock pile is the main one.

Theory: The rock pile is supposed to gather solar heat during the day and vent it into the living room (via floor vents) at night. There are also huge cold air returns to keep the air circulating. There are vents or louvers from the collector to the rock pile, and louvers on the hot ducts (but not the cold air ducts), again, to direct the flow of air.

Reality: There are several issues.

  1. All ducts blow air all the time. This is especially bad on windy days. Even the cold air “returns” have air blowing out of them into the living room. This is not so bad in the summer – sort of a natural fan, if a bit humid – but in the winter, it’s awful. Video of vent blowing air
  2. The rock pile doesn’t ever get warmer than about 65-70 degrees in the cold weather. It was about 80-85 in the summer – but you don’t want it hot then, of course. This may be because the louvers from the collector to the rocks are stuck in the “closed” position – we can’t tell until we open up the collector, and that’s not happening this year. So, we’re stuck with a 65 degree breeze, which doesn’t feel warm at all – it just feels drafty.
  3. The louvers on the hot air ducts don’t fill the entire duct space. So, if the duct coming off the rock pile is 48″ wide, the louver mechanism might only be 40″ wide, leaving a huge gap with no way to control the flow of air.
  4. There’s a large (1″) gap between the concrete slab and the wood floors. Meaning the cold air can circulate under the floor at will.
  5. Snakes really like the rock pile. And also our living room.

The workaround: For the moment, we are wedging rigid foam insulation into all the ducts to seal off the rock pile from the rest of the house, and we’ll probably spray some foam in the gaps between the ducts and the floor. Next summer, we will probably take the solar collectors apart (they need to be re-glazed desperately) and we’ll see what we can see while we’re down there. We might be able to get it functioning better, but I suspect this is one of those “better in theory than reality” items.

Fortunately, the solarium (“sunroom,” “greenhouse”) works incredibly well, building up heat during the day and releasing it to the house. For first-floor heating, we just open the French doors wide. The vents to the upstairs need some work (we need to be able to seal them tightly and open them easily), but if it’s sunny and at least 40, we don’t need any additional heat in the house during the day. If it hits 50 and is sunny during the day, we can actually go several days and nights without supplemental heat, even if it’s in the mid-20s overnight.

Not worth preserving?

Some foods store better than others. What foods do you think are so awful in any preserved form that you’ll only eat them fresh?

Selling a bunch of stuff on Craigslist

All in great shape – just getting ruthless with emptying the closets.

Give the gift of fine pre-owned goods!

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