Sunday, January 27, 2008

Pizza, anyone?

Following are some pizza variations that work great. I always just use my usual pasta sauce for my pizza sauce (except on Mexi-pizza.) Cheeses can be frozen...fill bags with enough for one meal and take out to thaw the night before. Sauces and other toppings can be from jars and cans, and of course, you can add fresh toppings.

Easy Pizza Dough (I don't even use my mixer for this...I just do it by hand!)

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine the following
1 c. hot water
1/2 T. instant yeast
1 T. sugar
1/2 t. salt
3 T. oil

Stir until yeast is dissolved. Add enough flour to make a dough that is fairly stiff but not too dry (add just enough flour to keep from sticking to hands and bowl). Roll out on pizza pan. (I actually just use baking dishes sprayed with vegetable spray, or sometimes will make calzones or individual pizzas with it.) (I like to make a dough with white and wheat flour (all wheat is usually a bit too heavy, although it works). I will also sometimes add a few tablespoons of ground flax seeds or other ground grains or seeds for nutrition and flavor.)

Top with sauce, cheese and toppings. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

(I have made a veggie pizza with mozzarrella, broccoli, spinach, zucchini, etc. (I have used frozen veggies, thawed with water squeezed out), sprinkled with some of Johnny's garlic seasoning. Fantastic!)

On large flour tortilla, spread a thin layer of sauce. Add cheese and other favorite pizza toppings. Cover with another tortilla and microwave until cheese is melted. Cut into triangles or quarters to serve.

Bagel Pizzas
Top bagel halves with sauce, cheese and toppings. Bake at 350 on cookie sheet until cheese is melted and bubbly. (Can do in toaster oven as well.)

On a flour tortilla, layer refried beans, salsa, cheddar cheese, and any of the following: cooked shredded chicken, olives, fresh tomatoes, avocado, cooked shredded or ground beef…your favorite Mexican ingredients. Top with another tortilla, and fry on both sides. Drain on a paper towel, and serve hot. My sister calls this Mexi Pizza. Serve with sour cream, guacamole…whatever strikes your fancy.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Using Canned Meats

I'm a fan of canned meats. I hate dealing with raw meat, and I love the ease and convenience and portion control of using canned meats. I use them in so many recipes. Here, I share some of those ideas (there will be some overlap with other posts).

  • Barbecue beef/chicken (I just store bbq sauce as part of my storage)
  • Chicken sandwiches, hot and cold
  • Chicken enchiladas (chicken, cream of chicken soup, sour cream/plain yogurt/cream cheese, green chiles, cheese, in tortillas and baked)
  • Soups
  • Chicken pot pie (I'll post a recipe later)
  • Foil dinners (beef, carrots, potatoes (canned or fresh), sprinkled with dried onion and beef bullion granules or onion soup mix, sealed in foil, baked in baking dishes in the oven)
  • Chicken casseroles of many varieties
  • Mexican foods (haystacks, burritos, tacos, etc.)

My Favorite Food Storage Soup Ideas

My family doesn't eat a lot of soup because my kids don't like it, but I like to make them once in a while (and I love them!) Here are some of my favorites:

  • Cook peeled, diced potatoes (approximately 1-2 medium potatoes per person) in chicken broth (just enough broth to cover potatoes). (I have used canned potatoes for this and also frozen shredded hash browns, both of which work well.) (Broth can be made with water and chicken bouillon…no more than 1 t. bouillon per 1 cup water, or you can used canned broth.) Smash potatoes a little. Add 1 can evaporated milk and salt and pepper to taste. Add about 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese and stir until melted. Serve with grated cheese. YUM! Optional ingredients: Add cooked broccoli, chopped carrots, ham, peas, chili, bacon….
  • Cream of vegetable soup: Cut up carrots (or use dehydrated or other carrots), boil in chicken bullion until tender. Add spinach and broccoli (I use frozen unless I have fresh on hand), bring to a boil and simmer until broccoli reaches desired tenderness. Add can of evaporate milk. Salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with cheese, if desired.
  • Taco soup: Cans of any or all of the following: chili, red beans, kidney beans, black beans, canned corn (I often use frozen), tomatoes, tomato paste or sauce or soup. Add water and taco seasoning to desired consistency and flavor. Serve with chips, cheese, sour cream and other toppings.
  • Black bean soup: Combine black beans, corn and salsa. Bring to boil and simmer. Serve hot with cheese, sour cream, etc.
  • Quick beef stew – Combine 1 can ready-to-eat vegetable beef soup (better if you don't used condensed, but that does work, too) with a mixture of about 1-2 T. flour with 1 cup milk (or however you like to thicken gravy). Heat through and simmer until the gravy thickens. Add milk as necessary to get to desired thickness.
  • Easy clam chowder: Drain 2 cans clams into pan. Cook 1-2 cans potatoes (cut pieces to bite-sized) and ~1/2 t. celery salt in clam juice with dried onion until tender. (You can substitute fresh for any of these items....celery instead of salt, fresh potatoes and onions.) In another pan, make a white sauce; add to other mixture. Add milk to reach desired consistency. Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Beef and barley soup: Boil barley and carrots until tender in beef bullion; add beef and heat and serve.

Fun Breakfast Foods (for breakfast or dinner)

  • Scrambled eggs
  • Scrambled eggs with cheese, bacon, broccoli, spinach....
  • Scrambled eggs, Mexican style: Scramble eggs and add salsa, green and/or red peppers, cheese, olives, onions....
  • Any of the above served in tortillas
  • Hoffle-poffle (don't ask me where that name came from!) -- Fry hash browns (Southern style works well for this, as do the frozen hash browns with peppers and onions), mix with scrambled eggs, top with cheese, bacon bits or ham, etc.
  • Pancakes or Waffles with different fruit toppings (just thaw some frozen fruit and you are set). Great with yogurt, ice cream, or whipped cream/topping.
  • Campbelled Eggs: This is an all-time family favorite at our house…really dresses up the usual scrambled eggs. Simply combine 1 can cream of chicken soup with 6-8 eggs in a blender. Blend until smooth. Pour into a preheated, greased fry pan and cook as you would scrambled eggs. Serve with muffins, or over toast, or with cinnamon rolls (even the refrigerator dough ones go well with these!) You may never want regular eggs again!
  • Omelets are always a good, healthy meal, especially if you use veggies like broccoli or peppers. Of course, ham is always good, and you can’t forget the cheese.
  • English muffins or bagels with a fried egg (yolk broken while cooking so it cooks solid), ham and cheese…a homemade McMuffin!
  • Add a fruit smoothie to any of the above...a fantastic way to use powdered or canned milk, frozen fruit, yogurt, etc.

Cooking with Rice

Rice is, of course, a very flexible staple. I use it as the foundation for both Mexican and Chinese dishes, as well as a few other meals.

  • Mexican Haystacks: layer rice with any or all of the following: lettuce, chili, meat, beans, refried beans, cheese, sour cream, olives, salsa, tomatoes, green onions, cooked corn .... any of your favorite toppings. Crumble chips on the top or eat like a dip.
  • Combine instant rice (however many servings you want), water needed for rice (less any liquid from tomatoes, if you decide to use them), tomatoes, canned corn (drained) (or thawed frozen corn), kidney/black/red beans (drained and rinsed), olives, taco seasoning. Cover and simmer until rice is tender. Add cheddar cheese and stir until melted. Serve as a casserole, over chips, or as a filling for tortillas. If you don't use instant rice, cook rice first and add other ingredients to rice.
  • Fajitas -- I use fresh or frozen peppers (frozen blends sometimes come seasoned; if not, I love lemon pepper, and you can buy Mexican seasoning packets/envelopes), stir fry them with meats (or not) and serve with rice and the fixin's (cheese, sour cream, ...any of your favorite Mexican toppings)
  • Fried rice: Scramble eggs with soy sauce in 2 T. oil. Add cooked rice and more soy sauce as desired. Add any meat or veggies and heat.
  • I love buying frozen veggie packages that have oriental vegetables in them, with or without seasoning. (They are cheaper without.) I buy envelopes of different oriental seasonings and put them with the veggies and serve over rice. I will sometimes add meat as well. (So, you could make beef and broccoli, sweet and sour chicken/beef, chow mein, etc.)
  • Cashew chicken – In a saucepan, combine 1-2 cans cream of chicken soup, 1-2 cups chicken broth (or milk or a can of condensed milk), 1-2 cups chicken, 1-2 cups mixed vegetables (thawed) and 1-2 cups cashews. Bring to a near boil, then reduce heat and simmer about 10-15 minutes. Serve over rice.
Other meal ideas that use rice:
  • Hawaiian Haystacks: Layer cooked rice, hot cream of chicken soup, cooked chicken, pineapple, peas, onions, dry chinese noodles, cheddar cheese, raisins, tomatoes, mandarine oranges…may sound a little weird if you haven’t tried before, but they are SO good!
  • Chicken casserole: To cooked rice, add cream of chicken soup, canned broth, cooked chicken, and your favorite frozen veggies (or you can serve them on the side). Top with cheese, if desired. (This can all be done in one pan on the stove.) Or make sauce separately and put over rice.
  • Beef and rice: To cooked rice, add cream of mushroom soup, ground beef or beef chunks, sour cream or cream cheese if desired, and veggies (carrots or peas and carrots would be good). Or make sauce separately and put over rice.
  • Tuna casserole: To cooked rice, add 2 cans drained tuna, a can of cream of mushroom or chicken soup (and milk to get desired consistency). Add or top with your favorite cheese. (Or make the sauce separate and put over rice with cheese and other toppings as options.)
  • Various homemade soups can use rice as well (chicken and rice, veggie and rice, beef and rice).
What are your favorite rice recipes?

Cooking with Pasta

Following are some different ways that I like to prepare pasta:

  • Our favorite pasta sauces are the usual jarred red sauce, pesto sauce (I buy seasoning envelopes on sale, puree with spinach and/or broccoli), and alfredo sauce (again, I get these in envelope mixes for really cheap). Sometimes we will have a pasta bar to choose and mix sauces. Yum.
  • Angel Hair with olive oil, basil, oregano and parmesan cheese. Also good tossed with veggies or tomatoes.
  • Lasagna casserole in a pan: To 16 oz. cooked pasta, add a jar of your favorite tomato-based pasta sauce, mixed with 16 oz. cottage cheese and about 1-2 cups mozzarella (lasagna in a pan!). If you don’t have cottage cheese, then just mozzarella works well, as does cheddar, or any of the above with some parmesan. Spinach and/or chicken (or ground beef, of course) add a nice touch to this combination. Broccoli would be good, too.
  • Pasta with a white sauce and veggies and parmesan cheese.
  • Quick homemade mac-n-cheese (one of my kids' favorites!)– simply cook a pound or so of pasta, and slowly stir in a can of evaporated milk and a cup or two of cheddar cheese. (You can also make a white sauce, but this is SO much easier, and still tastes good!) Be sure to stir until the sauce thickens. To this, you can add ham, veggies (peas are really good)…you could even get creative and make a chili mac casserole or some other Mexican creation….
  • Pasta with browned butter (real butter, not margarine) and shredded parmesan (not the canned kind)…a Spaghetti Factory wanna-be meal that tastes SO good!)
  • Tuna casserole – SO easy…just add 1-2 cans tuna and 1 can cream of chicken or mushroom to a pound of pasta. I sometimes toss in a handful or two of mozzarella, and/or some parmesan (cheddar would work, too). There’s no need to cook in the oven, unless you want a crust on the top (bread crumbs with butter and/or parmesan would make nice toppings).
  • Easy lasagna – Spray 9X13 with vegetable spray. Put a thin layer of pasta sauce on the bottom of your pan, then layer as usual (noodles (they make no-cook lasagna noodles now, but you can use regular ones and just cook longer), sauce, cottage and/or ricotta cheese (not necessary...I rarely have this on hand, so I rarely use it), mozzarella…and you can add meat or spinach or broccoli to the sauce). The trick with this recipe is that you use UNCOOKED noodles, and then add about 1 to 1½ cups water for every 8 oz. of lasagna noodles. I usually use the jar for the pasta sauce, and do about a half jar full of water (experiment with this). Cover with foil and bake at 350º-375º (less than an hour for no-cook noodles, one hour to an hour and half for the others). Just keep your eye on it…I’ve added more water sometimes and at other times, I’ve taken the foil off to let some of the water evaporate if it seems a little soupy. My husband loves this recipe! (If you don’t want to use commercial sauce, I’ve never found a lasagna sauce I like better than this one: 6 oz. tomato paste, 2½ cups tomatoes, 1 t. salt, ½ t. pepper, ¼ t. oregano, 2 t. sugar. You can add a pound of ground beef that has been cooked with garlic cloves, if desired. Cook and simmer 20 minutes. You can double or triple this recipe and freeze it for future use!)
  • Stroganoff: cooked ground beef (I get it in a can from the cannery), 1 can cream of mushroom soup, and 1 c. sour cream (or cream cheese, or plain yogurt) simmered together and served over egg noodles.

My Cooking Categories

I usually categorize my cooking in the following way:

Pastas (Italian+)
Breakfast meals (We usually don't have eggs, etc. for breakfast but rather for dinner)
Everything else

Other posts will share general recipe ideas in these categories as well as some specific recipes.

A Sample One-week Meal Plan

Following is an example of what one woman did for her one-week plan that could then be expanded to be a simple one-month or three--month supply. She has decided not to use her freezer as part of her storage; I tend to think that for a three-month supply, it would be unlikely that we wouldn't have our freezers to use. You make the call for yourself. :)

Remember that we have been counseled not to go to extremes or go into debt, so as you make your plan, be sure to buy what you can afford; you can start by adding one or two extra things every time you shop until you eventually build up a surplus of all of your basics.

Monday: Whole wheat pancakes and syrup; cocoa
Tuesday: Cold cereal; cocoa
Wednesday: Oatmeal or cracked wheat (I like cracked wheat and the kids like oatmeal); cocoa
Thursday: Whole wheat pancakes and syrup; cocoa
Friday: Cold cereal; cocoa
Saturday: Oatmeal or cracked wheat; cocoa
Sunday: Muffins and juice
(She uses cocoa to be able to use powdered milk; I would add juices or something else for variety.)

Monday: Macaroni and cheese; raisins
Tuesday: Peanut butter and jam sandwiches
Wednesday: Tuna sandwiches
Thursday: Tomato soup; breadsticks
Friday: Sloppy joe calzones
Saturday: Tuna Helper (with broccoli added)
Sunday: Beef stew; biscuits and jam

Monday: Chili; cornbread and jam; peaches
Tuesday: Lasagna Hamburger Helper; green beans; applesauce
Wednesday: Beef Stroganoff Hamburger Helper; mandarin oranges; peas; and Jello
Thursday: Sheperd's Pie; pears
Friday: Chicken Helper; pineapple tidbits; cake
Saturday: Clam chowder; muffins
Sunday: Spaghetti; corn; fruit cocktail

My Food Storage Shopping List

I have a list of things that I like to keep on hand for the foods that we eat on a regular basis. I have lots of different options, and decided to include them all for the sake of brainstorming.

My three-month supply for cooking includes the following:

Breakfast foods:
  • Oats and oat grouts
  • Cold cereal (I try to buy only on sale, and our goal is to eat less for cost's sake)
  • Baking ingredients (for quick breads, raised breads, waffles and pancakes, etc.)
  • Eggs (I hear they can be frozen...still have yet to experiment with that; I expect that would work better for baking) - but they still keep for weeks in the fridge
  • Pancake mix
  • Cocoa mix
  • Nuts (for granola, protein kick for the morning, smoothies)
  • Frozen hash browns
  • Bacon bits (I freeze them)
  • Shredded cheeses (freeze well)
  • Cream cheese (keeps for months in the fridge)
  • Yogurt cultures (I have a yogurt maker)
  • Peanut butter, jams and other bread spreads
  • Frozen, dried and canned fruits
  • Bottles of juices and/or frozen juice concentrates
  • Nuts
Ingredients for Lunch and Dinner Foods:
  • Rice (for a shorter-term supply, you can store brown as well as white rice)
  • Pasta (shaped pastas, spaghetti, lasagna)
  • Other grains for nutrition and variety (I'm experimenting with quinoa right now)
  • Lunch meats (I buy in bulk and then wrap and freeze individual slices to help them last longer, and for convenience and food safety for school lunches)
  • Bread spreads (see above)
  • Tuna
  • Mayo, mustard, catsup
  • Tortillas (my goal is to get myself making these from scratch)
  • Canned beans (I like kidney and black) (I sometimes will use pureed white beans in baking or sauces to hide fiber and nutrition in our meals and treats)
  • Dehydrated (or canned) refried beans (cannery refried beans are awesome!)
  • Pasta sauces (jars and mixes -- our favorite mixes are pesto and alfredo envelopes)
  • Canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, tomato soup (I've started using the latter in place of sauce or paste in recipes)
  • Canned pineapple and mandarin oranges
  • Frozen (and sometimes dried) veggies (all sorts)
  • Canned evaporated milk
  • Cream soups (I use cream of chicken the most)
  • Cheese (I like to buy shredded cheese in bulk and freeze in smaller bags) -- mozzarella and cheddar or cheddar/jack
  • Cream cheese (stores for months in fridge)
  • Canned meats (frozen works, too, but I prefer the ease and small portions of the cans) -- Cannery meats are great
  • Ingredients to make bread (flour, wheat, yeast, oil, salt, sugar, powdered milk)
  • Boxed mixes (e.g., mac-n-cheese, Rice-a-Roni and Pasta Roni)
  • Packaged flavorings/seasonings (Italian, Mexican, Chinese...these add so much variety to my basics!) -- these in addition to my basic spices that I get in bulk (taco seasoning, garlic seasoning (my favorite is Johnny's from Costco), cinnamon)
  • Other spices (curry, pumpkin pie spice, Italian seasoning, etc.)
  • Canned soups/soup mixes
  • Bullion and/or canned broths
  • Dried minced onion
  • Green chiles
  • BBQ sauce

Getting Started

I was excited when I heard about the modified approach to food storage. Even though we are still encouraged to have a year's supply of basic foods that can keep us alive (wheat, beans, etc.), we can begin with a shorter-term supply of things we eat. The goal is to have that supply be for three months, but we can start with a week, then build to a month, and then get to three months.

So, if you are just getting started, for the next couple of weeks, record what you make and what ingredients you use that could be stored on the shelf or in the freezer. You could easily have a one-week supply if you buy those ingredients. To keep things simple, you could easily translate that into a one-month or three-month supply by multiplying ingredient amounts by 4 or 12.

The majority of the posts here will be used to share what I make and store (adding a few ideas from friends as well), with the intent to help you get your own brain juices going. Of course, our tastes will not all be the same, but maybe something here will help you think of something your family would like.