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Posts Tagged ‘cooking from the pantry’

I don’t watch a lot of news.  It is too depressing and this time of year I’m way too busy.  But even as someone who doesn’t watch the news I know about the newest flu scare as well as the economic woes our country is facing.   As I was out planting beans in the garden I was mulling over thoughts as to the plight of my family and of my loved ones if there was ever a reason that we could not or should not go into town.

Sweet Girl and I are also in the middle of  ‘The Long Winter’ by Laura Ingalls Wilder, which as you know will give anyone pause to think about their personal preparedness. 

I know that in this modern age it is hard to imagine having to rely totally on what is in our homes for survival.  But if we had to…could we?  Can the modern family be really prepared to sustain themselves with no outside help…at least for a while?

As a wife and mom what is my personal responsibility to my family in the case of  an emergency?  Could I feed my children in the case of an earthquake, flood, epidemic, or unforeseen tragedy? 

After some serious thought and many rows of beans later I came to the conclusion after doing a mental inventory of my pantry, that yes I could feed my family if I could not run to the local market…in fact I believe that I could feed them for at least a couple of months….but there are some catches!

What I would do if the power was out for a long time and I could not grind the wheat?  I have wondered about this.  I have tinkered with the idea of buying an inexpensive hand grinder but haven’t gotten around to it. 

If the power goes out we are also without water.  I have enough stored for a short time, maybe a week at most.  I need to to something about this….

I could feed my kids but what about my animals?  I usually buy hay and grain every couple of weeks in the winter for the big animals.  We don’t have much hay storage so I would be in a world of hurt if I could not go into town to buy for them.  I also only keep a couple of weeks chicken feed around (mice, bleck!)….another thing to consider!

We heat with wood mainly and cook with propane, but bake with electricity.  Could I learn to bake bread with my wood stove like ma did that long winter?  Another thing to at least do a little research on…

We have oil lamps, but I need more oil, I have candles, but no matches…

The one place that I feel totally prepared is in the garden department, the seeds I bought this year have for the most part a 2 to 3 year shelf life.  I also grow mostly open pollinated so I could do more seed saving than I do.  Being in the Pacific Northwest I could pretty much garden year around with a little protection…at least we could have lots of greens and root veggies all winter.

Then again could I garden without water?

Do I have first aid supplies?  Enough for anything but the big major omgoodness we have go to the hospital situations?  I will have to check on this.

What about personal hygiene supplies…I have too many men in my family to go for months with the deodorant and soap all gone, ughhh!  Toilet paper, I would hate to run out of that!!!

OK…here are my conclusions

  • I need to check to make sure my pantry supplies are adequate for 6 months
  • I need to store more water as well as catch more water into rain barrels (which I have and have not set up yet…bad me!)
  • I need to learn to bake with my wood stove, or at least have some idea of how to.
  • I need to buy a hand-grinder
  • I need to find more storage area for hay and feed for the animals
  • I need to check first-aid supplies and also should take a class to brush up on basic first-aid…its been two years
  • We need an emergency plan since we have kids from 23 to 2…we need to devise a plan of where to meet and how to get a hold of one another.

I am a very optimistic person by nature.  I am not scared by the new flu or the economy.  But I am also prudent enough to realize that unforeseen things can and do happen and I for one am going to do my best to be ready to take care of my family just in case….

I am also going to get my flu shot next fall!!!

 

Just for fun here are my pantry must haves…the bare minimum of items I would need just in case!

  • Wheat for grinding
  • Oats
  • Barley
  • Rice
  • Salt
  • Honey
  • Oil for cooking and baking (vegetable and olive)
  • Canned Tomatoes
  • Whole Wheat Pasta…I need to learn to make this!
  • Dried Beans of all kinds
  • Home Canned Fruit
  • Home Canned Jams and Jellies…ok not a need but a very big want, yum!!!
  • Peanut Butter, crunchy…of course
  • Baking Powder/Soda
  • Yeast…which I actually keep in my freezer but could keep in my pantry if I had to
  • Seeds…actually kept in the garage but I had to include them!

What are the things that you consider your necessities to have on hand at all times? 

What about a generator?  Do you have one?  Then there are those that store fuel, or stockpile guns and ammo, what about having prescription medicine for an extended period of time?  Oh the list could get very long!!!

Are you prepared for the unforeseen?

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 I cook from scratch for many reasons.  It saves money, I can cook without additives, I can be creative, and I’m in control of my food.  Does it take longer?  Yeah, I guess, if you count the time it took me to grow the beef in the Beef Pot Pie recipe I’m going to give you.  About 2 years and 9 months.  You could use chicken, it only takes several months, and in that case some of the vegetables I used took longer than that.  I’m not trying to be sarcastic, just honest in how involved in my food I am.

I grew up cooking from a well stocked pantry, and I stock my pantry well now.  I have everything I need on hand to cook many different types of meals, and I know how and when to make substitutions.  This post will be boring for scratch cooks, but I want to show how easy it is when you have an array of ingredients in your pantry.  I’m using the term pantry loosely here, too, my pantry consists of home canned foods, frozen foods, root cellar, garden, and dry goods.  During the preserving season, I don’t make a lot of convenience foods ahead of time.  If I make so many jars of marinara sauce, then I’m locked into that flavor for a set amount of jars, so I put up tomato puree instead, and I can use it in any recipe by adding seasoning at the time of cooking.  Ditto for the meat, I have ground pork instead of sausage in my freezer; spices can become bitter over time, and I can thaw out small amounts and add seasonings to fit my recipe.

And, that recipe thing, sometimes you need a recipe, and sometimes the recipe serves as a guideline, allowing you to add your own special touch and homegrown ingredients to your liking.  This recipe for Pot Pie is one I use frequently to stretch our homegrown meats.  I follow the crust recipe, but the pot pie filling is a “whatever is on-hand” vegetable and meat mixture.  If you’re not into meat, it can be all vegetables.

Actual prep and cooking time is approximately 1 hour.  Preparing the fresh vegetables  and crust are done simultaneously and take about 1/2 hour, and the actual baking of the pie takes 1/2 hour.  I used to work off the farm, so many of my recipes are from that time.  I’m still working, just here, but I still need to break up my food prep time.  A real time saver is to have the vegetables ready to cook beforehand.  The prep work could be done the night before, or sometime during the day.  Another note on this is:  I don’t try to rush my food.  To be nourishing, food needs as much attention as other aspects of our lives.

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From the garden:  rutabaga, carrots, and celeriac.
From the basement:  storage onion and garlic.
 
I won’t use every bit of these vegetables, I am aiming to fill my #8 cast iron skillet, which will in turn fill my 9 x 13 baking dish.  The more you cook, the easier it is to judge these amounts. 

Here are my approximate quantities for this 6 serving pot pie filling:
1 medium onion
3 cloves garlic
1 cup of chopped celery stems and leaves
3 or 4 carrots
1 medium rutabaga or 1/2 large
1 celery root
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup chopped leftover meat
1 or 2 cups broth or leftover gravy
1 – 2 T arrowroot powder for thickening (easier to digest than cornstarch or flour)

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Celeriac is starting to become more of a staple here.  My celery didn’t survive our 11°F cold spell, but the celeriac tops, while still a little rough, have enough good stalks and leaves to season my rustic mire poix that I’m going to make for my pot pie filling.  Since the celeriac lends a mild celery flavor to the mix, I will only use half the tops, reserving the rest for flavor for soups, etc.

My husband is allergic to potatoes so I no longer can add potatoes to this.  But, they would be a more traditional ingredient.  I also added frozen peas harvested from our garden.  More on that later.  

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First, you build a fire… no, never mind that. 

Brown onion, garlic and celeriac tops in butter or oil until onions began to caramelize.  While these are cooking, prepare your root vegetables.  Try to cut uniform pieces so they cook at the same rate.  

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A note on rutabaga’s, I prefer to grow rutabagas over turnips, since the skin is thick enough to withstand a little root maggot damage.  To avoid root maggots, plan for these to mature in the fall when the temeratures are cooler.  Cool weather is the brassica family’s friend.

Peel and pare away any insect damage.  This was one was rather large, so I only used half.  
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Add vegetables to onion/celery mixture.  I used leftover roast beef in this pie, so marjoram is the herb I added, with a few stems for a little fiber.  😉 
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Add chopped meat, gravy or broth, cover and cook over medium heat until vegetables are fork tender.  I used broth and gravy in this, so I thickened the mixture with arrowroot powder.

While the vegetables are cooking, you can make the pot pie crust.  I follow the recipe on this part.  Well, kind of…

POT PIE CRUST
The butter will make the crust flaky, and the eggs give it some substance so it doesn’t get soggy.

1 1/2 c flour
1 t salt
5 T chilled butter
2 large eggs
2 – 3 T cold water

Combine flour and salt, mix in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal with some pea sized balls.  Add eggs, mix, add water and mix until the dough comes away from the side of the bowl (it will be moist).  Turn out onto floured board and roll to desired shape(s).

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I eyeball the salt, this is roughly 1 teaspoon.  My butter is salted so if I’m a little shy on salt,  it won’t make much difference in the outcome. 

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Pretty close, if I hadn’t slopped it all over. 🙂 

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Crust with eggs mixed in. 

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Just starting to come away from the bowl cleanly. 

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I bake my pot pies, and actually a lot of my fruit pies in a 9 x 13 pan.  I only use a crust on top, which saves me money (less ingredients), and instead of small individual dishes to wash, I only have one.

Shape your dough into a rough rectangle before rolling out.   

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I freeze some things like sweet peas and wild mushrooms in 1/2 pint jars.  This makes them go a little further since they can be a little hard to come by sometimes.  I love to eat peas, but I really don’t like to shell them. 

Turn the cooked vegetables into your baking dish.  I am adding these peas last since they are already blanched. 
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Use your baking dish as a rough guide to see if your crust is rolled out to enough.  Remember: close counts here, this is a rustic,  farm kitchen dish. 

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Roll up dough and place on the long side and cover filling. 

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I just roll the crust a little on the edges.  Just try to seal the vegetables in, so your crust acts as a lid to finish the cooking process.

Bake 25 -30 minutes in a 400°F degree oven, until crust is lightly browned and the filling is bubbly. //i40.tinypic.com/2us7fx4.jpg" target="_blank">View Raw Image</a>

Dinner is served 🙂 
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