Thursday, June 30, 2011

Gravy Mix

I was inspired to do this when I noticed that many recipe's call for a basic roux base.  I love having a substitute from always have to turn on the stove and cook up a roux.  It saved a step in the Beef Monterrey and I have learned to use this mixture for everything from gravy to soups!

2 c. Starch*
3 c. Milk Powder
2 tsp Salt
1 Tbs Pepper
1 c. Butter Powder

I place all ingredients into a half gallon container and then put the lid on and shake to mix the ingredients. 
Allow the dust to settle and then use.

Mix 1 c. mix with 1-3 cups water for everything from gravy to creamy soup base.
Use alone as a White Sauce or flavor with cheese powder, bouillons or spices for desired flavors.

* I have used Ultra Gel and it works fine, but my preference is to use Instant Clear Jel since it will thicken with either hot or cold water.

Keeping Organized

Gardening can be an organizational nightmare.  You have to plant on schedule, you have to transplant on schedule.  You have to rotate crops and fertilizer.  You have to harvest and use or preserve when the garden tells you too, not when you decide you are ready.

On top of all this, don't forget to use your seeds, first in......first out.  You don't want to find old seeds in the bottom of your seed bucket that now won't germinate because they are way too old.

I buy seeds like some women buy shoes.  I love seeds.  I have regular grocery store seeds.  I have internet only seeds.  I have random and unique seeds.  I have 10 different varieties of tomatoes and 6 different varieties of beets.  I am addicted to buying seeds.  I see a seed that "I am sure I don't have" and then I must have it.  I even buy flower seeds and I don't even plant flowers!  I have no intention of having a flower garden, ever.

This year I finally got organized.

I bought these nifty plastic drawers at the .... (background trumpets and drum roll) .... WALMART.  I taped in some cardboard to divide the drawer into 3 sections and trimmed down some 5x7 index cards to make my seed deviders.

 I put the new bought seed in the back and use from the front first.  I knew I had a problem when I had 3 open yellow summer squash packets.  Seriously.  Those things produce so much, you only have one or two plants a year.  One packet will cover you for 5 years easy!  I had 3 open packets.  I only started buying seed 5 years ago!

"Hi.  My name is Mrs C.  I have a problem.  I buy excessive amounts of garden seed."

I feel better already!  No.  I don't plan on quitting.

In my second drawer, which is for herbs and flowers (not quite as full as vegetables) I have room for my gardening extras.
And the most awesomest product in the whole world is my uncut twistie ties from the dollar store.

These are great for tying up vines and tree branches.  it doesn't stretch like the plastic tape and it's not ultra expensive like the velcro.  It is reusable, but so cheap I usually don't.  It has two spools on the card for just $1!! 

I am hoping with this system, I will be able to easily move into seed saving with only a little extra work.  maybe just add a label to the seed packet with the year and crop info.  Nothing I do is that easy, but I always hope it to be.  We will see.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


I pulled in my first crop of the season.....Beets!  I love beets.  I will can them in pints since they are not a favorite for the whole family.  It seems so wasteful to throw away all the tops but since I don't have a place to compost them yet.......there is nothing to do about it. 

This first crop was a little sparse, but I think it's because I started so early, and then the hail storm came just as some were emerging and killed them.  I believe the next planting will be more normal.

I planted this crop at the begining of May....2 months ago.  I believe at this rate I will be able to get 3 plantings of beets, which is fantastic since I am only planting 16 square feet each time.  I wish the carrots came on so quick but they need the heat to germinate so I will just have to make do with the 2 crops I can get.

Seems such a shame to throw away all these greens!  I know when they are small and tender they can be eaten fresh, but my mom says my great grandma would cook these mature ones.  By next crop my goal is to have a way to cook them....hopefully it's good?!?  I will let you know.

They are so pretty in the jars.   Makes my food storage happy!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Making Food Storage .... Practical

Who wants to spend an hour at the end of a busy day making dinner when a fast food restaurant or a frozen meal is just calling your name?  While this is reasonable from time to time...for some this becomes a daily occurrence.  This is not healthy nor is it financially savvy to continue a practice like this.

We live in a world of convenience.  For some, this is the hardest part of the transition from grocery store to food storage.

What if I told you, that you can have the best of both can have your fast easy meals AND make them out of food storage!

This is why I love mixes.  I make soup mixes, seasoning mixes, cake mixes, gravy mixes......all kinds of mixes.  This allows me the convenience of a mix with the knowledge of what I am feeding my family and the comfort of using my food storage on a daily basis.

Kids want muffins?  No problem.  Kids want Taco's tonight?  No problem.  I have a busy day and need a crock pot meal?  No problem.  With little to no thought, I can scoop out the required amount of a mix and add water to make almost anything, just like the mixes at the store except I am using my food storage and controlling the amounts or types of food my family eats.  My family eats and enjoys home ground whole wheat pancakes, muffins, cookies and bread.  They prefer it to the store bought in most instances.  When you get deep into the world of food storage, you will even learn how to make substitutes or extenders with things like wheat in your tacos and beans in your cookies.

Do you think corn belongs in your chicken enchilada's?  If you use cream of chicken soup, it is there.  Do you want corn in you country sausage gravy?  If you use a packet, it is there.  You can feed your family a delicious wholesome meal artificially enhanced with corn for your convenience.

I'm not against corn, but I am going to pick on it for a minute.  I am shocked at the number of items it is in.  Everything from soda (something needs to sweeten it) to gravy packets, canned soup and ketchup.  How many cake recipe's call for corn, and yet none of the boxes on my shelf are without it.  Whatever happened to moderation?  I guess that goes out the window when something is cheap. 

A benefit of making your own mixes, is that you only put in what is needed and wanted rather than what was cheap which allows you to be aware of how much of something is being consumed and accommodate for some allergies as well.

Having food storage is a comfort.  Knowing how to use it is peace.  Did you know the difference between Taco Seasons and Sloppy Joes is about 3 spices and the quantities you use?  Instead of buying a case of sloppy joe mix and then trying to force my family to continue eating it when they decide they want taco's now instead ...... I simply store the bulk spices, mix up a small batch and when my family decides they like taco's more than sloppy joes, the bulk spices will never go to waste since they can now be used in taco's instead.  You do this with all your seasoning mixes and pretty soon, you will see it doesn't matter what mood they are in that year, month or week, you will have the stuff to make what they want.

I use this simple concept to help me use my food storage AND cater to my family's changing taste in soups, desserts and seasoning mixes.  I can change from Spaghetti to Chili to Italian Lentil to Minestrone to Taco's without ever once changing my basic food storage plan and without having to worry about rotating each individual meal.  I just rotate my bulk spices.

I also have all the individual spices on hand, so when I want to try a new recipe....there is no wondering "Do I have Marjoram??"  I know.  I use my spices constantly and that makes it easier to keep track of what I have and use, and what I don't.

Now, I am not saying we never enjoy the burger or pizza place down the street.  Sometimes we do this more than I think we should...just like I am sure all of you do too, from time to time.
I'm just saying, that with the right recipes and the right mindset, you can make your food storage foods your staples and leave the eating out for the rare, super busy or festive occasions.  When it comes to a higher stress situation, you can lessen that stress by easily serving the foods and flavors your family is accustomed too eating.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Beef Monterrey

I don't know where I got this recipe from......if it's yours let me know, I would love to give credit to the rightful owners!

This is a favorite in our family, the flavor is similar to a stroganoff, but not quite.

Beef Monterrey
3 Tbs Butter*
1 1/4 c. Gravy Mix
1/4 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Pepper
1-2 can Mushrooms
1 pint Beef  (1 lb)
3 c. Beef Broth

4 c.  Prepared Rice
1/2 c. Chopped Pecans

Open the can of beef chunks and drain the liquid into a large measuring cup (3c. or larger).  You can use any broth or bouillon/water combo you need 3 c. liquid, flavored as beef broth, in this recipe. 

Pour the broth into a 9x13 pan.  Mix in the Garlic, Salt, Pepper and then add the 3/4 c. Gravy Mix.  Whisk together until thoroughly incorporated.  There may be small lumps of Gravy Mix and thats ok.  Cut the butter into 1 tsp chunks and place in pan.

Put the Beef Chunks and Mushrooms into the pan. 
Cover with foil and bake at 375ยบ for 30-45 minutes, until the gravy is thick. 
Serve over Rice and garnish with chopped pecans or walnuts.  We usually put a green vegetable on the side to round out this meal.  Delicious!

*Butter is optional.  It adds flavor but is not necessary to make the recipe work.
**After you know how much additional liquid you use, you can fill in how many tsp of Beef Bouillon you add to your recipe. I recommend you make it with your food storage before you fill in the 2nd amount of Beef Bouillon.

1 14 oz can Broth = 2 cups
1/2 pint home canned beef = 1/4 c. Broth
1 12 oz can Costco Beef = 3/4 c. Broth

Don't forget, you can use the water from the canned mushrooms as's just water and may be helpful if you were in a water restricted situtation.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Taco Seasoning

We use this seasoning mix by the spoonful in our tacos and our taco soup!

1 c. Dry Onions
1/4 c. Salt
1/4 c. Cornstarch (or thickener of choice)
1/4 c. Cumin
2 Tbs Oregano

Store in a airtight container on the shelf.  Use 1 1/2 -2 Tbs per pound of meat, or to taste.

Taco Seasoning Single Serve
2 tsp. Dry Onions
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Minced Garlic
1/2 tsp. Cornstarch (or thickener of choice)
1/2 tsp. Cumin
1 tsp. Chili Powder
1/4 tsp. Oregano

Single serving for 1 pount of meat.

You can buy the spice jar containers that I sell, or find your own.  I personally use an empty peanut butter jar for a lot of my seasoning mixes.

Monday, June 6, 2011


Chai is a delicious drink.  It literally means 'tea' and often is sold as Chai Tea.  I don't drink tea recreationally but loved the flavor of this drink, so I found a way to make it myself and OMIT the tea part.

1 1/2 c. Morning Moo
1 1/2 c. Instant Milk
2 1/2 c. Sugar
2 tsp Ginger
2 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Cloves
1 tsp Cardamom (crucial)

I mix this all together and store it on the shelf.  We bring this out anytime we would be drinking hot cocoa!  My kids love it!  They drink it by itself, with marshamllows and sometimes even enjoy mixing a spoonful into the hot chocolate they are already drinking.

A delicious alternative to the traditional hot drinks.