Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Stocking Up

There's a lot of talk about storing food.

I'm not using those words in a survivalist way, although there's nothing wrong with that.

I'm talking to the 90% of us who know bad things can happen, but don't really envision big sudden changes to our society. Those bad things should be prepared for: power outages, unemployment, price changes.

In fact, I'd say one of the top reasons to stock up is to have a steady supply of basic foods ready so that we can wait for lower prices. It's a part of the lifestyle of living with the seasons, not fighting against them.

Anyway, we were low on bread flour and oatmeal so we stocked up on a few things and I thought I'd show you how I store them. Please leave a link if you have a different or special way to store your food.

We have 5 gallon food grade buckets (a few might be 3 gallons).

There are several ways to get them. You can buy them online (pricey). You can ask at local groceries (Walmart bakery for instance) or small food stores (cheese factory, bakery). Many times they will give you the buckets. Sometimes they may charge you a few dollars.

Next the collar. I bought my Gamma Lids at the local Fleet Farm (@$8). You can try at feed stores or order them online.

I emptied out the old flour and oatmeal. Now is a good time to taste the 2 products and compare. For instance, my oats--over a year old--tasted dry and a little sour in comparison to the new oatmeal. So instead of adding the old oats back to the top of the bucket I composted the remains. No more 50lb bags for us. We just don't eat them in time.

And this is our pantry.

50lb bag of red potatoes (local potato farm).
5 gal bucket of bread flour
5 gal bucket of oatmeal
3 gal bucket of AP flour
20lb bag of rice
20lb bag of sugar

The closet is on an outside wall and is 20-30 degrees colder in the winter.

In general I find that stocking EVERYTHING up can be overwhelming. All the dates on the cans. All the organization needed to cycle everything regularly. All the waste when you eat too little of something.

However, a good start is always buying a little more of the basics when the sales are good. Then a little more. A little more. Eventually you get to a comfortable place where your weekly bill is less and the work is not too involved.

It's more about finding what works for you then copying someone else's pantry list.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

52 Books in 52 Weeks: January

I'll try to do an update a month on this. No use trying to keep up from week to week.

13 Treasures by Michelle Harrison 

YA fairy tale. New author. Sometimes too much exposition, but does a good job with the plot and the character of the 13 year old girl. 

The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of a Superman  

Top marks for research, although I think some of the premises (Houdini as an American spy, Houdini murdered by Spiritualists) are foggy at best. Unfortunately there were so many things I really didn't want to know about Houdini, so this book felt at least 200 pages too long. 

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins 

A decent, although violent, ending to the series. Realistic. Possibly too realistic for preteen and younger teens. 

The Mysterious Benedict Society 

A fun children's book. Too many times the foreshadowing seemed incredibly obvious to me. I was surprised that they were surprised. lol. But enjoyable in many ways. 

Something's Going Around

10 Things You Can Do When You're Sick:

10. Check out movies or television on Hulu. I recommend How Green Was My Valley on Hulu. Maureen O'Hara, Donald Crisp, a ton of old character actors.
9. Sleep. Always highly recommended.
8. Make a list of things to do when you're better. Then put it away.
7. Darning. If anyone still does that. You have to pin me to the bed for me to get any of it done.
6. Drink a lot of hot tea.
5. Copy and rearrange your recipes. You won't be tempted by every one that looks good.
4. Finish that book your mother/friend/cousin Roger gave you for Christmas
3. Oh yeah, and write Thank You notes to your grandmother, mother, friend, and Cousin Roger
2. Sleep. Should always be listed twice.

1. The number one thing you should do when you're sick, catch up with all your favorite blogs. :)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Felted Oven Mitt--Christmas Ideas for Next Year

I'm really just using this as a placeholder so I can find this later. It's about felting (kind of shrinking down wool from a used sweater or something) used wool and making oven mitts from it. They look cute, and could be a good Christmas gift.

Book Challenge: a Book a Week

A lot of people do New Years Resolutions. We don't really do those around here. We brainstorm goals--things we're curious about or passionately involved with--then we see how open we are to developing those things. We try to encourage each other.

It's an old concept with Dean and I but we're trying to bring the boys into it this year. So far they want to play a lot of video games, travel to far off places, learn new languages, and maybe gain a few new skills. Cool.

One of my goals is to increase my reading. Since I do so much school reading it's hard to do this but I'd like to think positively and then try to work around the obstacles.

For the month of January I'm working on:

13 Treasures (YA fairy tale novel)--Done
Mockingjay (YA future dystopia)--Done
The Secret Life of Houdini: the making of a superman (biography)--Done
The Mysterious Benedict Society (YA)
Napolean's Buttons: How 17 molecules changed the world (non-fiction; chemistry)

I think I see a pattern here. Maybe youth novels will help me gain my goal? :) I'm hoping that I can pack a few extra books in this month to make up for busy weeks up ahead.

Doing any reading this month? What's on your to-read shelf? I could use a few suggestions.

Chapter 4: in which I talk about INexpensive things

I'm not all about the expensive toys. Please don't get that idea.

I did get these for Christmas and instantly fell in love.

I'd seen them in another blog and toyed with picking up a set, but my last matryoshka dolls were such a sensation with the boys that they promptly lost one part or another as they carried them off to participate in their Lego wars. The smallest piece is still lost to this day and will probably stay that way forever.

Anyway, these measuring cups are white, plastic, and cover the basic measurements (1/4, 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, 3/4, 1). They are very sturdy (think toddlers gnawing on them) and food grade plastic.

And cute, did I mention that? I love their little faces. To celebrate I tucked them on to my cookbook shelf with my favorite shiny red bowl, my mortar and pestle, and my lefse roller.

So highly recommended as an inexpensive gift for folks that love to cook. Prices I've seen range from $9-15.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Chapter 3: in which I talk about expensive stuff...

I don't hate having a near-Christmas birthday. Even though I didn't have birthday parties and I usually made my own birthday cake. No one has ever forgotten my birthday, even if it was a little awkward to celebrate.

Dean decided to make up for all the years I've been slighted. Really, really make up for it...with the kind of useful gift that I love but which I never get for myself.

I had a refurbished stand mixer. Not something I would have picked myself, but that's my overly-generous husband. Shiny. Handy. I put my spoons away and saved my arm for towel-whipping slow kids.

Unfortunately, the Kitchen Aids don't stand bread kneading too well. Our arms are a little better designed. The lock holding the head down broke and I spent a lot of time babysitting it. The boys would all stand and hold it down for me.

This year I got a Bosch. And a food processor. I've never had one of those either. In my house we used knives or a grater. Since I love making bread this made my eyes light up and my brain explode with possibilities right before I freaked out at the cost.

Never fear, I love it. I'm working out some kinks with wet vs. dry..which gets added first (wet so that the dough doesn't creep up over the top). I make triple or quadruple batches and then freeze the results (which also make sit easier for me to portion myself 1 a day--45 seconds in the microwave). And the food processor--which I thought I would never use--makes GREAT smoothies. The engine is so strong that it really breaks up ice (and frozen fruit) better then any blender I've had.

Simple Strawberry Smoothie

2 cups frozen berries (from your freezer or a bag from the freezer section)
1 cup of apple juice
a couple of blobs of plain yogurt

You can add a little sugar to this but the boys liked it this way and I thought it was plenty sweet. We also did blueberries but the skins are stronger so you get tiny skin pieces. Not quite as fun. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Which reminds me...

Happy King's Day!

Some denominations celebrate January 6th as the day the Wisemen found Jesus. Cake is served with an object inside and the winner is the King for the day.

It has come to my attention that some people just don't like Winter...

I don't know why.

Winter is full of contrasts. Cold, bright days. Warm, toasty nights. Things usually slow down. More time for sitting around a table playing games, eating hearty meals, and curling up under a padded quilt.

I also have the month off of school, so in between catching up on a long to-do list I READ. In fact, I decided this month is Fairy Tale month.

13 Tales
The Princess and the Goblin
Grimm's Fairy Tales
Leprecaun Stories

Nothing too long or difficult. Just a little fantasy to go along with leftover Christmas cookies, hot tea, and a feather comforter.

What do you do in January? Do you have any January traditions?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Goals, a General Lack of Attention...and Brownies

It's a new year. I'm sure you've heard. Maybe you saw some fireworks, went out to a bar, or noticed the line at Blockbuster was a little longer then usual.

We had a party. Really. Us. I know this is a foreign concept. It is to me too. Strangely it went well. We played Crokinole and ate leftover Christmas cookies.

I guess it's a little late to add some posts about Christmas cookies, isn't it? Like I told my niece (birthday early December) and my friend's children (celebrating Hannukah), someday Aunt Tammy won't be doing finals during this time of year and I'll get all together. 

I do have a great brownie recipe though. I've been working on it this year. Trying recipes by David Lebovitz, King Arthur's flour, and Ina Garten. Most were too rich, some made too much, some too crumbly. I liked Mark Bittman's base recipe so I added some things too it and came up with this. 


2 oz (I usually throw 2 squares in) unsweetened chocolate
6oz semi-sweet chocolate
8 TBL unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour (a bit less if you like them really fudgey...even down to 1/4 c)
pinch salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
a few handfulls of chocolate chips

Preheat oven (350), grease 8x8 pan (or line and grease foil).

Melt chocolates (not chips) and butter and stir until smooth. Beat in eggs, flour, salt, vanilla. Add to pan. Lightly fold in chocolate chips at regular intervals. Bake 20 minutes or so until set. Do not overbake. 
The new year is also a great time to thank about what kind of goals you want to set yourself, what kind of subjects you want to delve in, what you want to learn and do. 

So in addition to the whole learn to cook beans and use the pressure cooker without killing anyone I have a crazy interest in ham radio (really!)...and kayaking. 

I'm such a geek. If you know anything at all about those 4 subjects (beans, pressure cookers, ham radio, kayaking) feel free to write in the comments section. We'll see how this all develops.