Monthly Archives: January 2009

How to prepare for an ice storm

As some of you may know, significant numbers of people across the US were affected by this past week’s ice storm, thousands of whom won’t have any power for three weeks.  By the time this hit us, it wasn’t much of a storm (even though that’s what they were calling it on the news), though there were a lot of people who lost power for a short period of time.  But it got me thinking about sharing my thoughts on being prepared for a storm like this – because you don’t know how bad it will end up being until it hits.  And it’s lots better to be prepared and not need your preparations than not to prepare at all and end up having to go to a shelter somewhere.

What would be some good things to do if you know that an ice storm (or any other kind of storm that would affect your power supply/access to stores) is set to come your way very soon?  This is far from an exhaustive list; there’s a lot more to be written on this, but what I’ll post now is intended as a starting point, not an end all and be all. 

Firstly, I’d suggest some super important things, followed by some minor things.  #1 – Make sure you have enough food and water in the house for at least a week (remember that a lot of people now are doing without power for three weeks – better to overprepare than to be overly optimistic).  You don’t want to be one of those people braving their ways to the store after the storm hits, to find out (if you manage to get there safely and the store is actually open) that everything was cleaned out and the food you were counting on buying has been sold to people who didn’t wait as long as you.  This happens every single time there’s a big storm; it’s predictable and I don’t know why it comes as a suprise to anyone when it happens.  I don’t like going shopping at the last minute, but still, better to go shopping a short time before a storm than to wait until afterwards (of course, having a stocked pantry at all times makes this much less urgent).  Use your head – don’t buy lots of prepared frozen foods that you’d have no way to heat up or to keep frozen if you lost power (an advantage of losing power in the winter is you can pretty easily keep things cold outside).  Canned foods are especially useful (make sure you have a couple of manual can openers), bottled water and juice is good. 

Fill up empty pots, pitchers, and any other available containers with water for cooking and drinking with, and put some large buckets filled with water in your bathtub – those are for washing with.  Why do you need to store water?  Do you know that most of us are dependent on electricity for our water?  Yep, it’s true; the power is necessary to pump the water out, for most private wells as well as for city water supplies.  You’re going to want to wash your hands, flush the toilets, etc. (Baby wipes come in handy in this situation for preserving your stored water supply – you can use them to keep your hands clean.)

How will you heat up your food?  I have a gas stove, which is good since often the gas lines are still functional when the electricity goes down (this is why I wanted one).  There are lots of alternative heating sources; you’d need to look into them before you need them.  We have a small grill that we could use outside if necessary, but I wouldn’t really want to in freezing temperatures.  Our solar oven wouldn’t help much on cold and cloudy days, but could come in handy if the sun made an appearance. (This is where you’ll appreciate having food that doesn’t need much cooking, if any.)

What about household heat?  Think how much fun being inside all day is without any heat in the coldest part of the winter.  Knowing how to dress for the cold makes a big difference in being able to stay warm even without much (any?) heat.  Since we keep our heat pretty low all the time, going without heat would be unpleasant but manageable for us.  We’d seriously layer up, and make sure everyone had several blankets on their beds, fill hot water bottles for each person, etc.  Alternative heat sources like wood stoves would be invaluable in staying warm (and can be cooked on, too). 

Those are the biggies – water, food, and heat.  Now for some smaller things that would make life lots more comfortable.

When you hear the news, do some house cleaning.  Wash and dry all the laundry – if you couldn’t do it for another week, you’d be a lot more comfortable having it done.  Do all the dishes.  Cleaning the house when you have no heat or lights isn’t fun.  Have all family members take showers.  Physically and emotionally you’ll feel a lot better if you’re clean and if you can’t take a shower for a few days, it won’t be so bad.  I don’t usually use disposable dishes, but this would be the time to use them – so buy some when you’re shopping for the storm.  Also diapers – you definitely don’t want to run out of diapers.  Even if you use cloth diapers, limited water and power would make washing them lots less convenient.  Make sure you have plenty of toilet paper – though you could use pages of a phone book in a pinch, it’s nice not to have to.  :)

Lighting – you don’t technically need lights when it gets dark, but it’s a lot more pleasant.  Get some flashlights and batteries, candles and candle holder, fuel lamps and wicks and fuel for them – any and all of these can keep the dark from becoming frightening for little ones, and help you accomplish what you’ll want to do.  Make sure you have games that don’t require electricity – I think of this as obvious, because all of our home entertainment falls into this category, but I realize that many people are dependent on computers to keep their kids occupied and they’d be up the creek without it.  Kids who are bored and have nothing to do are kids who will be very unpleasant to have home all day long.  Books are important, too.

I’m not going to address more specific needs like showering and laundry because I’m just touching on what I consider the bare basics.  You can manage without these (might not be fun) and survive.  You can’t manage without water and food, though.  You might have noticed that I didn’t put a generator anywhere on my list, which is the first item on most people’s lists.  That’s because generators are a) hugely expensive to buy; b) dependent on gasoline; and c) hugely expensive to run.  What happens if you run out of gas and you can’t get to the gas station?  Or you get to the gas station and they’re either sold out or unable to access it because they also don’t have power (not uncommon in these kinds of situations)?  Plus, it’s one of the first things that thieves look to steal in emergency situations.  Too many people put all of their (preparation) eggs into one (generator) basket.  I think it’s better to find smaller ways to be prepared that don’t involve so much cash outlay, things that you can use even if the storm doesn’t hit you hard. 

Anyone who’s ever been unprepared in a situation like this will tell you it’s not fun – not at all.  And anyone who’s been prepared in a situation like this will tell you how worthwhile it was to have been able to take care of their needs even when there was no outside help to be had.


Making orange zest

When I got my dehydrator, I didn’t expect it to be so fun or so frugal!  For years I thought of it as a luxury item and couldn’t see a practical value in it, but I’m now enjoying proving myself wrong and finding new uses for it.

I bought these gorgeous navel oranges, with thick clean peels, and it occurred to me that maybe I could dry them to make orange zest that would be used for baking.  At first I sliced them into small pieces, since I didn’t want to make them so small that they’d fall through the spaces in the drying tray.  But even though things shrink substantially when dehydrated, they’re still a little too big to use as zest (funnily enough, my baby thinks these are a super treat!).  Then my dd14 put the next peels into the food processor with the ‘S’ blade, and put them on top of the paraflex sheet (that’s intended for making fruit leathers) that covers the regular dehydrator tray.  That worked perfectly, and the final result is a perfect orange zest, just like you’d buy in the store.  It’s a nice feeling, turning something you would have thrown away into something of value.

I don’t like to run the dehydrator just for a small quantity of something, because it seems to me an inefficient use of energy – I made these because there was one unused tray that afternoon that wasn’t needed when drying all the shredded broccoli stems that I experimented on the same day. :)  Those turned out great, too.


Herbs for asthma


To all of those who checked in since midnight, if you were wondering why my most recent post under this title seemed incomplete, it’s because it was!  Somehow half of it was deleted, and for technical reasons I had to delete the entire post and resubmit it from scratch, which meant that comments attached to the original were also deleted.  Sorry about that!

Three years ago, I got really sick with a bad case of bronchitis that lasted over two months.  For the rest of that winter, I couldn’t breathe freely in the cold air, but then the spring came and all my symptoms disappeared.

Until the following winter, when I started having problems breathing again.  I  had to wrap up very well when I went outside, with my mouth covered, and then it would take me about 20 minutes of not saying anything, while holding a cup of hot tea in front of my mouth, to be able to breathe freely again.  I would have uncontrollable coughing until my lungs warmed up.  I didn’t pay much attention to it, just figured it was some kind of residual thing from the bronchitis the year before. 

Then this winter came along.  And this year even I couldn’t wave it off –  it seemed to have gotten progressively worse from last year.  After five minutes outside in the cold (and by that I mean in my car, not literally outside), and it would take forty minutes of coughing and wheezing until I could breathe normally. I couldn’t even stand in front of my open door in the winter while inside my house without having coughing spasms.  In the nighttime, I dreaded laying down, because as soon as I did, the coughing started.  And I would cough so hard that I couldn’t stop, and had to sit up.  It would often take an hour of coughing until I was so exhausted I could fall asleep. 

I was feeling very incapacitated by this, and I became almost afraid of cold air.  I’ve always been a pretty hardy person, and it bothered me to feel so delicate.  When I went somewhere, it was pretty noticeable, and I was always being asked if I was sick. Two separate friends asked me if I had asthma, to which I of course answered no, even though my symptoms were so similar. But that got me thinking, and I started researching.

I felt like I hit pay dirt when I learned that asthma can develop as a result of severe respiratory infections.  Once I knew what I was dealing with, I decided to buy some herbs to treat my symptoms (remember that big order of herbs a while back?).  Among the other herbs I got were lobelia and mullein.  I made a blend of equal parts of each, (maybe 1 T. each), put them in a piece of muslin, and tied it off at the top.  Then I let it steep in about two cups of boiling water for about fifteen minutes, and drank it. 

It wasn’t delicious – it has an unpleasant ticklish feeling going down – but it wasn’t  horrible, either.  And I didn’t have any more coughing for several days.  But I wasn’t quick to ascribe any special significance to this, even though it was unusual, because I didn’t want to fall prey to wishful thinking.  But then a few nights later, I went out in the evening, and there was no problem at all.  That I did take note of, because the week before going to the same place, I had thought to myself that I should probably stop going out in the evenings at all because it was causing me so much discomfort.  I had another cup of the same mixture when I felt a slight tightness in my chest around then.

A week later, I was out at my regular Sunday night meeting, and I spent a half hour chatting outside afterwards with a friend in the cold air.  No coughing, nothing.  I was just cold.  :)  That was almost two months ago, and that has been the coldest part of the year; since then, I’ve had no night time coughing, no coughing in cold air – nothing.  It honestly feels like a miracle – I’m not saying that lightly.  After three years and feeling like this was a problem I was going to have the rest of my life, it just ended after three cups of this herbal tea, with the only cost being a few teaspoonfuls of dried herbs (less than two dollars’ worth).

My ds15 was diagnosed with sports asthma last year, which basically means that when it’s cold or he is very active, his breathing gets labored and his chest feels tight.  When he complained about it to me about eight weeks ago, I gave him the same thing I had taken.  He hasn’t complained since then.  I asked him last night how he’s been feeling before writing this, wanting to be accurate, and he said that though he occasionally feels out of breath when he runs around a lot, otherwise he’s been fine.  He used to have a hard time catching his breath even after walking to shul in the morning, and he said since he had the tea it hasn’t been a problem (and he walks every morning, no matter how cold it is).  I think it’s likely that if he drank some a bit more often, he wouldn’t even experience this, but he knows what to do if he feels he needs it.  I guess it’s a statement of success that he doesn’t feel the need to take anymore of it!

I wouldn’t say this is going to work for everyone, but I would definitely encourage anyone suffering from asthma-like symptoms to try it.  It can’t hurt, and it might even hugely help. :)


The CPSIA and how it affects you

Having a small business, I became aware of concerns with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) a couple of months ago, but was sure that the legal legislation would be amended since it was so absurd.  I just couldn’t believe that something that would clearly harm so many people financially at a time when the economy is falling apart would be pursued. 

But now I’m not so sure.  My belief that this would be changed was assumption based on a false notion that those who pass laws in this country actually think about the wider ramifications of what they’re doing.  Now I think that those involved are very out of touch with the average American and his needs, and the past two months has shown amazingly little receptivity to those concerns.  As time has passed, I’ve learned much more about it, and this has much, much wider ramifications than I initially believed, ramifications that will affect all of us. 

The Consumer Product Safety Commision and Congress passed a law that requires all makers of children’s products in the US to have their products tested for lead (that’s the CPSIA). Anyone who continues to sell their products without this testing will be in violation of law and subject to fines and possible jail time.  This is a seemingly positive bit of legislation that was initially greeted with enthusiasm and support by those who want to see more quality products in the marketplace.   After all, we don’t want toys from China making kids sick.  We want good, natural products that will help us keep our kids safe, don’t we? 

But this won’t have much of an effect on products coming from China, even though they were the source of the problem that initiated this bill (since due to technicalities they can do third party on-site testing).  Huge companies have big enough quantities of each product that they manufacture that the testing costs when spread out become insignificant per product line.  Who it will effect will be small businesses and the average consumer.  Here’s an overview of what’s happening.

The CPSIA will make it an offense from Feb. 11 and on to sell anything that hasn’t been tested for lead and received certification.  This will include toys, clothing, books, baby carriers, bicycles, bedding, cloth diapers (and yes, nursing pillows :)), etc.  But this doesn’t mean only things that are manufactured after that date.  It means anything being sold after that date, so any company with any kind of inventory for this age range is right now either in the process of liquidating their inventory (and for many small businesses, choosing to go out of business since testing costs are so high as to be unrealistic for most), or trying to quickly get testing and GCC certification (general compliance certification – that’s what I’m in the middle of right now).  So at a time when the economy is falling apart and there are huge job losses across the country, thousands of small businesses (mostly home business, mom and pop operations) are being forced to close down – not because there’s any problem or risk with what they sell, but because they can’t afford to deal with the beauracratic testing requirements.  That means more people suffering economically, and it means cost increases for all of the other products (which of course will get passed on to the consumer). 

But that’s just the very beginning – because this legislation will affect the second hand market as well.,0,2083247.story  I’ve been waiting for a few weeks to see how this panned out, and it seems now that thrift stores are going to be exempt.  But the wording isn’t clear and there’s still a possibility of fines to those second hand stores that do sell these things. (“However, resellers cannot sell children’s products that exceed the lead limit and therefore should avoid products that are likely to have lead content, unless they have testing or other information to indicate the products being sold have less than the new limit. Those resellers that do sell products in violation of the new limits could face civil and/or criminal penalties.” ) Not surprisingly, many of these stores are also liquidating their children’s supplies rather than risk penalties ($100,000 per violation).  And not only is it illegal to sell anything not tested, it will be illegal to give it away – that technically means if you pass your baby clothes to a friend when you’re finished or have a yard sale, you’re committing an offense.  But I wouldn’t worry about that.  I’d be much more concerned about how people who are suffering economically or have a limited budget to work with are going to clothe their children when the options for buying second hand are drastically limited.  And now these stores won’t even be allowed to donate the clothes they already have stocked that are untested to the needy.

And that’s not all – it just  keeps getting more and more ludicrous.  Libraries will be subject to this, too.  So all of their books will have to be tested.  Or maybe kids won’t be allowed in the libraries?  Certainly library used book sales will have to come to an end.

What about educational supplies?  Yes, this is affected, too.  Science kits, sewing materials – anything geared towards kids will need to do this certification process.  How much do you think this will affect the availability of what’s accessible to you in the stores?  Or even on the internet – since Ebay and Etsy sellers are now going to be subject to the same restrictions as retail establishments?  And it goes on and on…..

But there are some who will be benefitting.  The big box stores stand to gain, since their small competition is going to be demolished.  Retail stores will benefit if parents can’t buy used clothes or toys for their children and have no choice but to buy brand new.  And the many who will be hired to legislate and supervise all of this testing at the various levels will benefit.  Maybe this is the government’s way to create new jobs?

Watching the government at work isn’t pretty, is it? 


How to can ground meat

>>How do you can ground meat? Do you cook it in a sauce or soup before caning? <<

I used to hear how complicated and dangerous canning meat was, and I’m really glad that one of the very first things I canned was turkey.  That way I did the ‘hardest’ thing first and I wasn’t intimidated by it because I had nothing to compare it to.    Some people will tell you to start out with fruits and jams and then work your way up, but it worked out well for me the other way!

Despite what people  may say, it’s really not hard or complicated to can meat.  It does require precisely following instructions, like any other low acid food (ie, not fruits and jams).  You MUST have a pressure canner and follow all proper safety guidelines.  Fill with water up to the water line (marked inside the canner), and fill up the jars you’re going to use half way with water.  While you prepare the meat, your jars will be sterilizing, and then the  jars will be ready to be used at the same time the meat is ready to be packed. 

Before preparing the  meat, you have to decide what you’re going to later use it for.  I decided I wanted to cook it up as crumbles that could be added to stews, pot pies, etc because that has the most possibilities.  (I considered making patties and then decided against it, but it is possible to make little meat balls or burgers and can them.)  I sauteed the meat in its own juice and broke the chunks up into crumbles.  It’s suggested to drain off the fat since it could interfere with the seal. 

I removed each jar, poured out the boiling water, and filled it with hot meat.  Then cover it with boiling broth or water, leaving 1″ headspace.  Make sure there’s no air space in the jars.  Wipe down the top of the jar, so that there’s no residual grease that might keep it from sealing later on.  Put the heated jar lids on, screw on bands, and put back in pressure canner.  It needs to process at 11 pounds pressure for 75 minutes for pints, 90 minutes for quarts.  Exhaust the canner for ten minutes with the steam steadily rising from the vent hole, then put the weight on top and wait for it to get up to the proper pressure.  Start timing the process from the point that it’s at the proper pressure. 

You have to keep it at the right pressure the entire time.  If it gets a little high, that’s okay, but if it drops below 11 pounds pressure, you have to restart timing the canning all over again (to prevent possibility of botulism).  So don’t let it drop!

So far in the meat department, I’ve canned beef cubes, beef stew, turkey pieces, ground chicken, ground beef, broth, and meat spaghetti sauce.  The only problem I had was with jars that failed to seal because I didn’t drain the fat enough, so when it reached the high temperature inside the canner, it boiled over the jar lid, and then the lid couldn’t adhere.  I put those in the fridge and used them right away, but they could have been reheated it, and then reprocessed. 

If you start canning and do some meat, please share your experience!


Honey Baked Lentils

I made these last week, after many months since last having served it.  When I served it then, my son’s friend was here for dinner and kept exclaiming at how our food was so much better than theirs (this had my kids looking skeptical, since his family often goes out to eat and a lot of what they eat is processed healthy food, the kind of food my kids know of as ‘treat’ food).  We served it at that time with soaked cornmeal corn cakes and several kinds of fermented vegetables – so it was a thoroughly healthy meal.  I don’t know why it took me so long to put them on the menu again!  My ds10 enjoyed them so much last week that he asked me to put them on this week’s menu, too!  It’s a quick, easy, and inexpensive dish, so I’m sharing it here with you.

Honey Baked Lentils

  • 1. c. dried lentils
  • 2 c. water
  • 2 T. honey
  • 2 T. soy sauce
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1/2 t. ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, chopped

Put everything into a covered pan, and bake at 350 degrees until tender.  I’d estimate this serves about 4 people; I think we use four cups of dried lentils for our family.

* I start preparing for this dish a couple of days in advance, by soaking the lentils overnight.  Then I drain the lentils off, and let them sit in the bowl for the rest of the day.  Before I go to sleep, I rinse them in a strainer again.  Even in this cold weather, they started to sprout within this period of time.  If you do soak your lentils first, you won’t need nearly so much water, since it’s already absorbed so much water through the soaking – we cut it down drastically, to maybe a 1/2 c. for the entire quadrupled recipe.  Though this isn’t necessary, it’s what I try to do with bean and lentils to maximize the nutritional value. 


Dealing with sibling rivalry

>>Here is my question for you if you have time to answer it:  How do you handle sibling rivalry?  Your kids sound so amazing, like they always get along and are all best friends.  Do you ever have issues with fighting?<<

For some reason, it seems alot of people assume this about my kids, but I don’t know why – I’ve even had people tell me that they don’t look as if they ever fight, that they’re ‘such angels I can’t imagine it’.  LOL.  Kids are kids, and though the kids do get along well for the majority of the time and I love it that they are good friends, it’s inevitable that there are going to sometimes be personality conflicts and disagreements. 

 We’ve been able to keep this pretty mild for the most part, and I think that keeping this particular aspect of child raising under control is a huge part of why I enjoy having a big family and would love more kids.  Dealing with constant sibling squabbles is draining and wears you down emotionally, and having more kids only exacerbates whatever the current situation is by adding more voices to the fray.  If more kids meant more screaming, fighting, and constant stress, I don’t think I’d so positively anticipate (or even want!) each new arrival.

I don’t have a perfect answer to this because I still have my moments of irritation and so do the kids, but I’ll share what we do (and maybe that’s enough, to know that you can get good results without being perfect!).  First of all, I definitely encourage my kids to be friends.  I stress relationships within the family and minimize relationships outside of the family that would compete (that’s another huge topic).  It’s generally harder to be friends with your siblings than with people outside of the family, because you don’t get to choose them.  So they need time daily to learn to get along with one another; if they spend most of each day in some kind of school setting, followed by playdates, they won’t have the opportunities to get past being constantly annoyed with or provoked by their siblings.  But just being around each other all the time isn’t going to automatically make them friends.

Regarding dealing with rivalry itself:  From the time they’re born, I assume that they love each other and want to get along, and respond to anything that some people would call ‘rivalry’ or jealousy with an attitude that it’s not intended as such.  And it’s not a big deal.  It’s too easy to start looking for signs that a young child feels threatened, jealous, hateful, etc of a new baby or younger sibling, and to focus on that causes it to escalate.  When I hear mothers verbalize the negative feelings they think they very young child is feeling (‘oh, you’re jealous of little Mikey because Mommy holds him all the time’), I cringe because I think it’s building up the negative way of looking at it.  We don’t need to make our kids’ negativity bigger than it is, and we can reframe it for them in a positive way.  (I’d rather say something like, ‘Aren’t you lucky that you’re so big and we can do this together; little Mikey is too tiny to have this special fun with us.’)

As they get older, when they disagree I step in to moderate the situation and guide them to appropriately resolving it, using words and not hitting.  Sometimes this has meant very long sessions of having kids sit down and really listen to one another (when they’re older) and phrase what they want to say respectfully and appropriately, which can sometimes take a lot of time when they’re feeling hostile.  If one person wrongs another, I usually insist that an apology is made (I don’t accept a sullen ‘sorry’), followed by an act to show they’re sorry.  I think action is important in creating an impression on the brain, and training a child how to handle these situations.  When they’re little, like with my toddler, there’s very little discussion – I’ll say something like ‘we don’t hit, we don’t say things like that’ and tell him to go and hug the person (which honestly isn’t always wanted but is something the other child has to tolerate for the sake of the 2 yo learning proper behavior).  When they’re in the 6 – 10 year old range, they generally have to play a game with each other or do something else together.   With the oldest kids, it’s mostly verbal disagreement and resolution.  

As far as fighting goes, I decided to have a low tolerance level for it.  In general, my approach is to respond quickly to provocative situations before they escalate.  I don’t like being a referee, and I don’t think there’s much to gain from trying to reason with kids that are already emotionally stressed out.  They just can’t hear you at that point.  And whatever you do, someone ends up feeling victimized.   So it’s really important to step in early.  I don’t believe in letting kids ‘work it out’.  If they haven’t been taught the tools to work it out, that generally results in whoever is stronger or more powerful winning. 

But that doesn’t mean that I’m constantly getting involved in every little thing.  As they get older, they become more and more able to resolve their issues appropriately without my intervention or assistance.   I’d step in immediately for children under 6 or 7.  For kids a little older, I’d be aware and listening actively to what was going on, but not necessarily saying anything unless it was necessary.  Once they’re about 11 or 12, I’ve seen from experience which kids are challenged in what ways, and trust them to resolve most things on their own unless I know it’s a situation they are still finding frustrating.  In that case, I listen and step in when I think it’s helpful (ie, when I see that their communication with one another is becoming negative or unproductive).   

I hope this is helpful.  I’ve written in generalities, so feel free to ask something more specific if I haven’t addressed your particular concern. 


Homemade Strawberry Jam

We made a delicious experiment last week that was so simple that I had to share it with you, a sugar free strawberry jam! It’s slightly softer than a jam, so maybe to call it a fruit spread would be more accurate.

Here’s the proportions we used:

  • 3 lb. frozen strawberries (you can use fresh, too)
  • 1 can frozen apple juice concentrate
  • 1 box powdered pectin (use the pectin intended for low sugar recipes)

Put the strawberries and concentrate in the pot.  Cook on low, covered, until the strawberries are soft.  Mash the strawberries using a fork while keeping them in the pot.  Add the pectin, thoroughly mixing in so that there are no lumps.  Cook on medium-high for another few minutes, and then pour into jars.  It won’t look as if it’s at all jelled by this point, but don’t worry about it – it will continue to set after it cools.  If you cook it until it looks thick, it will be overdone and hard to spread once it cools.  (That’s what happened to our first batch.)  This recipe yields 7 half pint jars of jam.

If you’re not going to be canning it, you can store it in glass jars or empty peanut butter jars.  We canned ours in 1/2 pint jelly jars, processing for five minutes in a boiling water bath.  Once it’s canned, you won’t need to keep it in the fridge or freezer.

For one batch, we added blueberries; for another we used a different flavor juice concentrate.  All of the batches turned out well.  I think if you keep the basic proportions the same (7 c. fruit to one can concentrate), you’ll find you can successfully experiment with different fruits.


Dehydrating frozen carrots

When I last went shopping, I got a huge amount of frozen vegetables.  One of the things I ordered for the first time was frozen diced carrots, and when I got there to pick up my order, the woman in charge of the frozen section told me that I was in luck, since the manager told her to mark the frozen carrots down fifty percent that morning.  And even though I placed my order the week before, that applied to my carrots, too.

That made the diced frozen carrots 25 cents a pound, which is very, very cheap, especially considering that the peeling and chopping has been done for you.  When I saw them marked down, my first instinct was to buy a bunch more than the case of 24 pounds that I already had ordered. But my rational brain took over after taking a second look at the industrial sized cart she had wheeled my order out on, and I wondered what I could possibly do with more, since as it was I didn’t have room in the freezer for everything.  I briefly considered canning them, but I prefer not to can vegetables and knew that I would be creating a lot of time pressure for myself if I had to can everything before it defrosted.  So I reluctantly stuck with just 24 pounds.

Then later that night, eight hours later to be precise, it occurred to me that I could have bought them and then dehydrated them.  I felt like smacking my forehead when this occurred to me, but there was no way I was driving two hours in each direction just to go buy some more!  I had never tried it before, which is why it didn’t occur to me in the store. 

I was very lucky in that the weather has been so cold that nature has been keeping several cases of veggies frozen for me, so I didn’t have to rush to deal with them. But I can’t rely on it staying this cold forever, so I decided yesterday would be a good day to dehydrate some.  My dd8 and I did this together – it was pretty easy since there wasn’t much prep work, just separating the pieces that froze together after she took the bags out to defrost and spreading them evenly on the trays.  We took out three bags of 4 lb. each, and that was one load in the dehydrator.  It took most of the day (I’m estimating about twelve hours, though I wasn’t watching the clock), since there was so much moisture from the ice that had to melt first – I turned it off before I went to sleep and the last of them were finished by then.  It always amazes me how compact everything becomes once it’s dehydrated.

Today, I plan to do another load, since there’s no advantage to keeping them frozen over having them dehydrated.  In fact, the opposite is true – they will take up lots less space when dried and free up freezer space for something else.  Since I plan to use them in stews, chili, pot pies, etc., they’ll be rehydrated as a natural part of cooking and dehydrated works just as effectively as frozen for my purposes.


Weekly menu plan

Here’s the menu for this week:

Sunday – breakfast – eggs, fried potatoes; lunch – rice crackers, butter, homemade jam; dinner – chicken lima bean stew

Monday – b – oatmeal muffins; l – broccoli-zucchini quiche (plan to double this and put one in the freezer); d – minestrone soup, corn cakes (made double last week)

Tuesday – b – fritata ranchera; l – minestrone soup; d – vegetarian meatloaf

Wednesday – b – pumpkin streusel muffins; l – colcannon; d – honey baked lentils, cornbread

Thursday – b – traditional pancakes; l – vegetable chicken stew; d – CORN

I try to plan not only with what’s in my pantry in  mind, but with my leftovers in mind.  That avoids lots of leftovers at the end of the week, and it also turns something old into something new and different.  For example, when I made the chicken lima bean stew for dinner tonight, I decided to use the leftover cholent in place of the potatoes it called for.  The stew doesn’t look anything like cholent, but it used up something that otherwise could have sat around all week and then gotten thrown away on Friday.