Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Have you ever wondered about eating freeze dried food? I certainly have. So much so that when the husband and I went to our local big chain outdoor store a few months ago, we picked up some to try.

Now, I know some people have heard that freeze dried is absolutely horrible, and yet others say it was fabulous. But this is what I know for sure- it's food, and in a pinch (say lost job, grid down, or just to supplement your food storage), freeze dried is certainly an option to remember.

Many of you have mentioned to me that purchasing freeze dried food in the #10 cans is more economical. And yes, technically, it is. However, what most people fail to think about is whether or not they will actually *like* the food they are purchasing. 
Why buy a huge can of something no one will eat? Go ahead, spend the $8 on a small package for two, and try it.
There is no amount of savings if you do not eat what you purchase. Hell, if you want to throw that money away, send it my way!

The husband and I decided to take an impromptu camping trip in our own Backyard Outdoors. A local state part less than 10 miles from us. We stayed one night, enjoyed the beautiful weather, wildlife and peace.

Not to mention we love a roaring fire. Can you believe this photo (matter of fact, ALL these photos) were taken with my camera phone? I love that camera!).

Mountain House Freeze Dried Foods was the brand demonstrated in the store. We tried a couple of products in the store and they were not bad. But what about and actual camping (or hiking or grid down type scenario)? Would they be as easy to prepare in primitive surroundings as they were in a fully-equipped kitchen?

We decided to test four products. One beef, one chicken, one egg, and one dessert. We figured it would give us the best variety of meat and side dishes. Of course, Mountain House has a wide variety overall. But since we were only camping for one night and half the next day, we didn't need a huge variety.

First up was our evening meal and we decided to go with the Chicken Teriyaki with Rice meal.
Two one-cup servings per package is standard. However, if you tend to eat large amounts of food, you might want to think of this as one serving since the serving size is 1-cup. For the husband and I, this was about right. Calorie count is around 220 per 1-cup serving.

What we found was that when you go camping, you aren't really a 'measuring cup' kind of person. So trying to get the right amount of water into the bag without a measuring cup turned into a 'let's just use our coffee mug' kind of thing. Turns out, our coffee mug holds almost 2 cups of water (we measured once we got home), so our Chicken Teriyaki with Rice meal turned into Chicken Teriyaki with Rice SOUP.

Still, our first try didn't make the food inedible. It was actually very tasty. Even as a soup. So for this particular variety, the amount of water can be varied. Plus, it has 10g of protein. Not great, but not bad.

The one thing I found with most all of the freeze-dried foodstuffs is that they are LOADED with salt. And salt and I do not get along. Not because I have any type of medical issue with sodium or high blood pressure, but because when I eat large amounts of salt my ankles swell and I end up looking like the Elephant Man is growing out of my feet. It's horrendous.
Thinking into the future, if it is a survival thing, you're going to want the 660 mgs of salt this baby packs in such a small [ackage.
Aside from that, the Chicken Teriyaki was still tasty.

Next up was our morning meal. We went with the Mountain House Breakfast Scramble.
Hash browns, eggs, crumbled pork patties, peppers and onions. Now, usually I am not much of a hash brown kind of girl, but that really helped the consistency of the meal.

 Once again, without knowing how much water we were putting in, we decided to adjust our measuring system and add one mug and a little bit more.
As you can see by the picture, it was just a tad too much water, still. However, it did not detract from the taste.

The crumbled pork patties didn't have a lot of flavor. That came mostly from the eggs and peppers and onions, which surprisingly, were slightly firm without turning into mush from the re-hydration process.

This particular meal packs in 400 calories per 1-cup serving, and a WHOPPING 920 mgs of salt. Holy moly I wasn't sure if I would be walking or waddling out of the park, dragging my elephant feet.

Once again, the taste of the product was surprising. It was not bad at all. I mean really, when you think of re-hydrated eggs? How icky does that sound? Pleasantly surprised we were when the meal turned out to be very filling and tasty and not at all what we expected.

Of course, somewhere in the middle of camping we had to have the obligatory junk food...nacho cheese chips and smores go part and parcel with the whole camping adventure.

As we were getting ready for our afternoon meal, it occurred to me that we did not try the freeze dried ice cream! Oh, how I love ice cream....I honestly think it is my favorite cold thing to eat.

I had high hopes for the freeze-dried Ice Cream. And well, it tasted like large cereal marshmallows. Which is great if you're into that kind of thing. But me personally, I am not fond of marshmallows unless it's in a s'more. So the Mountain House Freeze Dried Neapolitan Ice Cream was very dry because you do not re-hydrate it, very creamy because there is no hydration to it, and very thick because it sucks the saliva out of your mouth.

At least at 100 calories per pouch and 40mgs of salt, I didn't have to worry about cankles.

Lunch consisted of Beef Stroganoff with Noodles.

I think this one surprised us most of all.  260 calories per 1-cup serving, 800 mgs salt, and 11g of protein. The noodles were just the right consistence. Which might have been because we adjusted yet again, our water measuring system (we're going to have to add a collapse-able measuring cup into our survival/camping gear!).
The beef was a bit chewy. The sour cream sauce was creamy if a tad bit tasteless, and it indeed had mushrooms and onions.
Even with all that, we did not hate it. We rather liked it. And once again the 1-cup serving filled us up.

Overall, the salt count is unbelievably high, and in a survival situation, you might need that. The taste is greatly improved over previous versions of freeze-dried foods, and definitely WAY better than MRE's.

These are easy to pack and carry, lightweight, and there's even a vacuum-sealed version called a pro-pak which takes up even less room in your backpack.

I would highly suggest packing some pepper or other spice of your liking. For our review, we wanted the basic food with no alterations. In the future, pepper and possibly some cayenne will be on our packing list, along with Mountain House Freeze Dried food.

And no, Mountain House did not pay me to review their food.
My husband and I wanted to test some of our prepping skills and items, and this was the perfect scenario in order to do so- BEFORE something bad happens for real.

With that in mind, please test out YOUR skills in YOUR Backyard Outdoors. You might be surprised at what you learn you may need to do, or stop doing.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

I know I haven't been posting for a long time. What? Since last December and it's now September? Oh, wow. Sorry. kind of got in the way. Between school, transferring schools, attending two schools, my parent's failing health, my father-in-law's failing health and my own surgery, things just seemed to get away from me.

But I'm back. For now, anyway. I can't say things won't get hectic again. Hell, they probably will. But I'll do my best to keep posting fabulous shortcuts and tips.

So- I had many friends ask me about how I make my mayonnaise. Well, here's a video to answer that....and a picture or two. And yes, I understand many people have a problem eating raw eggs. But many people don't. So if your one of those who dislike eating raw eggs for whatever reason (health or taste or preference) I would suggest you not make this mayo. For everyone else, read on!

So before I get to the video- let me explain what I did and how- then watch the video and it should all make sense.


1 egg, room temp
1 c extra virgin olive oil, light tasting (MUST say light tasting on the bottle!)
2 capfuls lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt (I use Mediterranean Sea Salt which has larger grains- but you can use table salt, just use  less if doing so)
1/2 tsp garlic powder (optional)
1/2 tsp ground mustard

That's it. That's the whole shebang.

Now, you'll need a wide mouth mason jar and a stick blender, but no other fancy machinery.
I'm not sure what I would do without my stick blender. I use it all the time...especially when I make potato soup. It's easier to blend the soup directly in the pot than try to ladle hot soup into a blender and hope you don't blow the lid off! I'm not saying that I've done that....not saying that I haven't either. I will never tell!

The possibilities on homemade mayo are endless. You can change up the spices to suit your needs. I add cayenne for hot mayo, or dill if I am making a potato salad, or onion and garlic if I am using it for sandwiches. It's really up to you how you wish to spice it.  the above recipe is my standard, and I adjust from there.

So- what you do....put the egg in the mason jar. add the oil. Wait a minute and let the oil rise while the egg sinks. Add the spices, then put the stick blender in until it reaches the bottom and hold it there. Run the stick blender for about 20-30 seconds on high without moving it around. BE VERY STILL. We's huntin mayo!
OK- so after you've done that you can start to move the blender around, and incorporate the rest of the oil. Once it's all incorporated, add the lemon juice. Blend, Taste. If you want it tangier, add more lemon juice.  Be aware, the more lemon juice you add the more liquid the mayo. So add sparingly!

OK- that's it. That's how I do it. This mayo lasts, covered, about 4 days in the refrigerator. Now, on to the video!

Monday, December 15, 2014

I am not kidding. I threw this into a pot, sauteed a bit, stirred a bit, threw more ingredients in, let boil, blended smooth, and added the creamy stuff to the end and I was done.

It took me an hour, but only because I kept forgetting I was cooking. So this recipe is very forgiving, too. I like that in a recipe!

Doesn't that look just divine? Oooey, gooey, cheesy goodness on top of the best soup....oh, and bacon. Ya gotta have bacon.

So- here's what ya do:
Grab yourself one onion, about six garlic cloves, four idaho potatoes (I used four, but in my defense, one of them was bigger than a truck....okay, maybe not a real truck, but definitely one of those toy two and a half regular sized potato it was!), one leek, 3 cans of chicken broth, one green onion, a dash of chili powder and one package of cream cheese. Oh, and shredded cheddar and bacon for toppings, if you prefer, and I *always* prefer!

Basically, saute your onion in a dash of oil, add the garlic, and two minutes later add the broth, green onion and taters. Let boil, add the diced leek, and let boil again. Simmer for a while. I went and watched Jeopardy! (I love that show!) When everything is nice and tender, blend it well (I used a stick blender, but you could use a regular blender...just be careful of hot soup splash!), and finally, the cream cheese and chili powder. Serve warm...because hot burns your tongue. Trust me.

4 large potatoes, chopped (I left skin on 1, peeled the other 3)
1 Leek, washed and diced.
1 whole gr onion, diced
1 medium onion, diced
6 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp chili powder
dash oil
3 cans chicken broth
8 oz cream cheese
Saute onion in oil. Add garlic. cook 2 minutes.
Add broth, green onions, and potatoes. Cook until soft.
Add leek. Cook until soft. Add chili powder.
Add cream cheese (I dice mine before seems to melt better...oh, and you can totally use 1/2 cup half-n-half or heavy whipping cream, but I like the cream cheese better)
Blend with stick blender (or regular blender, just be wary of hot soup splash)
Serve with shredded cheese and bacon bits.
Total time- about 30-45 minutes.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Yes, I am a Game of Thrones fan....but in reality, Winter really is coming. Some would argue that it is already here as it is COLD outside. I think our high today is 18 degrees. Our windchill is in the negatives. And it's only November!

A few months ago, I started playing around with sugar body scrubs. I dislike spending money on store-bought things. Preferring instead to make them myself if at all possible. Well, sugar body scrubs are possible. And easy. It did take me the better part of 11 months of my sporadic free time to work on perfecting my recipe, but now that I have, I won't ever purchase sugar scrubs from someone else again. (Of course, if you'd rather have *me* make you some, I'll be happy to charge you for them! lol)

Anywho- this is the basic recipe- and most of it is available in your grocery store or craft store.

2 cups sugar 1/4 cup large grain kosher salt 3/4 cup coconut oil 1/4 cup grapeseed oil (or extra light olive oil) 10 drops vitamin E oil 1 tsp shea butter
Essential oils of your choice.
When it comes to the EO's, put scents together that you like. The amount or number of drops will depend on how soft or strong you want the scent, as well as the strength of the brand Of EO you're using. Also remember that the scent will intensify for the first 24 if you go light with the EO's, check it again in 24 hours to see if the scent is strong- or light-enough for you.
For my Citrus Cedar, I used 30 drops cedarwood, 20 drops tangerine, and 10 drops black pepper.
For my Cinnamon Brandy I used 60 drops cinnamon bark, 30 drops clovebud, and 1/2 tsp homemade cinnamon brandy extract.
My Peppermint Candy I used 15 drops peppermint, 5 drops spearmint, and 1 tsp homemade vanilla extract.
Now this basic recipe, minus the EO's, will make 1 pint and 1 small jar (like in my picture). I separate the sugar into jars first, then add the EO's and mix. Of course, if you are making only one type of scrub, you can add the EO's to the oils before you mix the oils into the sugar. Your choice.
Also- I prefer grapeseed oil over olive oil. No particular reason, I just like the feel of the end result better. You use what you like. Also- if you want to increase the Vitamin E oil and omit the shea butter, you can.
Hope this works for you!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Being on the Whole30 bandwagon has really opened our eyes to how much sugar, soy or corn they put in ALL the pre-processed foods out on the market today. And if you have a gluten intolerance? well, good luck to you...that's hard!
And being on Whole 30, soy, sugar and corn are all No-No's....along with no legumes, dairy, alcohol and grain products. It's fairly restrictive. But you know what? We feel better. We actually *feel* better.  There is a noticeable difference in our skin, joints, and general demeanor.

But- you don't have to be on the Whole30 (or Paleo) bandwagon to enjoy this soy-free cashew chicken dinner. It's really tasty without msg, soy or preservatives and fillers.
Just wholesome, good stuff.

So, how does one make cashew chicken without soy? Easy. Coconut.
Did I lose you? I tend to lose everyone once I say coconut. I guess many people have this aversion to coconut flakes or what-not. This? This however, is a coconut miracle. Or amino. Take your pick. It's still good, and it works like a charm. Read on for the miracle that is my cashew chicken!

No Soy No Gluten Cashew Chicken

*1                   Chicken breast, sliced paper thin
*1/4 cup         Coconut Aminos (I found mine here. Of course, I went to the local store. I didn't            Divided         order it online....I'm cheap and didn't want to pay shipping charges!)
*1/8 cup         Light Olive Oil
*1 cup            Fresh broccoli, cut up as you like.
*1/2 cup         Cashews (halves and whole)
*3 Tbs           Arrowroot Powder (found here, or Bob's Red Mill has some too.)

What I did:
I did slice my chicken paper thin since chicken plumps up when you cook it. Cut yours however you wish. I just tried making mine look like the Chinese places' around the corner.
I placed my cut chicken in a plastic baggie, added half the amount coconut aminos (1/8 cup) and all the oil, then let it marinate in the fridge all day. Mostly because I was doing calculus homework and forgot about it.

When the time comes and you realize everyone in your house is starving,  add a little water to a large wok or frying pan, medium heat.
Add the Broccoli and cook/steam until almost done.
Add the chicken...just dump chicken contents of the bag right in to the wok/pan. Quickly stir fry it. You should have a fair amount of liquid in the pan. If not you can always add a dash of water.
Sprinkle the arrowroot powder over the chicken and stir well.
Add the remaining coconut aminos sparingly until you get a nice sauce going.
Just before serving, add the cashews, stirring so they get coated with the tasty sauce.

Serve warm and enjoy!
(I guess if you do rice you can serve rice too...although I would suggest something less grain-y and more health-y, like cauliflower rice. :) )

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Some time during the second week of your Whole30 experience, you're going to get extremely tired of scrambled or hard-boiled eggs. So what do you do?
Well, we made a quiche.

I know, I know. Quiche has milk or cream. Not to mention a flour crust. But I seemed to have got past those little hurdles...although I am still experimenting. Here's what I have come up with so far:

And here's how it went:

I'm going to call that a win. Right?
It's not as thick as a regular quiche. Which also translates into lack of milk equals lack of moisture. But overall, I think I might be able to remedy that using almond milk for the next experiment. Until then, this is really pretty, don't you think?

And as always, Frank's Red Hot Sauce is W30 approved, so pour that sh!t on everything! (I love that commercial! It just cracks me up!)

Anyway- I digress....back to the quiche.
Now, a regular quiche usually has a flour crust of some sort. But since wheat products are a no-no, I decided to just use a little almond flour and pat it into the pie dish. I then sprayed a little cooking oil over it and baked it for about 10 minutes...just long enough to form a 'makeshift' crust to hold the egg mixture.

Then I mixed up my eggs and fillings and poured it in, baked until the eggs were firm and it was done.

It really couldn't be simpler.  The best part about it is you can let eat it for several mornings' breakfasts' or do it for an afternoon lunch. It stays well in the fridge for about 2 days. I made mine Thursday night so Grau could have it Friday morning for breakfast. Today is Saturday and there's one piece left. (He'll probably eat it for lunch or as a snack later today.)

I am so proud of Grau! He started his Whole30 adventure the day after Labor Day and has already lost 18 pounds! You can't argue with that kind of results. Whole30 is healthy. Not like those other fly-by-night 'diet' programs. Nope. Whole30 is really a change in diet. Meaning, it's for good. What you eat is your diet. A 'diet program' is something you do for a short period of time and then stop (usually only to have to try another diet program because you gained back the weight.)
Myself, I've lost 34 lbs so far. And I'm not hungry. I feel good. And that's what it's all about.

OK...back to the quiche. You can really use any filler ingredients you like. I used chicken and broccoli and carrots. Feel free to change up your fillers!


6 eggs
1 carrot, shredded
1 chicken breast, grilled and diced
3 oz fresh broccoli
Salt and pepper to taste.
Almond Flour, about 1/2 cup

As I said, I used almond flour for a crust. Just put it in your pie pan, and pat it flat and up the sides about half-way. Spray with a little bit of oil, then bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.
Remove from oven.

Meanwhile, as your 'shell' is baking, mix the rest of the ingredients together. Add spices to taste (I just used pepper and a hint of salt).

Once your pie shell is out of the oven, pour egg mixture into pie shell and place it back into the oven until eggs are firm- about 30 - 40 minutes. But keep an eye on it. Sometimes if you use small eggs it takes less time to bake than if you used large eggs.

As I said earlier, this is a little dry, so if you want to experiment, try adding 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk...maybe with a little Franks! :)


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

I have no idea why I named this recipe Chicken Bang Bang.  Maybe I need a bit more soup, I mean sleep? Well, for whatever reason, this soup came out fabulous. Of course, I was trying to make this soup, but didn't have all the ingredients so I had to modify it to what I had on hand because I was also being lazy and didn't want to go to the grocery store.

Make either one. I am sure they are BOTH fabulous. And if you try that other soup, lemme know what you think. :)

Chicken Bang Bang (Whole30 compliant!)

1 large chicken breast, cooked and shredded
2 1/2 cups grated baby carrots (I used my food processor)
3 celery stalks (again, shredded in my food processor)
1 4" piece celery stalk, diced extra small.
1 onion, diced
5 cloves garlic
1 T + 1 tsp Chili powder
28 oz crushed tomatoes
1 small can rotel
1 qt chicken broth (the Imagine brand is w30 compliant)
1 qt chicken bone broth*
Olive Oil
1 tsp red pepper flakes
And my secret ingredient- 1/4 tsp cinnamon

I put the carrots and celery and garlic in my food processor and shredded them. Added a dash of olive oil to my pot, added the veggies (incl the onion) and cooked for 2-5 minutes. Then I added the red pepper (bang!), cinnamon (bang!), chili powder, and chicken. Then gave it a good stir.
Once the spices were mixed in really well, add the crushed tomatoes, rotel, broth and bone broth. Let simmer for 30 minutes and you're done!

The red pepper flakes give this soup a BANG! and the warm and inviting cinnamon give it a surprise BANG! Chicken Bang Bang! (No really, I didn't just make that up.)

* I made my own bone broth a couple weeks ago. If you don't have this, use another quart of chicken broth.