Twice Dried Potatoes: A No S*@t Moment

Alright, I admit it. I’ve used potato flakes.

Shoot me.

Sometimes, I just don’t feel like messing with a primal/paleo/natural/weshouldbeeatingthis side. Sometimes it’s been a hectic day and the dog is barking and the baby is crying and my hair is turning gray and I really wanna just slap dinner on the table. So I resort to potato flakes.

I’ve even gone to buying organic potato flakes from whole foods. And you know, they aren’t bad. The only ingredient is potatoes. But, of course, those potatoes aren’t anywhere near their natural state being the dried little flakies that they are. But they are a GREAT prepper food, they aren’t really a primal food, but they are awesome if you are like me and looking for more paleo alternatives to storing survival type food.

Of course, I always have leftovers. That no one wants to eat. I don’t actually eat mashed potatoes (diabetes is a cruel bitch) on a regular basis, so I would make bread with the leftovers (yes you can do this) or dumplings. Since I don’t make mashed potatoes that often, you can imagine I don’t make bread or dumplings that often either. And I hate making bread. Bread hates me. I’m bad at it anyway.

So the moral of the story is that I always end up with leftover damn mashed potatoes. And no idea what to do with it other than those two things.

Until I read in one of my dehydrator books that you can actually dehydrate mashed potatoes. Even if they are from potato flakes.

So essentially I’m making, then re-drying, already dried potatoes.

Sure. Why the hell not. As my dear Irish friends say: The devil hates a coward.

So I slathered my leftover mashed potatoes, made from flakes, on a dehydrator tray. A thin layer.

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I dried them for about 3 hours.

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I kinda peeled them off the parchment. They were big, dry sheets basically. And I put them in my food processor.

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And pulsed them until they were kinda fine.

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Then I boiled up some milk and water like you do for instant potatoes only sans the butter and salt.

I was afraid since they weren’t super fine flakes like the kind in the box id end up with crunchy potatoes. But not at all. They came out pretty creamy, but with more texture than the box kind. In a pleasant way.

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And ya know what? Amazingly. Almost impossibly. They are BETTER than just out of box. How? Why? I have no idea. They actually taste like REAL mashed potatoes. Go freakin figure.

To top off the awesomeness of all this, I needed to add exactly jack squat to them. No salt. No butter. Nothing. They’re teally good. Like. Good enough into fooling someone that they aren’t instant potatoes.

I’m not worried about the fact that they had butter or milk in them. I routinely dehydrate yogurt, and that’s perfectly safe if done correctly.

So. I’m feeling pretty smug. I found a way to use leftovers creatively. And it’s actually pretty damn good.

I think I may win the internet today. :p

Cranberry Pecan Muffins: The Baker’s Equivalent of Erectile Dysfunction

A post from my old blog again! Enjoy!

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Remember how I was telling ya’ll how it was hard to find a good jar mix recipe? Well, here’s another one I tried. It’s called Cranberry Pecan Muffins. It sounded really promising. Dried cranberries, pecans, brown sugar. What’s not to love?

It was one of those recipes in my organizer I’d never tried, and I’m always up for finding jar mixes cause they are so damn easy to keep in the cabinet and grab and make at a moment’s notice, so I figured, why the hell not! Plus, muffins are so easy to freeze. Instant lunch snacks. Not the most healthy of snacks, mind you, but I just like trying new recipes even if I’m not the one eating them.

So I grabbed and lined my muffin tins.

I had greased them prior and then decided against that and went with muffin cups. God I hate how my tins always get so stained. Anyway! Then I added the sugars and flour.

Add in the yummy cranberries and pecans, with some baking powder.

Then I added the wet stuff

Mixed it up

Plopped them into the muffin cups

Put them in the oven. Baked them. And took them out.

I was slightly disturbed at this point because they didn’t really “rise.” They kind of kept the same shape as the batter when I plopped them in. Oh well, I figured, there’s a lot of food that doesn’t look good but tastes dreamy.

Since my blood sugar can’t handle a whole muffin, and I was about to eat dinner and couldn’t afford the carbs, I called the Texan down to try one.

“Try one of these muffins!” I exclaimed

“They look weird.” he muttered

“Yeah, yeah, just eat them!” I demanded

He picked one up, took a bite. And then he got that look on this face. Not a look of “ew” but a look of “what the hell.” And he cracked a little smile.

“Try one.” he said

“I can’t, too many carbs. How are they?”

“No, really, I insist, try one.”

This couldn’t be good.

I broke off a quarter of one of the muffins and popped it in my mouth.

It was warm cardboard with a sort of cranberry after taste. F*#king great.

I picked up the tin and dumped them in the trash. SONOFABITCH. WHO in their RIGHT MIND actually came up with this recipe but then decided it was good enough to actually put in a recipe book? Are you freakin’ serious?

Ok, was it gross? No. It wasn’t puke gross. But it was nothing. It was like dry brittle pecan cranberry crap. I HATE WHEN THAT HAPPENS! It’s gotta be the baker’s equivalent of erectile dysfunction: You get so excited at the prospect only to find out the damn recipe is completely flaccid no matter how much you are attempting to will it into deliciousness. And even if it’s NOT your fault because it’s not your recipe you still FEEL like it’s your fault and you start apologizing and turning red faced to the other party:

“I’m sorry, I really tried, I don’t know what’s wrong with my muffins. Why does this keep happening to me?”

And if the party is worth anything as a human being they will respond “It’s ok, dear, it happens to every baker.”

UGH! Martha Stewart I am not.

Shelf Stable Cauliflower

You’re probably thinking this is a post on the new GM version of cauliflower courtesyof Monsanto.

It’s not. I promise.

As you probably know by now, I’m very into food storage. More specifically, minimally or non processed food storage.

So when I saw cauliflower on sale for a steal I thought this would be a good time to do a post on how to dry cauliflower and make it shelf stable. And of course, what to do with it once you do.

Dried cauliflower can be used to make awesome cream of cauliflower soup, cheese and cauliflower side dish (just rehydrate and add cheese and rice if you want a full meal), or, my favorite, rehydrate, heat and mash with oodles of butter and heavy whipped cream to make cauliflower smash! Kinda like mashed potatoes but primal, diabetic and paleo friendly!

The stems, once dried, should be pulverized to a powder. You can do this with a food processor, I prefer a coffee grinder as it makes it super fine or a mortar and pestle if you wanna get primal about it. Use the powder as a seasoning for rice, popcorn, soups and stews, dips, even to flavor cheese. It’s actually really good!

There are lots of tips to get properly dried cauliflower. But honestly I think the main three things to remember are:

Make sure to blanch it. Don’t skip that step.

Cut the florets small or very thin. Small cut cauliflower dries much better and reconstitutes better too.

Separate the stems from the florets. Don’t throw them away but do seperate them.

You can, if you want, pre treat it by dipping it in a weak lemon juice solution. This will help retain color once it’s dried. I personally don’t care about color.

And I’m kinda lazy.

So, first things first. Chop your cauliflower. You want to remove the stems and keep those separate. The leaves you can toss or compost.

Chop your florets into small chunks or thin slices. Then slice your stems thinly.

Blanch separately and lay them on separate trays in your dehydrator.

Dehydrate at 130 for 4 hours and check for dryness. You’ll probably need another 4 depending on how long you blanched them or how small you cut them.

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Kinda looks like popcorn doesn’t it?

I line all my trays with Unbleached parchment because it makes quick work of clean up.

Here’s the stems once dried

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And I throw them in a coffee grinder to make a fine powder. Just make sure the grinder is clean and dry before you use it or you’ll have coffee flavored cauliflower powder. Gross. Another thing to make sure of is to leave the lid on until the powder settles or you’ll be inhaling cauliflower powder. Also not pleasant in mass amount.

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Once the cauliflower is dry store it in a cool, dry, dark place either in a mason jar, Mylar bag or vacuum seal bag depending on how long you intend on storing.

Don’t be too discouraged by how little it makes. It is dried, after all. This is two heads of cauliflower dried and two heads worth of stems powdered:
!

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I don’t typically put my dried stuff in pretty containers because I like them to stack inside my kitchen cabinet. But dried food looks super pretty in jars too! So you may just wanna spice a mason jar full of your dried foods with a little piece of pretty fabric and twine to show off your country kitchen skills!

Non Toxic: Make Your Own Shoe Polish

I’ve made a concentrated effort to try to replace all toxic things in my house with non toxic versions, if at all possible.

I’ve also made an effort to make all my own things, if I can possibly, because I want to learn more about the stuff we, as Americans “need” on a regular basis.

Plus, it’s just damn fun.

So when The Texan said he wanted shoe polish for Christmas, I decided I was going to look for non toxic version on Etsy. I was trying to buy local, made in US stuff this season. On a budget.

When I realized what the ingredients actually were I had a moment.

Duh. I could do that.

I was a soapmaker by trade and I know a whole lot about making all kinds of lotions, potions and other notions when it comes to bath and body. And it appears shoe polish is not really all that different from body butter.

Who would have known.

There are, obviously, key differences.

You want to make sure you have a very solid base for your shoe polish. You want to use beeswax. Beeswax is VERY hard, but not TOO hard, and it WILL buff, which is very important. You don’t want something that won’t buff. That would be annoying.

Because beeswax alone is way too hard to use as a shoe polish, you want to add another oil. Preferably a very soft at room temperature oil or a liquid oil. I used rice bran, but palm, coconut or olive will work equally as well.

Next you want to color it. For a natural color, I suggest oxides. Tkbtrading.com has a lot of awesome natural colorants. You can opt to not add color at all if you aren’t looking to fill in imperfections and just use the oils as is to give yourself a shine. I used black oxide.

I never really got all that into shining shoes. It seems like a really male thing. Guys like shining their shoes. Although I never really got into it, I think, cause the smell of the polish gives me a damn headache.

Back to work.

Melt the beeswax on a double boiler with your oil. You want a 1:1 ratio for this.

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Once they are both melted, take them off the heat and start whipping the shit out of it. You can use a little hand frother since you probably aren’t making a TON of shoe polish, you can use an egg whisk, you can use a fork, or you can just stir madly.

The reason you want to do this is to make sure the liquid oil incorporates evenly into the beeswax, otherwise it’s gonna be gritty. Be patient, this is a long process.

Before the two are TOTALLY cooled though, and here’s the tricky part, you want to add the color. This is why I have no pictures of this process. Because there’s no way I had an extra hand to take pictures.

The BEST way to add your color, which should be about 1 tsp per 2 ounces of wax/oil, is to add it to some liquid oil and blending it together then adding to your wax/oil mix. This is simple to do, just mix the oxide into the oil until well blended and add to the wax/oil. Just make sure you use JUST ENOUGH liquid oil to incorporate the oxide otherwise you’ve messed up the ratio of wax/oil big time.

Once the stuff starts to become creamy and has started sticking together with no further fear of separation, and the color is evenly dispersed, you can stop mixing. You can test a little of it on a shoe at this point if you like.

I suggest you put this stuff into the container you want it in at this point, before it hardens, while it’s still pliable. It’s VERY messy. Doing it now will enable you to get the stuff into a jar or tin nice and easy. Once beeswax gets on the side of a jar, it’s damn near impossible to get it off and make it look pretty. So use a solid colored tin, jar, or just be really freakin careful putting it in there if it’s a gift cause it’ll look like shit otherwise.

To use it:

Dab a rag into the shoe polish, grabbing up a little chunk of the polish and spread on the shoe.

Rub it in really well. Repeat until cracks or dings are filled in. Then buff really well with a clean rag or brush.

There you go. Never buy shoe polish again.

This won’t give you the SUPER shiny look of patent leather, but it will give you a nice shine. If you want a super shiny look, I suggest buffing AGAIN after using the polish with straight oil and making sure you get the excess buffed off well or else you’ll attract dust which will dull the shine.

So here’s to another non toxic product out of my house and a new, cheaper, make your own natural product in!

It’s such a good feeling!

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Natural Shoe Polish

1 part beeswax
1 part oil such as palm, coconut, olive or rice bran. Add more or less depending on how solid you want the polish to be.
1 tsp of oxide colorant per 2 oz of product, or as much as needed to obtain the color desired, optional
Liquid oil like rice bran, olive, coconut or palm for further buffing if needed.

Melt wax and oil in double boiler.

Once wax is fully melted, remove from heat and whisk or whip until pliable and well incorporated.

Add colorant, if desired, to a little bit of liquid oil, just enough to incorporate the color, and pour into wax mix. Mix until color is evenly distributed throughout.

Cool until still pliable, but not hardened and transfer to a tin or jar carefully.

To use:

Remove small amount of polish with rag and apply to shoe. Rub in as desired.

Buff off with a brush or clean rag.

Buff again with straight liquid oil if high shine is needed.

Dehydrating Chicken: The Truth Of It

As I am into natural long term food storage, I like dehydrating damn near everything. I love my dehydrator. It’s awesome. It’s a 9 tray Excalibur style dehydrator that’s just a beast and that I use all the time. Too bad it doesn’t really fit on my counter cause otherwise it would stay there. Forever.

I’ve dried all manner of fruits, veggies, herbs and snacks. I’ve also dehydrated my share of meats. And I can tell you that home dried jerky is not nearly as shelf stable as store bought, but it’s super tasty.

I also know that home drying is one of the most nutritionally sound methods of food preservation. There’s no real risk of botulism like canning, and unlike canning, you aren’t heating the crap out of the stuff until it’s mushy, so you are retaining the nutritional content pretty well. Not to mention it’s much gentler to dry the stuff at home than what they do to store bought, which heats it very quick and sometimes even adds chemicals to retain the color, longevity and, of course, profit margin.

But I was looking at drying something more practical. I wanted to dry actual MEAT, not jerky, and I wanted it to be shelf stable. I wanted to dry chicken, but in the past when I’ve done that it hasn’t gone well. At all. It turns out like strings of hard plastic and didn’t rehydrate well.

I did a little research and saw that people were drying cold cuts really well, namely chicken. They rehydrate almost as good as fresh. I also read that people were making chicken jerky. Not my thing, but alright.

So I got to thinking. I didn’t really CARE if they chicken was “snackable” once rehydrated. I’m fine with it being just ok for soups or stews, as long as it doesn’t stay crunchy or rotten. So I deduced that grinding chicken, like you would grind beef to make certain kinds of jerky, would probably help it dry more evenly AND rehydrate better AND be perfectly fine in soups in stews.

Plus it totally gives me something new to do with leftover chicken.

So, I took apart some baked chicken pieces I had leftover. I took just the leanest parts of the meat, left the bones and skin in a freezer bag to make bone broth with later. So, this chicken was already baked, and I put the pieces in a food processor and processed it until it was finely minced up.

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I took the big chunks that didn’t grind up out. I know from experience those just don’t dry well and I didn’t want to keep grinding it into chicken powder.

I lined a dehydrator tray with parchment and dumped the chicken on.

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I only had to dry it at 170 for 4 hours before it was done. And it pretty much looked the same done as it does there. In other words, it dried really nicely.

When I cooked it up in a little bit of water, think chicken soup style, it actually wasn’t bad. It was the consistency of the little bits of chicken you get in canned chicken soup just without the “chemical shit storm” that those “chicken like products” probably have in them.

It’s not as good as FRESH chicken soup, but it’s certainly a great prepper food and honestly something I would not hesitate to use on my “shit I have nothing to make for dinner” days.

So, I’ve got a little skip in my step today knowing I figured out a pretty decent natural zombie survival food that isn’t chemical loaded. Yay me!

Now let’s just hope it STAYS shelf stable. I’ll know in a couple months, and so will you, because if it doesn’t no doubt you’ll hear me cursing all way over there.

Clearance Bananas

It’s no surprised that I’m a dehydrating addict. To me, the perfect long term food storage IS dehydrating. Not that I don’t love canning and smoking and whatnot, but drying has a whole lot of perks:

1. You don’t run the risk of botulism like you do with canning.
2. There’s no risk of spoilage when you’ve done it right.
3. It’s super light, portable and compact, easy to store and is extremely conveinent to have especially when you realize a recipe calls for carrots and you have none, but you have dried carrots, that’s exactly the same thing.
4. Even if you don’t have water to rehydrate, some dried items can be eaten as is.
5. And not least, home drying is the most nutritionally sound way to preserve food. When it’s dried at temperatures that a normal dehydrator can handle, as opposed to super heated or chemically treated like those at the store, the food retains an alarmingly high amount of it’s nutrients. It’s still not FRESH, but it’s basically the closest thing to it.

There’s a grocery store around here that often sells “clearance” produce. You know. The kind that’s bruised and over ripe, but hasn’t gone off quite yet.

I typically stay away from the dirty dozen produce on these racks, but bananas are always in abundance. It’s cause they go ripe REAL quick.

So, I’m all but constantly drying bananas. They are great to use in cooking, dehydrate really well for baby foods or toddler snacks and are great snacking and lunch ideas on their own, whether you chose to dry them into chips or dry them into the pliable kinda goodness that I usually do.

Hmmmmmm. Bananas.

What I typically find is that when I start opening up these bananas, parts of them are too mushy to even put in the dehydrator. So the first thing I do is slice them all as evenly as possible.

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As I go along, I separate all the mushy stuff into a separate bowl and end up with a whole mess of what looks like this:

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When that happens to you, don’t toss it. Just get creative.

What I’ve found is that this mash actually freezes very well in mason jars or freezer containers to be used in banana breads, pancakes, muffins, smoothies and puddings. Or you can mash them up with some apple and other fruits, stick it in a blender and make it smooth and spread on your trays to make really good fruit leathers. They won’t be the greatest color, but they are really good!

You can even dry the mash as is and rehydrate when bananas are called for in recipes like banana bread if you don’t have storage space.

Next time you see those clearance bananas, think about it taking some home to dry. They are really freakin tasty and damn near free!

Toddler Friendly Liver

My son isn’t a picky eater. So far anyway. He’s only a year old so give him time. I’m sure he will be.

He eats pretty damn primal/paleo. Eggs, meats, veggies and fruit make up most of diet with obviously milk, cheese and the occasional treat (like rice o’s) thrown in.

But lately he’s been acting very tired. And to me looking kinda pale.

I’ve taken him to different doctors over several months and none seem concerned. But when he went from being able to stay awake for 3-4 hours at a time to 1-2 hours and being lethargic, I put my foot down and refused to let them blow me off.

Yeah, maybe it’s a growth spurt. A really long one. Months long.

Ok. Maybe he’s trying to adjust his naps now that’s he hitting 14 months. Maybe. But he was never much of a napper anyway.

He finally had some tests and nothing alarming showed up. I was fearing anemia, or worse. But so far, so good, thank God.

I still think he needs more iron. So I tried giving him some toddler formula I still had on my shelf. And he immediately puked it up.

He’s been on grass fed milk for awhile so. I would probably puke too.

Then I reluctantly tried giving him organic rice cereal I still had from his purée days. And he looked at me like I was insane.

I tried to jazz it up by adding some garlic and chicken to it. No dice. It wasn’t fooling him.

I’m an avid liver eater. I think it’s great stuff. BUT the times I’ve tried to include my son on my liver adventures, I have to slice it so thin and so tiny in order for him not to gag that he got frustrated with how little food he was getting at once.

He’s not a fan of being fed with a spoon, so a liver mousse was out of the question.

I know you can’t grind liver either, since it’s too soft. So I kinda took matters into my own hands and decided on trying to make liver burgers.

I took and puréed some liver.

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It’s really thin when you purée it so I added some fresh onion, egg and a little bit of organic Panko (yeah. I did that) to thicken it up. I then seasoned it with some garlic and a bit of pepper.

It still wasn’t the consistency of ground beef. But at least now it wasn’t liquid and I spoon it like pancake batter.

I heated up my cast iron and drenched the pan in butter. Spooned it onto the hot pan and let it cook. This wasn’t grass fed or organic liver so I needed to cook it totally through.

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And I like my liver a little blackened. This one was mine, not his. Blackening his meat makes it too hard for him to chew.

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And ya know. It was damn good! It was soft enough for him to chew on but sturdy enough for him to pick up pieces of on his own.

Score one for mommy sneaking the iron in!