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Monday, May 31, 2010

Southwest BBQ Chicken Salad

So, now you've rehydrated those black beans and they are ready to use - what should you make with them.  Well here is one recipe that my family really enjoys. . .
Southwest BBQ Chicken Salad

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (still frozen)
1 cup mesquite marinade (or any southwest flavor)
1 bunch  red leaf lettuce, rinsed, drained, and chopped
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup cooked corn
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 cup crushed tortilla chips
Kraft Honey Hickory Smoke Barbecue Sauce
Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing

1. Earlier in the day place frozen chicken breasts in a crock pot and pour marinade over.  Cook on low for 4 hours.  You could also marinade the chicken overnight and then grill.  Allow chicken to cool and then slice into 1/4 inch strips.

2. To assemble salads:  Divide lettuce between 6 large bowls.  Divide remaining ingredients among the bowls layering cilantro, black beans, corn, cheese, tomatoes, chicken, and chips.  Drizzle lightly with barbecue sauce then top with ranch dressing.  Serve immediately.

1.  You can use a can of black beans drained and rinsed, or I like to buy my beans dried and soak and cook them (find out how here).  I then drain and divide them into quart size freezer ziplock bags and freeze until needed.  They can be quickly defrosted in the microwave if you forget to get them out earlier.  This is much more economical (1 pound of dried beans is $1 and this makes about 4-6 cans worth).

2.  My husband prefers to use salsa and ranch for his dressing.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Dried Black Beans - An All Around Winner

Dried beans are a wonderful and inexpensive staple.  They are also full of nutrition and easy to store long term in #10 cans.  For years I have used canned black beans whenever I needed black beans in a recipe.  When the cost of these cans of beans kept increasing, I looked for an alternative.  I noticed that I could buy a one pound bag of dried black beans for the same price as a can of beans, but my dilemma was how to turn those dry beans into what I was already used to using "prepared" in the can.  It is so simple (although it does take a few hours) and a one pound bag yields the equivalent of 4-5 cans.  When I'm done I just place them in freezer quart ziplocks and freeze until needed.

First, put your dry beans in a pan and sort out any rocks (I almost always find a rock or two, but not today) and any odd looking beans.
Then rinse the beans and cover them with about 6 cups of warm water. Now the beans need to soak. There are 2 methods for this 1.  You can let them sit in the pan overnight or 2.  Bring the water to a boil, boil for 2 minutes, then remove them from the heat, cover and let sit for an hour.  I almost always use the second method, because it's quicker and requires less planning ahead!
After your beans have soaked, drain off the water.  You now need to cook the beans.  So cover them with water, again, and put them back on the stove.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 1-2 hours.  The older the beans, the longer they'll need to cook.  I start checking the texture of the beans after 45 minutes, and then I check every 15 minutes until they have the mouth feel I am looking for.

Then drain off most of the water.  I leave some water in the pan and bag it with the beans in case I need some "bean juice" in my recipe.

Ok, so now you just need to let them cool and bag 'em up.  I put over a cup and a half of beans in each bag - I'm pretty sure thats way more than would come out of the can.  Just look at how much more you get for the same amount of money!
Use however much you need and freeze the rest. When you need to use one of the frozen bags, just defrost on the counter for an hour or two or in the fridge overnight.  If you need them quicker pop the bag in the microwave for 1 minute on defrost (60% power), and you're off and running!

Friday, May 21, 2010

So, How Much Food Storage Do I Have Under the Stairs?

Well, I've been wondering lately just how long our family of 6 could last using the food storage we have on hand.  Although I have a pretty good idea of how many cases of #10 cans I have stored, sometimes it's difficult to get a real good feel for just how long that could feed us. And what about all the pantry items I have - and all the frozen food (although I know this would not last long if we were without power for more than a day).  Then I ran across a really cool tool called the "Food Storage Analyzer" on the Preparedness Pantry Blog, so I gave it a try.

To start out you have to enter data about who will be using the food.  This is just everyone in the family's age and whether they are male or female. This sets how many calories the family will consume during a day.  For our family of 6 we consume 11,200 calories per day.  It then directs you to pages (via tabs at the top of the data entry table) where you can enter what foods you have stored.  There's even a page where you can input your own data if something's not listed.  Of course there is also a column for you to add in "Intended Purchases from Emergency Essentials" (they're even kind enough to put those items in your shopping cart for you) - hey, they've gotta pay for all the work that went into creating  that Food Storage Analyzer somehow, right?  When you're all done there is a printer friendly version that you can print out and voila you now have a beautifully organized inventory list that makes it super easy to see what you've got and what you might need to stash away next.

All in all it's a great tool, and I wish I would have had it back when I was starting out.  It would be much simpler to keep track of your supplies as you go rather than trying to move and shift boxes to get a good count later.  Oh, and in case you're wondering, we have enough food for our family for (drum roll please) 183.5 days.  Yay!  Here's the Food Storage Analyzer Button to click if you want to give it a try.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Weekly Grind

I can purchase a 25 pound bag of wheat for $5.85.  That is a lot of wheat, and I can grind it into a wonderful whole wheat flour in my NutriMill Grain Mill.Trust me, a bag of wheat grinds into lots of fresh flour which can then be turned into phenomenal bread or rolls or cookies or whatever!!  Now though, I have a problem. The other night our family of 6 had a "drive-thru dinner."  We don't do this very often, because we enjoy eating home cooked meals together around the dinner table, but sometimes life is busy and the occasional fast food can be a treat.  Well, by the time the whole family ordered their "value meal," the grand total for our little evening out was around $35.  I just couldn't help myself - my mind started running the numbers, and I figured out that this same $35 could have purchased 6 bags of wheat.  Thats 150 pounds of wheat my friends!!!!!!!  Do you know how much bread/cereal/rolls/cookies that would make?  Wow - so now my poor children have to suffer with me telling them that, "for the cost of that shake and onion rings (or insert any treat here), I could have bought 25# of wheat.  Do you know how much that would feed our family?"  Like I said, I just can't help myself - eating out will never be the same.  Now, you probably want to join in with my kids and say, "Ahhhhhhhhh c'mon mom."