There are lots of fresh foods you can store without needing a freezer, canner, or fridge.  I haven't built a root cellar, but discovered that different places in my yard, garage, and house have the right conditions for several of these foods.
Potatoes are happy on my bare garage floor until late January. After January they have to be moved up 1-2 feet, onto the cement stairs, to avoid freezing. Same with onions. Apples are better in the garage on the workbench, which is a couple feet off the ground and a few degrees warmer (but still cold). Pumpkins are happy in the basement or in a dark closet, off the floor so they avoid moisture. Carrots and parsnips are fine to leave in the ground, covered with a pile of dead leaves or a thick layer of straw if I want any hope of digging them during the winter. Otherwise they can be dug in spring, after the winter cold has made them sweeter.The link below is a 5-page handout from the University of Wisconsin which lists types of foods, their ideal storing temperature and any necessary humidity, expected length of storage, and plans for creating your own root cellar.

What will you store this year?

The last time I cooked beet greens for my family was about three years ago.  I grew up eating them because I 'had to', and continued it because their nutrition content reads like a fantastic multi-vitamin:  protein, fiber, folic acid, phosphorus, zinc, calcium, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, potassium, Vitamins A, C, E, K, and three different B vitamins.
But I'll tell you what- after that last time cooking and eating those soggy, bitter greens (I might have burnt them a bit too) all by myself-- sort of plugging my nose as I did-- cuz, dang it, they're good for me!  I thought that'd be the last time I cooked them.

When I pulled the first beets out of the soil this year, though, the old "you oughtta" came back.  This time I was prepared with The Best Vegetable Recipes cookbook from the America's Test Kitchen people.  They had a recipe that could be completed in under ten minutes and sounded like it might not be as terrible as my last attempt.

It was so good I ate seconds.  My husband ate seconds.  My kids at least ate firsts.  And I shared this and Pink Potato Salad with a couple 'foodie' neighbors, who also loved them.  

Not that anyone'd choose this over chocolate; maybe it was just that the greens were much better than anyone's latest memory of them, especially with the crunchy, fragrant nuts and the bit of sweet from the currants.

The amounts and technique will work on any moderately thick green like kale or chard.  (The chard's up next in my yard.)  The original recipe called for cutting out the stems, but they're also good, just take a bit of extra cooking to tenderize.  They can be a little bitter, but the currants countered any of that.

The quantities I used were approximately
1-2 lbs. beet greens
1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic (or 1/2 tsp. garlic powder)
1/4 c. pine nuts, chopped  (or other nut you like)
2 Tbsp. currants (chopped raisins work too)

See the slide show for instructions.
About twenty years ago, a group of my neighbors got together for a "Summer Salad Social".  One of the more unusual offerings there was a salad from a friend from Argentina; she said it was a fairly common salad there- cubed cooked beets with cubed cooked potatoes.  This one is not a lot like hers- which wasn't even pink-- but that was the memory that sparked this salad's creation.  My husband says it's a keeper, especially since it was made using fresh-from-the-garden beets and potatoes.  The flavor is even better the next day.

Since there are children to feed here, I called it something else for my girls' benefit: "Princess Pink Potato Salad".   :)

If you live near me, I have lots of garlic chive plants to share!

Summer Pink Potato Salad

1 lb. beet bulbs, about 4 medium
1 lb. new potatoes, cubed, or halved if small
1 lb. summer squash, cubed
2 Tbsp. Italian dressing OR 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
4 oz. ham or smoked turkey, diced
6 oz. mozzarella, cubed
a few sprigs of fresh thyme, or 1 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 c. garlic chives, chopped, OR a handful of chopped green onions and a sprinkle of garlic powder
1/4 c. mayonnaise

Bring about 2" of water to boil in a medium-large saucepan and add 1 tsp. salt.  Trim beets, leaving about 1" of stem on top.  Scrub and rinse, but don't peel them.  Let them cook, covered, in the simmering water for about 45 minutes, or until the largest can be pierced easily with a fork.  Remove beets, saving the water.

Add the potatoes to the water.  Simmer, covered, for 10-15 minutes, until tender.  Remove the potatoes using a slotted spoon, and put them in a large bowl.  Add the Italian dressing or vinegar, and toss gently to coat. 

Add the squash cubes to the water; simmer, covered, for 5 minutes, or until barely tender.  Pour into a colander and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking.

Add to the potatoes.  Now that the beets are cool, slide the beet skins off, then cube the beets.  Add to the bowl, along with the ham/turkey, mozzarella, thyme, and garlic chives.  Stir to distribute evenly, then add the mayonnaise, along with salt and pepper to taste.  Stir until everything is a beautiful pink.  Store any leftovers in the fridge, covered.
You know how they say "great minds think alike"?   Three neighbors gave me cheeseballs as a Christmas gift.  One of them (Juliette's) was so good I made a batch of Juliette's Green Chili Cheese Ball to give out (and eat too).  The result was that I had a tad too much cheeseball in the fridge.  Granted, it will last a couple weeks if wrapped well- 

but I also had some leftover smashed potatoes.

And the two leftovers turned out to make a beautiful couple.  What's a cheeseball?  Cream cheese, shredded cheese, seasonings... all stuff that goes well with potatoes.

Maybe you'll find a cheeseball on clearance at the grocery store, or maybe get handed the leftovers at a party, or maybe you'll make one...

At any rate, here's a new favorite side dish.  I cooked some leftover-from New-Year's-Eve sliced summer sausage to go along with it, and served with a salad and sliced apples.  I'd even eat it as a main dish; we often cook meatless meals.  (It's cheaper.  And probably healthier.)

Leftover Cheese Ball Potatoes
4-6 cups mashed potatoes
1/2 cup (4 oz) leftover cheese ball
2 eggs (these make the casserole puff as it cooks, plus adds protein)

Mash everything together and spread in an 8x8 pan.  Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
OR, to make it faster, reheat the mashed potatoes in the microwave before adding everything, bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, then move it to the top rack in the oven.  Broil for 2-4 minutes (check at two minutes!!), until browned on top.
This potato salad is just right for a nice main dish.  It has bits of bright flavors and crunchy sweetness; one of my favorite salads. 

It uses those fabulous, creamy "new potatoes" that are a hallmark of  hot summer days.  This is tossed with a basic vinaigrette instead of the usual mayonnaise, then fresh vegetables are mixed in.

1 1/4 pounds small red potatoes, cut in 3/4" cubes
Vinaigrette, below
1/2 pound green beans, sliced into 3/4" pieces
3 c. sliced mushrooms, optional*
6-8 oz. smoked turkey, sliced into 1x 1/4"x 1/4" strips
1 sweet red bell pepper, sliced into 1/2" pieces
2 stalks celery, sliced diagonally
1/4 -1/2 c. diced purple onion
1/4 c. fresh parsley, minced

1/2  c. water (use the cooking water from potatoes)
1/2 tsp. chicken bouillon (or cook potatoes in chicken broth)
2 Tbsp lemon juice or white wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. Dijon or other mustard
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Cook potatoes in boiling water; they should take just about 15 minutes to become tender.  Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together all ingredients for Vinaigrette except for the water.  When potatoes are tender, scoop them out with a slotted spoon and add to the bowl.  Toss to coat.  Add green beans to the still-hot cooking water; bring to a boil.  Cook for 4-5 minutes, until the beans are crisp-tender.  Scoop them out and add to the potatoes, then measure out 1/2 c. of the cooking water and add to the mixture.  If you want the salad served chilled, refrigerate it at this point.

Add mushrooms, turkey, bell pepper, celery, onion, and parsley.  Stir to coat, and serve. 

*If using mushrooms, double the ingredients for Vinaigrette; mushrooms are very absorbent.

The original recipe called for 1/4 lb. less potatoes and 1/4 lb. more meat.  If you love meat, you'll probably prefer it  with more.  I tend to use meat more as a flavoring than as a main ingredient; it's cheaper, and makes a lighter salad.

Card 1 includes chili, cooking beans, white sauce/gravy, and omelets.

Card 2 is all about potatoes: potato pancakes, mashed, roasted, oven-fried, and baked.

The BYU Solar Cooker- designed to work well with whatever materials you have on hand to build with.  This one uses cardboard, foil, and a box to support it, though a bucket or some rocks would work too.

(Originally from 7/01/10)

I'm excited right now because this idea works!  Last week I cooked some carrot cake in a really
cheap and simple solar cooker. I got a windowshade at D.I. for $1.50, used a canning jar spray-painted black for a cooking pot, and fastened the edges of the shade with  metal brads (like you use in kids’ projects).  I set it outside, angled it so my shade fell right into from in front, and left it for an hour.  Yummy!   Not only that, but my 'carrot cake' was just my simple muffin recipe with cinnamon, raisins, and a handful of dried (not reconstituted, either) carrots from the Family Home Storage Center

So how did I make it?  Mine looked like these two solar cookers- the first uses that car windowshade, and the second just uses cardboard and aluminum foil.  Both designs are VERY similar, they just use different materials.  Use what you have; if you didn’t have aluminum foil but had one of those Mylar emergency blankets, you could use that.  Solar cooking works best from March through October, though you can still use your solar cooker in the cooler months.  It helps to put the cooker against a south-facing wall, to get more reflected energy, during the ‘off’ months.  Here’s the first link: .  The other version (from Dr. Steven Jones @ BYU) is made with cardboard and aluminum foil; the website has great info on why, how, and what to cook, including cooking times.  You can even make ICE with a solar cooker.  No kidding. It's at  This link also has cooking times for different types of food.

To cook a meal for a family, one way to cook a bigger amount is just use a bigger container.   Maybe layer multiple containers? Or layer food in one container. Usually not every part of a meal needs cooked, anyway.  I have pans that stack together, to cook things simultaneously.  You could also use a gallon-sized glass jar painted black; I got a couple from a store that makes chocolates.  They got the jars when full of maraschino cherries, and sold them to me (empty) for $1.  But any container that is dark (black or dark blue) can be cooked in.  Maybe use a Dutch Oven or enameled cooking pot.

And if you wonder why the instructions for the foil/cardboard solar cooker say to put a wooden block under the jar/pan before cooking, I found out why-  it's to keep heat from escaping out from underneath.  The first time I cooked with this, my carrot cake was a little underdone on the bottom.  Apparently that's why.  

I have also baked cookies in my van window.  I was told that it has to be at least 95 degrees outside for that to work, it gets to about 250 degrees in the window that way.  I tried it on  a slightly cooler day (93?) and it worked, barely.  Now if you put the food next to the glass, and put a sunshade BEHIND the food, on the dashboard, that might give you a much warmer (and bigger) cooking spot. Hopefully it doesn't bake your dashboard!  The glass IS tempered, though, so that part should be OK. 

You can also use a vehicle for dehydrating food because it gets so hot. Just be sure to open windows a bit for airflow. ( I haven't tried that one yet, though.)  You can use clean window screens or an old screen door for a drying tray.  Cookie sheets work, too, but drying will take a little longer because the bottom can’t get air.

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Those of you who planted potatoes this year probably now have those delicious, creamy ‘new potatoes’ ready.  (Or just use whatever kind from the store….)  Maybe try cooking these in your solar oven!
Oven-Fried Potatoes 

2-10  potatoes- however many you want   
1-2   Tbsp.   vegetable oil   
Seasoned salt, dry ranch dressing mix, or Parmesan cheese   

Heat oven to 450 degrees.  Wash potatoes well, then cut into strips or wedges about 1/4-1/2-inch thick , unless they're 'new potatoes'; leave those whole or cut into bite-sized pieces.  Put them all in a bowl, drizzle the oil over them, and then sprinkle a good amount of seasoned salt, dressing mix, or Parmesan cheese over the top.  Stir well and add more salt or cheese if it looks like they need it.  Spread potatoes out on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake for about 15-30 minutes or until lightly browned and tender when you poke the thickest one with a fork.