Do you have carved - or not- pumpkins sitting around now?   Or do your neighbors?  Will they share?
If you have a pumpkin farmer nearby, even better.  Their selling season is over.  If you act fast, they're often happy to let you glean for free.  If you wait, the pumpkins will likely get tilled into the ground.

 If the pumpkins are not cut, you can store them for a couple months if you like- dry (NOT sitting on cement!!), cool (under 75 F), and dark is best.  Most often my whole pumpkins stay firm and fresh until about January or February- this is at about 65 degrees F, stored off the floor and on a layer of cardboard or newspapers to absorb moisture- but I've had a Hubbard that stored until the next July, and a spaghetti squash from a year ago!

But let's say you have a pumpkin that you'd like to cook with. 

Fresh has so much more flavor than the stuff in a can from the store.  

Smaller pumpkins tend to be sweeter, bigger ones more watery.  But you can always drain off extra liquid if you need to.  Below is a slide show on how to make your own fresh puree.  You can see here for another, more detailed post on making the puree, or see previous posts on finding,choosingbuying,storing, or dehydrating them.


Click on the "Pumpkin" category on the right for recipes.
 
 
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Rescuing food can help you rescue your food budget, too.  The average American family wastes about 15% of the food they bring home.  How much money could you save?

There are sites online, like stilltasty.com, that list the shelf life of foods.  One problem with them, though: the sites give the 'best by' information.  This means the manufacturer can guarantee the food is at peak quality and nutrition.  Food doesn't automatically spoil after that; it's generally a slow deterioration.  You control the speed of it, by the amount light, heat, oxygen, and moisture/humidity your storage conditions have.  Because of this, all charts tend to give very conservative numbers in case storage conditions are less than ideal.  Store something in the dark, where it's cool, and you can easily double its stated shelf life. 
Another type of date you'll find on products is the 'sell by' date.  Dairy and eggs are two products that have this.  This date assumes you'll take a little longer to actually eat the food, so the 'sell by' date is about a week earlier than the 'best by' date.


Higher-fat items go rancid sooner.   Watch for that.  How can you tell if it, or anything else has passed its useful life?  Smell it.  Your eyes, nose, and tongue can tell you a lot.  Use common sense; if it smells bad or has gone moldy or foamy, there's no need to taste!!  And if you are feeding people with low immune systems, err on the side of caution.

If a can squirts at you when you open it, that can be an indication of botulism growth.  Boil the contents for 10 minutes.  If food has started eating through the can, well, I wouldn't eat it unless I was starving.  Even then, I might not.  But the sealed Mason jar of peaches from ten years ago that you just found at the back of a shelf?  Yeah, they've turned an interesting peachy-brown. Puree them and use as the liquid in a cake, make a smoothie, or some other creative use.  Is ten years old ideal?  No, of course not.  You'll get better nutrition if you're rotating the food more often than that.  But older food is still... food.  Use it.

 
Cutting Food Waste at Home

 
My #1 tip! Before you cook dinner, look in the fruit basket, crisper drawer, fridge shelves, or freezer to see what needs used up first.  Use that in your meal.  Be creative if you have to.



·         My #2 tip!  Don’t waste what’s on your plate.  If you have small children, serve them very small servings (a couple of bites) of just a couple foods. Use a small plate.  They only get seconds on anything after the firsts are eaten.  As my kids hear, “Firsts of everything before seconds of anything.”  They can learn to eat everything on their plate if the servings are small enough.  When they’re older, progress in the teaching by letting them learn to serve themselves small/reasonable portions.  If they have leftover food (either at home or eating out), SAVE it for the next meal; they “get to” eat that before any new food. 

·         Freeze leftovers.  You get instant dinners for later! 

·         Use leftovers as a ‘variety pack’ meal: put all the leftovers on the table, and let everyone choose which they like best.  Or pack them for take-to-work (or school) lunches.

·         Keep a bag in the freezer for celery tops, mushroom stems, bits of raw or cooked meat, leftover oatmeal, whatever odds and ends you have.  When the bag is full, make it into soup.

·         When you have heels or crusts of bread, leftover toast, or stale bread, add it to a bag in the freezer.  Use it when you need breadcrumbs, or to make bread pudding, poultry stuffing, or bread salad.  I also save the breadcrumbs from when I slice homemade bread.

·         Trim away bad spots, eat the rest.  Brown edges on lettuce can be trimmed away, same with black on cabbage, mold on apples or strawberries, etc.

·         Chop shriveled apples or other fruit and mix them into muffin batter.  Or make smoothies.  Find some way to use the food where looks don’t matter.

·         Freeze overripe bananas to use in recipes and smoothies.  For simplicity's sake, peel before freezing. 

·         when you have so much of something that it will spoil before you can use it all, freeze it, dry it, or bottle it.

·         Moldy cheese?  Trim off the mold, use the rest or shred and freeze it.


 
For other ways to save money on food, see the post from Feb. 3, 2011.


When should you throw out food?

My general guidelines are to throw it out if it is:
-foaming (unless it's bread dough or batter, or if you're fermenting something intentionally),
-molding (except for cheese, and small bits on fruit or vegetables),
-turning slimy,
-developing unusual colors, or
-smells bad.


  
Learning how to tell when food is still good can really help out your budget.  We waste huge amounts of food here in the US, the average family of four throws away just under $600 in food AT HOME per year!  (See http://uanews.org/node/10448)   And total food waste, from the field to your stomach, runs between 40-50%.  Really.  

This higher number includes the following steps:

·         cultivation
·         harvest
·         storage/processing/packing/transport
·         supermarkets
·         consumption (restaurants/schools/home waste)

As a side note, so you don't think the US should be singled out for condemnation, total waste percentages are about the same in undeveloped countries- but they lose more between the field and the store, and less at home.  (See http://www.siwi.org/documents/Resources/Policy_Briefs/PB_From_Filed_to_Fork_2008.pdf,  pages 18-23) 



 
 
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Powdered Milk from the Home Storage Center, $1.40/lb.  The bowl holds yogurt.  You can make plain yogurt as cheap as $ .42/quart, or $ .10/serving.

If you don’t have your water storage yet, what is a good price for water drums? Prices vary, but generally figure $1 per gallon of storage capacity.  The 55-gallon drums, then, will probably be $55 or less.  Once in a while they go on sale; I've found them at Macey's (our grocery store) for $40.  They're even cheaper if you can find them in the classifieds.  Only use food-grade drums. Empty pop bottles or juice bottles work great, but milk jugs break down fairly quickly and will leak.  If you are using  chlorinated city water,  you do NOT have to drain and refill these every year.  The First Presidency has asked us to store at least 14 gallons per person.  This is one gallon per person per day for 2 weeks. 
Attached are the recipes from yesterday's class on powdered milk.  Here's a list of what is there, and a few notes on them.  Sorry, it's a scanned-in document, so I couldn't go through and type in my notes.

Anyplace I've put cost of a recipe, it's based on the following: $1.40/lb for powdered milk, $13 for 25 lbs of sugar, $2 for a pound of butter, $8 for 25 lbs. flour.

For the recipes that give you whey (any of the cheeses, including the yogurt cream cheese), save the whey.  It has vitamins, minerals, some protein, no fat, and some milk sugar (lactose- very low on the glycemic scale).  I use it in pancakes, muffins, bread, etc.  If  your whey has vinegar in it (most of the cheeses use this), you can add 1 tsp. baking soda for every 2-3 cups of whey.  This will neutralize most of the vinegar.  Yes, it will foam up, kinda like those volcanoes you made in 3rd grade…

Go to http://everydayfoodstorage.net/training-cooking/powdered-milk  for  recipes for evaporated milk, Magic Mix, and Condensed Soups using Magic Mix. And she has a great little chart you can print out and tape to the inside of your cupboard  so you know how much milk powder to use when you're baking with it:

http://www.everydayfoodstorage.net/handouts/milk-conversion-charts.pdf

The Wooden Spoon class handout has a TON of info on powdered milk.  It is from some classes that the LDS Church's Welfare Square was teaching for a little while. The collection is not copyrighted; the two ladies who compiled it just wanted to spread the information.
   
When I get a bunch of new recipes, usually most of them get ignored unless I'm already familiar with them.  So let me familiarize you with all these possibilities....                        


 The first couple pages include:

what the difference is between regular and instant dry milk

storage times-  which are completely off!  Ignore what it says;  a BYU study shows that canned dry milk has been found to last 20+ years when kept at room temperature and below.

Mixing and drinking it- how to make it taste the best

Cooking with powdered milk

How much to store per person

How to determine if milk is past its prime shelf life

What to do with it if it's too old

Reconstituting chart

 
Now the recipes-

'whole milk' (powdered milk is powdered SKIM milk)

Buttermilk substitute

Evaporated milk- everydayfoodstorage link above gives quantities for a 12-oz can.  This costs $ .25.

Sweetened Condensed Milk – for the closest version to a 14-oz can, use

1/2 c. (non-instant) powdered milk
1/2 c. water
1 c.  sugar
0-2 Tbsp. butter

 If you like to be precise, use 1 1/2 Tbsp. less than 1/2 c. water (this also gives a slightly thicker result, like the can), but the first way is very close (yields 14 3/4 oz)    Other recipes use more -or less- of any of those ingredients.  Really, they all work. That said, the 'closest' version costs $ .39 if you use no butter, and $ .53 if you use 2 Tbsp.  What a deal! One important thing to know- these recipes call for hot or boiling water so the sugar gets completely dissolved. Otherwise you get grainy condensed milk.  I usually put my sugar with the water, then microwave and stir until the sugar dissolves.  Then blend with the milk powder and butter.


Hot Cinnamon Milk Mix- from an old 'Friend' magazine

Hot Caramel Milk Mix- like hot chocolate, only not!

Hot Chocolate Mix- one of many options out there, this one you just add water to.

Strawberry Shake- with a touch of orange to pep it up.  yummy.

Creamsicle Drink Mix- uses 3 Cannery products.  And it is really good.

Orange Julius- uses the church cannery orange drink powder.  You could use Tang if that's all you have.

Presoaked Wheat Blender Pancakes or Crepes- blender pancakes that are a little easier on your blender.  You just have to plan ahead with these.

Whole Wheat Pancake Mix

Fruit Syrup- no powdered milk here- just a really handy way to make a fruity topping for your pancakes.  The handwritten note says "Can use peaches canned in syrup and you just add cornstarch and cook"  Use 1-2 tsp. cornstarch per cup of syrup/juice.

Basic White Sauce

Cheese Sauce Mix- uses powdered cheese, pdr. milk and pdr. butter.  And onion powder.  (Remember my method of making onion powder?)

Low-Fat Cream Soup Mix -replaces 9 cans of condensed creamed soup, at $ .30 per can!

Potato Soup Mix-   very very easy.  (Well, they all are..)

Broccoli Soup- using all fresh ingredients except for the milk

Biscuit Mix- "Bisquick" where you add only water.  Use for any Bisquick recipes.  This makes as much as 2  40-oz boxes, at about $2.75/box

Honey Dinner Rolls

Whole Wheat Muffins

Weiner Schnitzel- not what you think, it's the old German dish.  Uses noodles, cheese, hotdogs.

Macaroni and Cheese- using the little 5-oz jar of cheese sauce.  This is a 'bag' recipe; everything can be put in a bag ahead of time and kept on a shelf (or given to a friend)

Microwave Caramels- mmmm

Whipped Topping- A little explanation here...  Evaporated milk will whip like cream if it is ICY-cold when you whip it.  This is glorified whipped evaporated milk, starting with the powder.  They add a few things for flavor, some oil for richness, and gelatin to keep it from going flat.  I think the gelatin gives it a strange consistency.  Next time I'll use a couple teaspoons of Instant Clear Jel.  Or cook some cornstarch with the water.  Or forget stabilizing it, and just eat it fast- maybe just whip evaporated milk and add sugar and vanilla to taste.

Fudgsicles-  don't these sound good?

Dry Milk Ice Cream- Bad name, but it uses sweetened condensed milk, which makes it really good.  The recipe claims to make a gallon, but it's really more like 2 quarts.

Peanut Butter Chews- similar to Bit-O'Honey if you use the honey instead of corn syrup.

Vanilla Pudding Mix- fat free, and has variations for chocolate and caramel pudding. When you make it, you add a tiny bit of butter and an egg, so it’s still lowfat, just not fat free.  If you cannot have wheat, substitute half as much cornstarch as the flour called for.

Plain Yogurt- really, this IS easy.  The recipe says it makes 2 quarts, but part of the water got left off the ingredients list.  Use 7 cups instead.  If you use your hottest tap water, this will be about right to start incubating.  You need the yogurt to start out between 105 and 120 degrees.  The lower end gives sweeter yogurt, the higher end makes it more tart. Wrapping the jars in a towel help keep it warm. Some warm areas to incubate it are- on top of a heating pad (cover with a  towel), an insulated cooler (I put in a jar of almost-boiling water to warm it up in there), a water-filled crockpot, a warm oven (an oven thermometer is helpful!  Hotter than 130 degrees will kill those friendly bacteria.).  Or get creative.  This costs only $ .42  per quart if you are using your own starter. 

Vanilla Yogurt- has gelatin in it, like most of the store-bought versions. This keeps it firm, even after stirring.  (Yogurt with no gelatin will become drinkable after stirring.)  If you want to use sugar instead of honey, use from 1 to 1 ½ cups.  And dissolve (boil) it in some of the water first, or it will settle to the bottom. You could use a package of flavored Jello- a 3 oz box is just under ½ c. of sugar, and  as much gelatin as one packet of unflavored.   Or use juice/syrup from canned fruit as part of your water.  Stir in fruit after the yogurt sets up.

Almond Crunch Granola- also no powdered milk, unless you count what you pour on top when eating this!

Strawberry Banana Smoothie- uses the yogurt you just made…

Yogurt-Fruit Smoothie- Banana-orange; uses yogurt as well as powdered milk

Yogurt Breakfast Waffles- yogurt makes them extra moist.  They also have a hint of orange and cinnamon in them.  I love these using the lemon yogurt.

Yogurt Dill-Veggie Dip- close to Ranch Dip

Yogurt, Berries, and Pecans on Crispbread- self-explanatory

Ranch Salad Dressing-  do you have any idea how much better fresh made is?

Fruit Yogurt Salad- uses vanilla yogurt and whatever fruit you have

Yogurt Parmesan Chicken- uses yogurt instead of mayonnaise or eggs to get the coating to stick.  Very good.

Granola, Yogurt, Berry Parfait- kinda like those little ones at McDonald’s, only you sweeten plain yogurt with honey.  You taste the fruit better this way.

Mock Mozzarella Cheese- about $1.50 per pound.  It only takes 10 minutes to make!  And it melts wonderfully.  Do use a blender to mix everything, otherwise the oil won’t mix in with the cheese curds and you’ll end up with a layer of oil on top of the whey.  (Make bread!)  NOTE- the recipe doesn’t tell you about salt.  Unsalted cheese is not very tasty.  I use 1 tsp. salt for this; I mix it in after rinsing the curds.   Even wrapping in cheesecloth, and pressing (under whatever heavy thing I can find) overnight, this hasn’t ever been cohesive enough for me to grate.  It crumbles, though. When I aged this for a couple months, it became very creamy and softer.  If you don’t have cheesecloth, you can use a piece of cotton fabric- something that will let the liquid drip out.  Cheesecloth can be found in some grocery stores in the kitchen tools section, or in fabric stores and Walmart over with the notions.

Parmesan Cheese- this is in already-crumbled form.  Best flavor after aging in fridge for 3 months, but still good used right away. 

Yogurt Cream Cheese, Yogurt Sour Cream- which one you make only depends on how long you let the yogurt drain.  16 ounces of yogurt will make just over 8 oz. of cream cheese, so it costs about $ .21  per 8 oz block.

Easy Homemade Cheese Ball- a cream cheese based cheese ball.  Use your yogurt cream cheese.

Mock Ricotta Cheese- about $ .84 for the batch, using your homemade yogurt.  ‘Real’ ricotta uses whey instead of milk, but normally you don’t have easy access to whey.  If you do (from making mozzarella?), use ¼ c. vinegar in 2 quarts whey, heat to simmering, then let sit for several hours for the curds to form.  Then strain through cheesecloth, salt,  and press.

Jalapeno Cheese- variation on the ricotta. 

Queso Blanco- this one does not melt; it holds its shape through cooking.

Homemade Cottage Cheese-  this makes the curds.  To make the creamy liquid the curds sit in, use a little yogurt, sour cream, or evaporated milk to the curds.  I like it with ¼ tsp. salt.  Add more if you like. The recipe makes about 8 oz. of curds and costs $ .36 

Cottage Cheese Scramble- a form of scrambled eggs, only mostly cottage cheese, with chives.  

Cheese-Stuffed Jumbo Shells- like Manicotti.  For those of you unfamiliar with it, this is similar in flavor to lasagna, only you use shaped pasta and stuff them, instead of doing layers.  The recipe calls for ricotta, cottage cheese, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheeses… but use what you have.  When I made it for the class, I used only cottage cheese, with mozzarella just on the top.  And only about a cup of spaghetti sauce.

Happy cooking!  


-Rhonda

 
 
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 (note- this was originally sent as an email in January 2010) 
Happy New Year!    I took a break last week to visit family, it was great.  We only ended up with one bloody nose on the whole trip.  That wasn’t even on one of my children, it was a cousin, though it really was caused by one of mine.  Sledding.  And no one got hurt  when we went sledding on what my kids affectionately call "Death Hill"  later in the week.  Oh, wait, I did plow down a 3-year-old….   Oops.  My sled went diagonally instead of straight.  
 
SO…… onward and upward…...

How's your food storage?


With the new year, I have a new challenge for you:   If you haven’t got your 3-month supply yet, have it in place 3 months from now.   


 I promise that if you determine to do it, without going into debt, a way will be provided, and you will have more peace and security, knowing you are following the prophet’s counsel.    

 
Those of you who are past that step, congratulations! I am so happy for you!  What do you need to do next?  See the Family Home Storage pamphlet.  Set a goal and do it. If I can help you with anything, please let me know, I'd love to help.    

 
Here’s the first mini-challenge to meet the 3-month one-  

Sit down with your family on Sunday or Monday, during Home Evening works great, and get your kid’s input on their favorite meals.  Plan a menu for anywhere from a week and a half to a month.  Then go to the Three-Month Supply Excel Spreadsheet or  video on how to use it.  It will calculate all your quantities for you!   

 

Did you know food is a great investment?  You’ve may have seen this quote before; here’s a small piece of it, from J. Reuben Clark of the First Presidency (April 1937 Conference):  “put your money in foodstuffs and wearing apparel, not in stocks and bonds…”

Now here’s what food has done over the last ten years:  Corn- $215 worth of corn in 1999 was selling for $380 in 2009.  Wheat- $261 worth in 1999 cost $540 in 2009. And that doesn’t even account for inflation!  (if you want the source, it’s at http://futures.tradingcharts.com/historical/CW/1999/0/continuous.html )

In other words, buying your wheat for food storage was half as hard in 1999, only we didn’t know that at the time, did we?  But wouldn’t you still rather pay today’s prices than next year’s?  At the LDS Church Home Storage Centers  you can still buy wheat at 3-years-ago's price. The price of powdered milk there was a good price fifteen years ago! See Current Prices list.   Or watch for sales at local stores, find a local grower, or check out sites like Walton Feed.

If you’re worried about not rotating through your food fast enough, people have found wheat in Egyptian tombs and granaries that still sprouted.  And made good bread.  The proper storage temperature certainly helps.  And what about canned food?  Here’s what I found online.  (If you go to this site, they’ve got the history of canning, if you’d ever wondered about it…)  from http://www.internet-grocer.net/how-long.htm

“In 1820, William Perry (Parry) took an expedition in search of the Northwest Passage, toward the North Pole.  He took with him some canned meats.  At the time, food canning was about a 10-year-old technology.

At least one can of meat was not used and wound up in a museum in England.  In 1938, it was opened and found to be edible.  It was fed to a cat which suffered no ill effects from eating the 118-year-old meat.

Now, we're not saying that our canned meats, canned cheese and canned butter will last 118 years, but we're pretty confident that you can get at least a 15-20 year shelf life out of them, in light of this article. (The manufacturer offers a 3 year guarantee.)

And another- The steamboat Bertrand was heavily laden with provisions when it set out on the Missouri River in 1865, destined for the gold mining camps in Fort Benton, Mont. The boat snagged and swamped under the weight, sinking to the bottom of the river. It was found a century later, under 30 feet of silt a little north of Omaha, Neb.

Among the canned food items retrieved from the Bertrand in 1968 were brandied peaches, oysters, plum tomatoes, honey, and mixed vegetables. In 1974, chemists at the National Food Processors Association (NFPA) analyzed the products for bacterial contamination and nutrient value. Although the food had lost its fresh smell and appearance, the NFPA chemists detected no microbial growth and determined that the foods were as safe to eat as they had been when canned more than 100 years earlier.

The nutrient values varied depending upon the product and nutrient. NFPA chemists Janet Dudek and Edgar Elkins report that significant amounts of vitamins C and A were lost. But protein levels remained high, and all calcium values "were comparable to today's products."

NFPA chemists also analyzed a 40-year-old can of corn found in the basement of a home in California. Again, the canning process had kept the corn safe from contaminants and from much nutrient loss. In addition, Dudek says, the kernels looked and smelled like recently canned corn.”

That said, don’t ever use a can of low-acid food that is bulging.  That means bad things are growing inside- botulism, for instance.  If you have a can of tomato sauce, tomato paste, or tomatoes that is bulging a bit or squirts when you open it, that is NOT from botulism:  instead, it's from the electrolysis occurring between the acidic tomato and the can. (Not the best thing to eat every day, but okay occasionally.)  
 But don’t get stressed if you still have cans of green beans that are two years past the “best by” date.
  I’ve got some canned milk that was dated 2001 (in 2010); I can’t tell a difference between it and my newer stuff.  Still, the goal is to “STORE WHAT YOU EAT, AND EAT WHAT YOU STORE”.   Not to just let it sit.   Just do your best, and, as President Kimball always said, "DO IT"!  You will be blessed.


Sincerely,

Rhonda