Saturday, October 18, 2014

Food Basics, or Eating To Live

So, sheltering in-place or self-quarantine means life goes on but no takeout or restaurants.  Can sure stock-up on freeze-dried meals and all the frozen foods and TV dinners your grocer or "prep supply" vendor offers.  Yet, if you do so, you miss the opportunity to cook your own meals with superior ingredients and build-up your immune system.

Don't know how to cook?  Might go visit your local thrift shop and head to their book section and buy whatever cookbooks and how-tos on cooking you find.  Where we live, it's 80mi to the 2 restaurants we like.  Have lived this way for the last 24 years.  We learned to cook our ethnic favorites at home.  We also practiced Macrobiotics pretty strictly for a year.  That is a diet with special regimen of superfoods which enable the body to heal itself and build very strong immune system along with mental clarity.  Lots of anecdotal books regarding Macrobiotics including Recalled By Life, the story of physician who cured his late stage cancer with the diet.  NOT Giving Health Advice Here... But incorporating some of th dietary mainstays in your routine diet can produce great results.  Check your library and online resources for Macrobiotic titles and cookbooks.

Cooking from scratch is The Way...  You're gonna have time, so take time to learn to cook and use quality ingredients.  We store what we eat and are experienced in cooking.  If you have a small generator, or better, a solar/inverter/battery standby electric resource, you have frozen food and refrigeration at your command.  Mostly we keep meat, cheese, frozen vegetables, and butter in our freeaers.  We use chest freezers for longterm storage.  These can be run for  a couple hours a day if on genset and if they were on grid power and are fully packed, one or two hours will keep everything solidly frozen.  We run ours for 6hrs a day when cool and 8 or more in Summer, but we are on battery/inverter...  An upright freezer makes a good refirgerator.  The absence of defrost cycle and better insulation of a freezer means the box stays cool longer w/o continually consuming electricity.  A thermometer will aid you to keep 50deg or cooler.  You can even use ice-chest freezer bricks in your fridge and swap bricks between the freezer and fridge.  While one set is freezing, the other set is cooling your eggs and produce...  You don't need to run freezers or refrigerators continually to keep your food safe.

Pretty hard to beat the protein of meat or fish.  Rice and beans though, in combination do make a complete protein.  Not really too wild about Pinto beans, but...   Bl;ack, Soy, Navy, Red, Adzuki, Anasazi, and Garbanzo are bean varieties with varied flavors and textures.  Pinto beans for sure for Mexican dishes and Tx BBQ classics.  I recommend that the mainstay of your diet include Short Grain Organic Brown Rice, for it is The True SuperFood.  This is the mainstay of Macrobiotics and peasant food world over that keeps those who eat it in good health.  White rice is void of nutrition, just a starch.  Might taste good, and be cheap, but it does your system no good and likely consumes nutrients you otherwise could add to when your body processes and eliminates it.

Brown Rice, Rolled Oats, Hard Red Winter Wheat, Lentils, Split Peas, and other Whole Grains, organics preferred are longterm food storage mainstays.  These can be packed at home using CO-2 bought in brick form at your grocer, in new 5gal paint buckets with gasket top lids.  Wipe the bucket out with a mild bleach solution or vinegar and once dry, fill all your buckets 1/3 full with your whole grains.  Each bucket will hold about 35 pounds of dried grain, oats being very bulky go about 25lbs.  So, you get all your grains together.  Most come in 50lb or 25lb bags.  Where to buy in a moment, but you have all your food in the paper bags it shipped in and your clean buckets; then you get your CO-2 Dry-Ice bricks and bring them home immediately.   Fill each bucket and affix a label to the lid noting date and contents.  You then take a towel or heavy linen and wrap the Dry Ice Brick(s) and beat them with a hammer or club until you have chips that are fingernail size.  Put about 8 chips on the top of the grain, then cover with another 1/3 layer.  Add more chips, Another final layer and more chips. Place the gasket lids on their correct buckets LOOSELY; wait 40 mins for the chips to gassify and drive all oxygen out of the bucket.  CO-2 being heavier than air.  Once the time has passed, hammer-down the gasket lids and you are done.

Pretty easy to lose grain to vermin, rot, humidity-mold and temperature change sweat.  Grain etc stored as above will last many, many years.  In 2009, we opened one bucket of Brown Rice which according to Internet Wisdom, is disposed to rancidness in short order.  The rice was put-up in 1995 and was Perfect!

If you store whole grains, best have a grain mill.   Corona is inexpensive and works but is slow.  There are some good hand mills, but nothing beats an electric mill.  I adapted a bucket lid to our mill and it takes about 30mins to grind a full 5gal bucket of flour.  Best to leave your Wheatberries as grain until ready to make flour.  Real perfectionists grind only what they use right then/there, 5gal bucket lasts us maybe couple months when making bread, pizza and other pastries.  To save yourself work, get a couple of breadmaking machines at a resale shop and use them to mix dough.  We only need run the machines seven or eight minutes to get a great ball of dough without kneading and spending lots of time and muscle getting to the same point.

Canned goods are certainly essential, especially tomato products.  When cooking, we tend to make a big batch and freeze another meal or two.  If you have a bakery thrift store that sells out of date bread, buy their organics for a dollar or two a loaf and freeze them.  Nice to have bread ready to go, and if your climate is one that leads to mold in a day or two; keep your bread in the freezer.

We have lots of old canned meat.  Lots of Spam and generic knockoffs.  Lasts for years, unlike the nutrition value of canned vegetables which after a year begin to lose their zip although they will still taste good.  Canned fruits area nice treat.  If you have access to a farmer's market you can for sure can your own.  The Ball Blue Book is a good how to.  Might find canning jars for .25ea or less at thrift stores.  Anyway you can save money, you have more funds for other items you have to pay full price for.  Need a pressure cooker or two?  At $10ea or less at thrift shop, you save mucho and can likely find gasket kit at Ace hardware or online for minimal amount.  Pressure cooking keeps all the nutrients in your food, and also is a must for canning. Great tool to have and saves energy by cooking food quicker.

Powdered milk, whole milk if you can find it is versatile for yogurt making etc.  Hard to find or expensive though.  We began using Rice Milk about 20yrs ago with Macrobiotics.  Rice Milk stores for many years and is tasty, and has no dairy allergen or other issues.  More expensive than cow's milk, but packiaging and longevity as well as taste and absence of lactose makes it a bargain in our eyes.  Never much cared for Soy Milk, but it might be to your liking.

Costco and Sam's are just a couple of resources for Institutional pack #10 cans and case quantities and large pack bags of staples like sugar, salt, and cooking oils, as well as large restaurant pack spices and herbs.  Save money with these items and repack them.  10 lb bags of sugar store just as easily as 25 pounders but can be more versatile and less expensive.  The only cooking oil we use these days is Olive oil and tend to go for the basic press variety rather than extra-virgin. Honey and Coconut oils are other ancillary foods we use a lot of, also molasses.

As far as fresh vegetables go, sprout seed like Alfalfa and Mung beans are traditional and have great nutrition.  You can sprout any seed that is alive.  Wheatgrass can be juiced and is an other SuperFood when done so.  Buy a good batch of sprouting seed and learn to do it.

Just touched the tip of the possibilities here.  Your food can do more than just fill your stomach if you plan for it to...

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