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freeze dried food

  • Freeze-Dried Food as a Mainstream Meal Option

    Last week stank. One daughter had her tonsils removed Monday. All of the rest of my family – including me – were suffering through nasty colds. And my husband’s been out of town. I could barely leave the house.

    To feed my family, I relied on food storage, especially products like freeze-dried beef stew and freeze-dried vegetables that were fast and easy to cook.

    This TV news story, from a Houston ABC affiliate, said freeze-dried food isn’t just for natural disasters or astronauts anymore.  It’s also showing up in everyday cooking, as people discover that freeze-dried foods are convenient and save money.

    Preparing a freeze-dried meal takes less time than going out to a restaurant or ordering something in. It also costs less than a restaurant meal – even a fast-food one.

    beef-stroganoff Mainstream Beef Stroganoff

    It’s fast. Add boiling water to a freeze-dried meal pouch, stir a couple of times, and 10 minutes later, dinner’s ready. As more people have discovered freeze-dried foods, the variety of food available has increased too.

    "Basically, anything that you would normally cook can be freeze dried," Alissa Rumsey, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told ABC 13.

    Or, if you’re Misty Marsh from the ABC 13 news story, combine ingredients from separate cans of freeze-dried meat and vegetables to make a quick soup.

    Freeze-dried ingredients are already washed and cut, so you don’t have to do it yourself. I’ve tossed reconstituted freeze-dried hash browns into a recipe that called for potatoes. I’ve done the same for freeze-dried corn.

    Like other prepared foods, freeze-dried food is more expensive than canned or fresh food. However, it can still reduce your food budget, not just your dining-out budget.

    American families throw away about a quarter of the food and drinks they buy, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. That costs a family of four an estimated $1,365 to $2,275 annually.

    The NRDC attributes much of this loss to factors like poor planning, spoiling and waste from past sell-buy dates.

    Freeze-dried food can help with all these issues.

    chicken-teriyaki Mainstream Chicken Teriyaki

    You should be rotating food storage anyway. So, plan meals using food storage items, then replace them as they get used up. This will help reduce the hit to the wallet from food waste. It will also allow you to spread out food storage shopping throughout the year, so you can buy items when they’re on sale, instead of when you run out.

    Have you ever lost a zucchini or bunch of spinach in the refrigerator? And discovered it three weeks later, a soggy, mildewed blob?

    Freeze-dried vegetables and fruit last longer, so they’re less likely to spoil than fresh ones. If you’re keeping more of the food you buy, because it doesn’t spoil, you’re saving money.

    Freeze-dried food has a much longer shelf life than canned or frozen food – 25 years and more, if left unopened. I recently cleaned out my food storage and removed some really out-of-date cans. (2013, anyone?) What a waste of food and money. I could have bought freeze-dried food that would still be good.

    Freeze-dried foods take some practice. The first time I tried tossing reconstituted freeze-dried hash browns into a casserole, they came out soggy. I learned if I fry them just a bit before I toss them in, they hold together more like fresh potatoes. Also, different brands have slightly different flavors. So experiment. In the long run, you’ll save time and money.

     

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  • Mountain House Review (Part 1): 3 Meals from the Classic Assortment Bucket

    I’m not a chef. I’m more of a short-order cook. In my family of seven, six have dietary restriction. Food allergies include milk products, tree nuts, wheat, corn, eggs, and soy, in varying degrees of severity. I also have an autistic son who, until last year, ate fewer than 10 foods, and a special needs daughter with weak musculature who struggles with hard-to-chew foods.

    When I find a food that most family members like and can eat, it’s lovely.  It’s even better when it cooks in less than 30 minutes. And it’s a massive bonus when my kids can make it themselves. Meal pouches from the Mountain House® Classic Assortment (12 pouches) (SKU: FC B395) meet all three qualifications. We tried three of the six types of meals. I enthusiastically recommend all three.

     

    Lasagna with Meat Sauce

    mh-lasagna-pouch Mountain House ReviewMy kids first requested the Lasagna with Meat Sauce. We used two packages. Each package said it served 2.5 people. When we used it as a main dish, we found it served more. Six of us ate, and we had leftovers. Our side dish was Emergency Essentials® Freeze-Dried Sweet Corn with Butter and Salt (SKU: FN C101)

    “It tasted superb,” my 9-year-old said.

    I don’t have much experience with freeze-dried food, so I followed the package directions exactly. (We didn’t always do so; more on that later.) After I added two cups of boiling water to the pouch and stirred, I expected everything to mush together in a (flavorful) blob. It didn’t. The texture was reminiscent of skillet lasagna, and the ingredients were distinct.

    My 3-year-old, nicknamed “the little carnivore,” ate the meat and left the noodles. My special needs daughter ate the noodles and left the meat. Both requested multiple helpings.

    The meat sauce was thick with a cheesy, mildly spicy flavor. (If you like a strong flavor, you might want to add spices.)

    “I think it should have less sauce, because it got all over me,” my 9-year-old joked.

    It contains dairy and wheat products.

     

    Granola with Milk and Blueberries

    mh-granola-with-milk-and-blueberries-pouch Mountain House ReviewThe package says the Granola with Milk and Blueberries serves two. It depends on the two. My 9-year-old, who made it herself, ate the whole pouch.  And she doesn’t normally like fruit.

    The directions call for ½ cup of cold water. When my daughter made it, she said it was “too liquid-y.” The pouch says you can add less water for thicker granola. The second time we made it, we started with 1/3 cup of water and added a bit more as needed.

    The granola contains milk, soy, wheat and coconut.

    I also tried the granola pouch as a streusel topping for blueberry muffins, adapting a Betty Crocker recipe. It enhanced the muffins by adding a bit of crunch and cinnamon flavor.

     

    Streusel-topped Blueberry Muffins

    Ingredients:

    Streusel Topping

    One packet (two servings) Mountain House Granola with Milk and Blueberries, prepared.

     

    Muffins

    ¾ cup milk

    ¼ cup vegetable oil

    1 egg

    2 cups Gold Medal™ all-purpose flour

    ½ cup granulated sugar

    2 teaspoons baking powder

    ½ teaspoon salt

    1 cup fresh, canned (drained) or frozen blueberries

     

    Directions

    Heat oven to 400°F. Line 12 regular-size muffin cups with paper baking cups, or spray bottoms of cups with cooking spray.

    In large bowl, beat milk, oil and egg with fork or wire whisk until blended. Add 2 cups flour, the granulated sugar, baking powder and salt all at once; stir just until flour is moistened (batter will be lumpy). Gently stir in blueberries. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Sprinkle each with about 1 tablespoon streusel.

    Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. If muffins were baked in paper baking cups, immediately remove from pan to cooling rack. If muffins were baked in sprayed pan, leave in pan about 5 minutes, then remove from pan to cooling rack. Serve warm or cooled.

     

    Beef Stew

    mh-beef-stew-pouch Mountain House ReviewI was at the doctor and my 13-year-old was babysitting. My doctor appointment ran late, so my 9-year old decided to make dinner. She went to the Mountain House bucket, opened a package of Beef Stew and added 2 cups of water. Unfortunately, she didn’t read the directions to boil the water first. She put the mixture in a saucepan, and we heated it over the stove. It still came out great.

    At first glance, there didn’t seem to be that much beef in the stew. However, the beef flavor came through in every bite. It was thick enough that we served it with toast.

    Even though it tasted really good, it was not the most appetizing-looking food on the planet. So imagine my surprise when my picky, autistic, 5-year-old ate two full helpings and asked for more. This one’s a keeper.

    It contains soy and wheat.

     

    Other notes: The Mountain House packets contain my favorite “Best if used by” label: July 2046. Here’s one food storage item you won’t have to rotate.

    Make sure you store water as well as food. Ready.gov recommends storing a gallon per person per day for three days.

    I will review the other three meals in the Mountain House Classic Meal Assortment® in my next post.

    --Melissa

     

    Editor’s note: While the food in the Mountain House® Classic Assortment comes in pouches, these meals are also available in #10 cans.

     

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  • The Relationship Between Water Storage and Just-Add-Water Meals

    If there’s an emergency situation going on around you (hurricane, power outage, soccer practice, etc.), taking the time to create good, wholesome meals can be a daunting task. Fortunately, just-add-water meals are here to save you.

     

    Just-Add-Water Meals

    ChickenTeri - just-add-water Chicken Teriyaki with Rice

    Just-add-water meals are dehydrated of freeze-dried meals that are already prepared – all you need to do is add water and voila! You’ve got yourself a delicious, home-cooked meal in minutes.  That right there is reason enough to have these types of meals on hand.

    There are also many different varieties, including Chicken Teriyaki with Rice, Pasta Primavera, Creamy Potato Soup, and many more options. Having these on hand will not only make it easy to prepare good meals, but you can also add variety to your daily diet. Eating the same thing day after day can get tiring very quickly, making it hard to even want to eat. Having a wide variety of entrées will keep your meals fresh and exciting for a long time.

     

    Water for Your Meals

    One of the main reasons we store water is so we can remain hydrated. After all, we need water to stay healthy, strong, and to be able to function properly. Similarly, without food, our bodies will likewise be weak. But what does water have to do with food?

    Everything.

    Water is an essential part in preparing delicious emergency meals. Think about it, how much of your emergency food consists of dehydrated of freeze-dried entrées and pre-cooked meals? Chances are you have at least some food that fits that category. So how do you plan on preparing it in an emergency?

    That’s where water comes into play.

    Water storage is more than just for drinking (although that right there is also vital). Without water, cooking, baking, and preparing your dehydrated and freeze-dried meals will be quite difficult indeed. So how can you make sure you have enough water to prepare your food as well as stay hydrated and sanitary?

    You store it.

     

    Storing Water

    Storing water is an important part of any emergency preparedness plan. After all, it’s recommended that a household’s water storage should consist of at least one gallon of water per day per person. This only covers hydration and light sanitation, however. So, if you plan on rehydrating your food, you will want to store more water than that.

    Each can of just-add-water meals will tell you how much water you’ll need for each serving, as well as how many servings are inside the can. This will help you gauge how much extra water you’ll need to store.

     

    How to Store Water

    Guy_Standing_By_Water_Barrels - Just-add-waterThere are a few ways that will work for storing water. One of the most effective is through water barrels and reserves. Depending on the room you have, you could go with a smaller 15-gallon water barrel, or so much as a 320-gallon water reserve. Of course, there are other sizes in between if 15-gallons is too small but 320-gallons is too much.

    Another method is through pop (or soda, depending on where you’re from) bottles. Make sure you wash them out thoroughly before adding water. Plastic jugs or cardboard cartons that contained milk or fruit juice are not recommended for storing water, due to the nature of the plastic and cardboard holding on to milk protein and fruit sugars. No matter how hard you scrub or clean, these substances can’t be adequately removed, giving bacteria an easier time to grow when water is stored in them.

    Now that you have water, let’s talk for a moment about how to rehydrate (or reconstitute) your just-add-water meals.

     

    Reconstituting Dehydrated Food

    If you’re an avid eater of dehydrated food (beef jerky, anyone?), then you might be interested to know that it doesn’t all have to be eaten that way. However, the process of rehydrating dehydrated food differs depending on the food in question.

    Some foods, such as sauces or dips, just need cold water to be added until your food reaches its desired consistency. Other food, however, takes longer and needs more than just cold water. Meat is an example of such foods. When reconstituting meat, you will need to add your meat to boiling water and let cook for an extended period of time. Depending on the thickness and type of meat, for example, it could take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.

     

    Reconstituting Freeze-Dried Food

    Water_poured_in_5  Just-add-waterFreeze-dried food is much easier to reconstitute, and once rehydrated, it will revert back to its original shape, texture, and taste – just like it was the day it was freeze-dried. To revert your freeze-dried food back to its original design, all you need to do is place it in hot water and wait up to 10 minutes. It doesn’t need to be boiled, and again, it reverts back to how it was before it was freeze-dried.

     

    Water storage must not be forgotten when stocking up on emergency food, especially if that food consists of dehydrated or freeze-dried entrées. Be conscious of the types of food you’re storing and secure enough water to be able to prepare those foods, while still having enough for hydration and sanitation.

     

    How do you store water to use with your emergency food?

     

    Blog Image - just-add-water

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