All Posts by Misty Marsh

Taking the mystery out of dried milk

Many dehydrated and freeze-dried foods are easy to add to our food storage pantries because we know what to expect when we buy them. There’s no big surprise when you open a can of dehydrated onions or freeze-dried strawberries. However, when it comes to dried milk, there are lots of confusing options. Which are best for drinking? Baking? What about the so-called “milk alternatives”?

Having dry milk on hand is extremely handy whenever I run low on regular milk. Back in the day when my kids were drinking cold milk by the gallon, having a back-up ready to go was a life-saver. With a couple of tricks, you can even turn it into buttermilk or evaporated milk.

In fact, I do have a lot of dried milk in my pantry. We don’t drink a lot of milk anymore now that my kids are older, but I do use it for baking and in other recipes. I have stocked up on mostly instant milk and powdered milk, with a can or two of milk alternatives. Here’s how these are different.

Instant Dry Milk

Instant Dry Milk is non-fat and will dissolve instantly in water, both cold and hot. If you’re looking to stock up on milk that will be used primarily for drinking, this is your go-to product. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the taste if your only memory of drinking dried milk is from 20  years ago. The product has improved a lot since then!

Instant milk is made by a process called spray drying, in which milk is quickly dried by hot air. This produces a very, very fine powder, which helps instant milk dissolve quickly when mixed with water.

Some moms add a small amount of vanilla to the rehydrated milk, just to add a little extra flavor, and then serve it nice and cold. If you’re concerned about additives, check the label on the brand you are considering buying. Some add only Vitamins A and D3, while others might contain additional ingredients.

You can use this product in your cooking and baking recipes as well, so it’s quite a workhorse in your kitchen. Store it carefully, however, in the coolest location possible. Its ideal storage temperature is in the 55-70 degree range (F), which is quite cool. Warmer temperatures will lead to a gradual decline in nutrition and flavor, in particular.

Powdered Milk

Not all food storage companies sell powdered milk, but this dry milk is a little different from “instant” dry milk. It’s also non-fat and is intended for cooking and baking. It doesn’t need to be rehydrated before being added to your recipes. If your family doesn’t drink much milk, you may want to stock up more with powdered milk and less with instant.

Powdered milk is created in a process called drum drying. This process produces a dry milk that has a different texture than instant milk, and since more heat is added in the drum drying process, the flavor changes slightly. The powdered milk particles aren’t puffed with any air, which makes it more difficult to combine with water. Some moms mix powdered milk with warm water for easier blending.

 

Dry Milk to Fresh Milk

Either Instant or Powdered milk will combine with water to produce milk that can be used in recipes. Check your container of instant/powdered milk for instructions, but in most cases, you can use these measurements:

1 cup water + 1/3 cup dry milk =  1 cup milk

1 quart water + 1 1/3 cups dry milk = 1 quart milk

2 quarts water + 2 2/3 cups dry milk = 2 quarts milk

1 gallon water + 5 1/3 cups dry milk = 1 gallon milk

A #10 an of instant milk will make around 50-55 cups of rehydrated milk.

How to store dry milk

Dry milk can be a bit fussy when it comes to long-term storage. Food storage companies will claim that their dry milk will last 25 years in storage, but that’s in optimal conditions in temperatures ranging from 55 to 70 degrees (F)! Most homes are warmer than that and household temperatures vary from day to day and from season to season. Inconsistent temperatures negatively affect any food in your pantry.

Because milk is a little pickier than other foods, it may be wise to stock up on smaller amounts and put it in your regular food rotation. That is, use the dry milk with the oldest expiration date and then replace it with newer, fresher dry milk. If you don’t use dry milk all that often but still want it in your storage, either buy it in smaller containers (#2.5 cans rather than the gallon-size #10s) or repackage it in canning jars or smaller mylar bags.

Dry milk versatility

You probably know how to quickly transform regular milk into buttermilk, but did you know you can do the same, and more, with dry milk?

Buttermilk

To one cup of reconstituted milk, add 1 Tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar. Stir and allow to set for 5 minutes. Add to any recipe that calls for buttermilk.

Sweetened Condensed Milk

In a blender, combine 1/2 cup hot water, 1 cup dry milk, 1 cup sugar, 1 Tablespoon butter. Blend well and use in any recipe in place of sweetened condensed milk.

Evaporated Milk

Whisk or use an electric mixer to combine  1 1/2 cups water and 1/2 c. + 1 Tablespoon powdered milk powder. When thoroughly combined, use this in place of evaporated milk.

Bonus recipes

Try this yummy Hot Cinnamon Milk Mix!

2 cups Thrive Life Instant Nonfat Powdered Milk

1 cup dry powdered creamer

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

Vanilla extract

Mix all dry ingredients together and store in airtight container. Add 3 heaping spoonfuls to a mug of hot water. Add a splash of vanilla, stir well, and enjoy!

 

Prepper Cheese

3 cups powdered milk

6 cups water

¼ cup vinegar (any type) or lemon juice

You also need the following supplies

  • A piece of cheesecloth, flour sack towels, or soft t-shirt type fabric
  • Colander
  • Large slotted spoon
  • A cook pot
  • Thermometer capable of reaching 180 degrees F. This includes most candy thermometers.

Mix together the powdered milk and water in a large pot and stir until the milk is dissolved. When the milk is completely dissolved, heat it over a medium heat to 180 degrees F. Now stir in the ¼ cup of vinegar and remove from the heat. Set it to the side and cover with the cloth.

After it has cooled, remove the solid curds by straining through a cloth lined colander. Squeeze out the excess whey and your cheese is ready to eat. If you want, you can add a bit of salt after it is finished.

All about rice: a tutorial

rice

Rice growing

Rice is inexpensive, easy to store, and is a versatile, economical food. It is a good source of energy and can supply vitamins and minerals to the diet. It is generally classified as a grain, but in family meals, it can be used as:

  • A cereal, cream of rice
  • As a substitute for potatoes
  • As a base for meat
  • In soups as a thickener
  • A dessert in puddings and custards
  • A flour

Rice has been in use since ancient times. It is easy to store, takes little storage space, and has no waste since it is completely edible. Even though there are 7,000 varieties of rice produced in the world, for our purposes you only need to know that there are only three different lengths of rice grain and four different kinds.

Lengths of rice

Long grain rice has a length that is four to five times its width. The grains are clear and translucent. The grains remain distinct and separate after cooking.

Medium grain rice is about three times as long as its width. This type is less expensive than long grain rice because it requires a shorter growing season and produces a higher yield per acre. It is also easier to mill than the long grained variety.

Short grain rice is only one and one-half to two times as long as it is wide. It is generally the least expensive of the three lengths.

Kinds of rice

With four different kinds of rice to select from, you should know the differences.

Brown rice is the whole, unpolished grain of rice with only the outer fibrous, inedible hull removed. It is more nutritious than white rice. Brown rice requires more water and longer cooking time than white rice. Because its shelf life is very short it is not a good item for long-term storage. Store brown rice for only six months.

White rice this is rice from which the hulls, germ, outer bran layers and most of the inner bran is removed in the milling process. The grains are bland in flavor and are fluffy when cooked. This rice properly packaged oxygen free will store for up to 30 years.

Parboiled rice, sometimes called processed or converted rice, it has been treated to keep some of the natural vitamins and minerals the whole grain contains. It has been cooked before milling by a special steam pressure process. It requires longer cooking time than regular milled white rice, but after cooking, the grains are fluffy, separate and plump. According to Brigham Young University, parboiled rice that is properly packaged will store for up to 30 years.

Pre-cooked or instant rice also called minute rice has been precooked and dehydrated. To use it you only have to let it stand in boiling water to be ready for serving.  Minute rice says it has a shelf life of one year. However, I suspect it would last much longer since it is merely rice that has been cooked and dehydrated.

All rice sold in the US has to be fortified with B1, B3, and iron by law.

Preparation of rice.

  • Because the B vitamins are added to rice in the form of powder, much of the valuable nutrients are lost if the product is not handled properly.
  • Do not wash rice before cooking or rinse it after cooking. Rice is one of the most sanitary foods. Rice grown and milled in the U.S. is clean.  Nutrients on the surface of the rice are washed away if it is washed or rinsed before cooking.
  • Do not use too much water when cooking rice. Any water drained off means wasted food value. Too much water makes soggy rice. Too little water results in a dry product.
  • Do not stir rice after it comes to a boil. This breaks up the grains and makes the rice gummy.
  • Do not leave rice in a pan in which it is cooked for more than 5-10 minutes or the cooked rice will pack.

Rice is a good healthy inexpensive food to add to your storage.

All about diatomaceous earth

What is diatomaceous earth? (DE)

image of diatom by Derek Keats

image of diatom by Derek Keats

A multitude of Americans is becoming more and more aware of the chemicals and other potentially dangerous ingredients in the food we eat, in our household cleaners and in the products we use to maintain our gardens and control pests. We’re trying to eliminate these products from our lives with more natural, less toxic products.

That’s where diatomaceous earth (DE) comes in. It’s non-toxic and all-natural, made from the fossilized remains of diatoms, an ancient algae.

For insect control, when bugs of all types wander through DE, it clings to their bodies and acts like a sort of dehydrator, drying up the insect’s body until it falls over dead. This usually takes around 48 hours.

DE is a life-saver for pet owners

Since DE is safe for humans and animals, it can be used indoors and outdoors.

This season our dog and cats have been beset with fleas. It seems that the squirrels in our backyard carry these obnoxious little creatures, deposit the eggs and larvae in our backyard, where our dog sunbathes just about every afternoon. She brings the fleas inside where they, eventually, land on our cats.

It’s been a real problem. We’ve used DE to combat the situation, though. First, we bathed the dog and cats and watched as fleas leaped to temporary safety within the bathtub. Once each pet was dry, we worked DE into their fur with our fingers and a brush.

To tackle the issue of fleas inside our home, we sprinkled the carpet in every room with DE, used a rake to work the powder down deep into the carpet, and then let the DE do its work for a few days. We vacuumed up the DE, dusted the furniture, and we were good to go.

If pets have parasites, mix a small amount of DE into their food for 3 or 4 days until the worms are eliminated.

Since DE is harmless, this process can be repeated whenever necessary.

Use DE to rid your home of pests

For use inside your home, place shallow containers of DE in crawl spaces, in the attic, on windowsills, behind the refrigerator, or anywhere else you find insects. In just a matter of days, those insects will disappear.

If bugs are getting inside your house from outdoors, sprinkle DE around the outside of your home, especially where plants grow close to your foundation. If ants are a problem, and this includes the infamous fire ant, sprinkle DE directly on the ant hills where it will be tracked into the colony. Suddenly, ants will no longer be an issue without the use of toxic insecticides.

Keep in mind that DE will kill beneficial insects as well as the ones you want to be rid of. That would include friendly ladybugs and earthworms that you want in your garden.

Ridding pests in your food storage

Want to keep pests out of those bags and buckets of food? Simply mix it in with your wheat, rice, oats, etc., using about a cup of food-grade diatomaceous earth for a 5 or 6-gallon bucket of food. Leave enough headroom at the top of the bucket or bag so you can shake the container, making sure the DE is thoroughly dispersed.

At the same time, lightly sprinkle DE around the baseboards of your pantry room and at the base of any outdoor windows. Pests aren’t welcome anywhere near our food, right?

I’ve sprinkled it around the baseboards of my pantry and around buckets of wheat, rice, and beans. I’ve seen a few signs of bugs, a few small spider webs, but that’s after an entire year with my food storage in this location!

DE for human consumption?

Some people ingest DE as a de-toxifer and claim that it’s beneficial to bones, skin, nails, and hair because it contains silica. A teaspoon added to juice, water, or a smoothie makes it more palatable. Since DE isn’t regulated by the FDA, there aren’t any official claims of its health benefits to humans, but there are plenty of positive testimonials you can read online.

All in all, DE is worth having around the house as a non-toxic, multi-purpose product that I recommend.

WARNING: Do not use the DE intended for use in a swimming pool filter. Buy the food-grade DE, even if you aren’t planning on using it in food that is stored.

 

19 Alternatives to wheat

I know that many of you are trying to avoid wheat in your diet for any number of reasons. Most of the wheat we consume today is not the same wheat that our great-grandparents grew and ate.

Here is a list of alternatives to wheat that will still allow you to make dozens and dozens of different recipes, and you may end up not missing wheat at all. Some can be used to create bread and others are great to have on hand as meal-stretchers.

  • Almond flour
  • Amaranth
  • Arrowroot
  • Barley
  • Buckwheat (A member of the rhubarb family!)
  • Coconut flour
  • Corn
  • Flax
  • Millet
  • Oats
  • Peanuts (George Washington Carver came up with 300 uses for these!
  • Potatoes (Can be used to make potato flour.)
  • Quinoa
  • Rice (can be ground for flour)
  • Rye
  • Sorghum
  • Soy
  • Tapioca
  • Teff

If you’re worried about buying genetically modified seeds for any of these foods, don’t be. GMO seeds are not sold to the public, at least for now. Azure Standard is a good source for almost all these foods and many of them will be organic.

TIP: If you have chickens or plan to add them to your backyard, consider planting millet, rye, wheat, oats, and/or barley underneath backyard trees. They’ll create ground cover, shade the tree trunks from the harsh summer sun, provide food for the chickens, and then the chicken poop will act as an organic fertilizer for these grains all over again.

ANOTHER TIP: If you’re planning on grinding any of these foods to make flour, be sure that your grain mill is up to the task. Some are designed to grind only wheat. I use the Wondermill Junior.

There’s more to wheat than bread-making

Lots of us like to store wheat as part of our long-term food storage. It has a long shelf life, it’s nutritious, and you can use it to make that beloved staple of Western Civilization: bread. In fact, in Medieval Europe, all other foods – meat and vegetables – were considered, “stuff you eat with bread.” However, the ovens the Medieval Europeans used to make this bread were huge, required enormous amounts of fuel, and took most the day to heat up.

We are certainly spoiled with our nice little electric ovens that come up to a temperature in less than twenty minutes, but without modern conveniences, how would you bake that bread? Most of us don’t have Medieval bread ovens out in the backyard. And even if you did, what would you use for fuel? It would be a shame to let all that wheat go to waste.

Bread is a staple but it’s also something that takes quite a lot of time to make. I’ve been working on my own bread-making skills and

Fortunately, bread is not the only thing wheat is good for. If you have a grill, or at least a cast iron frying pan, a manual wheat grinder, and just a few extra ingredients, you can make a wide variety of meals. I’m not even going to mention cracked wheat cereal, which brings to mind thin, sad faces, gruel, and Little Orphan Annie. I mean meals that you would actually want to eat, like pancakes and biscuits.

Even without a modern oven or range, you can place a frying pan on your outdoor grill or over a campfire. This method is perfect for making things like pancakes and tortillas, and can also be used for other quick breads like flatbread and biscuits (you will have to flip them).

Knowing alternative ways to cook, and having the tools to do so, is important for short-term power losses and even a long-term failure of the power grid.

Pancakes

Any pancake recipe can be converted into a whole wheat pancake recipe simply by substituting whole wheat flour for white flour. For very best results, use buttermilk. If you don’t have buttermilk, you can use reconstituted powdered milk and add a tablespoon of plain yogurt. Here is my children’s favorite recipe:

2 Eggs

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 1/5 cup milk or buttermilk

2 cup whole wheat flour

2 Tbsp brown sugar

4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients, cook as you would any other pancake recipe. Makes 6-8 pancakes, depending on size.

Tortillas

We eat a lot of tortillas at our house in the form of fajitas, enchiladas, soft tacos, burritos, and so on. I went through a lot of tortilla recipes trying to find one I like, and this one is pretty fool-proof. I usually double it for my family of five:

2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup water

3 Tbsp olive oil

Combine all ingredients and mix by hand until it forms a ball. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour a little at a time until the desired texture is reached. Let the dough rest for about twenty minutes, then divide into six portions. Roll out each ball and cook about a minute on each side. Makes 6 tortillas.

Biscuits

This recipe is adapted from a recipe book that used to belong to my great-grandmother.

2 cup whole wheat flour

4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

4 Tbsp shortening (the amount can be decreased to 2 Tbsp, but I prefer the flakier texture that comes with more fat)

3/4 cup buttermilk

Mix the dry ingredients together, cut in the shortening. When adding the buttermilk, do not overmix. Instead of rolling out the dough, save time and form the dough into a log, then cut the log into biscuit-shaped slices. Allow 4-5 minutes per side on medium heat, taking care not to let them burn. For best results, cover the pan. Makes 12 biscuits.

 

You’ll notice that none of these three recipes require more than two cups of flour. That is because I assume that if you don’t have your electric stove, you probably don’t have your electric wheat grinder, either. Have you ever tried to grind six cups of flour at once with an ordinary hand-powered grain mill? It’s incredibly tedious. You’ll be having flashbacks from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Long Winter for days. Two cups at a time, however, is entirely doable. You’ll be able to finish in less than a half hour.

I hope you will be inspired to test out these recipes. I was skeptical about the idea of skillet biscuits on the grill but was pleasantly surprised by how they turned out. Recipes using wheat typically include budget-friendly ingredients, so get busy experimenting with these recipes and others. You’ll soon learn just how versatile wheat can be!

How toxic water affects children

In my many years teaching people about water and its impact on health, I have discovered that people in our society know shockingly little about the subject. This is even true of people who should know better. Water contamination is more dangerous for children and every household with a child or grandchild should know more about this topic.

We live in a toxic world. The evidence is overwhelming. The examples could fill many books, but consider just these:

  • More than 85,000 chemicals are in use today. Municipal water supplies, however, are only required to meet standards on about 100 of these potential contaminants. Water supplies that meet these standards are considered “legally” safe to drink. Many cities that have “safe drinking water” actually have water supplies contaminated by high levels of dangerous, yet unregulated chemicals.
  • 62,000 chemicals have been grandfathered into our chemical safety laws. This means that even though many of these chemicals are used every day, they have gone through little to no toxicity testing. This was the problem with the recent chemical spill in West Virginia; no one knows how toxic the chemical is.
  • In the US alone, more than 1.23 billion pounds of conventional pesticides are released into the environment each year, and that number increases to 4.5 billion pounds when all types of pesticides are included.

While adults should not consume these chemicals, these toxins pose a greater threat to the health of newborns, small children, and even the unborn. Yes, the unborn are being exposed to these chemicals in the womb. A recent study of umbilical cords of ten babies found 287 chemicals (an average of 200 per child). Of these chemicals, 180 are known to cause cancer in humans, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 cause birth defects in animals. (Source: Body Burden; Pollution in Newborns).

Many chemicals in use today are known to be toxic including lead, mercury, cadmium, fluoride, industrial solvents, many pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides. Many more chemicals, however, have unknown health effects.

So let’s answer the question, “Why are children more susceptible to these toxins?” Some of the reasons include:

A child’s body contains a higher ratio of water than an adult’s body. A healthy adult male’s body is close to 60 percent water, while an adult woman’s body is around 55 percent water. A newborn’s body will consist of upwards of 78 percent water.

Children consume more water for their weight than adults. Children’s need for water is greater, and they can become dehydrated faster.

Children’s nervous systems (including their brains) are continuing to develop, which means that toxins can interfere with the development process and cause permanent learning disorders.

Children have lower body mass. A child’s chemical exposures are greater pound-for-pound than those of adults, so chemicals may interfere with brain development at exposure levels that have minimal or no effect on the adult brain.

There are a number of other reasons, but they are too technical for such an article. It’s not just chemicals that can be present in drinking water. Biological contaminants, such as cholera, giardia, and cryptosporidium can be ever more dangerous than chemicals, so I am compelled to add a vital fifth reason:

Children have an undeveloped immune system, and thus they are more susceptible to microbes in water. When there is a biological contamination of a water supply, children and elderly are more likely to become sick.

An Emergency Situation

What I have been talking about so far is exposure to water contaminants in our day-to-day lives, but it’s very important to also talk about emergency situations. Earthquakes, hurricanes, floods or even man-made disasters such as chemical spills can happen without warning, and when they do your water supply could be threatened. Chemicals can be released in large quantities because of ruptured pipelines, storage tanks, train derailments, and more. An even bigger threat is bacteria from sewage, which can cause adults and children to become severely sick and dehydrated. It’s during these times that you need to know how to provide your family with safe drinking water.