Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Best Four Cookbooks So You Can Prepare Your Stored Food

Well, money has been super tight.

I've had to seriously curtail my preps recently.

But last month, I felt it suddenly very necessary to buy 4 cookbooks. I didn't want to fall into one of the big prepper mistakes- buying what you don't eat, or not knowing how to eat what you've bought. If the country's economy tanked tomorrow, I wanted to be better prepared to use what I already have. I knew that if I had to depend on my food storage, I was setting myself (and those I prep for) up for boredom and repetition.

I have a lot of wheat. All I know what to do with it right now is grind it into flour and make bread products. And many of those recipes call for all purpose flour- whereas I'd have whole wheat flour. (yes, at least I have a high-quality wheat grinder!)

I also have beans- a wide variety of beans. I know how to cook different kinds of beans in appealing ways, but each kind of bean has only one recipe. Ie, split pea soup with ham. Lima beans with rosemary. Red beans and rice. Lentils with ginger and carrots. Each kind of bean was limited, and we generally made them seasonally- like bean soups in winter only, which cuts down the variety for a given week.

I studied each and every review, for each book, on Amazon. I looked at the inside pages and compared the goals of the different books, and chose the following four. Some people seem hooked on color photos of the dishes being in cookbooks (per Amazon reviewers), so please note that none of these cookbooks have any photos of any of the dishes. Here are my four book reports:

The first one is called How to Live on Wheat by John Hill. I would encourage you strongly to follow the link and look at the table of contents. It is expansive and very informative.  He includes information on grain storage, sprouts, nutrition, kinds of grains and legumes, catching sourdough starter, baking, noodles, gluten meat substitute, cooking with corn, tempeh, using cast iron cookware, and other important equipment.

As you can see, it focuses on wheat but addresses many other facets- and ingredients- also. I was glad to see the clearly explained section from "cooking with corn" that explained the importance of treating corn with alkaline to avoid pellagra. But he doesn't stop there, and tells you 3 ways to do it.

He is attuned to the importance of nutrition in hard times- that you need every nutrient to be absorbed and utilized. He has simple, attainable recipes and no crazy ingredients. The only exception are his pages devoted to tempeh, which requires a starter and a knowledge and confidence about fermentation.

One drawback I found initially was that nearly all the recipes call for a "Legume Protein Complement." He explains "The purpose of this is to complement the grain protein and make the protein more assimilable." My question is, if I don't have cooked beans or peas to dry and grind, or TVP to grind, does the recipe fail?

Another cookbook focused on wheat is called Wheat Cookin' Made Easy by Pam Crockett. This cookbook has an excessive amount of duplicated clip art, annoyingly placed and duplicated even on pages facing each other. Ugh. It is spiral-bound with kitchy hand-drawn borders on each page. All these uppity complaints aside, it is a thorough and well-rounded cookbook.

The table of contents ends with a half-page of definitions for words like wheat berries, wheat kernels, steamed wheat, and cracked wheat. Generally I was very pleased with the required ingredients. There was almost exclusively things I could find in my food storage plan. If you are being smart and storing spices/seasonings, dried fruit, cocoa powder, vinegar, baking soda,  cream of tartar, etc, you should do well with this cookbook. Even the main dishes call for basic vegetables and available garden herbs.  The cookbook has 8 sections:
  1. bread and biscuits
  2. bread machine
  3. breakfast
  4. crackers and pasta
  5. dessert 
  6. sourdough
  7. kid's recipes
  8. main dishes
Now, in a TEOTWAWKI-type situation, the bread machine or kids recipes may not be super handy. If you have your solar generator, of course you could use it to run the bread machine. The kids section has craft items like salt dough, ornament dough, and dog treats, but also has kid-friendly treats like teething cookies, pretzels, and other snacks.

The main dish section incorporates wheat into casseroles, meat loaf and other dishes (thus "stretching" the meat) but also using wheat berries as the starchy base to the dish. It includes a few gravy and sauce recipes.

One section I was glad to see was the cracker and pasta section. Crackers are handy carriers for other foods- like egg salad or dips- that I would miss if I couldn't have them. They are crunchy and can fulfill a craving for salty snacks.

A drawback to the sourdough section: no directions on how to get the sourdough starter called for in each recipe!!

Next up is a cookbook called Bean By Bean: A Cookbook: More than 175 Recipes for Fresh Beans, Dried Beans, Cool Beans, Hot Beans, Savory Beans, Even Sweet Beans! by a woman fantastically named Crescent Dragonwagon. 

I have a friend who cooks all from scratch and uses all whole ingredients. She LOVED this cookbook. It's written in a friendly encouraging tone and just begs you to try the dishes-- and fall madly in love with beans. It opens with 6 pages of philisophical musing on the bean. Then on to 23 pages of bean basics: "A primer for all things bean. Everything you've ever wondered about selecting, preparing, cooking, and storing dried beans, fresh beans, shell beans, canned beans, and dehydrated beans-- including, yes, a revolutionary method for making beans more belly friendly."

The cookbook includes these sections:
  1. dips
  2. soups
  3. salads
  4. chili
  5. stews/curries
  6. bakes & casseroles
  7. skillets & stir-frys
  8. bean with grain dishes
  9. beans for dessert
Now, each recipe has an introductory story about who gave her the recipe, how she altered it, or its origin. In addition, there are half-pages of Q & A and other informative bean-related info. 

A cookbook full of "food storage" recipes instead of recipes focusing on a certain food item, like the wheat- or bean-focused cookbooks above, is called Simple Recipes Using Food Storageby Cedar Fort Inc. 

 This cookbook is really great. It is a great place to start- it is aimed at, I assume, Mormon housewives who are starting their food storage (in line with the LDS church guidelines) and want to cook what they store.

Opening with a quote from the Book of Mormon, it has a quick two-page section on using whole-wheat flour, using wheat, sweeteners, and honey.

Then it's on to part two. Opening with a quote from an LDS president, it brings you to the crux of the book: a set of recipes based on what you've stored so far. The book has 7 steps, each building on the previous. As you increase what you store, there are more varied recipes to draw on.

Step one uses only wheat, oil, salt, honey/sugar, and water. Step two adds yeast, spices, powdered milk and eggs, vinegar and baking additives. Step three adds powdered butter, cheese, and tomatoes. Step four adds canned milk and canned fruits. Step five adds rice, beans, seeds and meats. Step six adds vegetables including potatoes- she leaves it to you to decide if they are frozen, canned, or dried. The last step adds variety: oatmeal, additional flavorings, rennet tablets, and peanut butter.

 The recipes are varied in approach and taste, and a few replicate familiar box dinners. There are recipes for all the meals of a given day, including dessert.

Now, personally, with my own prepping, I did not start with the items she lists. I started with wheat, beans, rice, pasta and oatmeal. Then I added dried veggies and fruits, and then added spices, baking essentials, sprouting seeds, and canned milk. I still am low on meats, cheese, and butter, which are introduced early in this cookbook, but that I am working on incorporating into my sustainable small farm lifestyle.


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