Thursday, May 29, 2008

What do we already have/do?

I decided to drop the "adventures in" because it makes for really long titles and sometimes, quite frankly, it comes out kind of awkward.
Thing is, I have been looking at other people's blogs quite often regarding food storage and self-sufficiency, and I have been really impressed. While I am not in a situation where (at least that I know of) I could even raise chickens legally, there are many people who may not have stocked up in terms of bags of rice who do raise chickens and more. We have a garden. We have raspberry bushes that usually do well every year. We have started to stock up on items (like rice) that would not be found in our garden. And here's a scary part: I have started to try to use the "emergency" food we have so that I won't be trying to learn how to use it in an emergency situation.
Let me say that I love rice and beans when cooked properly. There are so many ways to have rice and beans because of the variety of beans and the variety of methods of preparation. So I went in search of rice and bean recipes, both in recipe forums and in blogs.
My first effort was kind of disastrous. (Let it be known that I blame myself, and not the recipe and /or author of said recipe.) I was apprehensive anyway, because the one time I remember trying to cook rice and beans, it took, as I recall, a couple hours longer to actually cook the beans than I had been told or expected, and if memory serves, even then I think I scorched them.
I soaked the beans overnight, sauteed what needed sauteeing, and sat back to wait. I must say that they smelled delicious. I had company come in while they were cooking, and they remarked on that . They are more experienced in the cooking of beans than I, so I asked them about the amount of water that was still there, etc., and they gave me pointers. I cooked the rice. I covered the rice with the beans. I served the dish to the family. I put the wonderful smelling concoction in my mouth, and....blehhhh. Bland to the point of, well, nothing really says it better than blehhhh. My husband, who probably didn't want to discourage me, gave the meal about a 5 on a scale of 1-10. He ate it. I ate it. The children had frozen pizza later. Rice and beans:1 Me:0
So I tried again the next week. The original recipe that I was following is found here:
How I actually made it differs somewhat. I wanted to know, for emergency purposes, what would be more efficient in terms of soaking. My first venture required overnight soaking. This recipe called for boiling and soaking for an hour, allowing for same-day preparation. I did boil the beans, but I wound up soaking the beans for much longer before doing the sauteeing because I was afraid that the cooking would take longer than expected (once bitten) and nothing would be ready for dinner. That was the first change. The second change was that I used all dried spices or equivalent powders (I didn't add parsley) because I figure that would be what I would be using in a "have-to-use-the food-storage" situation. And the third change was that I fried Spam (figuring that unfortunately, I would not have access to wonderful bacon in hard times) in the pan before adding the spices. I thought that would render a lot more grease for the sauteeing, but alas, it was not so. I wound up adding olive oil , scraping up the bits of Spam left in the pan to mix with the spices. I had worried so much about the beans being sufficiently covered to soak that I had added hot water after boiling, so I had enough bean soaking water without having to add extra water.
The rice took longer than 15 minutes to cook (probably 20-25 if memory serves), but I just watched it, and it wasn't so long that I started to worry about it. I baked it. I served it. And the majority of the family liked it. My husband gave it a 6. When I reminded him of the previous 5, he upped it (I think to a 7) because it was, as he said, "a keeper."
I now have at least one recipe I can turn to for rice and beans. I know that I can make an edible dish with those two basic ingredients, and I have to tell you, this dish makes hearty portions and is filling. I saved enough for lunch for me the next day, because, as I said, I am a rice and beans fan. I forgot to mention that I saved the fried Spam in the refrigerator, and then heated it up in a separate pan when I baked the rice and beans. No reason to waste it, right? :)
One thing that became abundantly clear to me when baking beans is that they tend to, in my humble experience, take a lot of water to prepare. Everyone knows that water is vital, but having enough for cooking should be part of the consideration for storage when planning for the possibility of times getting really tough.
Official tally: one for me, and hopefully many more to come. If I can amass more recipes/experience, it will lessen the chances that I would have to make/eat the same dish every day. I can only imagine that it is much easier to learn how to do these things now, when frozen pizza is an option, than it would be to make do with unfamiliar supplies in an emergency.
I should write these things down, but here is what I believe the final tally to be: somewhere right around a dollar for the pinto beans, and less than 3 dollars for the Spam. I tend not to add in the price of the spices (though vital) because they tend to last and last, so really not that expensive overall at all. I'm sure it probably would taste better as originally written, but I wanted to make a practice run, as it were, with food storage.
Much thanks to the original poster of the recipe above. As for me, I will continue to try to add to my recipe collection. I would love to hear any suggestions/recipes that have worked for you.

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