Monday, 28 October 2013

Getting Ready For Winter

Winter has given notice that its on its way and normally I don't mind that, but this year its extremely early and I'm nowhere near ready. It has snowed for the past four days and, although the snow didn't stick around, it lasted long enough to let me know I better finish my winter preparations.

Now that I'm retired I'm able to enjoy winter but only if I have everything well organized. We're not exactly close to a store, actually that's not right - its not that we're so very far away from a store, its that the roads we have to travel to get there can be very hazardous. I simply don't want the worry about driving under those conditions and much rather be self-reliant so we don't need to drive. The best way I know how to do that is to make sure I have all of our winter needs in place, with a well-stocked pantry and a variety of Master Mixes.  

I spent part of Saturday making up the important mixes, the ones that eliminate the most stress, because I know with these mixes available I can always prepare something to eat. They include Ready Biscuit Mix which is great for pancakes but can also be used to make up biscuits, pot pies, coffee cakes etc, using the recipes provided by the brand-name mix; Mexican Seasoning Mix, which makes a quick rice or noodle side-dish; the SOS (Soup or Sauce Mix) from Utah State University, that can be used to quickly make soup or it can be substituted for canned cream soup to make up any number of meals. I've included the instructions for Ready Biscuit Mix and the Mexican Seasoning Mix plus a link to the SOS Mix from Utah State University.

Ready Biscuit Mix, an old standby dating back to when all the boys were still at home, was then mainly used for making pancakes for breakfast. The nice thing about this mix is that it uses only ingredients normally found in the pantry of most homes so its easy to make up more mix anytime, even if you do happen to be snowed in and can't get out. 

Ready Biscuit Mix - Makes about 8 cups.
Sift together 3 or 4 times – this needs to be mixed really well:
5 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
Cut in 1 cup shortening with pastry blender until it resembles fine meal. Store in container with tight fitting lid - will keep for 6 weeks without refrigeration.
Since most recipes call for 2 cups of the mix, I make up two batches at a time, dividing one batch into two-cup portions and freezing them - those stay good for at least three months.

Pancakes - Makes about 12 four-inch pancakes.
Measure 2 cups biscuit mix into bowl
Beat 2 eggs well, add 1* cup milk, beat again.
Slowly add the egg/milk mixture to biscuit mix and stir only enough to dampen all the mix.
Pour 1/4 cup mix onto hot griddle until bubbles form and underside is golden brown, turn and brown the other side.
Option: Add 1/2 cup raisins or craisins to the dry mix before adding the eggs and milk.
*A little bit more milk may be added if a thinner batter is desired.

Mexican Seasoning Mix - Makes about 6 cups.
2 cups instant minced onion
2/3 cup chili powder
2 1/2 Tbsp. each crushed red pepper and oregano
1 Tbsp. garlic powder
1 1/3 cup beef bouillon
1/4 cup ground cumin
Mix all together - pour into glass jar with lid - shake again really well so that it's all well mixed.
Store in cool, dry place for up to 4 months.
To Use: Shake again before using as some ingredients will settle to the bottom.
For Rice - add 3 Tbsp. mix to rice for each cup of rice to be cooked. Add 1 Tbsp. butter to the water and cook the rice mixture according to directions on rice package.
For Noodles - add 3 Tbsp. mix and 1 Tbsp. cornstarch to each 2 cups uncooked noodles. Add 2 Tbsp. butter to the water mix and cook noodle mix according to package directions.

Utah State University has a great recipe for SOS Mix (Soup or Sauce Mix). I used to keep the cooking soups - tomato, mushroom and celery - in the pantry because they made a base for many quick and easy casseroles - quick and easy being my favourite style of cooking. The main problem with canned soup is the high sodium content – fortunately when I searched for an alternative I found this mix. It can be substituted for the can of cream soup in any recipe, is fat free, and contains no wheat so is great for people with Celiac Disease. This mix is a real money-saver and can be used in a variety of easy, inexpensive recipes, including:
Soups - Potato soup, Mushroom soup, Broccoli Cheese Soup, more.
Meals - Macaroni and Cheese, Skillet Lasagna, Chicken Broccoli Alfredo, Chili Tomato Mac, more.
Sauces - Homemade milk gravy, Cheese sauce, Pizza sauce, Alfredo Sauce.

For instructions on how to prepare and use the mix go to Utah State University: 

The SOS mix is downloaded as a PDF file from where it can be printed, using double sided printing to make up a small, handy-to-use booklet.

One of the thing I appreciate about these mixes, aside from the low cost and convenience, is knowing exactly what’s in them. They don't have any ingredients that you can't pronounce and, although some salt is needed for the leavening process to work, the amount used can be controlled.

The more prepared I am for winter, the more I'm able to enjoy it. Over the next couple of weeks I'll finish stocking up with more mixes but also with extra tea, coffee, bottled water, powdered milk, egg substitute, cheese, butter, dried vegetable flakes, pasta, rice, canned vegetables, etc. Once I have that all sorted out I'll be able to sit back, watch my fire and relax - my theory is - if you have to have winter, you might as well find a way to enjoy it.

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I want this blog to be interesting, informative and current. Your comments let me know if I'm on track, so comments are greatly appreciated.
Thanks - Lenie