“Jim, I had a big pot of dry beef gravy on the stove and my boss was coming down to see how breakfast was going. I couldn’t get it to thicken up! I was the new manager in the kitchen and I was young. I was so scared.”
My mother told me the story with the same fear in her eyes that her younger self probably had as a young manager at a retirement home.
“One of the older cooks showed me the quick trick for thickening up a sauces like that. It is as simple as making a slurry from flour and water. You take the hot liquid off the heat and whisk the slurry in. It worked! The sauce thickened right up and just in time.”
Mom told me this story while I was stirring butter and flour together in a sauce pot over a low heat. Mom was showing me how to make a roux and thicken a sauce the right way. I was probably about 14 and I was thinking I might be a chef.
“Take the roux off the heat and take the add the warm milk a little at a time. When I added the first quarter I watched the roux absorb the liquid and become a stodgy mix. I added some more and whisked to see an overly thick sauce. Finally, add it all and placing it back on the ground.
“Now let it come back to a simmer and you will see how thick it is.”
The sauce came back to the simmer and thicken up. It was a silky smooth Bechamel sauce. Mom used this to make all kinds of dinners in our home. I didn’t know it at the time but culinary school taught me that this was one of the 5 mother sauces of French cooking.
This really blew me away because I learned how to make my first mother sauce with my mother right at my side.
She was a master of comfort foods and I will highlight some of those recipes in this article. I have parsed out some of my favorites that use foods we all store and grow as preppers.
Quick Food Storage Lasagna
Lasagna is one of those things that most people assume can be labor-intensive. If you have the right items in your food storage pantry it can be a matter of simply boiling noodles and layering ingredients.
8-10 Sheets of Lasagna Noodles
1 Can of Spaghetti Sauce with Meat
2 Cups of Freeze Dried Mozzarella Cheese Shreds
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add your lasagna sheets. Cook them just until they are al dente or softened to the teeth. You don’t want mushy lasagna here because you are going to bake this, too.
From here it is just a matter of layering. I use an 8 x 8 Pyrex baking dish and cut the noodles to fit.
Begin by spooning some sauce on the bottom of the dish and then layer about three noodles side by side. Add a couple of tablespoons of meat sauce, a handful of shredded cheese and some of that torn basil
Continue this layering process until your baking dish is filled and top the entire thing with cheese. From here you are going to bake this dish at 350 till the cheese is melted and the lasagna is nice and bubbly.
Au Gratin Potatoes with Corned Beef
This was another one of Mom’s specials but I am going to adapt it to the food storage pantry. Rather than using fresh slices of potato we are going to use freeze-dried sliced potatoes, canned corned beef, and milk powder.
2 Cups of Sliced Dehydrated Potatoes
1/4 Cup of Powdered Milk
2 Tablespoons of Cornstarch
2 Tablespoons of Flour
2 Teaspoons of Dehydrated Onions
1 Can of Corned Beef
Salt and Pepper
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Layer a baking dish with your potato slices. They can be layered but if they overlap you will wind up with some crunch ones.
In a bowl combine everything else except the corned beef. Mix it thoroughly and then add water. Whisk this mix till its smooth and not lumpy. You want it to be the consistency of milk. The flour and cornstarch will thicken it as it cooks.
Finally, break up the corned beef and fold it into the mix. You want flakes of the corned beef throughout the mix. Pour this on top of the sliced potatoes and bake for around an hour, until the potatoes are nice and tender.
Pantry Chili Mac
This recipe is just a simple as it gets. Remember, if you are tapping into your pantry in a serious emergency or disaster, there is a chance you will all want something hearty, quick, and easy.
1 Can of Meat Chili with Beans
1 Can of Diced Tomatoes with Chilis
1 teaspoon of cumin, turmeric, Chipotle chili powder
1 Tablespoon of Sugar
2 Cups of Elbow Macaroni
Step one of this recipe is to get your water boiling. Salt it and maybe add a little oil to the water.
In a small pot add your two cans, your spices, sugar, and bring the whole mix to a simmer for about 10 minutes. Turn it off and set it aside. The spices are gonna do their thing while it sits there.
Now that the water is boiling cook your pasta. I like to cook my pasta to overdone for this. I like fat, swollen elbow noodles that are very soft. This chili is almost drinkable!
This is a radically simple preparation that really speaks to what you want if you are preparing food during an emergency or disaster.
Butter Mashed and Thyme Potatoes
The key to great mashed potatoes is butter and salt. It’s really that simple. When it comes to food storage I hope you are buying plenty of instant mashed by some brand or another.
You can buy these in #10 cans if you are so inclined. I simply grab the .58 cent Idahoan mashed every time I go to the supermarket. 2-3 packets every trip will outfit you with so many potatoes in a year’s time!
Lets talk about how to hack these with some butter and herbs to make instant taste like heaven.
1 Pack of Instant Mashed Potatoes
1 Stick of butter
1 Tablespoon of Chopped Fresh Thyme
Boil water to reconstitute your packet mashed potatoes. Add half the recommended amount to your potatoes and then dice up half the stick of butter and add that to the mix. stir the mix often in the pan or in the packet to assure that you don’t wind up with a pool of butter on top of your potatoes.
Finish by adding the fresh thyme, mix it in and then enjoy! Quick, simple and delicious
Hearty Black Bean Soup
This is actually a recipe I learned in a Cuban restaurant but it is so good I had to include it because we all have black beans.
2 Medium Sized Onions
2 Tablespoons of Garlic Powder
2 Teaspoons of Chili Powder
1 Teaspoon of Cumin
2 Cups of Cooked Black Beans
4 Cups of Vegetable Stock
1/2 Cup of White Rice
Take the two onions, leave the peels on and bake them in a 400-degree oven for about 1 hour. The skins will blacken and you might even lose some of the layers inside the onion but whats left will have this incredible smell and flavor.
Peel away the blackened portions and set the onions aside.
In your soup pot add the onions and spices. Let this mix simmer for a bit over low heat.
Add 1 cup of your beans and 2 cups of your vegetable stock and bring this up to a simmer. Then with a stick blender, you can buzz this whole thing up. Get it nice and smooth. If you don’t have a stick blender just whizz it all up in a blender on low with the top open a bit.
Stir in the rest of your stock and rice, cooking until the rice is tender.
If you are preparing for any kind of food scarcity or prepping up long term food storage, you know that you have the rice. We all have lots of rice. For the most part, we relegate rice cookery to steaming and adding to soups.
I think people forget about rice pudding when it comes to long term food storage.
2 1/2 Cups of Reconstituted Dry Milk
1/3 Cup of Rice
Pinch of Salt
1 Egg from the coop!
1/4 Cup of Brown Sugar
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 Teaspoon of Cinnamon
1/3 Cup of Raisins OPTIONAL
To begin you are going to bring your rice, milk and salt to boil then drop it to a simmer for about 20 minutes or until your rice is tender. Set that off to the side.
In a large bowl, vigorously whisk your eggs together with the brown sugar and the rest of the ingredients. You are going to take a ladle full of your hot rice mixture and spoon it into the eggs. Whisk fast because you are tempering the egg mixture.
If you don’t temper this mixture i.e add a little hot liquid to warm it, the eggs will curdle and your pudding will never thicken. It is the tempered eggs that thicken the pudding.
Once tempered, add the egg mixture to the pot with the rice and bring this mix back to a slow simmer. Stir very often as this mix can stick and burn as it thickens.
Once it has thickened up you have your rice pudding!
This is one of my favorite desserts and particularly in the summer months. You know, peach cobbler lends itself to two very important functions. The first being the making of a great desert and the second being the creation of the incredible biscuit topping.
Having a solid biscuit recipe is a skill worth mastering.
1 Can of Peach Slices in Syrup
1/4 Cup of White Sugar
1/4 Cup of Brown Sugar
1/4 Teaspoon of Cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon of Nutmeg
1 Cup of All Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup of White Sugar
1 Teaspoon of Baking Powder
1/4 Teaspoon of Salt
6 Tablespoons of Chilled Butter
1 Cup of Iced Water
Now, you can make peach cobbler with fresh peaches but we are using food storage here so let’s go with the canned. I add my cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar and bring this mix just to a simmer before turning it off. Cook it too long and the peaches will lose any texture.
Using a pastry cutter or two butter knives begin to cut the cold butter into the flour. Your mix starts to turn grainy and that is just what you are after. Use just a few splashes of ice water to bring the mix together as a manageable dough.
Roll your dough to about 1/2 inch thick and then cut shapes to lay out atop your peaches in a baking pan that will hold them. You can use rounds but starts are fun, too!
Bake the peaches covered with your sweetened biscuit mix at 350 for around 40 minutes
Preparing a hearty meal from food storage is about a lot more than ingredients. You could have to consider things like fuel consumption or water consumption if these resources are limited because of the disaster.
Try these recipes out in the outdoors, too! If you can make them in a grill or on a campfire or even on a rocket stove, you will know that you can use an alternate cooking method if the old electric range is out of commission. Maybe a hurricane turned the electric current off or maybe you are living through a serious grid-down scenario.
Above all, enjoy the time you spend cooking. No other creature on the planet cooks its food! This is a uniquely human experience and it is one of my most prized skills.
These recipes are just a handful of examples of how you can nurture the home cook and survivalist cook in you.
As a prepper and survivalist, I put stock in things like fire craft and tracking but, to be honest, cooking is something I do every day. Good times or bad I gotta feed my people! It makes the lives of my loved ones better whether in peace or chaos.