Stockpiling with little space

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Following a post on stockpiling, one reader commented that she would like to stockpile but doesn’t have the space. Many people, including us, have a problem with storage space. My kitchen is just a small area where we managed to squeeze a refrigerator, a countertop gas stove and a toaster oven. I barely have room for the bare essentials in my kitchen, let alone keeping a stockpile. I don’t have a pantry either.

Read here about creative solutions for stockpile storage. Personally, we keep our stockpile in a cabinet in the guest bedroom. An unorthodox solution, but it will have to do until we have a nice big kitchen with lots of cabinets.

Our stockpile was not created deliberately, it just grew; most often, my husband would see something on sale, and buy several items instead of just one for immediate use. There’s often something at a good price that can be stored for a long time – canned vegetables, pasta, rice, non-perishables such as shampoo and toilet paper. I must admit that back then, I felt a little pang in my heart whenever I saw the grocery bill, thinking to myself that here are things we could do without, taking up storage space. Time proved that I was wrong.

I was always of the philosophy that buying something you didn’t plan to buy was still spending money, even if the price is very good. It is indeed a fine line between stockpiling wisely and becoming a pack rat. Unhealthy foods, snacks loaded with salt and sugar, are never a good deal even if they happen to be very cheap. And luxury items won’t help you stretch your budget, no matter how you look at it.

Yes, it’s true that we bought more than we needed at the moment, but back then, we could spare the extra cash. I was very glad we did when time came to cutting back costs as much as we could (even though we always did our best to live frugally).

All over the world, people are struggling with the results of a major recession. People who didn’t imagine it would ever come to that, now have to think twice before buying food. I know it’s unpleasant to think about such possibilities, but it may happen. Being well stocked up on the essentials makes the tough times pass more easily.

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Gnocchi with butter, garlic and sage

Gnocchi used to be one of those things I’d never think to make from scratch – because I guessed the process involves some complex, extremely delicate kitchen magic. But then the prices of store-bought gnocchi rose and we stopped buying them. Then, one day, I was reading The Shoemaker’s Wife, and got the most irresistible craving when I came across the description of making gnocchi with butter, garlic and sage. It all sounded so easy – mashed potatoes, flour, an egg, roll out the dough, cook the dumplings. What could possibly go wrong? Dinnertime was about to roll soon, and I just figured out I’d quickly make a batch of gnocchi and surprise my husband.

Well, let me just tell you dinner was very late that night, and I ended up having to scoop up bits of dough with a spoon and dump them into boiling water (which made me understand, for the first time, the origin of the word ‘dumpling’). My husband tactfully said it was delicious as he consumed his plate of amorphous blobs, but I was pretty sure gnocchi was not supposed to assume the consistency of playdough on a hot day.

What could I do but harass Italian friends for their family recipes, scour the web, and keep trying? I came across this tutorial yesterday and gave it another go, and made some definite progress – though I didn’t attain the elegant shapes of the tutorial, at least I was able to roll out the dough and cut it with a pastry knife. I made two changes from the tutorial: used a potato masher, rather than a potato ricer (I’ve never even heard of such a contraption before), and popped the little bits of dough into the freezer on a large tray before cooking them, to better retain the shape. I ended up keeping one batch in the freezer for a quick dinner next week.

The dressing I like to make for gnocchi is simple and delicious: melt equal parts of butter and olive oil in a skillet, add 3-4 mashed garlic cloves, a pinch of salt, and a handful of sage leaves. I am blessed with an abundance of fresh sage from the garden, but you can use dry sage leaves, or omit it altogether if you are not a fan.

Easy Homemade Chocolate Spread

My latest MEN post features a recipe for homemade chocolate spread that is delicious, easy to make, and far better for you than anything store-bought. It contains exactly four ingredients, and one of those is water.

“Do you like chocolate spread on toast, pancakes or waffles? My kids are ready to eat it by the spoonful if we would only let them, but the kind of commercial junk that passes for chocolate spread in the industry doesn’t have a place on our pantry shelves (Nutella, for instance, contains about 55% sugar and 30% oil, leaving only 15% for anything else).”

The detailed recipe is here.

Seriously Simple Sesame Cookies

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Although it’s hard to compete with the oatmeal coconut no-flour cookies, these cookies are lately gaining a place of favor in our family. They are delicious, extremely easy to make, convenient for little hands to shape, and not that bad in nutritional terms. Lovers of sesame seed, like us, will find these addictive.

Recipe is as following:

1 cup flour (almost any kind will work)

1 cup sesame seeds

4 tbsp of your preferred sweetener (maple sugar, date sugar, honey)

1 egg

5 tbsp coconut oil

1 tsp baking powder

Mix everything together. You should have a pliable, workable mass. If it comes out too dry, add a little water or an extra egg.

Form round flat cookies, place on cookie sheet and bake until edges are just slightly golden. It should only take a few minutes. Don’t overbake!

Allow to cool and store in airtight container.

How to juice a pomegranate

The pomegranate is a delicious fruit with many health benefits, but it can get really messy. When I want to treat my family to fresh, antioxidant-rich pomegranate juice, I seed and juice my pomegranates in the following easy, low-tech way:

1. Cut the pomegranates in half (as shown in the picture, bottom right).

2. Hold the pomegranate halves above a large bowl and seed. I do that by knocking on the outer peel with the handle of a heavy knife – a technique taught by my father-in-law. You can also just remove the seeds with your hands.

3. Once you have the bowl of pomegranate seeds (see picture, top right), mash them with something flat and heavy. I use a beer stein for this purpose – put it on top of the seeds in the bowl, bottom down, and press. The juice will flow.

4. Strain the juice by placing a strainer over a second bowl and pouring the contents of the first. Often, you will have residual juice after the first straining, so press some more.

The fresh pomegranate juice should be consumed as soon as possible so that its unique properties aren’t lost. It gives an antioxidant boost and is also an astringent, great for upset stomach and diarrhea.

The peels go on the compost pile and the remaining seed pulp to the chickens, who love it, so nothing is wasted!

The perfect pastry

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Strudel is one of my favorite kinds of pastry because it’s so versatile – basically, anything can go inside – and because, though it is made with white flour, the dough is plain and unsweetened, and the emphasis is on the filling, which can be as little sweetened as you choose. Here is my favorite recipe:

Dough:

2 cups plain white flour

An egg

A pinch of salt

2 tbsp coconut oil or butter – I’m a huge fan of coconut oil, because I usually want to make all my desserts parve rather than dairy, but butter would work just as well.

Just enough water to make the dough into a pliable, elastic ball that can be easily rolled out.

The rolling out, very thin, is the secret of a good strudel – the dough gets all the delicious flavors of the filling.

Filling: there are literally a myriad of variations, but here is my favorite. In a bowl, combine 5-6 thinly sliced apples with raisins, chopped nuts, some ground coconut, and cinnamon. Sweeten as desired. I usually put in a spoonful or two of honey. You could also spread a thin layer of jam over the dough once it’s rolled out.

Roll out the dough, spread the filling evenly, and roll in. Be careful not to tear.

Carefully, transfer the rolled-up strudel to a tray lined with baking paper and brush with beaten egg. Sprinkle poppy seeds on top (optional). Put into oven on medium heat. Bake until the top is golden, which should take around 30-40 minutes.

Serve warm and enjoy with a nice cup of tea or coffee.

No-Flour Oatmeal Cookies

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Nothing beats oatmeal cookies for a quick and easy snack, and these, a recent experiment, containing no flour or baking powder, are sure to become a favorite recipe. Word of caution: whenever I cook or bake, I’m basically winging it, so if you’re into exact measurements, sorry.

Go ahead and take:

1-1\2 cup of whole or rolled oats

1\2 cup dried, shredded, unsweetened coconut meat

A generous handful of raisins or dried cranberries

A dash of cinnamon

3 heaped tablespoonfuls of coconut oil (and, really, I must digress for a second, because I always feel like I can’t sing the praises of coconut oil enough. It’s delicious in all kinds of baked goods that I want to keep dairy-free, and makes lovely, crisp cookies and mouthwatering, flaky pie crust)

1\2 cup honey, date sugar, or whatever your preferred sweetener is

Mix everything thoroughly in a bowl; it’s best to knead with your hands.

Add 1-2 eggs, just enough to make a sticky mixture.

Take a wax-paper-lined cookie sheet. Pick up small portions of the cookie mixture (about egg-sized) and flatten them thoroughly with your two hands. Place the cookies on the sheet, evenly spaced, and pop into the oven for about 10-15 minutes on medium heat, just until the edges start to turn golden-brown. Do not overbake.

Enjoy with a nice hot cup of tea or cocoa, or with a glass of cold milk.