I wish I could remember the exact moment I became a “prepper”, although I would much rather use the term “aware”. I’m sure everyone has that “A-ha” moment that sets them on the path to enlightenment, and that brings me to the subject of the day. I would like to re-introduce canned food to all of those food snobs out there, because I once was one. Yes, it’s true – for me it was always “freshly caught”, “freshly killed”, “never frozen”, “minimally processed” and most especially “organic”.
As a child of the 1950s I was the unwilling guinea pig of early food engineering. It was that heady time of instant coffee, minute rice, canned biscuits, and TV dinners. Forget all those home cooked meals that my grandmother used to cook. No more long hours slaving over a hot stove to put something nutritious on the table. This is sad to me because my Mom was actually a great cook – she was just a victim of misleading television advertising as many people still are today. If people were more interested in how their food is processed, and what actually goes into it, there might be some healthier folks walking about!
As a young adult during the 1970s I became a part of the early natural food movement in my own small way. My husband and I were fortunate to have a few acres in the far suburbs of a major metro area. We had a large vegetable garden and chickens, and I learned the arts of canning and freezing from his mother. You see she was from an earlier generation than my Mom. She was a product of the Depression and knew that you could not always count on being able to get food from the local grocery store. Having access to those fresh eggs and fresh vegetables inspired me in my own “slow food” movement. I came from a long line of excellent cooks, and I began to develop my cooking style to include everything from Southern-fried to haute cuisine. I even found the time to make homemade baby food when my children came along.
Flash forward to the present. As we all know life is not static. First husband dies, family sells property, kids grow up, Mom marries again and boy does she luck out. New husband is an outdoor guy and an electrical engineer to boot. We decided to purchase some acreage for our bug out location several years ago. We are fortunate to be in a position to travel once or twice a month to our “farm” to practice living off the grid. We have a big metal building with no electricity or running water – just creek water, solar panels and LEDs, a generator and propane camp stove, which brings me in a roundabout way to “Cooking from Cans”. You see, I’m one of those people who don’t care to eat “just anything” and my challenge was to see how creative I could actually be with those cans! Now I am well aware of the potential dangers of food in cans containing BPA (Bisphenol A) and the sodium factor, but when you are in a survival situation I think the possibility of long term side effects will take a back seat to starvation any day.
So without further fanfare I would like to introduce you to some of my pantry cooking. Even without a missile crisis or EMP these recipes will come in handy. Maybe you are too tired to cook the full meal deal one evening, or perhaps paychecks aren’t coming quite as regular as they once did. Food inflation is just around the corner folks so stock up while you can. The recent severe drought as well as the continued use of crops for fuel rather than food will have a dramatic effect on our financial well being, not to mention the continued insane monetary policies of the Federal Reserve. I don’t call it hoarding – I call it being prudent!
SPICY MEXICAN CHICKEN
1 Can 10 oz. Rotel Drained (whichever flavor you prefer)
1 Can 15 oz. Black Beans Drained (any bean will do)
1 Can 12 oz Canned White Meat Chicken Drained
Here comes the hard part – dump them in a skillet and heat through for about 15 minutes. When I am preparing this under optimum circumstances I like to sauté an onion before the can dump. I usually add garlic, cumin, and salt and pepper. I also add a “dash” of Mrs. Dash Southwestern Chipotle seasoning. You can do a lot to jazz it up. I like to add cheese, green onion and crunched up corn chips if I have them on hand. This is also really yummy in a flour tortilla burrito style. You could replace the canned chicken with rotisserie if you so desire or even fresh grilled chicken. Now here is where the food snob thing comes in. All of my life I have eaten tuna from a can but wouldn’t be caught dead eating canned chicken. Why not? I guess ‘cause my Mama said it was icky. Sad I know. Costco has a six pack of canned white meat chicken for around $10.00 and it is delicious. Dried beans are fine to use as well, but what if you don’t have water or fuel to cook those for hours on end. Learn to trust the can.
Same as Mexican but add drained, regular or Italian style diced tomatoes instead of the Rotel and add a can of tomato sauce. I like to add some garlic, Italian seasoning and some Parmesan. If it’s not during said missile crisis or some other catastrophe it’s nice to sauté an onion and green pepper to jazz it up. Serve it with some pasta, or if you want it vegetarian omit the chicken add some Cannellini beans. Spices are totally up to your imagination.
Here again, basic chicken, tomatoes and tomato sauce. Add onion and peppers if available. Here’s where it gets interesting – OKRA! Know what that is? If you are from the South and don’t know, your momma is probably disappointed. Okra has a pretty fair amount of fiber. It comes in cans – just be sure to drain it first. Google it and see what you come up with. To me okra defines Cajun food – gumbo is just not gumbo without okra! Use some garlic, Old Bay or bay leaf to jazz it up and serve over rice. Try red kidney beans instead of chicken if you are so inclined.
Rummage through those cans of beans and find two or three different ones – I like cannellini, kidney and garbanzo. Drain, rinse and throw them in a bowl. Got any jars of roasted red peppers? Chop a few and throw them in. Now if the hurricane left anything in your pantry or fridge, add a little olive oil, red wine vinegar, Garlic Mrs. Dash, chopped green onions (dehydrated or fresh), halved cherry tomatoes (or drained diced), and don’t forget the piece de resistance: drained canned artichoke hearts. Green or black olives are always welcome and if you’ve really been industrious some homemade feta cheese crumbled over the top would be nice. I realize that most survival pantries probably don’t contain artichoke hearts or olives, but if we’re not talking imminent asteroid destruction they really add some flavor. This is a hearty dish containing a lot of protein especially if you are able to add some cheese.
Home Style Vegetable Beef Soup
Now for a little variation let’s try canned beef instead of chicken (although you can use chicken if you like). I prefer to rinse it off before using, but in a worst case scenario every little bit of nutrition and calories help. Into a stock pot add the beef, non-drained tomatoes, onion (fresh or dehydrated), beef bouillon (if available), Veg-All, a bit of rice or potatoes, water to cover, and my favorite, okra. Add salt and pepper to your liking. You might not be as fond of okra as I am so skip it – the okra police will not come knocking I am sure! I realize that I am not giving exact proportions here – it’s not an exact science. It will all depend upon the number of folks you are trying to serve and how hungry they are!
This is the same recipe as the vegetable soup, but substitute macaroni for the rice or potatoes. Skip the okra and add kidney beans; spice it up with garlic and oregano and add some torn spinach if available. What could be easier?
I hope these few simple recipes will help you with your pantry planning. It’s an easy way to stock your pantry without having to spend large amounts of money at one time. Buy a few extra cans each week; we are only talking about ten or twelve varieties of canned food. If you don’t have a “pantry” put the cans in a box and slide it under a bed or in the back of a closet. Hopefully you will have rice and/or pasta on hand, and if you are really fortunate you have stocked up on dehydrated vegetables like onions and peppers. I read once that the most difficult aspect of survival living was food boredom. It seems as if people, and especially children, will actually refuse to eat if they are served the same food day in and day out. I’m not sure if this really applies to children as I could swear my kids ate peanut and butter and jelly sandwiches 24/7/365 for years on end! Stock your pantry with plenty of spices and sauces – most are fairly inexpensive, and try to mix things up. It could be the difference in living and thriving. Happy Pantry Tummy!