Starting today, Aaron Neal, who just started Dad's Garage blog, will be making regular contributions on buying, storing and preparing non-perishable foods.
Aaron and I have cooperated on other blogging projects. You might remember his stirring mission into hurricane-ravaged Alabama this past fall. It was a series on my other blog, Rivrdog, starting here and going on for about a week. Aaron and I share common views on most things, especially the need for a head of household to take responsibility for all of the facets of his/her family's survival, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. In the S.H.T.F. scenario, of which you may choose one of mine or pose your own, food supply will be as important as ammo supply. (ed. note: with bird flu now suspected in France as of yesterday, the pandemic S.H.T.F. scenario could be headed our way)
Aaron starts with the basics, Kraft Mac and Cheese. This foundation block of every parent's feeding of children is easily stored, cooks quickly, and provides an excellent base for making casseroles in the field. It comes in super-sizes also, in case you are running a big field kitchen.
This is the first in a series of posts regarding food storage and a report of preparation and results.
My criteria on this is that the foods (or their ingredients) must be storable long-term without refrigeration. In other words, things you could put in a grab-and-go bag and not worry about for a while, or things you stock up in your pantry, to make sure you have a good supply of food on hand in the event of a disaster or quarantine.
I'll be looking at shelf life and nutritional value objectively. These are things that can be read from the packaging, and are not subjective.
The subjective parts will be my observations regarding ease of preparation and taste. I'll also be getting Lisa's opinion of the taste, when she's brave enough to eat my cooking (and when she's not at work).
Tonight I'll kick this off with an all-time favorite comfort food, macaroni and cheese. Kids love it, and most adults I know enjoy a good hot bowl of Mac'N'Cheese as well. If you're HAVING to rely on long-term storage food, everyone involved is likely to be pretty stressed. Don't forget the morale value of a good, hot meal.
I'll leave out the margarine, since it won't keep in the pantry, and use evaporated milk.
On to the facts:
SHELF LIFE: Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (Original Flavor) - this has a "Best when used by" date of 06 Oct 2006, and it's probably been in the cabinet for about two months or so. So nearly a one-year shelf life, and that's "best by", not "throw this away on".
Nestle Carnation Evaporated Milk - I have no idea when we bought this; it's not something we use often. Its "Best By" date is 16 Dec 06 - I'm sure we've had this sitting for a while, so call it at least a one-year shelf life.
[note] Just in case any of you Fair Readers thought I was being self-deprecating when I wondered if Lisa would be "brave enough" to eat my cooking - I'm working on this dish as I write this. Water came up to a boil, so I went to put the macaroni in - and dumped the cheese packet right in with it. Then only JUST BARELY stopped myself from reaching into boiling water to grab it. I keep up like this, I may end up blogging from the hospital. [/note]
NUTRITION: I'm going with the "prepared" column on the box of macaroni. It won't be completely accurate, since it assumes four tablespoons of butter that I'm not using, and it also assumes 1/4 cup of milk (unspecified, I'm assuming whole) and I'm using evaporated milk.
Serving size: 2.5oz (about 1 cup)
Servings per container: About 3
Total Fat: 2.5g
Total Carbs: 49g
Vitamin A: 15%
PREPARATION: I hope everybody reading this knows how to make mac'n'cheese from a box. But just in case you don't, you boil water, put macaroni in boiling water (stirring damn near constantly, this particular quick-cooking pasta sticks to ANY pot - editor) but don't put the cheese pack in with it! Then boil for 7-8 minutes or so. Drain macaroni, add milk, cheese powder, and butter (no butter this time), stir, and eat. Pretty simple, very easy in a kitchen or on a camp stove, could be done pretty easily over a campfire. (ed. note - if you haven't made Aaron's little boo-boo here with the cheese packet, you haven't been a parent long and haven't cooked much mac and cheese).
NOTE: I'll have to open a can of evap milk - have a can opener! Also, the evap milk won't all be used, and the leftovers must be refrigerated. If you don't have refrigeration, just drink the leftover milk with your dinner.
TASTE: Well, true to form, I screwed up - was cooking and writing at the same time, and boiled the macaroni about twice as long as I was supposed to. So, it's predictably kinda mushy. Other than that, though, I don't see the reason for the butter. I couldn't notice the lack of it AT ALL (dieters take note!). Other than the mushiness I caused by cooking it too long, this was a normal, everyday bowl of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Normal, like I had to make myself NOT get a second bowl and be a pig. I did, however, use a little more milk than is called for (probably about 1/3 of a cup instead of 1/4).
I'm gonna call this one a success.
It could also be EASILY augmented, both taste and nutrition, with the addition of some form of canned meat - a can of chili, or some cut-up vienna sausages, or even a can of tuna or chicken. Maybe even canned corned beef, but I'm not sure about that one. I'd have to try it before recommending it.