List of No-Cook, Ready to Eat Foods

candyAs much as we like to live well as preppers and maybe even cook the occasional gourmet food storage meal, there’s also plenty of room for making your life as easy as possible when times are tough. In this case, it’s about food that can be eaten without much–if any–work whatsoever.

This list of no-cook foods may be obvious to most but it never hurts to have a reminder as to what can be eaten without any additional effort. After all, if you’re truly trying to survive the immediate aftermath of an emergency then I’m sure the last thing you want to do is to cook a meal. Sometimes the best we can do is grab something quick to fill our tummies.

Hopefully this list helps you more easily prepare yourself and your family for even the smallest of disruptions in your life. Note that this list is in no particular order:

  • canned meats (tuna, chicken, spam, etc)
  • canned soups (beef stew, clam chowder, chili, pork and beans, etc)
  • canned fruits (mixed fruit, pineapple, etc)
  • canned veggies (anything is edible)
  • most anything packaged (except for foods that require boiling water, for example)
  • emergency bars (Mainstay, Datrex, etc)
  • trail mix (a great snack food)
  • granola bars
  • beef jerky
  • fresh fruit and veggies
  • popcorn (pre-popped, of course)
  • snack foods (chips, pretzels, crackers, etc)
  • sweet foods (cookies, graham crackers, pastries, etc)
  • breakfast grab-and-go foods (poptarts)
  • sports drinks (Gatorade)
  • juice drinks
  • applesauce
  • baby food (for the baby!)
  • mres
  • shelf stable milks (almond milk or dry milk powder)
  • peanut butter
  • cereal (you name it, you can eat it)
  • freeze dried foods (will need water)
  • nuts, seeds
  • dried fruits
  • candy
  • bread, rolls
  • oatmeal (yes, you can eat it dry but even hydrated in cold water is better)
  • gum (not exactly something to eat but it keeps your mouth busy)
  • pudding and jello (shelf stable, of course)
  • ramen noodles (same considerations as for oatmeal)
  • fruit leather
  • various ethnic foods (Indian food)

So, what did I miss?

How to Make Bread in 30 Seconds

I thought I would try my hand at making “bread in 30 seconds” which is something that Steven Harris says can be done (I ran across a link to his video about it).  I figured that was easy enough so I quickly retrieved my small propane burner and gathered the ingredients to make it, which include:

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 tbsp oil (I used olive oil but I think he used vegetable oil)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (I used a heaping teaspoon)
  • 1 cup water (he didn’t specify an exact amount so I assumed it was similar to other recipes which is roughly half the flour used)

Since I didn’t want to do too much work today, I halved the recipe. For those that have done some baking from scratch I’m sure you’ve realized that we’re missing yeast and maybe a few other ingredients. Remember, this is REALLY simple bread and isn’t meant to be leavened and, yes… it’s flat bread. And, hence, the reason why we can make it so fast. Following are the steps as I see them (click any picture to enlarge).

Step 1: Mix Ingredients

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Mix everything like you would any other bread recipe expect there’s no waiting period for the yeast to work and no need to use warm water, etc. The picture above actually shows the original “ball” of dough on the left and roughly a golf ball-sized chunk of it on the right which is about the proper size to work with, though, you can certainly make it larger if you like. You want the dough wet enough to stick together yet dry enough to not be sticky. I consider it a bit of an art form that I have yet to master so it’s best to not add all of the water called for in the recipe at one time; instead, use most of the water in the beginning and then small dashes as needed to get it to finally clump together.

Step 2: Roll Flat

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Take the golf ball-sized chunk and roll it flat. Then do it again! You want it to literally be flatter than a pancake. Really, thinner is better. I used a rolling pin but I guess you could use just about anything cylindrical if you had to. It helps to sprinkle a bit of flour on the cutting board (under the flour you’re rolling out) as well as atop the flour and definitely on the rolling pin in order to keep the bread from sticking to the rolling pin as you work. Maybe there are some other/better tricks that you seasoned bakers know of but that’s what I do.

Step 3: Finish and Gather Bread

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Once flat transfer to a plate. The above picture shows them stacked together. If you want to stack them like I did them sprinkle (and spread out) a bit of flour atop each piece of bread before laying down another otherwise they may stick together. I ended up with five rolled-out pieces of flat bread.

Step 4: Cook Fast

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A simple single burner propane stove like this is perfect for making flat bread like this. I intended to take pictures while I cooked but I got so wrapped up in watching the bread and timing each one that I completely forget. Sorry about that! Anyway, I used what I would consider a medium-high heat setting. While I really like the single-burner stove I have there isn’t much range when it comes to heat output; it’s almost either on or off.

Step 5: Admire Your Work

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I actually decided to test different times (and even using oil) in order to see if there was any major difference in how the bread came out. I can definitely say that there was a difference. I basically tested times from between 30 seconds and two minutes, mostly without using any oil. The bread is numbered in the order that I tried and every bread used NO oil except the first attempt. Here’s what I found:

  1. 90 seconds (with oil) – I’m not accustomed to cooking things in a pan without any oil and, though I don’t recall the video showing he used any oil, I went with what I knew to start. I basically cooked it until I felt like it was done but I’m not sure I had the pan quite as hot on this first attempt as I did the others so maybe that made a difference too. I would suspect that if I had used oil on future attempts I might still want to cut the time back a bit.
  2. 60 seconds total (most of it on the first side) – this turned out descent but still felt just a little gooey to me in the middle. It wasn’t a big deal.
  3. 30 seconds total (about 15 seconds on each side) – this was NOT completely cooked in the middle. If you ask me, 30 seconds total was not enough. Perhaps if I had flattened out the bread even more then maybe it’s enough time but I can’t imagine flattening it much more than I did.
  4. 2 minutes total (cooked until I noticed very significant bubbling) – this was too long as the bread obviously burned.
  5. 60 seconds total (30 seconds on each side) – since I felt like 60 seconds was a good time I wanted to ensure each side got the same cook time. This bread seemed to be cooked fairly well.

Step 6: Taste Test

30-sec-bread-6

It seems to me that I gravitated toward the 60 second breads (numbers 2 and 5 in the previous step’s photo) more than either the 30 second bread (number 3) and definitely more than the cooked until serious bubbling bread (number 4). I didn’t mind eating my first attempt which included the oil in the pan. Overall, I would say that 60 seconds turned out to be a good amount of time. Using oil would be helpful to avoid burning but doesn’t appear to be necessary.

So, bread in 30 seconds? Not quite but close. Let’s call it bread in 60 seconds for sure. The best part is that you could repeat this dozens of times on a single one-pound canister of propane because it’s so quick.

Here’s the original video from Steven Harris if you’re interested:

Hope this helps.

[EDIT: In response to a few comments, I completely understand I just made a tortilla. And, like it or not, a tortilla IS bread. In this case, it’s bread made in roughly 30 seconds or so. I apologize if the title is misleading as I should have titled it better. My interest in doing this post was to try what I learned from Mr. Harris as referenced in the beginning of the post. Rightly or wrongly I essentially copied his tagline as my own. With the assumption that fuel is a precious resource, time is short, nerves may be shot, this type of bread may be the best we can do.]

There’s More to Proper Food Storage Than You Think

leftoversLast week I got into a short, yet friendly, comments discussion with HealthyPrepper (one of my recent favorite YouTube channels by the way) on one of her videos regarding the storage of crackers for the long term. Suffice it to say, that I suggested there’s more to consider when storing crackers (she was storing regular Ritz in the video) than just placing the crackers in a foodsaver bag with oxygen absorber and calling it done.

Granted, it’s always wise to do your best to minimize the impact of the biggest food storage detrimental factors, including oxygen, moisture, heat, light, and infestation. What she was most concerned about was to reduce oxygen exposure, and for good reason: it’s a huge contributing factor that directly affects shelf-life. Anyway, I had mentioned than she should be careful with storing these particular crackers because they had a significant fat content in them, which could cause them to spoil even when sealed in the package; I suggested she should stock low-fat crackers (e.g., low-fat Ritz, Saltines, etc) but I never fully explained myself… mostly because I wasn’t really sure why.

Now, I beleive that it’s quite likely the crackers she wanted to store–regardless of fat content–will do quite fine without any packaging for a good year or so assuming they’re not subject to problems like temperature extremes. And, I certainly concede that attempting to minimize oxygen exposure first with a foodsaver bag and second with a oxygen absorber will better allow the crackers to store for much longer, maybe years on end without worry. To be honest, I’ve never tried to store snacks foods like this because they simply don’t last long enough around our house and I would prefer to save my foodsaver bags and other long term storage equipment for what I consider better uses.

While I’m thinking about it, let’s define racidification (according to Wikipedia) before going any further:

“Rancidification, the product of which can be described as rancidity, is the chemical decomposition of fats, oils and other lipids (this degradation also occurs in mechanical cutting fluids). When these processes occur in food, undesirable odors and flavors can result. In some cases, however, the flavors can be desirable (as in aged cheeses). In processed meats, these flavors are collectively known as warmed over flavor. Rancidification can also detract from the nutritional value of the food. Some vitamins are highly sensitive to degradation.”

The Wikipedia definition goes on to state that there are three types of rancidification: hydrolytic (caused by moisture exposure), oxidative (caused by oxygen exposure and is usually the most common), and microbial (caused by bacteria).

So, the question is this: why is it important to consider fat content in stored foods?

More specifically, if oxidative rancidity is the most likely cause, and if by using an oxygen absorber I greatly reduce that likelihood (and also reduce moisture content due to the oxygen absorber’s need to consume moisture to work properly), and assuming there are no microbiological agents present inside the cracker package that may also cause rancidity, what in the world could I have to worry about?

While I couldn’t put my finger on it, my gut kept saying that something was wrong with these assumptions! I might also point out that, per numerous experiences from around the Net, it seems foodsaver bags aren’t nearly as reliable as mylar bags to stay sealed. It’s also poignant to mention that Foodsaver bags are not a 100% impermeable oxygen barrier (like mylar bags are) and over time will allow oxygen (and odors) to to penetrate the bag contents.

Now, I never could find a great resource as to how oxygen impermeable foodsaver bags are, but I did find this resource that lists oxygen permeability of common plastics. Since foodsaver bags are made of polyethylene (PET) material then I will use that coefficient as the permeability factor which, as it turns out, is very low compared to the other listed plastic materials (at 0.035… followed by a bunch of nerdy stuff). How much does that equate to over years to exposure to oxygen? I haven’t a clue! Add in a common 100-300 cc oxygen absorber that should continue to absorb oxygen until it can no longer do so and I haven’t any idea how long the typical foodsaver bag will “keep out” oxygen. I would assume that it’s quite some time, however.

Fast forward a day or two from the comments I had with HealthyPrepper and I read this SurvialistBoards thread about canning crackers, which seems to vindicate (sort of) my stance on the issue but without the hard evidence that I’m looking for.

Anyway, in doing some research I ran into this Wikipedia definition on oxygen absorbers: “An oxygen absorber is a small packet of material used to prolong the shelf life of food. They are used in food packaging to prevent food colour change, to stop oils in foods from becoming rancid, and also prevent the growth of oxygen-using aerobic microorganisms such as fungi.”

Uhm… uh oh! Maybe I’m completely wrong? Maybe I own HealthyPrepper a big ol’ apology?

The answer is yes and no.

While the underlying belief is that reducing the oxygen in the package is a good thing to reduce the problems that cause rancidity, it’s also possible that it could promote additional problems that would otherwise not occur because your nose has already detected that the food has spoiled.

This (long) excerpt from the National Center for Home Food Preservation website on “Should I Vacuum Package Food at Home?” article states why doing so may end up being a bad idea (I won’t highlight the important parts, just read the whole thing):

“[…] Producing a vacuum means removing air from the contents of a package. Oxygen in environmental air does promote certain reactions in foods which cause deterioration of quality. For example, oxidative rancidity of fats in food and certain color changes are promoted by the presence of oxygen. Therefore, removal of oxygen from the environment will preserve certain quality characteristics and extend the food’s shelf life based on quality.

However, removal of oxygen from the surrounding environment does not eliminate the possibility for all bacterial growth; it just changes the nature of what is likely to occur. In fact, what is most likely to be eliminated is growth of spoilage bacteria. The bacteria that normally spoil the quality of food in noticeable ways (odor, color, sliminess, etc.) like to have oxygen in the environment. If able to multiply on foods, these spoilage bacteria can let you know if a food is going bad before it reaches the point it makes someone sick. In an almost oxygen-free environment like vacuum packaging produces, the spoilage bacteria do not multiply very fast so the loss of food quality is slowed down.

Some pathogenic (illness-causing) bacteria, however, like low-oxygen environments and reproduce well in vacuum-packaged foods. In fact, without competition from spoilage bacteria, some pathogens reproduce even more rapidly than in their presence. These bacteria often do not produce noticeable changes in the food, either. In the vacuum-packaged environment, food may become unsafe from pathogenic bacterial growth with no indicators to warn the consumer; the bacteria that would also normally be multiplying and spoil food in ways to make it unappealing (odor, sliminess, etc.) are not able to function without enough oxygen.

For example, C. botulinum (a very dangerous pathogen that causes the deadly botulism poisoning under certain conditions) grows at room temperature in low-acid moist foods if the package presents anaerobic (lacking in oxygen) conditions – if the bacteria are present, of course. Without the competition from spoilage bacteria, reproduction is even easier. Refrigeration at 38-40 degrees F becomes a critical step for storage of low-acid vacuum-packaged foods that aren’t otherwise stable (don’t keep) at room temperature (e.g., canned properly). The actual temperature of the refrigerator and the temperature at which it keeps the food are essential to maintain safety of this product. If the food were not packaged under vacuum, the oxygen in the environment would offer some protection against C. botulinum growth and toxin development in the package. […]”

The take-away should be that by doing something that we would have otherwise expected to be a good thing could turn out to be a very bad thing for our health! I should mention that I rarely use my foodsaver to store foods and never do so with an oxygen absorber; not because I knew better but just because it seemed to be an economical choice and because if I was going to store foods for long term I was going to do so as best as I could and that meant using tins cans, glass, or mylar bags… all of which are known to be impermeable to oxygen.

To sum up, be extremely careful with your assumptions as to what can be stored for long term as well as how it should be stored. Your health and safety is nothing to be fooled around with. If you’re going to store your own foods then do so as close to how the commerical food manufactureres would to better protect you against potential “accidents waiting to happen” like this.

My Egg Storage With Mineral Oil Saga Starts This Week!

eggs-mineral-oil-1I finally found a bottle of mineral oil at my local Walmart. I had been looking for the better part of month at Walmart and Target without any luck. I was beginning to wonder if everyone else had the same idea in mind, though, that’s probably not the case. 😉

Anyway, if you’re unaware, the idea is to coat eggs with mineral oil to act as a replacement for the bloom that normally protects eggs from bacteria when they’re laid. In so doing, you can then store eggs at room temperature, you know… not in the fridge. Store-bought eggs are washed before packaged and, therefore, do not have the bloom.

Fortunately, the process is quite simple. Here’s what I did:

1. I put on some latex gloves and poured about half the bottle of mineral oil in a bowl (I didn’t end up using that much so next time maybe 1/3 of the bottle). Then one-by-one I coated each egg from one 18-egg carton.

eggs-mineral-oil-2

2. I let the eggs drip off any excess oil for several seconds so that they were less likely to puddle in the carton. I have no idea if this was necessary or not but it seemed like a good idea to me. When finished dripping I replaced each egg to the carton.

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3. Here’s what the eggs coated with mineral oil look like. There’s an obvious sheen to them if the picture isn’t that clear.

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4. I then marked one egg container with the words “mineral oil” and the other as “control”–I’m feeling a bit nerdy right now–so that I would know which was which. And finally I placed the cartons in an old plastic drawer to contain them for whenever they went bad and spoiled.

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The plan is to check an egg from each carton each week (probably on the weekends) to see if they’ve gone bad yet. If they last that long this will be a 4.5 month experiment because each carton contains 18 eggs.

As for how to check them, I think I will start by placing an egg from each carton in a bowl of water to see if they float or not–floating is bad–and maybe, just maybe I’ll eat it if the mineral oil eggs don’t float. My wife has already emphatically stated that she would NOT be consuming these eggs! Where’s her spirit of adventure. 😉

You know, it is a bit weird to not place these eggs in the refrigerator. I kind of feel like I just put my shoes on backwards or maybe forgot my pants. We’ll see how it goes… wish me luck!