Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Canned Food Stockpile

When I met Paul his friends told me that he had been known to say that ketchup was "spicy."

I wasn't the greatest cook at the time, but the few recipes I knew involved generous amounts of red pepper and my own criteria for picking a dish when we went out often involved looking for the "spicy" or "hot" warnings that restaurants sometimes post at the side of the menu to warn people like my husband that a particular dish probably isn't his best choice.

Over the years his palate has definitely changed.  It was a matter of survival in our house.  He no longer thinks that ketchup is spicy and doesn't mind my constant overuse of cayenne pepper, cumin, paprika, chili pepper and my personal favorite, the large red peppers that most pizza parlors have next to the parmesan cheese.  And I'm increasingly thankful for these spices (along with, especially: garlic, basil, oregano and tarragon).  

You see, before we moved I had a little extra in our food budget and I went on a bit of a shopping spree before Paul left for Florida.  He may have thought I was a little bit crazy, begging him to haul flats of canned goods across the country.

Before he left I simply bought flats of kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, white beans and chickpeas, along with flats of various veggies and broths.  I packed boxes with the extra rice and flour, pounds of pasta, dry beans and peas, as Paul watched, likely wondering if I thought there weren't stores in Florida.

I was really just indulging a feeling that I had, a feeling that things would likely be very tight after we moved, even with the sale of our car and that we might have a hard time buying food right away.  If we had the food, the money I'd saved for food, couldn't get whisked away to pay for some other emergency expense and so I packed everything up and sent it on ahead with him to Florida.

In the past month I've been very grateful for that feeling, as hospital bills (which we're still fighting) and car repair bills (at least it's fixed!) have piled up.

The experience has challenged my cooking skills. When Paul asks what's for dinner he hears "five bean _______" quite often, along with praise for how high in protein beans are.

Another addition to my stockpile that's made everything a little tastier, was my discovery of the spices that are often in the "ethnic cooking" section of grocery stores.  I'd much rather buy ten giant packets of cumin for $10 then one little glass cumin shaker in the spice section for $10.  The same goes for paprika and quite a few other spices.  I'll add half a bag of paprika and cumin, to some garlic and a mixture of different red peppers and there's an instant sauce to accompany the beans that's quite tasty.

My improvisation skills are definitely expanding and our freezer is usually pretty full of freezer dishes since I try to make three dinners at a time.  I use one and freeze the other two so that we always have a week full of dinners in the freezer in case there's an emergency, or I just don't feel like cooking.  So far it's working pretty well and challenging me to come up with different combos so that people don't get bored!

We've worked out way through about half of the stockpile, but I'm hoping that life has settled down and I can spent a bit more time couponing again to replenish the stockpile.

My next goal is to learn how to cook the lentils that I have stockpiled.  Are there any recipes that you love for lentils?  I'm not sure I've ever had them before, but that's my new goal for the week!


  1. Lentil Soup! I'll have to look for my recipe but I can give to you a basic idea. You and I are alike in that we don't follow recipes anyway. :)

    Bag if lentils
    Ham (optional, I get it on sale)
    Chicken broth (I do 1/2 broth, 1/2 water)
    Can of diced tomatoes, drained
    Carrots (optional)
    Garlic (lots)
    Of course you can add other spices. I often do.

    Combine it all in a big bit and let it simmer until the lentils are soft. If you check on it and it looks like the liquid is absorbing add more broth or water.

  2. Oooh, I can help! :)

    Lentil Stew:

    In a soup pot, cook two onions in a little oil until translucent and almost brown. Chop carrots (however many is up to you, but say up to a pound or a pound and a half) and throw them in there. If you have celery, chop a couple of stalks and throw them in there. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the carrots juuuuust begin to soften. Pick over a bag of lentils, rinse them, and dump them in. Add chicken or vegetable broth and water (or reduced beef and water, or buillion and water); I'd guesstimate about 3 cans worth of chicken or veggie brother, and 2 cans water to give you an idea of how much to use. Turn the heat low, and simmer this stew for 3-5 hours, stirring once in a while. Just before serving, add black pepper and salt to taste. Unless you use reduced beef or bullion, you'll want to add more salt than you think or the lentils will make everything seem pretty bland. This cooks down to a very thick, porridgey texture. It's very dense, very earthy. Serve by itself or with some homemade bread or cornbread on the side.

  3. I love spicy food too, and I think it's because of the Southwestern influence. Lentils can be very tasty. I often add butter and a base of fried onions and garlic with some bay leaves added to the stock and I either make them Indian style or Italian style. With Indian style I add garam masala, ginger, a little bit of cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and anything else that looks Indian in the spice cupboards. With Italian lentil soup I will add Italian herbs, tomatoes and Lemon.These are very easy dinners to make because you can make the soup hours before hand. Fresh bread and cheese topping (either on the bread or soup) also makes it really gourmet. If you ever bake chicken save the bones and boil them in water to make stock. I always have chicken stock on hand because of that.

  4. Hubby and I are on opposite ends of the spicy spectrum too. In our case though, I'm the one who likes things a little milder. He likes things spicy enough to eat a hole straight through your stomach.

    This is one of my favorite "Friday" recipes:

    I think you will like it because you can adjust the amount of "heat". It's not exactly "lentil specific" but it does use a cup and a half!

    The only real difference in the way that I make this recipe from the way it is written is that I use a hand-me-down George Foreman Grill.

    If you try it, you will have to let me know what you think!

  5. On lentils, generally cook them longer than the package says. Oh and rinse and check for rocks before you just throw them in the pot. I think they turn out really well in soup, with just veggies (carrot, celery, onion, garlic and other stock type veggies, you can add a ham bone, or ham if you like, but I prefer it without the ham) and some spices like red pepper flake to give it a little bite. I bet once you make a soup with them, you will find all sorts of different things to do with them. Good luck.

  6. I've had lentils, but my mom never made them...I ate them whenever I was over at my cousins house (their mom, my aunt, made them). I'm not actually sure what to do with them! Maybe cook them with a bit o' bacon? I'm sure google (or your other readers) can help out with recipes! They're good if you cook them right!

  7. Been there done that with eating off of stockpiles. Bean soup and bread from the bread maker, sounds good until you eat it for 2 weeks straight, LOL
    Curried Lentil Soup
    1 large onion
    2 carrots
    2 ribs celery
    1 clove garlic
    curry powder(start with 2 tsp but I always add more)
    cumin(1/2 tsp)
    coriander(1/2 tsp)
    4-6 cups broth
    a little tomato paste(in a pinch I have used ketchup)
    1/2 pound lentils
    3 large potatoes, grated
    salt and pepper

    you are supposed to saute the vegetables and spices first but sometimes I just throw it all in a pot. Lentils don't take a long time to cook like beans so it can be ready in 30-45 minutes.

  8. I love lentil soup! It's one of my "go to" healthy, inexpensive things to order at our local (cheap) Mediterranean restaurant.

    Another use for beans and rice:

    1 can Rotel tomatoes and chilis (we like spicy)
    1 cup brown rice, cooked and drained
    1 can sweet corn, drained
    1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

    1/2 c sharp cheddar or Mexican blend cheese, shredded

    Spicy salsa, as needed

    I just mix all of the above together (recipe is good doubled, tripled for freezing) and I then fill whole grain tortillas with the mixture and either bake, covered, until hot, or microwave.

    My husband, who is very much into spicy flavors since he is watching sugar intake, just adores this. It is healthy, flavorful, and very inexpensive. I always have the ingredients on hand.


  9. Go to and search "lentil pilaf". . .the first recipe listed is my "go to" one, though I usually skip the green pepper. So easy, uses ingredients that most of us usually have on hand, and flavorful.

  10. I forgot to add that the left overs really thicken up so if you want you can serve the left overs over rice.

  11. Lentil soup is a definite, but they also make great filler. You can add them to hamburger to make well hamburgers or meatloaf and you really can't taste the difference since they take on the flavor their cooked in. Mostly I see them in soups and stews to add protein. They are sort of bland otherwise (although it depends on what type of lentils you have. There are all sorts of varieties, but I'm assuming you have the standard grey ones.)

  12. One way we like to lentils is taco style lentils and rice. I got the recipe from hillbilly housewife website. It makes a great substitue for taco meat. You can adjust the spices.

    Taco Style Lentils & Rice

    3/4 cup dry lentils
    3/4 cup brown rice
    4 cups tap water
    4 beef bouillon cubes
    2 teaspoons chili powder
    1/2 teaspoon cumin
    1 teaspoon onion powder
    1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

    In a 2-quart saucepan bring the water to a boil. As the water is heating, add the lentils, rice, bouillon, chili powder, cumin, onion powder, and garlic powder. Bring the whole thing to a nice fat boil. Reduce the heat to low. Place a lid on the lentils and allow the mixture to simmer for about 45 to 50 minutes. The water should be mostly absorbed. You may serve this as it, topped with a little cheddar cheese if desired. Or you can use it to fill burritos or tacos instead.

    Hope you enjoy it.



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