Wednesday marks the beginning of what could be a long hurricane season. The trick for Floridians is planning ahead.
Now is the time to gather a few spices and place them into air tight containers. I find that small snack-size Ziploc bags are easy to pack, identify and use. I have sacks for:
- black pepper
- Chinese five-spice powder
- garlic powder
- mini bottles of hot sauce
- Multi-spice jars of seasonings offer easy storage as well.
Recently, I’ve been stowing tubes of lemongrass and curry, which are easy to use when camping, or roughing it after a storm. I store packets of dressing, relish and mayo for camping or food prep when the power is out. Lately, I have a can or two of lite coconut milk on hand and find that shredded coconut adds texture and taste to meals too.
Packets of olive oil are easily stowed. If difficult to find, you can set some aside and store it in BPA-free recycled bottle. A container of lemon juice helps punch up the tang in food cooked outside. Grab a fresh lemon or lime- the zest can be used to flavor rice, pasta, salsa and soups and you can squeeze it on tuna or into tea.
If you lose power, there are many cooking options. You can purchase disposable charcoal grills, that aren’t terribly messy. Single grills run about $10 and party sizes cost about $16. Both are sold in four-packs, which offer a more economical option for a potentially active hurricane season. I’ve found them at party stores, on-line and at Target, Publix, Lowe's and Home Depot.
Following recent disasters across the globe, solar grills have been getting some attention. The most primitive varieties take a long time to heat up, and typically, won’t stay hot very long. Yet with its “greener” approach, I expect we’ll see more options within the year.
You can always store charcoal and use a Hibachi, but keep them safely away from your home. Don’t ever use gas or charcoal grills indoors. I’ve had friends successfully use fondue pots for cooking when the power is out.
You’ll need to have wind and waterproof matches on hand, but store them in an airtight container. You can opt for disposable camping lighters, instead. Keep them in a dry container and have several on hand. I like using a portable backpacking stove, because it adds a sense of adventure and the pots and utensils can easily be packed away. Most outdoor stoves use propane or white gas, while camping stoves use butane. There are also kerosene stoves, which are efficient and generally, less costly.
Whatever method you chose, stay safe and know there are a few cookbooks out there often ideas to season your storm gourmet adventures. If you have a hankering for a little creativity, try out dishes ahead of time, and be creative. It allows you to feed the family with flair, when the first named storm hits. It's helpful to have a headlamp so you see what you're doing, if cooking when the power is out, or it's nighttime.
The food’s the thing
Protein is essential for staying healthy. You can store almonds, Brazil nuts, pecans, canned tuna, chicken and peanut butter (or other nut butters) and pair them with jarred chutneys or jams and nutritious whole grain crackers. Peanut butter now comes in individual packets, which make a great snack on the go. I’ve also seen honey in plastic bottles.
Jerky is flat, while salami or summer sausage can be stowed, if you are a carnivore. Lentils, chick peas or cannellini beans help improve your protein intake and vegetarians can use them as a main course. You can add olive oil or balsamic vinegar to enhance the flavor. Pack up Greek dressing in a plastic bottle, and/or spices to improve flavorings, or add the beans to tuna, which can be bought in flat, vacuum-sealed packages.. Some packages even come with relish, salt, pepper crackers and mayo packed in tiny packets or tubs.
I also recommend picking up tins of grilled eggplant, peppers and zucchini. They’re good on their own and will add flavor to any meal. If you can boil water, you can pair them with whole grain pasta and balsamic vinegar, rice or diced tomatoes that can be “enhanced” with spices, and a packet of sun-dried tomatoes.
Rice, soy and milk drinks come in individual or family-sized boxes for easy storage, and do not require refrigeration, until opened. Milk can be added to tomato soup or sauces for thickening and lend a creamy taste and texture to rice or pasta dishes. You can use dried creamer instead.
The camping section of any outdoor store (including Target and Wal-Mart), usually have dehydrated meals or MREs (meals ready to eat). MREs can be purchased online, at an Army Surplus Store or through friends or family serving in the military. MREs are commonly sold on Military Bases in commissary stores.
Pack Lite and Mountain House offer tasty and varied options, ranging from vegetarian chili to beef stroganoff, but it's all a matter of taste. They offer easily prepared, if a bit less tantalizing options, but spices and boxed drinks and soups, can help you pump up the flavor.If your power is out and you need to use up forzen items, try mixing dehydrated, canned and frozen veggies.
Canned salsa, black bans and diced tomatoes can make meals a bit more varied during an emergency. My list of personal favorites for inclusion in a hurricane food bin:
Cereals: Oatmeal and whole grain cereals offer easy options for getting protein. Both can be purchased in individual servings. You can add cranberries, dried figs, walnuts or almonds.
Soups: Opt for lower sodium varieties, since they’ll make you less thirsty, when fresh is in short supply. Amy’s organic line has an array ranging from gazpacho to black bean. Progresso’s chicken with noodles has veggies and protein in a low-sodium style. Both can be heated in the can. V8 has soups in boxes, making for easy storage. I like to have a few boxes of chicken broth on hand for boiling pasta or rice. Soem soup come in a paper cup and you only have to add water. You drinking cup, if titanium, can double as a soup cup and is lightweight and easy to clean.
Canned Goods: Lower sodium varieties of veggies are a must, when water is in short supply. Carrots, potatoes, beets and white corn can be added to soups, pasta or rice dishes, or even eaten alone. For an easy way to spice up whole grain pasta, I recommend one can per two people, per day of diced tomatoes with basil and peppers. Be sure to pack a manual can opener!
Rice and Pasta: Boil-in-the-bag Success brown or jasmine rice takes only 10 minutes to boil and cook. I have a few varieties of pasta and rice dishes, but watch the sodium listings.
Snacks: Pack a few bags of dried apples, cranberries, prunes, and pears. Small cans of Mandarin orange slices, pineapple rings (which can be grilled) make a nice addition. So does applesauce, Jell-O or rice pudding, which come in individual tubs and may serve as comfort food hwne nerves are frayed Granola bars are essential. .
Beverages: Gatorade, bottle water, juices are a must. A good rule of thumb is that each person needs at least one gallon of water per day and you should have three-seven days on hand. Tea bags can add flavor to the water and packets of coffee or powdered drink additives, may be helpful to have on hand. These days, you can purchase and store four-packs of wine and champagne with screw-tops.
Implements: Try having a spork on hand for each person. There are different versions, but you get both a fork and spoon in one utensil, with small teeth on the side for cutting. I like having my Swiss Army knife on hand and se the saw to cut stiffer baguettes.
If you have room, squirrel away paper plates and cups, paper napkins and handy wipes. Set aside a good knife and a large spoon for stirring. I’ve made a great to have list and bolded the items I think are must-haves, through our own trial and error. Customize the list, but keep food and cooking safety in mind. Bon appetit!
- bamboo skewers
- bowl for mixing ingredients
- stove and fuel source
- cutting board
- drinking cup
- foil, self-sticking Saran wrap
- ground coffee, assorted tea bags, sugar or a substitute
- matches or camping lighter
- oven mitt and pot holders, paper towels, napkins
- plastic bin for dish washing and trial size dish soap
- plastic measuring cups, utensils and plates
- titanium or camping pots/pans
- trash bags with twisty-ties
- Ziploc bags
Our hurricane food bin doubles as our camping supply bin, but you should check expiration dates. Don’t ever store fuel in a hot garage or attic. Having a cooler to stow fish, meat and frozen foods if the power goes out, can be helpful to have on hand. We use frozen packs, but also freeze bottles of water ahead of time and toss them in the cooler, when necessary. When they thaw, we can drink the water.
I've included two recipes and a few more resources below. Hopefully, it’s all food for thought.
Banana Crunch Wrap: we use tortilla wraps, spread a bit of crunchy peanut butter, add banana chips, drizzle on some honey and roll it up. Try experimenting by adding oats or whole wheat Cheerios for more crunch and protein. A few shreds of coconut gives it a tropical taste and cranberries add a little tang and vitamin C.
- 1 tbsp. each of garlic, curry, and a dash of cayenne
- 1/2 can of carrots
- 1 8 oz. can or package of green peas and onions
- 1.75- can lite cream of coconut (or powdered coconut)
- 1/3 cup crushed cashews, almonds or peanuts
- 1 14 oz. can chickpeas
- 1 4-oz. pouch instant mashed potatoes
Cook Success jasmine or brown rice. Set aside- use a Ziploc bag, if short on bowls. Cook mashed potatoes and season with curry, garlic powder, coconut shreds and pepper. Add 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Add canned carrots, peas and onions, stirring, for a few minutes.
Add nuts and slowly add coconut mik to taste, increasing curry flavor, if necessary. Add chickpeas and cook until creamy and hot. If you have any green vegetables you need to use, add them to the stew. Green beans, snow peas and zucchini blend well. Spoon the curry over rice. Yield: about four servings.
- Apocalypse Chow: How to Eat Well When the Power Goes Out, by Jon and Robin Robertson
- Hurricane Disaster Survival and Cooking Guide, by Hope Dennis Comrie