At the 2016 World Food Championships, I listened while a Canadian team complained about the cooking conditions. We were outside, with bugs, on straw that had been put down to dry the dirt, and they complained that they could have stayed at home and cooked in better conditions. I didn’t say anything. Being a WFC veteran, I understood that cooking in sub-optimal conditions was part of the challenge and that true chefs can cook anywhere in any conditions.
This past week, I relied on that training to feed my family without relying on cans of Spaghetti-Os, ravioli, and beef stew. This past week, I remembered every WFC I’ve cooked in and tapped into my knowledge of hurricanes and recovery to make sure that my husband and kids were fed well.
So how did I feed my family before, during, and after Hurricane Irma?
Saturday…made a big pot of chili. I knew that it could become other things afterwards.
Sunday…made a big pot of chicken & dumplings and pound cake to take to our evacuation shelter for sharing.
Monday…Poptarts and pound cake for breakfast at the shelter and grilled hamburgers for dinner
Tuesday…Chili mac for lunch using our leftover chili and grilled hot dogs & mac n cheese for dinner
Wednesday…Stir fried orange chicken & rice for dinner
Thursday…Pan seared duck breasts, peas & bacon, and duck fat mashed potatoes for dinner
Friday…Fried rice from leftovers for breakfast
Saturday…Spaghetti & homemade meat sauce for dinner
Sunday…Fried shrimp salad for lunch and grilled pork chops & stuffing for dinner
How You Can Do It Too…
Before a Hurricane
Before a hurricane, prepping in essential. However, prepping doesn’t simply end with buying up lots of groceries, water, gasoline, and batteries.
- In order to feed the family, I had to have a couple of vital pieces of equipment–a propane camp stove, a propane bbq grill, and cookware that could be used on an open flame.
- Inventory the refrigerator and freezer. Plan to cook with those ingredients first, and buy whatever you might need to make those ingredients usable.
- Create a menu based on your inventory, supplies, and know exactly how to best cook them over an open fire.
Before my next hurricane season, I will also add pressure canning meals to my list of prep. Pressure canning kills bacteria in low acid foods and meat, which will allow me to have jars of soup, stew, meat sauce, and veggies.
During a Hurricane
If you’re lucky, you won’t lose electricity until midway through the storm. However, during a hurricane, cooking will be the furthest thing from your mind. Likewise, you can lose power at anytime, so plan to have cooking done beforehand.
- Just before the storm, cook a big pot of something that can be eaten at room temperature. If you have a cast iron pot with a lid, use it. It will stay warm longer.
- Pre-hurricane meal suggestions: Chicken & Dumplings, Black Beans & Rice, Chili, Beef Stew, Spaghetti & Meat Sauce, Vegetable Soup, Chicken & Yellow Rice
- Have plenty of snacks. A hurricane is stressful, and regardless of best intentions, we all stress eat.
- For kids: Lunchables, graham crackers, peanut butter & jelly, bananas
- For teens: chips, tortillas, nacho cheese dip
- For adults: chips, dip, candy (chocolate & sours), wine, beer
- Have plenty of paper plates & bowls, napkins, and plastic ware.
After a Hurricane
In the stress, you can’t resort to eating the canned supplies and all of the junk food in the first day. You never know how long the power will be out, so stick to the menu and access the inventory first. Remember, fridge first, freezer second, and cans last. Your food supplies will last longer.
- From the refrigerator, we used leftovers from the week before the storm first.
- Chili becomes chili mac by boiling macaroni & heating chili on the camp stove and using the shredded cheese before it spoils.
- Salads are an easy way to use up veggies and salad dressings.
- Stir-fry will use up veggies, meat, and leftover rice or pasta, and can be a one skillet meal over the camp stove.
- Canned biscuits can be flattened, filled with fruit, and fried in a little oil over the camp stove to become hand pies.
- Refrigerated bread dough rolled out and topped with anything you find in the fridge can become a pizza on aluminum foil or a pizza stone on the grill.
- From the pre-hurricane pantry, use these ingredients or partial boxes for smaller meals.
- Pancakes are easy to make on a griddle over the camp stove or on the griddle plate of the grill.
- Partial boxes of pasta and cans of veggies, along with stock or bouillon can all sorts of quick meals on the camp stove.
- Tomatoes, veggies, beef stock or bouillon=veggie soup
- Garbanzo beans, sausage, potatoes=Spanish bean soup
- Jarred spaghetti sauce, a mix of pastas, pepperoni, spices, canned Parmesan cheese=pizza pasta
- Oatmeal, dried fruit, syrup, and nuts is simple to cook on the camp stove.
- Mix & match loaves of bread and cheese/meat from the fridge to make grilled sandwiches.
- Instant mashed potato flakes can be taste homemade, but you can’t follow the directions on the box. Yes, use milk. Yes, add boiling water. Add mayonnaise or sour cream AND butter while you whisk them.
- From the freezer, get creative with these ingredients to use them efficiently.
- Frozen breaded shrimp and fish sticks can be fried in a little oil in a skillet over the camp stove. Use those shrimp or fish sticks to top a salad or to make soft tacos.
- Frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts are a staple in our freezer. We bbq’d them; we made stir fry; we made made pasta. Super versatile!
- Veggies that I’d frozen throughout the spring & summer were cooked on the camp stove with a little bacon just to drive the neighborhood mad.
- Frozen fruit & Ice Cream were cooling off treats for the kids.
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