Saturday, July 30, 2011

Host benefits - an extra bargain on the current sale!

I was first introduced to Shelf Reliance through a home party my friend had. I went solely to sample the food, but it tasted so great, I was blown away. Then I heard about the great host benefits they offer, and I knew I was going to throw a party for my friends so they could taste it and be impressed without relying on just my opinion. One thing led to another, and I am now a consultant for THRIVE, so I go to others homes, prepare food for them to sample and teach them about what THRIVE is and how to use it.  And every party I do, the host gets those same amazing benefits. Here is a summary of the benefits.

  • Of all the sales your party generates, you get 10% of that back as free product (retail price).
  • If anyone signs up for the Q at your party, whatever monthly budget they choose, you will get that amount, multiplied by 3, towards your total sales.
  • In addition to the 10% of your sales toward free product, you can earn half off (retail price) product as well through sales and party referrals. 
  • If your sales total at least $400, you get $100 in half off. $800 in sales gets you $150, $1200 gets you $200, $1600 gets you $250, and $2000 gets you $300. For every thousand dollars beyond that, you get an extra $50.
  • For every person who books a party of their own as a result of your party, you get $100 in half off product.
  • If you make a purchase at a friend's party, and decide to have your own party, not only will your friend get credit for your purchase toward their sales, but when you have your party, you will start off with credit for your prior purchase as well. This is the "double dip" benefit Shelf Reliance offers to encourage people to support each other and not hold off on orders until their own party.
  • Friends and family do not have to be present at your party in order to place an order or book a party from yours. The most successful hosts share the product information with out-of-state friends and family, as well as encourage those who have scheduling conflicts to still look over the catalog and feel free to place any orders they want. 
  • I do not even have to be present at your party! I am currently working with one out of state family member on doing the party via Skype. And if you do not want to clean your home and have people over, we can arrange for an "on-line" party for you. Your host benefits are the same, and you simply need to share information with anyone you want, anyway you want (e-mail, phone, in person, etc), collect as many orders as you can, and then cash in your benefits.  
Now, I had recently posted about the sale that Shelf Reliance is doing for their 1 year/4 person package. The price is $2848.99 plus tax and shipping. For anyone who orders that package, we can open a party for them (on-line or in person) and even if they can't gather any other orders, they will already have accrued $284.90 in FREE product (retail price) as well as $300 in HALF-OFF product (retail price) from their own purchase. That makes an already great deal an even better bargain. But remember, that special ends August 14th, so if you're interested, contact me soon.

And if you are interested in hosting a party to earn some free and half off product for yourself, just let me know. We'll find the party style and date and time that work best for you.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Sale - Ends August 14th.

Shelf Reliance has a great sale going on right now until August 14th. If you're looking to build up your food storage over time and on a budget, then this sale probably isn't for you. You will be more interested in the wonderful Family Planner Tool and Q program Shelf Reliance provides to help families figure out just what they would need to get a 3 month, 6 month, 1 year supply (whatever their goal is) and help them buy that plan on a monthly budget.

But for those who want the immediate peace of mind that comes with having your family's food storage taken care of once and for all, this sale is a really great offer. Shelf Reliance has put together a series of packages, ranging from a 3 month to a full year supply, that you can purchase all at once. A one year supply of just meats, or just fruits, one year supply of breakfast foods or even a year supply of ready made entrees. There are plenty of options, and one of those options, a 1 year supply for a family of four, happens to be on sale right now through August 14th for only $2848.99 (plus tax and 5% shipping). I know, it's a large chunk of change. But  if you divide it by 12, you're paying $237 a month to feed a family of four. That's actually a very modest budget.

It's not for everyone, but for those of you who are curious, here are the details of what you get in the package. All cans listed are #10 cans (gallon sized) There's 336 of them. Which means 56 large boxes would be delivered to your home, so make sure you have room for them! (I would recommend some of the food rotation shelves to help store it all).  If you want to place an order, just let me know by e-mailing or calling 714-683-7562.
One Year, 4 Person Freeze Dried and Dehydrated Food Package #25348

  • 6 Six Grain Pancake Mix
  • 6 Germade
  • 6 Quick Oats
  • 6 Nine Grain Cracked Cereal
  • 36 Hard White Winter Wheat
  • 6 White flour
  • 9 Whole Wheat Flour
  • 6 Cornmeal
  • 6 Elbow Macaroni
  • 18 Instant Rice
  • 8 White Rice
  • 6 Pearled Barley
Proteins & Beans
  • 3 Taco (TVP)
  • 6 Bacon (TVP)
  • 6 Beef (TVP)
  • 3 Sausage (TVP)
  • 3 Sloppy Joe (TVP)
  • 6 Chicken (TVP)
  • 3 Ham (TVP)
  • 6 Lentils
  • 12 Black Beans
  • 6 Kidney Beans
  • 14 Pinto Beans
  • 6 Whole Egg Powder
  • 6 Chocolate Drink Mix
  • 24 Powdered Milk
  • 6 Mac & Cheese Powder
  • 2 Pineapple – FD
  • 4 Raspberries – FD
  • 1 Blackberries – FD
  • 1 Blueberries – FD
  • 4 Sliced Apples
  • 6 Strawberries – FD
  • 4 Apple Chips
  • 2 Banana Chips
  • 16 Potato Chunks
  • 6 Sweet Corn – FD
  • 2 Broccoli – FD
  • 2 Carrot Dices
  • 6 Green Peas – FD
  • 3 Split Green Peas
  • 2 Onions Chopped – FD
  • 2 Onions Chopped
  • 4 Sweet Potato
  • 6 Mixed Bell Peppers
  • 6 Orange Drink
  • 4 Peach Drink
  • 6 Apple Drink
  • 2 Bouillon Beef
  • 2 Bouillon Chicken
  • 1 Baking Powder
  • 1 Iodized Salt
  • 2 Brown Sugar
  • 4 White Sugar
  • 6 Fudge Brownies

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Instant Milk - Product Review and Comparison

Today's Product Review is on THRIVE's Instant Milk.  Now, THRIVE also offers a Non-fat Powdered Milk (part dairy, part soy), which they recommend for baking. But for drinking or having a bowl of cereal, you'll want THRIVE's Instant Milk (which is also a powder and happens to be non-fat, but is 100% real milk), and that's the one I'll be discussing today.

As with all powdered milks, you can adjust the powder to water ratio to get the taste that you prefer. The standard recommendation is 2 Tbsp powder per 1 cup water.  Personally, I prefer 3 Tbsp per 1 cup, or 3/4 cup powder per quart). The ideal way (in my opinion) to make this milk is to mix the powder with room temperature water, and then chill overnight before drinking it. I just have some arrowhead bottles of water stored in my pantry. I open them up, add the powder, shake it up in the bottle, put it in the fridge, and its ready to go in the morning.  When I have followed this ratio and those steps, and then served it to people, every single one of them has been surprised. Here are some of the reactions I've gotten:

 "Oh wow. I wasn't expecting it to taste that good."
"It tastes just like skim milk."
"There's no grittiness. It's powdered milk. Powdered milk is always gritty."
"That is hands down the best powdered milk I've ever had."

Yeah, I love it too. I, like most, was a skeptic when I first went to try it. I had a can of powdered milk  from a church cannery that has been sitting in my pantry for years. It's opened. I used a little, and have never been able to bring myself to use the rest. It doesn't smell appetizing, and was something I could never see myself just drinking a glass of. So I was expecting similar results with this Instant Milk.

But THRIVE Instant Milk has revolutionized the way I think about milk.  It tastes great, and it has made cold cereal a viable part of our food storage. That alone is motivation for me to stock up on a case of it (not to mention the additional savings I get by ordering by the case). And as if that weren't enough, this miracle product keeps wowing me with its ability to make desserts I never thought possible with "food storage" - such as whipped topping (recipe to come later) or homemade Ice Cream (see my post from earlier this month).  Considering this will last a whopping TWENTY FIVE YEARS unopened on your shelf, and once you open it, it'll still last another 2 years, this is a wonderful product to have in your home store.

Now, the only other powdered milk I have heard people say even tastes good, is one called Morning Moo. Personally, I have never tried Morning Moo. But I checked it out on-line, and for a #10 can, it's priced pretty comparably per serving to THRIVE's Instant Milk (they both average between 19 and 20 cents per 8 ounce serving). But there is at least one HUGE difference between the two of them that I noticed.

Here is a list of the ingredients in the popular "Morning Moo" taken straight from the manufacturer's website.

 Ingredients: Sweet whey, creamer (coconut oil, corn syrup solids, sodium caseinate [a milk derivative], dipotassium phosphate, sugar, mono and diglycerides, polysorbate 80, sodium silicoaluminate, tetrasodium pyrophosphate, soy lecithin), nonfat milk, sugar, guar gum, vitamin A, vitamin D.

No wonder people like it. The whey is sweet, it has corn syrup, and sugar is listed on there twice! Milk isn't even listed until the end of the ingredient list. No wonder the label on the can says "Milk alternative." Now, let's compare that to the ingredients in THRIVE's Instant Milk:

Real instant nonfat milk, vitamin A palmitate, vitamin D3.

If that weren't enough of a selling point, THRIVE Instant Milk also has twice the calcium per serving as Morning Moo, and none of the fat.

To order your Instant Milk today ($19.59 for a #10 can, or $111.29 for a case of 6 #10 cans) please contact me at If you live locally and want to try a sample, shoot me a message. I'll mix some up for you the night before so you can come and try it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bigger is better!

Shelf Reliance has a new product size! now in addition to the Mylar Pouches, the Pantry Cans, and the #10 can, you can buy certain THRIVE products in an even bigger size - BUCKET size!

Not every product is available in bucket size. Below is a list of products that will be available for purchase in bucket size. Please note that the price listed is the retail price, which is more than you will have to pay. If you let me place your order (or order through your Q for Q Customers) you will only have to pay the Q-club price, which is viewable on the updated price list that you can see here: 

Please note that the buckets will be available for purchase on August 1st. Q customers are eligible to pre-order their buckets now by placing them in their Q. If you have a Q shipment scheduled for this last week of July, and you add a bucket to your order, your order will be postponed until August 1st, and will ship once the buckets can be included in the shipment.

Also, I'm pleased to announce that in addition to the 14 THRIVE items pictured below which are now available in bucket size, Shelf Reliance now offers THREE NEW GRAINS! Hard Red Wheat, Oat Groats, and Spelt. Information on those is below as well.

If you have any questions, or want to place an order, don't hesitate to contact me!

And here's some info on the three new items:

THRIVE Hard Red Wheat should be an essential grain in your kitchen pantry. Its bold flavor and rich color will give a distinct look and taste to your homemade breads. Hard winter wheat is a whole grain that provides many essential nutrients to keep you healthy and active. You can make THRIVE Hard Red Wheat into a delicious hot cereal or you can grind it in a wheat grinder to create nutritious breads, rolls, and other baked goods.

THRIVE Oat Groats are a smart addition to your long-term food storage because they provide many essential nutrients that help you maintain an active lifestyle. Oat groats are easy to prepare and they go perfectly in salads and stuffing. You can also try serving them as a side dish instead of white or brown rice.

THRIVE Spelt is a beneficial whole grain that promotes a healthy lifestyle. Beneficial nutrients found in spelt, such as manganese and dietary fiber, work to regulate your digestive system and strengthen your cardiovascular health. Spelt can be used in a variety of ways. It can be boiled and eaten as a side dish or ground into flour for delicious and unique homemade bread. You can also try tossing cooked spelt into salads and cold pasta for a flavorful crunch.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Perk up your pancakes!

Breakfast is one of my favorite meals of the day. I love eating breakfast foods, from omelets to lucky charms, muffins to hash browns, I love it all. Sometimes, all I crave at dinnertime is a bowl of cold cereal. Anyway, this morning I was excited for something really yummy, but when  I went downstairs, all we had for cereal was plain cheerios. In fact, we have A LOT of plain cheerios. You see, I bought a few huge boxes on sale a while back because I had coupons and they were a "great deal". But no one eats them, they are now wasting precious pantry space, and I have not allowed myself to buy new cereal until we work our way through them. So I am really beginning to resent those big yellow boxes and am rethinking how great a deal it was. But what's done is done and I have learned now to stop spending money on couponed items we don't use, and instead invest that money in longer-lasting, more enticing food storage through Shelf Reliance.

But back to the task at hand. It was too hot to turn on the oven and make muffins. In avoiding the Cheerios, we had used up all our hash browns and breakfast sausages. I wasn't in the mood for eggs, and pancakes seemed too boring. But then I saw my THRIVE Freeze-dried Strawberries and decided to see what they could do to perk up my otherwise boring pancakes.

Start by mixing up your pancake mix as stated on the box. (Today I wanted to use up my Bisquick, but I've had THRIVE's yummy 6 grain pancake mix before, and this would work perfectly with that as well!).

Pick whatever Freeze Dried fruit you're in the mood for, and throw some in the batter (don't worry about reconstituting it first). Let it sit for 10-15 minutes. Add a splash of milk or water if they have absorbed too much moisture and your batter is now looking too thick.

Then cook your pancakes like normal, and voila! A healthier, heartier, happier pancake, all thanks to THRIVE's Freeze Dried Fruit. I asked Dustin what he thought of them this morning and he said he really enjoyed the Strawberries, when he managed to find one (thus implying I should have added more to the batter so he could bite into them more often).

So next time you're making pancakes (or waffles, or muffins, or oatmeal, or... you get the point), just throw in a handful of your favorite Freeze Dried Fruit. Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries, Bananas, those are just a few great Frreze Dried fruits that THRIVE offers. Make sure to send me a message and let me know what you thought of them. Happy Breakfasting everyone, no matter what time of day or night it is!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Soupmakers best friend

I have my mother to thank for so many of the talents I have developed in my life. Among the most important ones are my ability to play and teach the piano, my mad Scrabble skills, my knack for hoarding things and eventually finding a really cool second use for them, and my ability to make Chicken Corn Chowder from scratch, from memory.

It is this last one I would like to focus on today. Learning to make Chicken Corn Chowder from a basic white (Roux) sauce has opened so many doors in my adult life for making additional soups and sauces. We are currently up at my parents' home, and I had a lot of milk that needed to be used up, so I proposed some chowder for dinner.  Here's what we wound up with:

There is a phrase that goes, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." I love that saying, especially in this economy, and it has been a governing principle to the cooking environment I was raised in. If we didn't have a certain ingredient, or enough of a certain ingredient, that never stopped us from still making the dish. And if we wanted to use up something  the recipe didn't call for, we just threw it in and chalked it up to creative license. Recipes have therefore always been mere guidelines to me. In fact, this blog is the first time I've really been consistent with writing down or following exact recipes.

But when making the chowder at home, I reverted back to my original ways of just throwing stuff together. And it always seems to turn out great. And while there isn't an exact recipe I can give you, there are some guidelines that will hopefully open doors that lead to the fulfillment of your wildest soup fantasies.
So here are my homemade chowder guidelines.

Start with a Roux, which is equal parts fat and flour. 2-4 Tbsp should be fine, depending on how much soup you want to wind up with. For my fats, in the past I've used oil, butter, the grease from my recently cooked meat, and a combination of all the above. 

Heat your fat until its a liquid, then add your flour, and cook over medium heat, constantly stirring until you get a clump of paste-dough consistency.

Then you'll add your milk. how much milk depends on how thick you want it, if you're using skim, or heavy cream. but whatever you use, start adding it SLOWLY! Seriously, I do no more than 1 Tbsp at a time. If you dump too much in at once, you'll wind up with clumps of flour paste floating in a sea of white, and you'll spend forever trying to get the clumps out. So go slowly. You'll put the first tiny amount in, stir it with your flour paste, and it will start to thicken. Once it's all the way incorporated, add a bit more. I do little amounts 4-5 times before all my paste is a thick creamy sauce and the risk for lumps is gone. Then I can add my milk in larger amounts, but I still go slowly, testing, then adding more as I go, until it's at the consistency I want.  

Next I add my seasonings. Salt, pepper and paprika are my personal must haves, but onion powder and garlic powder have had some cameos in the past. 

When the sauce is seasoned to your liking, add whatever fillers you have on hand or want , (meats, veggies, etc). Canned or pre-cooked is the best. It's what makes this a fast recipe that uses up all those left overs you don't know what else to do with. Now, if you need to cook your meat, (for example, your chicken) do that first. Cook it in some butter, and whatever butter and chicken grease you have in the pan, just keep it in there with the meat, add the right amount of flour, and instead of having one big clump of Roux, you will have small chicken dices covered in roux, which actually helps avoid the risk of clumps when you start adding the milk.

But what does this have to do with THRIVE? I'm getting there. So in our chowder, we diced up 2 pieces of raw chicken, cooked them in 2 Tbsp of butter, (about 4 Tbsp total fat including what was in the chicken), added 1/4 cup flour, then slowly added my milk, ending up with 3-4 cups of skim milk going in. For veggies, we had some frozen corn that needed to go in, and a can of sliced potatoes that needed to get used up, and then we had THRIVE. :-) I grabbed a handful of carrots, FD onions, FD celery, and just threw them in the pot straight from the can. As the soup was simmering and I was adjusting my seasonings some more, they were reconstituting in the soup. (which soaked up a little liquid and thickened the soup up just a bit more). 

No washing, no chopping, no onion tears, it couldn't have been easier! Now, we also had a can of Campbell's Chicken Corn Chowder in the pantry, so we added it to the pot to help bulk the meal up to feed everyone. Their soup also had celery in it, and I thought the difference was striking. Look how green and vibrant the celery from THRIVE is (bottom left) compared to the dull, lifeless looking can from the store-bought soup can (top right).

THRIVE foods really are a soup maker's dream come true. Corn, onion, carrots, celery, potatoes, FD Chicken dices, Instant milk - I really could have made the whole thing using only THRIVE. But even using just the handful of finely chopped veggies (see below) that I did have, it still saved me tons of time, added a boost of veggie nutrition to my meal, and tasted (and looked!) fantastic.

So make sure you get some THRIVE veggies for your food storage today by contacting me at

Monday, July 18, 2011

Chicken Salad

This recipe is another from the Sample Pack Recipes given to consultants. I made it for a party on Saturday (again, dead camera battery, so forgive the cell phone pictures).

1 ½ cups Thrive freeze-dried chicken
½ cup Thrive celery
1/3 cup Thrive onion
3 cups water
½ cup mayonnaise
Salt and pepper

Combine chicken, celery, onion and water in a sauce pan over high heat. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low and simmer until reconstituted (about 10 minutes). Put the mixture into a colander and let the water drain for about 10 minutes. Make sure to get all excess water out. Set aside in the refrigerator until cool.
Combine the cooled chicken mixture with mayonnaise. Season the chicken mixture with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon onto bread or crackers.

This is not made with TVP, but actual white meat chicken. The freeze-dried chicken looks like this in the can.

Don't eat it straight out of the can. It really needs to be rehydrated to taste good.

Stir the meat and veggies occasionally as they cook, so that the stuff on top gets equally hydrated. But the cooking process is so simple. Just pour it in and simmer. Doesn't get much easier than that.

Once you drain it, you're left with small chunks like this.

When you add the mayo, some of the small chunks remain, and some shred up, so its really nice. I really like the texture of it. Overall, I think it makes a great simple salad. It's a good starter recipe in my opinion, fully customizable. It would be good with dried cranberries in it,  apples chunks, nuts, grapes, whatever else you want. Maybe change up the seasonings with some garlic. All depending on what you're in the mood for. Dustin can't rate this recipe, because I made it for a party and he didn't get to try it. But everyone at the party said they were pretty impressed with it, and they ate it all up, so that's the best kind of review you can get, isn't it? 

Sunday, July 17, 2011


This recipe comes from the THRIVE Sample pack recipes that they give consultants. It uses powdered milk, powdered egg, powdered butter, cornmeal, and lots of other great THRIVE ingredients. So lets get down to it. My camera battery was dead, so I had to borrow the hubby's cell phone to take some pictures. They aren't the highest quality, and because I didn't have a flash, I had to hold some of them at weird angles so the light from the window would reach it. But the recipe is pretty straight forward, so hopefully you  don't need too many pictures.

2 tablespoons Thrive powder milk (non-instant ), not reconstituted
1 cup water
1 tablespoon vinegar
½ cup Thrive butter powder
2 tablespoon Thrive egg powder
¼ cup plus 2 teaspoons water
2/3 cup Thrive white sugar
½ teaspoon Thrive baking soda
1 cup Thrive cornmeal
1 cup Thrive white flour
½ teaspoon Thrive salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease an 8 x 8 inch square pan.
In a small bowl, Whisk 2 T powder milk into 1 cup of water. Add vinegar, mix, and let sit for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile in a large mixing bowl, whisk the butter powder and egg powder into ¼ cup plus 2 teaspoons of water.
Add milk mixture into the egg/butter mixture. Mix together.Add the rest of the ingredients in and stir until few lumps remain.
Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Serve warm.

Well, lets just say the Jiffy boxes in my pantry are going to have to be donated to a food bank, because my husband will never let me make a different cornbread again. He rates this a 10 on both scales.  And everyone who has tried it at my parties loves it as well.

When you add the vinegar to the milk, it will foam up and get a few chunks in it - don't worry. That is how it is supposed to look. It may not look appetizing, but it is a way of creating buttermilk, and it makes the recipe so much better than just using plain milk.
Vinegar + milk = buttermilk substitute. When little chunks form, you're doing it right.

All the other ingredients mix together very easily, so nothing to comment on there. I personally love to cook mine in mini-cupcake size. I simply grease the pan (don't use paper liners), put 1 Tbsp of batter in each cup, and then bake for 10 minutes. It makes 48 snack size corn muffins that are great for parties or just feeding my family, and they come out of the pan super easily.

This recipe has become a permanent staple in our home. Order some butter powder or cornmeal today and start enjoying it yourself!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

THRIVE Homemade Ice Cream

I saw this recipe on the THRIVE website from a fellow THRIVE consultant and was very excited to try it. Let's just say it did NOT disappoint!

What you'll need:

Ice Cream Maker (I borrowed a Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker that requires no rock salt)
8 cups (2 quarts) THRIVE Instant Milk, prepared
1 1/2 cups THRIVE Butter Powder
1/2 c + 1/8 c water
2 cups sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp Vanilla

1. If using an ice cream maker like this one which requires no salt, the key is to having everything very cold. Put the Ice cream bowl in a plastic bag (helps form frost) and stick it in the freezer overnight.

2. It also helps if you prepare the milk ahead of time and chill it. 8 cups water + 1 1/2 c Instant Milk Powder = 2 quarts milk. It's important to know that this will NOT work with the powdered milk. It MUST be the Instant Milk. I had chilled my water in the fridge over night, then I added my milk powder this morning and stuck the pitcher back in the fridge while I prepared the butter.

3. Put the butter powder into a large mixing bowl. Whisk in a 1/2 cup water. Then whisk in the 1/8 cup water slowly until the butter is a pancake consistency. Whisk in the sugar and vanilla.

4. Pour in the 8 cups (2 quarts) of prepared, chilled, instant milk.

5. Put the frosted ice cream bowl into the machine, and pour in about half of the ice cream mix. (I filled mine up a little too full the first time and it started over flowing and spilling. Even filling it all the way up, I still had 2 cups of mix left over for a second batch.) So I would recommend pouring in half for the first batch, and keeping the other half chilling in the fridge until you're ready for it. Or cutting the recipe back a third (I'll do the math for you at the end)

6. The Cuisinart Machine has an open hole at the top so you can see how its thickening up as it goes along. I put the first batch in and after 17 minutes, it had already started thickening up to the point it was over flowing again, so I had to take it out.

The frothy goodness when I first poured it in.

After 17 minutes! Look how thick and yummy!

7. It was thick and creamy, about the consistency of a Wendy's frosty. I decided to dump the whole batch into a Tupperware and stick it in the freezer to further harden while I put the second batch into the machine. The bowl wasn't as cold anymore, and there wasn't a risk of it overflowing, so I left the machine on for 30 minutes. Here's how thick the second batch turned out to be. Frosty consistency again.

8.I added it to the first batch in the freezer (which still wasn't hard enough to maintain a scoop). After about 2 and a half hours, it loosely maintained a scoop shape. So I left it in for a few more hours.
9. After 6 hours, it had crystallized a bit more, and here's what the scoops looked like in my bowl. 

So that's how I made it, but how did I enjoy it? Tremendously!!! I had a small bowl with caramel sauce, another small both with chocolate chips, another small bowl with strawberry freezer jam mixed into it... you get the point. My husband said its one of the best THRIVE items I've made and rated it a 9 as an everyday and 10 as an emergency. He said it isn't as creamy as store bought ice cream (which is to be expected since its made with fat free Instant milk, not Heavy whipping cream) but that the flavor was very rich, and overall, he called it excellent. I was impressed with how creamy it was given that I made it with ingredients from my pantry! Dustin agreed this would be PERFECT on top of pie, cobbler, brownies, etc.

The next day I had some, it had hardened even more from being in the freezer over night. At that consistency, it was more like shaving ice than scooping ice cream. But it was really yummy vanilla shaved ice, and if I got some chunks out and let them soften and mixed it all up with my spoon, it was creamy ice cream like the night before.  So we love this recipe and I'm thinking I might buy an ice cream maker just to keep making this with my food storage items.

For those who want a reduced quantity recipe to make only one batch, here you go:

5 and 1/3 cups (1.5 quarts) THRIVE Instant Milk, prepared
1 cup THRIVE Butter Powder
6 and 1/2 T water
1 and 1/3 cups sugar
5 tsp Vanilla

*Side note* I pureed some strawberries from my freezer and tried adding those to another batch, but after an hour, it never thickened up. I think the weight of the berries kept the butter/milk mixture from whipping up into the cream. I think I should have waited for the mixture to thicken up first, and then added the strawberries. Still not sure if would have worked even then, but for sure, if you're attempting variations of the recipe, wait until the mixture is almost done before adding anything else.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cheese Blend - the quest for the perfect Mac and Cheese

THRIVE makes a product called "Cheese Blend" that I have been curious about for a while. So I bought some with the intent of making some Mac N cheese with it and seeing how it fared. Here's what the Cheese Blend looks like when you open it up:

(Mine seemed a little brighter orange in person than shows in the picture)

So I had the Cheese Blend, now I just needed a recipe. Well, between the THRIVE Cookbook, THRIVE website, the Cheese Blend pantry can and the Elbow Macaroni #10 can, I had 5 different recipes to try. I could tell that the one on the website submitted by a woman named Lindsay Budge was not going to be any good just by the reviews and the amounts of the ingredients. But the other four were worth trying. So here's the four I tried in order:

1. THRIVE Cookbook recipe
2. Natalie Riley recipe from website
3. Cheese Blend pantry can reconstitution instructions for "cheese sauce"
4. Elbow Macaroni #10 can Mac and cheese recipe

#1 - THRIVE Cookbook Recipe

  • 3/4 cup THRIVE cheese blend
  • 1/8 cup THRIVE Butter Powder, dry
  • 1 1/2 cups THRIVE Instant Milk, rehydrated (9 T powder + 1 1/2 cups water)
  • 3 cups THRIVE Elbow Macaroni

* Cook pasta in boiling water until soft.
* Combine Cheese blend, butter powder, and milk in a saucepan over medium heat.
* Add cooked macaroni to the sauce pan, stirring until noodles are coated.

Review:  First of all, if you use 3 cups dry noodles and then cook them, you wind up with WAY too many noodles. I think I had close to about 8 cups of cooked noodles by the time they expanded. So that was a flaw in the recipe. Convenient for me, because I had plenty of cooked noodles to use in the rest of my recipes. As for the rest of the ingredients, they mixed up beautifully into a nice smooth orange sauce. I had high hopes, but it never thickened up. It stayed incredibly liquidy.
I tested a little taste and it wasn't too great. I thought if I let it cook longer, it might thicken up, maybe the flavor might improve. But I left it on too long and it started to boil.
I removed it from the heat, and surveyed the damage. The rapid boiling had changed the texture and caused it to separate into a more clear orange liquid with little yellow clumps. I added a tsp of flour mixed into a tsp of water to try and thicken it. It thickened, but the separation caused by the boiling was irreversible.

It looked so unappealing, I just tossed it and started on the next recipe. So the THRIVE Cookbook Recipe was a disappointment. Even if it hadn't boiled, I still think the sauce was WAY to liquidy. So the next recipe down, instead of calling for 1 1/2 cups milk, only called for 6 T.  I was eager to see if that made a difference.

# 2 - Natalie Riley Website recipe:


  • 1⁄2 c thrive cheese blend
  • 1⁄4 c thrive butter powder or 6 tbsp butter
  • 6 T thrive powdered milk, prepared
  • 3 c cooked thrive elbow macaroni


* Combine cheese blend, butter or butter powder, and milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir and heat to the desired consistency.
* Add cooked macaroni to the saucepan, stirring through until noodles are coated

Review: I used the 1/4 cup butter powder rather than the actual butter. Following the recipe, the sauce came out a perfect consistency. You can see how thick and creamy the sauce was, because the hole I scooped away at the bottom of the pan didn't fill back in right away. We added the the 3 cups of noodles and here's how it looked.

Following the recipe as is, it was a little too saucy and the flavor was... different. Not bad, but not Kraft Mac N' Cheese.  My husband described it as a subtle sweetness (which may result from the milk or butter rather than the cheese blend) As is, he rated it a 3 out of 10 as an every day food and maybe a 5 as an emergency meal. I probably would have rated it a 5 out of 10 myself on the every day scale.

Modifications to recipe: I added another cup of cooked noodles, and that helped a lot because before the sauce was a bit too prominent. My husband added some salt, and he said that helped A LOT. Just by adding more noodles and some salt, he said he would easily bump this up to a 5 out of ten as an every day. I added salt, and shook some Parmesan on top, and to me, that made it a 7/10 for me for both everyday and emergency. (and I'm not that crazy about Kraft Mac N Cheese to begin with). The real test though was to see if my son Jason would like it (he's my picky eater). He polished off his bowl, asked for seconds, polished those off, and asked for thirds but there wasn't any more.
So in my opinion, with a little salt and some extra noodles, this is a pretty decent recipe. And my kid LOVES it, so its a keeper!

3. Cheese Blend Can Reconstitution for Cheese Sauce:

Instructions: To make cheese spread, combine equal parts water and cheese blend. For cheese sauce, gradually combine 1 part cheese blend with 2 parts hot water. stir together until smooth and creamy.

Review: Since I was wanting cheese sauce, I did the 1:2 ratio. I put a 1/2 cup cheese powder into 1 cup hot water. The result was hot orange water. Very disappointing. It looked more like a drink than a sauce. I didn't see any point to adding noodles to it as it was just way too liquidy.

I tried mixing it 1 part cheese blend to 1 part water, and it was also very liquidy. Not sure what they mean by spread. I'm going to have to write in and get them to change the label. I even tried 2 parts cheese to 1 part water, and it still was very liquidy as well as gritty. A lot of the cheese powder didn't dissolve into the water at the high a ratio. So just cheese blend + water is disappointing as a sauce no matter what the ratio.

4. Elbow Macaroni #10 Can Recipe (Halved):

  • 1/2 pound  THRIVE Elbow Macaroni
  • 1/2 T oil
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 1/2 T flour
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1/2 c THRIVE Cheese powder
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste
The recipe also calls for seasoned bread crumbs as a topping at the end and then has you broil it. I skipped that step to make it more comparable to the other recipes.

*Cook Macaroni. (I just used the left over 3+ cups of noodles I still had. Not sure how that equates to 1/2 pound dry noodles)
* Whisk together cheese blend powder with 1 cup hot water or milk (I just used the 1/2 cup powder I had previously dissolved in hot water from recipe #3.) Let stand 5 minutes.
*Heat oil and butter in saucepan until butter melts. Whisk in flour, stirring until smooth. Let butter, flour and oil cook for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Slowly add milk, continuing to whisk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until milk has thickened. Add cheese sauce mixture  and cook until heated through. If sauce seems to thin, add 1 tsp corn starch stirred into 1 Tbsp cold water and bring to a boil. Add nutmeg, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Add in noodles.

Review: So for those who aren't familiar with cooking, this recipe starts with what is called a "basic white sauce" or a "Roux" sauce. 1 part Fat(oil or butter)+ 1 part flour + milk to desired consistency. It's a lovely foundation for many a recipe. You can use oil or butter interchangeably, as long as its 1 1/2 T worth. Once you've added the milk (I used a 1/2 cup prepared THRIVE Powdered milk) and it's thickened, it'll look like this:
And once you pour in your cheesy water, you'll get a beautiful orange sauce like this:
I didn't feel the need to add cornstarch to thicken the sauce up at all. I forgot to try the sauce before adding the nutmeg and cayenne. I wish I had, because the nutmeg adds so much to the flavor, its not fair to compare to the others. The nutmeg and cayenne gave this one a little more sophisticated taste. I think next time though, I'll just stick to salt and pepper. I think that with salt and pepper only, this Roux sauce recipe from the Macaroni can will be the best of the four recipes for a traditional bowl of feel good mac n' cheese. The consistency was great, the flavor was smooth and mild and cheesy. Dustin hasn't rated this one yet, because he hasn't tried it (That was a lot of Mac N Cheese to make in one night!) But I gave it to Jason for lunch today, and he cleaned his bowl. I also had it for lunch today with a little ground beef mixed in and it was a great meal. I would give it a 7 as an every day and an 8.5 as an emergency.

SUMMARY: The Cheese blend can make a pretty decent bowl of Mac N' Cheese, if you find the right recipe. I recommend Recipe #4 personally, though Recipe #2 is decent as well. If you're interested in buying some Cheese Blend, a #10 can is only $22.79, or a Pantry Can is only $8.49. Or you can buy the Kid's Special 6 pack, which gives you 6 #10 cans - 2 of Cheese Blend, 2 of Elbow Macaroni, 1 of Powdered Milk, 1 of FD Strawberries, all for only $52.99. (Buying them individually at the lowest price each would cost you $105.84, so that's a GREAT deal if you're looking for those items!)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Sugar Cookie experiment - fun with Shortening Powder

I've been wanting to experiment with my shortening powder for a while. I used a little in my pizza dough recipe, but it is supposed to be melted in that recipe. I wanted to know how it would fare in something that requires a larger quantity, and that usually requires it in solid form. I have an awesome Sugar Cookie recipe I got from my friend Amy that uses shortening instead of butter, and it is our family's favorite sugar cookie recipe now.  I thought this would be the perfect chance to see how the shortening powder substitutes into a recipe where shortening plays a much more critical role.

Here is the regular, non-food storage recipe.
Sugar Cookies
2 ¼ c flour
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
½ c shortening
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1-2 Tbsp milk (if dough is too dry)

Cream together shortening and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla, then add dry ingredients. If dough is too dry, add milk. Refrigerate if too soft.  With extra flour, roll out dough to no less than 1/4” thickness and cut with desired cutters. Bake at 375 for 5-6 minutes (watch them carefully so they won’t get too hard!)
*    *    *   *    *    *    *    *

Rather than reconstitute the shortening, I decided that since I could use powdered egg, shortening and milk (I normally add 1-2 Tbsp of milk to my regular recipe to get it the right consistency), I would first try putting all the dry ingredients together, then simply adding the right amount of water and vanilla afterwards. I also decided that since I would be experimenting, it was best to start with a half batch.  So I started by putting the following dry ingredients into the bowl:

1/2 c sugar
1/4 c shortening powder
1 tbsp egg powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/8 c flour
1/2 tsp powdered milk (not Instant)

Then I blended them all together with a fork. Once blended, I added 1/2 tsp vanilla to 3 1/2 Tbsp of water, created a well in the middle of my dry ingredients, poured the water mixture into it like below.

 I mixed it with my fork, and it became wonderfully crumbly, but too dry to stick together like cookie dough should.
So I added 1 Tbsp of water. It wasn't enough. I added a second tablespoon, and that wound up being too much. So I added 1 tsp powdered milk (dry). It was still pretty sticky, but I figured the flouring process when I rolled it out might help.
I had to GENEROUSLY flour the dough, the pin, the surface, etc. I found it helpful to have a little pile of flour to dip my cookie cutter into to help it cut into and pull away from the dough without sticking. After I cut all the shapes out, I gathered up the scraps, mushed them together, and rolled it out for more cookie cutting. This second half of the dough was MUCH better than the first as far as consistency. Because I had probably another 1/8 cup of flour kneaded into it. I finished cutting out all the dough, and baked the cookies at 375 for 5 minutes.
When it came time to taste them, the first few were good, but a little too chewy or gummy. The second few that had the extra flour kneaded in were much better. But as my hubby described them, they were too "bready" compared to what a regular sugar cookie should taste like. So I embarked on the second half of my experiment - reconstituting everything separately and then creaming, adding wet, then adding dry ingredients, like the original recipe calls for.

So I started by reconstituting some Powdered Milk. The ratio is 1 cup water to 3 Tbsp Powder. I wasn't planning on using that much, so I did 1/2 cup water with 1 1/2 Tbsp of Powder. Put it in a glass jar, shook it up to mix it, then left it in the fridge while I went to work on the shortening.

So the shortening ratio according to shelf reliance is 1 cup shortening powder + 1/4 cup water = 1 cup shortening. So I did 1/4 powder + 1 Tbsp Water to get the 1/4 cup shortening that I needed. 

when you first start mixing up the shortening powder, the powder floats on top of the liquid. Then it starts to get a little crumbly like below.

But whisk it with your fork for another 30 seconds or so, and it starts to turn into a liquid cream consistency (see below).

I noticed, however, that it seemed to go down in volume when I got it to this consistency. So I poured it into a measuring cup just to check, and look how much it wound up making!
My 1/4 cup measuring cup looked like it was only half full! I decided to mix up another 1/4 c powder + 1 Tbsp water, added it to my measuring cup, and now it was full. So important lesson learned from experience:

1 cup shortening powder + 1/4 cup water = 1/2 cup shortening

That's probably why my first "all dry" version didn't have the right consistency. It didn't need more milk or water, it needed more shortening. So I was going to have to go back and try the all dry method again.

But first to finish the "reconstituted" method. I had stuck the shortening in the fridge to see if it would harden up when cold, and it did. I left it in for only 20 minutes or so, and it was starting to harden. It was hard enough that it stuck to the measuring cup when upside down. Had I left it in longer, I'm sure it would have been just as hard as regular shortening gets when chilled.

So I creamed the shortening and sugar together with my beaters. Then I reconstituted 1 egg in a separate bowl, added the vanilla, and beat that into the sugar/shortening. When I was done, it was pretty liquidy (see below)

Once I added my dry ingredients, the consistency was so perfect, I didn't need to add any of the milk I had prepared in the fridge. I just plopped is straight onto my floured surface and it rolled and cut smoothly.

But would I have such great luck with the revised "all dry" method? I had to try. So this time I put twice as much shortening powder in, omitted the milk powder all together, and when i added the water, I added 1/4 cup water (2 Tbsp for the shortening, 2 Tbsp for the egg). Blended with a fork, and it was too dry still. I could squeeze the crumbs together with my hand to form large clumps, but they crumbled apart if touched even slightly.

So I added 1 Tbsp of the powdered milk (reconstituted) that I had sitting in my fridge. That was all it needed. It was perfect!

 Rolled it out, baked at 375 for 5 minutes and here's how they turned out.

I asked Dustin which he liked more between the reconstituted batch, or the revised all dry batch. The Revised all dry batch was his favorite, which I love, because I can make the whole thing with just a bowl and a fork, and I don't have to wash out a greasy shortening covered measuring cup. Bonus!

So here's the final winning recipe. This is just a half batch, so it'll make you about a dozen decent sized cut out cookies.

In a bowl, combine the following:
1 1/8 cup flour
1/2 cup THRIVE shortening powder
1 Tbsp THRIVE Whole Egg Powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp Baking powder
1/8 tsp salt

Whisk together with a fork until all powders are blended. In a separate bowl, combine 1/4 cup water with 1/2 tsp vanilla. Then pour water mixture into dry ingredients, and blend with fork. If too dry, add 1 Tbsp milk (can use 1 Tbsp prepared THRIVE powdered milk). Roll out on floured surface to about 1/4" thickness. Cut with desired cutter, put on greased cookie sheet and bake ate 375 for 5 minutes.

Super fast, and super yummy. I hope you enjoy!