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Friday, July 31, 2009

The New-Old Way to Cook / book review / video

Have you heard about hot box, hay box or cook box cooking? It’s the new-old way to cook that saves energy, improves flavor and increases the nutrition in your food, and frees up your time. All you do is heat up your food to boiling then retain that heat by insulating the hot pot of food until the cooking process is completed. The only energy expended is in the initial heating as the residual heat is what finishes the cooking with no more inputs needed from you or the grid. It is a very energy efficient, easy, straightforward way to cook and is almost foolproof. You cannot burn or overcook your food using this method. Meats come out juicy, rice and other grains come out perfectly cooked without danger of overcooking. Cook boxes are perfect for stews and soups. In fact, just about anything you would cook in a slow cooker or crock pot you can cook using this method. It does take extra time. You do have to plan ahead, but you can start your meal early in the day, then go about your normal business, go to work, go visiting, or whatever you want to do and by dinner time, you will have a great meal that is wonderfully cooked, and you haven’t heated up your house or wasted energy doing it.
While surfing the internet, I found a wonderful eBook that teaches all about hot box or hay box cooking, with a modern twist. One of the first things you will read in Retained Heat Cooking … the Wave of the Future Again, Discover How Easy it is to Make and Use Your Own Off-the-Grid Cook Box to Cook Uncommonly Good Food – A Frugal, Time Honored Method of Cooking That Saves Time, Space, Money, Resources, Nutrition and Electricity is the history of hot box cooking as it has a rich history. Did you know that people were trying to conserve energy as far back as the early 1900s? Even the government was trying to get people to conserve on fuel, including cooking fuels, especially during the war, so hotbox cooking was promoted as a way to save or conserve energy.
The next thing you will learn about is the science behind hotbox cookers or cook boxes. It’s really very simple, even a caveman could do it, sorry, wrong commercial. We know that ancient Indians (Native Americans) as well as other native peoples all over the world and throughout history used this technology to cook great meals
Leslie Romano has put a new twist on an old method, replacing hay with modern insulating materials that most of us have around the house. You should not have to go out and buy anything to make this version of the hot box cooker, or as Leslie calls it, the off-the-grid cook box. You do not have to be an engineer or have a degree in anything to construct an effective off-the-grid cook box.
Leslie teaches you how to make a very simple, yet ingenious instant off-the-grid cook box using common, household materials. You can also very easily take the knowledge gained from this eBook and build a more permanent and even decorative hot box cooker, or you could just continue using the simple one. You might even consider trying out several different hotbox cookers using different materials and then have several hotbox cookers to use and experiment with when you are done.
In this inexpensive eBook, you are given a variety of methods for making different sized hotbox cookers, using easy to find materials. There are many suggestions and advice included such as the more often you plan on using your cooker, the sturdier you will want to make it and what dimensions to consider for your cooking needs and so on.
Think about the holidays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays or other times when you will have a lot of people over to eat and you are making big meals to feed a multitude of people. You will probably use every burner on the stove top, you will fill your oven, and your microwave will be going full force. How nice would it be if even half of these foods could be started on the stove top or oven ahead of time and cooked in a hotbox cooker? That would free up valuable cooking real estate (stove top, oven…) for other foods. Any dish that needs to be or can be cooked long and slow can be started on the stove and then finished in your hotbox cooker. If the food needs to be browned, then it’s a simple matter to pop it under the broiler for a few minutes to add that finishing touch. And just think that with all of those dishes cooked in a hotbox cooker, you don’t have to worry about overcooking or drying them out. Also, the heat you are using to cook your foods will be doing what it is supposed to be doing, heating your food, not your kitchen. Plus you are free to focus on other, more important things during such important times, such as your guests.
In Retained Heat Cooking … the Wave of the Future Again, you will also find a multitude of links, books and other reference material that deepens your understanding and provides extra information. I spent an afternoon reading the various blogs and websites she linked to that discuss hot box cooking. It turns out that there are a lot of talented people out there using various versions of this type of cooker, and Leslie points you to many of these people. It is great to have a broader perspective on this simple, timeless technology.
There is a wonderful story in this eBook about how Leslie went without a refrigerator for a period of time. She remarks about the “ahhh” factor of the silence the moment they unplugged their refrigerator. Have you ever had the electricity go out for a while and noticed just how quiet, the QUIET really is? I mean real quiet, silence. It truly is golden. We are surrounded in our daily lives with motors, machines, fans and compressors. We get so used to this constant drone that we don’t even realize how much noise we are really living with. So for every machine with its accompanying noise that we can lessen or eliminate completely, the better it is for our health and sanity as well as our pocketbooks. For Leslie, unplugging her refrigerator ended up leading her to discovering how to cook with a cook box.
Leslie teaches you how to set up a simple hot box cooker, what to cook in it and how to cook in it. She teaches the basics as well as shares some mouthwatering recipes to get you started. Honestly, once you get the basics down, you will find yourself converting your own recipes to use in your off-the-grid cook box. It’s quite simple and you might even wonder to yourself why you didn’t think of this before.
Here are some videos to watch:





You can even use your cooker to make yogurt. It’s very easy to do and you don’t need special equipment, just a few easy to get household items, and you are well on your way to making a healthy alternative to the overpriced, chemically enhanced junk they sell in stores.
Whether you are trying to go green and save energy, or you are looking for an inexpensive way to cook (saving money and energy) or you need a better way to cook when you are off the grid (or camping, going to the beach and such…), this eBook is just what you need.
I also love and appreciate the heartfelt prayer she includes at the end of this eBook.


I came up with a few questions to ask Leslie and she was kind enough to answer:
1. How and when did you learn about this method of cooking?
We unplugged our refrigerator for a while last winter in order to inch our way towards living off the grid, but for various reasons our alternatives were not quite working out. The day we reluctantly plugged it back in, I was in the kitchen trying to figure out what to make for dinner while also feeling very restless to somehow “make up” for having had to plug the frig back in. A couple of lines in one of my cookbooks tipped me off and I made dinner that night in a spontaneously constructed cook box. It was fabulous and we were all hooked immediately!
2. How often do you use this method of cooking?
It varies with season. In the winter, we use it daily or even a couple of times a day. In the summer, we use it anywhere from nearly daily to several times a week. As we learn more about how to use a cook box effectively, we are finding more and more ways to use it. It took us some time to figure out the best way to cook rice, for instance, and pasta dishes. With time, I think we will figure out so many ways of using our cook box that we will just always be using it. Perhaps someday the question of note will become, “How many times did you use your oven?” I look forward to that.
3. What made you decide to write about this method of cooking?
Experience and research. When I ate the soup that came out of the cook box the first time I used it, I was amazed. Each ingredient was perfectly cooked for that ingredient. I mean that soup was yummy and the whole family noticed it. It was a soup that could have easily burned because of the flour in it, by the way, but the pot was clean and easy to wash up at the end. That really got my attention also. Gradually I realized that cooking in a cook box is a low heat method of cooking which, therefore, preserves nutrients. I think that is really important as I am committed to slow cooking and natural methods of preparing foods. Finally I started actually researching the subject. I learned about the use of cook boxes in developing countries. I learned that you save 20% – 80% of your cooking fuel using a cook box. I learned so many exciting and interesting things about cooking with cook boxes or hay boxes that I decided to write an e-book so that hopefully many other people would learn these things too and find the same benefits we have found. Plus what a difference it would make to the world both in terms of human health, environmental health and budgetary health if many, many people all over the world used simple cook boxes for much of their cooking. I am on fire with that vision. I figured an e-book was a simple step to take to help make that happen even a little. My husband also put a couple of videos up on our You Tube channel that show our instant cook box and provide a brief explanation of the whole thing.
I also wanted to write about this method of cooking so that I could weave cook box cooking into modern life. It isn’t just a cooking method for agricultural workers on their way to the fields any more. It is perfect for large families and small. It saves energy and preserves nutrition which are modern day concerns. It works with thermodynamics, eases the strain on deforested areas and requires less water which are also modern day concerns. People these days are so used to instant comfort and convenience that often the advantages of carrying out the activities of daily life in simpler ways are not obvious. So I wrote an entire section on some of the terrific advantages to cook box cooking that might not be immediately apparent to the modern reader. Finally being a homeschooler myself, I also added a section that provides lots of ideas spanning science, history, math, life skills and creative thinking and problem solving for homeschoolers or after-schoolers so that this great addition to the kitchen can also be a great addition to the education of the family. After all, the direction of the future is being determined now – especially with our children.
4. What is your favorite recipe to cook in the hotbox cooker?
Well, let’s see. It is hard to choose a favorite because anything you cook in a cook box tastes better than on the stove top. I love jasmine rice cooked in whey in a cook box because the rice comes out perfectly, is extra flavorful and nutritious from being cooked in whey but does doesn’t scorch the bottom of the pot and so is easy to clean up. I love a continuous leftover soup my husband made all winter that included pasta that never got mushy even though all the other ingredients were thoroughly cooked. I love using the cook box to incubate milk while it is turning into cheese when the kitchen is cold. So many favorites… If I were going to pick a recipe, though, I guess I would choose “Going Off the Grid Lentil Soup” because it is the first recipe I made in a cook box and is delicious. As a matter of fact, I included that recipe in the e-book. I hope everyone tries it and experiences the same delicious “aha!” that I did.
5. What does your family think of this? Do you get strange looks from friends and family when you cook in the hotbox cooker?
My family loves it. They appreciate how wonderful the food tastes and they benefit from the time savings. The children appreciate it because it allows them to contribute to the cooking in a very meaningful, foolproof way. Also when I am deep into writing and editing, my husband does a lot of the cooking and he finds using a cook box makes this much easier. He also enjoys being inventive with it and is good at it. He has come up with some great innovations and recipes.
I don’t get strange looks because the people around me kind of expect this sort of thing from me, I guess. Besides, I get so excited in telling them all about it that they usually walk away in wonder rather than in perplexity. So far, most people seem to really enjoy learning about this way of cooking naturally and inexpensively. It is such a discovery to realize that you can do this. This seems to light other people up just like it does me.
6. How many cookers do you have?
We have one large one. I would like to have a large one and a medium sized one at some point as we are a large family. But just the one cook box does wonderfully well for us so we are content.
7. Have you made a permanent cooker?
We haven’t yet, interestingly enough. Our instant cook box works really, really well and we are otherwise terrifically busy so the available time and resources have not yet been available to make a permanent cook box. My husband has a wonderful idea for making a permanent one that is also a kitchen island. We are gradually accumulating the supplies to make that a reality. I look forward to including a description of the final product in a future e-book.
8. Is there anything you would like to add here, anything you want us to know about you or anything else?
My husband and I were both raised in a sort of typical middle class, corporate American way. As adults we discovered that this type of upbringing did not position us very well for facing such an uncertain future as the one we are all now facing. It also didn’t position us to enjoy a rich, intimate family life. So we made a choice to go in a new direction that we felt made sense for us, for our future, for our children and for the world around us. We are now a homesteading, homeschooling family of eight that every day discovers a new way to live a little bit more naturally and to become a better and better team, as it were. We are so grateful for this new way of life that is so much work but which brings peace and satisfaction, and produces adaptable, cooperative, skilled children complete with highly developed senses of imagination and humor that we want to share whatever we can in case it may be helpful to others doing the hard work of also changing their way of life. To that end we formed the Pockets of the Future project which includes web sites and blogs, videos. We also formed Bamboo Grove Press in order to publish books and now e-books. It is hard to live a steep-learning-curve-life and then find time to write about it too, but we try.
Changing the whole orientation of your life and your way of living your daily life can be a daunting task since the necessary knowledge, experience and skills are usually scarce. Many people write to us saying, “Help…” Where to start? Where to get the needed resources? How to think about it? What about the children? and so on. We have experienced over and over again that if you long for a better way, a simpler way, a more intimate, more natural way of life and you are willing to actually do something about it, then a thread to pull or a hint to follow up on or a step to take will always appear. If you pull that thread, follow that hint or take that step, then the next bit will always appear. Always. Soon the threads and hints and steps will become a torrent with which you can barely keep pace but that is perhaps a separate problem. In the meantime, we hope that our e-books and videos and beginning experiences will provide at least a little inspiration and information.
Thank you Leslie for answering these questions, I feel like I know you better now and understand more about your life and the reasons why you chose to use this alternative method of cooking. Thank you for sharing this part of your life with me and the world.
Don’t forget to check out Leslie’s other eBook, On Your Way Towards Solar Cooking: The Why’s and Wherefore’s of Solar Cooking in Brief. You can find both of these eBooks at a very reasonable price here: http://www.bamboogrovepress.com/Ebooks.htm


http://www.bamboogrovepress.com/Ebooks.htm (e-books and title of Retained Heat Cooking)
http://www.youtube.com/user/pocketsofthefuture (You Tube channel)
http://www.pocketsofthefuture.com/ (Pockets of the Future project)
http://www.bamboogrovepress.com/index.htm (Bamboo Grove Press)


Wretha

Thanks for visiting!

ps
Look for more ebook reviews coming soon, I've got some good ones!
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Click here to read my book review process. 
Click here to see my other book reviews



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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

DIY Drink Mix

I notice all of the ready made, easy to use, premixed, God only knows what is in it foods and drinks. There probably isn't anything wrong with it, until you begin to read the fine print on the ingredient lists. One thing I have noticed lately is all the "healthier" juice drinks and teas that are hitting the shelf at your local stores. On the outside of the can or bottle it will say something like, "healthier" and "less sugar", it sounds really good, you think you are getting a drink with less sugar and no artificial sweeteners, until you turn it over and read on the ingredient list that it not only contains sugar and corn syrup, it also contains sucralose, the generic form of Splenda, some contain aspartame and another sweetener that hasn't gotten much media time, acesulfame potassium.

The problem is it says NOTHING on the front label about having any sort of artificial sweeteners, so you believe that you are getting a wholesome, juice or tea beverage, it's even being done with some of the energy drinks, I find this deceptive. It used to be that you had 2 choices, either you had sugar in the drink or it was sugar free and contained artificial sweeteners, now they are blending these and not stating it clearly on the labels. There are many people who are sensitive to artificial sweeteners, there are many people who don't want to put that sort of garbage into their bodies, and now drink companies are putting this into so called, healthy beverages and hiding the fact in the small print on the back of the container. See the examples at the bottom.

I had stocked up on unsweetened powdered drink mixes before moving off grid, I still pick them up when I find them on sale. Kool-aid is a favorite, I'm still a kid at heart. I generally don't make up a whole pitcher of Kool-aid, we just don't drink it fast enough and the lack of refrigeration is also a problem. I was happy when I found Kool-aid Singles, you can pour one packet into a glass of water or into a bottled water, one packet, one serving, that is convenient!

Then I read the box, those rascals put sucralose and acesulfame potassium in the drink mix along with sugar and fructose! It says nothing on the front of the box about containing any artificial sweeteners, it didn't say sugar free, it merely said less sugar which sounded good to me.

Well, I decided I could make my own drink mix that contained the amount of real sugar that I want, and I can make up one drink at a time if I choose. I had lots of Kool-aid powdered drink mix, the kind that comes in a packet that you have to add sugar to.

One problem that has to be overcome is the sugar, in its granular form, it will not readily dissolve in cool or cold water, so I pulled out my coffee bean grinder. I use this for spices (I have never used it for coffee), I made sure it was absolutely clean, then I measured out one cup of sugar, then I placed a small amount of the sugar into the grinder and pulsed it into a fine powder. Once I did the whole batch/cup, I poured it into a wide mouth jar, I added one packet of Kool-aid, I chose pink lemonade. I replaced the lid on the jar and shook it until it was combined.

I poured a glass of water and added a heaping spoonful of the drink mix, it dissolved almost instantly, I drank it and it was perfect! I just finished my second glass. In the next few days, I'll make up more batches with the different flavors of Kool-aid that I have lots and lots of.

You can use a blender or food processor to buzz the granulated sugar, I just use what I have on hand. You could also just use powdered sugar, but there is an extra ingredient in powdered sugar, it is corn starch, I assume it is to keep it from clumping, I will continue using my method. :)

Click the links to see some examples of the deceptive labels, you should note that nothing on the front of the bottles/cans indicate they contain artificial sweeteners, they are not sugar free, they do in fact contain sugar, AND sucralose and/or aspartame. I am not picking on these two companies, there are many more who do this as well, these are just 2 very well known companies with well known products. I know that Snapple does carry some lower sugar beverages that do not contain artificial sweeteners, just read those labels!

http://www.snapple.com/products#/noni-berry-juice-drink/?id=juice-drink

http://www.snapple.com/products#/kiwi-pear-juice-drink/?id=juice-drink

http://www.monsterenergy.com/product/meanbean.php

http://www.monsterenergy.com/product/energy.php




Wretha

Thanks for visiting!
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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Another Pump & Seal on eBay

GONE
Another Pump-n-Seal on eBay

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=150360506763

starting @ 99 cents, no bids as of this moment, that will probably change quickly. Shipping $9.95
Ends Jul 27, 2009

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Another one here

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=250469610597

Used once, in great condition, starting @ $4.99 with $3.65 shipping, ends
Jul 28, 2009
Ends Aug 02, 2009

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Another one here, my these are usually rare to find on eBay.

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=300333461598

Used, looks complete, starting at $9.99 with
$8.60 shipping

Good luck!


Wretha

Thanks for visiting!
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Sunday, July 19, 2009

We've Come A Long Way Baby!

I’ve been going back over the first pictures we took of our cabin, before it was renamed the sky castle, it’s hard to believe we have done so much with so little. Here are some of the original pix followed by more current pix. Enjoy!



http://www.flickr.com/photos/wretha/sets/72157621528404257/show/

Wretha

Thanks for visiting!
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Saturday, July 18, 2009

More Things You Might Not Know About Me

I know I haven't written anything in a while, I have excuses though! ;) I've been sick, the gov is harassing me, my garden is calling... Well, they are all true, I'll explain more in a future message, in the mean time, here is something fun I found on another blog and thought I'd post it here.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Government Sponsored Healthcare

Here's something fun, government sponsored health care, our fearless leaders would like to force upon each of us, whether we went it or not, what ever happened to free choice? Even if we aren't forced to take it, it will most likely become unfair competition to the current insurance companies that could force the independent insurance companies to go out of business.

Here is one solution, how about we make it a rule that the members of congress who vote yes on this must give up their insurance and accept the government sponsored insurance? I think that is fair, how about you?

Go here to read about it and voice your opinion about this.

http://www.fleming.house.gov/



Wretha

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Pump-N-Seal Super Sale

All gone now.

EDIT

OK, there are 2 left, they are on eBay and they have bids, here are the links

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=290331438616

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=290331438472


Wonderful news! I just received an email from a reader who has 5, new in the box, Pump-n-Seal units for sale, she is going to be putting them on eBay for $20.00 (+ shipping) each, but for my readers she is willing to let some of them go for $15.00 (+ shipping) each, just send her an email and she will take care of you.

For details email Hazel @
babygrl_109@yahoo.com

You will need to pay with PayPal. I wouldn't wait around for this, she is listing them on eBay and if they sell there first, you will lose out.

This is a great deal, these go for nearly $40.00 if you buy direct (well worth every penny)! If you have been wanting one of these and you have been putting it off, now is the time to act, for all of you off gridders and those who would like to be, a Pump-n-Seal can't be beat for food storage, I absolutely love mine and use it frequently. Read my previous reviews and messages about the Pump-n-Seal.

I'll edit this message when they are all gone.

Thanks Hazel!

Wretha

Thanks for visiting!




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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Thanks!

停止執筆
立ち去りなさい

Thank you *
I just want to say a big thank you to Pamela L for the generous donation, I appreciate it very much! :)















Wretha

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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Yet Another Pump-n-Seal on eBay

Here's another Pump-n-Seal on eBay, this one is an auction, but it only has about a day and a half left as of this posting, it has some bids, but as of now, it's still a bargain-

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&Item=250455809195

Check it out, grab it up. Can you tell I love these?

31

Wretha

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Friday, July 3, 2009

Pump-N-Seal on eBay

GONE

Told ya it would go fast, it's already gone to some lucky soul, comment here if it was you. :)

Wretha
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I don't know how long this one will last, it may be gone by the time you read this, here is a new Pump-n-Seal on eBay, it's a "buy it now" for $8.99 with FREE shipping, if you have ever wanted one of these, grab this up and now!

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=170352642758


They don't know what they have otherwise they would be selling it for lots more! I would buy it if I didn't already have one. I'll remove this message as soon as I know it's gone.

Read what I wrote about this fantastic item, I LOVE mine!
http://wretha.blogspot.com/search/label/Pump-n-Seal


Wretha

Thanks for visiting!
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