ALSO: "SOUP IN A BAG" (see link below for purchasing)


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Friday, February 21, 2014

Wonderbox Oven Safety


Food borne illness is not fun, so let’s review what is necessary for us to be safe, especially while cooking with a heat retention cooking method; i.e., the Wonderbox Oven.

Foods must be cooked at a high enough temperature to kill bacteria, specifically salmonella and Campylobacter bacteria .  These awful food poisoning events cause diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever.  Not fun!

So how do we relate that to Wonderbox Ovens?

ANY cooking method must be hot enough to cook fast enough to keep germs at bay.  Usually we do that by bringing the food to a cooking temperature on our stove, in our oven, or barbeque, etc., and then keep the fuel going for the cooking time required.

However, the Wonderbox oven retains the original heat.  So instead of keeping the food in the oven until done or on low simmer for cooking on top of the stove (there are exceptions but you get the gist), we take that heated food and keep it hot using the thermal properties of the Wonderbox oven filler (styrene pellets or blankets/pillows, etc.).

The key here is RETAIN.  You need to retain that high heat of the food throughout the cooking process to avoid growing bacteria.

To recap: things we need to do while cooking with the Wonderbox Oven

·        Heat the food long enough that the heat is “through and through” the food item, (boiling the water around it from 10 to 15 minutes or so) and, 

·        Be sure that the food stays  hot through the entire cooking process in the Wonderbox Oven, to not only continue cooking the food but to avoid bacteria growth.  (By the way, foods cooked in there need about twice the time of regular cooking methods.)

·        Remember that “how to use” Wonderbox oven websites are out there and that, like all YouTube and Internet cooking/recipe sites online, we must use caution when using new ideas or methods.  Remember that unless someone claims to be a food safety specialist or the food method has been rigorously tested in labs, their ideas may be sound but are subject to opinion just like mine are.  Use common sense.  ”.

Special Notes:

Never remove the styrene pillows or blankets or whatever before the cooking completion time. Never reduce the boiling time just because you think it “should be hot by now”.

AFTER using the Wonderbox Oven

Now that the food is cooked, you need to eat it, keep it hot, or refrigerate it to again avoid bacteria growth.  The food should be eaten within a half-hour or so of Wonderbox oven cooking.  (Breads are an exception.  Remove them from their containers and allow to cool or serve hot). 

If you won’t be eating the meals for over an hour after the food is done, treat it like you would any cooked food in your home.  Keep it hot to avoid bacteria growth, or refrigerate it.  “Hot” means over 140°F.  Refrigerated or kept cold means 40°F or less.

Bro. Durfee was correct.  Large amounts of foods, casseroles and soups or whatever, need to be portioned out in smaller containers before refrigeration, or stirred often after refrigeration begins to make sure the temperature of the food doesn’t stay below 125°F very long.  Sounds like a hassle, but bacteria loves 50° to 125°F. so we need to drop the temperature of our leftovers or “not ready to eat yet” foods quickly to below 40 degrees to avoid bacteria running amok. 

As for me, I tend to keep food on the counter until very warm but not hot or cold, then refrigerate, and I’ve never been too worried about putting a pot of stew in the refrigerator to get cold because I made it too early.  However, this is incorrect food safety methods, so I’ve repented!!! Let’s be safe, not just doing what we’ve always done. J  Plus we teach our children as we prepare food.  Teach them correct principles.

To recap:

1.     After you’ve finished cooking the food in the Wonderbox oven, remove it from the pot of boiling water you’ve cooked it in.

2.    Eat it very soon or bring it back to 140°F until you are ready to eat it.  OR prepare it for refrigeration.  Bread is an exception.

3.    Prepping a food for refrigeration depends on its size and density.  Soups or beans and such can be placed in smaller containers and allowed to cool a bit before placing in the refrigerator, OR place the food/food container into a large bowl with ice water to bring the temperature down quickly.  You are looking for a a cold temp of 40°F or less.

If any of this is confusing, you can ask me more about it, but remember that I am not an expert in food safety.  I’ve placed some good safety websites at the end of this.

Keeping Foods Cold in the Wonderbox Oven

Keeping cold foods cold is also important.  FROZEN packaged foods, ice cream, etc., may be kept in the Wonderbox oven for a few hours, but don’t overload it so there are gaps in the pillow placement.  Refrigerated items, such as milk or fresh meats. may be kept for an hour or so in the Wonderbox oven, but use caution.  By the time you pick up your meats in the meat section, finish shopping around the store, get it through checkout, and place the meat packages into the Wonderbox oven, chances are the temperature of the meat is higher than it should be.  Only use the Wonderbox oven to keep it stable for just long enough to get it to a picnic to be grilled immediately, or home for refrigeration/cooking/freezing. 

Note that placing items like a bowl of potato salad in the wonderbox works great, but only for an hour or less, remembering again that the potato salad may not have been sufficiently cooled in the first place!

Here is an article on food safety from Washington University that has great info.

Cooling Hot Foods

In most cases, prompt cooling and proper refrigeration of foods can hold the number of bacteria down to a safe level.

Small amounts of warm foods may be put into the refrigerator. Speed the cooling of larger quantities of food by putting the food in shallow, uncovered containers.

If you have a large volume of hot food, cool the pan of food in a container of ice water. Stir and replace the ice frequently until the food is warm (about 100°) then refrigerate the food in shallow containers. Set the timer for about 30-45 minutes to remind you to check to see if the food is cooled enough to be refrigerated.

Don't prepare food more than two hours before serving unless you can properly cool it and reheat it.

Don't over pack the refrigerator, for cool air must circulate to keep food safe.

Excellent site on food safety, just this one page is great.

Where to get the Styrene pellets for the Wonderbox pillows?

·        Ask Angie.  She makes them enough to probably have some on hand, plus she gets them locally.  Her email address is: Angie Jerome Her website is:  Thank you Angie!

·        Megan Smith of : She recommends “Foam Factory”.  Megan says:  On the phone I verified (as the rep pulled out a sample to double check) they are the right “teeny tiny” size you want.  They’re sold in 12x12x65″ bags (6 lbs each) and cost $34.99.  By way of comparison, I bought the beads I found where I live for $50 for 14 lbs ($3.60/ lb) so these are more expensive, ($5.83/lb) but the upside is that on orders of more than $75.00 the shipping is FREE!!  This price allows a price for beads (per wonder oven) of about $8.00/ each, though I’d round it up to $9 or $10 to cover any tax.  I’m able to figure this price because the 14# bags I purchased ended up supplying enough beads for 10 wonder ovens per bag.  You’d be looking at being able to fill just under 5 wonder ovens (two pillows each) with these bags.

Megan also has some great recipes for use in the Wonderbox oven.

Other websites I recommend:

Thank you and eat safe!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


I have recently discovered that the yeast placed in the Bread in a Bag does not always stay effective. I have no idea why not, as the vacuum pack methods should preserve the yeast better than that.

If I wrote the book today I would say store yeast separately or try putting a pkt of yeast in the Bag.

Any questions? Please email me at Ldswoman at

Monday, May 13, 2013

Soup in a Bag Reviews

As I mentioned in my previous post, my friend Megan's blog has a review going with three women who are each trying three of my soups.  Here is the first review found today on her site:  myfoodstoragecookbook/

Please be sure to visit the above site, as well as Julene's!


Being the mother of 5 I am always on the lookout for quick new ways to serve warm meals to my family. I am also a preparedness junkie and when the book “Soup In A Bag” was offered to me to sample, I was ecstatic! This book is not just for preparedness minded folks, it is a concept that will save so many families time and money in the kitchen. In a day and age where fast food is mainstream this book will help those who want good, hearty, and healthy fast food for their families.

While looking through the book I noticed right away were the colored photos. I learn so much more when I have a photo to compare to. The section on dehydrating was especially loaded with pictures that I knew exactly how my results should look. The instructions for each recipe were in a simple step-by-step form and were easy to follow. And the ingredients listed were common pantry items that I had already stored, so making these recipes required little to no extra shopping for me. After choosing the recipes that I wanted to make I found it so easy to tailor each recipe to my family’s tastes. I swapped out ham for bacon tvp in the Potato Cheese soup mix and I also used tvp in place of real meat to meat the needs of a vegetarian in the family.

The section that really impressed me was the dehydrating section at the front of the book. Even though the author recommended purchasing a separate book on dehydrating, I found the instructions and images provided enough details for even a beginner to follow. I referred to this section quite a bit when I was dehydrating my ingredients. For me personally, I felt that some of the dehydrating wasn’t necessary if I were to store the mixes for use as a dinner in my home. Dehydrating canned goods, such as rice and tomatoes, are a great way to have a complete meal when camping, traveling, or in 72-hour kits, but for making a quick meal at home I will store the mix without the dehydrated rice and tomatoes. Opening a can and adding it to the soup while it’s cooking will save me the step of dehydrating them.

My family and I cooked up four soups from the book. And before I review them I must state that the taste of the final product will vary greatly depending on what company you purchase certain canned items from. Powdered cheese and milks will taste very different from different retailers and I don’t want someone to shy away from these recipes just because they have tried a powdered cheese and it wasn’t very good. I would suggest trying several different retailers until you find a quality product that you enjoy. I also sealed my soups in canning jars instead of mylar bags because that is what I had on hand. I sealed the jars using my foodsaver.

soup in a jar
Potato Cheese Soup pg. 43 (rated #1 in my family)
potato cheese soup
Out of the four soups that we tried, this one was our favorite. My daughter said it tasted just like the soup at our favorite restaurant! The recipe called for ham tvp but my family doesn’t care for the taste of ham and I substituted bacon tvp. This is a thick and hearty soup and I found I needed to add about 1 C extra water while I was cooking. But again, this soup was easy to prepare and so thick and creamy. I also noticed in step number 4 the water amount is missing from the directions. I figured it out by doing some simple math with the amount of water in the ingredient list, but it would be helpful to know how much water to add with baggie #2 into the pot.

Potato Cheese Soup

In Mylar bag:
1 oxygen absorber packet
1 1/2 cup dried potato chunks and/or slices
2 TBS dried onion

In baggie #1 inside Mylar bag:

1/2 cup nonfat dry milk


6 cups water (2 boiling)

In baggie #2 inside Mylar bag:
1 1/2 cup potato flakes
1/4 cup ham TVP, ground fine
1 1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
1/4 tsp. coarse ground pepper
2 TBS butter powder
1/2 cup + 1 TBS dehydrated cheese powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder

To make:

Open Mylar bag. Discard oxygen absorber packet. Pour potatoes and onions from Mylar bag into a medium sized bowl. Add 2 cups boiling water. Allow to sit for 30 minutes to allow water to be completely absorbed, stirring mid-way if necessary. Pour nonfat dry milk from baggie #1 into a bowl. Using a whisk, combine with 1 cup water until smooth. Set aside.

Open baggie #2. Pour dry seasoning mixture into a cooking pot. Bring to a boil for 3 minutes on medium heat, stirring constantly to avoid the cheese sticking to the bottom of the pot. Turn off the heat and add in the rehydrated potatoes/onions, stirring to combine. Cover. Let sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour, until potatoes are tender.

Add dry milk mixture. Bring soup to a low boil, stirring constantly. Turn off the heat and check seasoning, adding more salt or pepper if necessary. Serve hot.
Broccoli Cheddar Cream Soup pg. 113 (rated #2 in my family)
broccoli cheese soup
This was the only soup that I didn’t make up in a jar before cooking. I needed a quick soup as a side dish for dinner one night and I had all the ingredients to make it and it ended up on the table that night. This soup was very simple to make and took very little prep work. I pureed the soup for a creamier finish and we all thought it was a keeper. I used freeze-dried broccoli and it didn’t need to reconstitute as long as the dehydrated broccoli, so this soup came together quite quick. This is a recipe where the cheese powder will make or break the end results. I used Honeyville Grain’s cheese powder and we were very pleased with the soup.

Spanish Rice Soup pg. 72 (rated #3 in my family)
dehydrating rice (1) dehydrating canned tomatoes
This soup is perfect for those spring days when the weather is in between warm and cold. It isn’t as thick and creamy as the other two soups that I made but it had plenty of rice and beef tvp to satisfy the kids, and it went really well with rolls. I substituted the ground beef for beef tvp and it worked really well. The flavors blended nicely and I really appreciated the flavor combination in a dried soup mix. This soup tastes like you made it from scratch with fresh ingredients. I found the information on dehydrating the rice and canned tomatoes in the front of the book very helpful for this recipe, but I will use the canned version the next I prepare this soup. If I were to store this soup for our 72-hour kits I would dehydrate them and add them to the mix. We rated this as our third favorite soup.

Carrot Yam Soup pg. 40 (rated #4 in my family)

This is the very first soup in the book and is was also the first recipe I wanted to try. Don’t let the rating of 4th place sway you from cooking this soup. I really enjoyed it, but I feel it was too sophisticated for my 5 children. They ate it but it didn’t fill them up as a dinner soup. This would be a great soup for lunch or a light dinner. The flavors were interesting in a good way and it was exciting to me that I could have such a fun soup in my food storage.

The options are limitless that you could put together with this concept. Each and every family could individualize the recipe to fit to their tastes. The directions and pictures make this book stand out from others, but for the price of $28 I would like to see a spiral bound book, for ease in the kitchen while cooking, and not a paper back book. The price seems quite high for a paper back book. But for the information and the idea of having meals ready to go for busy nights, new moms, shower gifts, college students, etc. I feel this is a smart purchase to make.

soup in a bag portrait

Monday, April 29, 2013

Pillowsoft Hamburger Buns

These hamburger buns are truly the best we've ever tasted.  They are from my Bread in a Bag book (first one), page 53.  Yum!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Monday, April 1, 2013

My friend Megan has graciously chosen to put my book Soup in a Bag into a contest she is having on her blog!

Check it out and let me know what you think! :)


Thursday, August 23, 2012


Here is my recipe for Alphabet Soup from "Soup in a Bag":

In Mylar Bag
1 cups dried mixed vegetables (carrots, peas,
    green beans)
2 Tbsp. tomato powder
1  Tbsp. dried onion flakes
1 1/2 Tbsp. beef or vegetable bouillon
1/8 tsp. sage
2 bay leaves
In baggie inside Mylar bag
½ cup alphabet pasta (look in the Hispanic section of the supermarket)

7 cups boiling water
Garlic powder and pepper to taste
 To Make:

To Make:

1.     Open Mylar bag.  Discard ABS. 

2.    Open baggie.  Pour alphabet pasta into a small bowl.  Add 1 cup boiling water.  Stir.  Let sit for 30 minutes, covered.

3.    In a medium-size cooking pot, bring 6 cups of water to a boil.  Add in Mylar bag ingredients.  Stir well.   Turn off heat. 

4.    Cover.  Let soup rest for 30 minutes.


5.    Add in the softened alphabet pasta.  Stir well.  Bring soup to a boil, then turn down heat to low, and simmer, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes, or until all ingredients are soft.

6. Remove bay leaves.  Stir and serve.

The perfect crackers to serve with this soup:

Pie Crust Crackers
Bread in a Bag Book Two

[1] You can buy this in the Hispanic food section of many supermarkets