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As we dig further and further in to a self-sufficient, food-storage inspired lifestyle, I’m always on the hunt for new things to make that I either a) don’t want to spend the money on at the store, or b) don’t like the GMO or added ingredients in the store-bought variety.  Happily, granola fits the bill on all criteria.  It’s easy to make, uses food storage supplies, tastes really good, is stupid-expensive at the store, and has undesirable ingredients when it’s store-bought.

I made granola bars last year and love them – but finding the right proportions on a loose granola was a little trickier for me.  I’m pretty good with substituting things, and although I used a recipe from Food Storage Made Easy as my base, my actual recipe really doesn’t look very much like the original.  Funny how that happens sometimes! :)  We love this to snack on or in my Greek-style yogurt (regular goat-milk yogurt that is strained for 12 hours).

It’s easy for me to burn my granola – I’d love to blame the dumb oven in this apartment completely, but I think lowering my second-bake time from 20 minutes to 10 is the way to go.  :)

Another trick I use is to plump up the dried fruit (raisins, cherries, cranberries – your choice) in heated, distilled water before using them.  When I do this, I don’t end up with little hard pieces of charcoal that once were raisins – they actually look and taste like raisins!  Adding the moisture to the raisins first insures that you’re not dehydrating them too much in the oven.  It’s a worthwhile step and is easy to cover the raisins with water and simmer them for a bit before adding them to the raw granola.

Sue’s Homestyle Granola
  • 4 c. of quick oats (or regular – I have quick oats stored, though)
  • 2 c. of chopped almonds
  • 1 c. roasted sunflower seeds (this adds a certain YUM to the finished product)
  • 1 c. raisins/dried cherries/craisins (your choice), rehydrated & drained
  • 2 T. cinnamon
  • 1/2 c. coconut oil
  • 2 t. vanilla
  • 1 t. Real Salt
  • 3/4 c. honey

Put the dry ingredients in the bowl of your mixer and begin adding in the wet items – the raisins, coconut oil, vanilla, and honey.  Allow the mixer to do the blending until everything looks evenly incorporated.  Spread out on a baking sheet and bake for 20 min. at 350F.  Stir at the 20 minute-mark (scraping the tray and turning the granola over as you do) and stick the tray back in for another 10 minutes.  Remove tray from oven and stir; allow it to cool completely before bagging it up and watching it disappear.  :)  This recipe makes about 2 pounds of granola, and if it gets soft from the moisture in the air, laying it on a tray at 200F for 15 minutes is the perfect amount of time to put the crunch back in to it.  :)

Bon apetit!

 

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We are so close I can almost taste it.  No pun intended, but after working diligently for the better part of January, we are within 40 days of finishing up the food storage.  Well, 38.16 days, to be exact.  :)

We’ve added an insane amount of wheat and about 78 pounds of quick oats (all purchased at Costco for less than $80 – w00t!), although at the rate my guys are gobbling up granola, I’m thinking it might be a good thing to add another 26lb bucket of oats. Hmmmm.

We also added in quite a few #10 cans of freeze dried vegetables and 2 cans of popcorn – there’s no point in having microwave popcorn hanging around when Mark makes SUCH a delectable batch of real popcorn, popped in coconut oil and lightly seasoned with Real Salt.  Holy COW it is good.  :)

I added in 25# of sugar, as well.  I think to finish it up, I’m going to procure some more honey (local, raw), another 25# bag of sugar, some more beans (probably white & black), and another bucket of oats.  I’m pretty sure these things will toss me over the 365-day mark, but it feels well-rounded to me to have things things and be able to stop thinking about procurement and building all the time, to simply keep a tally of what needs to be replaced as we rotate through.

I’ve also been adding things in more #10 cans than I did in Michigan – my pantry in Michigan was limited and #10 cans took up too much space in the basement pantry.  Here, despite the fact that the apartment is smaller (by FAR) than our home in Michigan was, I’m finding more creative ways to store the stuff.  So the #10 cans are in boxes (labelled on both sides – remember this one, Betsie? :mrgreen:) and the boxes are currently stacked in a cubby-space behind the bookshelf.  The cubby space was designed for a large TV set (I think), but we have a bookshelf in there and there’s plenty of space back there for at least 12 boxes of #10 cans.  They are visible through the open-back of the bookshelf, however, which has us thinking of disguising the storage space a bit.  Mark thought we should staple black fabric to the back of the bookshelf, which would work, but my mom suggested we buy a cheap tension-rod (for a cafe curtain) and make a rod-pocket in the black fabric. That way, there are no gaps between the wall and the bookshelf which might look unsightly.  So I’ll be popping over to a Big Box Store and picking up a tension rod this week – and I’ll probably hand-baste a rod pocket in to the top of the fabric and make quick work of it.

I’m really happy to be so close to being done.  Based on the budget for February, I’m not sure I’ll be able to finish all of it this month, but I should be able to be done by the middle of March, at the latest.  :)

I’ve been sitting on this video for a while now, unfortunately because I’ve not had the time to edit it.  Between the holidays, house guests, and now more house guests, our last 30+ days have been a tad overwhelming, but way too much fun, too.  :)

I got my grain mill in November and am so VERY happy with the purchase.  Our food storage, as you may know if you read here often, is filled with hard white wheat and this mill makes it incredibly easy to make the tastiest bread EVAH.  Seriously, if we liked my bread before, we LOVE it now.  It’s amazing how much lighter and airier my bread’s crumb is now, versus using cracked wheat before.

  • As I researched (and researched and researched and researched) grain mills before buying it, a few things stood out:  I wanted a non-impact type mill, which meant that I had to be happy with millstones and only certain grain mills actually used millstones.
  • I wanted to control the heat of the flour – or at least not have it get too high.  Having borrowed a friend’s WhisperMill (now it is called the Wonder Mill), I knew the flour was HOT when the mill was done.  I also knew that it was LOUD – it was louder than my vacuum cleaner.
  • Which brings me to the third thing:  I wanted  a mill that wasn’t going to burst my eardrums.  The so-called WhisperMill was anything but quiet, but the “reported sound level” on differing websites was about 50dB.  There was NO WAY it was actually 50dB – my (formerly) brand-new dishwasher ran at 55dB and it was virtually silent. So accurate portrayal of noise was important to me.
  • And finally, I really wanted a mill that would last.  The mills that were (are) made in Korea are okay, and they are a sight less expensive than the European mills.  But the European mills had longevity on their side, and I really didn’t want to have to do this research and re-purchase this in a few years.  I wanted it to last and be a lifetime investment.  KoMo has mills that have run daily for 15 years and are still going as strong as the first day, and that was the sort of purchase I wanted to make.

So we saved our money and finally purchased the mill.  I played with it a bit and figured out what texture I wanted my flour at for bread (it’s not quite at the finest setting, but it’s definitely fine) and off to the races we went.

I haven’t regretted the money I’ve spent thus far, and I’ve also ground my own cornmeal (but not from popcorn – from degermed corn).  If I ever grind beans in it, I’ll get a nice bean flour that’s useful for much, and I can also make rice flour and other fine-flours.  We’ve not developed a taste for muesli yet, but I’m hoping to get Brendan hooked somewhat soon.  I think he’ll like it.

I was over at The Survival Mom‘s blog the other day, reading and realizing why the impetus to finish my food storage is so strong within me.  There was a report on FoxNews with Shepard Smith about food shortages and how the weakening dollar is affecting our purchasing power.

It’s not that I haven’t been serious about completing my food storage, just that life sort of got in the way.  We gave a lot to different charitable causes over the holidays and I don’t regret that one bit, but the extra cash went to gift-giving and donating more than stocking my pantry.  Such is life – and I value generosity to a point where I would rather have a limited food storage than skip the giving.  It’s just who I am.  :)

So today began the Sprint to the End (of building the food storage.  I’m not someone walking around in a sandwich board proclaiming “The End Is Near!”).  We are buying things in case prices do skyrocket like this video suggests and in case things get lean here.  So having a stash of chicken feet, pre-washed and ready for stocks, rice, vegetables, beans, etc., is helping to finish up our food storage.  If meat gets expensive, I want to be able to create soups and stocks to take the place of actual meat and to flavour rice, beans, and vegetables so we don’t end up with appetite fatigue.  We’ll continue adding for the next several months and hopefully be done by March/April.  :)

foodstorageanalyzer.com/MemberPages/Search.aspx?search=cheeseI’m now within 100 days of being done, after adding in today’s procurements.  I’m choosing not to live in fear or to hit the panic button, but I know I will breathe a large sigh of relief when this is all done.  It will be easier, I think, to replenish what we eat a little at a time and know that we’ve purchased what we can for food insurance for our family, in case things do get stupid-high, price-wise.

If you’ve not considered building even a three-month supply for your family, I strongly suggest you give it some thought and see if it’s a good practice for you.  Preparedness doesn’t mean you’ve got your night-vision goggles on and are building a bomb shelter (necessarily – LOL), but it does mean that you’re thinking ahead to what your family needs and doing what you can to prepare with the resources you have at your disposal.  :)

I’ll keep posting and when I’m all done, you’ll hear several gigantic sighs of relief from my quadrant down here in the southwest.  :)

One Second After is a novel by William Forstchen and is possibly one of the best books you’ve never read.

Forstchen sets the stage in a quiet, almost Norman Rockwellian-town in North Carolina and follows the story of a family and the town’s members through an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) attack that disables everything electronic and/or computer-chip dependent nationwide.

The book is well-written and the details were enough to hook me in the first few pages; I soon wanted to keep reading and find out what happened to John Matherson and his family, comprised of his two daughters and in-laws, having lost his wife to cancer years prior.

To say that this book is a cautionary tale is an understatement:  the book’s premise is more than real-life and completely scary – at any point, enemies of our country could readily launch nuclear warheads that don’t hit land and create the scenario I learned in junior high, namely one of nuclear destruction and fallout, but that explode in the stratosphere and leave no nuclear destruction on the ground.  The resulting electromagnetic pulse, however, would take out anything and everything electrical, computer-driven, and/or that hasn’t been “hardened off.”  The enemies would destroy our country without laying a hand on us; as society collapses upon itself, we would destroy ourselves for them.  We are a country of consumers with very little knowledge of how to care for ourselves without the creature comforts our 21st century existence provides.

Think about it:  it’s one thing to not have an iPod or Android phone that works.  But your stove wouldn’t work, your refrigerator wouldn’t work.  Neither would your freezer, your car, your light switches, or your watch.  No clocks, no heat, no air conditioning.  If you live in the country and have a well, no water will be dispensed, as most wells have electric pumps.  Most of us don’t have an ability to withstand this sort of hardship, much less feed our families and sustain our livelihoods.  Your money would be unavailable for an extent of time – we are about as close to a cashless society as possible, and most of us use debit cards to withdraw monies from our accounts, pay for things, and generally make life easier.  But without computers…. Well, the picture ain’t pretty.

And God-forbid that you have a disease which is kept in check with medicine on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.  Without refrigeration, diabetics dependent upon insulin would die quickly – the insulin would be rationed and loses potency without refrigeration.  Nursing home patients would succumb to disease and pass quickly as well, which after reading the scenarios in the book, is a merciful thing.  Hospitals only have so much ability to run on reserves, and because very few vehicles will run after an EMP (those which have carburetors and no fuel injection will turn over), there is very little way to get supplies – not to mention that communication lines will be down, so calling for supplies is next to impossible.

It’s truly a dim picture when you consider the far-reaching effects of something like an EMP and how it would disable our country and society.

I’ll be honest:  I read this book as part of an online-read-along for one of my preparedness groups (at Food Storage Made Easy), and  I almost didn’t read it.  Sometimes, my ever-fertile mind and imagination can take things I read or see and expound upon them to a point of panic.  I really, really didn’t want to have a knee-jerk reaction or live my life in fear.  These are unproductive things for me and I choose to live without them.

But I did find myself considering my food storage and preparedness plans a little differently after reading this.  A Sun Oven is definitely on my  To Procure List, as is a hand-powered grain mill.  I’ve looked in to making a Faraday cage and have looked at finding a hand-crank radio, some batteries, and some long-range walkie talkies to keep in the Faraday cage, protecting these items from the effects of an EMP.  There’s a guy in our apartment complex who drives a really cool, old truck – a Ford, circa 1940.  That beast would easily turn over and be functional after an EMP, but I confess that my own beloved Elsa would impotent after such an event.

There are some things that I simply can’t predict or prepare for – but if I can protect my family and friends at least in part, my preparations are worthwhile.  I still choose not to live in fear, but this book has really given us food for thought and changed how we consider our preventative planning.

Even if you never have plans to build a food storage, I highly recommend this book.  It’s compelling, the story is engaging, and most likely, your heartstrings will be tugged before the end.  You will not look at your life the same way after reading it – which in the case of most Americans today, is a very good thing.

We take having clean, safe drinking water for granted here in the States.  Even when I lived overseas, I was in “first world” nations that provided drinking water with a turn of the faucet.  It’s a blessing – but sometimes it doesn’t taste good enough to make you want to drink what comes from the faucet.

When we lived in Dexter, we had well-water.  I both loved and hated it – I loved being self-sufficient and not dependent upon city water.  I hated it when the electricity went out and we had no water (because the pump is electric).  I loved the lack of chlorine and other additives to the water, but hated the heavy iron and calcium deposits.  Boiling a pot of water for spaghetti reminded me of our iron-rich water because there were always rust-coloured bubbles on the water in the pot.  Bleah.

But moving to Phoenix was a shock to our system.  Our friend Ashley always used to say how fantastic our well-water tasted, but we thought it was less-than-ideal, having tasted well-water in the next county down which was much less iron-rich and had fewer sulfuric odors.  We had no clue how much we would miss our well water once we lived down here – until we went to brush our teeth and came up feeling like we had rinsed our mouths with pool water.  Blech.  The water here is that chlorinated – it smells like the community’s pool!

For emergency preparedness, I’d been stalking a Berkey water filter for several months, but moving put the plans to purchase one on the back burner for a bit.  We finally ordered one and have been using it for the last several days.  May I just say?

WHAT A DIFFERENCE!

Seriously.  The water doesn’t taste like chlorine, the tea tastes SO much better, the coffee is SO much smoother, and pretty near everything we cook that requires water tastes better now.  It is amazing.

The Berkey is definitely one of the more “powerhouse” purification systems out there.  There are installed units (under the sink or whole house), but this is portable.  We opted for the Berkey Light Max – it’s a clear (light blue) unit and it’s easy to determine how much water is there.  It’s easy to fill for any of us – Brendan can manage it readily.  The Berkey Light comes with 2 Berkey filters, but we paid a little more to have it upgraded to a Berkey Light Max – it has 4 filters.  It breaks down in to smaller pieces for transport very easily – which is great if a severe emergency ever required us to “bug out.”

The filters are easy to prime and install and filter out 99.9% of everything you don’t want in your water – chlorine, sediment, bacteria, even viruses!  Four filters don’t filter better than two, but it is faster, providing more surface area with which to filter.  Four filters will last for – get this! – TWELVE THOUSAND GALLONS OF WATER.  That’s mind-boggling to me.

For emergency preparedness purposes, not only is this portable, but it will filter potentially contaminated water to drinkable in short order.  This will cut down on the life of your filters, but in an emergency when you’re desperate for water, the life of the filters is less important than the ability to filter water.  And between living in the desert and being convinced that water storage is a huge part of any food storage plan, this fits in beautifully.

We did discover (accidentally) that you can’t put extra water in the filtering reservoir – as it filters, it flows.  And if the “ready water” reservoir is full, well… let’s just say we should’ve had a towel ready, just in case.  😮

We’ve already saved money by using this just a few days.  I drink close to 2 litres of water per day, and our monthly water bill (just for drinking) was somewhere in the $30 range for bottled water from Costco.  That was judiciously drinking water and not using it for cooking, coffee, tea, etc.  Our bottled water in the garage (other than our water-storage) is almost gone and I’ve already been able to skip one of the biweekly trips to Costco for just that – water.  Love it!

I’ll also be purchasing and stocking up on more filters in upcoming months just to have on hand.  The white (sterasyl) filters filter more water (for a longer life) than the black ones, but are harder to come by.  I’m so relieved to have this part of our preparedness done.  I’m gonna go get another cup of joe – it tastes so darned good now!  :)

Okay, so sue me.  It’s Friday and I’m posting a recipe.  But honestly, it’s THAT good that it can’t wait until next Tuesday.  It’s so good, in fact, that I was completely miffed that Mark took all of the leftover taco meat for lunch yesterday.  Even though he says I encouraged him to do that, I have no recollection of those words.  I just know that I tore the fridge apart looking for the stuff and finally concluded that it was in Tempe, not in my kitchen.

So the impetus for making this stuff was multi-fold.  #1)  I bought a large container of taco seasoning (that was pretty decent) at GFS sometime earlier this year.  Unfortunately for me, there are no GFS stores out West.  Boo.  #2)  I am a member at Costco, but Costco’s taco seasoning has dehydrated onion in it – and sifting out all of that onion just to use the seasoning is a waste.  #3)  All of the online spice e-tailers have dehydrated onions in their seasoning mix as well.  #4)  For whatever reason, commercially prepared taco seasoning gives me indigestion.  Some brands more than others, but all do to some extent.  I’m loathe to blame MSG, as I can eat other things with MSG and not have indigestion.  Maybe it is, and maybe it’s not.  And #5)  Being a certified Food Storage Nut, I really wanted something that would be easy to replicate from my own stash of spices and whatnot in my pantry.

Happily, this recipe meets all of my motivations and criteria.  First and foremost, no onions – well, onion pieces.  This does use onion powder (or onion granules, as I found at my local Sprouts store), but onion powder/granules (in reasonable amounts) doesn’t bother either one of us.

One of the upsides to making this myself in a mason jar (and one I realized a tad too late) is that is layers really attractively.  Which means if you’re looking for healthy, beautiful, and useful gifts, this one totally counts.  Unfortunately for me, I didn’t realize what was happening until it was too late and didn’t shake out the bottom layer to level it before I added more on top of it.  Ah well – it didn’t stay pretty and layered for long – I shook it all together and used its tastiness to make our taco meat.

Homemade Taco Seasoning, a la Sue
  • ½ c. chili powder (regular or mild)
  • ¼ c. onion powder (or onion granules)
  • ¼ c. cumin
  • 1 T. garlic powder
  • 1 T. paprika
  • 1 T. sea salt (I like Redmond Real Salt)

I know, a half-cup of chili powder sounds crazy, right?  Trust me – it’s not.

Layer these ingredients in a mason jar – I used a canning funnel to make it easier – and either gift-wrap it with a ribbon and nice lid, or put the lid on and shake any frustrations from the day out.  Use 4 T. of the mixture to 1 pound of cooked meat and add 2/3 c. of water to the meat and spices.

Heat thoroughly and use the finished taco meat in whatever recipe you’d like.  Truly delicious, and definitely left-over worthy.  :)

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