Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Making Cave Ketchup (includes recipe)

I recently picked up a copy of Paleo Comfort Foods, at the recommendation of my doctor (he follows a "mostly" paleo diet himself). It is a cookbook full of recipes that fit the Paleo Diet. I'm not on a strict Paleo diet, but because if my diabetes I avoid grains, including bread, cereals, rice, and pasta, as well as white potatoes, and added sugar in my foods, as part of eating a healthy diet. Paleo foods fit my requirements nicely.

For those not familiar with the Paleo Diet, it rejects industrialized (highly processed) foods, and most Agricultural Age foods (such as grains, and most legumes). Folks following a Paleo Diet eat lots of meat, fish, fowl, eggs, most veggies, mushrooms, fruits, herbs & spices, honey, and most nuts & seeds. They avoid bread, cereal, rice, and grains of all sorts, white potatoes, most beans, added sugars (they sweeten with honey or fruit), and the artificial flavors, coloring, & preservatives so common in modern foods. That is an over-simplification of the Paleo Diet, of course, but it gives you the basic idea. 

One of the recipes in Paleo Comfort Foods is for a Paleo version of ketchup. Since I can't eat regular ketchup, because it is loaded with added sugars, I was quite happy to find a recipe for home-made ketchup without all that extra sugar, found in store-bought ketchup. I made it over the weekend, and have tried it on several foods. Here is the recipe (given in the context of an overall book review, so as to not violate copyright), along with my comments on how it turned out, along with the book review.

Cave Ketchup

Ingredients:
6 ounces of tomato paste (no salt, no sugar added variety)
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pinch allspice
1 pinch salt
1/8 teaspoon paprika (optional)
1 clove garlic (I used minced garlic instead)
1 bay leaf

Combine all ingredients (except the garlic clove and bay leaf) in a medium sized sauce pan. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently.  Add in the garlic clove and bay leaf (whole). Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes stirring occasionally. Watch for desired consistency, as this stuff will thicken quickly toward the end. If you overdo it, you can add a tablespoon of water back to the mix. Remove the bay leaf and garlic clove, and allow the ketchup to cool.

My Comments

I didn't have a garlic clove, so I substituted some minced garlic instead. It took close to the 30 minutes for my ketchup to thicken to how I liked it. The BIG advantage of cave ketchup for me is no added sugar (Regular Ketchup is loaded with added sugar). It also is missing all the artificial preservatives and other chemicals typically found in store-bought ketchup. 

Taste: Cave Ketchup tastes a lot like regular ketchup, except its is not nearly as sweet (which is the point, as far as I'm concerned). It does have a slightly more vinegary taste, and I can taste the cinnamon, which is missing from store-bought ketchup. Overall, Cave Ketchup is more favorable than regular ketchup. I will be using Cave Ketchup as my version of ketchup from now own. 

Disclaimer: I have avoided sugar and sweets for over a year now, and am no longer used to most store-bought foods, which tend to be loaded with lots of salt and sugar. Store-bought ketchup now tastes so sweet to me as to be almost nauseating. If you are used to sweet ketchup, it make take some time to adjust your taste buds to Cave Ketchup, but it is so much healthier for you that it is worth the effort.

Paleo Comfort Foods - Homestyle Cooking for a Gluten-Free Kitchen

http://amzn.to/2arvPPxThe book by  Julie & Charles Mayfield is primarily a cookbook, not a Paleo Diet book, in that it is almost all recipes - more than 125 - but not much explanation of the Paleo Diet itself. I've already given you the gist, and if you want more info on the Paleo Diet just search for it on You Tube.

The recipes are divided into six sections:

1 - Starters & Snacks (examples: Paleo Spiced Nuts, Deviled Eggs, Spicy Chicken Wings)

2- Sauces & Staples (examples: Paleo Mayonnaise, Turkey Gravy, Tartar Sauce)

3- Soups & Salads (examples: Chicken & Grape Salad, Chicken Soup, Beef Stew)

4-  On The Side (examples: Grilled Veggies, Oven-Roasted Okra, Paleo Grits)

5- Main Dishes (examples: Green Eggs & Turkey, Pot of Chicken Pie, Fish Tacos, Braised Rabbit, Venison Medallions with Mustard Sauce, Country Captain Chicken, Cedar-Plank Chipotle Salmon)

6- Deserts (examples: Poached Pears, Sweet Potato Pie, Apple Crisp)

Folks, there is nothing fancy about these recipes. Its just healthy foods that regular folks like me can fix and eat! 

I've also tried (this morning!) the Breakfast Egg Muffins. Delicious and healthy!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Preparedness for Non-Preppers


From an ordinary (non-prepper) person's point-of-view, the problem with the prepper/survivalist community is that we are preparing for extreme disasters - EMP attacks, worldwide plagues, economic and political collapse. Things that ordinary folks don't really believe will happen (or at least they don't want to believe will happen). But smaller, and much much common, emergencies do happen to thousands of ordinary people everyday - skinned knees, kitchen fires, power outages, car breakdowns, an unexpected job loss... We all, preppers or not, need to be prepared for life's little emergencies.

Preparedness for Non-Preppers: Everyone Needs To Be Ready For Life's Everyday Emergencies

Personal Preparedness

1-  Personal preparedness starts with a good attitude and mental health. Develop healthy relationships (spouse, family, friends, God). Weed out toxic people from your life. Deal now with any addictions you may have. Get enough sleep.  Learn to relax and reduce stress in your life. See my article on mental preparedness for more details on this topic. 


2- Personal preparedness includes developing good health and fitness. This is hard and time consuming, but well worth the time and effort! Learn to eat healthy. Be physically active. Stop smoking and/or abusing drugs or alcohol. Get enough sleep. Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Visit your doctor and dentist on a regular basis. For more details, please see my article Steps to Good Health.

3- Personal preparedness includes learning new skills. I suggest everyone take a good first aid/CPR course. Everyone should take a good self-defense course. Learn how to swim. Other skills you may want to consider are learning a second language, learning to sew, learning basic auto maintenance and repair, learning to garden, etc... The more you know, the better off you will be. Build Self-Reliance.

4- Preppers and survivalists have a concept call Every-Day Carry (EDC). Basically, it is the stuff you carry with you everyday - your cell phone, car keys, wallet, sunglasses, and so forth. Preppers look at their EDC with an eye towards being prepared for emergencies, and often include such things as a pocket knife, multi-tool, a small, individual first aid kit (IFAK), and other useful items. For a look at my EDC, see the article My EDC Pocket Dump, as well as the article My Most Often Used EDC Items. Start looking at the stuff you carry everyday with an eye towards your own preparedness.

5- Keep you cell phone charged at all times. Carry a cell phone charger with you always.

Financial Preparedness

1- Emergencies can be expensive. Every family should have an Emergency Fund in a savings account at a local bank or credit union. How much depends upon your family's size and circumstances. Many financial experts recommend between six-months and two-years worth of expenses. Dave Ramsey recommends that those trying to get out of debt have at least $1000 stuck back for emergencies as step one of his Baby Steps program. My rule is "Some is better than none, and more is better still." Start as small as you have to, and build upon that start until you achieve a sizable emergency fund. 

2- ATM's and other electronic devices may not be working due to a power outage or whatever. Or the banks may simply be closed (weekends, holidays) when you need cash. So, it is a good idea to have some money stuck back in a safe, hidden place at home. Decide for yourself how much you ned, but I'd try for at least a couple hundred bucks in cash. 

3- There are lots of other aspects to financial preparedness. If you are interested in this subject, I'd highly recommend you read my article Finances - Get Back to Basics.

Preparedness at Home

1- Make sure everyone in your household is aware of what to do in case of a fire. They should know at least two escape routes.

2- Make sure everyone knows, especially younger kids, how to call 911 in an emergency.

3- Every home & apartment should have at least one working smoke detector. Make sure the batteries are fresh!

4-  Every home & apartment should have at least on Fire Extinguisher. Be sure everyone in your home knows where it is and how to use it. A possible alternative, back-up, or supplement to the traditional fire extinguisher is the Fire Gone Extinguishers. These are smaller, less expensive, very easy-to-use, and easier to clean-up.

5- Have a First Aid Kit in your home. Make sure everyone knows where it is and how to use it. A good first aid handbook is useful, but all adults and all children of school age should take a first aid/CPR course.

6- Have a good LED Flashlight, and extra batteries. Several are better than one. Consider keeping a flashlight in each major room of your house.

7- So you can stay informed of what's going on in a power outage, you should have a battery-powered AM/FM/NOAA Radio. Don't forget to have plenty of extra batteries. You can keep up with weather and news reports, emergency announcements, school and business closings, and so forth...

8- You need to have some food & water stored. Many preppers and survivalists strive for a year or more worth of stored food & water, but most non-preppers think that is extreme. But everyone should have at least a week's worth (and two weeks is even better) of food & water. Think in terms of not being able to go to the store because of a bad winter storm or similar event... Oh, don't forget to include some foods you don't have to cook (peanut butter, pop-tarts, canned tuna, canned pasta, canned fruits, etc.) in case their is a power outage.

9- Do a home safety inspection. Walk around every room of your home, looking for potential problems, such as clutter that can cause falls, fire hazards, and poison that is unmarked or easily-accessible by kids. Make sure all knives, guns, matches, lighters, etc., are secured from young kids. Walk around you property and all outbuildings doing the same thing. Most scouts learn to do these safety inspections as part of earning various merit badges and skill awards, so if you know a scout, have them do it for you! 

10- If you have guns, please teach your children gun safety. The NRA has gun safety programs for all ages, including young kids.

11- You may also want to check out my article Workshop and DIY Safety.

Preparedness On the Go

1- Keep your vehicle in good repair. Perform all routine maintenance on a regular basis. Make sure your tires and brakes are in good condition, and all your headlights, taillights and directional signals are working. Drive safely, and practice defensive driving. Pay attention. Don't drive distracted (no talking on a cell phone or texting while driving). Doing these things will make you less likely to get in a wreck, break down, or get a ticket.

2- Keep a pair of jumper cables and/or a car battery charger in your vehicle. Make sure all drivers in your family know how to use them.

3- Make sure you have a good spare tire in your vehicle, along with all tools you need with it.  Make sure all drivers know how to change a flat tire. Consider a can of Fix-a-Flat for quick use in an emergency.

4- All drivers should know how to check the oil level, and how to add extra oil if needed. Same for transmission fluid, brake fluid, engine coolant, and other fluids.

5- Its a good idea to always keep an overnight bag packed and ready to go at a moments notice in case you ever need to evacuate your home on short notice (approaching wildfire, nearby chemical spill, etc.). Peppers and survivalists typically call this "bugging out" and put together "bug out bags" that can be quite extensive. Non-preppers should pack, at a minimum, a change of clothes, personal hygiene items (toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, etc.), some snack food (possibilities: packs of seeds & nuts, peanut butter crackers, energy/protein bars), and a couple of bottles of water. Other items you might consider: a small first aid kit, a compact emergency survival kit (see my article on putting one together), a good road map of your area, a three-day supply of any prescription medications. an extra pair of glasses, a good multi-tool, etc. You should also include copies of important paperwork (either on paper or a USB flash drive), such as driver's license, birth certificate, insurance numbers, credit card and bank account info, mortgage/deed info, medical information, etc.

You might want to pack a few items to keep you entertained while waiting to return home. Possibilities for adults include playing cards or a book. Possibilities for kids include coloring books & crayons, a small toy, or card games like Old Maid and Go Fish.

6- If your typical footwear is dress shoes, high heels, sandals, or flip-flops, I suggest you keep a pair of more practical athletic shoes or hiking boots in you vehicle, for when you need them.

7- Maps, a road atlas, and written directions to possible destinations in an emergency (Grandma's house, Uncle Fred's place, etc.) are a good idea. Smart phones, Google maps, and GPS may be temporarily down.

8- Keep your gas tank topped off. I rarely let mine drop to even the halfway mark.

A Note on Children

All kids should learn their full names, address, phone number, and parents' full names as soon as possible, well before kindergarten. Consider getting them "dog tags" to wear with this info, along with blood type, allergies, and import medical info. They should also learn how to call 911 in an emergency. They should start learning first aid early on - various scouting programs are great at this and teaching other skills, so join them up as soon as possible.

Friday, July 15, 2016

How Diabetes Has Changed My Prepping

Last July, I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes, a condition that I likely had for several years without realizing it. I only realized something was seriously wrong after I developed severe eye problems (diabetic retinopathy, with wet macular inclusions). I wrote about this experience back in October. In this article, I want to examine how my diabetes and eye problems have changed my prepping one year later. 

A New Emphasize on Health and Fitness

Having gone trough what I have over the last year, I now have an even greater appreciation for good health and fitness. I've made major changes to my diet and lifestyle aimed at rebuilding my health and improving my fitness. Health and fitness is no longer an afterthought in my preparations, but is now a major foundation of my preparedness activities. Daily exercise is a must. And eating healthy is the goal of every meal and snack. This means that I have done a lot of research on what constitutes a healthy diet and lifestyle, reading a variety of books and articles. Most importantly, I've also kept an extensive food & health journal, recording how individuals foods, food combinations, exercise, and sleep effect my blood sugar, blood pressure, weight, and energy levels.

In my opinion, most preppers and survivalists including myself, treat health as almost an afterthought, preferring to spend their time and efforts on stockpiling food & water, guns & ammo, and other more interesting (and, frankly, easier) activities. Just take a look around at how many preppers still smoke, or are overweight/out-of-shape.

Changes in Food Storage

I've learned that my body cannot handle grains, even supposedly healthy grains like whole wheat bread, brown rice, and oatmeal. Even a small serving of these "healthy" grains cause huge spikes in my blood sugar. Problem: Storing large quantities of grains, pasta, flour, and sugar, as part of your food supplies is a prepper mainstay. But I can't eat bread, pasta, cereal, or sweets. Potatoes are another food that plays havoc with my blood sugar, so scratch dried and instant potatoes off my list of foods to stockpile. What to do?

I have to store more of the foods I can eat. Luckily, beans have only a mild effect on my blood sugar, so I've been stocking up on those, both dried and in cans. But I have to watch the canned beans to avoid those that have a lot of added sugar! I've also been stocking up on other canned veggies, such as tomatoes, carrots, spinach & other greens, and sauerkraut (fermented foods are very good for diabetics). But, again, I have to pay attention to the ingredients because many brands include lots of added sugar!

I'm also increasing the amount of my canned meats, such as chicken, turkey, tuna, and salmon. Meats have no negative impact on blood sugar, as long as there is no added sugar, of course.

I don't use sugar anymore. I either eliminate sugar from recipes altogether, or use Stevia or small quantities of fruit or honey as a sweetener. So, I've been stocking up on Stevia and honey.

Adjustments to Gardening

Gardening is a great way to get exercise, and to get lots of fresh, healthy produce. The adjustment I've made to my gardening this year is no corn (I can't eat grains) or potatoes, and more of the ultra-healthy leafy green stuff, like spinach, lettuce, cabbage, and turnip & mustard greens. I also added broccoli this year, with excellent results. Of course, I've continued to plant tomatoes, beans, squash, cucumbers, zucchini, and other veggies. All those foods are healthy and have only a very mild impact on my blood sugar. (I've never grown wheat or other grains, and now probably never will.)

Some Other Adjustments

My distance vision is back to normal, but I still need reading glasses to read. I've stocked up on reading glasses, buying a dozen over-the-self pair in the magnification I currently use, as well as a few in higher magnification in case my vision worsens later on. In addition to keeping a pair of reading glasses on me at all times (now part of my EDC), I also have extras at my desk, in my vehicles, and in my survival pack (BOB). .

The treatments to restore my eyes (six injections in my left eye, nine in my right eye, plus laser surgery to seal leaking capillaries in my right eye) have thankfully worked, but have left my eyes extremely sensitive to bright light. I cannot go outside or drive without sunglasses, and will sometimes wear sunglasses indoors if its very bright inside. So, I've stockpiled lots of extra sunglasses. I have extras at home, in my vehicles, and in my survival packs.

Although I don't need large print books, as the reading glasses work just fine, I decided to purchase a large-print Bible just-in-case I need it later on... I might look into getting large-print editions of a few other books, too, for the same reason.

I'm currently working an a separate article about what I've learned regarding what really constitutes a healthy diet and lifestyle. It should be posted on my website by the end of this month, so please look for it soon. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Preparedness & Survival: My New Recommendations

Over the last year-and-a-half or so, there have been a number of events that have caused me to rethink my own preparedness and survival plans:
  • A sharp rise of ISIS inspired terrorism (San Bernardino, Paris, Brussels, Orlando, Turkey, etc.)
  • The ongoing "open borders invasion" of Europe by Muslims
  • The ongoing "open borders invasion" of the United States by whoever wants to walk across our southern border
  • A weak (and politically correct) response from most politicians and other "Elites" to those problems 
  • The outright rejection of Capitalism, personal responsibility, and traditional values by many Americans, including a majority of younger Americans, along with the rise in popularity of Socialism, political correctness, and other forms of Collectivism.
  • The frightening example of the failure of Socialism in Venezuela

On a personal level, dealing with health problems (my diabetes and related eye problems which I've previously written about) has also provided new challenges and insights.

My New Recommendations

FOOD IS EVEN MORE IMPORTANT THAN WE THOUGHT

Double your goals for food and water storage. You aren't storing enough. Nor am I. In Venezuela, even formerly middle-class folks have been reduced to dumpster-diving and even eating family pets to survive. The problem isn't just high inflation, or even temporary disruptions in the supply chain. There simply isn't much food to be had for any price. Store shelves are empty, and staying empty. And here's the dirty little secret: food scarcity is even hitting rural areas, as few country folk are fully self-reliant when it comes to food. I am in the process of doubling my food storage.
  
Increase your ability to produce food.  If you have land, even a small yard, maximize your garden space. Plant more fruit and nut trees. Raise chickens (eggs, meat) and/or goats (meat, milk, cheese, butter). Greatly extend the growing season by putting in a greenhouse. Turn your swimming pool into a fish farm. Have very limited space? Get into container gardening. Live in an apartment? Do whatever it takes to move somewhere else, even if you can only afford a small yard. You don't need a lot of land to produce a lot of your own food. Check out the book Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre.

MAKE SECURITY A TOP PRIORITY

Take personal responsibility for the security of yourself and your family. Get your concealed-carry permit if it is legal in your area, and carry! Take a good self-defense shooting course (shooting at a moving target that shoots at you is vastly different from shooting a fixed target at the gun range). Your local gun shop can probably tell you where to get training. I also suggest you double the amount of ammo you have on-hand. Consider learning how to reload, and stock up on reloading supplies. Everyone in your family or group, regardless of their age, should also take a non-lethal self-defense course. Remember that security isn't just about guns & ammo, but also about hardening your home, security doors, dead-bolt locks, exterior home lighting, avoiding bad areas of town, practicing situational awareness, exercising commonsense, and many other things less exciting, yet probably more important, than guns.

Avoid high-density, high-visibility targets. There's a reason terrorists target night clubs, movie theaters, sporting events, bus stations, shopping malls, airports, and the like, especially in large cities and other tourist destinations. There are lots of people to kill, and they will get lots of media attention. Their goal is to spread fear, after all. Depending on where you live, and what your personal habits are, avoiding these kind of targets may require major changes in your lifestyle. I highly recommend you do whatever it takes to Get Out of Babylon!

HEALTH AND FITNESS ARE EXTREMELY IMPORTANT

Food, supplies, guns & ammo, and even skills are ultimately worthless you you aren't healthy or fit enough to use them.  Health and fitness MUST be your number one preparedness & survival priority (your relationship to God is your number one Life Priority).

You and everyone in your family/group should get a complete physical exam within the next few months. Also, dental and vision exams this year for everyone. I've chronicled my mistake of putting off a doctor's visit until I absolutely had to, and it cost me dearly in terms of my health, my vision, and my finances. Learn form my mistake.

Start taking your health and fitness VERY seriously. Learn how to eat right (watch this website for future articles on this topic), and then do it! Stop smoking NOW, if you smoke. Confront any other addictions you may have (drugs, alcohol, etc.). Lose weight if you need to lose weight. Maintaining a healthy weight is extremely important.  Start and exercise routine (routine meaning you do it consistently, not occasionally), even if all you can do at the moment is walk around your neighborhood everyday. Learn your family's medical history (talk to the your family matriarch's - they usually keep up with such things).

See my January article, Steps to Good Health, for more on health and fitness.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

An Overlooked Item for Your Bug-Out Vehicle

Mr. Funnel AF8CB Fuel Filter
An extremely important, but often overlooked, piece of gear everyone should have in their bug-out vehicle is a portable fuel filter, such as the Mr. Funnel portable fuel filters. They come in multiple sizes with different flow rates (examples: the AF1CB filter has a flow rate of up to 2.5 gallons per minute, and the larger AF15CB filter has a flow rate of up to 15 gallons per minute). Clean fuel is the most important thing you can have in your vehicle (or tractor, or generator, etc.).

Portable fuel filters remove water, dirt, and other debris from the gas, thereby protecting the engine from harm. Why would you need to use a portable fuel filter? In a bug-out situation you may be filling up using gas stored in five-gallon cans (or other storage tanks), which may well have developed some water issues due to condensation build-up inside your gas can (any air space inside your gas storage can allow condensation, even if you are using additives such Sta-Bil). You may also be filling up at unfamiliar gas stations that you simply don't know the quality of the fuel. Or, particularly in a slow collapse scenario, the quality of available gasoline may become "spotty" even with brands/stations that you are familiar with, as the infrastructure slowly deteriorates. 

Smaller fuel filters, with slower flow rates (1 or 2 gallons per minute) are less expensive and work best for smaller quantities, such as filtering the gas going into a lawn mower or small tractor. The larger filters with higher flow rates are more expensive but work better for fueling a vehicle with a large gas tank. For example, my Nissan Pathfinder has an 18 gallon tank. A small filter with a 2.5 gallon flow rate would take more than seven minutes for a fill-up. However, a larger filter with a 15 gallon flow rate would only take a little over a minute.

Note: Don't cross contaminate. Use a separate portable fuel filter for each type of fuel. In other words, have separate filters for regular gasoline, diesel, and propane.