Monthly Archives: December 2008

Ready or Not #29: Take Advantage of Sales

Christmas is over and a new year is coming. You won’t be starting your New Year’s resolutions until tomorrow and so for your New Year’s celebration you can make a bunch more goodies. (It has been scientifically proven, by me – sort of — that any calories that you ingest on New Year’s Eve won’t follow you into the new year…really).

The one thing that I like about all of the new candy recipes and goody recipes, that are posted on my web site www.apreparedhome.com, is that everything can be taken right from your food storage. Nothing calls for fresh food – all of it can be stored for extensive amounts of time — even the butter. I try to buy my butter and margarine when it is on sale for a really good price and then keep it in the freezer. If I forget to take the butter and/or margarine out ahead of time to thaw for a recipe, I have found a really easy way to make it usable without having to use a microwave; just use a grater. And you thought that graters were only for grating cheese.

Another good thing about making candy and goodies this time of year is that the grocery stores have caught on and generally have what you need on sale so that you can buy a year’s worth to build up your food storage and to save money at the same time. Sugar is a really good example of this and so is butter. I found butter on sale for on $1.49 a pound the other day! Yes, I bought a bunch because all of the other butter was for $3.00 and $4.00 a pound! Do the math – I saved a lot of money and I have butter for a whole year (or margarine, whatever you prefer, or find on sale.)

Soda pop is also a terrific buy right now. I bought 20 2-liter bottles for only .69 cents each! Compared to the usual $1.29 price, I saved over $12.00! Translated into food storage talk, that would be enough money to purchase a 25lb. bag of sugar and 50lbs. of salt! Have you noticed that I have been using a lot of exclamation points? Get prepared and SAVE MONEY!!!

I know that money is tight right now, with the economy slowing down and Christmas just getting over with, but that is an even a better reason to take advantage of bulk buying sale items to get prepared. Santa brought me two cases of tuna fish and my husband two cases of Minestrone soup. But you don’t have to wait until next year for Santa to start helping you with your food storage – you can do that on your own starting right now.

With all of your resolutions this year, please make building your food storage and getting prepared right at the top of your list and then work on it on a daily, or at least a weekly basis. If you do, you will truly have a happy and prepared New Year.

In the meantime, try this food storage friendly recipe and go to our recipes for more wonderful candy recipes given to me by a wonderful friend Judy (and not one of them uses beans!)

LICORICE CARAMELS

1 can sweetened condensed milk ¼ t. salt
1½ c. light corn syrup 2 t. (or less) anise (licorice) oil
1 c. butter 1 t. (or less) black food color
2 c. sugar

Lightly spray or butter a 9” square (or 7xll”) baking pan – glass is best. (Update: can line with sprayed foil, then lift out after they’ve set up.) In a heavy 4-quart saucepan, combine condensed milk, corn syrup, butter, sugar and salt. Place over medium heat and stir with a wooden spoon until well mixed.

Cook, stirring constantly to 235º or 236º. Remove from heat and stir in flavoring and food color and blend well. Without scraping, pour into prepared pan. Allow to stand at room temperature several hours. Cut and wrap. Be prepared for black teeth when you eat them!

(Visit our Recipes page for more candy recipes.)

Ready or Not #28:Prepared in the Car and at Home

Last week, I went shopping after work. Why after work when I’m tired and I just want to get home? Well, there was a very good reason. It was going to storm on Friday, my day off, when I would normally do my shopping and running around. Am I just a wimp and don’t like to brave the cold? Absolutely! That and I’m not a risk taker and I just don’t want to take the chance of being stuck somewhere in bad weather.

This brings up a good point about being prepared – whether you are home or on the road. Are you prepared for bad weather? Do you have some winter boots in the trunk of your car? How about an extra blanket? Not just a small silver emergency blanket, but a nice warm quilt that you don’t need on your bed anymore. How about an emergency kit? Does it have chemically activated hand warmers in it? Do you have a nice warm knitted beanie cap? How about an umbrella? Umbrellas aren’t just for rain you know; they can also be used for protection against piercing winds and heavy snowfall. What kind of gloves do you have in your car for an emergency? Gloves may make it easier to use, but did you know that your hands will actually stay warmer if you are wearing mittens? It’s true because your fingers share the warmth with each other.

I ask these questions because these are the same questions that I ask myself each time that I drive anywhere in bad weather, especially on cold mornings (the weather forecaster on my computer said that is was 12 degrees Fahrenheit, but that with the wind chill that it really felt like 4 degrees – I believe it!) I can say yes to all of these questions except for the mittens. All I have are gloves, but my goal is to get a good set of mittens just to leave in the car.

Just because I am staying home does not mean that I am exempt from the cold or disasters that might strike. Power outages here and there are playing havoc on several states back east and there are thousands of people who are without power – and they are pretty darn cold and miserable. Ask yourself some questions to see if you are prepared for a winter freeze. Do I have an alternative heating source? Do you have enough fuel for your alternative heating source? Is my alternative heating source and fuel safe (very important question)? Do you have enough variety of food on hand that you don’t have to go out shopping, or would you be forced to go on a diet? DO YOU HAVE WATER? Do you have a reliable form of communication if your cell phone battery goes dead? How about medications? Can you survive for a week or more if you were unable to go to the pharmacy?

We have such extreme temperature fluctuations in Utah that we need to be prepared for, both hot and cold — the cold just has my undivided attention right now. Please make sure that your car is really ready and full of gas when you go somewhere. Make sure that your house can truly be a place of refuge, no matter what, and make sure that you are fully prepared mentally, physically and spiritually – those three elements will help make any disaster more bearable. And to make life in general more bearable check out the Homemade Hot Chocolate recipe and stay warm deliciously!

English Toffee

I can’t go another Christmas without sharing my mom’s English Toffee recipe. I have such good memories of she and my dad and us kids making lots and lots and LOTS of toffee every Christmas season when I was young. One year I thought that I was living in a candy factory – it was heaven. We even had a second fridge that its sole purpose (at least during the Christmas season) was to cool the candy. As soon as the candy could be broken up, the cookie pan was recycled and the process started all over again. We had no less than eight or nine cookie sheets in use at any one time. If ever there was a time that I came close to chocolate and toffee overdose, it was then.

English Toffee
1 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup water
8 oz. milk chocolate candy bar (a good quality milk chocolate bar, the thin ones are the best)
½ cup chopped or ground walnuts

Combine butter, sugar and water in a heavy saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Then cook uncovered, while stirring constantly (very important), until mixture darkens slightly, about 290 degrees. You don’t want to overcook because it will get too hard, but if you undercook it, it won’t set up.

Pour onto a buttered cookie sheet (use butter not Pam) and let the toffee mixture spread out to about a ¼” or slightly less. Immediately lay broken pieces of the candy bar, evenly spaced, over the top of the hot mixture. Carefully spread the chocolate over the mixture as it starts to melt, and sprinkle the top with ground walnuts. It is helpful if you pat the walnuts lightly into the melted chocolate so that the nuts won’t fall off when you serve the finished product.

Cool in the refrigerator. (You can cool it on the counter, but it takes too long for me. I’m too impatient.) Break into serving size pieces, but be careful when doing this because sometimes the chocolate will separate from the toffee. If that happens, don’t stress – it is still edible.

If you will notice, ALL of the above ingredients are food storage items, including the water (two gallons of water, per person, per day for a two-week period) and it is a fairly easy recipe to make and it is certainly a mood lifter. Even if it doesn’t turn out perfect the first time (don’t worry it will), the results are still incredibly tasty.

The other thing that I like about this recipe, and this time of year, is that it brings the family together. All of the family can help make this recipe even the youngest member of the family can butter the pans. Doing activities as simple as cooking and creating together helps families grow closer together. Having strong relationships and a good network of people who care about you and your well being is vital in truly being prepared. Hopefully you are part of a close network and you support others too. That is the greatest gift of all – giving the gift of self.

Merry Christmas everybody.

Ready or Not #27: Christmas Tree Ornaments

One of my first memories of Christmas is making Christmas tree ornaments. Not your mother’s “I’ll treasure this little aluminum foil star/toilet paper roll tube forever” kind of ornament, but the “This is not going to last until Christmas” kind of ornament. Every year when we were young, we made our Christmas tree decorations out of sugar cookie dough. After using our reindeer, bell, angel and star cookie cutters, baking the cookies and letting them cool off – for maybe all of five minutes, we would then smear different colored frosting all over our ornaments. After decorating them with sprinkles or colored sugar crystals, we would wrap them up in cellophane and hang them on the tree. It was beautiful!

I don’t think that I have ever seen a more beautiful tree since – it was very colorful and very full – we didn’t hold back on the ornaments. I don’t care what theme your tree is, the cookie Christmas tree theme is the best, and the tastiest. Of course it was only completely decorated for the first day. After that the decorations would start to mysteriously disappear. Within a week the only decorations that were left on the tree was the popcorn that we had strung and the cookies that were “so high” – above the approximate height of the tallest child (me). It’s no wonder that I love Christmas, and I got presents too!

If you want to start this tradition in your home, here are two really good Sugar Cookie recipes to get you started.

Sugar Cookies #1
1 cup shortening (or ½ cup shortening and ½ cup butter)
1 cup sugar
3 ½ cups flour
1 ½ tsp. vanilla
3 eggs
2 tsp. baking powder

Cream shortening and butter together. Gradually add sugar and continue to mix until completely creamed. Add eggs and beat well. Blend in sifted dry ingredients and vanilla. Roll ¼ inch thick. Cut the size or shape you want (reindeer, bell, angel and star), place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in 350º oven for 8 minutes. Cool, decorate and hang.

Sugar Cookies #2
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
4 to 4 ½ cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
4 tsp. baking powder

Cream together butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla. Sift the dry ingredients together (I don’t take the time, you can) and then mix into the creamed mixture. If too dry, sprinkle with a little water. Roll out about ¼” thick with floured cookie cutters. Bake at 375º for 6 to 10 minutes.

Try both recipes and see which one you prefer – I’ll happily eat either one of them.