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Monday, August 21, 2017

DIY Protein Bars

Protein bars are a great method to carry food on the go. They can be nutrient dense, inexpensive, easy to pack, and can be customized to almost no end, with flavorings and ingredients so flexible that it can be amazing.

Unfortunately, many commercial bars taste like processed sawdust mixed with a bittering agent, and so are not much fun to eat.

I get around that problem by making my own tasty protein bars.

Basic Recipe
Protein bars are, at their core, plant or animal protein with a binder. Ideally, they are made without any raw animal products in them to maximize storage use; fairly physically robust so they can withstand storage; and have enough food value to substitute for a meal in an emergency.

The meta recipe that I follow for goes something like this:

Ingredients
  • Three parts Protein Powder (I prefer whey-based powder)
  • Three parts Oats
  • Two parts Milk (I like almond, but everything from cow to rice or coconut milk will work)
  • Two parts Nut butter (Nutella or similar)
  • Two parts Coconut oil
  • One part Chocolate chips (for a stiffer bar)

Directions
  1. Melt the coconut oil.
  2. Add the dry ingredients. 
  3. Mix in the milk. 
  4. Bring to a light boil. 
  5. Add the nut butter and other items.
  6. Mix thoroughly.
  7. Pour the bars and shape them on wax paper.
  8. Put them in the freezer for about 30 minutes.
As many of you may have noticed, this is remarkably like the process for no-bake cookies, but with higher protein content and much less sugar. Oats are fairly high in protein (twice as much as wheat), various milks tend to be high in protein, and adding nuts just helps more.

Disclaimer: protein "bar" may be a bit of a misnomer. I find that when I make them at home, they end up in any number of shapes, many of them lumpy. I often use a cookie cutter on them to entice my children to eat them, so don’t feel bad if your bars don’t turn out perfectly the first time.

Variants
Nuts and or seeds can be added for additional protein and roughage. I prefer almonds, since they tend to bake well, and are a nice change from what most people eat, but a variety of nuts (I have a friend who favors macadamia) can be added to taste. I also enjoy pumpkin seeds in mine, but only if I have added chocolate as well.

Chunks of dried fruit are an excellent and tasty addition, and add easy bulk. Adding either these or nuts will help the bars to be more stiff.

Chocolate chips are very tasty, but are often best added after the mixture has been heated, to allow them to remain whole. M&M’s work especially well for this.

Beans (no, wait, seriously) ground into a flour can add bulk. Black beans work especially well, and some people like the flavor.

Storage
The major disadvantage of homemade protein bars is that they do not last as long as commercial bars in storage. There are however, several things you can do to ameliorate this.
  • Using a vacuum sealer can help immensely. The plastic will help to keep the form of the bars, and the vacuum will help keep it fresher longer.
  • Keeping them cool and out of the sun can keep the bars good for quite some time. Properly shaded and vacuum sealed bars have lasted years, and retained flavor and texture.

Good luck, and remember to practice!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #157 - Protests, Pepin & Plasma

"Pepin & Plasma" sounds like a roleplaying game involving podcasting in the grim future.
  • Beth is on assignment and will return soon.
  • A Charlotte man who led police on chase is charged in Valentine’s Day homicide. Why did he run? Sean looks a little closer.
  • Barron is on assignment and will return soon.
  • Miguel puts together a grab bag of thoughts from his Flea Market of Ideas. He talks a little about cops getting denied service because they are armed, about Moms Demand blaming the NRA for car deaths, and about a liberal mugged by the reality of gun control.
  • Our Special Guest this week is competitive shooter and Pro-Arms Podcast hostess Gail Pepin.
  • Tiffany brings her unique perspective to the controversy surrounding the events in Charlottesville, VA.
  • It's just like a woman for Erin to be focused on what people should and shouldn't be wearing in the summer. Her position on white clothing after Labor Day is unclear, but she has some definite thoughts on cotton.
  • NPR held a Round-Table on gun control. Weer’d is here to take on the lies.
  • And our Plug of the Week is the Sparkr Mini by Power Practical.
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript -
Clothing for Hot Weather Survival
There’s a saying among campers, hikers and other survival buffs: “Cotton Kills”. This is because cotton loves to absorb moisture but hates to let go of it. In cold weather, if you get your cotton clothes sweaty, or you fall into water, you will likely become hypothermic if you keep them on because they will stay wet and cold -- but if you take them off to dry them out, you will also likely become hypothermic because you won’t have the insulation of clothes on your skin. 

This is why, if you watch a lot of survival TV, you’ll see people like Bear Grylls stripping naked before swimming through cold water. Yes, it’s uncomfortable, but it’s not like having wet clothing on while swimming would make it any more comfortable. And once on the other side, Bear will dry off with a towel and then put his still dry clothes back on. 

In fact, this is good advice regardless of whether or not you’re wearing cotton, so remember that trick. 

But if cotton kills in cold weather because it absorbs moisture and doesn’t let go of it easily, what about in hot weather? Specifically, what clothing should someone wear in a hot environment if they have to walk to safety?

As I mentioned last week when I answered Amy’s letter, hot weather survival is based on variables. In this case, the biggest factors are humidity and terrain.  If you’re in a dry environment, your biggest danger is from direct sunlight. Keep as much as your skin covered as you can, and cover the rest in sunscreen. Cotton is actually an acceptable choice of fabric for this situation during the daytime, because it will absorb your sweat and the low humidity and high heat will help it dry out. But that’s during the day. At night, it’s a different story. 

You see, hot-but-dry environments are usually deserts, and deserts have a distressing habit of becoming cold at night because there isn’t much in the environment to retain that heat. So the sweaty cotton clothing that’s fine to wear during the day can still result in you becoming hypothermic at night. Your options, then, are either to carry spare clothes that you change into at night, or to wear clothing made from synthetic materials such as Gore-Tex or microfiber. 

These materials are great because they wick moisture away from the skin and dry much faster than cotton does. Not only does this prevent chafing rash, which is why so many exercise fabrics (like Under Armor, are synthetic), but it also makes them excellent choices for hot and humid environments as well. 

Here are the materials you should avoid for hot weather survival:
  • All forms of cotton, including denim. 
  • Rayon, Lyocell, Tencel, and Viscose. 
    • While they are synthetic, these fabrics actually absorb moisture as fast or faster than cotton, and lose all insulation when they become wet. 
These are materials which are good to wear for hot weather survival:
  • Pertex
  • Supplex
  • Gore-Tex
  • Under Armor Heatgear
  • Cool Max
You will unfortunately pay more for these fabrics than you will with cotton. On the other hand, they will protect your skin from the heat of the sun and absorb your sweat without chafing or sticking. 

Regardless of whether your shirt and pants are cotton or synthetic, here are the four pieces of clothing you MUST have for comfortable hot weather survival:
  1. A wide-brimmed hat to keep your face and neck in the shade. Check last week’s show notes for a boonie hat I recommended. 
  2. Shoes which breathe but still protect your feet. There’s no perfect answer here; good protection (like boots) will make your feet hot, and feet which breathe aren’t going to be well-protected (think sandals). Take the terrain into account along with your personal preferences and find what’s right for you. 
  3. Spare socks. Unless you’re wearing sandals, your feet are going to get hot and sweaty. Take it from someone who has suffered Athlete’s Foot: the last thing you want for your feet in hot weather is for them to be wet as well. Change your socks often. 
  4. Spare underwear. This is for exactly the same reason as the socks, only moreso. Trust me, you really don’t want heat rash anywhere near your sensitive bits.
To answer the question on everyone’s mind: yes, companies do indeed make socks and undies in synthetic materials. I suggest everyone who is concerned about hot weather survival buy at least one pair of each.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Why an RV for Prepping?

I probably should have started my RV related posts with this one, but it just didn't “gel” until this week. I'm a simple man, and what I write has to make sense to me before I'll publish it. This part of my journey just wasn't ready to be written before now.

As I think I've mentioned before, I've been camping since I was in diapers - mom actually used to change our diapers at the campgrounds we visited back in the early 1960's. I've spent weeks at a time living out of everything from a sleeping bag with a cover to a Class C motorhome (my recent purchase is my first experience with a Class A). There isn't a whole lot of mystery to living in the outdoors for me any more; I've been through most of what can go wrong at least once in the last 50-odd years. Here are a few of the reasons I recommend looking at an RV from a prepper's viewpoint.

Mobility
An RV is mobile by definition. Being able to hook up to a camper or hop into a motorhome and drive away from a natural or man-made disaster is one of the key selling points for a prepper. My Class A is fine for paved roads and well-maintained gravel roads, but I wouldn't care to take it too far down unimproved (dirt) roads or off-road. A tow-behind trailer hooked to a 4WD truck could get to more remote locations, and offers more options once you've arrived.

Distance
Being able to put distance between you and a crisis situation is important to surviving most emergencies. Hurricane coming ashore? Get your butt to higher ground. Riots making life difficult in your city? Go far enough away that the looters won't find you. One of the bumper stickers I saw on an RV the other day said, “One of the joys of living in an RV is that family can't visit a moving target”.

One of the down sides to RV's is that their mileage sucks. My F250 with a 5.3L engine gets a miserable 15 MPG, but my 32 foot Class A with a Ford 7.5L (460 cubic inch) engine will be lucky to get 10 MGPG. Larger Class As with a diesel engine are on par with city buses and semis, 4-8 MPG. This is why most RVs have at least 50 gallons of fuel tanks installed - to get you a few hundred miles between fill-ups that make your wallet cry.

Comfort
Living out of a pop-up or turtle camper is cramped, but it beats the snot out of sleeping on the ground. I went with a full Class A because of my wife's medical needs and the fact that I prefer to sleep where bugs have a hard time getting into bed with me. Having a supply of fresh water and a way of cooking food makes life easier to bear, regardless of what else is falling apart. Being able to carry our computers and TV with us is a good way to beat boredom, and I'll have plenty of power for the various radio systems that are going to be installed.

Housing
While I don't live in tornado alley, I have friends who do. We might see a twister or two each summer, but they rarely come within 20 miles of my house. Once I get my RV back into shape, it will probably be stored for most of the year at a secure storage lot about 30 miles away, just in case I need to use it if my house were to be destroyed. On the odd chance that fire or a tornado were to hit my family or friends, I have mobile housing that I can offer them until they get their house back together. A medium to large RV would also make a good guest house for visitors (mother-in-law housing), giving them a bit of privacy and control over their lives that may be lacking after a disaster.

Self-Sufficiency
If you're looking for the bare essentials to self-sufficiency, an RV will meet most of your demands. Since they carry their own water, fuel, and electrical generator while providing shelter and storage, they are close to being self-contained; food is about the only thing that they can't provide, but parking one next to a large garden would cover most of that. If you're looking at adding solar panels to your house or bug-out location, setting up a smaller system on an RV will let you work out the little problems before you make a major investment in equipment.

Practice
Do you have family that is new to prepping? Children or a new SO that don't have a firm grasp of what it means to prepare for emergencies? Traveling in an RV will teach them some very important lessons, like how to get by with a limited wardrobe and how to live in close quarters with other human beings without killing each other. Since most of us are going to be storing an RV for months at a time, you'll get to practice winterizing and fuel storage every year. Meal preparation on a small stove using food that has been stored in the RV will be good practice for once you get to your bug-out location and start living off of the long-term storage food you've got cached, and taking a shower with a limited water supply is always a good skill to have. If you've ever thought about the “small house” fad that's been going on for the last few years, consider that most RV's have less than 300 square feet of floor space and still manage to feel comfortable.


I'm getting close to retirement and I've got vacation time to burn, so I got an RV to use while visiting friends and family that are scattered around the USA.  I don't fly any more due to the TSA and various other political policies, so I thought I should at least be comfortable while we're driving around the country. I'll have more articles about my project RV as I start working through the issues that it has - I bought it cheap knowing that it needs a lot of work, and this way I'll get to know it better than someone who just signed the loan paperwork and drove a new one off of the lot. Being able to repair or bypass things is a large part of me being a prepper, so this is both practice and an education for me.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Prudent Prepping: What to Do When Things Turn Ugly

The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Follow along as I build a long term plan via Prudent Prepping.

Given the current political climate, now seems to be a good time to do a review of what to do and how to act if I'm caught up in a 'disturbance.'

I wrote about this last November, right before the polls closed. Things have not changed enough for me to feel safe in the areas I drive, but I do have a much better feel for how I can get through the places I work and back home.

All those points still apply:
  • Plan alternate routes
  • Have places to stay
  • Don't be afraid to turn back at the first sign of trouble. 

What still needs to be covered is...

What to Do If Accidentally Caught in a Protest
First of all, don't be where protests are planned to happen. The protests where the most damage has occurred have all had official permits, issued well in advance. The Public Notice periods usually last for weeks, so there isn't much of a surprise when and where the demonstrations start.

The Most Important Rule: Don't Get Caught In A Riot
Seriously, stay away.

When things get crazy, the police aren't going to care that you just left a birthday party or had to work late. They will have a difficult enough time picking out the rioters from the regular protesters and those who are just there by mistake, so be careful with what you do and how you act. During a riot, you are all potentially dangerous in the eyes of the police. When the the order to break it up and break heads comes, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you are doing there in the first place.

If you have not intended to participate in the riot (which I hope was the plan):
  • Do not interact with anyone. 
  • Don't look at anyone.
  • Try not to have any physical contact with those around you while you walk out. 
  • Do not become a target or get noticed.
  • Just keep moving.

Getting Out
I'm old enough to have been around the riots in Berkeley and Oakland CA in the late 60's and 70's. (Yes I'm really that old.) I can say from first hand experience that old-style tear gas is no fun, and I was only getting a very diluted whiff from two blocks away from the canisters. When things go 'non-linear' it is best to be already on the way to safety. How do you do that?

  • Start walking and don't stop. 
  • Don't run. That will draw attention to you, both from the cops and those around you. 
  • Look for the edge of the crowd and make your way there.
  • If there is a store you can hide in, do that while you figure out an escape route. 
  • Don't pick a high value target as your hideout! That Starbucks might seem inviting, but recent history says that is a poor choice. 
  • Get to the edge of the crowd, but don't try to walk against the flow - that could get you knocked down. Travel at a diagonal to the direction the crowd is going until you get out of the main body, hopefully well away from the agitators and potential violence. 
  • If the crowd is running, that is a bad sign that trouble is right behind. This is about the only time running might be advised, since you don't want to be on the tail end of the crowd and therefore the first to see what caused them to start running!
  • Most importantly, stay calm and work you way out of trouble.

The Takeaway
  • Plan ahead. No one wants to use their spare tire, but everyone should have one.
  • Know what to do if things go bad.
  • Stay calm, don't rush, and walk your way to safety.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Guest Post: Edible Insects

by Almo Gregor


Almo Gregor is a firearm enthusiast and avid hunter. Outdoors activities like hunting and shooting were a big part of his childhood, and he continues with these traditions in his personal and professional life, passing the knowledge to others. Almo is also an editor for Outdoor Empire.


You may notice when watching survival shows or reading survival articles that there is a huge focus on food. Some are for entertainment purposes; it is more engaging to watch a person hunt a wild pig with a spear than to watch them find a clean water source. However, some of that focus is legitimate because when your body goes too long without food, it starts to eat itself as an energy supply.

This starts with the fat reserves and moves on to muscle mass. Within a few days, you start feeling weak and clumsy. Then the body starts attacking organ tissue, including brain matter. Your body starts to hurt all over, you become confused, and memory loss is quite common. All of these side effects of hunger can greatly diminish your ability to survive. When you cannot remember how to find your way back to camp, or you decide to take your chances on eating a poisonous plant, the results can mean death.

So what's the most efficient way of getting food?
  • Hunting burns a lot of calories, can be dangerous, and has very low rates of success. 
  • Trapping allows you to set a trap line and just spend a few minutes each day checking that line. The odds of success are not huge, but at least you are not spending all day tromping through the woods.
  • Fishing is often a good option for collecting protein, but it can mean getting into the water and that is not a risk I will take in many environments. 
  • That leaves gathering, which has always been primitive man's preferred method of finding food. 
The toughest part about gathering food is finding the nutrients that your body needs the most. With some basic knowledge of plants in your area, you can find plenty of leafy greens, root veggies, nuts, and berries to fill your belly. The problem is finding the proteins and fats that your body needs to survive. Most plants found in the wild have very small amounts of calories, protein, and fats. Foods like fruit, berries, and nuts can help offset this, but most people need a larger source of protein.

Insects can be the answer.

Introduction to Eating Insects
While this idea takes a period of adjustment for some people, keep in mind that most of the earth’s population eats insects. Insects are seen on every continent including Antarctica. It is estimated that there are three billion insects for every one person on our planet, so they are a food source that cannot be ignored. There are roughly thirty million species of insects that have been classified, and roughly 1900 of those can be eaten by humans.

During my last survival challenge, I brought two of my nephews (Jay and Dre) with me. They are 10 and 11 years old, and are a bit more open minded than most of the adults that I know. I wanted to give them exposure to different food sources while in the wilderness, so I brought along pemmican and hard tack so they could try some preserved survival foods. We caught a small bass in our gill net and we found a small turtle, so we already had some protein.

But I wanted them to become open to gathering as well. I found a few large black ants and popped them in my mouth. The boys seemed disgusted, but I explained that this variety of ant tasted a bit like Sweet Tarts candy. Jay was eager to try them out and agreed with me, on the taste but Dre was more hesitant. I finally got them both eating insects and felt like we were making progress.

General Rules
When you decide to start trying out some insects, be aware that there are general rules for which ones are safe. You should always know the specific insects found in your area, as the species found can vary greatly from one area to another. However, following these rules in any environment can help keep you from getting sick.

Avoid Bright Colors
Bright colors on an insect such as red, orange, yellow, and blue are a warning. These colors are there to stand out in nature and warn animals that they are off limits. Eating insects with these colors is a good way to ingest toxins that can make you sick. Stick to insects that blend in with brown and green colors.

Avoid Fuzzy Insects
When you see lots of hairs or spines on an insect, they are often there to distribute toxins. They are also an obvious warning to other animals to stay away.

Avoid Foul Smells
You may not realize it, but your sense of smell is designed to keep you from getting sick. As with most cases in nature, it is a good idea to avoid anything that has a foul smell, as this usually indicates bacteria or toxins of some kind. Do not eat any insect that has a foul smell.

Avoid Flies and Mosquitoes
Any insects that spend time around stagnant water or feces should be avoided. Insects like flies and mosquitoes carry diseases that can kill a human, so avoid them at all costs.

Avoid Slow-moving Insects in the Open
If an insect is hiding or flies away as soon as you come close, they are probably safe to eat.
However, insects that are poisonous know that they are poisonous and do not have to flee. They can walk slowly wherever they want to go and know that most animals will stay away.

Remove Stingers
Bees, wasps, and even scorpions are okay to eat, but only after the stinger is removed.

Cook Your Insects
Cooking insects kills any bacteria or parasites that could make you sick, so if you have the ability, do so. Certain insects like grasshoppers can give you parasites if not gutted and cooked.

Soak Worms Before Eating
You can consume underground creatures such as grub worms and earth worms, but their digestive systems are full of dirt. Soak them in water overnight to purge their system before eating.

Specific Critters
There are certain edible insects and other critters that can be found in most of the world. Here are some that you are likely to find anywhere.

Ants
There are numerous species of ants, and all are edible. You can break open an ant hill, or shove a stick into the hill and eat the ants off the stick.  

Bees and Wasps
These are both edible if the stinger is removed. Many cultures roast adult bees, and their larvae are delicious.

Butterflies and Moths
They can be eaten as adults or as caterpillars - but avoid caterpillars that are red, yellow, or orange!

Centipedes
They have a nasty bite when alive, so cooked is better. They can get to be very large and are eaten as street food in China. Remove the head before eating.

Make sure you know the difference between centipedes and millipedes, because millipedes are poisonous.

Cicadas
They are not around every year, but on the years they hatch, they are best when still young and soft.

Roaches
Contrary to popular belief, most roaches in nature are clean insects and are fine to eat... but avoid any found in urban settings.

Crickets
There are companies which cook crickets, grinds them into flour, and makes energy bars out of them. Crickets are eaten all around the world, and are one of the most popular edible bugs.

Earthworms and Grubs
These are high in protein and iron.

June Bugs 
These have some size to them, and both the adults and larvae can be eaten.

Mealworms 
I have seen these sold in roadside stands on the west coast. They are roasted and then tossed in spices to flavor them. I tried the BBQ ones; they were pretty good.

Pill Bugs 
These are also known as "Roly Polys" and are closely related to shrimp.

Grasshoppers
These can contain parasites, so pull off the head and the guts that come with it, as well as the wings and legs. Once cooked, they are a good source of protein and calcium.

Scorpions 
Be careful catching these guys - some are deadly - but they are edible once you remove the stinger. 

Slugs
It is common to find slugs in gardens. They carry parasites and also sometimes eat plants that are poisonous to humans, so they must be gutted and cooked.

Snails
Considered a delicacy in French cooking, they always seem to be cooked in white wine and butter.  I have eaten escargot on a few occasions, first trying them in Zurich, Switzerland, and have since ordered them whenever they are on the menu. They need to be gutted as well. 

Tarantula
Most people just eat the legs, but the whole spider is edible. They get to be very large so they can make a good meal. Be careful of their urticating hairs, so cook them before eating.

Termites
These are typically eaten raw. Like ants, you can break into a hill or you can put a stick in there and fish them out. Very high in protein.

In Conclusion
When you are literally starving and need calories and protein to keep going, do not forget about insects. However, I suggest you get over any apprehension before your life depends on it.

The next time you go hiking or camping, find some edible insects and cook them with your meal. Try to get your family involved, too! It will make life so much easier if you are ever in a situation when these critters become a primary food source.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Argument for Chocolate


I swear, as I write this I can actually hear the readers asking “This is about prepping, not some frou-frou Cosmo article. Why are you bringing up chocolate?”

Well, I have several good reasons. Hear me out.

Argument 1: Macronutrients
Chocolate generally contains a lot of “instant on” energy in the form of carbs and fats, which may be necessary in an emergency. Calories are needed in general if you have to hike out of a disaster, and having calorie-dense foods is important. Fats are important for a number of other reasons, and (for myself at least) one of the most important factors in a disaster is being able to take medication without getting sick - ibuprofin, for example, causes less stomach irritation when consumed with fats and other lipids.

Argument 2: Micronutrients
One cup of milk chocolate chips (such as in trail mix) contains 13 grams of protein, 26% of your daily magnesium intake, and 21% of your daily iron intake, all of which are used in abundance if you are in a physically stressful situation such as bugging out. In addition to that, chocolate contains vitamins B12 and B6, which are energy transport molecules that allow more efficient use of the caloric reserves already inside you. Things like 31% of your daily minimum calcium needs and 17% of your potassium are simply a bonus, since lacking either of those can cause muscle cramping.

Argument 3: Emotional
Chocolate is fun. It tastes good, it packs an emotional punch, it makes a useful trade good, and in a pinch it can keep children quiet. It crosses cultures, nations, and language, and is enjoyed the world around. Chocolate can provide an immense emotional boost to those that consume it, allowing them to continue just a little longer, be just a little nicer, and keep up just for a bit more, be they a border guard who you need to be just a little bit more friendly,  or you when you're just having a hard day,

Types of Chocolate and their Benefits
Once you've decided to keep chocolate in your preparations, you'll find that you face three primary issues: choosing the type of chocolate, acquiring the chocolate, and storing it.

Milk chocolate is the most commonly consumed chocolate in the US. It is higher in calcium, protein and B-12 (an energy transport molecule, often used in energy drinks) than dark chocolate. It comes in a massive variety of forms, from chips to candy bars, and is often easy and fairly inexpensive to purchase right after major holidays (such as Christmas) as long as you aren't picky about quality. It makes an excellent trade good since everyone is used to it, and most people enjoy it in trail mixes, bar form, or “Kisses” (a small individually wrapped chocolate candy).

Dark chocolate has more carbohydrates (sugars, or instant fuel) than milk chocolate does. It also has more iron and magnesium, which are both used by the body during exercise such as extended hiking or weightlifting. It comes in almost as many forms as milk chocolate does, and is almost as available in the US. It is not as popular as milk chocolate, but because many people are quite fond of it, it can still be used as a trade good. It makes a better cooking chocolate for many dishes, partially because there are fewer competing flavors than milk chocolate, and can be substituted for milk chocolate in cooking by addition of milk products, such as canned milk or powdered milk. Dark chocolate is also useful for those who are lactose intolerant or have milk protein allergy, since it can often be acquired without any milk products in it.

White chocolate is not the same kind of chocolate as milk or dark chocolate. It is usually made from cocoa butter, sugar, and milk solids, and the taste is quite different from milk or dark chocolate, with a “lighter” flavor. It is actually higher in calcium than milk chocolate, as well as vitamins B-6 and B-12, and slightly higher in fat, but it also lacks theobromine (a caffeine-like chemical that most chocolate contains). It is available in much more limited forms than either milk or dark chocolate, but it is still usually available in grocery stores. It is much less popular than milk or dark chocolate, and so makes a poorer trade good, but because of its makeup it can be more readily used as a sweetener for hot drinks than some other forms. It can also be used as a substitute for some people who are allergic to dark chocolate, as they may not be allergic to the proteins in the white chocolate.

(A note from the author: I have found that people who do not like dark or white chocolate will often enjoy taking one piece of dark chocolate and one piece of white chocolate and eating them both at once, giving a flavor similar to but not the same as milk chocolate).

Purchasing Chocolate
Most people reading this will simply go out and purchase chocolate bars at their local grocery store. There is nothing wrong with this. Chocolate with stuff in it tends to be in either bar or “lump” form. Often the contents are fruit or nuts, but there are several popular candies with wafers in them.

The nutritional breakdown will change according to what is in the chocolate, as will the storage and usage conditions. Chocolate-covered almonds are fairly popular, and contain a lot of protein and calcium compared to most other types of chocolate. Peanut M&M’s are protein heavy and designed to be more shelf-stable than other forms of chocolate. If you decide to go with this form of chocolate, your individual tastes and needs will heavily dictate what is best for you.

Baked chocolate products (brownies, cookies etc.) are commonly available, and are often in shelf-stable individual packaging. These will usually have a lot of flour and sugar added, so they are high in carbohydrates, but are therefore a poor choice for diabetics and similar. They are however useful for people with small children since they are less messy (not mess-free, sadly) than other forms, such as bar chocolate.

(There is a planned upcoming blog post on how to make your own shelf-stable chocolate products.)

Hot chocolate gets its own category because it is the only shelf-stable form of chocolate drink I could find that did not weigh a lot for the amount consumed. Hot chocolate is easily obtainable from individual packets to  bulk containers and everything in between. It can be used for making treats on the road, bribes, trade goods, and a number of other options. It is typically a powder, but there are also solid blocks of it you can purchase, often sold as “Mexican hot chocolate”.

Nutella (and other chocolate spreads) are surprisingly hardy on the road, making them very nice for longer term preps. They come in shelf-stable long term packaging, and name brands (such as Nutella and Jif Chocolate Hazelnut Spread) come in small containers that will fit into jacket pockets. They tend to go well with all sorts of things, and can make a dandy improvised dessert on their own. They can often be purchased in individual servings, and spread well with plastic utensils. The biggest downside is the potential mess, which is especially an issue with children.

There are also many other forms of chocolate for anyone who wants themsuch as UHT chocolate milk (a milk chocolate that has been stabilized with special packaging and high heat), chocolate dust coated almonds, baking chocolate, and even freeze dried ice cream. They all come with advantages and disadvantages.

Once you have decided on what type, remember to add it to your shopping list. Since chocolate (depending upon type and storage conditions) stays good for five years or longer, you should wait until it is on sale after a major holiday in order to save on the purchase price.

Storing Chocolate
That said, there are a lot of other options that you should be considering. What are the storage conditions you have? Is the chocolate going to live on top of a refrigerator (typically slightly warmer than surrounding environment), or on a shelf, or in a cool, dry place? All of these storage conditions effect what kind of chocolate will store well.

For warmer conditions, you may consider something like M&Ms which were originally designed for use by troops in wartime conditions so that they would have comfort food on hand without special storage. For cooler conditions (most of the northeastern US or Canada), you may want larger chunks such as whole chocolate bars or leftover chocolate from holidays such as chocolate Santas or rabbits.

If you are like me, and find yourself tempted to simply snack on it, I find that a zip tie on the bag will keep me from eating it out of boredom. I can still break it by hand, but it takes extra effort. When I can, I vacuum seal the bags.

Bloom/Temper
Please note that chocolate can form a whitish coating under certain circumstances, otherwise known as “bloom”. This does not mean the chocolate has gone bad! If the chocolate is not off in smell or taste, it is probably fine.

Bloom is often the result of moisture in the atmosphere or a slightly heightened temperature. This can also effect “temper”, or the hardening process the chocolate undergoes. Though the texture can be poor, a melted chocolate bar that has been re-hardened is just fine to eat, and can often be salvaged for use in cooking and drinks.

The Fine Print


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