Minimalist Hurricane Prep, Part 1

A hurricane is coming! Quick! Freak Out!

If you watched the news on Hurricane Irma recently, you have been led to believe that the entire state of Florida was being evacuated.  In fact, only the barrier islands and a couple blocks inland were evacuated.  As you can see from the map below, the actual number of people evacuated is tiny.

Evacuation Map of Palm Beach County

Evacuation Map of Palm Beach County

The media would gloss over it, but every now and then the Governor would say, “If you don’t need to evacuate, you should stay where you are.”  So the vast majority of Floridians should have stayed where they were.

There is a season for Hurricanes

Unlike earthquakes, which seem to be random, Hurricanes only occur during Hurricane season, usually from September through November.  During the Summer, the Atlantic Ocean warms up above 80 degrees Fahrenheit.  This creates the conditions necessary for the development of hurricanes.

The nice thing about hurricanes is that you get more than a week’s warning that they’re coming.  Now up until this year, most people ignored hurricanes until about 48 hours before they hit.  Then there would be gas shortages and people would strip the grocery stores of food and water.  This year, with Irma, people started freaking out more than a week before.

The bottom line is that the right time to prepare for a hurricane is before hurricane season.  In fact, National Hurricane Preparedness Week is the second week in May.  But I know you’re a procrastinator like me, so I’m declaring June 25, Heymanator Hurricane Preparedness day.  So let’s look at how you can be prepared to live without power.  In this article we’ll talk about some creature comforts: food, phones, and tablets, and fans.

Your Refrigerator/Freezer will stay cold for at least 2 days

For some reason, the vast majority of my friends seem to think that if food has softened at all in the freezer it should be thrown out.  So let’s review a little thermodynamics.

  • Your freezer is usually around 0 degrees F
  • Your fridge is usually around 40 degrees F.
  • Water freezes at 32 degrees F AND melts at 32 degrees F.

This means that, if still have a single formed ice cube in your freezer, then your freezer did not go higher than 32 degrees, and your food is safe!  On average, an unplugged refrigerator should keep cold for about 2 days.

Even if you have a generator, you don’t need to run it 24/7.  Running it for 2 hours twice a day should be enough to keep your food perfectly cold.

Strategies to make the most of your Fridge/Freezer

Before the storm

  • If you have a lot of space in your freezer, fill up jugs or bags of water and freeze them.
  • Identify items that can be sacrificed in case of power failure (for example that ham hock you’ve planning on making into soup for the past 2 years.)
  • Get out some old blankets.  Once you lose power, you can put them on top of the fridge to insulate it.

After you lose power

  • Take the ice cream out of the freezer and eat it.
  • Put your milk and other easily spoilables into the spot in the freezer opened up by the ice cream.
  • Cover up the fridge with the blankets to increase its insulation.

You don’t need a generator

If you have a car, you already have all the generator you need to power your refrigerator (and charge your cell phone and tablets).  All you need is an inverter.  The average energy star refrigerator will draw somewhere between 150-200 watts when running, but takes 750-800 watts when starting up.

SO… you’ll need at least a 400 watt inverter (most inverters can handle a surge double their rating, although YMMV), but it’s safer to go with an 800 watt inverter.  The important thing to remember is that a car’s cigarette lighter socket will only allow ~150 watts to be drawn.  Try to run your refrigerator through it, and you’ll likely blow a fuse.  Instead, you’ll need to use alligator clips to attach the inverter directly to your battery.

But before we get to the nuts and bolts, let’s talk generalities.  An idling car or SUV uses about 0.2-0.5 gallons of gas per hour.  So if you run your car for two hours twice a day to power your refrigerator, then you’ll use between 1 and 2 gallons of gas.  This isn’t quite as efficient as a dedicated generator, but then again, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper to buy a $50 inverter and make $15 cables than even the cheapest generator.

And you can take the inverter with you on your next road trip and use it to do all sorts of fun things in the car like let your kids play Xbox.  Or make coffee while camping because you were too lazy to learn how to use a French Press.  And let’s not forget that an inverter is much smaller and easier to store than a generator.

So, after the storm passes you by, you…

  1. pull your car out of the garage,
  2. pop the hood,
  3. leave the car running,
  4. connect your inverter to the battery using the cables,
  5. run a heavy duty extension cord to your refrigerator.
  6. While you’re at it, maybe you should charge up your iPad, Kindle, phone, and maybe your laptop too.
  7. Heck run some fans to help keep you cool maybe this cheap personal fan running 35 watts max or this whole room Vornado fan running 65 watts max.

When you’re done running your refrigerator, you can unplug it, turn your car off, and keep charging your cell phones and ipad.

Note: when running your refrigerator, take the covers off.  Then put them back on when you’re done.

What Inverter should I get?

Pro tip: get a 1×4 that’s long enough to lay across the hood of your car/suv.  Then mount the inverter to the board.  Wrap some old t shirts around the ends of the board to protect your car’s finish from the board and prevent it from sliding.  Now when you need to use the inverter, you won’t have to balance it on top of the engine.  You just lay the board across the car after opening the hood.

What kind of inverter should you get?  Steven Harris (whose advice much of this article is based on) recommends the following brands/models.  He particularly likes the Whistler because supposedly it can handle double its rated power draw for up to 10 seconds.  But it’s a little pricier.  Yes, these are the same brands that make radar detectors.

Note that when using 800 – 1600 watt inverters, you’re going to need to use much heavier gauge wire and keep the wire as short as possible (<3 feet).  Either 0 or 2 gauge wire is recommended for 1600 watts, and 0 gauge if you’re going above 1600 watts.  It’s cheapest to buy the wire by the foot from Lowes or Home Depot, and then put ring connectors on them yourself (or buy something like this).  None of the 800 watt and up inverters listed come with wires.

Can you please sum this up? tl;dr

  • Get an 800 to 1600 watt inverter
  • Get a heavy duty extension cord (without lighted ends is better if you’re planning on using the inverter with the car off.)
  • Run your car for 2 hours and use the inverter to power your stuff.
    • Start the refrigerator first by itself because it draws more power when starting up.
    • Once it’s running you can plug your other stuff in.
  • After 2 hours, unplug the refrigerator and

Note: you can use this method to run your TV and Cable box too but ONLY do that when the care is running.

In the next installment of this series, I’ll talk a bit about generators.

Acknowledgements.

I first learned about this technique from The Survival Podcast interview with Steven Harris.

The Amazon links in this article are affiliate links, and if you buy through them, I’ll get a small commission.  If you’d prefer to support Steven Harris instead of me, you can go through his links at Solar1234.com or you can support Jack Spirko (The Survival Podcast) by buying through his Amazon links.

Perfect Potato Wedges

The key to great potato wedges is not to wedge them.  Instead, slice them.  That way the pieces are uniform thickness, so they’ll be the same done-ness throughout.  I get pretty much perfect results using this recipe/technique every time.

Ingredients:

  • Russet  potato
  • Oil of choice (I like to use cooking spray as the potatoes don’t stick as much with it)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Other spices as desired

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Slice the potato into approximately 1/4 inch slices
  • Spread/Spray small amount of oil on a small sheet pan.
  • Sprinkle oiled pan with salt.
  • Place potato wedges on pan and press into oil.
  • Spread/Spray a small amount of oil on top of the wedges.
  • Salt, pepper, and use any additional spices (rosemary would be nice)
  • Bake for 15 minutes, then flip the wedges and cook an additional 10 minutes*.
  • Remove, and allow to cool long enough not to burn your mouth.
  • Serve and eat.

*10 minutes works 90% of the time.  If the slices are thicker than usual, or if you live at high elevation, try letting them go for another 5 minutes.  The tops should be brown.  If you see the tops blister, then pull them out; they’re done.

Calories/Macros

When I used to make this with coconut oil or olive oil, I used about half a teaspoon of oil.  With the cooking spray, the bottle is anywhere from 0-5 grams lighter after using it.  Either way, you’re talking probably less than 3-4 grams of fat (30ish calories).  So the vast majority of calories come from the potato.

Even a massive 350g potato only has 62g of carbohydrates and 260 calories (including a bonus of 7g of protein).  Compare that to 350g of French Fries (using Wendy’s fries as a comparison) with 1192 calories (partly because cooked potatoes have less water).  Okay, let’s do an apple to apple…uh…potato to potato comparison.  If you eat the same amount of carbohydrate (62g) of French Fries, you get 475 calories.

So the potato wedges have about 200 calories less than an equivalent amount of fries due to the lower amount of fat.  This let’s you eat more chocolate!

Swiss Chard au Gratin

Swiss Chard au Gratin

Who knew that Swiss chard was amazingly awesome and delicious?  I didn’t…until we got some from one of those “meal box” services.  So I had to cook it, and it turned out to be so good that I’ve made the dish four more times.  So without further ado, here’s the recipe.  I’ve modified it to have slightly less fat (as I prefer to eat mine in the form of chocolate).

Ingredients:

  • One bunch Swiss Chard (rainbow or single color)
  • 8 oz of cubed butternut squash (we use the frozen organic stuff from BJs)
  • Onion or shallot diced
  • One clove garlic minced
  • 2 oz shredded gruyere cheese
  • 1/2 cup of milk (preferably whole)
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • Thyme
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  2. Cut the stems off of the Swiss chard and chop into pieces about the same size as the squash or onion
  3. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet.  Add the chard stems and onion and a large pinch of salt.
  4. While the stems and onion saute, slice the chard leaves into smaller pieces (I usually go about 1.5 – 2 inch squares)
  5. When the stems and onion has softened, add the garlic, and thyme.  Stir until squash begins to soften.
  6. Add the huge pile of chard leaves and more salt.  Turn until it wilts (about 2-3 minutes)
  7. Stir in the gruyere and milk. Turn the heat to low and allow to thicken a minute or two.
  8. Taste the sauce.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Transfer the mixture to a small casserole dish and top with panko bread crumbs.
  10. Cook covered for 10 minutes and then uncovered for 5-7 minutes until bread crumbs are brown
  11. Remove from oven and let stand about 5 minutes before serving.

You’re welcome.

I usually eat half the recipe.  Macros on this are approximately:

  • 365 calories
  • 16g protein
  • 36g carbs
  • 19g fat

And yes, you just ate half of that enormous bunch of greens.  Don’t you feel so healthy?  Almost virtuous.

Earlier I mentioned that this came from a food box service.  Jen and I have tried several of these including HelloFresh, Blue Apron, Sun Basket, and Plated.  By far, my favorite one is Plated where this recipe came from, and the top photo is from their recipe card.  Apparently there’s no way for me to refer you to them and get credit for it, so this post is free of commercial interest.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Who doesn’t like chicken tortilla soup?  Nobody.  That’s who.  So let’s make some delicious high protein, soup.

Step 1.  Make start with my Taco Shredded Recipe
Step 2. Make the soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1-2 cans green chiles (these or these)
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes (28 oz)
  • 3 tbsp masa (more for a thicker soup) (Masa is corn flour, NOT corn meal.)
  • 2 ancho chiles (dried poblanos)
  • 2 guajillo chiles
  • 1.5 lbs taco shredded chicken*
  • 1 can corn (Or 2 cups frozen corn)
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • Cilantro
Note: I usually make it with a pound and a half of taco shredded chicken for Jen and add extra chicken when I serve it for me.  But you could start with more chicken if you like.

Directions:

  1. Sweat onion in 1 Tbsp olive oil (medium heat with a pinch of salt until soft and translucent)
  2. Add garlic and sweat another minute or two (don’t let it burn)
  3. Add green chiles and allow the juice to evaporate a bit before doing the next step, or it will clump.
  4. Add masa and stir until evenly coated
  5. Add tomatoes and then pour in chicken stock and being to a boil
  6. Rip up chiles and toss them in (or cut them with scissors)
  7. Add chicken
  8. Turn down to a simmer for 10 minutes
  9. Add corn, simmer 10 more minutes
  10. Add lime juice
  11. Salt and pepper to taste
  12. Serve with tortilla chips, cheese, sour cream and cilantro (Nonfat Greek Yogurt works pretty well instead of sour cream if you just have to up your protein)
 And voila!  Or should I say Olé!  Chicken Tortilla Soup fit for a king with macros to boot.

To log it in MyFitnessPal,

1. Create a recipe
2. Log all of the ingredients
3. Measure the total volume of soup in cups or mL or whatever you use.
4. Now when you serve it up, just log the number of cups you dish out.
5. Log extra chicken and garnish separately.
Stir Fry Chicken

Stir Fry Chicken

Here is one of my go to recipes for a high protein, low calorie meal.  One of the most challenging things that a lot of people just starting on higher protein diets face, is that’s actually quite difficult to eat enough protein.  A lot of people end up relying on protein shakes to get enough protein.  Others find themselves choking down dry, tasteless chicken breast.  When I first started flexible dieting, I was supposed to eat 160g of protein and often found it hard to get enough protein in while enjoying it, until I came up with this solution.

Here’s a recipe that makes a large amount of chicken breast taste amazing and features a large amount of vegetables in an equally satisfying format.  For a little while I was eating this every single day.  The main reason I stopped is that it takes a while to prep, and personally, I like it fresh—not left over.  I still eat this once or twice a week, but I’ve switched to Taco Shredded Chicken for my daily protein intake due to its easier prep.

Recipe Ingredients

  • Chicken breast (variable amounts; depending on what else I’m eating that day, it’s usually 300 – 450 g raw)
  • Coconut oil (1 tsp)
  • Garlic powder to taste
  • Assorted Vegetables (some common choice for me
    • Onion
    • Bell peppers of various colors
    • Broccoli
    • Zucchini
    • Cucumber
    • Carrots
    • Celery
  • Sauces of choice (some fun choices
    • Teriyaki
    • Soy Sauce (with or without honey)
    • Sriracha
    • Lime juice and lemongrass

Directions

  1. Chop the vegetables and weigh each one (for logging in myfitnesspal).
  2. Cut the chicken into small pieces or strips and season with a small amount of salt
  3. Heat a 1/2 teaspoon of coconut oil over medium heat and saute the chicken with as much garlic as you like.
  4. Just before the chicken is completely done, hit it with some sauce.
  5. Put the chicken in a bowl and set aside
  6. Add another 1/2 teaspoon of coconut oil to the pan and saute the vegetables.
  7. When the vegetables are still al dente but almost ready, hit them with some sauce.
  8. Return the chicken to the pan and stir.
  9. Plate and eat.

That’s pretty much it.  You can eat it as is or serve it over rice if you want to up your carb/calorie count.  I usually use about 3/4 cups (cooked) of jasmine rice.  If you want to kick the flavor up a notch, add the rice to veggies.

Chicken Stir Fry for the Whole Family

Chicken Stir Fry for the Whole Family

Macronutrients for this meal.

A typical meal of say 400g of chicken, 150g of zucchini, and 100g of carrots (with the coconut oil) is:

  •  560 calories
  • 97g protein
  • 14g carbs
  • 9g fat

The same meal with 3/4 cups of cooked jasmine rice is

  • 710 calories
  • 100g protein
  • 48g carbs
  • 10g fat

That meal will satisfy you for several hours and set you up very nicely to have a whatever you want for dinner and have 300 caloaries left for dessert.  (Well, that’s what it does for me anyway.)

What if I need to cook for my whole family?

No problem. You do everything the same except that you need to do some 7th grade math (ratios and proportions).  Say that you’re going to cook 800g of chicken for the whole family, and you need to eat 300g of chicken.  That gives you a ratio of 300:800 or 3:8.  You just apply that ratio to each ingredient to log it in myfitnesspal.  To figure out your total serving, when the whole dish is done, weigh the entire amount of food, and apply the same ratio to the total weight.

If that explanation was too difficult, I’ve created a spreadsheet that you can just fill out.  Fill in the total weight for each ingredient, the total weight, and your desired serving of chicken (raw), and it will automagically calculate everything for you.

Taco Shredded Chicken (now easier)

If you listen to any Hollywood “body transformation” stories, one common theme you’ll hear is people being tired of eating “boiled chicken breast”.  The thing about chicken breast is that it’s very low fat and has no carbs in it, so it’s almost all protein.  The problem is that it doesn’t have much flavor has a tendency to dry out easily.  Even if you’re on a relatively “low” protein diet for a fitness person (0.82 – 1g per pound of bodyweight, at 175 pounds, you’re still eating between 150 to 165 grams of protein daily.

That’s a lot of protein, and chicken breast is one of the easiest ways to get that protein, even if it’s not the most fun.  This particular recipe makes boiled chicken delicious, moist, and easy to eat.  I first learned about it in this particular form Jack Spirko of The Survival Podcast, although the basic concept is quite common.  Basically you’re making crockpot chicken breast, and then shredding it.

Ingredients

  • 2 – 4 pounds chicken breast (if you use more, you’ll probably need more of the other ingredients)
  • One jar of salsa (I usually use Trader Joes green tomatillo salsa, but feel free to experiment)
  • Juice of 1-2 limes (if you want to up the ante, add the zest one of them)
  • 1-8 garlic cloves
  • Chili powder to taste (I usually do 2 tablespoons; Jack’s original recipe uses “taco seasoning”) (see instructions below for an easier method than making your own chili powder)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste (I usually don’t use salt here, and add it to whatever I use the chicken with)

Chili powder the easy way

I used to make my own chili powder Altona Brown style.  Now I just toss the component’s into the crockpot

  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika.
  • As a bonus toss in some dried  chile’s like Ancho and guajillo. (I do 2 of each)
  • Optional: cayenne pepper or Chipotle

Instructions:

  1. Turn the crockpot on high.
  2. Dump the jar of salsa, lime juice, garlic cloves, and chili powder into a large crockpot.  Stir together.
  3. Optional: Wait about 5-10 minutes until the mixture is hot
  4. Place your chicken breasts in the crockpot, and make sure they are coated with the mixture.  One easy way to do this is to put them in upside down, and then flip them over.
  5. Cover with lid (very important; crockpots don’t work right if you forget this step)
  6. Wait 4 hours.  Remove Lid.
  7. Remove the chicken from the crockpot and shred with two forks.
  8. Dump the rest of the liquid mixture on top of the chicken and mix until even.
  9. Done.  Use as is or refrigerate for future use.

So what are the macros on this thing?

95% of the calories come from the chicken breast, so I completely ignore the calories from the salsa.  A jar of Trader Joe’s Salsa Verde has about 110 calories in it, and you’re spreading it out over 3-4 pounds of chicken, but if you really want to track every calorie, knock yourself out.  To figure out the calories

  1. Weigh the raw chicken.  Let’s say it’s 1560 grams.
  2. Once the chicken is cooked, and you’ve added the liquid back in, weigh it again.  Let’s says it’s 1740 grams.
  3. Divide the raw weight by the cooked weight, and you’ll get a decimal.  In our case 1560/1740 = .8965 or round it to .9.
  4. WRITE DOWN THAT NUMBER!
  5. Now let’s say you want to use 400 grams of chicken breast for a recipe, just divide 400 by the number in step 3.  400/.9 = 444 grams.  That’s how much of our final prepared product you should weight out to get 400 grams.
  6. Log 400 grams of raw chicken breast in MyFitnessPal (or whatever you use.)

So how do I use this stuff?

Use it like chicken.  Eat it.  But in case you’re imagination deprived, here’s a couple quick meals:

Shredded Chicken Bowl

This kind of mimics the main ingredients of a Chipotle Burrito bowl (minus the sour cream and corn).  It has a huge amount of protein in it, and when you see this in the bowl, you’re going to think, “there’s no way I’m going to finish all that.”  It’s a great first meal, because it’s high in protein with moderate carbs, and relatively low fat.  It’ll provide a large proportion of your daily protein intake while leaving you tons of calories for the rest of your day.  To reduce the carbs and calories you can leave out either the rice or the tortillas.  If you want to up the fat a bit, use tortilla chips instead of tortillas.

Calories and Macros:

  • Calories: 937
  • Protein: 114 grams
  • Carbohydrates 82 grams
  • Fat 15 grams

Ingredients:

  • 400 grams of chicken breast (raw weight using the calculation technique above)
  • 3/4 cup of cooked rice
  • 1/2 cup of canned black beans
  • One ounce of sharp cheddar cheese
  • 3 small corn tortillas

Mix the first four ingredients together.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Eat along with the tortillas.

Shredded Chicken Omelet

This doesn’t really look like an omelet or taste like one, but it has egg in it, so…whatever.  This is kind of the opposite of the recipe above.  It’s got a relatively small amount of protein, almost no carb, and a decent amount of fat.  You could reduce the fat by leaving the butter out, but why would you want to.  It’s a great “small meal”.  You could also leave out the butter and egg and use the mixture to make chicken and cheese quesadillas.

Calories and Macros:

  • Calories: 456
  • Protein: 49 grams
  • Carbohydrates 2 grams
  • Fat 28 grams

Ingredients:

  • 100 grams of chicken breast (raw weight using the calculation technique above)
  • 10 grams of butter (I prefer Kerry Gold)
  • 2 slices of reduced fat cheese (44 grams; I use Finlandia variety pack from Costco.)
  • 2 eggs

Melt the butter in a pan over medium and cook the chicken until it begins to dry out a bit.  (Personally I hit the chicken with some extra chili powder for extra flavor.)  Place the 2 slices of cheese on top and wait until it melts.  Use a spatula to mix the melted cheese through the chicken.  Scramble two eggs in a glass along with some salt to taste.  Pour the eggs over the chicken and immediately begin stirring the egg throughout the chicken so that’s it’s evenly dispersed.  Turn the heat to low, and once the egg is mostly congealed, form a flat chicken/egg patty and allow to cook for about 30 seconds.  Flip and allow the other side to cook to desired doneness.  Serve.