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Monday, September 14, 2020

When Unhealthy Air Keeps Me Locked-up, I Turn to Google for DIY Instructions

The wind that we were expecting late Sunday, to scour out the smoky inversion, never arrived. And now, the forecasters are saying we could be in this "unhealthy" to "very unhealthy" air for most of this week. A now-sore throat combined with apprehension about what the smoke could do to my car's engine mean that I won't be going any where, any time soon. I had planned on doing a grocery shop this past Saturday, at which time I'd pick up the chili powder that I need for making more salsa.

In a moment of make-do attitude, I looked up recipes for homemade chili powder. Sure enough, there was a recipe that called for ingredients that I had on hand, primarily the dried chili pods (I use them for enchilada sauce, so I usually have a bag of them in the pantry).

This is what I used: dried red chili peppers, ground cumin, dried oregano leaf, garlic powder, and my handy, ancient (1980s) coffee/spice grinder. 

Following the recipe's instructions, I cleaned out the peppers then roasted them in a low oven before grinding them down. The chili powder tastes delicious, like mild versions of chili powder. The entire process, including rinsing the dried chilis, de-stemming and deseeding, roasting, then grinding took about 20 minutes, tops, and about half of that time I was simply waiting for the pods to roast or cool.

The bonus to making your own spice blends, such as chili powder, is if someone in your household has sensitivities to additives or is on a low-sodium diet, you can often leave those ingredients out. In checking the label on my empty chili powder container, the commercial kind had the following ingredient list: "spices (including red pepper, chili pepper), salt, garlic, silicon dioxide (anti-caking agent)."

If necessity is the mother of invention, then quarantines and other isolations are the mother of DIY via googled instructions.

If you're wondering this is the recipe that I mostly followed for the chili powder.


  1. Lynn from NC Outer BanksSeptember 14, 2020 at 7:03 PM

    Good for you! I would agree that quarantine has sent me searching many times over the last months. Thank heavens for the internet with so much info at our fingertips!

    Just when we think that 2020 can get no worse...all those fires are so frightening. I've evacuated before (hurricane) and I've lost a house to fire before (not wildfires, defective exhaust fan), but I can't imagine having to evacuate at a moment's notice due to fire threat. Chills...please all of you in harm's way be safe.

    1. Hi Lynn,
      Oh, I am so sorry that you've lost a home to fire before. I am guessing that was a very distressing situation. Fire is a scary thing. I am grateful that all we're dealing with is the smoky haze.

      I was thrilled to find such a do-able recipe for the chili powder, and it tastes great. I might just make this regularly from now on.

      Have a lovely evening, Lynn.

    2. Lynn from NC Outer BanksSeptember 16, 2020 at 7:14 PM

      Lili, thank you. It was some years ago, but even now, still kind of hard to believe at times. Although we lost our house, they were THINGS we lost. It happened in the middle of the day so we were all out of the house and safe, as were our pets. These poor people in the western US, having to watch and be ready at a moment's notice-day or night-should the wind change directions to flee...Just can't imagine. I so wish one of the many storms here with us in the Atlantic could be instead in the Pacific to send y'all some much needed rain.

    3. Hi Lynn,
      you have the right attitude about the loss being only things. It may be sad to lose personal treasures, but you were all kept safe and that's what's important.

      Enjoy the rest of your evening, Lynn!

  2. Thank you for another great recipe. Chili powder is no longer a cheap spice. To keep it longer, would refrigeration or freezing be an option? I've stored slightly past expiration spice in the freezer and refrigerator before, and it seemed to keep better.

    So hard to live with smoke and poor air quality. We've had "brush fires" in the mountain behind us almost every summer. Hope rain comes soon.

    1. Hi Laura,
      I freeze large containers of spices to extend their potency, and that seems to work very well. I freeze all but about 2 or 3 ounces at a time, getting out more as I need. For this batch of chili powder, I only used about 1 ounce of chili pods. It looks like it made about 4 tablespoons of chili powder. I can see how commercial stuff would need the anti-caking ingredient. But my homemade stuff was not clumpy in a way that made using it difficult.

      We're hoping for a big rain soon. I hope the brush fires are few and far between this summer on your mountain. Enjoy the rest of your day, Laura!

  3. Lili, I'm not sure what to say except know that my prayers are with you. Glad you were able to find something productive to do. I feel better when I'm doing something useful when I'm in a situation that is out of my control.

    1. Thank you, Kris.
      Things always turn around. I just need to be patient. This morning, the levels had dropped to just "unhealthy." I can tell the difference. My throat feels a lot better today. I read that the smoke is spreading across the country. i hope that it dissipates as it moves that far.
      Yep, staying busy as I can. I made a batch of bread, blueberry jam, blueberry-rhubarb sauce, and started some pickles today. I wear a mask whenever I go out to the garden, so staying safe.
      I believe that the air will improve by this weekend. And that's not terribly far off.
      Have a wonderful evening, Kris!

    2. Yes, we're getting a lot of haze here from the wildfires but I'm sure it's nothing compared to what you've had.

      Your food production sounds wonderful! I made tomato sauce for spaghetti for dinner to use up a surplus of tomatoes (although we still have quite a few). You will appreciate your efforts in a few months!

    3. Kris, I hope the haze that you receive remains minimal. Our air is improving bit by bit. We're now into the "unhealthy for sensitive groups" phase. I picked apples without a mask today, so that's a big improvement. The only masks that are supposed to filter out the smoke are the 95 group masks. We don't have any N-95s, but do have a couple of the R-95s, used for refinishing furniture and using oily solvents. They filter the air pretty well, but are hard to breathe in for extended periods. Anyways, things are turning around. And I did get quite a lot done indoors during the worst of the smoky haze. Like you said, I will appreciate the jams, salsa, chutney and pickles in the months to come.

      Have a nice evening!

  4. I was wondering how you are faring with the fires. 2020 can't end soon enough for me.

    1. Hi Cheryl,
      Thanks for checking in. 2020 has been some year, hasn't it? The hurricanes are also devastating to read about. Up next, the mosquitos! If it's not one thing, it's another. Yes, bring on 2021 and in a hurry!

      Enjoy the rest of your day and evening, Cheryl!

  5. You’re doing great for all you’ve had to cope with! My bff lives in Berkeley and we communicate regularly. The sky pics she sends look the same, regardless of the hour. It’s heart shattering. Lack of federal assistance is beyond comprehension. Please stay safe ❤️

    1. Hi Vanessa,
      Thank you for your thoughts. Oh, I feel for your friend in Berkeley. I hope that the air is beginning to improve in the Bay area, too, as ours is in the PNW. But the California fire season still has a couple of months to go. There has been so much devastation this year.
      This has been such a strange year. When I woke up this morning and saw that the air quality was on an improving trend, I thought to myself, "back to the regular pandemic, now."

      Have a nice afternoon and evening, Vanessa!

  6. Hi Lili (and all the other commentors),

    Just popped in to say HI and stay safe everyone. We traveled to visit our daughter in Ohio and it was pretty hazy the last few days and even on our drive home it sure was hazy. The sun was shining through it all but definitely hazy.

    Amazing how big the US is and how this stuff travels such long distances. Does staying inside mean it's ok to run air conditioning for some kind of air flow? Or a fan through your heating unit for just fan circulation?

    Spices are my thing and I have two good homemade meat spices we use--one for a chicken and one for beef or pork but they generally can be interchanged with all kinds of meat. Making them in big batches is helpful. I sometime get a bit of clumping but I just stir it around with a fork and that seems to work fine.


    1. Hi Alice,
      That's one of the things that I was amazed by -- that this smoky haze could travel across the whole continent.
      Yes, on the AC. If you set it to recirculate, then the bad air won't come in through your system. Some folks are using the fan-only setting on their furnaces, with a new filter in place. We don't have the right kind of filter for our furnace. Ours is washable and too porous, so it wouldn't filter out any bad air. (It seemed like a great idea when we bought our furnace, to have a washable filter.)

      Thanks for your info on the homemade spice mixes. I've been thinking that if the chili powder clumps I'll just break the clumps up. Good to know that will likely work.

      Enjoy the rest of your afternoon and evening, Alice!

  7. I know that clear skies can't come soon enough for you and the rest of the west coast.

    A couple of years ago, my husband got homemade chili powder as a gift. It was a pint jar full and lasted a long time. It didn't clump at all. I'm not sure of the ingredients, but the person that made it is not one to add anything extra to something. Hopefully, your chili powder won't clump either.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      We are grateful, now, for an abundance of rainfall in our area. Clean air is back!
      That's good to know about your experience with homemade chili powder. So far, mine seems just fine. Thanks for sharing.


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