Archive for June, 2010

June 25th, 2010

Organic tomato fertilizer

This past weekend, I got to spend some time with my dad, for Fathers Day.  I always try to make a big production out of these “holidays” but, really, all our dads want is to spend time with us.
I got lucky this year.  My dad sat in one place for a total of 90 uninterrupted minutes.  You want to know why?  The World Cup!  My dad lives and breaths soccer and watches it almost everyday.  He played until he was about 50 years old and then had to resort to coaching, due to back problems.
We had a lovely breakfast of french toast and soft boiled eggs.  It was cute because my Dad and I would eat soft boiled eggs almost every morning before work and school.  I think I liked eating them because of the tools involved.  Cute little egg cups, little egg coozies, and teeny tiny spoons to dig out the soft whites oozing with rich yolk.
It’s should never surprise me that I always go home a little wiser because of something my parents told me.  I showed my dad a picture of my new garden and I was so proud of it and thought I was doing everything right.  Just by looking at the picture my dad said, “you need to loosen up that soil so the water can absorb better.”  I thought to myself, duh, I should have known that. As I’ve been watering my garden, the water just stays on top for awhile, due to a crust that formed.  So, I did just that.  I loosened all the soil by all my plants and they are being quenched a lot faster and hopefully it results in heartier plants.
I take my Dads (and Moms) advise because his gardens are very fruitful and well fertilized.  His tomato plants were already as tall as me!  My parents have always thrown their egg shells on their gardens.  I always thought this was unattractive and never thought of the reasoning behind it.  Tomatoes, especially, need calcium and phosphorus so they don’t rot out prematurely.  Egg shells are perfect for this since it contains both, and insures the soil will have enough nutrients to produce a healthy plant and fruit.  So, I’ve been saving my egg shells and grinding them up (it looks nicer) to make an egg meal, and sprinkling them around the plants.  This is a great way to reduce and reuse.
I spent the rest of my time, while my parents were tending their gardening, berry picking.  I was with my dad when he bought the very raspberry plant I was picking from.  We were both standing among the plants, just eating all the berries we could find.  I never thought I liked raspberries until then.  I always hated the artificial raspberry flavored drinks and candies when I was a kid.  This just goes to prove, you can’t mess with nature!  My Dad planted the bush on the south side of the house and it pretty much took over.  I stood among the thorny bushes, picking the most perfect, sun warmed raspberries I could find.  There seems to be nothing better!
Once I picked the bush ,of all the ripe berries, clean, I moved on to the neighbors black raspberry patch.  I began doing this in a swim top, hoping to get a little more sun than just on my face, but got a bunch of bug bites and few sticks from some thorns.  I ran inside, got a one piece snow suit and boots on and went for it.  I  now FULLY appreciate every berry I eat from the store now and gratefully swallow the $5 price tag because these little gems are hard to pick and among being delicate, you need to dress in full body armor just so you don’t get attacked by their surrounding defenses like thrones and mosquitoes!
I ended up collecting about $15 worth of wild berries and I will enjoy every one of them.  I will appreciate the antioxidant boost they will bless my body with and I will never complain about the price again and I will savor every bite of the warm, juicy flavor that only God could come up with!
It was a nice weekend and I learned that just being there, listening and learning is what really makes up those special memories with my parents!
June 3rd, 2010

Chocolate Chip Granola Bars (Better than those store bought ones)

When I was a kid, I thought I was making a healthy snack choice if I ate a “chewy” granola bar.  You know, it’s got oats in it, that’s healthy, right?!  Little did I know, as a kid, that they are loaded with sugar, high fructose corn syrup and other additives.

Marketing geared towards kids is extremely deceptive.  I think there really needs to be strick regulations on commercials aired during children’s tv.  In my opinion, they should have commercials that only promote real foods, like fruits and vegetables. Nothing should be promoted with added sugar, artificial colors or artificial preservatives.

I was watching an episode of Martha Stewart, and she had a guest on that made granola bars that had no allergens in them.  They looked so good, just like the ones I got from the market when I was a kid, and it looked super easy.  I, myself, do not suffer from food allergens (that I know of), so when I set out to make these I wasn’t set on making them allergen free.

Instead of vegetable oil, I used organic virgin coconut oil, which does not store in the body as fat, but as energy, since it contains medium-chain fatty acids.  It stimulates the thyroid, and is great for people with thyroid issues.  It also has natural anti-bacterial properties and can be used as a natural “Neosporine” , thanks to the lauric acid it contains.  It is a myth that virgin coconut oil contain harmful saturated fat;  this is because it contains around 50% lauric acid.

I also used organic unrefined brown sugar, and raw honey.  I couldn’t find organic, mini chocolate chips, so I just chopped up organic dark chocolate.

These were so good, and brought me back to that great childhood treat.  They were even better than those because there was a slight hint of coconut from the oil.  If you want them chewy, leave them out at room temp.  If you like it snappy and crunchy, keep them in the refrigerator.  I cut them into bars and wrapped them so they wouldn’t melt into each other.   They were so easy to make and so good, you won’t buy those “chewy” granola bars again!

  • 1 3/4 C instant oats
  • 1 1/4 C crispy brown rice cereal
  • 1/2 C chocolate chips or chopped semi sweet chocolate
  • 1/3 C lightly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 C raw honey
  • 1/3 C virgin coconut oil
  1. mix the oats and brown rice cereal together in a bowl.
  2. in a medium pan, add the oil, honey and brown sugar.
  3. heat the sugar until it all foams/boils together (about 1-2 minutes).  If you don’t boil it long enough nothing will stick together.
  4. once the sugar/oil mix comes together, add it to the oat mix and stir until it’s completely mixed.
  5. lay it out in a square 8×8 pan (if you use coconut oil, you do not need to spray the pan) evenly, but do not push it down evenly, leaving the crannies for the chocolate to sit in after the oat mix cools off a bit.
  6. add the chocolate once the oat mix cools off a bit and push down to smooth it out.
  7. refrigerate to speed up the cool off.  Make sure it comes to rooms temp before cutting into bars.

Don’t worry about how long they keep, they won’t be around too long! Adapted from Nonuttin‘ granola bars from Martha Stewart.

*You can also add chopped, toasted nuts, and dried fruits for a great addition.
*If your granola bars are not sticking together it could be 1 of 2 things…the sugar oil mixture did not boil long enough or you used too much oil. Refrigeration also helps.

June 2nd, 2010

Steel Wool: The forgotten secret weapon against burnt-on food messes!

I was experimenting with a low-carb pizza this weekend, which left me disappointed, and with baked-on mess that I thought would take me days to clean…

A lot of people think that when you have a burnt-on mess, or a baked-on greasy mess, you need to soak it for hours and hours.  This, in my case, is not true.

I grew up using the good ol’ stand-by, Comet™.  I would stand at the sink, scrubbing away, inhaling that odd bleach-y smell.  My dad would actually wash his hands with it when he came home from work (he is a plumber).  It’s funny how the smell of wet,  iron-y metal reminds my of my Dad, standing at the sink, scrubbing his rough, dirt-embedded hands, whistling a happy tune.  I love that my Dad came home from work whistling. He loved/loves his job.

Since Comet™ is not a green, eco-friendly product, I no longer use it.  It contains ingredients like bleach, that harm aquatic life and their eco systems and our ground water, when washed down the drain.  So, I reached for the humble steel wool.

I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that this pan took hardly any effort and it was a bear cinch to clean.  It was hard work. When I would come home from school as a kid (with my brother), my mom had a list of chores for me, written out on a piece of paper, placed on the counter above the dishwasher.  I loathed those notes!  One time, she told me to clean our kitchen sink, which was porcelin, and to use a lot of “elbow grease“.  She came home to a dirty sink and scolded me for not completing my chores.  I told her that I looked all over but couldn’t find the the elbow grease!  I can’t imagine that she stayed mad for long, because her little daughter actually believed there was a product called “elbow grease!”  I still don’t know why someone hasn’t come up with a product with that name.  She proceded to tell me what elbow grease meant, and I was quickly disappointed that this meant that I had a tough job ahead of me.

I scrubbed the pan with a little soap, a little water, and a little sweat “elbow grease” and it came out better than any chemical would have cleaned it.  My point is, don’t waste time and use lots of chemicals to get your metal pans clean.  Sometimes we overlook the simple solutions.  Steel wool works great and it’s something I’ll always keep under my sink.

( After reading this post, my husband told me that his “elbow grease” would have gotten those dark crevices clean. Maybe some peoples “elbow grease” is a little stronger than others! )