Archives for May 2011

Meatless Monday: Posole

tomatillos and radishesTomatillos and the first Radishes from my garden

This recipe definitely fits with my desire to eat a Meatless Main one day a week and to save money while doing it. However, it does get a big FAIL for trying to eat local. You see, all the ingredients I purchased at a local Hispanic grocery store, where most of the ingredients are imported from Mexico. I was lured in by the .39/lb tomatillos. I just haven’t seen that price anywhere else in town. Plus, if you are buying tomatillos – you are probably making something that requires other ethnic ingredients. And the best/cheapest place to buy ethnic ingredients? The ethnic grocers. I paid under $5 for all the ingredients for this meatless Posole!

The crazy part of ethnic grocers? You can find them practically anywhere you live. I found when we lived in Witchita Falls TX, there was a huge Vietnamese population and a great Asian grocers. Whodathunk? So if you’re trying to save on your grocery bills, try taking a look in your community for an ethnic grocers. I think you’ll find great prices.

PosolePosole with Garnishes

 

POSOLE

1 t Olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

2 garlic cloves

1 1/2 t cumin

1 t kosher salt

2 C hominy (about a 26 oz can if you don’t make your own)

1 lb tomatillos, chopped

1 head napa cabbage, chopped

4 C chicken broth

2 bay leaves

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook about 5 minutes, or until the onion is soft. Add the cumin and salt and cook another 30 seconds. Add the hominy, jalapeno and tomatillos and cook while stirring for another minute. Add the cabbage, stock and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to simmer, and cook another 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaves. Serve the soup in bowls and offer any/all of the following garnishes: thinly sliced radishes, thinly sliced green onions, chopped jalapeno, chopped cilantro, guacamole, and/or sour cream.

Linked to Tasty Tuesday

and SoupaPalooza

Kill Weeds Organically

How to Kill Weeds Organically

I’ve been experimenting with different ways to get rid of unwanted weeds – organically.

Weeds are not the fun part of keeping a garden or having a yard. Pulling them can be a pain in the…back. Literally. Enough so, that it’s tempting to turn to the strong stuff. The last two times I’ve been to the garden center, the Roundup has been flying off the shelf! Roundup is toxic. Roundup comes with a warning label. Roundup is a curse word in most green circles. So, Roundup is definitely not for the organic gardener. Not to mention, that stuff’s not cheap! Go Green and Save Green with these organic methods for ridding your yard and garden of weeds:

The first method to organically rid your yard of weeds is to spray the weeds with vinegar. I added straight vinegar to a spray bottle and went to town on the weeds that are coming up in the rocks by my front sidewalk.

Weeds Sprayed with Vinegar

As you can see, it does work….to a degree. I feel like I inflicted some damage but failed to deliver a killing blow. I think it would require mass amounts of vinegar to knock these guys out! I’d reserve this method for small scale weed problems.

The second method to try to kill weeds organically is to use boiling water.

Weeds Killed Using Boiling Water

Using a tea kettle, I brought water to the boiling point, then poured it over the weeds. **Here’s a little helpful hint for you – water poured from a high distance tends to splash your feet. Boiling water does not feel good on your feet!** But look how well it worked! I was very impressed with this method. The biggest downfall is that it requires a lot of water – so it involves several trips to the stove. But, if your weed problem is minor – give this method a whirl!

Finally, use an organic weed barrier to kill grass that is growing as a weed.

Grass Invading Mulched Area

I have grass where I don’t want grass. In fact, we pulled out a huge section of lawn and xeriscaped the area. However, no one seems to have informed the grass that it is no longer welcome in these sections of the yard. I spend hours pulling the grass out week after week after week. Not this year. This year I’ve formed an organic barrier using biodegradeable material I had on hand. Since the material is biodegradeable, I do know that I will be doing this job again. But instead of needing to pull the grass again in another week, I won’t need to redo the organic weed barrier again for several years. Oh yes. That is more like it!

Newspaper Barrier

First, I raked the mulch away. Then I covered the grass and soil with cardboard and newspapers.

Mulched Weed Barrier

Then I replaced the mulch.

That’s it.

Simple, yes?

The weed barrier will keep the grass from coming back and I haven’t had to purchase any expensive weed barrier material or add anything toxic to my yard. This method gets the triple thumbs up in my book!

Have you used any organic methods to kill weeds? What has worked for you?

No-Cake Cake Pops

No-Cake Cake Pop

My oldest daughter received the Cake Pop book from Bakerella for Easter. Have you seen the Bakerella site? Take a peek – I’ll wait here. Are those not some of the cutest creations ever? No doubt: that woman is beyond clever!

But here’s the deal. The cake pops are made from a mixture of a store bought cake mix and store bought frosting. {Confession time: I eat my fair share of store bought cake mix and frosting, so I’m not trying to get preachy, just healthy!} And I couldn’t help but feeling there had to be a healthier alternative. Maybe not a health food per se, but perhaps a creation where all the ingredients were something I recognized. So I came up with these No-Cake Cake Pops. And believe me. The YUM factor is still in there!

PLUS, as an added bonus, it uses up a bunch of the FREE oats I got all winter long. Between using Quaker coupons at the commissary and using a Mambo Sprouts Natural Grocers coupon for 2 FREE lbs of organic oats for every $30 spent in the store, we have a lot of oats we got FREE hanging out in our house. I’m desperate to use them in something beyond my morning bowl of oatmeal – which I’m getting pretty tired of!

No-Cake Cake Pops ~ Makes around 4 dozen dependent on size pop you form

2 C Sugar (Date sugar works well here if you don’t do regular sugar)

1/4 C Cocoa

1/4 C Butter

1/2 C Milk

2 1/2 C Oats

3/4 C Smooth 100% Peanut Peanut Butter

2 t Vanilla

1 Fair Trade Chocolate Bar

Lollipop Sticks

Combine sugar, cocoa, butter, and milk in a saucepan. Stir well. Cook over medium until mixture comes to a boil; boil 1 minute. Stir in oats, peanut butter, and vanilla. Mixture will be fairly heavy and stiff. Wait until it cools slightly. Form No-Cake Pop balls around lollipop sticks. Let cool thoroughly. Heat chocolate bar in the microwave. Dip No-Cake Pops in the melted chocolate. Let cool and try to resist!

If you try these, let me know what you think!

Linked to Tasty Tuesday

Eat Food in Season: May

Strawberry
by sigusr0

It’s approaching. Can you sense it? Summer. It’s almost here. Do you know what it is bringing? Fresh, ripe, flavorful produce.

Here’s the produce that is in season in May:

Apricots – It can be difficult to find a ripe apricot in the grocers. Once ripe, they need to be eaten right away, so most apricots that get to market are not quite ripe. If all you can find is under-ripe apricots, store them in a paper bag on your counter until they do ripen up. I haven’t seen these in the stores yet, have you?

Blackberries – Here’s a great hint for finding a good pack of any kind of berries – check the pad underneath them. If it is heavily stained, pick another pack. Blackberry season will peak in mid-summer, so if you have a berry habit, you can find them for the next few months! Berries are another extremely perishable fruit, so plan to eat them right away! (as if we could resist)

Cherries – Sweet cherries are for eating out of hand, sour cherries are best turned into pies and other delightful goodies! Look for bright, shiny cherries. You can store these in the fridge, but they really should be eaten quickly to avoid spoilage.

Corn – Look for green husks that aren’t dried out. Take a peak at the kernels to make sure they are plump. Corn can stay in the husk in the fridge for quite a while. However, they will start to lose their sweetness – which is probably why you bought them in the first place – the promise of sweetness. A quick word about corn: This is one of the most genetically modified crops out there. This is truly one crop you want to either buy organically or from a grower you know.

Strawberries – Again, the berry season is just starting, so we can plan on a few more months of delicious, abundant berries! If you have the chance to taste before you buy – like you do at the farmer’s market – I’d advise it. Nothing is worse than a red berry that promises sweetness but fails to deliver. If you can resist eating them all in the first day, tuck them in the fridge to store them.

Watermelon – Finding the right melon can be a matter of luck, more so than skill. I’ve tried every method – the thump, the sniff, the shake, the slap – and still I have mixed results. If you do get lucky to get a perfectly ripe melon, store it in the fridge. Otherwise, let the melon hang out on the counter until it ripens up.

What tricks do you have for finding ripe berries or melons?

Mango Lime Jam

Mango Lime Jam

Last week, when I did the Safeway weekly deals, I mentioned if you wanted to see what I did with the .33 mangoes, to head to my Facebook page. There I had the picture of everything I canned over the weekend. On that post, I had a request in the comments to please share the recipe for my Mango Lime Jam, and I’m happy to do so! PLUS ~ Mangoes are still .33 at Safeway through Wednesday, so you can still “put up” some of your own for the best price of the year!

The other main ingredient in this jam is the limes. For my limes, I went to Rancho Libra – a local Mexican specialty grocers. I’d never shopped there before, but their ad had limes priced at 2 lbs for .99! My impression of Rancho Libra? Great prices on some of the ugliest produce you’ve ever seen. 🙂 I think we are all so accustomed to the perfectly polished and waxed produce of the larger grocers. But despite the blemished outsides, the fruit was still ripe and delicious. I plan to pop in there again for produce – particularly when cooking Mexican dishes! (or, if I plan to make a lot of gin and tonics!)

Finally, a bit of encouragement. If you have never canned before, believe me when I say it is ridiculously easy. I just started canning with a vengeance this year and am loving all the sweet and savory results. If it is your first time canning, please refer to the Ball preserving page, where they have great information.

On to the recipe!

MANGO LIME JAM

8 lbs of mangoes (approx. 9 mangoes)

1 lb granny smith apples (these are for the pectin)

2 C sugar

1/3 C freshly squeezed lime juice (I had small limes – so I went through about 9)

3 T freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 large)

1. Peel, pit and chop mangoes into large chunks. Quarter the apples, discard the core.

2. Sterilize 8 half-pint jars and keep them hot in the canning pot. Put the lids in a small, heat proof bowl.

3. Put all ingredients in a large pot over medium heat. Bring up to a simmer. Cook 20 to 30 minutes or until thickened. The mixture will not be a gel, but it will feel heavy to stir and will be thick. Remove the apples and discard or put to another use.

4. Ladle hot water from the canning pot over the lids. Remove the sterilized jars, making sure to pour the water back into the pot. Place the jars on a towel.

5. Ladle the mango lime jam into the prepared jars, leaving 1/4 inch headroom. Use a damp paper towel to wipe the rims of the jars, then put a flat lid and ring on each jar, making sure the ring is only on fingertip tight. (finger tip tight means screw on the lid lightly with your finger tips, and when the jar starts to turn instead of the ring, it is tight enough. Too tight does not allow the steam to escape.)

6. Return the jars t the water, making sure the water covers the jars by at least 1 inch. Bring to a boil and boil 5 minutes to process. (You will need to adjust the processing time based upon your altitude.)

7. Remove the jars to a folded towel and leave alone for 12 hours. After 1 hour, you will want to check the seal on your jars by pressing down on the lid. If it can be pressed, you did not achieve a good seal. You will need to refrigerate and use within the next week or two. Otherwise, after 12 hours, wipe under the ring with a dry cloth, then tighten the rings back on. You can store these jars for up to a year!

Have you ever canned before? What are some of your favorite recipes?

Linked to Simple Lives Thursday and Tasty Traditions

Spring Cleaning: Wash Your Wool Sweaters

A step-by-step guide on How to Wash your Wool Sweaters
Yes! You can hand wash your wool sweaters and save a bundle over dry-cleaning!

Yes. I am suggesting you hand wash your wool or cashmere sweaters.

I know they have a “Dry Clean” only tag on them. But, if the first material listed on your sweater is either “wool” or “cashmere” be assured they can be safely hand washed.

Too chicken to try it?

That’s ok. I started hand washing my sweaters years ago after I picked up a load of dry cleaning and it cost us $80.

$80 is a nice dinner out with my husband. With dessert. And wine.

Not to mention, although I use a “green” dry cleaner (with a drive through!), dry cleaning isn’t the most environmentally beneficial service out there. I like that I save $ and lessen my impact. So, maybe try it on one of those sweaters that you aren’t overly attached to? I think you’ll be pleased with the results!

So what do you think? Ready to give it a try?

Here is what you need:

Step One to Wash a Wool Sweater:

Wash a Wool Sweater

Fill a large sink with water that is a little cool to the touch. Not cold. Just a bit cool. Add 1 Tablespoon castile soap.

Step Two – Swish:

Step 2 Wash a Wool Sweater

Swish the sweater around. Make sure you aren’t squishing or pulling or otherwise destroying any of the fibers.

Gentle is the key.

Got something stuck on? I put a little soap directly on it and just gently try to work it off.

Drain the water and refill the sink with the same cool temperature water.

Squeeze the sweater to get the soap out.

Repeat as often as necessary.

Step 3 – Squeeze in a Towel:

Step 3 Wash a Wool Sweater

Drain the water off your sweater and give it a few gentle squeezes. Lay it out flat on a white or light colored towel.

Step 4 – Roll in a Towel:

Step 4 Wash a Wool Sweater

Place another towel over the top of the sweater and roll it up. You will be amazed at how much water this absorbs.

Unroll the towels and place the sweater on a fresh, dry towel.

Shape the sweater by lying it flat.

It should look like it did in step 3.

Leave the sweater out to dry.

You actually want to find a place out of the sun, so it doesn’t fade.

This happens to be the hardest part of this process for me. To find a place where I can leave a few sweaters out of the way. If you have a card table lurking someplace, I find it handy to pull it out and use it to place a few sweaters on.

There you have it! How to Wash your Wool Sweaters!