Stone Garlic “Press”

If you’re a lover of kitchen gizmos like garlic presses but just haven’t enjoyed the clean-up factor, get yourself a big stone to use in your kitchen. Skip that gizmo that’s a pain to clean up, is going to eventually break, doesn’t give you all the garlic from that clove since it gets stuck in weird places, and simply use a pestle-shaped stone instead.  I’ve used one in my kitchen for 10 years now and I couldn’t live without it. In Nepal, my friends use stones in their kitchens: One flat one and one cylindrical one for crushing, mashing, and grinding either garlic, chili peppers, whole grains or whole spices. I brought a stone home with me and would recommend you look for one, too. Maybe there’s a pestle-shaped on out in the woods, in your garden, or on the bank of the nearest river or stream. Think cave man, not Pottery Barn. One hit on the garlic and it’s peeled. Another smash and it’s crushed. Easy.

Leftover Wine And Fruit Scrap Vinegar

Wine aficionados claim that a bottle of wine should be consumed within 36 hours before the perishable liquid inside starts to deteriorate. Once oxygen is introduced, the wine begins to change. Recorking or sucking the air out of it will only deter the deterioration by a matter of hours. Putting the bottle in the refrigerator might help keep it for up to a week, but after that, it’s time to make wine vinegar!

Vinegars are so easy to make, it’s almost a crime to not make them with your leftovers. In a glass jar combine 2 cups of leftover red wine with a cup of distilled water and some “mother” from a previous organic vinegar you’ve finished and cover the jar with cheese cloth or a clean piece of cotton cloth so air can get in and dust stays out.

“Mother?” You ask.

If you look closely at the contents of the bottles above, you’ll find my 3 mothers. They’re from blackberry, apple, and pear vinegars, respectively, and I’ve been hanging on to them so I can use them as a starter for the next vinegars I make. A vinegar’s mother is a gelatinous mass that usually sits at the bottom of your vinegar bottle. It’s a sign that your vinegar is likely organic because it houses a lovely live culture. The mother is actually a type of acetic acid-producing bacteria called “acetobacter” and it consumes the alcohol in your wine, converting it into delicious vinegar.

If you don’t have a mother with which to start your homemade vinegar, you can find some in the bottom of a jar of Bragg’s Unfiltered Raw Organic Apple Cider Vinegar. Until I started making my own apple cider vinegar, this stuff was an essential ingredient in our home. It’ll cure you of any cold and is an excellent rinse for your hair. Save that mother and you’re ready to start making your own vinegars.

What about fruit vinegar? I make my own throughout the year from scrap apple peels and cores when making pies and apple sauce. Blackberries from our vines also make an incredibly delicious vinegar. Simply put your fruit scraps in a jar with some water and a “mother” from another vinegar and cover with cloth so the vinegar can breathe.

If you get mold because your fruit is on the surface and exposed to air, take the offending mold out and make sure your fruit is totally submerged in the water/mother mixture. Check on your jars periodically, but it’ll take a few weeks for the fermentation and culture to reach its peak. I always go by feel. After about a month I run the vinegar & fruit mixture through a cheesecloth, separating out the fruit but I retain the mother and place it and the filtered vinegar into a pretty bottle and cork it. And as the vinegar ages, like me, it only gets better.

Vinegars make great gifts, so you can never make too many bottles! Do you make your own vinegars? Please share your thoughts and let us know what your favorite fruit or wine varieties are.

8 Uses For Garlic Skins

Garlic Skins Have Some Use Beyond the Compost Bin

In my ongoing fascination with the things I typically throw away, even in the compost pile, I thought I’d look up some of the most interesting ways to reuse garlic skins. Some, I already do, but there are a few new uses in this list I thought you might want to try.

Don’t toss those papery white skins!

1) Save them in your freezer and use for your vegetable or chicken stock. I also throw them in my slow-cooked beans to add more flavor.

2) Compost them.

3) Keep the skins on your garlic when you roast it and the protective skin layer keeps your garlic soft on the inside.

4) Eat it! According to the Daily Mail, the skin on fruits and veggies shouldn’t be discarded. As for garlic: “Peeling garlic cloves removes the ­phenylpropanoid antioxidants which help fight the ageing ­process and protect the heart.”

5) Make a paper rose out of your garlic skins.

6) Turns out garlic skin is a major antioxidant. Plan on seeing it in all sorts of health products in the near future.

7) Add them to your handmade paper recipe. They add a lovely texture.

8) Dye your hair with them using a natural ayurvedic technique.

Kick The Can (Habit) And Slow Cook Your Beans

By Mr. Everest

Cooked beans are a staple in our family. Whether they’re pinto or black beans, we cook up a pot of beans at least once a week. Today, the house smelled wonderful as the beans cooked in the slow cooker with garlic and onions.

Nothing smells better than a pot 'o beans in the kitchen. Photo © Liesl Clark

For the past 3 years, we’ve gone plastic-free in the culinary arts so that means no canned food. Most cans have bisphenol A (BPA) in them which is an epoxy resin-like substance that is an endocrine disruptor and a chemical linked to cancer. Beans in a can are among the top BPA-laden canned foods out there. When we converted our kitchen over to a plastic-free one, canned beans were a favorite staple we had to rethink. But the Greek ancestry in me knew it wouldn’t mean we’d go without beans for long. My Dad always had a pot of lentils on the stove, so why not do the same with pinto and black beans?

Crock Pot Beans. Photo © Liesl Clark

Every few days I pull out the slow cooker, throw some beans in (say 4 cups-worth) add quadruple the amount of water, throw in a bay leaf from our friends’ tree, several cloves of garlic from our garden (whole cloves are fine), a few extra garlic skins, chopped onion, and about a teaspoon of sea salt. Each time I do it the recipe changes but this is a basic one that works. Put the cover on the slow cooker and let ‘er cook for about 18 hours or until your beans have reached their desired tenderness. No stirring is required. Just leave the slow cooker alone and enjoy the rest of your day.

Red onion, chives and garlic with black beans. Photo © Liesl Clark

We buy our beans in bulk, 25 lbs at a time, so they come to us in a big paper feed sack. We then store them in glass jars for easy access.

Bean Storage in Large Glass Jars. Photo © Liesl Clark

I tend to turn half of the cooked beans into refried beans (just mash ’em down as you fry them with a little more garlic and onion and add some cumin and liquid aminos for salt) and then make burritos or enchiladas that we can freeze for easy school lunches to reheat for the kids. We also make black bean soup with them or just a simple bean dip.

IMG_5177 Photo © Liesl Clark

These beans are always better than anything I’ve eaten from a can, and they cost about a tenth of the price. But the real benefit of kicking canned food is the mindfulness of slow-cooking and making your staples from scratch. Cooked beans in a slow cooker are so simple, yet they require a few minutes of forethought and planning for the meals that your family will enjoy in the week ahead. Four cups of dried beans will result in about 8 cups of cooked beans, enough for a family of 4 to enjoy for a week in many different creations. As your home fills with the buttery and savory smell of cooking beans, enjoy the pleasure, as my Dad did, of slow-cooked food and the sweet time it takes for the flavors to blend together completely.

Swiss Chard Is Two Veggies In One

Don’t throw those swiss chard stalks out! We’ve discovered a delicious thing or 3 to do with them.

Swiss Chard Stalks are Pretty and Delicious. Photo © Liesl Clark

I’m ashamed to say our swiss chard has been languishing in the garden because our family just hadn’t taken to these easy-to-grow greens, until now…

Swiss Chard From the Winter Garden Being Washed in the Farm Sink. Photo © Liesl Clark

First, separate your chard leaves from the stalks and cut your stalks into 4″ long pieces. Save them in  a bowl. Aren’t they pretty?

Chard Stalks in a Bowl Awaiting Further Instructions. Photo © Liesl Clark

Spicy Swiss Chard Chips:

We all know what kale chips are. Well, try making chips with your swiss chard, too. They’re a delicious and nutritious substitute for potato chips. By adding a little garlic powder, salt, and some chili powder, you won’t be able to eat just one.

Turn your oven to 275 degrees. Place your chard pieces on a baking sheet or glass baking pan. Add a tablespoon of olive oil per baking pan and toss the chard leaves with equal amounts of sea salt and garlic powder and chili powder. That’s it! Add your spice to taste and be sure to not make it too salty.

Bake for 20 minutes and then turn the leaves over and bake another 10 minutes if needed. Your bake time depends on your baking dish.

Spicy Swiss Chard Chips Disappear Quickly. Photo © Liesl Clark

Enjoy!

Chard Stalk Pickles:

Now take your stalks and if you have a bottle of Claussen pickle juice waiting for something delicious to throw in, just stuff a few of your raw stalks in the bottle and within a few hours you’ll have delicious chard stalk pickles. My kids love them.

Raw Claussen Swiss Chard Stalk Pickles. Photo © Liesl Clark

I found another recipe for delicious pickled swish chard stalks at Cookistry. But if you want to read my entertaining version with home-grown photography, here we go:

Blanch your stalks in boiling salted water for about 3-4 minutes. You want them to stay crunchy so be sure to not overcook them. Drain the stalks and try a few at this stage. Aren’t they delicious? We loved the slightly salted cooked stalks so much we saved a few and had them as a side dish with dinner.

Find a mason jar or 2 and put your stalks in them.

Then, bring the following ingredients to a boil and make sure everything is completely dissolved:

2 cups water
3/4 cup white vinegar
1  1/2 teaspoons salt
2  1/2 teaspoons sugar

Pour your water into your mason jars with chard stalks in them and screw the tops on. Put them in the refrigerator when they’ve cooled and you can enjoy these pickles for a few weeks.

Pickled Chard Stalks. Photo © Liesl Clark

Do you have a favorite chard stalk recipe? I was so excited to find a way to save them from the compost bin or chicken yard I’d love to learn of other chard stalk rescue recipes.

Water Cress Pesto

Feeding my family by way of mid-winter foraging always feels like a triumph. Although there’s little in the garden these days, when we go on hikes on our hill, we find water cress in the places where the springs are running freely. The winter rains have been incessant, so this year the cress is abundant.

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We collect handfuls of it each week and turn it into a spicy pesto the kids love on pasta. It’s a quick dinner for a busy mama to make.

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Water Cress Pesto (a.k.a. Water Cresto)

4 Cloves Garlic

1/2 Cup Walnuts or Pine Nuts

(put the garlic and nuts in your food process or and run it until they’re completely turned into small bits) Add:

1 1/2 – 2 Cups Water Cress, washed

1/4 Cup Olive Oil

1/4-1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese (in small chunks)

Process the rest of the ingredients together until you have nice green paste. Toss it with your favorite pasta.

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Enjoy!

20 Banana Peel Uses

The Miraculous Banana and Its Peel. Photo © Liesl Clark

The Miraculous Banana and Its Peel. Photo © Liesl Clark

The banana peel, like coffee grounds, tea leaves, and orange peels has a lot of beneficial qualities that’ll make you think twice the next time you toss it in the trash. We’ve gathered 20 of the best banana peel uses for you to try:

1) Shoe Polish: Did you know banana peels (on the inside) make a great shoe polish? Just rub it around your shoe and then buff it with a soft cloth.

2) Teeth Whitener: Rub the inside of your banana peel on your teeth to whiten them. Apparently, the manganese, magnesium and potassium helps whiten the enamel of your teeth.

3) Wart Cure: It only takes 1-2 weeks to remove a wart with a banana peel.

4) Itch Soother: Banana peels can help relieve bug bites and poison ivy. It won’t remove the oils that cause the itching but it’ll soothe the bite or rash altogether.

5) Monkey Party: Have a Curious George party and put 30 peels on your deck for the kids to slip around on! (Just kidding.)

6) Silverware Polish: Blend banana peel with water and use on your silver to take the tarnish off with a soft cloth.

7) Meat tenderizer: Some people add a banana peel to their roast and it’ll add just enough moisture to ensure that roast doesn’t get too dry.

8) Splinter Removal: Banana peels help ease splinters out of your skin. Place banana peel on a splinter with athletic tape for a while and then try to ease the splinter out.

9) Aphid Control: Aphids don’t like banana peels. If you bury some around your roses or other plants aphids love (like cauliflower), you’ll deter them from coming around.

10) Rose Food: Here are a few great recipes for feeding your roses with banana peels that are rich in calcium and magnesium, as well as many other trace minerals that your flowers love.

11) Bruise Patrol: Banana peels on the inside, if rubbed on a bruise, will aid in making it disappear.

12) Compost: Banana peels break down pretty quickly and add wonderful nutrients to your soil. Throw them in your compost!

13) Acne: Banana peels rubbed on your acne will help in the acne curing process.

14) Dry Skin Cure: If you have psoriasis, try rubbing the inside of a banana peel on your affected areas twice a day and you’ll see the dry scaly skin dissipate.

15) Banana Boat Campfire Dessert: This recipe will please all who are sitting around the campfire.

16) Hemorrhoid  Cure: Yup, you guessed it. As with acne, banana peels help cure hemorrhoids.

17) Banana Peel Message: Leave a message for your child on their banana peel by pricking out letters with a toothpick, the skin will bruise and there will be a dark brown message for your sweetie by lunchtime.

18) Tomato Plant Fertilizer: Wrap a banana peel around your tomato starts when you plant them in the garden and they’ll enjoy the nutrients from the peel as they grow throughout the summer.

19) Banana Peel Steamed Pork and Rice: Try this recipe out for size.

20) Anti Depressant: Researchers have found that drinking boiled banana peel water (or juicing the peel) can ease depression.

What are you doing with your banana peels?