Green All-Purpose Spray Cleaner

I take great pride in the fact that K and I haven’t used commercially prepared cleaners and detergents in over a year, with the exception of dishwasher detergent.  I’ve yet to find a homemade version that works well, and so we usually buy 7th Generation or Ecover for that. (We do use a vinegar rinse instead of Jet Dry).

One of the best green “recipes” I have found for an all-purpose spray is also one of the easiest.

Into a clean spray bottle:

  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1/2 tsp of washing soda
  • dab of liquid soap.

Combine and shake.

So easy!  It does a really great job of cleaning up every day messes, and as I use washing soda in my laundry detergent, I always have everything on hand.

But I recently decided to look for an even better all purpose spray to cut grease as well as germs.  I found this.

Gorgeously Green All-Purpose Spray

from Sophie Uliano, author of Gorgeously Green: 8 Simple Steps to an Earth-Friendly Life


Into a 32-ounce spray bottle:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon pure castile soap
  • 3/4 cup hydrogen peroxide
  • 20 drops tea tree oil
  • 20 drops of lavender
Combine and shake.
Amazingly, I had all the ingredients on hand for this spray. I guess I’ve gone more green than I thought! The combination of tea tree, lavender and peppermint oils create a really “clean” smelling spray, I was pleasantly surprised.
Even though buying the ingredients initially might add up a bit, over the long haul, this spray is better for the environment and your wallet.  Although a bottle of essential oil runs ~$5, the number of bottles of spray (plus numerous other uses for the oils) will definitely pay you back.
Try it!

Farmers Market Sunday

The summer Greenmarket will be coming to an end in about another month.  It will then move indoors to Proctor’s until the end of April.  No more fresh fruits! Only greens and root veggies for awhile! Bah, I need to prepare myself.

But in the meantime, there’s still lots to enjoy.  This week, we picked up:

  • That awesome ciobatta bread, a croissant, and a cheese danish from Our Daily Bread.
  • Potatoes (can’t remember the name) and Orange Hubbard squash from Barber Farm.
  • Concord grapes (grapes!) from Madura Farm.
  • 2lbs chicken sausage from Coopers Ark Farm.
  • 1 gallon apple cider from Migliorelli Farm and 1 bunch arugala.
  • 1 half-gallon of reduced-fat milk and 1 pint chocolate milk from Battenkill Creamery.

Those grapes.

I’m not fully convinced they didn’t find these wild, because, after all, Concords are related to a wild, native species of New England.  Still, they taste an awful lot like Welch’s grape juice!

Next week at the market, same bat time, same bat channel!

Pick Your Own

What a crazy weekend!! I feel like I’ve been set on “go” all weekend long, but it’s been absolutely fantastic.

I attended my first local blogger meet up on Saturday and made some “blends” – which I learned means blogger friends.  There was Lauren, Cynthia, Jen, Becca, Heather, and Nicole. We’re going to pretend I wasn’t talking when this picture was taken and don’t look horrible, ‘kay?

It was really nice A) to meet some new people, B) to meet some new people who don’t look at me crazily when I pull out a camera in the middle of something and C) to meet some new people who don’t look at me crazy when I pull out a camera because they’re doing the same thing!

We met up at Indian Ladder, which, as you must know by now, is one of my favorite places, considering the amount of times I have gone apple picking there.  I mean, how can you not love a place that is run by FIFTH generation farmers???

I do wish Indian Ladder would get with the program and allow people to bring in their own bags instead of making you purchase a plastic bag to pick apples.  Altamont Orchards does this, and although I was caught empty-handed last year, I do really appreciate the conservation aspect (as well as the not-having-to-use-oil aspect, of course!).

We had lunch at the Yellow Rock Cafe before heading out to the field-o’-the-day to pick Empire and Kendall apples.

The Empire apple field looked pretty picked over, even though Empire’s aren’t supposed to come into their own until the last week of September.  Kendalls were much more plentiful!

After apple picking, everyone headed back to my place to do some canning! There were a few canning virgins and the place was a bit chaotic as we tried to fit in two recipes in less than 3 hours.

A bit of the chaos:

Canning supplies

Apples in Heather's bag

Getting the apples ready!

Apple cider from Indian Ladder

Apple butter recipe

Apples ready for cooking

Heather's priceless face!

Cynthia tried to burn my house down

The finished product

Nicole approves!

Tomatillo Guacamole

The other day K emailed me a NYT recipe for tomatillo guacamole.  With pounds and pounds of tomatillos sitting in our freezer and our garden, we thought this would be a good way to use some of them.

O.M.G. This is one of the best guacamole recipes I have ever tasted. The tomatillos (and jalapeño) give it a kick in the right direction! And supposedly this has half the calories due to the tomatillos.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound fresh tomatillos, husked
  • 1 jalapeño or 2 to 3 serrano chilies, seeded if desired and roughly chopped
  • 10 cilantro sprigs, more if you love cilantro
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 small or 1 1/2 large ripe avocados
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice (more if you love lime!)

Directions

  1. Preheat broiler. Cover a baking sheet with foil and place the tomatillos on top, stem side down. Place under the broiler at the highest rack setting and broil two to five minutes, until charred on one side. Turn over and broil on the other side for two to five minutes, until charred on the other side. Remove from the heat and transfer to a blender, tipping in any juice that has accumulated on the baking sheet. Add the chilies, cilantro sprigs and salt to the blender and blend to a coarse purée.
  2. Cut the avocados in half and twist the two halves apart. Scoop out the flesh into a bowl or the bowl of a mortar and pestle. Mash with a fork or pestle. Do not use a food processor or a blender, as you want to retain some texture. Stir in the lime juice, the tomatillo mixture and salt to taste and combine well. Transfer to a bowl and serve.

Notes

  • Unless you like your guacamole REALLY spicy, de-seed the jalapeño, for the LOVE OF GOD.  Or you will end up like me eating your guacamole with a glass of milk.
  • No joke, this guacamole is so good I found myself wishing I could can this stuff to eat all year long.  Not that it really matters, since avocados aren’t local anyway.  But you can grow limes here!

Moon and Stars Melon

This weekend we “harvested” the first of our Moon and Stars watermelon!

This is an old-fashioned variety, an heirloom that is known for it’s juiciness and tons o’ spitting seeds. Here’s the background on the watermelon from the Slow Food website:

In the mid 1970s, Kent Whealy began to hear from his Seed Savers Exchange members of a remarkable watermelon introduced to American gardeners sometime before 1900. This Moon and Stars watermelon persisted in seed catalogs through the 1920s, but many feared it had been lost forever. So Kent began a search for this melon, and in 1980 he mentioned the sought after melon on a television show out of Kirksville, Missouri. Fortunately, Merle Van Doren, a farmer near Macon, Missouri was watching and decided to track down Kent. Merle picked up the phone and surprised Kent with news that the melon was not extinct at all; he was cultivating this unusual watermelon— speckled leaves and all—in Missouri. Most importantly, he would save Kent some seed.

Kent went to pick up the seed, bringing a Mother Earth News photographer with him, and although Mr. Van Doren refused to be photographed, Kent posed next to a stunning pile of yellow-starred melons. Featured in the January 1982 edition of Mother Earth News, the back from extinction melon became an instant rage. Since the resurrection of the Van Doren variant, other yellow speckled heirlooms have resurfaced from Cherokee and Amish traditions and all have surged in popularity. Twenty years later, they remain among the bestselling heirlooms offered by the Seed Savers Exchange, and have been picked up and promoted by at least two-dozen other seed outlets. Moon and Stars is truly a stellar success among heirlooms, proving that what was once thought to be obsolete can be revived to the status of a national treasure.

The moon and stars name comes from the little yellow dots all around a bigger yellow dot, which show up on each and every melon.  We’ve got 6 other buggers of close to equal size right now.  Whatever are we going to do with all of them?  I’ve heard of watermelon rind preserves, but what do you do with those?

I wasn’t sure when the melon was ripe or not, but we figured with 6, if it wasn’t we’d still have plenty to choose from.  We split it open and found a pinkish-red coloring that was different enough from conventional watermelon that it made me wonder if we’d cut in too early.

It was probably a little underripe, but even so, absolutely delicious.  Water running down my chin as I spit out the multitude of seeds – and I give it a two thumbs up!

We tried to grow this variety last year and failed miserably, but this year was a great year for melons and I think it shows. This will be a staple in our garden for years to come!

Freezer!

A new addition to our household and homesteading efforts arrived this weekend after many weeks of waiting.

A 7.5 cubic foot Frigidaire freezer chest!

It’s pretty cold.  The bottom number is from inside the freezer chest, and the top number is the outside air.  We’ve turned it up a bunch of times too!

Our regular refrigerator freezer has been stuffed to the gills with all the produce we’ve been freezing from the garden.  In fact, I’m afraid we might have broken it, as the compressor has been coming on at all hours of the day and night.  Now, we can put everything in the chest freezer and leave the refrigerator freezer for normal stuff.

Lots of room in there!

We would have liked to get an energy star rated freezer, but couldn’t find a non-commercial chest freezer that was energy star. Oh well, we still did our homework and got a good one (Consumer Reports rated) that doesn’t consume that much energy.

We’ve now got gallons of frozen tomatoes, broccoli, tomatillos, green beans, and quarts of strawberries, cherries and blueberries in there.

We’re now ready to bring home 1/2 a cow!

Edamame

Last weekend at the farmer’s market, my eye fell upon something new.  Edamame! K and I love this as an appetizer at Japanese restaurants and the realization that we could get this locally made us really excited.

Edamame are immature, edible soybeans harvested when about 80% ripe.  They’re so easy to prepare, and so fresh-tasting with the salty flavor dancing on your tongue, you’ll love them if you can find them at the farmer’s market.  You can find them frozen in most grocery stores now too, but what’s the fun in that?

Our beans came on the vine but a big bunch of it only cost $2.50, a good deal for something I can’t get easily for myself locally.  K pulled off the beans and boiled them in salted water for 3 minutes, then drained them and sprinkled more salt.

We popped the little pods of goodness into our mouths and enjoyed the salty flavor painted on the pods as they burst onto our tongues.  You really can’t go wrong.

I’m in Love…

…with a possible forever house.  We went back for a second look this past weekend, and it’s everything we could possibly want, about 9 acres, has historical significance in the area, over 200 years old, a barn, multiple greenhouses, a gated kennel where we could put a chicken coop – EVERYTHING.  It used to be a former flower farm, some years ago.

It also has groomed forests, maple trees, a root cellar, a pond, a kitchen garden that’s about as big as our community garden plot right now, and a pool and hot tub.

Um… *whispers*  I’s wants it.

Of course, there’s the negatives. The house is only 1200 square feet (a quarter smaller than our current place) and looks like such a mishmosh of different time periods and sidings.  Some of the original post and beam in the original part of the house need replacing.  The barn siding needs to be redone – a lot of work, and a huge addition needed.

We want it, we really do.  But can we afford it, with all that needs to be done? It only has 2 bedrooms right now.  And, of course, we need to sell our current place.  But can you imagine – going from a condo with no land to 9 acres? We were made for this place.

I don’t know if it will happen, but for now, it’s our dream.

Kitchen
Fireplace
Kitchen garden
Muskrat pond

Maple tree

Old barn

Groomed forest

The Spice of Life

The hubby and I just got back from a weekend in NYC, our first in a year.  A year exactly actually, as we spent this weekend last year at J’s wedding!

We went back down to the village and hung around NYU for awhile, reminiscing about my college years, had DELICIOUS Dim Sum at Golden Unicorn, saw Wicked, and even found the spot again when K proposed to me, 4 1/2  years ago.  It took a little while to find it. It was winter then, near dark, and I was annoyed that we were traipsing around Central Park in the cold, while K was (according to him) nervous and just trying to find a quiet place.  So neither of us remembered how to get there very well in the heat of the summer.  But eventually we did.

Just perfect.

But anyway…this isn’t about that.

Despite the fact that I grew up in the shadow of NYC AND went to college there, my time upstate has made coming back to NYC more and more difficult each time I come. I get over it quickly, but each time, I feel more and more like I don’t belong, when at one time it was, well, home.

But this weekend, I found Penzeys.  Oh, I’ve heard about Penzeys before.  But when we arrived in Grand Central on Metro North and decided to walk through the Grand Central Market, all will power to not buy anything in NYC melted away when we saw the spice counter.

And I felt like SUCH a country bumpkin when I saw REAL almond extract. Not imitation.  Oh no, the real thing, nowhere to be found (that I know of) in my area.  Maybe HWFC has it, I’m not sure.  But definitely not Hannaford or Price Chopper.

Jar after jar of any kind of spice I knew existed, and some I didn’t, and I felt like one of those 1800’s country girls who goes to visit “town” to pick up those exotic supplies (you know, like white sugar or oranges) that you can only get in civilization.

And vanilla beans.

K had gone to pick up some for me a few weeks ago up here in the Albany area.  He returned home without them, because, he said, they were $13 for TWO beans.

Here at Penzeys, $7.50 for THREE.

There’s something inordinately wrong with the universe when NYC is cheaper than Albany.  Well, I guess it makes sense, but of course I had to buy them.

And then K had to buy two different types of cinnamon.  Just because. He’s always wanted the “true” cinnamon, aka “Ceylon Cinnamon” which isn’t much like the cinnamon we’re used to here, light and citrusy.  It’s supposedly great in baking, and as apple season has started, we’ll be making a lot of things with it!

So, three minutes into NY, and we’d spent $20 shopping.  On spices.  We are odd, odd people.

I was researching about vanilla beans tonight and found this. I MUST make it.

Homemade Vanilla Extract

What you need:

  • 1 quart canning jar
  • Lid and band
  • 2 cups vodka
  • 6 vanilla beans

How you make it:

Cut the beans in half, lengthwise and add them to the canning jar. Cover them with a plain vodka that is 75-80 proof. Any higher than that and it won’t soak in the vanilla bean flavoring as well.  Store in a cool, dark place and shake every few days for at least a month, but longer is better for more intense flavoring.  When it’s done to your liking, strain it through a cheesecloth into dark bottles and seal tightly.  You can use it in equal measurements to store bought vanilla extract without a problem.

I only bought 3 beans. I’m going to have to order more from Penzeys now.

August Garden Tally

August is the month of tomatoes and green beans! Look at these numbers!

Onions: 10 lbs, 12 1/8 oz.

Isis Candy tomatoes: 6 5/8 oz.

Matt’s Wild Cherry tomatoes: 5lbs, 5 5/8 oz.

Cherokee Purple tomatoes: 9lbs, 12 1/4 oz.

German Striped tomatoes: 6lbs, 1 3/4oz.

Gilbertie tomatoes: 5lbs, 13 1/8oz.

Amish Paste tomatoes: 1 lb., 1/8 oz.

Fox Cherry tomatoes: 3lbs,  1/4 oz.

Tomatillos: 3 lbs

Cucumbers: 2lb., 15 1/2oz

Green Beans: 5lbs, 8 6/8oz.

Cayenne peppers: 4 2/8 oz.

Zucchini: 2lbs, 10 1/8 oz

Carrots: 3 oz.

Swiss Chard: 6 3/8 oz.

Broccoli: 1lb, 3 5/8oz.

Eggplant: 1lb, 4 oz.

Dry beans: 4 1/8 oz.

We’ve put up much of our harvest, making lots of sauce and canning crushed tomatoes, blanching and freezing green beans and broccoli.  We’ve ordered a chest freezer to help us keep our garden surplus frozen until we need it, as we’re quickly running out of space in our small refrigerator freezer.

Bring on September!