Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tight-Arse Tuesdays - Healthy Nutritious Eating is NOT EXPENSIVE.

Dear Readers,

This is more of a shout out and a rant than actual advice, but I know it's been getting to both Kimberly and myself these days. I will also include a few tips for those who know all this.

Food is not expensive. Food is not hard to make. A good meal is not a dream. I have no idea where Western Society got this bizarre idea that only the rich can afford to eat well. Are farmers rich? Do they eat well? Now, for the rich: do you ever see a rich man cook his own organic food or is he rushing from meeting to meeting sipping overpriced Starbucks? Exactly my point.

From poor to rich, from time-rich to time-tight; everyone can eat healthy. Correct, some people simply don't have time for drives to the country to get the food right off the farm. However, health is not just in the country-side. Good food is not far away.

Tips to save money on food:

Don't eat out. Find a nice fancy recipe to try at home. Sure, at first the ingredients will cost more, but they'll last forever. And in the end, that meal will still be cheaper than if you ate out at a nice restaurant plus you'll have leftovers!

Organic food, by nature, is metabolized more proficiently by the body. Thus, you need less of it. Organic seems scary and expensive? You only need half if not less to get the same nutrients out of fresh organic food - however you still need calories - so you can fill up on more cheap carbohydrates like potatoes and brown rice. Delicious. Inexpensive.

Food can be grown at home and in not much space. There's a whole organization dedicated to growing food in a square foot. Heck, those Aerogardens are taking off nicely. All they are is a hydro setup, which can be inexpensive if purchased at an actual hydroponic shop instead of off a pretty jingley commercial. Insert marijuana joke here.

Bulk is always good but not always the best. Only buy bulk of what you will eat. I know that sounds obvious, but I'm a hoarder and I've stocked up on bulk cans of beets before. I hate beets. I especially hate canned beets. Now the charity hates beets. Staple bulks: beans (I personally use barlotti the most), chickpeas, brown rice, oats, sugar and flour.


Someone told me they couldn't find organic food because they lived in a city. I found that confounding! I live in the farm rural areas and I have a MUCH harder time finding healthy and organic than I ever did living in the city. The city is a cluster of all kinds of shops within walking distance. Country? Notsomuch. Granted, it's a few days older than farm-fresh food - but it's definitely there. Look around, ask around.

Another person told me they simply did not have enough time. Sure, I don't have children - but I have two jobs, go to university and spend a day a week helping charities - and I cook every meal except one a week, which my husband does as a gift to me.

Tips to save time on cooking:

The minute you bring home the groceries, chop and bag them. I find when I do this, not only do I eat the vegetables more often (because, hey, they're already cut, I might as well use them) but I have tons of time doing it all at once instead of before each meal. Once you get a good groove going, it's pretty quick.

Using the above tip I also make bags of mixed vegetables with ginger and garlic grated in and freeze them. Instant stir-fry in a pinch.

Every meal I make, I make extra and freeze it. Currently it's going to the fact I'll be away for ten days later this month and I don't trust my husband to cook for himself, but other than that it goes to my husband's lunches or spare dinners/desserts when I'm exhausted.

Crockpots: proof Gd loves us. It's an amazing delicious meal that you spent maybe ten minutes on, that cooked itself and used the CHEAPEST cuts of meat. Because that's what you do with crappy tough meat - you throw it in this thing and it comes out tasting jucier and flakier than any expensive filet mignon. And it cooks while you work!

Mini-Crockpots: I realized one day that I could put steel-cut oats and fruit into a small two-bowl crockpot before bed and I'd wake up to a high-calorie carbo-filled breakfast that would pretty much fuel me until lunch time, where my previous night's dinner had already made my meal! I'm currently playing with the idea of putting dough in there to make muffins as I sleep - so far it's better in theory.

Baking: Like crockpots, only quicker! Cut, toss, throw in, help the kids with homework, eat. Baked chicken takes five minutes to prepare. Shove a lemon up it's butt and thyme under it's skin and throw it in the oven. Want to speed up even THAT time? Boil the lemon first. Not only will it explode inside the chicken, self-basting it, but it will also start the cooking process from the inside as well - cutting your time by at least 15 minutes. I've cooked three whole chickens in a half hour this way before.

Use your weekends intelligently: You have a few minutes to watch TV and unwind? Before you do, quickly start some dough. Ten minutes, promise. Watch your show to rise and then par-bake the loaves of bread. Freeze and take out during the week when you want bread. Finish the baking process and - voila! Fresh homemade bread, during the week! Do the same with pizza dough then you always have fresh pizza bases on hand! Slap some jarred sauce on it, fresh veggies and some cheese and you have a fresh homemade pizza in minutes - up to 6 times a week! My husband tells me my pizzas are better than any shop including those pricey snobby ones.

You can eat healthy and happy at home even short on time and money. C'mon, I'm currently planning and paying for a wedding* on TOP of my two jobs and school and I still find time for all of that - and writing this blog up as the smell of fresh curry wafts into my house from that crockpot. Enough to feed 12 and it cost me ten bucks. So I know you can do it!

*I call him my husband even though he's not yet, for the confused.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Farm-Fresh Fridays: Pimp Mah Chikkun

I'm not one to have the best of everything. I'm not one to have the worst of anything. I am, however, one to have the most blinged of everything. So when I found my chickens needed a fresh happy new nesting box - I set to work.

First I grabbed some old paint. Yes, the same paint I used in the stick tutorial. What of it? Then I cut out the sides so the chickens could climb in. I painted two coats of pink paint on the box. Letting sit about half an hour to dry between coats.

Then I drew a design. And by drew, I mean, I stole one off the internet and changed it to look like a chicken.

I placed the design where I wanted on the box and then traced it in black pen. I filled in the parts I wanted filled with black ink.

Then, to give my chickens a more pirate booty rustic feel, I dabbed gold and bronze inkpads onto the box, paying careful attention to heaping it up on the edges. My pink pirate chickens are vintage, yo.

Then I added a trim. I kept tossing up between this one and a stretch hot pink lace, but I decided my chickens were edgier than that, man.

And there you have it - a simple cheap and easy custom nesting box for that pirate chicken in your coop!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Tips For Lips

I have never been a particularly fashionable woman. In high school, I was the one in Daria glasses and camoflauge pants, who the popular girls sniggered at because I never wore anything that was currently in style. I do not read fashion magazines, and I cannot stand shopping malls. So don't look at me to tell you what's fashionable or stylish.

I will, however, tell you what never goes out of style, and red lipstick is at the top of that list.

Magazines tell us that red lips come and go, occasionally displaced by "nude" or pink. But they're wrong. Red lips are ALWAYS in, and no one will agree with me more emphatically than your average male. Every woman can wear red lips - if you think you can't, you just haven't found the right shade yet - and they make all the difference between "cute" and "goddess."

We all giggle at period films from the 70's and 80's because of the goofy makeup and hair. But when was the last time you heard anyone snicker at Rita Hayworth?

Here are my Ten Tips For Lips, if you aren't accustomed to rocking the vintage glam...

1. Choose a red shade that goes with your skin tone and hair. This makes all the difference between Marilyn Monroe and Ronald McDonald. Dab the sample on your wrist and see how it looks with your skin tone - typically, yellow-based skin tones (which most people have) go well with brown- or orange-based reds, and pinker skin tones go with a blue-based red. Ask the nice ladies at the makeup counter to help you find a red for you. They might even throw in a free makeover.

2. Different reds suit different occasions. A "true" or neutral red is good for daytime, while a deeper "fire engine" red makes for a sexy evening look.

3. Don't overwhelm your face with too much makeup. Red lipstick stands on its own! All you need on your eyes is a little eyeliner and mascara. If you're getting extra dolled-up, go with neutral brown tones on your eyes and a slim black eyeliner on the upper lid only. This is a very classic 1940's look that, again, suits just about everyone.

4. As with a house, a solid foundation is crucial. You don't want your red lips to play up red tones in your skin. Start with a good clear foundation, apply concealer where necessary, and then powder on top of that. This gives you the nice even-complexion look which makes the right canvas for bold lips.

5. If you have a problem with your lipstick bleeding or feathering into the little lines around your lips, apply foundation to your bare lips and then line with a good pencil before you apply your lipstick. It helps to hold your lipstick in place.

6. Try not to line with red liner - very few people can pull this off. I make my lips look a bit more full by lining with white liner in the upper "dip" part, then using a deep pink liner just outside the center of my lower lip. (I don't fill in my lips with liner as I cannot seem to do this evenly, but feel free to try it if you want to.) Then, after my lipstick, I apply a dab of clear or purple-pink gloss to the center of my lower lip and give a smack. This creates a full, wet, very appealing mouth.

7. To keep from getting lipstick all over your teeth: After you've applied your lipstick and gloss, stick your finger in your mouth with your lips on it, as though you'd dipped your finger in cake batter for a taste. Slide your finger out and it'll grab the excess lipstick off your inner lips so that it won't decorate your pretty white teeth.

8. Straws are your friend! Don't drink anything without a straw or you will WRECK your lipstick. A straw makes it much easier to keep that foxy look in place.

9. If you find your lipstick fading out in the center and collecting at the edges, do it in layers. Put on your lipstick, blot it off with toilet paper, then apply it again. The first application will leave a stain and also absorb excess moisture so the second application won't slide.

10. Speaking of moisture... I'm a big advocate of moisturizers and your lips are no exception! Drink plenty of water throughout the day, apply lip balm whenever you don't have lipstick on, and never lick your lips. Find a good lip balm and apply it first thing in the morning, giving it a few minutes to soak in before you put your lipstick on. Cracked and peeling lips never look good, no matter the color! So keep 'em soft!

I personally believe that every woman can be beautiful if she looks like she cares enough to be. This is how the legendary screen stars - some of whom, if you can envision them without makeup, were not actually that exceptional - became the goddesses we know today. So if you find yourself keeping up with modern fashions and still not feeling like a starlet, just remember that modern fashion is mostly designed by men who like boys and get in touch with a more classic womanly look. It might not be trendy, but it's timeless.

And by the way, that's me of the Daria glasses and camos in the pic.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Grilled Fig Salad

Every week, for some reason, I get given figs. Maybe I'm lucky, but it's a sad sight when four figs rot away in your fridge, so I decided to find something to do with them that was tasty and healthy if not the tiniest bit sugary. It combines sugar, bitterness, savoury and a little in the middle. Delicious.

4 large figs
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2-3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/8tsp cinnamon
1/4c extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh sqeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp Dijon Mustard
Sea salt, to taste
Ground pepper, to taste
8 cups salads - I used tomato, lettuces of various sorts, cucumber and spring onions all from my veggie box!

Snip the stems off each fig and cut in half lengthwise. Mix vinegar, brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Add figs and gently toss to coat. Let marinade while you heat the grill.

Coat your grill with just a touch of oil. Grill the figs, reserving the marinade in the bowl, for about 2-3 minutes per side or until grill marks appear. Do not overcook or they'll become mushy. Set aside.

To reserved marinade, add all ingredients up until salad and whisk well, making a nice dressing. Place greens in large bowl, toss with dressing and then serve four people with two fig halves on each plate.

Or do what I did and only use two cups of salad and keep all the figs for yourself!

Tasted amazing when I put some crumbled feta on it, as well.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Spa In Your Kitchen

So your skin is blotchy, dry in patches and oily in others, looks ten years older than you are, and is just generally in need of restoration. You can go pay half a paycheck for a salon facial, or you can whip up this mask in the comfort of your own home, without even getting out of your pajamas.

Even though I'm good about moisturizing every day and taking care of my skin, I'm 30 years old and getting to the point where my face needs a boost every so often. Besides, I like to take a Beauty Day for myself every once in awhile. Sunday was one of those for me, and so I threw together a face mask...

1 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp organic yogurt
1 egg white

That is it, ladies, no mas, finite. Whisk it up in a bowl with a fork until it's all evenly blended and that's your fancy-ass spa facial. Try to use raw honey and a free-range, organically grown egg. Save the yolk - you'll use it momentarily!

Hold a hot damp towel over your face to steam it for a minute, then dry it with a fresh towel and use your fingers to apply the face mask as thickly as you can, covering your face and under your chin. If you have a little more than you need, apply it to your neck and decolletage. Let it stay there for 20-30 minutes, or until it feels very dry and tight all over.

Meanwhile if you want to treat your hair too, take that egg yolk and whisk it with a tablespoon or two of coconut oil or olive oil. Apply that to the ends of your dry hair (ends only! no roots!) and comb through your ends with your fingers so that it gets evenly distributed. Let that sit for a bit as your face does - I like to spend this time soaking in a bubble bath with a good book.

When that face mask gets so tight you can't stand it anymore, now's when you wash it off very gently with warm clean water. Use an exfoliating scrub too, if you like. Shave, if you do, and massage your whole body neck to toes with coconut oil or olive oil to keep it soft and supple. Now wash and condition your hair as usual, but before you get out of the shower, dilute a little white vinegar with an equal amount of warm water. Pour that over your head for a rinse that will leave your hair super-shiny - don't worry, it won't make you smell like vinegar, I promise!

Now step out of the tub, apply your favorite facial moisturizer, and fix yourself up. Relax and enjoy feeling extra pretty!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Coconut, Beef and Kaffir Lime Curry with Grilled Eggplant

45g shredded coconut
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1.5kg beef shin, sliced
1 large red onion, chopped
5cm piece ginger
5 cloves garlic
pinch salt
8 kaffir lime leaves
1 cinnamon stick
handful coriander
1 star anise
400g coconut cream
2 tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice
1 eggplant
2 tsp salt

Fry the coconut in a dry pan and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large heavy bottomed pan and fry the beef until brown, about 4 minutes on each side. Set aside.
Put onion, garlic and ginger in food processor and blitz, adding the salt at the end. Place mixture in meaty pan and warm until the house smells of heaven. Scrape up all beef happiness and then return the meat to the pan. (Mine came with bones and I didn't want that so I deboned them inbetween the cookings). Add all the spices, fried coconut, lime leaves, coconut cream and 1 cup water and lower heat to a slow simmer. Cover for 90 minutes until the meat is tender.

In the last 20 minutes of cooking, slice eggplant thinly and salt each side gently. Grill on grill pan.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Farm-Fresh Friday: Raw Milk

Now that spring is here, 'tis the season for sweet fresh milk - straight from the cow (or goat), unprocessed, just as nature intended it!

If you're horrified by the idea of unpasteurized milk, let me point out the difference between farm and factory. In a factory farm, dairy cows are crammed into a modified feedlot, fed on a diet rich in corn. Ruminants like cows did not evolve to eat grain, so while the corn does boost their milk production, it also makes them vulnerable to the diseases that fester in the filthy conditions. The corn in their diet is rounded out with cheap non-food fillers, which not only abuses the cows but also makes the milk taste nasty. (This is why no one pours a glass of milk to drink anymore.) On a good farm, on the other hand, a manageable number of cows will live on grass (or hay in winter), soaking up the sunshine and clean fresh air that keeps them healthy.

Science has discovered that two weeks of a grass diet completely eliminates E. coli from a sick cow's digestive tract. Yep, all of it. No further processing needed on the E. coli front. But of course it's better if they don't get sick in the first place.

Pasteurization, therefore, is necessary in a factory system where the milk is diseased, infectious, and full of nastiness you really don't want to read about over breakfast. This is why mandatory pasteurization almost immediately followed the birth of the modern corn-based feedlot. It is not so necessary with farm-fresh milk. What's worse, pasteurization destroys vital nutrients and robs the milk of almost all of its health benefits.

Remember when every other kid didn't have asthma or lethal allergies? I know, those days seem more and more like ancient history, writ with every kindergartener's EpiPen. But it appears as though raw milk boosts the immune system better than anything out there, preventing or even curing allergies, asthma, and other immune disorders. It has other benefits too - you can read about them here.*

If you're lactose intolerant and think you can't drink milk, surprise! Raw milk has an enzyme built into it, called lactase, which helps to break down lactose; this enzyme is replicated in the Lactaid product you get at the store. Pasteurization destroys milk's natural lactase, but it's there in raw milk and it will do the work of breaking down lactose so you can digest it easily. Many people who are intolerant to pasteurized milk can drink raw milk without a problem.

"But I don't like milk," you say. If I may say so, you haven't had milk until you've had it raw. The flavor is so much sweeter; it tastes like rich, creamy sunshine. I love the joy of getting up the morning after we make our milk buy, and the cream sits in a thick layer in the top of the jar, with the smooth milk underneath it. I like the fresh cream in my coffee, but it's also good to cook into desserts and occasionally I make cultured butter with it. My husband and I like to drink the milk itself after a workout - it's got just the right combination of proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates to rebuild our muscles and replenish our energy.

To answer a common question, raw milk usually keeps in the refrigerator for a week or two. When it starts to turn and it's not good to drink anymore, you can still use it. Pasteurized milk goes rancid, but raw milk just cultures with the beneficial bacteria living in it (those "probiotics" you hear so much about). You can make sour cream or creme fraiche from the cream, and from the milk you can make yogurt or kefir. You can cook with it in soups when it starts to go off, or bake with it as you would buttermilk. Yesterday I used up some slightly-off raw milk in a cheesy sauce for cauliflower au gratin. So unlike processed milk, there's no waste with living milk!

If you thought raw milk was illegal, you can be excused for thinking that. In most areas, however, it isn't. Availability varies by state (and country). In some areas, you can buy it in certain stores; in most areas, you have to purchase it directly from the farm. Many farms cater to buying clubs, where members take turns making the drive out to the farm to bring the milk into town so everyone can pick it up locally. We just enjoy a pleasant drive to the country every week or so; it takes about an hour to make the trip, and the scenery is gorgeous.

You can find out where to buy raw milk at this link.

As for the other common objection - yes, it costs a little more. But at what price your health? My grandmother always says she'd rather have a big grocery bill than a big doctor bill, and it really does work out to be one or the other. In the 1950's we spent about 19% of our income on groceries and about 9% on health care; today those proportions are almost exactly reversed. There is a direct correlation between one and the other, and besides, healthy food is more delicious anyway. I know I'd rather spend my money on sweet, fragrant, tasty milk and farm-fresh foods than asthma inhalers (which I used to shell out $150/month for and now no longer need).

So find a farm near you, preferably one with Jersey cows because the milk is richer and more filling. (We only need 4 oz at a time when we drink it.) Then pour yourself a nice glass of living, probiotic, nutrient-dense milk and toast: To Your Health!

* (Of course there are some who are so immunocompromised or have other issues which preclude the consumption of untreated animal products, so avoid them if this is you, but the trick is to avoid getting into that situation in the first place whenever possible.)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Making Your Own Jewellery Branch

Originally, Kimberly and I agreed we wouldn't do projects as a feature on this blog...but since she won't get back to me about adding it as a feature now, she can get stuffed. (Love you Kimberly)

I'd been a bit of a sook lately because I wanted a really nice jewellery box. I have one, but it's incredibly tiny and did not keep my necklaces from turning into a tangle of tangles with tangles in it. Then I had an idea:

This project took maybe half an hour of my time, tops. I used the excuse of walking the dogs to find an appropriate stick and had a bucket of paint in my cabinent I had once given someone that they ended up not wanting. Their loss!

I got a nice dry dead tree, broke off the roots and bits of branch I didn't find attractive (this was actually a whole tree, not a branch, I ripped off the dead roots) and then laid newspapers down. Stirred the paint and painted the whole thing pink. I let it dry a couple hours while I prepared dinner. I was concerned when I attached it with bronze screws (all I had left) that it would show. I forgot the necklaces would cover it.

I measured where I wanted it and drew some dots in the branch and some on the wall. Using an electric drill I drilled all the holes necessary and then screwed it into the wall.

Now I don't need a new jewellery box, this cost me nothing, doesn't tangle my necklaces AND I can see what I like to take it off, right in front of the bathroom mirror! Since my bathroom is pink, much to my husband's distress, this matches perfectly with the decor.

Now to go off and drool over those delicious potatoes Kimberly posted yesterday!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

St. Patrick's Day: Potatoes!

Sure, we're doing corned beef in Guinness today just like everyone else (and a Guinness cake for dessert!), but let's take a moment to honor the Irish for their humblest contribution to world cuisine: the delicious potato. For some reason, Americans have recently decided that potatoes are bad for you. What a bag of hooey! Potatoes are among the most nutrient-dense foods out there, loaded with fiber to lower your cholesterol and keep you feeling full, rich in potassium, iron, copper, and heart-healthy vitamins.

In my opinion, the most healthful and delicious way to prepare potatoes is by roasting, especially if you roast them along with other root vegetables and tubers. We often have a side dish made with roasted potatoes, sunchokes, turnips, kohlrabi, carrots, celeriac, or any combination of the above. If you're ever confronted with an unfamiliar root veggie or tuber, throw it in with some diced potatoes and roast it up. And, for reasons I will explain in a minute, make double the amount that you need.

Here's our dinner from Sunday night: Steak filets cooked in a Jameson whiskey sauce with mushrooms, chard salad on the side, and there at the back is our roasted potatoes and sunchokes. The basic recipe for the roast veg follows.


You can use all potatoes for this, or make it more interesting by subbing in any combination of the roots and tubers I mentioned above. (Yes, I know kohlrabi is neither root nor tuber, but honestly I don't know what category it goes in, and from a culinary standpoint I treat it just like a turnip whenever I use it raw or cooked.) I especially recommend sunchokes, also known as Jerusalem artichokes; if you use them, remember DO NOT peel them. Ever. The skins are tasty and all the nutrients are directly under the skins, so just scrub them thoroughly with a brush and leave those skins on!

5 cups diced tubers and roots
1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 sprigs fresh minced rosemary, or 1 Tbsp dried
1/2 Tbsp paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 450 F (225 C). Chop up your veg and spread them out in a casserole dish. Whisk together the remaining ingredients and pour it all over the veggies, then use your hands to toss it all together so it's evenly distributed. Slide that dish in the oven and roast for half an hour; stir it all up, then roast for another half hour until those veggies are nicely browned and cooked through.

"Oh, but Kimberly," you say, "That's way more than the two or three of us will eat in one meal."

That's right. You made extra roasted potatoes so you can use them again! Now you can put together a quicker meal with roasted-potato deliciousness and you won't have to wait an hour while they cook. They're very good tossed into soup (lentil soup is our go-to quickie dinner around here), or you can even toss them with a little pesto sauce and have them with fish, which cooks up in under ten minutes.

Or, you can make a nice frittata in the morning.

Do not underestimate potato frittata. It's so versatile - you can add sausage or bacon to it if you're so inclined, or whatever veggies you have on hand. The eggs give you a big protein wallop to start the day, and the potatoes will keep you feeling full well into lunch time. When I make frittata, I usually have it for breakfast and again for lunch, as it tastes absolutely delicious cold or at room temperature and goes so nicely with salad. This is a great one to take to work with you.


1 Tbsp butter or olive oil
1 leek, sliced -OR- 1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves minced garlic
2 cups leftover roasted potatoes (and other tubers if applicable)
1 carrot, grated
1/2 cup baby spinach
6 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated cheese (optional)

Preheat the oven to 450 F (225 C).

In a heavy, oven-safe skillet, melt the butter or olive oil over medium-high heat. Throw in the onion or leek, saute until it softens, then add in the garlic and potatoes. Continue sauteeing until the garlic starts to turn golden, stir in the grated carrots, and keep going until they soften up a bit.

While the veggies are cooking, crack all the eggs into a bowl. Add the milk, paprika, oregano, salt, and pepper; beat it with a whisk or fork until it's an even mixture. Set aside and stir the cooking veggies. When the carrots are soft, stir in the spinach and cook another minute or two until the spinach wilts, and then spread everything out evenly in the skillet. Pour in the egg mixture and tilt the skillet around to make sure the egg is evenly distributed. If you're using cheese, sprinkle that on top.

Stick the skillet into the oven and bake it for about 10-15 minutes, or until the eggs have set and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Slice into pie wedges and serve.

Happy St. Pat's, don't drink TOO much beer, and make sure you wear a little green today!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tight-Arse Tuesdays - Vaginas

I know this seems like avery odd topic for a cooking and domestic blog, but let's face it - we all want cheap and natural ways to care for our little lady. American healthcare is expensive, and you all know it. You're not getting a decent doctor's visit anytime soon and by george, you're itching to see one.

I have two incredibly helpful home remedies to help your box be top notch!

Yeast infections are annoying and sometimes incredibly painful. You itch and itch and itch and finally give in and spend seventeen dollars on an antibiotic ointment. Garlic, babies. Garlic is a wonderful healing aid for many things and can prevent yeast infections when ingested reguarly. however, I am not suggesting you ingest this one. That's right ladies, peel that sucker, cut notches into it and, if you're not very good at fishing, tie a string to it before you insert it directly into your goddess zone. I have to tell you now though, you will taste of garlic. I don't mean just your bits, but you will taste garlic in your own mouth. Keep a clove of garlic inside for 6 hours and change. Keep changing til infection is gone - around a day or two.

BV is smelly and itchy and painful. It's caused by an imbalance in the good bacterias of your vagina. Yogurt. I am saying you both eat, insert and apply this wonderful natural cream. Sugar free all natural plain yogurt - sugar is just going to buid up the yeast and the next thing you know you're making a garlic yogurt concoction. Use an old tampon applicator and get some yogurt in there. A spoonful will do you. If you don't like this option, buy some acidopholus pills and insert one of those instead. Apply yogurt topically to ease the itching and eat it do balance out your happy feelings.

If symptoms persist, DO see a doctor. If you get swelling, bumps or other issues associated with your infection, DO see a doctor. You might have something entirely different and vaginal health is incredibly important. We only have one, ladies! We gotta keep it healthy and safe. Use your best judgement. If you feel something is wrong, don't hesitate to spend the extra money to see someone.

But all in all, these two simple tips should help clear any casual case of vaginal distress and save you heaps of money on creams, lotions, pills and doctor's scripts.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

When life hands you lemons...

...salt 'em up.

Over the holidays, my dad gave me one of my new favorite cookbooks, Well Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods by Eugenia Bone. I love canning, but even I sometimes get sick of jam, and there's always the question of what you do with the stuff in those jars once you're ready to use them. This book solves both problems, with amazing recipes for unique, delicious preserves as well as multiple recipes for utilizing each one.

For example, there's a recipe for salty brined Meyer lemon preserves. Once those are done, you can use them in soups or tagine, or in the cookbook's recipes for Preserved Meyer Lemon Risotto or Chicken Cutlets with Preserved Meyer Lemons and Parsley. The possibilities are endless since salt and lemons go with just about everything!

Now is the time to get in on Meyer lemon action; they're at their best if you can find them at a farmers' market or a good co-op. You can use regular lemons, but you'll need to juice more of them and they won't be as good. Trust me, if you haven't tried cooking with Meyer lemons, they make a world of difference - the skin is thin and flavorful, almost all zest with very little pith, and the flesh is sweet and succulent and oh so juicy, like a fresh-picked heirloom tomato. You want to put up some of these now so that you'll have salty lemon goodness to go with all your spring asparagus and cucumber salads later.

To start: Take two half-pint canning jars and run them through the dishwasher, keeping them very hot until you're ready to use them. Or boil them in a large pot of water to sterilize that way. Simmer the round flat lids to soften the rubber seal (you don't have to sterilize the rings).

You will need 10 Meyer lemons, and 1/2 cup of salt. That's it.

Juice four of the lemons, getting as much of the juice out as you can, and set aside. Trim the stem-ends off the other six lemons, then quarter them into wedges. Sprinkle a little salt in the bottom of a jar, then cram the lemon quarters into it, packing them in however they fit together with as little space as possible. Sprinkle salt in there as you go, so that the salt is evenly distributed, and do both jars so that you wind up with 12 lemon wedges and 1/4 cup of salt in each one. Pour half the juice into each jar and knock it around, tilt it, run a knife around the edge, whatever you need to do to make sure there are no air bubbles. Put the lids on - not super-tight - and set aside on the counter.

Mark your calendar for two weeks from now. Every couple of days between now and then, pick up each jar and roll it all around. Don't shake it, but mix it all up so that the salt dissolves evenly into the juice. (It'll take it a couple of days to dissolve completely.) Let them ferment for the full two weeks, and then they're ready. Move them into the fridge at that point; they'll be good for six months if they last that long!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Farm-Fresh Friday: Cooking for your Pooch

Farm dogs need love to, and what better way to show your hard-working pups you love him or her than a homebaked treat straight from the oven - or in this case, dehydrator! Now the original recipe I used asked for both pork (which is not ever in this house) and to leave it in the oven overnight, which you can do if you don't have a dehydrator. Why I didn't do that is because I made them in the morning and wanted to use the oven for cooking. However, this is a good time for advice. If you are baking something for dinner ANYWAY, take the time as dinner cooks to slice some tomatoes, arrange some basil leaves or what have you and when dinner is done, turn off the oven and pop them in. You'll save heaps of money (electricity) and time drying food this way and can get a lot in an oven in comparison to my tiny dehydrator, which gets about 6 or 7 full sized tomatoes in the entire thing.

There's a bunch of online recipes for dog biscuits and I'm going to be honest with you - they're crap. My dogs HATED them. They would take them from me and give me this look like.. "You know I love you mother, so I will take this... but the second you leave, I'm burying it in the neighbours yard. Please don't do this again."

Now, this recipe isn't kosher, but neither are my dogs, so here we go:

100g wholewheat flour
100g rolled oats
2 tablespoons wheat germ
2 eggs
75g grated parmesan cheese
100g chopped sausage
100mL water

Combine all ingredients in a bowl until the dough is smooth. Let rest 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350° or 180°. Grease your baking sheet or line it with parchment.

Roll out the dough until it's fairly thin. I didn't do this and I really should have. They puff up a tad in the oven. Cut into tiny squares. The smaller the better as these go a looong way with the pups. I've been breaking them up myself because I simply made them too large. Place on baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. Either turn off oven and keep there for 2 more hours or transfer to dehydrator racks and dehydrate for 4 hours.

Store in airtight containter. Voila. Happy workin' dog.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


I thought I'd take the opportunity to celebrate spring (in my hemisphere, anyway) with a plug for one of life's little treasures. It's amazing how something so small and basic as a flower bouquet can dress up a room, a meal, a life.

Take the above pic. That's a quick breakfast I threw together the other day, just scrambled eggs and apple slices with cheddar-garlic drop biscuits. And it was so lovely there on my table by the window, with the newspaper and some delicious coffee, nibbling with my husband across the table, and a big bouquet of spring daffodils to bring the spring inside.

I feel happy when I have flowers on the table, and they elevate any meal into a dining experience, which is not only pleasurable but crucial for health. When we mindfully dine, rather than feed, we savor our food more, we chew it more thoroughly, and we eat less of it. Eating becomes an act of nourishment rather than stuffing. (For more on this subject, I recommend the excellent book French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano.) And when you're not eating, it's a great mood boost to have flowers around; I know I get a lift when I come home from a hard day at work and those bright sunny daffodils are beaming at me!

Besides, flowers don't have to be expensive, though they certainly can be. I picked up the daffodil bouquet above for $1.29 at Trader Joe's, but in the summer I typically have marigolds or roses from my yard in a small juice glass on the table. You don't need a fancy vase or a professional arrangement. Just cut some pretty flowers from wherever you find them (oh yes, I've pulled over for a wildflower before!) and stick them in water. Cut them at an angle so they take up more water and last longer, and for an even longer lifespan, drop a penny into the water too.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Chicken Soup with Matzo

Passover is coming and that means I need to use my husband as a guinea pig for my meals I will be serving in three weeks. Normally you're supposed to strain the chicken soup and use the broth for matzo, but I don't like that. I like chunky chicken soup with matzo. And since I had to spend all day cleaning not, I wanted something I could throw in the crockpot and forget about all day.

Matzo Ball Dough (what you though we were using boxed?):

4 eggs
4 tablespoons of oil
4 tablespoons of ice cold water
1 cup coarse matzo meal
1 tspn of salt
dash of pepper

Mix all ingredients in bowl. Refridgerate. Really, it's not much harder than boxed at all. If anything, pretty much the same.

Chicken Soup:
3 chicken breasts or 6 thighs, diced
1 spanish onion, diced
3 celery stalks, sliced thinly
2 carrots, sliced thinly
1.5L water
3 tablespoons chicken stock + 1 chicken stock cube
3 bay leaves
handful fresh thyme
handful fresh parsley
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
ground cumin and tumeric to taste

Throw all in all ingredients minus cumin and tumeric in the crockpot. Chicken on bottom, veggies on top, cover with water, chick in the stock and fresh herbs and set on low for 6 hours.

When nearing ready to eat, boil a chicken stock cube and a litre of water. Take matzo out of fridge and form into balls. Drop gently into boiling stock. Cover and simmer for 40 minutes.

Add cumin and tumeric to soup last ten minutes, dish to everyone and place matzo balls gently into soup with slotted spoon.

Delicious, healthy and just in time for Passover!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Vanilla-Coffee Gelato: No Ice Cream Maker Necessary!

I put this together last year when I had a brunch at my apartment and we didn't finish the huge pot of coffee I brewed. I couldn't bring myself to pour all that fresh-ground deliciousness down the sink, and I didn't have any blueberry bushes to pour it on then (now I do!), so I fell back on my favorite coffee ice cream.

I don't have an ice cream maker yet, though I hope to get one this summer. I also wanted to keep things reasonably light - not too sugary, not too rich - so I tried a freezer gelato and it worked out beautifully!

If you don't have a vanilla bean, then just use a teaspoon of vanilla extract, but I highly recommend obtaining a vanilla bean for this if you can. It makes a world of difference in the flavor, and the little specky vanilla seeds give the gelato a lot of character.


3 egg yolks (save the whites and scramble them up for breakfast later)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 cup milk
1 cup coffee (day-old and strong, if possible)
1/2 a vanilla bean

Bring a pot of water to a boil. In a non-plastic bowl that fits over the boiling water pot, combine egg yolks, brown sugar, and honey; beat well until bubbles form. Beat in the milk, then the coffee, until it's all well-combined. Split the half vanilla bean open lengthwise, then carefully scrape out the seeds into the mixture and drop the bean in too. Give it a good stir.

Set the bowl over the boiling water and cook, stirring often, until it thickens into a custard. Make sure you scrape the bottom as you stir! You don't want to cook the custard to the bowl. Once you've got your thick custard, remove the vanilla bean and pour the custard into a freezer-safe container and stick it in the freezer.

About every half hour or so, stir it up with a fork. It will take a few hours to freeze but you only need to stir it for a minute to break up the ice forming. When it's frozen, check to see if it's icy; if it is, break it up into chunks and dump them into the blender for a quick whirl. The blender will break up the ice and you can re-freeze it all you want after that without needing to blend it again. It'll stay nice and gelato-ey in the freezer now - if, of course, you don't gobble it up right away.

Which you will.