Fig Sugar Body Scrub

Sugar scrup label photoAs you all know by now, I have a plethora of figs in the fall.  We can’t eat them fast enough or give them away enough!  And there is only so much fig jam I can eat, so I experimented with a variety of basic sugar scrubs adding in figs and came up with what I like to think is the perfect recipe!  I won’t give the secret recipe away but it only has three ingredients.  Figs, sugar and vanilla extract.  Yep, that’s it!  It’s the ratios and amounts that make all the difference and turn it into the perfect texture of a sugar scrub that smells amazing.

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Saving Green and Being Green for Back to School Lunches

It’s here!  School starts in a less than two weeks for us, so back to school time is officially here!  Are you ready?  Save some green and be green by AVOIDING the back to school shopping!  Before you run out to the stores to spend a small fortune on new school supplies, see what you have in your home that you can reuse from last year, or better yet, make your own when you can!

Here is what we already have from last year for this year’s back to school lunches.

Lunch bag/lunch box: Luckily she still likes Minnie Mouse, so we are going to reuse her insulated lunch bag.

Reusable water bottle: We had issues with leaky plastic water bottles last year so I bought this new metal one on sale earlier this year.

Lunch Containers for Back to School

Lunch Containers for Back to School

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Eeww…you are drinking THAT?!

That’s what my family said when I made this:

I have a ton of kale from my backyard garden.  My family hates kale.  So what am I to do with all this kale? Turn it into something that doesn’t taste like kale of course!  This really was delicious, even if it doesn’t look so appetizing.  Try it and you’ll see!  (I feel like I’m reading Green Eggs and Ham here…)

Recipe:

1 cup fresh kale
2 oranges
Handful of ice cubes

Blend in your blender.

Can it get any simpler than that?

Enjoy!

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Green Garden Gallery

While I love the fresh and healthy aspect of eating food from my own garden, I also appreciate the fact that there is no waste, no packaging, no travel/gasoline/petroleum or CO2 emissions involved in my food.  My blueberries don’t come in a cardboard or plastic box, my green beans don’t come from across the country, and my peas don’t come in a plastic bag.  I save seeds from year to year, add some compost from our food scraps, water it with our rain barrel’s water, and let the sun shine down on the wonderful tiny patch I call heaven.

These are the ultimate green goodies!

Here are some recent photos that my 6 year old took of me and my garden.  It’s absolutely wonderful to go out back with the kids and pick our dinner for the evening.  I don’t know if my girls will ever go back to store-bought produce after eating these crisp, crunchy ones!

We’ve had this blueberry plant for about 3 years now and this is the first year it has produced any fruit.
Good things come to those who wait!
Update: Slight problem – something has been eating my blueberries lately! When we go to pick them first thing in the morning, all the ripe ones are gone…could it be the birds? Or the squirrels? Or the resident groundhog?
Nothing better than eating green beans an hour after you pick them!
Just hanging around…
Me and my peas!
Here is our littlest one excitedly helping me de-shell some peas.  We’ll see how long that lasts.
Still more to go…
Snow peas getting ready for stir frying

Hope you are enjoying your own harvest so far this summer!  If not, then I hope you are at least enjoying your weekly visits to the local farmer’s market to get some fresh produce.  Mine has been a great resource for things I am not growing yet (zucchini) or that have come and gone already (strawberries, spinach, lettuce).

Some of you have asked me to write a post about pesticides and what I do about garden pests/diseases.  I don’t use any pesticides!  I let nature runs it’s course and only interfere with water and sometimes water and vinegar when needed.  I’ll write a more complete post about this soon with some more ideas of how to tackle your pesky garden pests.

Happy green gardening!

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Signs of Spring

Signs of spring in my backyard even on a cloudy day!

Blueberries!
Fig tree
Mixed garden (peas, tomatoes, chives, cucumbers, zucchini)
Another mixed garden with rain barrel in background (not a wine barrel!)  🙂
Peas and sugar snap peas with some lettuce and other things mixed in!
The key now is to keep the wild rabbits and groundhogs away.  Any tips?
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Aldi – Green or Not?

Some friends have recently been teasing me about shopping at Aldi so I just had to write about it and see what you all think.  

Compared to other grocery stores, I consider them very “green” and they were green before green was cool.  

  • They don’t give you plastic or paper bags for your groceries–you either bring your own reusable bags or you can buy them at the checkout if you forgot them.
  • They make you put a quarter in the grocery carts to make sure you return them, not only saving them money but also making sure the carts don’t end up in the trash, side of the road, some back alley, in a dumpster, rusting in someone’s back yard, etc.  Less carts they need to buy, less carts need to be made.  Pretty green to me.
  • They don’t use fancy signs that change every week thus saving on paper, plastic and ink costs.
  • They mostly use simple pallets that the grocery items were shipped in rather than spending lots on shelving that needs to be maintained, cleaned (by non-green cleaners in most grocery stores), replaced, signed properly, etc.
  • They keep prices low by limiting selection so you aren’t overwhelmed with 200 kinds of cereal, but maybe only 20 kinds (which if you have kids like me, this is a good thing, esp. since many of their cereals don’t have the kiddie toy attraction boxes like the major brands do at the regular grocery store).
My one big complaint so far was that Aldi didn’t carry organic fruits and veggies or organic dairy. And I question some of the products they sell especially since I recently noticed “carbon monoxide” as an added ingredient to their family value pack of tilapia (the regular size tilapia bag did not have “carbon monoxide” listed though…strange).
 
So I was quite excited when on a recent trip to buy my usual staples of onions, potatoes, carrots, baking staples like flour and vanilla extract, I noticed that they had started carrying organic produce and dairy items!  I guess they are only doing it in certain test markets to see how well it does, so I feel lucky to find them at my local store!
 
Anyway, so my Aldi top 10 list has evolved now to include several organic items:
 
1) organic apples
2) organic yogurt or cheese (when they have it)
3) almond milk
4) organic frozen strawberries/blueberries
5) organic dark chocolate (when they have it)
6) onions
7) potatoes
8) carrots
9) veggie hummus
10) wine (no list is ever complete without wine!)
 
So what do you think?  Do you or would you shop at Aldi now that they carry organic items?
 

 

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Breadcrumbs

A recent Facebook conversation with a friend over bread machine vs. kneaded bread and which is truly “homemade” reminded me…what the heck do you do with those “bread butts”? You know, the ends of the bread that no one wants to eat and that sit in the bread bag until the rest of the loaf has been eaten and then goes stale and eventually gets thrown out.  Except in this house.  You know my philosophy on throwing things out…you may consider it even pack-rattery.  But I call it free breadcrumbs.  🙂

Take the stale bread ends that no one wants to eat and keep them in a bag in the freezer.  When you have about 3/4 loaf total volume of ends and pieces of stale bread, place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and dry them a little more in a 250 degree oven for about 15 minutes.

Some of this leftover bread includes pieces that were cut up for New Year’s cheese fondue as well as some slices of good wheat bread that had just gone stale from not being used up quickly enough.

Add these ingredients below.

1 tbs basil, 1 tbs garlic powder, 1 tbs parsley, 1/2 tbs onion powder, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp salt

Voila–you have your own homemade breadcrumbs!  I keep an old mason jar on hand to store the breadcrumbs in and have attached a label to it with the recipe so when it’s time to make more, it’s right there on the jar and I don’t have to go digging around for the recipe somewhere.  So easy!

So you’ve recycled what WAS old, unwanted bread into something you can coat your baked chicken or fish with or use in whatever other recipes you have that call for breadcrumbs.  I do recommend keeping them in the fridge though since they are freshly homemade, they go bad quicker than the store bought breadcrumbs.  I can keep mine in the pantry for a month or so but any longer than that and I recommend the fridge.

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Figs, Figs and More Figs!

Since my last post was about excess plastic, it seems fitting that a post on the excess figs in my freezer follow.  After all, my 20+ pounds of figs have been stored since August/September in my reusable plastic containers and bags.  However, a few of the plastic bags got tears in them from two little ones smashing them with their fingers and poking them with their play kitchen utensils, so into the trash the torn bags went.  I felt very non-green at that moment and was wishing I had enough glass containers…and enough room in my freezer for 20+ pounds of figs in glass containers.

Did I mention I had 20+ pounds of figs leftover from my two fig trees in my backyard?  I say 20+ pounds because I lost count around there and only labeled some of the containers before freezing them a few months ago.  I gave many more pounds away to friends and family who love figs and eat them right off my trees and to coworkers in my office.  It was quite a year for figs here!

So what the heck do you do with 20+ pound of figs from two beautiful fig trees in your yard? Why, you make fig jam of course!

So I started with thawing them out of the freezer (this is only 8 pounds of the 20+ pounds of figs):

Thawing figs

Add some sweetener (I use sugar since it helps the jam set better than other sweeteners):

Some added sweetness!

Then I boiled it for a while (I forgot to take a photo of that step-sorry!).  I cooked the figs for about an hour before adding the pectin and sugar at the very end to help thicken it up.

Then I filled up the clean canning jars, put lids and rings on tightly and submerged in the boiling water for 10 minutes to get them to seal.

Then you let them set for 24 hours before putting them away in a pantry for a year (or decorating them to give to kids’ teachers, family, etc. for Thanksgiving or Christmas!)

 

All done! Eleven beautiful sealed jars of fresh fig jam from my backyard to carry us through the winter and into next year!

Know what the funny things is though?  I get to do this canning thing all over again tomorrow!  I still have 8 pounds of figs in my fridge that I couldn’t use today because 1) my gigantic pot wasn’t big enough to handle all 20+ pounds of figs at one time and 2) I ran out of pectin.  So much for being prepared!

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