Friday, September 28, 2012

From Farm to Jar [Canning]

I completed my second canning endeavor. The first time I canned (last year), I canned one jar using the water bath canning method. It is not recommended to can only one jar (you should have the recommended minimum number of jars in the water bath to safely can). This time, I had a bigger and better pot and more produce to can. As you read in my post on Final Thoughts About This Year's CSA, I had almost a full bag of peppers. Since the majority of the peppers were hot peppers (chili, banana, jalapeno), I decided to can those instead of freezing them since my freezer is already stuffed full.

My initial plan was to water bath can with the EcoZoom Zoom Versa Stove, but the rain prompted for Plan B. Plan B included canning inside on the glass top electric range with a porcelain enameled pot. The pot I used had a flat bottom and did not exceed more than 1 inch in diameter over the burner area. The water took about 30 minutes to come to 180 degrees, which is what is required for what I was canning.  I placed the jars inside and waited for the water to come to a rolling boil, which only took about 10 more minutes. I had no issues canning on the glass top electrical range with a flat bottom porcelain enameled pot using the water bath canning method.

The prep work took a little bit of time. I chopped the chili peppers and put them in the smaller jars. The banana and jalapenos went into the big jars as whole peppers. I did stuff one jar prior to cleaning to figure out how many peppers would fit. For quart jars, I estimated about 26 jalapeno peppers. I want to say it was around the same number for the banana peppers.

Recipe used for hot peppers:

Recipe to try next time:

Water bath canning method:

There are many great resources for canning available through the Ball Blue Canning Books as well as online resources. Do your research before your start canning so that you can safely can and safely enjoy your efforts for years to come.

>> Did you can anything this year??

Monday, September 24, 2012

Top 3 Things NOT to Do At a Farmer's Market

There is something about a farmer's market that make me a little nervous/anxious/ whatever you want to call it. Honestly, I do not feel at ease when I shop at a farmer's market. Maybe I do not go often enough. Maybe I do not feel comfortable with all of the unspoken rules. Maybe I do not like that they are no signs to tell me who grows organically and who does not. I have had my share of mishaps and embarrassing moments farmer's markets. Today, I bring you the top 3 things NOT to do when you are shopping at a farmer's market (from my own experience).

  1. Do Not Ask Young "Farmers" to Pick Out Your Produce - when a guy who looks like he is in his mid-20s tells me to pick out which watermelon looks the prettiest, I do not feel confident that he has any idea what he talking about. I know how to pick out a watermelon, but feel weird going around flicking and slapping watermelons to pick out the perfect one.

  2. Do Not Buy From the First Stand - walk around to the other stands; see what others are selling. You might find a better deal or better quality.

  3. Do Not Buy the "Pretty" Produce - I might not be a master gardener, but I know that tomatoes organically grown on a local farm do not look perfectly round. I have grown my own tomatoes and I have picked tomatoes from an organic farm. If anything, ask the farmer what they use to control pests.

>> What mishaps have you experienced at the farmer's market?


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Final Thoughts About This Year's CSA

I wanted to write a little bit about our CSA experience this year. Although we had a difficult growing year because of the extremely hot weather and the lack of rain, I still felt great about buying local (within 15 miles) and organic produce. My husband and I expected more from the CSA, but we did accept the risk with the Farm and it was "one of those" growing seasons. Either way, I am hooked on local farms. Forgot the farmer's market. I want to go straight to the farm!

A few weeks ago, the CSA completed their weekly pick-ups, but opened up the fields for "you pick." So, I went picking! Twice already! To tell you the truth, I would have rather done the you pick all season. Being out there in the field, looking for something green, red, or purple is very exciting, but also very relaxing. No one else is around (unless you have friends or family with you). There are not shopping carts. No announcements over the loud speaker. No one else trying to get in line at the farmer's market. Just peace and quiet! You really learn a lot of about how to pick produce at the right time.

Two out of the four remaining fields have already been mowed oven, but there are still some items left: cherry tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, hot peppers, mustard greens, arugula, and greens. I hope to get at least one more picking in before they mow over the remaining fields. Please enjoy the photos below from my last two "you picks."

Trip 1 - red cabbage, cucumbers, eggplant, bell peppers, hot peppers, tomatoes, zinnias

Trip 2 - Tomatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, greens, arugula, mustard greens


>> If you were part of a CSA this year, how did it do? If you were not part of a CSA, would you ever consider joining?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Snacks in Fun, Colorful Snack Bags with Wexy Bags

I buy most of my snacks (dried fruit, nuts, trail mix, etc.) in bulk. I also like to make homemade snacks. Of course, plastic packaging and plastic baggies can be costly and can sit in landfills for up to 1000 years before they decompose. What's an eco-friendly girl to do? If reusable cloth baggies are not an option, then consider Wexy Lunch & Much Bags, the kid-friendly, eco-friendly snack bags that are BPA-free and biodegradable, recyclable, and reusable.
Wexy Snack Bags Single Box (28 count)          $3.99
Rating: total green check marks out of 5.

The Good
The Not So Good
Made of plastic

When I received the box of Wexy Snack Bags, I checked out the box first. The colors on the box are eye-catching and engaging. If you are trying to get your child to eat healthy or homemade snacks, Wexy Snack Bags will get them excited in no time. The four fun monsters are a great way for kids to connect with eco-friendly and green living since each of the monsters standards for something green.

I really like that Wexy Snack Bags are biodegradable and the packaging is recyclable. Biodegradable is defined as the capability of being decomposed by bacteria or other living organisms. The plastic seems to be similar to biodegradable/compostable plastic mailing packages, so I assume that I can throw the used bags in the compost pile. Although the bags are reusable, the plastic is a little on the thin side, so I do not see myself reusing the bags more than a few times. The size of the snack bags would fit almost any time of snack that you put in the lunch bag or for a trip. The monster print on each bag fits almost the entire surface area. 

Even though Wexy Snack Bags are made of plastic and might be disposed of in the trash after one use, the fact that they are biodegradable is a big win. If you compost, then throw it in there to reduce your trash. Any kid would get excited about snacks (whether they are from the bulk bin or homemade) when they come inside of Wexy Snack Bags.

Disclosure: I received the sample from the company in order to facilitate my review. No other compensation was received. I am under no pressure to return the product to the company or to write this review. This product review is based on my personal experiences. This review is objective and completely honest. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - My Husband Cooked Vegetarian!

Some of you might not be surprised by the title of this post, but I am. Why? Because my husband loves meat and is never going to stop eating meat. To my surprise, I get the following photo from my husband of what he cooked for dinner while I was out of town.

Vegetarian Coconut Red Curry

Eggplant from our garden
Garlic from the organic CSA farm

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Reducing Our Trash and Recycle Waste [#CTWW]

This week's challenge comes from Mrs. Green (I just love her blog!):

This week, consider your recycling habits and decide on one more things which you can do to reduce landfill waste.  Let us know what you are doing, and how, so that we can learn and be inspired.

And then, if you would like ...

Visit the (Inter)National Zero Waste Week blog page or the Facebook Page and share your efforts with everyone participating in this year's event (close to 1000 from all over the world).

A quick survey of the trash can and the recycle bin reveal the following items making up the majority of waste. I am also going to call recycled items waste because we are not reusing them and they required energy to be recycled.

Trash Can
  • Unrecyclable containers from restaurants (Styrofoam, paper lined with plastic, plastics that cannot be recycled)
  • Plastic bags
  • Plastic wrapper (packaging)
  • Tissues and paper towels
Recycle Bin
  • Beer and wine bottles
  • Cardboard boxes (from online purchases)
  • Junk mail
  • Plastic containers from dairy, fruit, etc.
  • Glass jars
  • Aluminum cans

Once we started recycling, really recycling, and composting, our trash waste reduced dramatically. However, there is always room for improvement. There are so many changes I can make, but I have to take baby steps to reduce the amount of change I introduce at once. Yes, I would love to be able to bring my own take-home glass container to restaurants to take the left over food home, but I could see people (even my own family members) looking at me like I had three heads. I am going to chose one item from the trash can and one item from the recycle bin to either change what I buy, reuse the item, or compost it. 

Trash Can: Tissues
Waste Reduction Plan: Since 98% of the tissues are used for wiping a nose, these can be composted. Obviously, if you are sick and using tissues, you would not want to compost these.

Recycle Bin: Junk Mail
Waste Reduction Plan: Compost junk mail and shredded items. This will add good carbon matter to the produce scraps in the compost bin. I had been saving glass jars for storing items from the bulk bin or spices from my garden, but I ended up with a huge number of jars and no where to store them.

>> What ideas/tips do you have for helping me reduce my waste?

    Monday, September 3, 2012

    Wasteful Restaurant Water [#CTWW]

    What is the obsession with waiters and waitresses keeping your water glasses full all the time. They are sneaky little guys, refilling waters so quickly that you do not even have time to tell them that you do not want more water. The action that baffles me the most is when they refill you water after you already paid your bill, like you are going to stay there for another hour and thus need a full glass of water. It is so wasteful! If I can catch them walking up to the table with a pitcher of water, I will say, "I don't need more water." However, my company would probably not like if I was constantly surveying the perimeter for sneaky waiters/waitresses carrying water pitchers instead of paying attention to person sitting at the other side of the table.

    >> What are your strategies for reducing water waste when you are dining out?

    Saturday, September 1, 2012

    Refresh with Organic Steaz Iced Teas [Review]

    I am a big fan of hot tea and iced tea. Although I sometimes prefer to the clean taste of green tea or black tea, I also teas with some flavor. Steaz is a company that produces flavorful, great-tasting, all natural, organic, and fair-trade certified tea drinks. The company uses ingredients with the highest quality, sourced from socially responsible farmers and suppliers. The variety of flavors, paired with the eco-friendly and sustainable practices of Steaz, can be enjoyed by every member of the family.

    the flower of life the power of tea

    Steaz Blueberry Pomegranate Acai          
    Steaz Green Tea with Mint                      
    Rating: total green check marks out of 5.

    The Good
    The Not So Good
    Flavor is a little on the light side
    Just right sweetness (on the lighter side)

    I bought two flavors of Steaz teas: Blueberry Pomegranate Acai and Green Tea with Mint. Both flavors were very refreshing with just the right amount of sweetness. For some reason, I expected that the sweetness would be stronger, but was pleasantly surprised that it was on the lighter side.  I tried the Green Tea with Mint first. I really like mint tea. The mint flavor was not as strong as I expected. I could barely taste it. The Blueberry Pomegranate Acai was also very refreshing with a slightly sweet taste. The three fruits puts together gave the tea a subtle fruit flavor. The flavor of Steaz teas is real and authentic, which speaks to their highly quality ingredients.

    I always look for eco-friendly packaging that can be recycled and try to avoid plastic packaging when other options are available. I was glad to see that Steaz products at my local Whole Foods come in aluminum cans and glass bottles.

    I look forward to trying some of the other flavors and lines of the teas. If you are looking for an organic, fair-trade certified drink for on-the-go, I recommend that you try Steaz teas.

    Disclosure: I received the sample from the company in order to facilitate my review. No other compensation was received. I am under no pressure to return the product to the company or to write this review. This product review is based on my personal experiences. This review is objective and completely honest. 

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