Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Kale: My New Favorite Greens

I'm not sure why but I never thought I liked kale. This year I have an accidental bumper crop of it, thanks to a mesclun mix that I planted this spring that turned out to be mostly red kale and arugula.

In the spring, the tender small leaves made their way into salads, but as the season progressed and the plants grew bigger, I wondered what I would do with all those giant kale leaves.

At first I tried cooking with it, drying it, and freezing it. Later as the lettuce gave way to the heat of summer, I tried using the smaller leaves in place of lettuce.

Kale and Potatoes

This is a pretty simple (but delicious!) recipe, basically mashed potatoes with kale, meat, and onion.
  1. While the potatoes are cooking, fry up some bacon or sausage.
  2. When done, remove from the pan, take out some of the fat, then fry up some slices of onion.
  3. When the potatoes are done, drain the hot water over chopped kale. Let sit a few minutes until the kale is tender (while you mash the potatoes with butter and milk).
  4. Add kale, crumbled bacon or sausage and onions to mashed potatoes. Season to taste with salt, pepper and garlic.

Kale Chips

I found a recipe online, and lots of people raved about how delicious they were, so I decided to try it. Of course now I can't find the recipe to link to, but it involved soaking in salted water, then draining and dehydrating. I put them in the dehydrator overnight and it stunk up the house something awful! I ended up moving it out to the porch to finish. My sister said she liked them, but I wasn't so sure about the taste.

Preserving Kale by Freezing

Freezing was pretty easy to do, and I found the kale held up better than spinach. You can find general instructions for leafy greens here.

By trial and error, I found the best method (that worked for me).
  1. remove mid vein from bigger leaves
  2. tear into large pieces (about the size of your palm)
  3. blanch and cool
  4. use a salad spinner to remove excess water
  5. lay out on wax paper on a cookie sheet and freeze for at least 1 hour
  6. pack in freezer bags, remove air and label
I will have to report back later in the year and see how the frozen kale works, and try out some recipes.

Kale as Lettuce

Once we tried small kale leaves in place of lettuce, we realized how versatile this vegetable really is. It adds a nice crunch and an interesting flavor, and I'm sure it has more good stuff in it. It also holds up longer in the fridge compared to leaf lettuce. Kale made its way onto turkey sandwiches, burgers, BLTs (I guess they would be BKTs) and chopped for tacos or burritos or whatever else called for something green.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Composting is Cool

My worm bin and my compost pile are working their magic and providing lots of good fertilizer for my plants. I keep meaning to write a post about my adventures in composting, but there's so much good info out there already:

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Exfoliating Beads Bad

Yet another reason to make your own face scrub:

Plastic ain't fantastic, reason No. 4,972
"...tiny exfoliating beads in many facial scrubs are made of polyethylene, and once the beads get washed down the drain and make their way to the ocean, it's time for Nemo and friends to get ill. (Of course, polyethylene's also a suspected carcinogen, and as a plastic, its production is fossil fuel-intensive.)"

I find that the baking soda and oatmeal scrub does a fantastic job of cleaning and gentle exfoliation. I think the special exfoliating beads are just another marketing gimmick to get you to buy the latest and greatest. So, you scrub yourself silly, then you need to buy their special moisturizer, then you're oily so you need the special cleanser... and the cycle begins. Sometimes simple is better.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I Love my Garden!

I know I haven't written much lately, but my excuse is spending most of my free time canning and freezing (and eating!) the bounty of beans, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, cabbage, and onions growing in my garden.

It's really turned out to be fun! I love just walking through the garden every day and watching things grow. Going produce shopping in the backyard is pretty amazing too!

I also love to see the variety of life when I walk through. By not using any chemicals and maintaining a healthy growing environment, all kinds of living things feel welcome. Yesterday I spotted this little green frog sitting on a pepper.

My garden is also host to...
  • big fat earthworms that aerate and fertilize the soil
  • frogs, toads and wasps that prey on bugs
  • wildflowers that attract bees and other pollinators
Sure, I occasionally have not so welcome guests stop by, like the hoard of Japanese Beetles that descended on the pole beans, or the bunny that (so far) only nibbles on a few low hanging beans. We are maintaining a balance with hand removal and deterrents like spraying with compost tea (or dog hair in the case of the bunny) and keeping the pesky critters under control.

Without chemicals, and not too much labor, the small plot produces more delicious healthy food than we can eat, and I also get the pleasure of watching the wildlife that make my garden their home!

Monday, August 4, 2008

A Touch of the News

  • School fundraisers go green trading candy bars and magazines for greener things- "...fair-trade coffee, metal water bottles, hand-made soaps, and recycled-content wrapping paper"
  • Questions have been raised over the safety of sunscreen, especially those that contain oxybenzone. More research needs to be done to prove one way or the other if it is harmful, but for now, I'm sticking with my Badger Sunscreen
  • Natural insecticides containing pyrethrins (and the synthetic pyrethroids) were supposed to be safer according to the EPA, but are actually responsible for 1/4 of all pesticide related health problems.