Thursday, August 23, 2012

Ugly Tomatoes

Have you ever noticed that the tomatoes that look the worst often taste the best?

This beauty would never appear on any store shelf, but it was delicious! Sure, it's a bit tricky cutting out the stem, and those strange brown rings (they're just on the skin - anyone know what they are, and what causes them?) but it's definitely worth it, in my book, for the flavor. Unless I'm entertaining, I really don't care what it looks like (and if I invited people over, that means I'd have to share!)

Sorry, I don't even know what variety this one is (I'm guessing either a Brandywine or a Mortgage Lifter - my tomato patch this summer was a mishmash of old seeds I needed to use up (I think all of them were between 5 and 10 years old!) So there were some of those two types, some Jelly Bean, some Beefsteak, and I think some saved Romas, too - so I have quite a variety pouring in!)

Easy Probiotic Salsa

Here's another recipe that you can make in small batches as your produce rolls in. I'm loving the fact that I don't have to do a huge batch for canning (and be stuck in the hot kitchen all day!) Plus of course all the health benefits of lactofermenting, so it's easier to make and healthier for you. Win-win!

You can double or halve this recipe as you like (or quadruple as those tomatoes start rolling in . . .), and play with your spices - we like a medium salsa, so we use green jalapenos - if you like more of a kick, you can use red ones. Just make sure you wear gloves when you chop them up - I know this from painful experience!

Lactofermented Salsa
1 quart chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 Tbsp snipped fresh chives (dried spices work fine, too)
2 tsp minced garlic
2 chopped jalapeno peppers
1 Tbsp sea salt
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp cilantro (use more if using fresh)
Mix all together and fill desired jars. (If you have whey on hand, it helps to put about 1/4 cup on the top of each jar, to kick-start the lacto-fermentation.) Let sit, tightly covered, at room temperature for about three days (be sure to "burp" your jars at least once a day). Then store in a cool, dry place (I keep mine in the fridge).

Monday was "Salsa Day" - we came home from a weekend at Grandma's, and my sweet kids found all of these ripe tomatoes waiting in the garden. We ended up with over four quarts of salsa (and I didn't even use up all of the tomatoes!)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Surprisingly Simple (and Effective!) Deodorant

I've been trying for a long time to find natural, safe homemade versions of common household products. I make most of my own cleaners, my own dye- and fragrance-free soap, and even tried a couple of different homemade shampoos (with unimpressive results - so far!) So when I saw this blog post about using coconut oil as a deodorant, I was sceptical. When I thought about it more, though, it made sense - coconut oil is naturally anti-bacterial, so it should inhibit the microbes that cause body odor. But still, it seemed too simple . . .

But what would it hurt? I could try it around the house, and just shower before I went somewhere. So that's what I did - but I soon found that I didn't need the extra shower. It really worked! I've been using it for about a week now, so I can say with confidence that this is one DIY product that really does work (I'd even go so far as to say it works just as well as the Tom's of Maine deodorant I had been using). And it really is so simple! I didn't mess around with adding essential oils and such (I prefer not to wear 16 different scents, and since I'm still using conventional shampoo and conditioner, that's enough perfume for me).

All you need is 3 parts coconut oil (I used 3 Tablespoons, because I wanted to try it out with a small batch first) and 1 part baking soda (aluminum free is best). Just mix these two together and you're good! I apply it by just dipping a finger in the jar and then rubbing it in. The only slight issue I've had so far is that when the house is warm enough that the coconut oil is liquid, it seems that the baking soda settles to the bottom, so you have to stir it up again. Not really a big deal. The baking soda also seems to keep the coconut oil from getting completely hard, so it's easier to get a little bit off at a time (so far, anyway - we'll see what it's like when our house is 64 degrees in the winter!)

I just can't say how shocked and pleased I am with this deodorant! It really works!

(and no, it doesn't stain your clothes . . .)

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday.

Steak and Potato Scramble

We don't go out to eat much, but when we do, I always liked to get the Steakhouse Scrambler from Perkins. Unfortunately, they don't make them anymore, but I've found a surprisingly easy version I can make from scratch (with home-grown potatoes, eggs from our hens, and local grass-fed beef - and it costs less per serving, to boot!)
As you'll see, this isn't so much a recipe as it is a "throw these things together until it looks good" set of ideas:

Steak and Potato Scramble
Steak, cut into cubes and pan fried (I usually use round steak)
Cubed potatoes, fried until soft (most of the time I use leftover Cubed Oven Potatoes)
Scrambled eggs
Sauteed mushrooms, onions, and garlic, as desired
Layer all together and top with cheese sauce.

This was a huge hit with the kids, and of course I love it, too. It's so simple to throw together last minute on these busy summer days. We'll definitely be having this dish more often in the coming weeks!