Monday, 2 July 2012

Harvesting Red Raspberry Leaves

Red raspberry leaf tea is a common tea that can be found at any grocery store. It contains many beneficial nutrients such as vitamin C, E, A and B, as well as minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron and antioxidants. Woman who are trying to conceive are suggested to drink red raspberry leaf tea to improve fertility. This tea is said to ease menstrual symptoms such as cramping and bloating for woman. For pregnant woman, drinking this tea is debatable, with resources saying in all trimesters, not the first trimester as it may cause miscarriages, only in the third trimester to help prime the uterus for labour and even not at all as it can induce labour. Well isn't that helpful. This tea is not restricted to feminine issues though, as it also assists with constipation, inflammation, anemia, cold and flu and digestive issues. Now as with any herbal supplement or tea, caution should be used. Consult a doctor or a herbalist to ensure that this herb is right for you. 

But going back to my first sentence, this tea can be found at any grocery store. Why the heck would you want to pay almost $5.00 for a box of organic red raspberry leaf tea that will only last you lets say a couple weeks? My saying is if I can get it for free, why should I pay for it! And this saying applies to red raspberry leaf tea. I have a plot of red raspberries in my garden, and for the past 4 weeks, I have been harvesting the young green leaves and drying them. My husband thinks I'm so smart because I figured out how to get free tea. In reality, I'm just extremely cheap. I will be starting to drink red raspberry leaf tea, slowly entering into my daily routine, once I have entered the third trimester. I do have a herbalist that I will be consulting so if I encounter any symptoms or reactions, the herbalist will be able to assist. I have collected red raspberry leaves in the past for teas to treat winter colds, but have never really had to use it as we get over colds relatively fast (probably from preventative herbs and drinking at least one cup of winter cold tea when we do get sick). 

So if you enjoy red raspberry leaf tea (or a tea that contains red raspberry leaves), I suggest you look into harvesting your own. The first thing that comes to my mind is how could you not!? Think of the money you will be saving! 

Saturday, 30 June 2012

I'm a terrible blogger . . .

As the title says, I'm a terrible blogger. I always get so into the blogging for like a couple of weeks, and then I get distracted by something else and bunny trail away from my blog. Well, like every other time, I'm back. How long? I don't know. Let enjoy the fun for now and see where it ends up. 

Life update! I'm pregnant! Almost 6 months along right now, due in October. That means more opportunities to be the hippie I am! So, on the agenda for baby related posts; cloth diapers, receiving blankets, quilts, baby wipes, baby butt cream, etc. But only time will tell! As well, the garden is up and running! I will post a complete detailed run down of my garden this year, and as always, you can expect food preserving to follow right behind! 

Friday, 24 February 2012

My Chair in the Corner

I love my chair. It sits in the corner of the living room, and from here I can see the front step, the kitchen, the dining room and the T.V. (which never has anything on it because we don't have cable!). It's not the prettiest chair in the world by a long shot. Clover has taken to using one of the corners to stretch out on, not scratching unless she wants to get my attention. It also has some nicely browned arms from dirt accumulation which I choose to ignore. The fabric is outdated and extremely thin, hence why Clover can so easily destroy it. But I love my chair.

I found my chair on Kijiji. It's a beautifully shaped wing-back chair, that goes perfectly with my antique couch and piano. It has wooden claw legs, and a super comfy cushion on it. It only cost me $95. Yup, that my friends is the power of buying used furniture. A new wing-back chair would cost around $300, and I'm pretty sure it would have ugly, not-real-birchwood legs on it that only screw on instead of being built right into it. This piece can easily be recovered (with a more robust fabric, that's for sure), giving it an instant makeover. It is built solid so I'm sure it will withstand abuse from children that are sure to come in the future. I love this chair!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Money Saver: Bone Stock

I'm going to start by apologizing. I haven't been on in a while. I haven't been feeling well for the past little while, spending my days in my chair in the corner, watching youtube videos of cats, Facebook creeping and skimming other peoples blogs. Nothing at all frugal, environmentally friendly (Does not driving anywhere count?) or really productive. But I'm feeling better now, so I'm hopping right back into this blog!

In a last year's post, I had mentioned our meat order from McDonald Farms. I loved, absolutely LOVED the meat. The lamb was the tastiest lamb I had ever had, the pork actually had a taste, while the beef was a little bit more wild than I or my husband was use to and so we have resorted to marinating it. But with our meat order comes not only meat. Got you curious yet? Well meat is attached to bones. And bones, to most people are to be thrown out or given to the dogs. You people though are missing out on a simple, easy, super tasty and money saving tid-bit by throwing them away. Bone stock people! You buy beef, vegetable or chicken stock from the store, when its basically 'free' when you make it at home.

After each meal, its my husbands job to clear the table (I slaved over making supper, so he clears the table as a thank-you), and I always remind him to save the bones. Pork chop bones, lamb shoulder bones, rack of lamb bones, etc, go in a ziploc bag that is in the freezer. After a couple of weeks, I have a good handful of bones, to which I put in a big pot of water, and boil it till I see fit. The result is a great stock that you can use in recipes such as roasted red pepper black bean soup (recipe to be posted!), pan steaming vegetables or making a gravy. You paid for the meat, got bones as leftovers, and water is pretty inexpensive where I live. The rough equivalent price of 6 cups of a simple broth or stock at the store is probably like $8.00 plus (depending on your brand). If I make this stock once a month, I'm saving almost $100 a year. Doesn't seem like much, but just think what you could do with that money. $100 worth of plants, which will provide you with food and extra money saving for example. If it seems like a bother and takes up too much time, you can put it on the stove before you go to bed, set you the stove element on low or put it all in a crock pot and wake up to a beautiful broth, to which you can put in jars and freeze till you need it. And you'll be happy to know what exactly everything that goes in it, and not playing the guessing game of what is this in the ingredients list.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

An Example of How Food Affects Our Health More Than You Would Have Thought

At 15 years old just after summer, I developed a very itchy rash, which was accompanied with easily inflamed skin. My legs were covered in a hives and scabs, as I would scratch my legs in my sleep to the point of bleeding. My friends would poke me several times on my arms, and in 5 minutes I had welts where they had poked me. And of course, the welts were itchy. Then at 16 years old, I got a sinus infection. Well, that doesn't sound too bad right? I had the infection for over a year. It would not go away. Then I dealt with sinus infections on and off for 3 years. As soon as I would recover from one infection, I would get another one. 

To add some comedy to this, I met my now-husband at 16. Somehow he liked me, even though I was constantly blowing my nose, coughing so hard I might throw up and further, would go into an itch attack if not touched in a certain way (hugs had to be in a certain way because if he didn't, my shoulder blades would get really itchy and they are really hard to reach). Needless to say though, his patience with my skin and sinuses had its limits. At 21, I was still dealing with sinus issues, now accompanied by frequent ear infections, and my skin condition. I would complain about my ears or how my head felt like it was a balloon. And still, there were certain ways my skin had to be touched so that I didn't go out on an itch attack. He was fed up with it all, and I was too.

It has really been in the past month that I have realized that I am no longer itchy. And my sinus headaches have been reduced by 90%. This turn of health was all reversed through my diet. I am wheat and milk sensitive, as well as allergic to mushrooms. The mushroom allergy extends to roasted peanuts, which carry up to 22 different types of moulds. I had some allergy testing when I was 15 to see if my skin condition was an allergy, which it wasn't. And yet, by removing these foods from my diet, I feel healthier. My husband enjoys cuddling with me, and me not having to scratch my legs every 5 minutes. I enjoy being able to hear and breathe through my noise. The thing that gets me is that I went to an ENT specialist for my sinus issues. He told me that I was just sensitive and I would have to live with this for the rest of my life. Well thanks, just what I wanted to hear. Yes, I was 'just sensitive' but I was sensitive to food! Actually, my herbalist was the one who figured out my food sensitivities. Upon our first meeting, she told me to cut out wheat and milk, as well as peanuts and fungi. It took me 3 years to actually fully do so, but she was right.

So if you have a chronic healthy issue, look into how your diet may be affecting or aggravating it! My food sensitive was a godsend, and it could be for you too. There are many exampled in the blogsphere of how eliminating certain foods cured health and behavioural issues, so I'm not the only one here.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Ukrainian Beet Borscht

At my favourite farmer's market stand, this beet was the size of a sugar pumpkin. 

A little personal history here: My parents were divorced before I was born (I was obviously not planned by my parents). I grew up without my paternal extended family, who were Ukrainian and Polish. Thankfully, genes carried the Ukrainian and Polish traits to me. How? Keep in mind through these points that I am an old soul, and it will make more sense. Point one, I love to garden. Most Ukrainian women do. Point two, I can be a penny pincher. Point three, I love sour cream, which just so happens to go great on cabbage rolls, perogies and borscht. Point four, the smell of dill puts me into a happiness coma. Point five, I could very well live off beet borscht.

Borscht is a super easy soup to make for winter, as it is made of winter vegetables; beets, carrots, potatoes, cabbage. It is also healthy and surprisingly low in calories (I was shocked!). One serving provides your whole day's worth of vitamin A. However, don't be shocked when your bathroom visits are not the normal colour (everything will take on a purple hue).

As for a recipe on how to make borscht, there is no Holy Grail recipe for borscht. It changes between regions, as well as between seasons. It also changes based on the ingredients on hand. Here is my guideline recipe for borscht.

1 cup beets (shaved or cubed)
1 cup carrots (shaved or cubed)
1 cup onions (diced)
1 cup beet tops
Half a head of cabbage (shredded)
1 cup parsnips (shaved or cubed)
2 cups of tomatoes
4 cups of water or broth
Dill (season to your liking)

Add it all to a pot and simmer. If you've shaved the veggies, you serve as is. If you cubed the veggies, you need to blend it (blender, food processor, etc). Tomatoes are not a requirement for borscht, but it still keeps in line with a traditional borscht. You can also add meat, but I think that would just take away from the awesomeness of the beets and cabbage. If you don't have beet tops or parsnips, don't add them. The backbone to borscht is simply cabbage, beets, carrots, water/broth. When you serve the soup, add a dollop of sour cream or homemade greek yogurt.

Talking about borscht brings up a funny moment that happened this past summer. There was a family get together at a cousins house, and she made 'borscht' as our starter. I was ecstatic as I love borscht. I was severely disappointed when I was served a tomato 'borscht' (in my mind, tomato soup). I made sure that everyone knew that this was not true borscht as it was not purple and I could not taste any beets what-so-ever. Some day, I'm going to have my family over and serve a Ukrainian meal, filled with cabbage rolls, perogies, beet borscht, ukrainian meatballs, and sour cream.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Wheat-Free Spelt Bread

Thank goodness I have no allergies . . . unfortunately I have many sensitivities. One of them is to wheat. No, not gluten, wheat. I can have it occasionally, like having pasta or a pastry treat once a week, but when it comes to bread, I usually have that once a day, and as most bread’s are chalk full of wheat, I have to avoid them. I have tried to make light, fluffy wheat-free bread but has always come out less like bread and more like a deadly weapon . . . like a brick. I could just add vital wheat gluten to it, but in my opinion, too many of today’s products contain gluten so no to added gluten. My husband though is a pretty plain guy but wants his fluffy bread. And then I found this recipe! Originally for challah, I just made a loaf out of it. (Please note that this is not gluten free, as spelt does contain gluten.)

Spelt Flour Bread
1 cup warm water
¼ cup olive oil
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoon agave nectar, or 4 tablespoon honey
2 cups white spelt flour
1 cup whole grain spelt flour
1 cup whole grain rye flour
4 teaspoons xanthan gum
2 teaspoons yeast

Add ingredients to bread machine and put on dough cycle. Once dough cycle is done, pull dough out and place in a loaf pan. Let is rise for half an hour, while the oven is warming, set to 350ºC. Place the loaf in the oven and bake for 25 minutes or till outside is golden brown. Let is sit of 15 minutes and then remove from pan.

Hey, remember that post with making yogurt and how the whey from the yogurt was drained, and I told you to save it. Well, instead of using 1 cup of warm water in the recipe, use 1 cup of warmed whey! It has lots of valuable nutrients in it. Whey can be used in most bread recipes in place of milk or water.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Grandparents; We don't cherish them enough

This week, I spent two days with my husbands maternal grandmother and one day with my husbands paternal grandmother. My one set of grandparents live two hours away in my hometown, but I am lucky enough to have such a nice married-into family. I just got nostalgic having spent the past few days with some grandparents.

On Wednesday, I spent the day with Grandma Loades. This lady is one of my role models in life. She survived WWII, travelled to Canada with her 3 children, had a fourth child in Canada, cared for her husband for 25 years (Multiple Sclerosis), has survived cancer, does her hair in rollers everyday, and can cook like nobody's business. She is a fantastic. Her life story is amazing, and it is a family goal to write a book about her life. We've already decided that our first girl with be named after her (No, I will not share the name because I don't want people to steal it!). Anyways, on Wednesday, I was going over to watch a documentary on the upstairs/downstairs life of England's aristocrats. It turned into a discussion on finances and my (lack of a) career. She said, "I don't want you to feel like I'm criticizing you,  but you've had no one to explain these things to you, and you need to know this. Not just for you but for your family." So true. She made me set goals, and she said she would keep up with me to see if I reached them. On Friday, I spent the day with her as well. We went to the movie 'The Help' and then went out for supper. Another great conversation about how I can better myself as a person (expanding my book selections, learning more history, learning to not think everyone is criticizing me, etc). She's an awesome lady.

My husband's paternal great-grandma (Louise DeClercq) passed away in early January, 21 days away from her 96th birthday. She lived in the house her and her husband built themselves up to a week before her passing. The picture to the left was taken at Christmas, two weeks before she passed. She grew a full garden each summer, canned her own food, could go up the stairs without a cane, and was as sharp as knife. She is also another role model for myself. Her gardening, blueberry pies and prime rib roasts are something I am going to keep going in my own house. On the night of her passing, my husband and I went to the hospital to say our goodbyes. She was wasn't speaking, barely moving, and just hanging on till her son could get there (she passed away an hour after he arrived). As I love to bake and am married to the majority recipient of her famous blueberry pies (my husband), I promised her to keep up the tradition of her blueberry pies, and try my best to make them as well as she did. It was the only time that evening that she had actually responded to anyone, looking at me, nodding and if she had been able to, she would have probably shed a tear, as I could see it in her eyes. I spent Thursday, helping Grandma Portener do some more cleaning and boxing in great-grandma's house. It was nice to help her out, as she has a bad back. I tried and succeeded in boxing/bagging all the things in the basement and in the upstairs, so now she doesn't have to do the stairs. I learned Friday that I had sacrificed my calves for her back. They are still sore, but it was worth it to help her out.

I've only been married into this family for about 5 years, but they have accepted me with open arms and have pushed me to be a better person, teaching me lifelong skills and most of all, given me an example to live by. All to often, we take grandparents for granted. They are full of knowledge and we need to spend the time to listen to them, because if we did, we could avoid problems and stop our society from repeating the same mistakes over and over again.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Home Cleaner Hero

True story! I had just spent the past couple weeks studying for exams and finishing research papers and finally had time to clean the house! My husband does not clean, so if I’m too busy, it goes undone. I go to clean the tub and oh my word is it gross. It had a beautiful layer of soapscum-like sticky/tacky gunk on it. As ‘green’ as I am, I am also frugal. I still had some soapscum remover, so I used it to clean the tub. After a 10 minute soak-in, 10 minutes of scrubbing with a toilet scrub brush, I was getting barely anywhere. I was fed up! I went to the kitchen and got my big bottle of white vinegar and big box of baking soda. I sprinkled the baking soda into the tub and then poured a glug of vinegar. A couple of good scrubs, and the gunk was gone. That’s right. Simple old baking soda and vinegar beat commercial soapscum remover. I have now thrown out all my soapscum remover products from my house.

But, baking soda and vinegar doesn’t stop there. Got a smell in your slow cooker from cooking chili? Baking soda and vinegar! Need to clean grease off your teapot? Baking soda and vinegar! I also use it once or twice a month as a drain cleaner. Sprinkle the baking soda into the drain, and add a glug of vinegar. Let it sit for 10 minutes and then add hot water to push it through. I’m sure I will find more uses for baking soda and vinegar, but seriously, I love it!

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Homemade Yogurt

Yup, you read right. And its not complicated. Nor is it expensive. No fancy yogurt maker, no giant igloo containers hanging out in your kitchen. You got a slow cooker? Then you are ready to go! Well, you will need milk as well, but I'm thinking that's a given.

You will need:
8 cups of whole milk
(or 8 cups of skim milk with 8 tablespoons of dry milk powder added)
1/2 cup of plain natural yogurt
Slow cooker

There are several ways to do this but here is the way that I have found is the quickest. Start by turning your slow cooker to the low setting. Then, warm on the stove the 8 cups of milk in a pot until it reaches 120ºC. Remove from heat and cool till 110ºC. Pour the milk into the warmed slow cooker. Add the yogurt to the milk and stir. Put the lid on, unplug and cover in towels. Let it sit overnight and WHAM-BAM, you have yogurt in the morning! Now, I prefer a greek yogurt, so I now use my coffee carafe and drain the whey till the yogurt is the consistency I prefer. I've made this a handful of times, and I get anywhere from 500-800 grams of greek yogurt. (Oh, and save the drained whey!)

Now, you may be thinking, "Why wouldn't I just by yogurt at the store?". Well, many of the yogurts at the store have many, many additives to them and chemical sweeteners. As well as fake fruit. This way, you are in control of what you are eating. Again, you may be thinking, "Well, I can just by the natural yogurt and be on my way.". Natural greek yogurt costs around $5.00 for 500 grams where I live. 8 cups of whole milk costs $3.00. And as this recipe makes at around 700 grams of yogurt per batch, it costs me just over $2.00 to make 500 grams of yogurt. So I'm in the savings!

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Fire It Up!!!!

Well, I am pleased to announce that I am re-starting this blog! I took the past several months off so I could focus on school. Now that I am finished school, I have a lot of free time on my hand. And so, I can work on being frugal, green and more sustainable, AND BLOG ABOUT IT!!!! I have lots of ideas and things in the works. In the meantime, stay tuned and relax! Or be a little ball of fur kitty!