Small Batch Refrigerator Pickles and Other Yummy Urban Solutions

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Small Batch Refrigerator Pickles and Other Yummy Urban Solutions

Hey all you urban gardeners with your tiny area to grow tomatoes and herbs – or you CSA participants who don’t know what to do with 3 beets – I have a solution for a problem you may not have even realized you had.

You’re welcome!

Okay so for whatever reason, you have a handful of cucumbers or tomatoes or beets or really anything. You want to do something other than put them on the top of a salad but the thought of canning seems time-consuming and difficult and REALLY retro. I hear you and you are going to love this. Make refrigerator pickles. They are great because you can make very small batches and it doesn’t require the prep work and forethought that comes with proper canning. Seriously. You can do this less than half an hour and then you have fresh wonderful pickled veggies that you made all by yourself. Impress your friends and enjoy the terrific bounty of your local farmers market. I am also including a recipe for the world’s easiest best tomato sauce for when you have too many tomatoes to eat but not enough for a giant batch of sauce.

Basic Refrigerator Pickles

pickles

Enough veggies for 3 pints – if you are using tomatoes (and you should because they are amazing) make sure to use firm or even green ones so they don’t fall all to pieces. This is 1 ½ – 2 lbs of veggies generally.

1 ½ cups vinegar (cider or white)

1 ½ cups water

2 Tbsp. fancy salt of your choosing – Kosher is good, so is Himalayan Pink

At least 2 garlic cloves per pint – if you love garlic, use more – you know who you are

A pinch per pint of crushed red pepper – or more, again – you know what you like

½ cup of fresh herbs of your choosing – dill would be the obvious choice but feel free to experiment

1 Tbsp. lime juice, optional

Put the veggies – including garlic, fresh herbs and crushed pepper – in pint jars. Pack them in pretty tight but don’t bruise them. Combine the vinegar, water, and salt in a saucepan and simmer just until the salt is good and dissolved. Let the mixture cool for a minute and then pour it into the pints. Seal the jars and put in the refrigerator. Allow to “pickle” for a day or two before indulging so that you get the full pickled effect.

Insanely Easy Pickled Beets – Very Small Batch

1 pint’s worth of beets (3-4)

¼ c. white vinegar

2 Tbsp. sugar – raw/organic is fine – don’t use honey

Pinch of salt

1 tsp. ground cloves

Trim the greens off the beets and discard (or eat your greens). Place beets in a small sauce pan and cover with water. Allow water to boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool a little so you don’t burn your fingers. Peel and slice beets and then stack them in a pint jar. Get them in there really tight. Combine remaining ingredients in a sauce pan on the stove until the sugar dissolves. Pour into the pint jar. Seal and refrigerate.

tomato sauce

Jolee’s Tomato Sauce

3 pounds of tomatoes – roma or cherry work best, but any good RIPE tomato will work, especially if you have a good blender

½ c. EVOO

12 cloves of garlic

½ c. chopped fresh oregano or basil

1 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pour olive oil into a cookie sheet or other large pan. Cut tomatoes in half and put them cut side down on the pan. Add garlic, herbs and salt.  Place in the oven and cook until the tomatoes are browned – about 30-45 minutes. Allow to cool and then put the whole mess into a blender (in batches if needed) and mix up to your preferred thickness. If it is just too think you can add some broth to even it out. Yom.

Lemon Balm

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Amazing Healing Herb – Lemon Balm

lemon balmThere are so many reasons to love lemon balm. It is a member of the mint family so it is hearty, drought tolerant and spreads out as much as you’ll let it. It looks thick and green and luscious in a little garden patch where you need some interest. It smells like lemons! I am consistently amazed by the number of things that naturally have that sweet, crisp smell – lemons, lemon verbena, lemon grass, lemon balm. It’s all wonderful.

But the best thing about lemon balm is that is crazy beneficial. Lemon balm has polyphenols that work as anti-virals making it a wonderful defense not only against colds and flu but even cold sores and shingles. You can use it dried or fresh to make tea as long as you keep it just below boiling so as not to destroy the healing properties. You may also want to use it in an ointment for first aid to treat cuts and scrapes.

Know this – Lemon balm is also a great relaxant, so go easy on the tea if you need to stay awake. It is actually good for all kinds of nervous issues. It has been used traditionally to relieve anxiety, mild depression, restlessness and irritability and can sooth digestive issues related to anxiety. It is also considered to be a strong antispasmodic. More recently lemon balm has been found to have an anti-thyroid effect, making it an ally for those with overactive thyroids.

If you want to grow and use your own lemon balm – and why wouldn’t you – it is best to harvest it just before it flowers when the essential oil levels are at their highest. If you dry the herb, be sure to hang it upside down so that the greatest concentration of oils stays the leaves.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

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How Does Your Garden Grow?

wild garden

Oh my lord, the rain. We are ten inches above our normal average this year and more is expected this weekend. Usually here in Georgia, June would mean the beginning of drought season. We’d start hearing about when we are allowed to water our lawns and constructive things we can do to conserve.

So, I was unprepared for how fast everything in the garden is taking off this year. Mint is four feet tall. No joke. And the bee balm is poking out above the mint as high as my head. The parsley and cilantro grew so tall they couldn’t support their own weight and collapsed. Everything is gorgeous. I could not be more thrilled.

There is something mesmerizing about looking over your back yard where there was nothing six weeks ago and seeing a dense jungle of sunflower plants, wild flowers and flowering herbs. So I am just taking this opportunity to soak it all in and give thanks. How often do we really get the chance to appreciate having something special? And especially when do we get to bear witness to Earth’s abundance?

Reiki Master Mikio Usui says:

The secret art of inviting happiness

The miraculous medicine of all diseases

Just for today, do not anger

Do not worry and be filled with gratitude

Devote yourself to your work. Be kind to people.

Every morning and evening, join your hands in prayer.

Pray these words in your heart and chant these words in your mouth.

DIY Organic Insecticide

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DIY Insecticide

DIY Organic Insecticide

Every year I watch the garden start to grow and get excited about the prospect of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs to come. We spread the compost we harvested. We gently put in the plants. And we wait. For the bugs.

This year I swore I would not grow tomatoes because it was too heartbreaking. The plants grow, the tomatoes look amazing and then a swarm of nasty stink bugs descends on them and I am to freaked out to deal with it.  So this year I was going to stick with plants that didn’t attract those nasty things. As much as I found them frightening, I didn’t try to end them; I just didn’t want them to start.

Of course the universe had other plans. We have a new area in our garden that I was planning to dedicate to fairies and grow only wildflowers, butterfly bushes and other plants that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. We spread compost as usual and hundreds of tomato and squash plants started to sprout. Along with wildflowers. It’s dense, verdant jungle. I have culled out 90 percent of the accidentals that came in, but it’s still so thick I can’t tell how many plants are there.

I considered this. For the first time, I knew I had to put on my big girl pants and confront the bugs head on. So I Googled “DIY organic  insecticide” and found a very helpful site  – thank you Tarheel Nursery. I went with what looked like the simplest and gentlest option, which was much easier and less threatening than I’d imagined. I put ¾ tsp. dish soap in a quart of water and started spraying.  The concept is that the soap will make the plants taste bad and the bugs will look elsewhere for sustenance. I believe it is also supposed to propagation of eggs etc. as well.

As the summer takes off, I will keep in touch about the effectiveness of this solution. If someone out there has a better repellent and some results to share I would love to hear about it.

Crown Chakra – Sahasrara

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portulaca

Sahasrara is the diamond white chakra located just above the crown of the head. It is our spiritual connection center. It is associated with the pineal gland which produces chemicals that act as neurotransmitters. The crown chakra regulates the neurological system. It is the home of inner wisdom and our connection with the divine.

The seed sound for Sahasrara is Hangsah (hong saw)

The color for Sahasrara is bright white and violet

Element – space

Candle for Sahasrara – white – representing the presence of the divine

Essential oils – Jasmine, Frankinsense

Chant – I am, I understand

Affirmation – I am guided by inner wisdom. The world is my teacher.

Washing the Dishes

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At our first retreat, someone commented that they were at home doing something and they were surprised by receiving inspiration. I asked if they were washing dishes at the time and everyone laughed. But the truth is, one of the best ways to meditate and open yourself up to receiving wisdom is to do ordinary, everyday work. Chopping vegetables, vacuuming and for me – doing dishes – occupies your “monkey” mind allowing space for a calm, meditative state.

Set the intention before you begin that you will use the time open yourself up for guidance and wisdom and go about your work as usual. This also frees you from consciousness of time while meditating. When the work is done, so are you. Allow yourself simply to be. You may find that when you attach a higher meaning and purpose to a simple task, it becomes a more enjoyable experience.

sink

More About Washing Dishes

While we are on the subject of dishes, I would like to share my method for saving water and space. First of all, I have a difficult relationship with my dishwasher. The plumbing isn’t quite right and until we can completely remodel, it’s better just to wash dishes by hand. It also uses much less water and produces clean dishes faster.

To do the best job possible saving water, I have borrowed from the Boy Scouts. For camping trips, they generally have one tub of hot, soapy water, one tub of cold/room temperature water with a few drops of bleach and one tub of tepid water. Each dish goes through in that order so that campers can be sure their mess kits are clean and sterile for the next use. I don’t use bleach, but I do keep three tubs at my sink. One holds hot, soapy water, one holds hot water with one cup of vinegar and one holds kitchen compost. Because I don’t fill the entire sink with soapy water, I am able to do the same number of dishes with much less water and because I rinse them in water with vinegar, they are clean and streak free. Having the compost bin in the sink is convenient for scraping dishes as well.

 

Honey for Colds

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happy tummy honeyRemember hot toddies? Remember when the best cure for a cold or persistent cough was a little whiskey, some lemon juice and some honey dissolved in water? How much better that does that sound than commercial cough syrup?

Turns out, there is real science behind that formula. Honey has antibacterial, anti-microbial and anti-viral properties that work well with the antibacterial function of whiskey. Honey also coats the throat which soothes the pain of irritation. Lemon juice is acidic which microbes don’t like and it’s loaded with Vitamin C.  So for adults – slug one back when you are in the comfort of your own home.

For those who must drive and for children (but not babies*) a medicinal honey or syrup can help comfort a cough. There are a number of ways to make a special honey and varying opinions about their shelf life so let’s default to the most effective and safe.

Heating honey may kill some of its more powerful properties. I like to fill a mason jar with herbal material, then fill the jar with honey and let it sit in the sun for a day. This gives the herbs a chance to leach into the honey without overheating it. Strain the honey with a cheesecloth and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months. To make it a syrup, make a 1:1 concentration with water, cook over low heat on a stove until it cooks down about a third.

herb class chickweedIf you have a dry cough and you don’t have a lawn service, I recommend looking around for Chickweed. It is a prostrate weed you may have poking through already and it is an excellent addition to herbal honey. You can also just eat it raw in salads. It is loaded with vitamins and an effective cough suppressant.

herb class cleaversIf you have a persistent wet cough, like bronchitis, look around for a weed called Cleavers. It is sticky, clings to other plants and has leaves that grow in whorls. Like Chickweed, it shows up in early spring, and makes a terrific addition to an herbal honey or works well as a decoction for a nasty cough.

Here are other herbs that fight colds:

Catnip

Fennel

Sage

Thyme

Mullein

Garlic

 

Be creative, see what flavor combinations are most tolerable for you and your family.

 

* Babies are at risk for infant botulism in honey that does not affect children or adults. Children less than a year old should never have honey.

Cultivating Abundance

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If you are ready to take a some time to relax and renew, I encourage you to visit my new sister website DivineTimeRetreats.com. This week we were fortunate to have a guest blogger at Divine Time Retreats, so I thought I would re-post it here.

Divine Time Retreats is pleased to welcome a guest blog post from Brian Leaf, author of Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi, a warm-hearted, humorous look at one person’s personal journey with yoga and meditation. Brian was able to heal his spirit and chronic colitis by learning to make a powerful mind/body connection. Brian doesn’t approach his story like a master on a mountain top, but as a devoted truth seeker. His very real struggles and triumphs are sure to resonate with all of us.

Cultivating Abundance

We’ve all experienced it. In our most pathetic, clingy, desperate hour of need, the Universe delivers … absolutely nothing.

It seems a sick joke, but, in fact, whatever force or God runs the show seems not to respond to disempowered displays of self-pity. She seems, instead, to respond generously to empowered non-attachment (which reminds me quite a bit of dating in my twenties – I always seemed to do best when I was already feeling attractive and confident.)

So why? Why does God (and dating) reward confidence? Why is it that when I am freaking out, feeling that I will just die if I don’t hear from my agent, that I hear only crickets? But that when I get to my cushion to meditate, and when I let go, releasing to faith, that I return to my inbox with a fresh book deal awaiting me?

Here’s the answer. This place where we live is a gymnasium where our souls do soul push-ups, and since self-pity does nothing to build these spiritual muscles, it is discouraged. It is our path to find our true selves while here on Earth. To drop into our hearts and souls. To experience that we, ourselves, are each part of God. Claiming the opposite, that we are helpless and alone, is incorrect and ineffective.

When we are lost in clinging and self-pity, we’re like toddlers tantruming for chewing gum. And God, like a loving parent, won’t give in to something that isn’t healthy or safe for us.

Nice idea, right? But how do you get confident and become grounded in the seat of your true self? The answer: meditation, of course. Meditation is the practice, over time, of switching from indentifying with our thoughts and transient emotional states, to identifying instead with our deeper selves. And when we are connected to our deeper selves, if even for only moments, we can see more clearly and choose the path that works out our Karma and brings us toward freedom.

When we get grounded, resting in the true seat of our selves, in our authentic nature, seeing clearly and choosing that path of vitality and freedom, energy flows unbidden, the world falls at our feet, and God unlocks the arc.

Brian Leaf, M.A. is the author of Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi. He draws upon twenty-one years of intensive study, practice, and teaching of yoga, meditation, and holistic health. Visit him online at http://www.Misadventures-of-a-Yogi.com.

Based on the new book Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi ©2012 by Brian Leaf.  Published with permission of New World Library http://www.newworldlibrary.com

Extolling the Virtue of Garlic

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Despite its smelly reputation my family always operates under the principle that if some garlic is good, lots will be better. That philosophy could not be more true during cold and flu season. Garlic has antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties that prop up your immune system and help fight off illness.  In addition, some studies have shown that garlic can also help prevent cancer, particularly stomach and colo-rectal cancers. It is even credited with reducing cholesterol in the blood stream and reducing plaque build-up in arteries.

As if all that weren’t enough, garlic is also loaded with vitamin C and can be used topically as an antiseptic. So, carry some breath mints if you need them, but don’t miss out your fill of this fragrant allium.

There are several ways, in addition to marinara sauce, to use garlic to treat a cold:

Garlic Honey

Crush two heads of garlic and leave out for 15 minutes. Put in a pint jar and cover with honey. Leave overnight. Take 1 tsp. as needed.

Garlic Tea

  • 1 head peeled garlic, crushed
  • 1 qt. water

Simmer garlic in saucepan until soft, about 20 minutes. Mash garlic in broth with a fork and then strain. Gargle to treat a sore throat, or drink 1/2 c. every couple of hours for 1-2 days at the onset of a cold.

 

Garlic Syrup

  • 4 tbsp. honey
  • 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

Allow garlic tea to steep overnight. Strain and reheat until just warm, add honey and vinegar but do not allow to boil. Take 1 or 2 tbsp. for adults, 1 tsp. for children every hour or so for 2 days. After that, refrigerate for up to a week or use it to baste chicken.