Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Calling all Seattle neighbors!

I like free stuff, recycled stuff and stuff for almost free. I like to borrow vs. buy and I like to share when somone is in need. That's why I'm excited about this new site Neighbor Goods - an online source for sharing goods in the hood. You just enter your zip code and it pulls up a list of neighbors within a 50-mile radius ready to loan you some cool stuff - including fresh herbs you don't have to give back. Cool!

You can also post things you'd be willing to share and it itemizes it by category. What a cool idea.

So, check out this new site which was just launched nationally TODAY!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Phosphate-free Washington

News on the street is Washington and Oregon recently passed  a law banning phosphate-ridden dishwasher soap. According to the Seattle PI, "phosphates promote plant growth and may degrade water quality in lakes and streams." By July 1, it's illegal to sell phosphate dishwasher soap for automatic dishwashers.

The bottom line is phosphates act as a fertilizer and allow algae to grow - limiting the oxygen supply to fish. Although treatment plants and private septic systems help eliminate phosphates, it's not 100 percent.

It seems Spokane and Whatcom counties have had this in effect since 2008, but the Eco-formulas lacked luster and folks were crossing the boarder into Idaho to get phosphate-laden soap. Who knew you would be considered an outlaw for smuggling dish washing soap?

But, the good news is there are better formulas in 2010 than there were even two years ago. Now, that's progress. And we all really do have to do our part. Here's some helpful ideas on which brands to consider when you change-over.

Here's a review for Method Smarty Dish Tabs which seems to be the best product out there and easily available. I heard it's cheaper at Bartell's or Lowe's.

Also, you can order in bulk from Eco-friendly Cal Ben - an online soap store. To order go to

Lastly, Consumer Report tested three types of phosphate free detergents and wrote their finding on their website at

Other states also implementing the ban are Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Check out the full article:


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Beet goes on.

I don't know when your tastes change, but you don't grow up liking beets. Their rustic, dirt-like flavors just don't go over so well when you're, like, ten. I can't put my finger on it but there is just a day when you start enjoying beets, and once you do, you never look back.  I've got to have them canned, pickled, roasted and raw; in salads and soups, or just simply roasted and sprinkled with blue cheese and hazelnuts. The super-nutritious baby greens from the beets are perfect in salads or sauteed in your favorite stir fry - who knew! Another great thing about beets is they last forever; up to three weeks in your fridge. (I'm sure I've kept them even longer than that.)

When we started growing beets five years ago, I couldn't believe how easy it was. Just space the seeds so they have room to grow and watch the magic happen. Since then, we've experimented with golden beets and the striped Chioggia beets. So far, the standard "bull's red" beets have prevailed in our garden. Anytime you grow your own, you need to stock up on different ways to prepare them. The list goes on for beet recipes, but if you want to preserve your beets and have year-round, here's a delicious recipe from friends in Eastern Oregon. Lucky for us, they were willing to share:


30 pounds of Beets results about 35 pints of canned pickled-beets. Beets of about 3-5 inches in diameter.

Recipe for Vinegar Mix (1 Batch)
2 Cups Sugar
2 Cups Water
2 Cups White Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
1 Teaspoon Allspice
1/2 Teaspoon Salt

The above will do about 8 pints

Clean all jars and boil jar lids. Cut the tops, leaving two inches above the beet. Do not cut the roots because it limits bleeding; scrub them with a brush in cold water. Cover beets with water and boil and cook 2-3 inch beets for 20 minutes. Cook 4-5 inch beets 30 minutes. Try to sort sizes in each batch. Cooked beets will allow you to rub skin off with some easy effort. Take them out with a slotted spoon and cool in cold water for easy handling. Once cooled, remove the peels and cut off the top and the bottom roots and wash beets in water before dicing. Prepare vinegar mix by adding the spices and liquids in a pot and bring it to a boil while stirring. After it begins to boil, let it cool as you work on other steps. The beets will be packed cold  so the vinegar mix should not be boiling hot. Warm is fine. Dice the beets into about 1/2-inch cubes and fill the pint jars within a half inch of the top.  Fill each jar with vinegar mix to cover beets leaving a 1/2-inch heads pace. Wipe rims, place lids and screw on rings, tight but not over tight. Put jars into the water bath canner covering the top of the jars by a half inch and bring to a boil for 30 minutes for pints. Remove and let cool. Once cool, you may want to remove rings to rinse in hot, soapy water so it's easier to remove at a later date. Store in a cool storage area.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bike to dinner and raise money!

The best thing about the current season is getting on a bike and riding in the wind with your legs kicked out to the sides. (Well, that may be just me, but, anyway.) Regardless of age, riding a bike just immediately brings you back to your childhood. I get giddy just thinking about it. Thankfully, a bike we found in a friend's backyard, basket and all, has brought us into our third year of casual cycling. Once we added a second bike from Recycled Cycles down by Lake Union and an iBert for our son, we were set for family outings all about town. 

That's why we're excited to participate in the bike to dinner event on, Tuesday, June 29th, during the Spoke and Food event to raise money for the Lettuce Link program at Solid Ground. A portion of the dinner's proceeds will go to the non-profit program which provides lower income families in Seattle with access to fresh food and gardening information. Read more about this awesome program at

Enjoy the ride to dinner and support your community along the way! The map and list of participating restaurants can be found at

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Farm fresh ideas.

We live within walking distance of a year-around farmers' market in the University District of Seattle. The greatest thing about this is we can walk, bring our dog and 2-year-old, and check out the latest harvests. I love the ideas it inspires in our kitchen; vegetables I would never know what to do with get a second chance after chatting with some folks on how to prepare them.

I remember a trip last year while visiting my brother-in-law in Portland. He lived close to Beaverton's farmers' market and we took advantage of some decent spring weather and headed down there. We stocked up on our dinner for the evening with breads, cheese, salad and fruit. Luckily, they were having a demonstration of sauteed fava beans with onion and parsnips. I'm not around a lot of fava beans and, quiet frankly, the thought of them brings me back to the horrendous Hannibal Lector in "The Silence of the Lambs." I can hear him utter the words, "...fava beans," with his tongue slurping up his words. Ugh, gives me the creeps just thinking about it, and because of this, I never cared one bit about fava beans. But, the demonstration made me think twice. The chef simply sauteed the beans with olive oil, salt and pepper, and added chopped parsnips and onion after a bit. The flavor was awesome and so fresh and buttery. We bought some on the spot, along with parsnips and onion, and replicated it when we got home.

I now embrace foreign vegetables and am pleased to say I've acquired a liking to sea beans, kobocha - a Japanese squash and, well, fava beans.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Walking on eggshells.

I'll start with a little background first. We eat a lot of eggs. The best part of the day is heading out to the coop and checking on the urban-fresh eggs. Each morning we crack up a few in a pan along with some toast and butter. Ahhh. Nothing like it. Sometimes my day just isn't complete without an egg; served any style. I made the mistake many years ago to allow my brother and sister into my car when they came upon a dozen, hard-boiled eggs on my console. Yes, it's true. It's a favorite snack and I was traveling a lot so I never wanted to be without. Even before I had chickens, I would buy the case of five-dozen eggs - and I lived alone at the time. Crazy, right?

So, my love for eggs runs deep. And this love of eggs creates a lot of eggshells. Although we always compost our endless river of shells, we've been exploring new twists in our quest to reuse materials and found some amazing uses for crushed up egg shells:
  • Got slugs? Slugs hate to slither across scratchy surfaces to get to your plants and wreak havoc. So, why not smash up dried eggshells and sprinkle around each plant; it acts as a barrier of protection. Each time it rains, though, you have to put down a fresh layer of shells.
  • Sprinkling shells in a hole before planting adds additional calcium which encourages a healthier plant by staving off blossom end rot. We added shells to our tomato plant soil and it will, no doubt, yield us endless amounts of sweet tomatoes!
  • Yes, my chickens eat chicken and they eat fried, scrambled and poached eggs, too. They also eat eggshells, and eggshells provide added calcium to help their own eggshells strong. We just sprinkle it throughout their coop for them to peck when needed.
  • Come February each year, we are knee-deep in seedling starts and we keep planting throughout the spring. Fill half an eggshell with seedling mix and add your seed -whoa-la, you have free seedling containers and they stand up perfectly in their cartons. When the seedlings are big enough to transplant, break up the shell and replant.
  • A natural alternative to chemically-rich Drano, is sprinkling eggshells in your drain screen to allow calcium to run through your pipes and reduce residue and help keep your pipes clean.
  • You can also put a couple spoonfuls in your thermos and coffee pot; add water and shake to, also, eliminate stained sediment and residue.
  • Don't throw out the water you hard-boiled your eggs in. Save it and pour around base of plants for added nutrients.
Dry out eggshells before breaking them up. You can store in a container for future use and enjoy all the good things from reusing eggshells - the natural way.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Chicken poo, I love you.

I never thought I'd say this, but I love my chicken's poop. The power of the poo does not go
underrated in my household and we consider it a top commodity. It has turned my garden, edibles and not, into luscious gold - "gardener's gold" as many call it. I don't know if you know this or not, but there's a hierarchy in the poo world and I'd like to take this opportunity to briefly explain it.

No matter the source, manure is the perfect fertilizer. This is nothing new, but some poo is better than others.
  • On the lower end is horse and cow dung. Although, still a very capable fertilizer with a bulky, hummus-rich finish (I couldn't help myself with the wine term), its lower levels of important elements - nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K) -shove it to the lower end of the spectrum.
  • Next comes the waste of sheep and goats. They produce a better poop than their larger counterparts. It breaks down easily and can be spread right on the garden in the spring without aging. The pellet-size poo is also very easy to collect.
  • You might think twice before saying no to an Easter bunny next year. Similar in size and shape to sheep and goat droppings, rabbit poo has higher levels of N-P-K. It's double these nutritious ingredients so you get more bang for your buck.
  • Saving the best for last, and this is where my chicken poo comes in, is the strength of bird manure no matter the type. It's the most valuable in terms of blowing other manure away because of it's superpowers in nutrients. And if you can get a hold of some pigeon guano - even better - Europeans have been using it since the Middle Ages and consider it the best of the best for their gardens.
Like most manure, age it by composting before spreading on the your garden. Most manure is "hot" and could burn your plants because of its strength - and the smell isn't too appealing either. But, once broken down, it dispels most of its odor and becomes a killer amendment to your soil.

Who would've thought there was this much to consider when discussing animal waste. It's amazing!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Green Festival in Seattle this weekend!

Time to head to the Washington State Convention and Trade Center to participate in this year's Green Festival - the largest one of its kind. There will be hands-on demonstrations, kids' activities, top educators and the latest innovative products to enhance your Green experience. Check it out.

Here's more info:

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Our small, local Iron Chef competition.

We just wrapped up our annual "Iron Chef Mason Lake" at my folks' house located outside of Hood Canal, along the shores of Mason Lake. It always falls on the Memorial weekend holiday and with the drizzly, windy weekend ahead it was a nice deterrent. The winner from the previous year gets to choose this year's theme ingredient and, boy, did he pick a doozy: dried fruit. What the ...? I was leery of this pick. And I wasn't the only one.

But as it turned out, to every one's surprise, many wonderful and creative dishes came out of the kitchen that day; lettuce wraps with a tangy dressing, candied pecan green salad, fried fruit rice and a funky trail mix that gave throughout the day.

I entered two chickens roasted over dried fruit, accompanied with dried fruit stuffing and a slightly sweet gravy- Thanksgiving in May with a twist!

My recipe started out well enough. I sauteed up the butter and onion for the stuffing at 7am the day before the competition. My husband yelled from the other room how great it smelled - that was until I added the dried fruit. He eventually came out wondering what the rancid smell was and told me, matter-of-fact, it wasn't looking good for my dish. But the following day as I prepared the rest of the meal, he came back around and immediately partnered up with me. (Just meaning, he'll take credit if we win!)  But that all changed when he started helping my mom BBQ her dish. He quickly abandoned our "partnership" when he saw the potential in my mom's. I don't blame him - pork tenderloin cubes wrapped in bacon and dipped in pecan crumbs and served with a side of fruit chutney. I would've done the same thing.
Our crew has good taste and the pork tenderloin won by a huge margin. My husband did an excellent job on the BBQ and cooked them to perfection. He really did deserve a little credit and my mom was happy to oblige.
So, in honor of our little Iron Chef competition on Mason Lake, I thought I would post the winning recipe:

1 pork tenderloin
6 bacon strips
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 Tbsp finely snipped fresh oregano
1 Tbsp finely snipped fresh lemon thyme

Cut the tenderloin into 2 inch cubes. Roll a strip of bacon around each tenderloin cube. Secure with a toothpick.
Brush each side of the exposed pork with olive oil. Stir together the pecans, salt, and pepper, and fresh herbs.and coat each end of the tenderloin pinwheels with the pecan mixture. BBQ grill the pinwheels on medium-high heat (375 to 400°F) and cook for 7 to 8 minutes on each side or until the bacon is crisp. Serve with the the winter chutney.


yield: Makes 2-3 cups
This cinnamon-and coriander-spiced chutney combines wine, raisins and dried fruit. Serve with pecan-rubbed pork.

1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp brandy
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
Place above ingredients (first 10) in sauce pan. Heat and Simmer covered 15 minutes. Strain mixture and discard solids. Return to stove and add: chopped mixed dried fruit to total 2 cups. (cranberries, pears, apricots, apples, dates, raisins, pineapple, papaya, etc.) 1 Tbsp minced crystallized ginger.

Heat to boil and then simmer until it becomes a thick syrup and the dried fruit is hydrated and tender.. Transfer to bowl. Cover and refrigerate. (Can be prepared 1 week ahead. Keep refrigerated.)