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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cheap & Safe Kitchen Disinfectant

I am obsessive about keeping my kitchen clean. The last thing I want to have happen is someone get sick from cross-contamination!  I used to buy Lysol Kitchen cleaner, but who knows what's in that stuff!  A few years ago, I read an article about how to make your own kitchen disinfectant.  I was thrilled I already had all the ingredients you need, and it was cheap and safe!  Here's all you need:

Homemade Kitchen Cleaner

2 empty spray bottles
White Distilled Vinegar (Heinz is a good brand - they don't make their vinegar out of petroleum!)
Hydrogen Peroxide
Your favorite essential oil

Fill one bottle with vinegar.  Add 20-30 drops of your favorite essential oil (I use lavender oil).  Screw on sprayer cap and gently shake.

Fill one bottle with hydrogen peroxide.

When you want to clean your counters or other areas, first spray with the vinegar mixture.  Follow with a spray of hydrogen peroxide.  Leave on for 1 minute and then wipe with a rag.  It will leave your counters squeaky clean!

Cheddar-Kale Chips

Over the past few weeks, snacking, let alone eating, has been a challenge.  Both my husband and I are on a special diet, as a result of some hair mineral analysis testing we had done a few months ago.  On this diet, you can't eat dairy, wheat/gluten, fried foods, sugar, or fruit, and you are limited to 2 small servings of grains per day.  For the most part, you're eating vegetables and protein.  After a while, it gets kind of boring and you want something crunchy (besides carrot sticks or celery)!

I've been on a quest to find some healthy, vegetable-based snack foods.  I had heard about kale chips before.  I watched a video on YouTube last week about how to bake them in your oven, so I tried it out.  The pieces of kale that baked correctly were good.  However, my oven doesn't seem to bake a tray of kale very evenly, so I had more than half of each batch with either burnt pieces or uncooked pieces.  I tried twice, but was still not getting the results I wanted.

Yesterday, I was looking around in my Ani's Raw Food Essentials cookbook, and I noticed a recipe to make kale chips in the dehydrator.  I thought this might be a better method to make them without the mixed bag of results I was getting in my oven!  I made up a batch last night, and was very happy to find some tasty Cheddar-Kale Chips in my dehydrator this morning!

Cheddar-Kale Chips
1 cup red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 cup cashews (I used raw, unsalted)
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
6 cups bite-sized pieces of kale, tightly packed (about 1 bunch)

Put all ingredients, except for the kale, into a blender.  Blend into a thick cream.

In a very large mixing bowl, toss the blended pepper mixture with the kale, coating all pieces evenly.

Spread kale into two 14-inch-square dehydrator trays, and dry at 104 degrees for 8-10 hours.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Homemade Larabars

I love Larabars. I have them on Amazon auto-replenish shipping to send to me monthly, because I eat one every day! But, Larabars can get expensive. I found they're not too difficult to make at home. The nice thing about making them at home is you can experiment with all kinds of nuts and dried fruit, which is both tasty and fun!

Cherry Bars (use as a template for almost any combination)

Here’s what to do for 6 bars. The recipe below is for cherry bars, but I’ve listed some other flavor variations below.

1 cup chopped dates (roughly chopped whole dates, not pre-chopped)
1 cup dried cherries
1 1/3 cup whole pecans, almonds or walnuts

Place the dates and cherries in a food processor. Pulse until processed to a paste. Transfer paste to a medium bowl (don’t clean processor).

Add the nuts to the processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the nuts to the bowl with the fruit paste. Use your fingers to knead the nuts into the paste (just keep squishing, it’s fun; brings back memories of play-dough.

Take a brownie pan and wipe the inside with a few drops of water. Cover the inside plastic wrap and work out any air bubbles. This doesn’t need to be perfect either. Add the date/nut mixture to the brownie pan and push into the corners to spread evenly. Place plastic wrap over the top and let sit for 2 hours. Turn out onto a cutting board or back of the brownie pan. Cut into 6 even bars and wrap each one in plastic wrap. Store in the refrigerator. Makes 6 bars.

Nutrition per Serving (1 bar): Calories 207; Fat 9.4 g (sat .8g, mono 5.2g, poly 3.1g); Protein 3.9g; Cholesterol 0mg; Carbohydrate 24.9g; Sodium 0.4mg.

A Few Ideas for Variations:

Apricot-Almond: Use 6 tablespoons coarsely chopped dried apricots and 2 tablespoons date (to measure 1/2 cup total); use almonds for the nuts.

Tropical: Use tropical fruit bits (these come pre-packaged at the supermarket); use raw cashews for the nuts. Add 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lime zest, and 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice to the mix.

PB & J (cheap and delicious!): Use 1/4 cup dried cherries or cranberries and 1/4 cup raisins or dates; use raw or roasted peanuts (lightly salted or unsalted) for the nuts.

Blueberry Bliss: Use 1/4 cup dried blueberries and 1/4 cup dates; use almonds for the nuts. Add 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, and a drop of almond extract to the mix.

Cashew Cookie Dough: Reverse the proportions of fruit to nuts--Use 1/3 cup dates for the fruit and 1/2 cup raw cashews for the nuts.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough: Same as cashew cookie dough, but add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, pinch of cinnamon and 1/2 ounce very finely chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate to the mix.

Pistachio Heaven: Same as cashew cookie dough, but use raw pistachios and add a tiny drop of almond extract.

Peanut Butter Cookie Dough: Same as cashew cookie dough but use raw or roasted (lightly salted) peanuts for the nuts.

Easy & Delicious Eggplant Soup

I've been trying to use eggplant in new ways, and I came across this recipe the other day. I've never thought of using eggplant in a soup before. I made a few modifications to it, and it was excellent. Not only was it tasty, it was very easy to make, too!

White Bean & Eggplant Soup
2 medium eggplant
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cans white beans or garbanzo beans, including liquid
4 tablespoons lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

2. Cut eggplant in half lengthwise and place on an oven proof tray cut side down. Bake for 30 minutes or until eggplant is very soft.

3. Meanwhile melt butter or heat olive oil in a large saucepan and cook onion, covered for about 15 minutes or until very soft and golden.

4. Add beans and the liquid to the onions and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes or until your eggplant is ready.

5. Scrape the flesh from the cooked eggplant and add to the soup. Simmer for a minute or so, then puree to desired smoothness.

6. Taste and season with salt, pepper and lemon juice.  Serves 4.