About Me

My photo
We ate well and cheaply and drank well and cheaply and slept well and warm together and loved each other. - E.H.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Natural Flea Treatment - Neem Oil!

There's frost on the ground, it's not the season for fleas! Right? Can I start a petition or something? It took me forever to figure out what was making Lily so itchy, because fleas in November just didn't occur to me. But there it is.

I've always been hesitant to use conventional flea medications, for all the reasons one might want to avoid giving your house and loved ones a bath in pesticides. There is tonnes of information out there about the dangers of various flea medications.. and although I've used them in the past, I was definitely open to finding a more natural alternative.

I've been seeing a lot of natural flea shampoos out there with Neem in them, and decided to cut out the middleman and make my own. After a bit of internet research I found two options. 1) Add 4-5 drops of Neem oil to your regular dog shampoo, lather and leave it on your dog for 5-7 minutes and rinse. Repeat in 2 weeks. or 2) Create a mixture of Neem oil and a neutral carrier oil (I used almond oil, but pretty much anything would work) at a ratio of 1:10. Massage it all over your dog, with particular attention to the ears, topline, armpits, belly and groin area. Leave the oil on and repeat the application in 2 weeks.

I decided to try the second option, since I had bathed Lily just a few days prior and didn't want to dry out her coat too much. I mixed up the oils, massaged it all over the dog.. and it worked! She was obviously itching far less almost immediately, although it will take a couple of days to get rid of them all.

In addition to washing her bed in hot water, I also mixed up a Neem spray to use around the house - her bed, the couches, the baseboards - to get rid of any fleas hiding there. I mixed 4 cups of hot water with 1 tsp. liquid soap and 1 tbsp Neem oil, and sprayed it liberally around the house. I know some people can't stand the smell of Neem, but mostly it just smelled earthy to me. It's growing on me. :)

Anyways, I just thought I would spread the good word! I'm truely amazed at how well this has worked. I will never go back to commercial flea repellants again.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Vanilla Extract

Making your own vanilla extract is surprisingly simple, and its a great way to use any vanilla pods you have left over after making, say, this totally magic cola recipe. Also, its delicious.

You'll need:

3 vanilla beans
1 cup cheap vodka (rum works too, and can create a darker, more complex vanilla)
A glass jar

1. Carefully slice the vanilla beans lengthwise with a sharp knife.
2. Combine the vanilla beans and the vodka.
3. Leave the mixture to infuse, shaking occasionally, for 2 months or longer, until infused.

As you start to get to the bottom of the mixture, top it up with more vodka and an extra bean if you have one. Voila! Never ending jar of vanilla.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Kimchi Fried Rice

A while back, I posted my favorite Kimchi recipe. Well, there a million great ways to put your kimchi to work, but this kimchi fried rice recipe is my favorite. The kimchi adds a tangy sweetness and nice heat to the fried rice, and a tonne of flavour. Adding a handful of toasted chopped almonds adds a nice nuttyness, not to mention a touch of protein.

This is an easy recipe to throw together in a rush, and it can really incorporate any veggies you have kicking around. Feel free to substitute freely - I used what I had around, but be creative!

You'll need:
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 1/2 cups kimchi
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 carrots, peeled and diced
3 cups rice (day old is best)

1 egg - can be omitted to make the recipe vegan
1/4 cup toasted almonds, chopped
1/2 cup tofu, cubed
3 cups assorted veggies, diced
          I used 1 cup garden kale, 1 cup mushrooms, 1/2 cup green onions and 1/2 cup leeks.

1. Heat one tbsp of sesame oil in a frying pan. Saute the onions, carrots, garlic and kimchi until the onions are soft. Add the tofu, and fry until the tofu starts to brown. Add the rest of your veggies. If you are using delicate vegetables, such as green onions or snap peas, hold these back until later so they are not overcooked. Stir fry for 5 minutes on medium heat, until the veggies are tender.

2. Add the rice and stir fry for 5 minutes. Add the soy sauce (I used about 2 tbsp, but use to taste), and the egg. Add any delicate veggies at this point, as well as the toasted almonds. Continue to stir fry until the egg is cooked, and the rice begins to brown. Serve!

What are your favorite ways to use kimchi? I'm always looking for new ideas!

Spiced Apple Shrub

Remember when I fell in love with shrubs? It was a beautiful time, but unfortunately it was too little, too late. I managed to get to the farmers market in time for some of the last strawberries of the season, but now I've finished all of the strawberry-balsamic shrub and the time for strawberries is long past.

This means it's time to get creative, my friends. Bring on the fall shrubs! This spiced apple shrub was a successful experiment - this drink manages to keep all of that lively, refreshing taste I love about shrubs, but the flavour is all homey fall apple pie.

Different apple varieties have a range of different 'apple' flavours, ranging in sweetness and acidity. When making this shrub, I used three different apple varieties as my fruit base, a Macoun, an Empire, and a random wild apple we had kicking around. My idea was to introduce a range of apple flavours into the shrub, and hopefully get a well rounded end product.

You'll need:
3 apples, of different varieties (you will use half of each apple - save the rest for a snack!)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup white sugar  (or substitute)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
5 whole allspice berries
1 tsp mace
1 tsp nutmeg

1. Roughly cut the apples into small chunks, leaving out the skins if the apples aren't organic (apples are some of the most highly sprayed fruits out there, and who knows how much you can really wash off..)
2. Combine the apples, spices and sugar. Mash to release the apples juices, until the sugar and apple are moist and well mixed.

3. Leave this mixture in your fridge overnight to settle.The next day (or whenever you get around to it), add the vinegar. Leave this mixture out of the fridge in a sealed jar for a week.
4. Strain out the apples and whole spices. Mix at a ratio of 4 or 5:1 with sparkling water for a cooler, or add straight to vodka for an awesome a fall cocktail!

As much as I love this spiced apple shrub, next summer I swear I will make a whole barrel of strawberry balsamic shrub. I need enough to last me through to spring.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Wild Cranberries

I find myself constantly surprised by the neighborhood Agata and I live in. It is not a neighborhood that we were particularly excited to live in, originally. We are sandwiched between several rooming houses, and anything that isn't a rooming house seems to be a frat house - lots of drinking, lots of yelling in the middle of the night, you get the idea.

But for all of that, I have come to love this neighborhood. Over the last year and a half we've gotten to know many of the folks living nearby (having a very friendly, overexcited dog doesn't hurt). We share our vegetable harvests, and the neighbors next door have saved our bikes from getting stolen on more then one occasion. We're all on a first name basis and everyone stops and chats on the sidewalk - its like a Mr. Rogers neighborhood over here, only with more facial tattoos.

One of my favorite neighborhood characters in Stan, an older single man who lives in his mother's house just around the corner. It all started, as it usually does, when Stan met my Lily, the dog. It was love at first sight. When Stan found out we were gardeners he would lean over his back fence into our yard, offering us gardening advice and cuttings from his garden.

Then he started bringing us old gardening books and leaving them on the front porch. And then a rose bush. When fall came he started bringing us pears from the trees behind his house, and he would always leave them with little notes explaining the variety and offering recipe suggestions.

The few days ago, I was letting the dog out before work and he had left us a little bag of wild cranberries that he picked out in the marsh on a recent hunting trip. They're beautiful.

I realized that, up until that moment, I had never even known that cranberries grew in swamps, let alone that they grew wild so close to where we lived. Next fall, I hope to add wild cranberries to my list of foraging projects!

In the meantime, does anyone have any inspiring cranberry recipe ideas? Stan suggests cranberry sauce, but I would love to try something really special.