Tag Archives: greens

How to use Cloth Produce Bags

cloth produce bag

Cloth produce bags are an old idea whose time has returned. They are simple and sanitary. You can keep a dozen on hand and they take up barely any space. Produce stays fresher and mold-free for longer. They can be used damp or dry, depending on what you are storing. They go in the fridge, on the counter, in the pantry or cupboard.

Cloth produce bags reduce packaging waste and let produce breath so it doesn’t spoil so fast.

cotton muslin bags

They can be washed, bleached, sun-dried, or dried in the dryer and used over and over again. Cloth produce bags are so versatile, you will wonder why you didn’t think of using them before.

How do you use Cloth Produce Bags?

Cloth produce bags come in many sizes. You can even make them yourself and customize your size. You can use a cotton kitchen towel and forget all about the bags. But we’re focusing on bags, here. On the homestead, wherever we happen to be, we use plain muslin bags, with no ties, approximately 12″x14″.

  • wash bags in hot, soapy water and air or tumble dry

  • insert produce

  • place in fridge or cupboard

  • when empty, turn inside out and wash in hot, soapy water…

That’s it! For leafy greens, you may want to keep the bag damp, depending on your storage conditions. I find that keeping greens in a damp bag makes them stay crispy longer. I usually wash them and put them in the (dry) bag, still wet. Then I dampen it under the faucet when it dries out.

muslin potato bag

What kind of produce can you keep in a produce bag?

Any kind! Okay, just about. Berries are kind of messy and should be kept in a bowl. Cut tomatoes, beets, prepared salads, and such should probably also be kept in bowls. Most whole fruits and vegetables can be kept in cloth produce bags. Unless the fruit flies are about, I keep most whole fruits in a large bowl on the counter. A basket in the pantry holds potatoes, onions, hard squash, and garlic. Greens and most other veggies go in the produce bags in the refrigerator.

 

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Juicing in the Real World

canned tomato sauce

Most of us don’t have time for fruit and veggie prep, juicing and cleanup every day, several times a day. The gurus tell us to drink freshly juiced vegetables right away to get all the health benefits. True, this is the ideal.

You mothers who breastfeed and pump your milk at work understand how this works. You store and freeze your milk. It loses some vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. But your baby is still getting far more benefits from your breast milk than from formula. Even when that milk is reheated. We can’t always reach the ideal, but we do the best we can.

This is how I juice. Some enzymes, vitamins, and minerals do get lost in the storage and freezing process. But this is the real world, and I have other things to do besides be a slave to the juicer all day.

I go to the farmer’s market once or twice a week. If I can’t make the market I will buy fresh fruits and vegetables from the store, but the greens look fantastic at the farmer’s market lately, so I usually try and hit them up first. Usually, on farmer’s market day, I will come home and juice right away. The old stuff first, then the newer produce. I always save out enough for salads, snacks, and cooked veggies, then juice the rest.

I pour the fresh juice into canning jars, leaving about 1 inch of headspace for freezing. If you are going to try this, make sure you are using canning jars, not reusing mayonnaise jars or some other jars you got jam or something in. Canning jars are tempered to withstand temperature extremes. Every non-tempered jar I have tried freezing or canning with has cracked. That’s a lot of glass, food and hard work to throw out.

I keep about a quart of juice in the refrigerator at a time. When I thaw my juice, I do not use the microwave. The nutritional qualities of fresh juice are very delicate, and the freezing process has already destroyed some of them. So I let my juice thaw naturally, even if it means skipping a day of juice. It just takes some planning ahead. I will thaw frozen bone broth in the microwave, however.

Despite missing the ideal, I still realize enormous health benefits from juicing. I have more energy and am able to consume more fruits and veggies because of it.

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Secrets to Sneaking More Veggies into your Family’s Diet

fresh veggies

If your family is like mine, you’re lucky if you can get them to eat salad with dinner on a regular basis. French fries are counted as a veggie, and pizza is a full meal (meat, diary, bread, tomato sauce). Indeed, one of my sons honestly admits that the only way I’ll get him to eat more veggies is to hide them. So I do. Hence, today I am sharing my secrets to sneaking more veggies into your family’s diet.

Today we hear that raw is best for you. Although this may be true, even I can only eat so many raw veggies. And I like my meat and eggs cooked – medium rare, over easy, but cooked. Some veggies release their heavy duty disease fighting nutrients only after cooking. I’m thinking about tomatoes, onions and garlic, among others. So for the purpose of increasing my family’s fiber intake and nutrition, I serve lots of cooked veggies. They just don’t know about it.

Salad

Salad before dinner is a mainstay at my house. The more toppings, the better, and lots of ranch dressing. Despite the fact that most ranch dressing contains msg and soybean oil, I have had to concede that ranch is the vehicle to get the veggies ingested. One small victory at a time.

Smoothies

A banana, raw milk or yogurt, more fruit, a raw egg, and, um, kale? Lettuce? Well, you didn’t need to know about that. I can put more greens in mine, but for the fam, just a leaf or 2…

Fried

Stir fry or chow mein makes the table at least once a week. Cooked rice or noodles are lightly fried with carrots, onions, garlic and 3 or 4 other chopped vegetables. Use coconut oil for natural sweetness and add leftover meats or an egg if desired. Chop everything fairly small so that it doesn’t take long to cook. Also, ginger, garlic and turmeric help add an asian flavor.

Casserole

Another favorite one pot meal is the good ole’ casserole. Mix cooked rice, potatoes or noodles with chopped veggies and meats (if desired) and douse with cheese sauce. Or if you’re a canned soup person, cream of mushroom, chicken or celery soup. Season to taste and bake at 350F  until done. This is easier with already cooked veggies and meats (aka, leftovers). Cauliflower hides real well, especially with cheese.

Tacos

Taco meat is a good place to hide veggies. Shred or cut them small and fry with the hamburger and onions. This works well with carrots, corn, zucchini, olives, chiles, bell peppers, tomatoes, etc. Moreover, adding veggies to your taco meat will stretch your meat budget further.

Spaghetti

Spaghetti sauce is very versatile. You can blatantly add chunks of zucchini, carrots and peppers, or you can shred or dice them. Use fresh tomatoes or canned sauce. This is delicious with or without meat. Don’t forget the onions and garlic.

Soup

Many people no longer consider soup to be a meal. In reality soup is a superfood. To say nothing of the wide variety of soups. Just think chicken broth, carrots, zucchini, corn, peas, green beans, broccoli, etc. for starters. Add some kind of fat for flavor. Butter, olive oil, and chicken fat all work well and help with digestion and nutrient absorption.  Season to taste. Serve with a good bread and butter.

I hope I’ve sparked your imagination. There are tons more ways to sneak those veggies in. This is just to get you started. Now go feed your family more veggies!

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Keepin’ up with Fresh Foods

In my commitment to eating as many fresh veggies as possible, I have run into a snag. That is that many times I do not eat up the veggies before they begin to spoil. I have a compost bucket, but these veggies still cost money. Money that is very tight right now. So I want to make sure I’m buying enough, but not too much and that I use it up before it goes bad.

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Chinese cabbage and green beans fermenting

 I have not tried fermenting fruits yet, but I have had great results with veggies. So much so that I am now fermenting veggies instead of canning them. The fermentation process preserves many more of the nutrients than heat sealing them in a canning jar, tomatoes excepted, as they are more nutritious cooked.

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Tomatoes from an Amish couple at the farmer’s market. Made canned tomato sauce.

Fermenting veggies is easy. I boil a quart of water, add 3 tablespoons of sea salt and stir to dissolve. After this has cooled, I add veggies and place a ziplock bag of brine (the same salt water) on top, which seals out air. It needs to be checked daily for any slime or mold. Sometimes the ziplock needs to be wiped off or refilled. When the contents of the jar are done fermenting after a few weeks, I transfer them to smaller jars with tight fitting lids and store in cool cupboards. Always check for signs of spoilage before using home preserved (or even store bought) items.

Fermenting is great for most veggies. Cabbage (think sauerkraut), beets, green beans, summer squash, corn, onions, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and so many more veggies are great fermented.

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Did you know yogurt is fermented milk?

For leafy greens, though, eating fresh is about the only option. If my greens are a little wilty, I soak them in a tub of cool water for several hours and return them to the fridge. This usually crisps them up for a few more days until we can get them eaten. If your greens are not lettuce, but collards, beet greens, cabbage or other sturdy greens, they can be stir fried in a little oil or bacon fat and eaten hot. This is very yummy and we try to have fried greens on a regular basis. As far as the lettuces, though, I’m afraid if they are no longer appealing, the only alternative is the compost bin. Unless you have farm critters. Chickens, pigs and the like love scraps.

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Squash is another veggie that can easily become overwhelming. As a starchy veg, our bodies don’t need as much of it as they do the lighter, leafy veggies. Squash is really satisfying in the cold weather, however. Hard squashes, such as pumpkin, acorn, butternut and the like can be stored in a cool basement or a corner of the kitchen that stays cool. Check weekly for soft spots or spoilage and keep them dry. They can also be cooked until soft and canned for making pies and puddings later. I don’t like freezing any kind of squash unless it is shredded, such as for zucchini bread, because it tends to come out of the freezer mushy and tasteless. For summer squash I like fermenting or drying. For fermenting, cut into spears, slices or chunks. For drying, thin slices are best. These can be salted or seasoned before drying, for snack chips, or dried plain, to be added to winter soups and stews.

 I hope this has given you a few new ideas or reminded you of some old ways to keep up with your harvest of fresh foods and make good use of them before they spoil. I try to keep my cooking and preserving simple, so no complicated recipes here. Got no time for that. But you can preserve healthy foods quickly and easily, without spending all day in the kitchen. It just takes some forethought and getting into the habit.

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Salad For Breakfast

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The first time I had salad for breakfast it seemed incredibly strange. Breakfast is supposed to be cereal and milk; pancakes and sausage; eggs and potatoes, right? Now I crave it. I have found that leafy greens give me energy like nothing else. I can literally feel my liver cleansing itself. My daily carrot juice makes its effects known by the activity of my kidneys, filtering and cleaning out my system. In plain English, that means it makes me pee, much like my morning coffee addiction. I don’t think I want to totally cut out coffee, but I admit that there is room for improvement by cutting back. I love mint tea, so that helps when I just really want a hot drink. Mint tea also has a stimulating effect which is much less damaging than the effect from caffeine.

Kale seems to be a thing now. I like kale, but I like to mix it up, too. Arugula is one of my favorites, with its rich, nutty flavor. I like a base of romaine and then some other variety of greens and other veggies. But one cannot live on salad alone. How to get enough of those nutrient packed greens into your day? In addition to carrot juice (I like Bolthouse Farms brand), I also drink some green juice. I have made my own, but find that for me, it’s cheaper and easier (though, I admit, I lose out on a few nutrients) to buy it pre-done. I like Bolthouse Daily Greens, but can’t always find it, so will go for Green Goodness or Naked Juice Green Machine. I just prefer the leafy greens over the fruity broccoli and spirulina mixes.

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I only eat raw salad in a small portion (about 2 cups) once a day. This is because I eat a high fiber diet and too much fiber tends to make me gassy and bloated. So after my juices and salad/raw veggies I cook the rest of my veggies. In winter I might not even eat any raw veggies. Fried kale, cabbage, collards or beet tops go with almost any meal, great with eggs for breakfast. Properly steamed veggies are tender and delicious. Rich bone broth with plenty of potatoes, carrots and greens and other veggies is a complete meal, as well. Greens go well on sandwiches, either shredded or as a whole leaf. Greens can also be snuck into a smoothie.

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Sadly, greens do not can or freeze well and are best consumed fresh. The good news is that they are fairly easy to grow in pots year round, if one is so inclined. I have been meaning to try them in the mobile garden. With the small refrigerator in the mobile homestead, it is easier to remember to only buy enough greens for a few days, as they wilt and spoil quickly. A quick fix for wilted greens is to cut off the bottoms about 1/2 an inch and soak them in cool water for a few hours. They should crisp up and make it for a few more meals. If not, throw them out or put them in the compost bin.

I was disappointed to learn that the local Farmer’s Market will only be held on 2 Fridays this year. Really? This is farm country! That puts a major crimp in my desire to buy and eat local. I have also not seen any produce stands this year. There is a large Amish community here, somebody must have a produce stand! The greens in the supermarket and the health food store look pretty sad. I ended up buying more expensive packaged greens because the bulk ones looked so bad. I intend to do some asking and driving around, determined to find a produce stand somewhere nearby.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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