Found: A use for all that basil…

Hello, my name is Laura, and I love pesto –

Hi Laura…

It’s true, I really do! As I made a list last year of what I missed in my garden, basil was the herb at the top of the list. I did receive the gift of basil from a friend, but ALMOST ran out of basil pesto, which was almost tragic! Not this year – I just made my second batch of pesto today, in a jiff!, and it reminded me that other might be thinking, “What should I do with allllll this basil?!”

The answer, my friend, is not blowing in the wind – the answer is here: make pesto!

Pesto just means, ‘pulverized sauce’, in basic terms – so though we commonly think of basil pesto when we think of pesto, pesto can be made out of many things – tomatoes, black beans, cilantro, etc —

But today, I’ll tell you about basil pesto. Referring to my favorite cookbook (“Simply In Season, we know, we know!” the regular followers of my blog are all thinking!), pesto is “a very forgiving recipe”, and I would quite agree.

Here’s how I make mine:

1 – fill up my food processor (I have a 4 c. bowl) with basil leaves, and, as long as they aren’t excessive, some stems won’t hurt the process either, and will save you time and brown fingernails from picking all the leaves off one by one (which I sometimes do, but sometimes don’t – it really depends on how much time I have)

2- add 1/4 cup of nuts – pine nuts are traditional, but are a little too rich for my blood. I’ve used walnuts, soynuts, and sunflower seeds (all raw, unsalted, un-anything-ed).

3 – Add a glug of olive oil – about a 1/4 C. Add a half tsp. salt, then as you go, see if its is salty enough for you. I like to add garlic as well (fresh is best – 1/2 to a full clove, or even more, to taste) and some add Parmesan cheese right away, too (since I freeze mine, I do not add the fresh grated Parmesan at this point).

4. Process, scrape down sides, judge if you need more oil, process, scrape down sides, repeat.

Put in a jar, and then add some additional olive oil on top, letting it filter through any ‘holes’ in your pesto. Use a butter knife to get out the air pockets, and make sure the top is covered with oil to avoid getting brown and gross-looking.

I make a few jars at a time, and keep one in the fridge, and freeze the rest!

And what do I use it for? Throw over veggies, toss with pasta, spread over chicken or fish, make pesto french fries, put in mayo and use on a sandwich – and I bet there are plenty more uses out there, too!

This really takes only 15 or so minutes, and is a great way to preserve a bounty of basil – Enjoy!

Found: A Book for your Wild Things, so they can make their own dinner in the backyard….

I found a neat book at the library, by none other than Jean Craighead George, author of one of my fav books, My Side of the Mountain (and accompanying sequels, which, true to sequel form, I did not find as good as the original..but). Acorn Pancakes, Dandelion Salad, and Other Wild Recipes is the title, and it has some neat kid-friendly foraging recipes, with beautiful pictures, too. Check it out! A great companion to ‘Stalking the Wild Asparagus’!

CSA Survival Tip #4(a): Easy Ways to Extend the Harvest

Frozen Assets

Maybe it hasn’t happened yet, but it will soon – mark me, lads and lassies – you’ll get “too much” of something, and won’t use it up in a week! Tomatoes? Zucchini? Spinach? Who knows — but it will happen! And, if you want to savor the flavor (from a jar, your freezer, or in some soup perhaps?) you’ll need to have some easy go-to methods for preserving the remains of the day, or, in other words, whatever remains from your delivery when the next delivery day is fast approaching!

We already talked about one method: Giving it Away! This is a way to extend your share, and help friends or those less fortunate right in your community. In fact, I will be dropping off a few items this afternoon. I’m still not in the ‘swing’ of greens, so I’ll be passing them on.

This tip is a mini-tip-series, and today I want to highlight what I think is just about the easiest home preservation method – FREEZING! This tip also falls under the category of “found” — it wasn’t lost, because it didn’t exist a long, long time ago – freezers are a relatively new food preservation method, all things considered.

Here are some of the whole items (that is, not additionally processed) I have frozen  ( — and again, let me just remind you, my usual goal is to use things fresh throughout the week, but looking at the rhythm of my week (Tip #3) and my menu plan (Tip #2) I may determine something won’t get used. I usually make that call on Tuesday or Wednesday, so I kick into the Tip #4 series at this point.):

  • – whole tomatoes
  • – whole or cut green peppers, sweet peppers and hot peppers
  • – onions
  • – peaches, nectarines, strawberries, apples and raspberries
  • – herbs

The basic process I employ is chop (or not) and put in a freezer bag, squeeze all the air out you can, and put it in the freezer. With the herbs, I cut them with a kitchen scissors, put a Tbl. or 2 into an empty ice cube tray, add an addtl. Tbl. or 2 of water, and freeze. All fruits and veggies have a ‘freezer life’, and it would behoove you to check with your extension service to see how long you can keep certain things (it also matters if you use a fridge/freezer combo, or a deep freeze). Or, feel free to use *my* county extension service’s website: You will find information on steaming and blanching, too. What is blanching? Its a quick plunge in hot water, followed by a quick plunge into cold water. The hot water starts the cooking process, the cold water end it. This process makes your veggies suitable for freezing, and retaining flavor and nutrient value.

Additional easy things to freeze that require a quick blanch:

  • – torn greens (for sides/dishes where you want more of a whole green)
  • – finely chopped greens (to sneak into every imaginable dish in your repertoire)
  • – green beans
  • – broccoli
  • – peas and sugar snap peas
  • – corn
  • – grated zucchini

Why does this tip work?

Because when it is the dead of winter, and you’re certain spring will never come, it is incredibly soothing (not to mention nutritious) to pull out some sweet corn and make a bright and sunny soup.

The time it takes to freeze, and blanch and freeze, is minimal, but the rewards are great. Freezing is easy, you can freeze things if you have a knife and a ziploc bag (and for a few things, not even a knife is needed), and nutrient values are best preserved in this way.





Found: (Some) Suds

I have never made soap. Its one of those things that I’ve read about, considered doing, but haven’t quite found the gumption to try – yet. It is on “the list”.

What I have done is sorta-made some of my own soaps.

Soap, grated with my food processor in about 1 minute, ready to add the other ingredients then get caught up on laundry! 

Laundry soap was the first I tried. I have made a gel recipe, and a powder recipe. I make the powder because its just easier to whip up a batch. It works well, my clothes get clean, and a batch lasts quite a long time. It is cheap and effective.

Recipe: Combine finely grated soap (Fels Naptha is recommended, but you can mix it up. My fav is Ivory), 1 cup of Borax, and 1 cup of Washing Soda (not the same as Baking Soda. Do not make this mistake!). Easy. I keep it in an old plastic salad shell on my dryer.

Be forewarned, this is a low-sudsing soap. We have grown up with many misconceptions. Clean equals: sudsy, smelly (like, as in, floral, or ‘clean’ smelling) and that the more the better. This laundry soap, like many homemade soaps, uses not very much to get your stuff clean. One Tbl. scoop (I use an old espresso scoop) for the average load, a little more for a dirtier or larger-than-average load. Wash in cold, warm, or hot. Sometimes I put the soap in first, then add a little hot to get the soap to disintegrate faster, especially if the load is really dirty.

I found I was going through a lot of hand soap, with all the good hygiene in the house (coupled with kids who use a half-dollar dollop when a dime-sized amount will do – oy!). I bought the containers that make foaming soap from Target, and then bought ONE expensive refill bottle, before I decided to try to make my own (have I mentioned before I am cheap?). I was not a maverick in this area, as there were many blog posts about doing this. I decided to try this method. It works great, no complaints. I find it is easier, especially, for my little kids to get their hands clean with the foaming soap.

Empty foamy soap bottle – ready for the easy recipe!

Recipe: Get an empty foaming soap container, fill to the fill line (which is probably the bottom of the pump aparatus. You don’t want to fill past that. Bad things may occur.) then add around a Tbl. (maybe a little more, a little less) of Dr. Bronner’s soap. I like the eucalyptus one, and the peppermint one. Make sure you add the soap last, or you will have a foamy mess on your hands. Just cap the container, slightly agitate it, and you’re ready to go!

Dish soap can be made using good ol’ Bronner’s soap, though it doesn’t get dishes grease-free IMHO, which has caused remarks from Hub’band, who is the evening dish-doer. So, though we have done this, we really don’t stick to it. I usually use Seventh Generation brand soap. (Oh, and if you’re bored, check out the documentary about “Dr” Bronner on Netflix. Kind of interesting, kind of sad.)

Recipe: Put 3 Tbl. of water, add 1 cup of  Dr. Bronner’s soap or other castile soap in a small container (I re-used a single serve yogurt that had a plastic lid). That’s it. You can halve or quarter the recipe. Just use a splash, as usual. Again, this won’t be crazy-sudsy, but it will be clean!

Likewise, though dishwasher detergent CAN be made, it seems to leave a crusty mineral-y film on the heating element of my dishwasher. At least, that is what I intuit is doing it (I suppose it could be the minerals in my water, but I did notice it at least getting exponentially worse when I started doing the homemade stuff.) I now realize, however, after revisiting my recipe, I have been using baking soda, where actually, washing soda is called for! So now, I may have to try it again, to see if I have better results. Usually I have bought the  Seventh Generation or Full Circle (Cashwise generic natural/organic) brand. The good thing about using a natural detergent – well, at least one good thing out of several – when you open your dishwasher while its running, you don’t get a chemical facial. Nice!

I give thanks for my dishwasher, every day. Seriously.

Recipe: 1 part washing soda to 1 part Borax. Put vinegar in your rinse cup, and your dishes will be less spotty, too!

It is empowering to do these things myself, easily, cheaply, and effectively. What do you make yourself? What new things should I add to the list? 

Getting Personal: a Lost and Found

First, the excesses of modern Western “culture” sometimes make me a little queasy. A whole aisle of toothpaste? Two aisles of hair care products? Don’t even get me started on body washes and face soaps. And secondly, if you’re like me and have struggled either with general oiliness and acne and have had a tough time finding something that was OK for your hyper-sensitive skin, it just makes you all the more queasy. Whole aisles of stuff that not only don’t work, they make the problems worse.

How did it go in the olden days? I think either you didn’t brush your teeth, or you made your own toothpaste. Huzzah. So – here we go…..

There are some easy things you can make at home, if you want. Now, there are always going to be some things that ALL of us will say, “Why would I EVER make that? I can walk into any store and buy it!” If your reaction to any of these things is that, that’s totally cool. We can still be friends, yo.

I’m just sayin’ — here are three that *I* make and use, and they’re all easy.

Deodorant – Easy! Mix cornstarch (or arrowroot powder) and coconut oil in roughly equal amounts, heating until soft yet thick. If its too liquidy, add more starch. If too dry, add more oil. You can also add some drops of essential oil – I like tea tree or lavender. Just 2 or 3 drops, mind you, the stuff is strong! Scoop into a used deodorant tube, and keep in bathroom (if you house stays cool) or in fridge (if, like my house, yours gets over 73 degree or so in the summer, at which temp the coconut oil will get soft and/or melt). Does it work? Yes. Is it weird to have deodorant in my fridge? Obviously *I* don’t think so. I think the less chemicals I put into my body, especially close to my chest, the better. Some studies link certain kinds of chemicals (found in deodorants) to increased cancer risk. Maybe so, maybe not – but this is easy, and effective. I’d rather not take chances where cancer-causing agents are present. Pros: you can choose your own fragrance? Cons: If you’re looking for a clear-gel type, unfortunately this is not the best one. I have to be honest. As I don’t wear a lot of sleeveless shirts, there isn’t much of a risk for me. There is a great post about making your own underarm stuff here:

Shampoo – Even easier! So, this is a concept called “poo-free”. You use baking soda, perhaps 1 – 2 times a week, so scrub your scalp and get rid of any dirt or build up. Run a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water through your hair, concentrating on the ends. I do this process once a week. To freshen up, I do wash and scrub, but with water only. I also am going to make begin using some jojoba oil, or a mix of grapeseed oil and lavender essential oil through my hair, just because it has a really pleasing scent. For a lot, lot, lot more info on this and some very helpful faq’s, check out

Now, the trick with going poo free? When you start, your poor hair isn’t going to know what has hit it. Every time you use a conventional shampoo, it strips your hair of its natural oils. You’re tricking your follicles, then, to produce MORE oil. Yor very dazed and  confused hair follicles may commonly OVER-produce oil, to compensate. For a week or so (up to a month for some people, I’ve heard), you may have some oily hair. So, either just go for it, or pick a ‘hermit month’ and don’t go out.  Seriously, for me, it wasn’t too bad.

The other trick is finding out what baking soda method works best for you. I’ve tried a couple of things: 1 – 2 Tbl. baking soda dissolved in a squeeze bottle (an old mustard bottle works well), and baking soda mixed with water. It is the latter that I’m currently using. I put about 1 tsp, very small amount, in my hand, just wet with water, and rub on my scalp. I spend about 3 -4 minutes massaging my scalp lightly, yet firmly, in a circular motion with my fingers. I rinse well with warm water. Then, I get my jar of ACV/Water (half and half mixture is what I use, but you can increase or decrease the strength) and wet the end of my hair, but also I put it throughout my hair (that is the step that might not work for everyone, but it works for me). This is a natural softener/conditioner. The last step, I turn the water on cold. I rinse the ACV out in cold water, which I think tends to close up my hair follicles and prevent oils from being over-produced.

Pro: My hair is soft, manageable, and has more volume. Seriously! Con: I sometimes miss the smell of my old shampoo. Seriously. But, since so many people are affected by our overly-smelly chemical-ly world, I figure taking some smell out of the air is a small sacrifice.

Oil Cleansing Method for Skin: Using the proper ratio of castor oil to olive oil, and 3 drops of tea tree oil, I clean my skin using the ‘like dissolves like’ principle. I have struggled with acne all my life, and this method has given me some good results. I break out from the slightest irritation. I also know now that I have some food triggers that affect oil production in my skin, as well as hormonal cues that affect me. Both subjects of other posts. You can check out the post that got me going on this method at this site, right here:

So, once you’ve got this concoction mixed up, you put a dime-sized amount in you palm, and rub it right in to you skin. Then, take a washcloth and get it wet in realllly hot water – as hot as you can stand (without getting burned of course)  – Wet and wring on the cloth, then lay it over you face. Give yourself a relaxing facial steam. Stand there until it gets cool, then lift off cloth and repeat. You can do this 2 – 5 times; I usually do twice, then I gently rub my face in a circular motion, lifting off any oil that remains. Make sure to get good and rinsed off around your hairline and ears. You’ll only need to do this every other, or even every third day!  Pro: You’ll notice soft skin with a glow! I hope, like me, you will notice fewer breakouts as well. Con: It is especially important to REMEMBER to do this. I do sometimes forget, and when I’m not diligent, I notice more oilyness and breakouts that my skin seems to be prone to anyway.

So, you made it through the post. Congrats. And more kudos to you if you consider trying one of these things, even if its just for a week, or for a month, or for the summer!