Monday, October 15, 2012

Quick Tip :: Go buy a gallon of white vinegar NOW!

We eat a lot of produce!  What we don’t grow at Windy Ridge, we must buy, and while we’d LOVE to buy only organic produce, it’s just not feasible in our food budget right now. I’ve been making a weekly trip to Sams Club lately, and let me tell you, my shopping cart looks VERY different than the average Sams Club shopper!  Most shoppers leave with boxes of prepared foods, bags of quick meals, lots of cleaning & paper products and snacks (TONS of snacks).

When I make it to the check out line, we have clam shells full of grapes, spinach, blueberries, pineapple; bags of onions, bananas, avocados, and boxes of apples, cheese, butter.  “Real” food, most of which doesn’t even have an ingredient list because it IS an ingredient by itself.   You’re always heard to wash your produce before eating it, and this is especially important now because of all the food recalls we’ve had lately. 

In the past, I had just put my grapes or whatever in a strainer and let the cold water from the faucet rinse them off.  UNTIL, I left the strainer in a bowl of clean water in the sink one day (while I finished making lunch) and came back to find yuck water in the bowl AFTER it sat there for about 5 minutes. 


I kind freaked out a little because I was going to eat those grapes and feed them to Miss Bossy Britches and Little Miss Picklepants because I had just “washed” them.  I remembered passing by a “Produce wash” in the produce section at Walmart several years ago (and had made unbelievable amounts of fun of people who had purchased such a product to “wash” their veggies….) 

NOW, we intentionally get the “funk” off our non-organic fruits & vegetables with more than just rinsing them (and, yes, we still make lots of fun of people who buy the overpriced produce wash because you can make your own for pennies.) 

You’ll need:

a big bowl

cold water

white vinegar

2-3 drops dish soap (not the antibacterial kind)

Pour about 1 c white vinegar and 2-3 drops of dish soap in a big bowl.  (If you don’t have a bowl large enough, just clean your kitchen sink really well and use it!)  Stir it to mix in the soap.  Then, place your fruit/veggies in the bowl and fill with cold water until produce is covered.  Swish the produce around in the bowl with your fingers a few times.  Let soak for 10-15 minutes.  downsize

Swish the produce around a few more times and then strain the yuck water off.  Rinse the bowl and dump the produce back in and fill it up with water again and strain the water off again to rinse the vinegar/soap off the produce.


We do this for apples, grapes, cucumbers, pears, and any other fruit/vegetable especially when we don’t peel them first (and who, besides Little Miss Picklepants) peels their grapes?)

Clean Grapes

The diluted vinegar wash is said to remove 98% of bacteria. 

So, on your next trip to Sams or the grocery store, pick up a gallon (or two) of white vinegar.  Your body will thank you for not putting as much of those yucky chemicals & pesticides in it!

Happy Day :: Christy

P.S. You can also use vinegar for making products used for cleaning around your house such as this amazing floor cleaner.

Friday, October 12, 2012

It’s that time of year…

Cold & Flu seasons are back.  Boo! 

Here at Windy Ridge, we do as much as we can to put only stuff God made in our bodies.  That means, we grow veggies without chemicals, we raise animals without medicated food or antibiotics, and use plants to fight germs & viruses.  We do, however, sneak in the occasional candy corn and Halloween candy. 

A few years ago, when our girls were babies, there was a cough medicine scare and the drug companies pulled a lot of it from the shelves because of dosing issues.  It wasn’t safe to give to children under 2.  But, children under 2 got colds and had bad coughs so I did some research and took a class from a dear friend of mine at Stonewater Farm about herbal medicine. 

For colds & coughs, we now make an Herbal Cough Syrup that’s made from all natural ingredients. The girls think it’s yummy and don’t mind when they need to take a dose of it! 

You’ll need:


1 T of each: marshmallow root, Echinacea purpurea, wild cherry bark, horehound, slippery elm bark, rosehips

2-4 sticks of cinnamon (or 2 T chipped cinnamon)

3 c distilled water

1-1/2 c local raw honey

You’ll also need a jar with a cork (or a loose fitting lid and a sauce pan with lid (the herbalists say NOT use copper or aluminum, but we use whatever pots we have).

You can get these herbs at Mountain Rose Herbs, a local natural foods store (like Earth Fare, Fresh Market, Natural Foods Store, Health Barn, etc.) or if you’re local to me, I can hook you up with the Herbal Cough syrup herb blend (just email me). 

To Make Herbal Cough Syrup:

Part 1: Make a decoction (which is a tea that “cooks” and steeps for a longer time than the typical tea because it uses the thicker part of plants like bark, thick leaves, seeds, berries, roots, etc.)

Place the herbs in the saucepan and add cold water. Make sure the herbs are covered by the water so they don't burn. Bring to a boil, tightly covered, and then lower the heat and simmer (still covered) for 45 min to 1 hour or until the liquid has decreased by about 1/3.

Allow mixture to cool; then, strain through a fine mesh strainer (or line your pasta strainer with cheesecloth, a piece of an old sheet or a viva paper towel) into a glass bowl. Squeeze all the moisture you can from the herbs and put them in your compost bin (if you have one).

Part 2: Make a syrup by returning the decoction (liquid) back to saucepan on LOW heat and add honey until your syrup reaches its desired consistency. (I typically use 1 c raw local honey in 2 c of decoction liquid) *Keep in mind that the syrup will thicken a bit once it has cooled.*

Place cooled syrup in a glass bottle and seal with a cork stopper. *The cork stopper allows the mixture to "breathe". A syrup can ferment and will explode if sealed with a screw-cap unless you diligently open the container at LEAST once a week. PLEASE, please, please label the jar and include the date on which you made the syrup.

Cough Syrup

Store in the refrigerator. *We usually give the girls about 1 Tablespoon of the syrup as needed for coughing.

I made a batch of Herbal Cough Syrup on Monday afternoon and my youngest, Miss Picklepants, got up from her rest time and requested a bowl of applesauce (which is a random request from her.)  She thought I was making applesauce on the stove.  I thought she would be disappointed when she found out it was just cough syrup, but her response was, “Yay! I love that stuff.”  So, not only will it work for the colds & coughs in your family, but it will make your house smell super yummy too!

Some of the herbs used in this syrup & their "healing properties":

marshmallow root - reduces inflammation in the mucous membranes, cough suppressant

slippery elm bark - soothes raw and inflamed throats & eases cough

wild cherry - beneficial to respiratory system & mucous membranes

Happy Day :: Christy

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Quick Tip :: Floor Magic

A few years ago, I purchased the Rubbermaid Reveal Mop from Sam's.


Mainly, I purchased it because I loved my Swiffer Wet Jet but DID NOT love the refill price!  The cleaning solution + the Swiffer refills adds up quickly!  The 2nd reason came much later when we started using organic/natural stuff to clean with.  The Rubbermaid Reveal mop was a perfect fit because you can fill the cleaner reservoir with your choice of cleaner AND the mop cloth is washable and reusable.  I purchased an extra mop cloth too so one can be in the laundry without leaving me mop-less.

My favorite natural floor cleaner is Lemon Vinegar.  Now, before you zip over to Walmart searching for Lemon Vinegar…let me save you a trip!  There is no cleaner available for purchase (that I know of) called Lemon Vinegar.  You MAKE lemon vinegar yourself! 

Vinegar is effective in killing most bacteria, mold, and germs because of it’s acidity. It works GREAT, is super cheap, AND is non toxic which is a win for the environment PLUS it’s safe to use around kids & pets.

It’s quite simple to make Lemon Vinegar:

1.)  Buy lemons & white vinegar

2.)  Make lemonade or squeeze the lemon juice from the lemons (you just need to peel/rind).

3.)  Slice lemon peels into pieces (quartered or smaller) and place lemon peels in quart sized mason jar (go wide mouth if you can…it’s much easier to get them out.)

4.)  Top off the jar with white vinegar, cover with lid, and put in a sunny place like your kitchen windowsill for about 2 weeks or until the lemon peels begin turning white-ish.   (See, that’s how technical we are around here at Windy Ridge.)


5.)  After peels are white-ish, the vinegar will resemble the color of strong lemonade (or…well, other things) and will smell lemony when opened.  (The vinegar scent might still be apparent but it is DEFINITELY lessened.)  Strain lemon peels from vinegar and pour vinegar into clearly labeled jar.  (Toss the lemon peels in your compost pile if you have one.)


6.)  Use as you would other floor cleaners (add a few additional drops of lemon essential oil for an added bonus of lemony fragrance, especially if you’re not excited about the smell of vinegar.)  The vinegar smell will dissipate after mopping in about 10 minutes or so if you don’t use lemon essential oil.


Happy Day :: Christy

P.S. – Rubbermaid does not know me and didn’t ask me to review their product…although, I’d love to give an “official” review!… especially if it would help me figure out why mine keeps breaking!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Recipe :: Got Muscle? Your Post Workout Protein Smoothie


I love me a good smoothie.  A portable meal in a cup.  It doesn’t replace a good ol’ Saturday Morning breakfast of Biscuits and Gravy (I felt the need to capitalize Biscuit & Gravy because they’re dear friends of our family!)  But I just feel lighter when I “replace” a meal with a smoothie. 

And after a workout you NEED protein to feed your muscles.  Liquid nutrients are easier for your body to absorb and use within about 30 minutes after exercise.  Think of it like this:  Movement (ie exercise) wakes up your muscles and protein builds lean muscles.  So, if your muscles are awakened by exercise, a liquid protein drink feeds the muscle to build more lean muscle.  (And who doesn’t want more lean muscle???….)

Awhile back, when I began keeping a food journal and counting calories, I realized how UNHEALTHY my “light” smoothies truly were.  They were full of fruit (which is a good thing nutritionally because you need a bunch of fruit/vegetable servings every day) but not a super thing calorically.  Plus, fruit, alone, isn’t gonna keep your tummy happy for very long.  Some smoothies can have over 400 calories PER SERVING!!  (and that 24 oz sippy straw cup we’re using is about 3 servings!)  Good golly Miss Molly!!!!!

One of my favorite HEALTHY smoothie recipes is:

1/2 c frozen blueberries
1/2 c PLAIN low fat or fat free yogurt (most health food junkies would say Greek yogurt but with the additional protein powder, regular is fine and less expensive)
2 c baby spinach
1 scoop protein powder (I’m using Designer Whey right now)
water (enough to make everything blend well.  I usually use about 1/2-1 c)

Nutritional Info:  211 calories, 27g protein, 5g fiber, 210mg sodium, 3g fat, 20g carbs

Feel free to substitute another kind of fruit or veggie for the blueberries or spinach.  We typically go with whatever is in the fridge or freezer.  My girls LOVE frozen bananas in theirs because it makes the smoothie more of a milk shake consistency.  The Handsome Husband adds peanut butter and rolled oats to his.  Just be mindful of the serving size of additional ingredients, especially with higher fat/calorie foods like peanut butter or sugar sweetened yogurt.  Those will bump up the nutritional info for your smoothie.

The Gracious Pantry has some REALLY great smoothie recipes!  AND, the nutritional information is figured for you (if you’re tracking that kind of thing?)

Happy Smoothie Day :: Christy

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Quick Tip :: Mason Jar Blender Pitcher


We eat drink a lot of smoothies for breakfast.  Smoothies are:   A.  super healthy (if you put healthy stuff in them ) B. FAST C. portable  Our blender is ALWAYS dirty!!!

Sooooo, when I went to make my post-workout protein smoothie this morning, (I’m trying to be a health food junkie?! Work with me.) The blender was, as always, dirty. Now, most of the time with smoothies, you can rinse it out and just make another smoothie in it. UNLESS your Handsome Husband makes peanut butter smoothies in it for breakfast and doesn’t get the blender pitcher all cleaned out before it sits on the counter for awhile and gets all crusty and gross. (See….? You wouldn’t make a smoothie in a crusty blender either…right?!)

We have one of the “on/off” kind of blenders.  There’s no puree button or blend button.  It’s ON or OFF.  It’s SUPER!!!  I love it.  It can chew up a frozen banana in no time.  Ice?  No problem.  BUT, because ours is always dirty when I need to use it, I’ve been entertaining the idea of getting a little magic bullet thing and guarding it with my life.


But, then I play the realistic card and come to the conclusion that I don’t need ANOTHER kitchen gadget (and all the bazillion accessories) when, seriously, I could just stop whining and wash the darned dirty blender I already own. 

Then, from somewhere in the depths of my brain, the idea that I could use a mason jar in place of the blender pitcher came up!!  BRILLIANT.  I wish I could claim this brilliant idea as my own, but I know I read it…somewhere. 


And that’s what I did.  I plopped my smoothie ingredients right in the quart sized jar, and zipped the blade assembly part from my blender right on the top just like a jar lid.  I flipped it over, tested it to make sure that blueberry/spinach stuff wasn’t going to explode once I placed it on the blender and set it on my blender. 

Did I mention that it was BRILLIANT!!??  Oh yes it is…because the mason jar isn’t ONLY a blender pitcher device but a SMOOTHIE CUP as well!  Just twist on a jar lid and you have a portable smoothie cup. 

(Don’t be like me and forget to pack a straw!)

(Don’t be like me and try this for the first time with ingredients that could potentially stain your white ceiling purple –ie. blueberries.  You might wanna try out this brilliant little tip in your OWN blender for the first time with only water.  I take no responsibility for any blender mishaps – or purple ceilings…just sayin’.)

Happy Day :: Christy

**This post is dedicated to my Handsome Husband.  Because of his generosity and servant’s heart, he made Peanut Butter Smoothies for everyone’s breakfast this morning.  Because of his act of kindness, the necessity for this post was born.  AND a shout out to my dear friend, Ms. BEE (Big Bold & Easy).  Without her insistence that I post a “tip” tonight, you would have been getting this handy dandy piece of information on Friday instead. Now, what would you have done without this quick blender fix?  I love you both!**

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Good Egg or Bad Egg

We raise Golden Buff Orpington Chickens.  Yes, I know.  I NEVER (ever) would have thought that I would be a farmer…much less WANT and CHOOSE to grow a garden AND raise animals!!!!!  And chickens…..well, that’s a story all by itself.

It all began about 3 years ago.  We started buying eggs from a “way off the beaten path” kind of place.  I wanted to move TO IT.  You had to leave the highway behind and drive about 2 miles on these switchback turns up a mountain to get to Laurel’s house.  Laurel (the egg lady) lived in a beautiful log house overlooking an incredible view of the Tennessee mountains.  I sent the Handsome Husband to get eggs one day with a warning… “Just be prepared to fall in LOVE with this place!!!”  I’m pretty sure he rolled his eyes…yeah, he definitely rolled his eyes.  He does that at lot at me. 

He arrived home that afternoon and said, “We need to put a for sale sign in the yard.  We’re moving to the middle of nowhere to raise chickens.”  (My Handsome Husband is from Dallas, TX.  Like Mr. City Boy!!!!  His idea of us “farming” was a few tomato plants in neat little raised bed boxes in the back yard.)  But, that’s what we did…we put a for sale sign in the front yard. 

Fast forward 3 years, after selling our house, living in an (incredible) rental place for 1/2 years, we built our own house.  A friend of ours brought us 8 little baby chicks just 2 weeks after moving in and FINALLY (5 months later) we got our first egg.  YAY….our life is full.

Our First Egg

Our First Egg

We barter eggs & fresh whole wheat bread with a neighbor friend of ours in exchange for getting to drop off our bag of trash in her trashcan each week.  She called this morning and asked if the eggs I brought her…like at LEAST a month ago, were still good to eat.  I wouldn’t hesitate to eat them (which I told her) but I wanted to give her a bit more confidence before she cracked one and “tossed her biscuits” from the rotten egg smell.

Did you know you can check the freshness of an egg by a float test??  (Might be interesting to try this out on an egg “fresh” from the grocery store.)


*Put the egg in question into a glass of water, covering the egg by about 1-2 inches of water. 


-If the egg lays flat like the above picture, you’re good to go.  Your egg is fresh!

-If the egg turns up on its end like the glass on the left, it’s not the freshest but definitely safe to eat (and a super candidate for boiled eggs with the shells coming off without sticking to the whites!!)


-If the eggs floats, throw it out.  It’s yuck.

***The USDA recommends using the eggs within 3-5 weeks from the date of purchase.  Use your best judgement (or just brave it and crack it open.  If it isn’t any good….you’ll know!!  For SURE!)***

Happy Day :: C