A Touch of Sun Kissed Nectarine Preserves

– johanna | August 24th, 2012


There is something so rewarding about reaching in to my pantry for a jar of homemade jam. Last summer I made certain to stock the pantry well. We ran out of jam in the spring. So I made double batches of strawberry, raspberry, and nectarine. The jam lasted us well into this summer.

For raspberry jam see the post Beginners Raspberry Jam 101.

Making jam can seem daunting at first. But after a couple of tries the fear subsides. It is always easier to make jam for the first time with a friend. Preferably someone who has some experience. So grab a buddy and a bushel of fruit before the season is over.

Source: PickYourOwn.org
Large canning pot, with insert
Small sauce pan for sterilizing lids
Large pot for cooking the jam in
Jar funnel
Canning Tongs
4-5 sterilized 1/2 pint jars with lids and rings

4 cups of peeled, pitted, and chopped nectarines or peaches (about 4 pounds)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
7 cups sugar
1 package powdered Pectin

Fill canning pot, sauce pan, and stock pot with water. Bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, wash jars, rings, and lids.

Lower the temperature of the canning pot to a simmer. Set jars in canning pot.
until ready to use.

Put the lids in a small sauce pan with water. Bring to a boil. Turn off the heat. Leave the lids in the hot water until ready to use.

Wash the fruit removing any mushy fruit, stems and leaves. Cut a shallow X on the bottom of each nectarine. Place fruit in the boiling water of the stock pot. Let process for a minute (if ripe) or longer (if unripe). Drain water. Pour ice cold water and ice gently over nectarines. Cover with a lid for 1 to 2 minutes. The skins should easily peel off.

Remove the nectarines from the pot. Rinse pot.
Cut fruit into quarters and dice. Place back in stock pot. Mash fruit slightly leaving some whole bits.

Combine nectarines, pectin, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil over high heat (stirring often to prevent burning). Add the sugar, stirring until dissolved. Return to a boil (it continues to boil even when stirred). Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Turn off heat and remove from stove. Remove jars and lids from the water and place on a clean dish towel.

Skim off any foam from the top of the jam. (*Use the sugary foam to sweeten popsicles or smoothies.)

Place the funnel in the mouth of a jar. Use the ladle to pour hot jam into prepared jars; filling up no higher than 1/4-inch from the top of the jar. Wipe the rim of the jar with a warm wet cloth or paper towel to remove any syrup.

Cap with the lid and screw on the ring. Return the filled jars to the canning pot of water. Adjust the water level to cover the jars by 1 to 2 inches. Return the heat to high and bring to a boil. Cover and process (boil) for 10 minutes. (**boil longer if at higher altitude*)

Turn off the heat. Carefully remove the lid. Use the canning tongs to remove the jars from the water bath. The lids should immediately make popping sounds. This indicates that the jars are sealing. Test each lid by pressing down in the middle of the lid. If there is a slight bump that is raised and pops back up when pressed, the jar is not sealed. Let the jar sit for an hour. If the jar has not sealed store the jar in the refrigerator. Sealed jars can be stored in the pantry.

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Vanilla Nectarine Jam

– johanna | September 23rd, 2011


August and September is stone fruit season. Our little tree in the backyard had a nice bumper crop of nectarines last year. I scarcely knew what to do with them all. This year, sadly our little tree developed curl leaf in the spring. My plan to can nectarine jam this summer was thwarted.

One day while at Stephen’s parents house, their neighbor brought over a hefty supply of nectarines. I took several pounds home with me to make into jam. Trying to decide which recipe to use was quite a chore. I settled on this recipe with vanilla and a more traditional recipe.

This recipe for vanilla nectarine jam is more like a chutney. It is thick and lighter in color. It lacks the glossy brightness of a classic jam. I found it an amazing compliment to chicken or pork. Just add a little cinnamon and butter or light oil and bake.

Source: Canning for a New Generation
Large canning pot, with insert
Large stock pot
Jar funnel
4-5 sterilized 1/2 pint jars with lids and rings

3 pounds ripened nectarines
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla or 1 whole vanilla bean

Fill both canning pot and stock pot with water. Bring to a boil.

Wash jars and lids. Set jars in canning pot with simmering water until ready to use. Put the lids in a small sauce pan with water. Bring to a boil. Turn off the heat. Leave the lids in the hot water until ready to use.

Wash the fruit removing any mushy fruit, stems and leaves. Cut a shallow X on the bottom of each nectarine. Place fruit in the boiling water in the stock pot. Let process for a minute (if ripe) or longer (if unripe). Drain water. Pour ice cold water and ice over gently over nectarines. Cover with a lid for 1 to 2 minutes. The skins should easily peel off.

Remove the nectarine from the pot. Rinse pot.
Cut fruit into quarters and dice. Place back in stock pot. Mash fruit slightly leaving some whole bits.

Combine nectarines, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla; bring to a boil over high heat.

Boil for at least 5 minutes to thicken. The jam is ready when a candy themometer reads about 220.

* To Test: place a spoon in the freezer. Dip the spoon into the jam. Set on an ice cube to cool. If the jam begins to conceal it is done.

Turn off heat and remove from stove.

Remove jars and lids from the water and place on a towel.

Skim off any foam from the top of the jam. (Use the sugary foam to sweeten popsicles or smoothies.)

Place the funnel in the mouth of a jar. Use the ladle to pour hot jam into prepared jars; filling up no higher than a 1/4-inch from the top of the jar. Wipe the rim of the jar with a warm wet cloth or paper towel to remove any syrup.

Cap with the lid and screw on the ring. Return the filled jars to the pot of water. Adjust the water level to cover the jars by 1 to 2 inches. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Cover and process (boil) for 5 minutes.

Carefully remove the jars from the water bath. (Let sit overnight on a towel.) The lids should immediately make popping sounds. This indicates that the jars are sealed. Test each lid by pressing down in the middle of the lid. If there is a slight bump that is raised and pops back up when pressed, the jar is not sealed. Store the jar in the refrigerator. Sealed jars can be stored in the pantry.

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The History and Many Uses of Lemons

– johanna | June 22nd, 2010


Citrus Limon

Art Work by: Franz Eugen Köhler

No one is for certain where exactly the vitamin packed “Golden Apple”, as the natives of Northern India often referred to lemons, came from.  Lemons are believed to have originally come from India and China. Those in Northern India considered the lemon to be a valuable trade as they prized the lemon for its unique flavor in cooking. The Chinese used them as an antiseptic for wounds and as an antidote for poisons. The lemon eventually made its way to Egypt and the Mediterranean by way of the ancient Jews. Lemons were introduced to the Islamic gardens as an ornamental plant while the Egyptians used the leaves of the lemon tree in a drink known as Kashkab. Kashkab was a beverage made of fermented barley, mint, rue, black pepper, and Citron (lemon) leaf. By the thirteenth century the trade in lemon juice had grown considerably. Records of a medieval Jewish community in Cairo show that bottles of lemon juice, Gatarmizat, made with sugar were consumed locally and exported. Scholars believe this lemon juice to be an early version of lemonade.

By the time Christopher Columbus made his second voyage in 1493 the lemon tree was well established across the Mediterranean and Asian continents. On that voyage Christopher Columbus brought with him the seeds of the lemon tree, among other citrus trees, to the Island of Haiti. The Spaniards also brought a crew populated with scurvy (a nutritional deficiency) to the New World. Ironically they were carrying the vary fruit that could have prevented the disease. The antidote for scurvy was not published until British naval surgeon, James Lind, sanctioned the use of lemons in his “Treatise on the Scurvy”, in 1753. Nonetheless, his advice to give citrus fruit to the sailors was not implemented by the Royal Navy for several decades. By 1563 groves of citrus fruit including the lemon were introduced along the South Caroline coast and Saint Augustine Florida. Today California and Florida remain the largest producers of lemons in the United States while India is the world’s largest exporter of lemons.

Lemon juice is a complementary flavor in many fish dishes. Lemons are often used in marinades with poultry or red meat. They are also used to flavor steamed vegetables and lend flavoring in baking decadent desserts, cakes, pies, tarts, icings, puddings, fillings and candies. Mostly lemons are used as a garnish for iced beverages or hot tea. Besides cooking, lemons offer many healing properties.

  • Lemons are considered a diuretic and may be useful to help flush toxins out of the body. Drink a regular tonic of lemon juice and water to cleanse the liver. It is also thought to help dissolve gallstones, treat infections, asthma and arthritis.
  • Lemons have the highest content of vitamin C of all citrus fruit. Drink water flavored with freshly squeezed lemon slices to help boost the immune system
  • Mix lemon juice with hot water to aid in digestion and help cure nausea, heartburn, constipation, worm infestations and relieve hiccups.
  • Mix lemon juice with hot water and honey to relieve a sore throat.
  • Mix lemon juice and cranberry juice to help cure a bladder infection.
  • Use lemon essential oil mixed with massage oil to aid circulation.
  • Soak fingernails in a mixture of water, baking soda and lemon juice to clean nails and cuticles.
  • Wipe cutting boards with lemon juice to sanitize and get rid of odors.
  • Use lemon juice and vinegar to white underarm stains and ring around the collar. Then place in the sun.
  • Brighten laundry whites. Add 1/2 cup lemon juice to the wash cycle of a normal-size load.
  • Squeeze lemon juice on sliced apples or pears to eliminate browning.
  • Shine stainless steel and clean glass shower doors.
  • Spray lemon juice on your hair then go out into the sun for natural highlights.

To juice a lemon keep them in a bowl on the counter rather than in the fridge. Press down and roll the lemons on your cutting board before juicing.

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Quinoa, the Ancient Mother Grain

– johanna | May 25th, 2010



Ancient in its origins, Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-WAH) has been a staple in it’s native lands of Chile, Peru and the colonies in the Andes Mountains of Bolivia, for almost 5,000 years. Quinoa translated in the Incan language meas “Mother Grain” and was once considered “the gold of the Incas.” While Quinoa is commonly referred to as a grain, similar to buckwheat and amaranth, it is grown from an edible leafy green vegetable plant relative to Swiss chard, sugar beet, table beet, and spinach whereas grains are born from grassy plants. The seed like granule comes in a range of colors that vary from white, yellow, and pink, to darker red, purple, and black.

quinoa plant

Quinoa may be eaten hot or cold in salads soups, stews, pilafs and casseroles. Quinoa is used in bread, muffins, bagels, cookies, pancakes, granola and other baked goods. Use Quinoa in the place of potatoes, couscous and rice. It is also a yummy nutritional replacement for oatmeal. Top with a drizzle of honey, nuts or berries. Quinoa is a complete protein and an excellent source of magnesium, a mineral that helps relax blood vessels. Increased intake of magnesium has been shown to reduce the severity of migraine headaches and arteriosclerosis.

To prepare quinoa, always rinse it as you would rice to remove any powdery residue. Bring one part quinoa and two parts liquid to a boil; cover and reduce to a simmer for about 15 minutes or until the grains are translucent.

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– johanna | April 21st, 2010

Filed under: THE GARDEN


The Coriander plant originated in 5,000 BC Greece, where it was first cultivated and used as a spice to flavor meats and breads. Its popularity grew throughout the Asian, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions as its medical and culinary properties began to gain appeal.  By the mid15th century cilantro, the leaves of the coriander plant, became an essential part of Latin cuisine in Mexico and Peru through the culinary influence of the Spanish conquistadors. The entire Coriander plant is edible including the roots which are featured in traditional Thai and Chinese cuisines.


Cilantro leaves are derived from the coriander plant and bear a strong resemblance to Italian flat leaf parsley. In fact I often have to smell the two to tell them apart. Cilantro, although highly aromatic, has the ability to subtly enhance the other flavors in a dish. Cilantro is an elegant delicate herb often used sprinkled on salads, soups, mixed in sauces and salsas and as tenderizer for meat. Select cilantro that is deep green and vibrant, without signs of wilting or yellowing. To store, rinse well, dry and place moist in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Coriander the spice refers to the fruit of the coriander plant that contains two yellowish-brown seeds that are ground into powder. It is best to buy whole coriander seeds instead of coriander powder since the powder loses its flavor more quickly. Coriander seeds can be easily ground with a mortar and pestle when needed to season soups, meats and sauces.coriander seed

The health benefits of the coriander plant have been used since Hippocrates.
(Use daily in cooking or essential oil form)

  • Anti inflammatory. Often used to alleviate arthritis.
  • Prevents nausea. Safe for pregnant women.
  • Aids in healthy digestion by preventing indigestion and relieves intestinal bloating.
  • Is known to lower blood sugar levels in diabetics by stimulating the secretion of insulin.
  • Protects against of urinary tract infections
  • Lowers bad cholesterol levels while increasing good cholesterol levels reducing the effects of hyperglycemia.
  • Has antimicrobial properties. Effective antibiotic.
  • A natural cleansing agent.
  • Kills the bacteria that causes salmonella.
  • Treatment of skin diseases.
  • Cold and cough remedy.
  • Used to remove toxic agents and other heavy metals from the body.
  • A good source of iron, magnesium, flavonoids and phytonutrients.
  • Fight against the free radicals protecting cells from oxidative damage.
  • Immune booster. Helps fight chronic infections.

*Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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The Many Uses Of Vinegar

– johanna | January 11th, 2010


Uses of vinegar

Photo by Greener Loudoun

Vinegar came into existence, by mere chance, more than 10,000 years ago when a cask of wine had over-reached its expiration date. Centuries later in 1964, Scientist Louis Pasteur, discovered that it was the fermentation of natural sugars into alcohol followed by a secondary fermentation that resulted in the product vinegar.

Throughout the time that vinegar has been known to man the substance has been distilled using ingredients such as molasses, dates, fruits, berries, melons, coconut, honey, beer, maple syrup, potatoes, beets, malt, grains and whey. Consequently, the flavors and varieties of vinegars available are just as vast and unique as the substances it is made from.

Since the first accidental discovery this inexpensive kitchen staple has been used in remarkable capacities. Recorded historical uses of vinegar began as far back as 5,000 BC.
-Babylonians used it as a preservative; flavoring the liquid with herbs and spices.
-Roman legionnaires consumed it as a beverage. In ancient Egypt, -Cleopatra used vinegar as a solvent dissolving pearls in it to win a wager that she could consume a fortune in a single meal.
-The Ancient Physician Hippocrates, discovered its medicinal qualities using it as a stringent and cough remedy.
-The Greeks used it for culinary purposes in pickling vegetables and meats.
-Hannibal, a great general, gained access across the Alps by heating a barrier of boulders and then doused them with vinegar. The boulders cracked and crumbled paving a path for his army to cross through.
-During the American Civil War, vinegar was used to treat scurvy.
-During World War I, vinegar was used to treat wounds.

Today we continue to enjoy the benefits of this ancient sour wine in cleaning, household projects, medicinal remedies, organic agriculture, and the culinary arts. The following tips use ordinary distilled white vinegar. This list is just a sample of the many uses of vinegar. For more fun facts and tips visit VinegarTips.com for 1001 Uses for White Distilled Vinegar.


Photo By: This Old House


  • Make your own cleaning solution by combining 1/2 cup vinegar, 1 cup Ammonia, 1/4 cup baking soda and 1 gallon hot water.
  • Use vinegar to clean hard water stains from tub/shower stalls. Mix 1/2 cup vinegar and 1 cup fabric softener with 1 quart warm water. Spray glass shower door with furniture polish or lemon oil to prevent build up. For basic cleaning of tubs and sinks wipe with vinegar and then scrub with baking soda. Rinse clean with water.
  • Whiten Grout. Scrub grout with a stiff brush dipped in vinegar. For extra fighting power add baking soda to make a paste.
  • Remove mineral deposits from showerheads. Pour 1/2 cup of warm water into a resealable plastic bag. Drop in the showerhead, seal and let sit 1 hour. Rinse clean and wipe dry.
  • Make the toilet bowl sparkle. Drop 1 denture cleaner tablet into the toilet with 1 cup vinegar. Let sit 30 minutes. Scrub with baking soda.
  • Wipe glass doors and windows streak free. Mix 1/2 cup to 1 cup vinegar with 1/2 gallon of water. Pour into a spray bottle.
  • Wash no-wax floors. Add 1/2 cup vinegar to a 1/2 gallon warm water.
    Carpet stain removal. (for the removal of fresh non-oily carpet stains) mix 1 teaspoon liquid detergent and 1 teaspoon of vinegar in a pint of warm water. Apply solution to the stain with a soft brush or towel and rub gently. Rinse with a towel moistened with clean water; blot dry. Repeat until the stain is gone. Then dry quickly, using a fan or hair dryer.
  • Wipe out water rings on wood furniture by rubbing with a mixture of equal parts vinegar and olive oil. Rub with the grain and polish for the best results.
  • Sanitize the refrigerator. Wipe with a solution of equal parts water and vinegar. Remove odor by placing 1 cup apple cider vinegar in a glass and place it in the refrigerator for a few days.
  • Disinfect cutting boards; a nice alternative to using bleach. Wipe with full strength vinegar.
  • Shine stainless steel appliances and sinks. Apply vinegar with a soft cloth to remove streaks from stainless steel appliances. (Try in an inconspicuous place first) You can also use lemon oil.
  • Keep garbage disposals fresh and clean. Make vinegar cubes by filling an ice tray with a mixture of 1 cup of vinegar and enough water to fill the ice tray; freeze. Run the mixture through the disposal, and then flush it with cold water for a minute or so. The ice sharpens the blades while the vinegar disinfects.
  • Dishes and glasses. Pour 1 ½ cup to 2 cups vinegar in the bottom of the dishwasher. Add soap and wash full cycle. Use this technique instead of bleach to fight off the flu.
  • Kill Germs in the Laundry. Add 1 tsp salt and 1/4 cup vinegar to wash.
  • Fabric Softener. Add 1/4-1/2 cup to fabric softener dispenser. Especially great on baby clothes and towels.
  • Deodorant stains. Rub with vinegar and wash as usual. For tough stains make a paste of vinegar and baking soda. Rub into stain. Leave garment in the sun. Wash as usual.
  • Wine stains. Remove wine stains from 100% cotton, cotton polyester and permanent press fabrics within 24 hours. Sponge vinegar directly onto the stain and gently rub away the spots. Then clean according to the directions on the manufacturer’s tag.
  • Keeping colors fast:
    To hold colors in fabrics, which tend to run, soak them for a few minutes in white distilled vinegar before washing.
    When color dyeing fabrics, add 1 cup of vinegar to the last rinse water to help set the color.
  • Cleaning Vintage Lace. Soak the lace in cold water, rinsing it several times. Next, hand-wash with Woolite. Remove stains with equal parts vinegar and hot water.
  • Unclog a steam iron. Pour equal amounts of vinegar and water into the iron’s water chamber. Turn to steam and leave the iron on for 5 minutes in an upright position. Then unplug and allow to cool. Any loose particles should come out when you empty the water.
    To remove the burn mark on the iron plate, heat equal parts vinegar and salt in a small pan. Rub the solution on the cooled iron surface.
  • Shine brass, copper and pewter. Dissolve 1 teaspoon salt in 1 cup of vinegar. Stir in flour to make a paste. Apply paste to the metals and let stand for about 15 minutes. Rinse with clean warm water and polish until dry.
    Mix olive oil and vinegar in a one-to-one ratio and polish with a soft cloth. Try in an inconspicuous place first.
  • Remove the blackened soot on fireplace glass doors. Wash fireplaces with a 50/50 ratio of water and vinegar to. Wipe dry with newspaper.
  • Clean Gold Jewelry. Submerge jewelry in one cup apple cider vinegar; let sit 15 minutes. Remove and dry with cloth.
  • Clean DVDs. Wipe smudged CDs and DVDs with vinegar. Dry completely before reinserting into player.


Photo By: This Old House


  • Non-poisonous ant solution. Dab a cotton ball with vinegar. Swab areas the ants trail. Heat a pot of vinegar then pour over ant hills.
  • Fruit fly deterrent. Place a bowl filled with 1/2 quart water, 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons. apple cider vinegar and a couple drops dish soap.
  • Banish stickiness. Remove stickers and price tags from glass, wood and plastic. Dab vinegar on stubborn stickers; scrap surface clean.
  • Clean paint brushes by soaking them 30 minutes in hot vinegar. Wash in hot soapy water, cleaning off paint.
  • Rust Remover. Soak rusted tools in vinegar for a few days. Rinse with water.


  • Increase soil acidity: In hard water areas, add a cup of vinegar to a gallon of tap water. Great for rhododendrons, gardenias or azaleas.
  • Keep flowers fresh longer. Add 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons vinegar with 1-quart water. Trim stems and change water every five days.
  • Grass and weed control. To kill grass on sidewalks and driveways, pour full strength vinegar on it.
    For weeds, spray full strength vinegar on tops of weeds. Reapply on any new growth until plants have starved.
  • Plant food. Mix vinegar and water in a ratio of one part vinegar to 8 parts water. Mix a separate solution of 1 part sugar to 8 parts water. Combine the vinegar and sugar mixtures.


Photo By: AppleCiderVinegarWeightloss.com


  • For burnt on food, submerge the area in vinegar and soak overnight. Clean with hot soapy water.
  • To control weight swap out creamy salad dressings for a sprinkle of vinegar. Use flavors such as Champagne, Balsamic, Red Wine and seasoned.
  • Flavor soups and stews using a tablespoon of your favorite vinegar.
  • Meat tenderizer. Combine 1/2 cup of your favorite vinegar to 1 cup of bouillon or 1/4 cup oil. Rub into meat; let sit two hours.
  • For sweeter more tender fish soak fish in vinegar and water before cooking. Add 1 tablespoon vinegar to water when poaching fish to keep it from crumbling.
  • Add a little vinegar to the water when poaching or boiling eggs. It helps to keep the whites together.
  • Prevent oxidation of potatoes. Peeled potatoes left sitting begin to oxidize and turn dark. Add a teaspoon of white distilled vinegar or cider vinegar to the pot of water.
  • Fruit and vegetable wash. Freshen and wash vegetables by adding 2 tablespoons vinegar to 1 pint water; wash, then rinse thoroughly.
  • Before frying doughnuts, add 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar to hot oil to prevent doughnuts soaking up extra grease. Use caution when adding the vinegar to the hot oil.

cleaning-table with vinegar

Photo By: Planet Green


  • Remove fruit or berry stains from your hands by cleaning them with vinegar.
  • To keep pets free of fleas and ticks mix 1teaspoon vinegar to each quart of drinking water. This solution is for a forty pound animal, Always get the approval of your pets doctor before trying natural home remedies.
  • Smelly dog odor. Rinse the dog with fresh water. Saturate the dogs coat with a mixture of 1 cup vinegar and 2 gallons water. Do not rinse. Dry completely.
  • Potty Accidents for both people and animals. Sprinkle area with vinegar. Wait a few minutes and sponge from the center outward. Blot up with a dry cloth. Repeat if necessary. (Test carpet in an inconspicuous place before trying)
  • Frosted windows:
    For those rare winter mornings when there is frost on the car, wipe the windows the night before with a solution of one part water to three parts white distilled vinegar. They won’t frost over.
  • Freshen lunch boxes by dampening a piece of bread with vinegar and enclose in the lunch box overnight.
  • Freshen the kitchen. Odors can linger after cooking meats or with oil. Simmer an equal mix of water and vinegar until smell dissolves.

foot with pedicure


  • Clean Calcium Deposits and Sanitize Humidifiers. Heat 1 ¾ vinegar. Pour vinegar into reservoir and replace cap. Let sit for 1 hour. Remove vinegar. Reservoir should be clean and calcium free. Contact manufacturer before cleaning with this method or review manufacturer’s directions.
  • Soothe a bee or jellyfish sting. Douse with vinegar to soothe irritation and relieve itching. (You can also use tobacco. Make a paste with tobacco from a cigar and water. Tape in place over hole.)
    Relieve sunburn. Lightly rub white distilled or cider vinegar on area. Reapply as needed.
  • For other types of burns, apply ice-cold vinegar right away to prevent blisters.
  • Relieve dry and itchy skin such as Psoriasis. Add 2 tablespoons of vinegar to your bath water. (A compress of seaweed works well too) For dry scalp, after shampooing, rinse with a solution of 1/2 cup vinegar and 2 cups of warm water.
  • Stop Itching. Apply a paste of vinegar and cornstarch. Keep on until itch disappears.
  • Toenail fungus. Soak toes in a solution of vinegar and water, using 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water, 15 minutes per day.
  • Soften callused cracked Feet. Combine 1 cup vinegar to 2 gallons warm water. Soak feet for 45 minutes then use a pumice stone or file to remove dead skin from heels and callused areas of feet.
  • Wart Remover. Mix warm water with 1 cup vinegar. Soak area for 20 minutes everyday until wart disappears.
  • Soothe a sore throat. There are several ways to do this. Put a teaspoon of vinegar in a glass of water; gargle, then swallow. Mix 1 cup hot water, 2 tablespoons honey, 1 teaspoon vinegar, gargle then drink. (Mix 1/2 tsp salt to 2 cups water, add 1 tablespoon peroxide. Heat in the microwave until warm. Gargle, do not drink.)
  • Treat sinus infections and chest colds. Add 1/4 cup or more vinegar to a vaporizer. Add water as needed per unit instructions.
  • Chest congestion. Inhale a vapor mist from a steaming pot containing water and several spoonfuls of vinegar.
  • Calm a queasy stomach. If you can stomach the smell and taste try downing some apple cider vinegar in water, with a little honey.


Photo By: My Little Cottage in the Making


  • Coloring Easter eggs. Mix 1 teaspoon of vinegar with each 1/2 cup hot water; add food coloring.
  • Naked eggs. Magically remove the shell of an egg. This project takes two days to complete.
    Place eggs in a container so the eggs are not touching. Add enough vinegar to cover the eggs. Cover the container, put in the refrigerator and let sit for 24 hours. Use a slotted spoon to carefully scoop out the eggs. Dump out the vinegar. Put the eggs back in the container and cover with fresh vinegar. Leave the eggs in the refrigerator for another 24 hours. Scoop the eggs out again and rinse carefully. Throw away any eggs with broken membranes. Now you should have egg without a shell.
  • Volcano. Make the cone of the volcano by mixing 6 cups flour, 2 cups salt, 4 tablespoons cooking oil and 2 cups of water. Mix until smooth and firm. Stand a soda bottle in a baking pan and mold the dough around it into a volcano shape. Do not cover the hole or drop dough into it. Fill the bottle most of the way with warm water and a few drops of red food coloring. Add 6 drops of detergent to the bottle contents. Add 2 tablespoons baking soda to the liquid. Slowly pour vinegar into the bottle.
  • Berry ink pens. 1/2 cup ripe berries, 1/2 teaspoon vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and feather.
    Fit a strainer over a bowl. Place berries in strainer. Using the back of a wooden spoon, crush the berries against the strainer. Keep pressing until most of the juice has been strained out and only pulp remains. Add the salt and vinegar to the berry juice. If the berry ink is too thick, add a tablespoon of water. Store in a baby food jar sealed tightly. Cut the tip of the feather at an angle. Cut a slit in the tip. Dip the tip into the berry ink; dap on paper towel. Repeat as needed.
  • Magic Potion. Pour 2 tablespoons vinegar into a shallow bowl or cup set on a baking sheet. Add 1 tablespoon baking soda.
    Hot Air Balloon. Pour 4 tablespoons vinegar into a bottle. Pour 2 tablespoons baking soda into a balloon that isn’t blown up (make a siphon out of cone of paper). Without tipping the baking soda into the vinegar, put the balloon over the top of the container. Use your hand or a rubber band to hold the seal. Jiggle the balloon so the baking soda is dumped in.

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You Say Sweet Potato, I Say Sweet Potatoe

– johanna | June 13th, 2009

Filed under: THE GARDEN

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes were originally cultivated in Mexico and Central and South America. Columbus discovered the sweet potato during one of his voyages to the West Indies. Spain eventually cultivated the potato resulting in a profitable business with France and England. The Portuguese are responsible for carrying sweet potatoes to Asia and Africa where they remain an important staple of the diet even today.

When I started writing this post my goal was to clear up a common misconception about sweet potatoes. Whole Foods Market among others insist yams are considered a sweet potato. However; chef’s on the opposing side of the debate heatedly disagree that not all sweet potatoes are considered equal. So, who is right?

Apparently the term ‘yam’ is used loosely in the United States to differentiate between the white and orange varieties. Yet, they are all sweet potatoes.  The colorings of flesh ranges from white to brown, orange and purple. True yams are from Africa, are very starchy, not sweet and grow as large as 100 pounds.

So how do you know which garden variety to use when a recipe calls for sweet potatoes? Generally, white sweet potatoes are best for baking while the orange flesh potatoes are better mashed or in soups.

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The Diary of a Novice Gardener: Making Mistakes

– johanna | June 6th, 2009

Filed under: THE GARDEN

Green pepper plants

The neighbor behind our house moved in last summer. Already his back yard is lush and magnificent. The trees, bushes and flowering plants have grown ten fold. Every evening the neighbor loving works in his garden. Tending to each tree and plant. Digging. Watering.

I planted a few tomato plants, bell pepper and some cilantro back in March. The cilantro died last month and the tomato and bell pepper plants are definitely not what I hoped for. First of all I have a major problem with bugs eating the meager offerings of vegetables. Secondly, or maybe this should be number one, I imagined the plants would produce more.

Dead Cilantro plant

During my research two most common answers were soil and water. There was a period when the watering system was not working. Then when the drip system was on the plants were over watered. Thus I have wilted and yellowing tomato plants. The other missing ingredient is food. Plant food. When the plants were originally planted I used a bag of soil with fertilizer. However all the over watering took the nutrients straight through the bottom of the barrel.

Tomato plant

It was suggested to combat any insects use organic compost. The art of decomposing bulk such as coffee grinds, paper, straw, manure, table scraps and dead plants is supposedly a turn off to bugs. Flowers and herbs also help with insects. There is a difference between the greener and healthier peppers that share the same pot with marigolds and the spiny tomatoes.

Lesson learned: Need to fix drip system, plant some basil with the tomatoes and make another attempt at composting.

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The Many Uses of Flour

– johanna | May 29th, 2009


When the economy started it’s downward spiral the commodity most talked about was rice and flour. I started to write down all the many uses of flour. When used in baking it binds the ingredients together and supports the batter to prevent nuts and berries from sinking to the bottom of the pan. When used in cooking, it thickens sauces, creams and pie fillings.

The types of flour available seems practically endless: barley, buckwheat, chickpea, corn, oats, potato, rice, rye, soy, wheat, cake, self rising, bread and all-purpose. The choice of flour used will ultimately affect the finished product. Here is a short lesson on the science of flour. Flour contains protein. When the protein comes in contact with water and heat it produces gluten. Gluten is what gives elasticity and strength to baked goods. Different types of flour contain different amounts of protein. Therefore varying  from what is called for in a recipe will alter the outcome of the baked good.

Cake Flour: The most common variance I can think of is using regular all-purpose flour in the place of cake flour. Cake flour has a protein base of 6-8%.  It is used to produce a delicate tender crumb. Using all-purpose flour to make biscuits or cake will produce a dense texture rather than a light and airy one. Make your own by adding 2 tablespoons cornstarch to 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour. To substitute cake flour for all-purpose use 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour for every cup of all-purpose flour.

Bread Flour: Bread flour has a protein base of 12-14% and is used to make yeast breads.

All-Purpose: All-Purpose Flour has a protein base of 10-12% and is used to make traditional sweets like cakes, cookies, quick breads, and pastries.

Pastry Flour: Pastry flour is similar to cake flour, with an 8-10% protein base. To make two cups of pastry flour, combine 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour with 2/3 cup cake flour.

Self-Rising Flour: Self-Rising Flour has a low protein base with salt and leavening already added. Combine 1 cup all-purpose, 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Bleached Flour: Bleached flour has less protein than unbleached. Bleached is best for delicate baked goods such as yeast bread, pastries, pie crusts, cookies, quick breads, pancakes and popovers.

Whole Wheat Flour: Whole wheat is made from the whole kernel and is higher in dietary fiber than white flours. Whole wheat does not produce as much gluten, so it is often mixed with all-purpose or bread flour to give a better rise. The protein base depends on the type of wheat used. Hard red wheat has a higher protein level than hard white wheat. Hard white wheat when ground is much like all-purpose flour and can be used in much the same way. Red wheat berries can be cooked and added to soups, casseroles or lasagna, eaten like oatmeal or ground and made into bread.

Other Types of Flour: barley, buckwheat, chickpea, corn, oats, potato, rice, rye, soy and flaxseed are sometimes combined with all-purpose or wheat to give added flavor and nutrients. These flours can be used in pasta, yeast bread and some quick breads.

The Use of Flour:

Proper measuring of flour is extremely important. Too much flour will result in a tough and heavy baked good. When measuring flour always fluff the flour then spoon the flour into a measuring cup and level off with a knife. Do not pack it down or scoop the cup into the flour.

Sifting flour removes lumps and aerates it so that when combined with the liquid the batter mixes easily. If a recipe calls for 1 cup sifted flour this means you sift the flour before measuring. If the recipe calls for 1 cup flour, sifted this means you sift the flour after measuring.

Store flour in a cool dry place for up to six months. To prevent insects you can store flour in the refrigerator or freezer, bring to room temperature before using.

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The Diary of a Novice Gardener: Making Progress

– johanna | March 31st, 2009

Filed under: THE GARDEN

Old Man Winter has been reluctant to leave. The minute I think we are heading into mild weather, bitter cold and shrill winds rip through causing me to re-think packing up the winter clothing. Last year, Old Man Winter toyed with us clear into June. Anyone remember it snowing in Idaho in June? I am definitely not complaining. The 115 degree heat of the valley is nothing I look forward to. However, I am anxious to get my garden planted.

Mason’s preschool class learned about gardening last week. It was part of the topic “growing”. All week, they witnessed caterpillars creating chrysalis. I am as excited as the kids to see the appearance of butterflies soon. The sandbox was turned into a garden. They planted marigolds, some herbs, tomatoes and pumpkin seeds. I signed up to bring tomato plants and marigolds. While at the nursery, I took the opportunity to purchase a few plants for myself.

I was in the process of building the raised beds when I realized the biggest enemy to my garden at present are the kids. Adelin loves flowers so much I had to stand guard over the fruit trees when they were in bloom. Last year, they dug up the potted orange tree I planted so they could use the dirt. I decided last minute to move the plants to the front yard incorporating the them into the landscape. I took three half barrels and planted tomatoes, cilantro, marigolds and green peppers then set them on the front porch. I lined the walkway with strawberry plants then dug a bed for future planting. The tree in the front yard was finally saved from the encroaching grass.

I am still working on setting the stage in the backyard. The kids finally managed to demolish the wooden boat sandbox. As I was taking it apart, I saw the makings of a trellis for the raspberries and the perfect box for the kids garden. We took the egg cartons I was saving to make flowers with and used them to plant vegetable seeds in. I have even seen the use of cotton balls and peat moss to start seeds. The leftover seeds belong to the kids to plant in their garden.

The next step is to figure out how to keep the bugs away from the growing strawberries, wait for the seedlings to grow and the larger plants to produce.

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