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All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!

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My Favorite Juice Recipe

My Favorite Juice Recipe:  Green Apple Juice

Ingredients

  1. 2 tart apples
  2. 1 peeled lemon
  3. 1 cup dandelion greens (or other greens – whatever is organic and in season)
  4. 1/2 inch ginger root

Directions

Blend the apples and ginger on high, the lemon and greens on low.  Mix well.  Drink to savor.

YUM.  Made of all seasonal foods, it’s a great winter morning pick-me-up!

What are Your Favorite Juice Recipes?

Please share – I’m all ears!  Any favorite books you have?

Recipe: Morning Blueberry Smoothie

This recipe is modified from one in the book Clean, by Dr. A. Junger.  Thanks to Jorie for asking me to post it!

Morning Blueberry Smoothie

This smoothie is what we have been drinking almost every morning for breakfast for the last 3 weeks.  We plan to continue drinking it after we’ve completed our cleanse/detox.

Serves two - if you are only making it for 1, cut the recipe in 1/2.

Ingredients

  1. 1 cup frozen blueberries (I use 1/2 organic blueberries, 1/2 wild blueberries)
  2. 1.5 cups unsweetened almond milk
  3. 1.5 teaspoons raw agave syrup
  4. 3 heaping teaspoons raw cacao powder

Substitutes

  • You can substitute fresh blueberries for frozen, and add 1/2 cup ice.
  • You can substitute another non-refined sugar for raw agave syrup if you like.
  • You can substitute carob or cocoa if you like, though cacao – which is raw cocoa – is more flavorful and has more enzymes.
  • You can add 2-3 tablespoons ground flax for added fiber if you like.

Instructions

Blend all ingredients together for 30-45 seconds – it should be smoothe but still have some texture.

That’s it! Please feel free to share your favorite smoothies in the comments!

My Favorite Children's Gardening Book: Review and Giveaway!!

Kids in the Garden

I receive a lot of requests to review products, and I’ve seen a lot of children’s books that relate to sustainability, gardening, or other green ideas.  But this one is different.

It’s so good, I wanted to keep it for myself – there are an amazing number of tips and recipes I’ve never read before!

But alas, I have a heart.  So… if you have children or little ones you care for in some way, please let me know if you’re interested in having this truly lovely book in the comments.  Next Wednesday at noon, I will draw a winner who will receive this fabulous book!

Those who don’t win and can’t find it in the library, I have a 40% discount for you – I’ll give you the details on Wednesday.

Kids In The Garden - detail

Review: Kids In The Garden

I read this book from front to back in one sitting and loved it.  No kidding!  I was mesmerized and actually learned a lot myself.  It is full of incredibly easy and useful gardening tips, and it’s even quite useful for small space gardeners.

The pictures and illustrations are lovely and fun, and intermixed with a few terrible veggie puns.  :)  Q: “How do you fix a flat pumpkin?”  A: “With a pumpkin patch.”  Duh!

Kids In The Garden - detail

Within this short 100-page book, there is an amazing amount of information.  I learned how to take cuttings, jump start seed starts with aluminum foil and a cardboard box, and build a worm bin.  Plus the recipes look fabulous and unique.

AND did you know runner beans are the only edible plant that twines counter-clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere?  I will be watching my beans this year!

Beetroot Brownies

by Kids In The Garden

  • 10 oz melted chocolate
  • 10 oz melted butter
  • 10 oz sugar
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 6 oz self-rising flour
  • 8 oz cooked beetroot, peeled and grated
  1. Put the beetroot in a colander to drain.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350F.  Grease an 8×10″ cake tin and line the bottom with baking/parchment paper.
  3. Mix chocolate and butter together.
  4. Cream eggs and sugar together in a bowl until likght and fluffy.  And chocolate mixture and stir until smooth.
  5. Fold in the flour, then beetroot, until just mixed.
  6. Pour mixture into the cake and bake in the oven about 30 minutes, until a knife pushed into the middle comes out clean.

I haven’t tried it yet, but it sounds so interesting, doesn’t it?

Giveaway!

Interested?  Leave your name and a comment below.  I’ll draw a winner on Wednesday 21 April.  Good luck!

Thanksgiving Recipes

The holidays are my favorite time to eat homemade foods made from sweet local and seasonal ingredients.  I’ve posted several recipes here, and thought I’d share them with you now so you have some exciting recipes to try this year!


Homemade Hot Buttered Rum


Homemade Hot Buttered Rum


Easy Homemade Cranberry Sauce


Homemade Cranberry Sauce


Delicious Winter Squash Souffle


Winter Squash Souffle


Fresh Pumpkin Pie

(Includes Homemade Pie Shell and Filling)


Fresh Pumpkin Pie


As I went through my recipes I realized we have several more in our holiday repertoire, so I will upload some more holiday recipes in the coming weeks.


Please Share Your Own Favorite Recipes!


You are more than welcome to post your recipes in the comments here.  Or if you have posted a favorite recipe on your blog, please feel free to link to it here.


Matt’s Rosemary Olive Bread Recipe

by TomSchaefges on Flickr


The following recipe was written by my brilliant baker of a husband, Matt.  Enjoy!


This is my favorite olive bread.  I got the recipe from my instructor in the professional baking class I took at the New School of Cooking in Los Angeles.  I’ve never found another olive loaf that is nearly as good, and I’ve tried the olive bread at every single bakery we’ve ever set foot in.


Do you know why it’s so good?  Fat.  Well, sugar and salt, too, but fat is the real hero of the day.  We’ve got fat in the form of olive oil, olives, and egg.  And we’ve got a whole tablespoon each of salt and sugar!  I wouldn’t recommend skimping on any of the ingredients, but I wouldn’t suggest eating it every day, either.  This is a great special occasion bread, perfect for the upcoming holidays.


Rosemary Olive Bread


Ingredients


  • 3 cups bread flour (13.5oz)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 egg
  • 6 oz warm water (100F)
  • 2 oz olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup pitted olives


Slashing the Loaf


Directions


  1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water.
  2. Combine beaten egg, olive oil, sugar, rosemary and olives and add the yeast/water mixture.
  3. Add flour and knead for 5 minutes.
  4. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes.
  5. Add salt and knead for another 5 minutes.
  6. Place dough in bowl greased with olive oil. Cover. Let rise for one hour in a warm spot (90F).
  7. Remove the dough.  Knead it a bit.  Form it into a ball and place on parchment paper.
  8. Loosely cover with a towel and place it in a warm spot (90F) for 30 min.
  9. Pre-heat the oven for one hour at 400F.
  10. Slash the top of the loaf before baking.  Bake for 45 minutes or so on a pizza stone or in a cloche until the loaf registers 180F in the center.
  11. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for two hours or so before eating.


Notes


  • The baker’s best friends are the scale, the thermometer, and the timer.  I really don’t know how to bake without them anymore.  For example, everyone’s “cup” of flour is very different.  The only way to maintain consistency is to do almost everything (but especially flour and water) by weight.
  • I use kosher salt.  Specifically, Diamond Crystal kosher salt.  It’s the industry standard in the restaurant world.  Personally, I think there is no other salt that makes food taste better.  However, if you are using table salt, use a little less than a tablespoon (the grains are smaller) and if you are using sea salt, use a little more than a tablespoon (the grains are bigger).
  • The period of rest between the two kneadings is called autolyse.  It allows the gluten to begin to form before the dough has to deal with the stress of further mixing.  Try it, it really works!  And the best part is that it requires no effort!
  • I always add the salt in after the autolyse and allow to to incorporate into the dough during the second mixing.  Salt tends to tighten the gluten (making it  hard to knead) and can kill yeast, so it’s best to give things a little time to get started.
  • The first rise for this dough is a higher temperature than normally given in recipes.  This is due to the fact that it is a very heavy dough.  The yeast needs to be very warm so they can be very active and make a lot of gas to raise the loaf. It’s not a problem, but you have to keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t over-proof.
  • The slash on the top of the bread allows the bread to expand during baking without ripping (which destroys the form).  Even worse, if there is no slash, sometimes the surface tension on the dough is too great, the bread doesn’t spring in the oven, and you get a brick.  Good for the birds, not so much for people.  Even dogs don’t really like it.  We use a razor blade, but you can use a sharp knife or whatever is handy. 
  • My favorite thing in the world is the cloche.  It replicates a real baker’s oven at a fraction of the cost.  Not only does it provide radiant heat all around the bread from the stone, but it allows a high level of humidity around the baking loaf for the first few minutes. This is important because it keeps the surface of the loaf supple and allows it to spring to it’s final size during the first few minutes of baking.  Below, you’ll see our cloche on top of the baking stone in the oven.  The jagged nubs on the top are from me breaking the handle off the very first time I put it in the oven!


The Cloche in the Oven


Recipe: Homemade Pizza From Scratch

Matt and Melindas Homemade Pizza

 

We used to make this quite often, but lately with Matt’s school schedule and my new business schedule, it has become a special treat.  Enjoy!

 

MATT’S “EASY” DOUGH

 

  • 8 oz. H2O
  • 11.25 oz All Purpose flour
  • 2t instant yeast
  • 2T olive oil
  • .25 oz. salt


1. Combine the ingredients into a mixing bowl, and mix with a spatula until it holds its shape.


2. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes.  (Or mix in a mixer with a dough hook for 5 minutes.)


3. Coat a 2 quart bowl with olive oil (about 1 tablespoon).  Transfer the dough to the bowl, and flop the dough in the bowl to lightly coat it with oil.  Cover with a kitchen towel, and let it rest until the dough doubles in size (1-2 hours, depending on room temperature).


4. Place dough on a lightly floured surface, divide into 2 parts, and lightly shape them into round lumps.


5. Cover with a towel and let it rest for another 20 minutes.


6. Set onto parchment paper, roll out to a thickness of about 1/8”, and shape.


MELINDA’S SIMPLE SAUCE

 

  • 3 lbs fresh, ripe tomatoes (whatever type you have), chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2T olive oil
  • 2t salt (or to taste)


1. Heat olive oil in large frying pan on medium-high heat.


2. Add tomatoes, stirring constantly, but not afraid to let a few caramelize as you go. When soft (about 10 minutes), mash the tomatoes with a slotted spoon, fork, or potato masher – just enough to reduce the chunks and release the juices.


3. Add salt and garlic and continue stirring until it reaches desired taste & consistency (about 5-10 minutes – it should taste sweet, thick and yummy rather than watery and tart). If using Roma or San Marzano tomatoes, you may need to add some water if it seems too thick at this point.

 

Pizza - Before Cooking Pizza - After Cooking

Above:  Pizza with Fresh sauce, Fresh mozarella, and Sun-dried Cherry Tomatoes

 

THE PIZZA PIE

 

  • Pizza dough (above)
  • Simple sauce (above)
  • 2 medium-sized fresh mozzarella balls (you can make these at home, too, if you like)
  • Toppings of your choice

 

1. Preheat oven to as hot as it can go (ours goes to 550F, 700F is ideal).


2. Spread the sauce evenly onto each pizza – it should be coated but not too thick.


3. Add toppings: we used basil from the garden, and oven dried tomatoes from the garden.


4. Cut the mozzarella balls into slices about 1/4” thick and spread onto pizzas. (Note: we found out the hard way that sundried tomatoes are better underneath the cheese. Though it was still scrumptious!)


5. Place in the oven on a pizza stone, leaving parchment the paper beneath the pizza (a cookie sheet works ok but the crust will be softer). Bake for about 10 minutes, or until bottom becomes brown but not black.


6. Allow to cool for a few minutes before cutting.


Yields 2 medium-sized pizzas (enough for 3-4 people).

 

 

In The Oven Or In The Sun: How To Dry Tomatoes, Peppers, and Other Fruits and Vegetables

Dried Cayenne

Cherry Tomatoes

San Marzano Tomatoes

 

Now is the time of year in the northern hemisphere where most gardeners have more tomatoes than they know what to do with.  And likely more of a few other things, too…


One of my favorite ways to preserve fresh foods is to dry them – they will last in a sealed container for months to years, depending on how well you dehydrate them.

 

Ground Cherry Dried in Husk


Sun Drying.


1. Pick your ripe fruits/veggies. 

2. If they’re small, you don’t have to cut them.  If they’re roma tomatoes, I cut them in half.  If they’re round tomatoes, I cut them into slices about 3/4” to 1” thick in the fleshy part, and 1/2” on the top and bottom parts of the tomato (the ends take longer to dry). 

3. Set them side by side on a pastry drying rack, or a screen of some kind – but it must be elevated above the surface so that air can get to both top and bottom.  For sliced tomatoes, it seems to work better to start with the butt end down. Note: several sources say that it’s better to use a non-metal screen, as metal reacts with the acids in the fruit and changes the flavor.  I haven’t noticed this, though.

4. For sliced tomatoes, sprinkle a little salt on each tomato – it makes them dry faster.

5. Bring the rack inside when the sun goes down, or when it begins to get moist in the evening (whichever comes first).

6. Put them outside again the next day when the weather gets warm, and repeat #4 & 5 for as long as it takes – up to 10 days.

7. Store in an air-tight container or bag.

 

Tomatoes and Peppers

 

Oven Drying.


1. Pick your ripe fruits/veggies. 

2. If they’re small, you don’t have to cut them.  If they’re roma tomatoes, I cut them in half.  If they’re round tomatoes, I cut them into slices about 3/4” to 1” thick in the fleshy part, and 1/2” on the top and bottom parts of the tomato (the ends take longer to dry). 

3. Set them on a pastry drying rack, or if you don’t have one I’ve found that you can use a cookie sheet with parchment paper (though this takes a bit longer).  We put our cookie sheet on top of our baking stone, and that seems to speed the drying process a bit.

4. For sliced tomatoes, sprinkle a little salt on each tomato – it makes them dry faster.

5. Put them in the oven, to around 200F (less is ok, but no higher than this!!).  Prop the oven open about 2” with a rolled up cloth, to let steam out – very important.

6. Set the timer – don’t forget this step!  Set it for 1 hour initially, then every 30 to 45 minutes.

7. Each time the timer goes off, take out any fruits that are dry.  They should not be crisp, but you should not see any juice. Anything raisin sized should be the consistency of a raisin. Tomatoes should be leathery.  Chilis should be pretty stiff.

8. Let them cool for an hour or two.

9. Store in an air-tight container or bag.

 


Dried Tomatoes, Peppers, Chiles, and Ground Cherries

Bagged for Storage

 

Experiment, have fun, try new things – your taste buds won’t regret your planning for the winter!

 

What Are Your Favorite Things To Dry?

 

If you already dry your foods, please share your experiences – what do you dry, how do you dry, and what do you like drying most??