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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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Great Reading

Recipe: Delicious (& Mild) Red Tomato Salsa

Salsa!


I’ve been getting loads of questions about what to do with all those tomatoes this time of year – so I thought you might enjoy reading this quick and easy salsa recipe from our archives. (Originally published 25 October, 2008)


When I was a child, my grandmother lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the land of amazing red and green chiles and wonderful New Mexican salsas. We went to Albuquerque at least once a year, and I always felt it was my second home, with the red desert, its people, and its cuisine deep in my blood.


I miss it. So sometimes I like to recreate it in the kitchen. The following is a salsa recipe that I made with tomatoes from our garden, chiles preserved from last year’s garden, and the rest of the ingredients from local farmers. Matt says it’s the best salsa he’s ever had. I hope you enjoy it, too!


Tomato From The Garden


Melinda’s Delicious (& Mild) Tomato Salsa


Ingredients.


Note: this is a great recipe to use up some tomatoes that have been sitting on your counter for a little too long at the end of the season! I use several types of tomatoes, whatever we have at the time – orange, canning, beefsteak, whatever you have will work!


  • 2.5 lbs. tomatoes
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves (de-stemmed)
  • 1-2 dried cayenne peppers (or whatever hot peppers you have in your garden – optional)
  • 1 medium to large onion
  • 3 large cloves garlic
  • salt to taste (3-4 teaspoons?)


Steps.


1. Dice the onions and cook them in a large frying pan, with a bit of vegetable oil, until almost translucent.


2. Slice the tomatoes into fairly large chunks.


3. Remove the pepper seeds (unless you want a very hot salsa). Chop the peppers into tiny pieces, or grind into small pieces with a mortar and pestle.


4. Dice the garlic and add the garlic and peppers to the onions, stirring constantly, just until garlic begins to cook (about 2 minutes).


5. Add the tomatoes and salt and stir well. Let simmer for about 5 minutes, until tomatoes just start to cook but still hold most of their shape.


1/2-Cooked Salsa


6. Remove from heat and scoop the mixture into the blender. Pour remaining juice from the pan into the blender as well.


7. Add 1/2 cilantro to the blender.


8. Make sure you have the lid on the blender tight – you may want to also cover the lid with a towel if your lid isn’t very tight. Then pulse the blender quickly, just 3-5 times for one second each, until tomatoes are mixed but still chunky.


9. Pour mixture into a bowl that can be covered. Add the rest of the cilantro and mix. Taste and add more salt if necessary.


10. Loosely cover the bowl, and put it into the fridge to cool and to allow the flavors to set. Once the salsa is cool, you can either eat it, or cover it completely for later use. It will taste even better if left overnight.


Makes 5 cups of salsa. You can freeze some for later use… though in our house it never lasts that long! Served here with local beans, greens, cheese, tortillas, and homemade tomatillo salsa for Taco Night.


Taco Night


Recipe: Mom’s Homemade Chiles Rellenos


Ingredients


  • 6 Ancho, Pasilla, or Anaheim Chiles
  • ¼ C Flour
  • 6 Eggs
  • ½ pound Monterrey Jack Cheese or Mexican Queso Blanco
  • Salt
  • Shredded cooked Chicken, Beef, or Pork if desired
  • 1 C  Canola oil (if you are using the frying method)
  • Your favorite Salsa 


Roasted Green Chiles by QueenieVonSugarpants on Flickr


Preparing the Chiles


  1. Rinse chiles and dry.
  2. Place chiles on baking sheet and broil until the skins turn brown (charred).  Turn and char the other side.
  3. Place the chiles in a plastic zip bag immediately after removing from oven.  Wrap the bag in a towel to keep heat in.  Allow the chiles to steam in the bag for 10-15 minutes or until skin start to loosen.
  4. Peel chiles under cold water.  If you have sensitive skin  where gloves for this step and for step 5.
  5. Remove stem end of chiles and make a slit down the sides.  Open chiles and remove seeds and membranes (this is where most of the heat is in chiles.  If you like things extra hot, you can leave the seeds in.
  6. Put a strip on cheese inside each chile.  Add some shredded meat to each if you are using meat.


Egg whites are beaten to soft peaks by QueenieVonSugarpants on Flickr


Making the Batter


  1. Separate the eggs.
  2. Beat whites into medium peaks.
  3. Mix yolks with 1T flour and about ¼t salt.
  4. Gently fold the yolks into the whites.


Cooking


There are two methods for cooking the chiles: 


Coating the Stuffed Chiles with flour by QueenieVonSugarpants on Flickr


Frying


  1. Put half the remaining flour on a plate.  Put the prepared chiles on the flour and sprinkle the remaining flour over the top.  Coating the chiles with flour will help the egg batter to stick.
  2. Heat the oil in a frying pan.  It is hot enough when a drop of water doesn’t sink to the bottom, but dances on top of the oil.
  3. Dip each chile in the egg mixture and coat thoroughly.
  4. When coated, place in hot oil and fry until golden brown.  Turn and cook other side until golden and cheese is completely melted.

 

Baking


If you don’t want to fry them, they can also be made as a casserole:


  1. Put half the egg batter in a greased baking pan.
  2. Add the stuffed chiles in a single layer.
  3. Then add the remainder of the batter.
  4. Bake at probably 375F for +/- 20 minutes or until it is golden brown and eggs are completely set.


In either case, serve covered in your favorite salsa:  Red Tomato Salsa or Roasted Tomatillo Salsa.  Quick and easy sides for this dish are black or pinto beans and rice.


Rhubarb Recipes

Chopped Rhubarb by FotoosVanRobin on Flckr

While all you lovelies in the south are enjoying your citrus during the cold months, we in the north have… rhubarb!  It is a wonderful fruit-like vegetable.  Maybe not so versatile as a lemon, but equally flavorful and full of nutrients.

 

Rhubarb is very rich in a number of vitamins and minerals:  it has high contents of Vitamin K and Calcium, in addition to Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Magnesium, Potassium, Manganese, and Omega-6.  It’s also high in fiber, helping to reduce cholesterol.

 

It’s also incredibly easy to grow in the cooler regions of the north – the plants are perennials and will last 10-15 years, it’s a lovely tropical-looking plant, plus it is just fine being neglected.

 

But what the heck do you do with it?


Using my “stick it all in a pot” method works like a charm for rhubarb.  Here’s the easiest rhubarb recipe I know, the one my grandmother made, and my mom made, and now I make:

 

Poached Rhubarb


Ingredients.


  • 6 stalks of Rhubarb (if you have more, scale the recipe up, if you have less, scale it down – no need to be too precise)
  • 1/4 C Sugar
  • 1/4 t Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/8 t Ground Cloves
  • 2-4 T Water


Steps.


1. Wash the rhubarb stems and discard any leaves (the leaves contain oxalic acid, which is poisonous).  Then slice the rhubarb into 1/2″ pieces.


2. Combine the sugar and rhubarb in a sauce pan, and let them stand at room temperature until the rhubarb begins to get a bit juicy (about 15 minutes).


3. Add the cinnamon and cloves.  If there isn’t much juice, add the water to just coat the bottom of the pan.  Then bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.


4. Once it has boiled a few minutes, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer.  Stir it occasionally, and add more sugar to taste.  Continue simmering until the rhubarb is tender and liquid is thick (10-12 minutes).  It should start to look like a sauce.


5. Remove from heat and let cool, without stirring.


6. Refrigerate to cool the sauce – if you want a thicker sauce, refrigerate for at least 2 hours.


You can then serve this over vanilla ice cream (fair trade of course) or creme fraiche.  Or you can use it as a sweet, tangy sauce for tofu, chicken, or duck.  Yum!

 

Other Rhubarb Recipes

 

 

Anyone have any more good recipes for rhubarb?

Recipes: Matt’s Roasted Beets And Beet Green Soup

Alternatively Titled, An Ode To Barack Obama (who doesn’t like beets because he’s probably never had them cooked well!)


Beet Green Soup


If you are eating locally during the fall, winter, and spring, chances are good that you will encounter beets.  They are wonderfully nutritious, usually quite inexpensive, and easy to grow yourself for next to nothing.


We love the extra sweetness that roasting adds to beets. And the tasty greens can be made into a delicious soup!


Continue reading Recipes: Matt’s Roasted Beets And Beet Green Soup

Recipe: Melt-In-Your-Mouth Currant Scones

Melt-In-Your-Mouth Currant Scones


This morning a colleague was complaining to me how difficult it is to find a good scone. I thought for a moment… Ah! For me it is easy. I find them at home! Matt, my wonderful husband, makes these tasty goodies and they are like no other scone you’ve ever had. Yum!


Continue reading Recipe: Melt-In-Your-Mouth Currant Scones

Recipe: Hearty Cauliflower Soup

Beautiful Heirloom Cauliflower


Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!  I’m taking my grandfather to lunch, and then having dinner with my wonderful man. Hope you have a lovely day!


Here is a soup that works well as a meal in itself, and is perfect for those still chilly evenings….


Continue reading Recipe: Hearty Cauliflower Soup

Recipe: Meyer Lemon Marmalade

Sliced Meyer Lemons


I’ve been asked by a couple of you to post this recipe – so here it is! This recipe creates a beautiful, fresh-tasting marmalade. Every jar of our Geyserville marmalade brought back the taste of our old home long after we had moved to Seattle. Truly wonderful. Enjoy!


Continue reading Recipe: Meyer Lemon Marmalade