Strawberry Season is Upon Us

Have you noticed strawberries in the grocery store lately?  Mostly from California, right? Yummy strawberries! They’re an excellent source of minerals and vitamins that are important to boost the immune system.  These include vitamin C, vitamin B2, vitamin B5, vitamin B6 and vitamin K, manganese, potassium, folate, iodine, and dietary fiber.  They also have antioxidants that are important to combat free radicals and prevent the development of cancer cells. Strawberries have properties that can improve brain health and slow down aging.  Daily strawberry intake can enhance health because some of their minerals & vitamins can combat and treat diseases like constipation, flu, and high blood pressure. Physicians recommend the fruit to patients with gout, rheumatis, and catarrh. Strawberries can enhance gum health and eliminate tartar.  Their low glycemic index makes them a good choice if you need to maintain low blood sugar levels.

On the other hand…did you know that they are some of the most pesticide laden foods you can eat?  In fact, they are near the top of the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” – one of the foods that are most important to buy organic.  Here are both of their famous lists:

Dirty Dozen:

1. Celery
2. Peaches
3. Strawberries
4. Apples
5. Blueberries
6. Nectarines
7. Bell Peppers
8. Spinach
9. Kale
10. Cherries
11. Potatoes
12. Imported Grapes

Clean Fifteen:

1. Onion
2. Avocado
3. Sweet Corn
4. Pineapple
5. Mango
6. Sweet Peas
7. Asparagus
8. Kiwifruit
9. Cabbage
10. Eggplant
11. Cantaloupe
12. Watermelon
13. Grapefruit
14. Sweet Potato
15. Honeydew Melon

While there are some growers trying to mass produce organically, most of those big, tasteless, California strawberries are full of all sorts of dangers (like toxic methyl bromide or methyl iodide).

So, when I notice the strawberries getting cheaper during my regular shopping (they’re $1.88 a pound now), I’m torn.  My kids love them & will easily devour two boxes at one sitting – but, eek! how much chemical residue are they ingesting?

So, Friday we drove an hour out of town to 5K Farms, where they say they hardly ever use anything, except an occasional fungicide, which they haven’t had to use in years.  Their berries were $1.50/lb (which is cheaper than the toxic cardboard tasting ones in the store) for u-pick, and $3/lb for fruit they’d already picked for you.  In a couple of hours, we managed to pick 20 pounds of strawberries.  I’m not at all sure that that is enough, and having talked myself out of paying double for the luxury of letting the farmer do the work, I’m trying to convince myself to go back in a few weeks for another round, but I have to say, it was work!  I wanted to pick as much as possible, in order to save the gas necessary to go back, but everyone was worn out.  Then, of course, when we got home, there was the whole processing job to be done.  I washed most of them, laid them out on a towel to dry, then on cooling racks in the freezer.  I got through all but one big bag, which I left in the ice chest (of course it helped that the kids ate a bunch too!)

Today, while incredibly stiff & slightly sunburnt, I managed to put the frozen berries in plastic storage bags, then wash & dry the rest.  I made a batch of ice cream and another of yogurt smoothies, froze some more, and finally left a 16oz box in the fridge.  Yes, we should have gotten more, but I don’t know if I could have handled any more at one time.  If I manage to get back before they’re all gone (mid to end of May), I’d really like to try dehydrating some.  With all the storms we’ve had lately knocking our power out (on top of an extension cord incident a week or so ago, which caused me to spend a weekend cooking defrosted meat!), I think it would be smart not to have all my eggs (or strawberries) in one basket.  Plus, it would free up valuable freezer space.  Unfortunately, this time I just couldn’t conjure up the energy to slice the strawberries after all the driving & picking & washing.  Oh well – always good to have a goal to shoot for!  🙂

Search around – particularly on Pick Your Own, for a place near you if you’d like to replicate this adventure.  It’s great to know our food and know your farmer, and besides getting a good dose of Vitamin D, it was very educational for the kids, particularly my 10yr old, who examined the plants for all the different stages of strawberry development.  Not to mention that fruit that gets to ripen on the vine just tastes so much better!

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Nopoo

Sounds a little funny, but it’s a great concept.  There has been a lot of information going around about all the chemicals found in shampoo and conditioners.  These can make hair care a self-sustaining downward spiral (chemicals dry hair, which produces more oils, so you have to use more chemicals to rid scalp of the oils…).  They are also absorbed into the body through the skin & contribute to our chemical load, which is then passed on to our babies through breastmilk.  Some of these chemicals are endocrine disruptors found to hasten development in girls and contribute to sterility in boys.

So, one choice would be to purchase organic shampoos & conditioners, but this will quickly get quite expensive and increases your carbon footprint by the creation, packaging, & shipping of these formulas.  There is also the issue of the plastic packaging, which can still leach chemicals (phthalates, etc.) for you to absorb in addition to needing to be recycled.

A less impactful and much cheaper alternative is nopoo.  Over the years, I have seen & tried a variety of “recipes” for this concoction and have come to the conclusion that the user just needs to experiment & discover what works best for him or herself.

Basically, nopoo is a mixture of baking soda & water.  The 1st recipe I learned was – put 1/4 c of baking soda in a cup & add enough water to make a paste.  A more recent version says to put one TBS of soda in a cup of water in a squirt bottle, shake & squirt.  So, obviously, there is some variation.  At this point, I don’t measure.  I put “some” baking soda in a cup & fill with water.  I find that this looser mix is easier to work with than a thick paste, particularly since I have longer hair.  The important part is to make sure to rub it into the crown & part of your head.  Another key area is around the hairline.  The rest of the scalp is a good idea too, but your thoroughness can vary, depending on the frequency of washing. The paste recipe said once a week, the more liquid ones suggest every few days. I tend to wash my hair when I get a chance, which is usually once or twice a week if I’m lucky.  Really, it’s not set in stone.  Experiment.

As far as conditioner, or rinse, the usual accompaniment is apple cider vinegar in warm water.  My 1st recipe was 3 TBS in 24 oz of water to give hair “that certain something” (shininess mostly).  Other recipes have had a variety of different amounts, but I think that this rinse really should vary with your hair type.  If your hair is dry, use more ACV and/or rinse more often.  If your hair is oily, use less and/or rinse less often.  I tend to pour a little ACV in the bottom of a mondo cup of water & dip the ends in.  Occasionally I might decide to pour the mix over my head when I’m done, but I might just as well decide to use it to clean the shower or toilet.

This takes a little more thought & experimentation than “lather, rinse, repeat”, and there will be a breaking in period, where your hair is greasier than normal while it is still over-producing oils that it needed to cope with the drying effects of shampoo, but it is totally worth it – frugal, natural, & safe!

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Quick, Cheap & Easy Tofu Corn Soup


We all need a repertoire of 10 seconds before we have to go to the next activity dinners, and here’s one that’s a big hit with my kids even though it’s not pizza or fish sticks!

As I’ve gotten busier, I’ve not been so patient with measuring, so this is one of those not very specific recipes!

  • Couple of quarts of stock of your choice – I usually use chicken
  • Block of extra-firm tofu, cut into cubes or strips
  • Package of Saifun bean thread noodles (or Maifun rice sticks)
  • “Enough” frozen corn kernels
  • Salt, pepper, garlic to taste

Um, OK, this is kinda tough….  Take all ingredients, throw in pot, heat until it’s warm enough & noodles are edible – maybe 10 minutes?

My kids LOVE the clear noodles, and they’ll all eat corn.  They don’t all eat the tofu, but I was surprised that several of them do enjoy it.

In any case, it’s fairly healthy, quick, easy, and cheap – meeting many of my go-to meal requirements.  There could be all sorts of variations, I’m sure – please share yours.

 

This post is part of Pennywise Platter Thursday at The Nourishing Gourmet http://www.thenourishinggourmet.com/2011/04/pennywise-platter-thursday-10.html

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Welcome to big crunchy family!

Life is a journey.  Mine has been pretty interesting so far.  I find that along the way, I’m always looking for”like-minded” individuals to share with & bounce things off.  However, it has not always been easy to find those “like-minded” folks.  The internet has certainly helped, but I find people or groups to whom I am similar in only one aspect.  So, this blog is an attempt to get the many aspects of life together in one place.  It will deal with food, kids, health, simplicity, and more.  It is not a “how to” blog; it’s a “this is what I’ve tried, how about you?” blog.  Please join in & share your experiences so we can all learn from each other.

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