Try slightly smoky baked beans instead of refried

With a cooking surface several times larger than a Weber kettle, a wood pellet-fired smoker is seeing lots of use at my house.

Mentioned in a previous post, my husband’s new Rec-Tec is proving its versatility, even as a pizza oven. Not only can we cook several components of a single meal at once, but we’ve been cooking additional meats — whole chickens, sausages, etc. — for the coming week in one shot.

A classic side dish with so many smoked and grilled meats, baked beans have factored into some of our recent feasts. Beginning with whole, dried beans, soaked overnight is ideal.

That’s how we started some white beans that later simmered in homemade lamb stock and got a flavor boost from tomatoes, brown sugar, hot sauce and fresh herbs. I put the brakes on adding bacon, considering that we already had tri-tip on the smoker.

But pork fat no doubt will show up as the outdoor cooking season heats up. And when meat on the smoker is destined for tacos, tostadas or other Latin dishes, these subtly smoky charro beans would complement the main course and could cook right alongside it. If using canned beans, they’re ready in about 35 minutes.

Tribune News Service photo

Cowboy Charro Beans

6 slices bacon, chopped

8 ounces fresh, uncooked Mexican chorizo, casings removed

1 medium white onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped, or more to taste

1 (14-ounce) can no-salt-added, chopped tomatoes or 1/2 pound fresh Roma tomatoes, cored and chopped

3 (15-ounce) cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed (or about 5 cups cooked pinto beans and their cooking liquid)

Kosher salt, if needed

Fresh cilantro, chopped

Tortillas, warmed, for serving

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until lightly browned and starting to crisp, for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the chorizo; cook, breaking up sausage into smaller pieces, until it starts to brown and crisp, for 4 to 5 minutes.

Add the onion and jalapeno; mix well. Cook until they begin to soften, for 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes; cook, stirring, until tomatoes begin to break down and ingredients come together, for 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the beans; mix well and reduce heat to medium. Cook, covered, until beans are moist but not soupy, for 8 to 10 minutes. Add broth or water if needed. Taste and add more salt to taste. Serve in bowls, topped with the cilantro and accompanied by the warmed tortillas.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe adapted by the Chicago Tribune from the website of Pati Jinich, www.patismexicantable.com.

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Stoke meat-smoking passion with these tips

Two years of researching brands and saving spare cash paid off last month when my husband set up a wood pellet-fired smoker on the back deck.

Will has since smoked everything from whole chilies to rabbit in the Rec-Tec. It comes as little surprise, though, that beef tri-tip has been the most well-received by Will and dinner guests. Despite my aversion, other cuts of beef can’t be far behind, particularly when the outdoor cooking season ramps up.

Brisket, of course, is the quintessential stuff of beef barbecue. This dish got in-depth treatment by the Washington Post with a profile of Texas A&M University’s Camp Brisket, which ran this month in A la Carte. After printing a recipe for Texas Smoked Brisket, however, the paper didn’t have room to incorporate copious tips that accompanied the Post’s original version of the story. Find the story and recipe in the March 11 e-edition of the Mail Tribune.

So here they are for all the meat-smoking enthusiasts and friends and family who benefit from their enthusiasm:

Photo for The Washington Post by Deb Lindsey

Don’t inject. A quadrillion Texans know what Lyndon B. Johnson’s pitmaster, Walter Jetton, knew: A brisket is “self-basting.” Among the worst epithets a brisket can be called is “roast-beefy.” Injecting makes briskets roast-beefy. Concerned about it being succulent enough? Wrap your brisket in foil after about four hours. Even better: butcher paper, because, unlike foil, it breathes.

Keep it simple. Forget brining and super complicated rubs. Brown sugar mates well with pork butt; cayenne is a nice touch on pork ribs. But the best pitmasters in central Texas use nothing more than kosher salt and cracked black pepper. The point is to not mask flavor, but to enhance it. Coat the meat liberally to create a rough, thickish texture. Use equal parts salt and pepper for balance, or 60 percent of one or the other if you prefer a peppery or a saltier crust.

Know how to position it. Set brisket on the cooking grate fat-side up. You want the fat to melt through the meat to moisten and provide richness. If cooking in an offset smoker, face the point toward the fire to achieve a better crust and avoid overcooking the flat.

Hold steady. Don’t go nuts trying to maintain a specific temperature. The primary goal is to avoid drastic fluctuations, so try to keep the temperature between 225 and 275 F throughout the cooking time. If using a kettle grill, keep the bottom vents open about halfway and use the lid vents to help maintain temperature. If using an offset smoker, learn the hot and cold spots of your cooking chamber and move the brisket if needed. Mainly, though, keep the top on and resist the temptation to peek.

Keep an eye on it. “Don’t walk off and think the fire will take care of itself,” says pitmaster Aaron Franklin, who has his own PBS cooking show and soon will release his first cookbook. “If you’re going to buy this expensive cut of meat, buy firewood, sit there for 10, 12, 15 hours, let it rest, invite people over, do all this stuff — I mean, that’s a serious commitment. Don’t you want to do a good job?”

Be patient. “It will be done when it’s ready,” says Franklin.

Give it a rest. You know how everybody tells you to rest a steak before cutting into it? Same thing with a brisket. Wrap it in foil after taking it off the grill and let it rest for at least an hour. Contrary to popular belief, the pros don’t pull off their briskets and slice them when hot. They pull them off and place them in warmers set at 140 F for up to three hours. For you to achieve the same result, wrap in foil and cover with towels in a room-temperature cooler and hold for between two and three hours.

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Top toast with smashing beet, cheese spread

Tribune News Service photo

Ways for enjoying beets with cheese have been suggested in several recent posts to this blog.

Whether the root vegetable is roasted or raw, the cheese firm or soft, rich, savory dairy adds a satisfying note to earthy beets. But really, doesn’t cheese make just about everything better?

So in that vein, here is one more recipe to try, which acknowledges the anything-as-toast-topping trend. I hopped on board after writing a story about local “toast bar” Uber Herbal last summer. Maybe this one will make its menu.

Beet and Feta Smash

6 ounces cooked beets

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons fresh orange juice

2 teaspoons rice-wine vinegar

Salt and pepper, to taste

3 ounces crumbled feta

4 slices toast

Orange zest, for garnish

In a bowl, smash the beets with the olive oil, orange juice and vinegar; season to taste with the salt and pepper. Mix in the feta. Mound mixture on top of the toast slices; sprinkle with the orange zest. Makes 4 servings.

Recipe from Every Day with Rachael Ray.

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Have a ball at this weekend’s cheese festival

Course after course of cheese, from cheesy risotto and cheese shaved over carpaccio to fresh mozzarella curds and whipped chevre Chantilly cream for dessert, will unfold tonight at Larks restaurant in Medford.

The sold-out meet-the-cheesemaker dinner kicks off the weekend’s 11th annual Oregon Cheese Festival at Rogue Creamery in Central Point. The meal celebrates Oregon’s finest cheeses, tempting palates to sample many more Saturday, along with artisan foods and beverages.

But even among chefs who devised tonight’s feast, there’s no denying the appeal of a cheese ball. Breaded and deep-fried croquettes of goat cheese accent the beet salad at Larks in Ashland, as well as other restaurants around the country.

The humble cheese ball is so clichéd, according to cooks and food writers, that it’s poised to attain cool status again. Late last year, several publications revisited the cheese ball, refining it with gourmet ingredients and fusion flavors.

There are several rules of thumb when crafting a worthwhile cheese ball. First, it needs to taste like a specific cheese — Gorgonzola, Gouda or Gruyere, for example — not just bland cream cheese. Better yet, substitute a smooth chevre, maybe cut with mascarpone, for cheaper cream cheese.

Second, a cheese ball must have texture, but not necessarily chopped nuts. Try crumbled, crispy bacon, pomegranate seeds or even an “everything bagel” seed-and-spice mix.

These suggestions were compiled by Tribune News Service:

Bon Appetit recipes included Pine Nut and Feta Cheese Ball, Everything Spice-Coated Cheddar Cheese Ball and Green Goddess, Pistachio and Goat Cheese Ball.

Huffington Post shared links to 16 recipes, such as Southwestern Bacon Jalapeno Cheese Ball and Pomegranate Jeweled Cheese Ball.

Rachael Ray magazine ran recipes for a Clam Bake Ball and Lemon-Pistachio Cheese Ball.

Blue cheese from this weekend’s festival could be combined with a soft, unaged cheese in the following recipe from Tribune News Service.

Tribune News Service photo

Bacon-Blue Cheese Ball

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

4 ounces crumbled blue cheese

3 slices crisp bacon, crumbled

3 scallions, white and tender green parts, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons butter

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup toasted, chopped pecans

In bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, blue cheese, crumbled bacon, green onions, butter, salt and pepper. Using mixer attachments or a wooden spoon, mix until well-combined. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Place the toasted, chopped pecans in a pie plate or inside any wide dish with an edge. Use a spatula to bring cheese ball together and form a loose ball. Use hands to mold into a tight ball; roll around in nuts until completely covered. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving with crackers or crostini.

Makes 24 to 30 servings.

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Fewer and fewer of us eschew brilliant beets

Beets haven’t graced the section front of the Mail Tribune’s A la Carte for eight years.

Although frequently mentioned in this blog, the root vegetable didn’t exactly meet with other newspaper editors’ favor. Recalling that bias, I savored my chance to run the recipe for dark-chocolate brownies devised to disguise beets for those who haven’t succumbed to their charms.

That’s fewer and fewer of us these days. As this week’s story acknowledged, there’s hardly a fine-dining or farm-to-table restaurant that doesn’t have its riff on the beet salad, particularly in cold weather, when it’s one of the only truly local vegetables.

Indeed, I spied a salad of roasted beets, goat-cheese croquettes and walnuts recently on the menu at Larks restaurant in Ashland. The flavor combination is still appealing years after it became a salad-course staple. But I passed because I’ve been getting my fill in my own kitchen, particularly with peak-season citrus, the topic of another recent food-section story.

Hybrids, such as clementines, mandarins, tangelos and the like, make a particularly pleasing contrast to earthy beets. A recent rendition in my kitchen also featured firm sheep-milk feta, instead of creamier chevre, accented with toasted pine nuts, a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of sumac, which also echoes the beets’ magenta hue. A few pea shoots rounded out the colors and textures.

photo by Sarah Lemon

Here is a similar take, conceived by Pistache French Bistro in West Palm Beach, Fla. Faithful to the restaurant’s name, pistachios are prominent in this dish, along with ricotta cheese and citrus. Red beets could be substituted.

Roasted Golden Beet Salad

3 pounds golden beets

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling

1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

1/2 teaspoon white pepper, plus more to taste

Fresh lemon zest and juice, to taste

Fresh lime zest and juice, to taste

4 tablespoons ricotta

1/2 cup shelled pistachios

1/4 cup canola oil

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons minced shallots

1 tablespoon minced chives

2 clementines, peeled and sectioned

2 cups baby arugula

Toss the beets with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the salt and pepper. Make a bag out of aluminum foil and place beets in foil with ¼ cup water. Seal tightly and bake in a preheated, 350-degree oven until easily pierced with a knife, for about 45 minutes. Remove beets from oven and let cool for 30 minutes. Using a dry towel, rub skin offs. Cut beets into 3/4-inch wedges and reserve.

In a bowl, stir the fresh citrus zest and juice to taste into the ricotta.

Toast the pistachios in a 350-degree oven until fragrant, for 5 to 10 minutes. Let cool. Place in a food processor. Slowly drizzle in the canola oil with machine running until mixture reaches consistency of chunky peanut butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Have ready 4 chilled plates. Smear 1 tablespoon ricotta mixture on plate in a strip about 6 inches long. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, toss beets with the sherry vinegar, remaining olive oil, the shallots, chives and pistachio pesto. Season with salt and pepper.

Place beets on top of ricotta. Place the clementine sections around beets; top with the arugula. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil and finish with a squeeze of lemon juice.

Makes 4 servings.

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Chocolate festival winners came from near and far

Chocolatiers beyond Oregon took home some of the top honors at last weekend’s Oregon Chocolate Festival in Ashland.

For the first time, the 11th annual festival opened competition to chocolatiers in other states. Two California companies placed in the top three.

Best in show was awarded to San Francisco’s CocoTutti. I deliberated with other judges over its Florentine, a liquid caramel infused with citrus, encased in dark chocolate and topped with almonds, but we favored a guava wood-smoked salt confection in the chocolate candy category. Yet CocoTutti’s impeccable miniature pieces for sampling impressed us while its ginger caramel with Thai chili and peanuts blew us away. The newcomers also were runners-up in the People’s Choice vote, which was cast for Holm Made Toffee Co..

First runner-up went to Smitten Artisan Truffles, winner in the chocolate truffle category. The Portland company offers neat, little tastes of flavored ganache, rather than fracturing its truffles to provide samples. The owner says the method, unique to the festival, was inspired by selling a friend’s goat cheese.

Second-runner status delighted Cowboy Toffee Co., of Oakdale, Calif. Folksy but focused branding around its Western theme helped to elevate samples of its ghost-chili and s’mores toffees.

In case you didn’t catch them on Twitter and Facebook, here are the other winners.

Best traditional use of chocolate: Cabruca Chocolates; best nontraditional use of chocolate: Cascade Slushies; best chocolate candy: Waimea Chocolate Co.; best chocolate truffle: Smitten Artisan Truffles; best raw chocolate: The Great Unbaked; best student chocolate creation: Oregon Coast Culinary Institute, Kayla Carrell.

Los Angeles Times photo

I brought home enough artisan chocolate to tide over my family this week. If all you have around is a run-of-the-mill variety, make it extra-special by transforming it into a luscious fudge sauce for dipping and drizzling. This recipe, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times, is supposed to be foolproof, so long as it’s heated slowly.

Bittersweet Hot Fudge Sauce

9 to 10 ounces bittersweet (70 percent) chocolate, finely chopped

3/4 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons corn syrup

In top of a double boiler touching barely simmering water, combine the chocolate, cream, sugar, corn syrup and 2 tablespoons water. Stir frequently until all chocolate has melted, then stir occasionally until sauce is thick and glossy and is 160 to 165 F (exact temperature is not critical, so long as it is close), for 15 to 20 minutes (going slowly is key here). Remove from heat and serve.

Makes about 1 pint.

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Airy mousse rivals ease of pudding from a box

I’m not the only one missing out on tonight’s Chocolate Makers Dinner at Ashland Springs Hotel. Tickets sold out quickly for the popular event, which kicks off this weekend’s 11th annual Oregon Chocolate Festival.

Chocolate in every course is the dinner’s calling card. Foie gras with cocoa-nib mustard and celery-root bisque with a chocolate crouton look particularly enticing.

But there’s plenty more to sample from nearly 40 vendors Saturday and Sunday, when I will be serving once again on the festival judging panel. Look for live updates on Twitter and Facebook of the festival highlights.

It’s been many years since I’ve come clean on this blog about my relative ambivalence to chocolate. I’d choose almost any dessert over the flavor that makes so many people swoon, including my 2-year-old.

This past year, however, has seen us consuming a bit more chocolate around my house. It started with the desire to sample a stash of McCormick’s extracts. The easiest course seemed to spike hot cocoa — homemade from whole milk, simple syrup and cocoa powder — with flavors of coffee, hazelnut, orange, raspberry or peppermint.

Grown-up hot cocoa this is, but my son clings to the cup if offered a taste. The same goes for my occasional indulgence in dark-chocolate with cherries, chilies, sea salt, crystallized ginger and the like. Give him a bite and be prepared to hide the rest of the bar from view.

So I know that chocolate pudding, one of the quintessential kid-friendly desserts, can’t be far behind. And this version, while filled with no small amount of fat, manages to come off exceptionally light and airy, according to recipe testers for the Los Angeles Times.

Filomena’s Italian Kitchen in Costa Mesa, Calif., dubs this a chocolate mousse, although it skips the traditional step of beating and folding in egg whites. Melting chocolate into an egg custard is hardly more involved than mixing up pudding from a box.

Los Angeles Times photo

Filomena’s Vasetto di Crema

6 egg yolks

5 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups milk

1 cup heavy cream

9 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped

In a saucepan, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, milk and cream, and then cook over medium-high heat until mixture thickens to a custard-like consistency. Remove from heat and gently stir in the chocolate until chocolate is melted and incorporated.

Strain mixture to remove any lumps, then divide custard among 6 ramekins or tea cups. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled and set, for at least 2 hours.

Makes 6 servings.

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Pizza is a canvas for season’s freshest veggies

If you’ve signed up for a CSA, the action is an expression of optimism.

Community-supported agriculture, explained in a previous post, represents hope for a bountiful harvest months in the future. Maybe shares will yield enough produce for favorite dishes: eggplant Parmesan or stuffed peppers, perhaps.

Looking forward, the seasonal cook won’t compromise with vegetables that have yet to attain their prime. Not when weeks and weeks of nonstop enjoyment lie ahead. It’s why eggplant Parmesan, as I’ve explained several times over the years, won’t ever grace my table in March.

As farmers markets return to operation this month, and growers are planning for their heyday of summer and fall, now is the time to appreciate the scant but precious selection of locally grown vegetables.

That’s why I love this pizza recipe from McClatchy News Service. Instead of relying on tomato sauce and basil, decidedly summery flavors, it celebrates spring radishes and the first herbs to emerge from barren soil. The ricotta cheese adds richness without overwhelming the delicate vegetable. Honey tempers the radishes’ peppery bite.

The flatbread would make a lovely light meal with the salad featured in the last post to this blog. Or I would top it with the arugula or pea shoots that came with my last CSA share.

Chicago Tribune photo

Roasted Radish Flatbread With Ricotta, Honey and Herbs

1 pizza dough recipe

1 teaspoon olive oil

3/4 cup ricotta (full-fat)

5 plump spring radishes, sliced paper-thin

2 teaspoons honey

2 tablespoons chopped chives

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Flaky sea salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 500 F. If you have a pizza stone, preheat it, too. (Otherwise, use a baking sheet.)

Stretch the dough into a thin round. Brush with the olive oil and spread the ricotta over dough. Lay radishes in a single layer on top. Bake in preheated oven for 7 to 8 minutes, until crust edge has golden spots.

Remove flatbread from oven. Drizzle with the honey, and sprinkle on the herbs and salt. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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Support local CSA farms by signing up Saturday

The last load of farm-fresh vegetables arrived today from my community-supported agriculture program — just in time for subscription renewals. Small farmers and local-foods advocates tout Saturday as National CSA Sign-up Day.

As explained in a previous post, my family participated in a winter CSA designed to provide locally grown produce when local farmers markets are on hiatus. But most CSAs operate at the height of the growing season, supplying shareholders with summer’s bounty.

The model is based on supporting farmers when they most need it to plan for the year’s crops, which is now. Seven Rogue Valley farms offer CSAs, each a little different. Find the list on THRIVE’s website. Then browse individual farm websites to find the best fit for your food budget and preferences.

Expanding beyond boxes of produce, some farmers include add-on options for eggs, homemade breads, meats, cheeses, fruits, flowers or other farm products. Sometimes, several farmers group their products together, to give members the widest variety. About 6,000 farms across the country operate CSAs since their advent in the 1980s.

Although the selection is smaller in winter, greens — particularly kale and chard — are mainstays of my CSA, with arugula a more recent addition in the past month. This salad using chard and arugula won’t be quite as sweet come summer but still tasty.

Swiss Chard and Arugula Salad With Lemon Vinaigrette and Toasted Walnuts

Detroit Free Press photo

6 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons apple-cider vinegar

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 tablespoons honey

1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

3/4 to 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, plus more to taste

1 bunch (about 1/2 pound) arugula or spicy greens mix, thoroughly washed, torn into pieces if leaves are large

1 bunch (about 1 pound) chard, thoroughly washed, stems trimmed, and leaves cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips

1 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced

3/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts

In a small bowl, whisk together to emulsify the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, honey, mustard, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Set aside.

In a large bowl, toss together the arugula, chard and onion. Sprinkle with a few pinches of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Starting out with about 1/4 cup vinaigrette, drizzle it around sides of bowl. Using salad tongs, toss salad into dressing working from sides in. Divide mixture among 6 plates. Sprinkle with the walnuts, and serve with remaining vinaigrette on the side if desired. Dressing will keep at least week in refrigerator.

Makes 4 servings.

— Recipe from the Detroit Free Press

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Clean anything with lemons, baking soda, vinegar

Lemons as cleaning agents will be a sidelight to today’s citrus class with Master Food Preservers.

The concept didn’t make the cut for Wednesday’s story in A la Carte on preserving citrus. But I figured most savvy cooks know they can freshen a sour garbage disposal by feeding it a lemon half or two. Hands sullied by garlic, onion or fish also can be deodorized with a cut and salt-sprinkled lemon.

These are just a few of the tips I gleaned from a workshop on all-natural cleaning at Ashland’s North Mountain Park Nature Center. Several years after writing a story on the topic, I still save squeezed lemon halves to remove cheese residue from a grater or to shine my stainless-steel sink. That’s before consigning them to the garbage disposal. It doesn’t get much thriftier than that.

And in an effort to save money on petroleum-based cleaning products that, in my experience, don’t work all that well, I combine baking soda with the cleansing potential of lemons. The other ingredient in this do-it-all triumvirate is distilled vinegar, which I buy by the gallon. In addition to being a nontoxic and versatile cleanser (window wash, hard-water descaler), distilled vinegar has myriad culinary uses.

Here is a list of ways from the Fresno Bee to put distilled vinegar to work:

Wash fruit and vegetables. Produce has all kinds of experiences before it arrives at the market, let alone on the kitchen table. Remove the residue of those adventures by washing fruits and vegetables in a solution of three parts water to one part vinegar. Rinse thoroughly. According to research, a vinegar wash kills up to 98 percent of bacteria and removes pesticides.

De-funkify the microwave. Microwave a bowl of water with a tablespoon of white vinegar for five minutes. Remove the bowl and wipe down the gunk. The steam from the water mixed with the mild acidity of the vinegar removes and sanitizes the microwave.

Disinfect wood cutting boards. After carving meats, wood cutting boards require a good scrubbing and disinfecting. After washing the board, wipe it down with undiluted white vinegar to make sure all the germs and other wee beasties are removed.

Remove the sticky. Need to remove a sticker from a jar, or adhesive left from a bumper sticker? Vinegar to the rescue. Wet a rag with vinegar and wipe the sticker with it until soaked. The paper and the adhesive will come off in no time.

Soothe sunburns and scalds. Hard to believe until you experience it first-hand: Rubbing white vinegar on a sunburn or a scald not only removes the pain instantly, but depending on the severity of the burn, may relieve the pain entirely and helps keep the burn from blistering. (Reapply as needed.)

Stop scratching. Used topically, distilled vinegar is a simple anti-itching remedy for bites and stings. Stop or reduce the itching by applying the vinegar with a cotton ball directly to the bite. (Reapply as needed.)

Buff windows. Vinegar is probably the most inexpensive glass cleaner you’ll find. In an empty spray bottle, mix equal parts white vinegar and water, then clean as usual. It will leave windows streak- and residue-free.

Mop floors. For no-wax floors, using a vinegar and water solution is a great eco-friendly floor cleaner and disinfectant. The mix: 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar to a half-gallon of water.

Clean baby toys. Little ones are like puppies: They indiscriminately chew on just about everything. Using an equal-part solution of distilled white vinegar and water is a great, nontoxic way to disinfect plastic or rubber toys. Simply spray or wipe down the toy with the solution, let it sit, then wipe off any remaining wetness after 15 minutes.

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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