Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Saving Money on Your Electric Bill

We can't get along without electric but if your bill takes a big bite out of your monthly budget, here's some painless ways to economize.

You'll help keep the planet green, too. Since you'll be using less electric, less will have to be produced by burning coal or building another nuclear plant.

1. Stop phantom use
No, it's not a burglar who breaks in to use your microwave but rather power that many appliances use even when they're turned off.

The best way to stop the power meter from registering phantom use is to get into the habit of unplugging appliances when you're done with them. The hair dryer, computer, radio, t.v. - any appliance that you're not using. This helps prevent damage to them from power surges and lightening strikes, too. And don't forget to turn off those lights!

2. Convert to compact fluorescent light bulbs
As your conventional bulbs burn out, replace them with those new, funny looking, cork screw bulbs. They use 75% less electricity than regular bulbs and are reported to last up to 10 times longer.

3. Watch your thermostat
Raise the temperature in the summer and lower the temperature in the winter. Each degree of change you make in your heating and air conditioning will save you 1%. That adds up fast.

4. Convert to a low flow shower head
OK, low flow plumbing has gotten a bad rap but today's low flow shower heads are pretty good. Not only will you save on water but you'll also save on the fuel that's needed to heat the water for those long hot showers.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Green Cleaning

Avoid unnecessary chemicals and bring green into your home.

It's not hard and you'll save a ton of money while you are saving the planet.

All you need to keep a clean, green home is:
dishwasher detergent (dry type)
vinegar (the cheaper the better)
rubbing alcohol
baking soda
plain liquid soap (like Murphy's Oil Soap-optional)

1. Dishwasher detergent -my favorite overall cleaning product.
Rinses clean, prevent spots and safe around food.

Use dry like cleaner for sinks, shower stalls, tubs etc. It rinses clean and doesn't scratch. Rinse showers well to prevent slipping.

Pour 1/4 cup into toilets and swish with a brush - clean seat and lid, too. Flush and rinse seat then pour 2 tablespoons into bowl to freshen bowl. Swish again but do not flush until the next time the toilet is used.

Rub a bit of dry dishwasher detergent into coffee or tea stained cups. Do not rinse. Run through regular dishwasher cycle.

2. Vinegar
Vinegar is a general, all purpose grease cutter. Usually, white vinegar by the gallon is the cheapest. It's safe for animals, children and pets.

Floors, cleaning the refrigerator and general all purpose cleaning: Fill a jug 1/4 full with vinegar. Fill jug with tap water. No rinsing required.

Windows: Fill a jug 1/2 full with vinegar. Fill jug with tap water. Using a cloth or sponge to clean windows. Dry windows with crumpled, black and white newspapers. Do not use colored pages.

Laundry: Pour 1/2 cup straight vinegar into the last rinse cycle instead of fabric softener. It removes residual soap and naturally softens clothes and towels without leaving a smell. If your 100% cotton towels no longer absorb like they should they have a build up of laundry detergent and/or fabric softener. The next time you wash them, substitute 2 cups vinegar for your usual laundry detergent and omit the fabric softener. Every 2 to 3 months (or as needed) repeat the vinegar wash. Towels that contain polyester, by the way, will not absorb well no matter what you do.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Tips to Make Your Good Cooking Better with Lots Less Work

As we step into fall, I feel like getting back into the kitchen.

My favorite time of day for trying new recipes or getting batches of old favorites together is first thing in the morning. Maybe it's because I'm hungry after the night's sleep or maybe it's because the house is quiet and I can get things together without disruption. Maybe the real reason is that I can get it over with early.

The thing is that I like to eat more than I like to cook. To eat well, a bit of effort is occassionally required so I don't mind being in the kitchen - briefly.

Here are some kitchen tips to you help eat better with less work:

1. Nuts & Edible Seeds
Once you open a can or bag of nuts or edible seeds, store unused portions in the freezer. Freezing keeps them from becoming rancid. Frozen, they'll keep indefinitely. They don't freeze hard so you can use them right out of the freezer. For temperature sensitive recipes (like candies, baking etc), let them come to room temperature - about 15 minutes on the counter.

2. Coffee
Store coffee you'll use up in a week or so in the refrigerator. For longer storage, keep beans or ground coffee in the freezer. For either refrigerator or freezer storage transfer coffee to glass freezer safe, canning jars. Never store coffee in plastic. Plastic is porous and you'll loose both flavor and freshness.

3. Rice
Cooking rice takes a long time so when you do cook it, cook some extra and pack into meal sized portions. Freeze. Reheat in the microwave with a drop of water, broth or wine or drop as is into simmer soups and stews. This works with any rice except instant.

4. Instant Oatmeal and Other Hot Instant Cereals
They're convenient and come in fun flavors to be sure but I find them way too sweet. Try this trick: mix toasted, unsweetened wheat germ (to taste) into the dry cereal. I like equal amounts of wheat germ and cereal. (This makes a more realistic size portion, too.) For better nutrition, reconstitute with heated milk (cow, soy or almond) instead of water.

5. Cheese
Most chunks of cheese should be rinsed briefly under cool running water when you open the package. It removes surface bacteria which makes cheese bitter, freshens the flavor and removes excess salt. Drain before serving or storing. Don't try to rinse shredded cheese - trust me.

6. Baking Powder
Baking powder should be used up within 3 months of purchase. After that, it doesn't work as well as it should. Buy the size can that will fit your baking needs even if the unit cost is higher. It's not a bargain if you have to throw it out.

Always buy aluminum free baking powder. Aluminum is linked to all kinds of disease including Alzheimer's. Rumsford is a readily available - national brand that has been around for decades. It's no more expensive than brands that contain aluminum and is available in grocery stores every where. Look for the bright red can. Your baking will taste better with an aluminum free baking powder, too.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Find the Sweetness in Your Life

Life can be sweet or it can be sour. It's your choice.

We're all given the ingredients but how we bake the pie determines the sweetness that our life holds for us. The way we eat, exercise, work, and view the world affects our health and well being.

Life can be over whelming but you can’t change everything in a single day. Trying to do that only leads to failure. Revising life style habits and choices takes time plus commitment.

A baby step a day is all that's required to make painless changes that will last. Small steps get us where we want to go without getting us lost or injured.

Balance in life is achieved by balancing the life forces. There are positives to every negative.

A negative is a road block. When your road is blocked, it's a sign that you need to pay more attention. If you do, you'll feel better and better impact the world around you.

Embrace the chance to take care of yourself. Be as kind and loving to yourself as you know how. If your friend, companion or child came to you stuck or in pain you'd help not chastise them for their situation.

Become your own best friend and before you know it life will be sweeter than you ever thought possible without having to have that second piece of pie!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Dining with Your Dog

Two dogs live at Cheesecake Farms - William and Mary. We love them very much. They're part of our family and go everywhere with us. They live in the house and sleep in our bedroom. They're our constant companions.

I sometimes sigh at the allegiance they show. William more than Mary. No matter where I am during the day, William is right by my side. Up and down the stairs to my office. Out to the barn and back. It doesn't matter. Even with his advanced age and stiffening joints, he's right there like he's always been. If I sneak away just for a moment to save him a walk, he searches for me wandering all our usual paths. Oh, Mary is loyal, too, it's just that she waits for me to settle in before she joins us. She wants to make sure we're going to stay put for a while and not run her tail off.

The thought of feeding them "dog food" is repulsive. Why in the world would you feed your dog food that you would not eat yourself?

All life needs good quality food and that dog food scare of several months ago should be a wake up call. Just like humans, your dog will feel better, look better, smell better and live longer with better quality food.

Cooking for your dog is not hard but it takes a commitment. Once you start, you can't go back because your dog will have learned that there's something better.

Take your cue from dog food labels. Chicken, turkey, apples, brown rice, carrots, eggs, sweet potatoes - you'll get the idea. It's the same sort of healthy food you should be eating anyway. There's lots of "dog food" cook books out there. If you're timid, start by making home made dog biscuits. They'll love them - and you, too.

At Cheesecake Farms, we serve our dogs the same foods we're eating but prepared in a dog healthy way by eliminating sauces and spices which would upset their tummies.

  • Chicken, brown rice and carrots
  • Poached eggs and whole wheat toast
  • Ground beef, tomatoes and peas
  • Sweet potatoes, wheat germ and cheese
  • Tuna, whole wheat toast and tomatoes
  • Steamed fish, brown rice and apple slices

Here's how to make the change to home cooked dog food:

  • Start slowly. Serve small portions of home cooked along with their regular diet. (Making a change too fast or too much will upset tummies.)
  • Don't add salt, pepper or fat in preparation. (A drizzle of healthy oil is OK)
  • Add chew foods to keep teeth clean.
  • Offer free selection, quality dry dog food to supplement diet. (It acts like a chew food, too.)
  • Keep your vet updated with diet changes.
  • Some spices are good for dogs - parsley and garlic in particular - other are not.
  • Get dog friendly recipes at the library or on line. Books by Barbara Woodhouse are particularly good. She's the Julia Child of the canine set.
  • Avoid artificial additives, colors and sweeteners (including sugar substitutes).
  • Never give a dog chocolate, candy or fried food.
  • A little hard cheese is good but never milk.
  • Cooking for your dog is not the same as serving them table scraps. Table scraps are the foods you don't want to eat - typically bones, grizzle and fat. Cooking for your dog means you are serving them health fare that you should be eating, too.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Control the Meals, Control the Health

Most kids will eat sugary breakfast cereals, chips and soda all day long if you'd let them.

And husbands, well, barbecued anything comes to mind as does gallons of beer and coffee - followed by several rolls of antacid tablets.

You know they should eat better but they won't. "They're picky", you say. Just listen to yourself!

If you're in charge of the grocery shopping and the cooking then you're in charge of what the family eats.

Oh, they may complain ("Meat loaf again?") but you'll never catch them going grocery shopping or cooking. They eat what you give them so it's time to dish up a little good health. Here's how:

Don't scare them with good nutrition
The less said the better. Just put the food on the table. Serve new foods with family favorites. If they comment, just say it's something you wanted to try. What they don't know will help them.

Sneak in whole grains
Add a little wheat germ or whole wheat flour into quick breads, yeast breads, pancakes and more. Serve whole wheat or part whole wheat pasta. Add a little dry, old fashioned style oatmeal to meatloaf. Toast some whole grain bread crumbs to sprinkle over vegetables and casseroles. Serve brown rice instead of white. They'll never know the difference.

Keep dinners light
They don't need to eat a heavy meal at night then go to sleep. Soups, salads, eggs, vegetarian pasta even pancakes make delicious fare will let them (and you) sleep better. Better sleep makes everyone happier and healthier.

Serve some raw fruits and veggies daily
Salads, sprouts, lettuce and tomato on sandwiches, fresh juices, gazpacho, fresh lemon juice spritzed on cooked fish - choose whatever you like. The important thing is to have some raw fruits and vegetables each day. Raw produce provides enzymes that your body needs. Cooking and processing destroys enzymes.

Vary the foods
Get out of the meat and potatoes rut. There's a whole world of delicious eating out there!

A good rule of thumb for meals is to serve a protein, a starch and two vegetables (one yellow or orange/one green) and a fruit but you can put this model together anyway you want. Casseroles, crepes, soups, salads, pizza - have fun.

Keep healthy foods around
The world is full of junk food (and there's plenty of opportunities for them to get it) so concentrate on good foods at home.

Stock the house with healthy (or at least healthier) snacks. Baked chips, whole grain crackers, low salt pretzels, salsa, fresh veggies, nuts, cheese, fruit, pudding, yogurt - you know what's good for them. All they want is something quick to grab.

If you don't keep junk in the house, they won't be eating (or drinking) it - at home, anyway!

Update favorite recipes
Don't be afraid to experiment. Often, the amount of sugar, fat and salt a recipe calls for can be reduced.

Start by reducing 1/8 to 1/4 the amount and see if you like the results. Then go from there. Don't eliminate too much too soon or you're sure to have a disaster. Don't mention the changes to the family and they won't notice any difference.

Don't use artificial sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners are poor substitutes for sugar, don't change or satisfy your cravings and are linked to lots of health problems.

Use real sugar when you want it but learn to limit the amount. Over time, tastes will naturally adjust because the taste for sugar is learned.

When appropriate, choose other sweeteners such as honey and 100% maple syrup but do tame that sugar monster.

Read labels. Choose low sugar or no sugar breakfast cereals. Pasta sauce made without sugar. Unsweetened juice, vegetables, salad dressings and more.

Serve low sugar desserts like baked apples, unfrosted cakes and home baked pies with reduced amounts of sugar.

Soda should never be served as a beverage and if you don't buy it, they won't be drinking it - at least not at home!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Case for Eating (or not eating) Meat

It really doesn't matter whether or not you eat meat.

While some studies show that vegetarians are healthier than meat eaters, other studies will show the opposite. Since the time of the caveman, we've eaten meat and many people wonder why they need to or even should give up meat.

Some people point to the high cost of meat production in both economic and environmental factors as the reason to switch to a plant based diet but no amount of finger pointing will ever get a meat lover to give up that charbroiled steak.

What's making a growing number of people the world over shift to a plant based diet is something else again and it's so big that it's moving mountains - silently, one person at a time.

What's making people shift to a plant based diet is their recognition of an animal's soul.

In the United States, we have a tradition of not eating certain animals like horses, dogs and cats. We don't eat them because they have become our friends and companions. We look into their eyes and see their souls.

We don't have the same connection to other animals, but it's growing and as that connecton grows, the desire to use the animal for food naturally diminishes.

Losing Our Honey Bees - Colony Collapse Disorder

Hello from Cheesecake Farms !

This is the first entry of our blog and what we're talking about this morning is bees - the decline of the American honey bee to be exact and the effect it's having on crops.

For years, major commercial agriculture production in the United States has relied on the "European" honeybee to pollinate crops. Bee colonies are brought into mega farms and released to facilitate pollination. Over the past few years, these colonies have been "collapsing" meaning the bees leave the hive and do not return.

Some researcher think it's stress of moving the colonies. Others thinks it's poor nutrition, pesticides, mites or even a change in the electromagnetic field of the bees brought on my high tension electrical wires and our growing use of cells phones. Most recently, a theory came out that a virus is what's causing the collapse of the colonies.

Whatever the cause (or maybe it's a combination of factors) we must act quickly to preserve the bees that are so vital to our food supply.

Two bills are being introduced to Congress this fall in hopes of protecting and re-establishing honey bees in the US.

One bill is called the Pollinator Research Act to fund research on crop pollination and bee biology. This would help the ailing beekeeping industry who provide bees to pollinate the mega farms.

The other is the Pollinator Protection Act (part of the revised Farm Bill) to help farmers create bee-friendly habitats on their property. We have 4000 native bees in the United States that are great pollinators in the right habitat.

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