Saturday, July 21, 2012

What to Look for When Picking Fruits and Vegetables

Darya Pino, Ph.D

Most people know instinctively to avoid bruised or blemished produce, but there is much more involved in the art of choosing fruits and vegetables.
While buying fresh food is always a little bit of a crap-shoot (and not every rule will apply to every piece of produce), these tips will give you the basic skills you need to hold your own at the farmers market.
What To Look For When Picking Produce
1. Bright color
After you've checked for bruises, blemishes and pests (harder to see on vegetables like cauliflower and cabbage, so double check), look for fruits and vegetables with the brightest, most inviting colors. The tastiest, vine-ripened produce should be vibrant, with its skin entirely saturated with color. If the item has a dull color or whitish sheen, that means it is either not fully ripe or was deprived of sun or nutrients.
For fruits like cherries, look for stems that are green instead of brown, since these fruits will be fresher.
2. Heavy weight
Generally you want to pick produce that is the heaviest relative to the rest of your options. Lightweight produce is more likely to be dry and mealy, but heavier produce will be juicy and crisp.
The best way to tell is to pick up two similarly-sized fruits, one with each hand. After you've tried a few, it will be obvious that certain fruits are much heavier than the rest, and those are your best bets. This applies to both fruits and vegetables, but mostly to fruits.
3. Firm, but not hard
Because the best produce is moist and juicy (see point #2), it should also be perfectly plump. This means that it will be firm to the touch -- think crisp and succulent -- but not hard, squishy or limp.
While the perfect amount of firmness will vary for each type of produce, comparing within the batch can be very informative. For soft fruits, gently picking a piece up should tell you if it's too soft or hard.
For vegetables with stalks like carrots and broccoli, be sure the ends don't give too much when you try to bend them (but don't try too hard or they might snap).
While this tip works as a general rule, keep in mind that it doesn't apply to everything. Figs, for example, are better very soft, as are certain kinds of persimmons.
4. Fragrant aroma
Probably the most telling test of the quality of your fruit is how it smells. Unripe fruits smell like nothing, or at best the cardboard it was packed in. But ripe produce almost always smells faintly (and often overwhelmingly) of how it is supposed to taste.
Hold the part of the fruit that was attached to the stem close to your nose and breathe deeply. Compare a few of your options. The strongest smelling fruit will be the most ripe and ready to eat immediately. If you'd like your fruit to last for a few days, it is best to go with a piece that still smells good, but has a less overwhelming scent.
It's also worth smelling your vegetables, though this tip does not apply to them all (eggplant is a notable exception). Green leafy vegetables and herbs are particularly fragrant. But even carrots, artichokes and squash can have a distinctive smell. Peppers are my personal favorite.
What are your tips for picking perfect produce?
Originally published at Summer Tomato, where you can find more healthy eating tips. Summer Tomato is one of TIME's 50 Best Websites of 2011.

10 Simple Kitchen Tips You Wish Someone Told You Earlier

For myself and people of my generation, cooking represents the worst kind of
irony. Feeding ourselves is our most basic human need, but for some reason no one bothered to tell us how to do it (or even that it was important to learn).
So we grew up, left the house and became dependent on restaurants and instant meals, only to find out 10 years later that this “food” has been killing us slowly.
Now what are we supposed to do?
Learning to cook is important, but can be intimidating if you’ve never done more than boil water, open cans and zap frozen entrees. Navigating the kitchen is much easier if you know a few simple tricks that seasoned chefs take for granted.

10 Simple Kitchen Tips You Wish Someone Told You Earlier

1.Use tongs to cooking pretty much everything
Spatulas are awesome for anything that needs to be flipped or scraped, like eggs and pancakes. For everything else, tongs are the way to go. They’re much more nimble and less awkward to use, and you’ll find far fewer things jumping from your pan onto the floor. If you have teflon cookware, be sure to use tongs with nylon tips. And always go for the 12-inchers.
2. Store everything in tupperware
As much as I’d like to be the kind of person who trims their herbs, puts them in an vase then wraps them in a damp paper towel so they last a week, I’m way too lazy for that. The good news though is that tupperware keeps almost everything fresh for much longer than your crisper, including berries, salad greens and produce that has already been cut. Because it is reusable, it is also more ecofriendly.
3. If you own a knife, don’t use a garlic press
Peeling and pressing garlic is a huge waste of time. To use a clove of garlic, set it on a cutting board and smash it with the flat side of a big knife (any chef’s knife will do). The papery skin will come right off, and you can mince it real quick right there in about 10 seconds. Done.
4. Keep a separate cutting board for things you don’t want flavored with garlic and onion
Assuming you follow any recipe ever, you’ll probably be using your cutting board for cutting onions or garlic. If so, I recommend getting a separate board you keep aside for cutting fruit, cheeses and other things that you’d prefer didn’t absorb the odors of previous meals.
5. Herbs that are supposed to be green should be purchased fresh, not dry
With the possible exception of dried oregano (great in Mexican, Greek and Italian foods), herbs are always better fresh. They’re also cheap and available almost anywhere. In particular, always buy fresh parsley, basil, cilantro, thyme, tarragon or chives if you can help it (a few should be in your fridge at all times). The dried versions are OK if not too old, but they’re very delicate and the jar will probably go bad before you use it twice.
6. Don’t bother with pre-filled spice racks
If you want spices to serve their purpose (making food taste better), you shouldn’t own a pre-filled spice rack. Spices go off quickly, and when their color starts to dull they’ve lost a lot of their flavor. There are several dried spices that are invaluable in the kitchen (cinnamon, cloves, curry powder, cumin, coriander, chili pepper, etc.), but you should purchase them as you need them, and in small quantities unless you use them frequently.
7. Overcooking is probably your biggest kitchen mistake
Overcooked vegetables are mushy and flavorless, overcooked meat is tough and chalky, overcooked grains are soggy and fall apart. In other words, overcooked food is bad food. Learn the art of taking food off the heat just before it is done, and let it finish cooking with its internal temperature. You can always cook it more, but you can never cook it less.
8. If it tastes OK but not great, it probably needs salt—and maybe some vinegar or olive oil
The media loves to bash salt, but I’m not convinced that sodium (rather than processed food) is the real problem. Also, the small amount you use when cooking at home won’t compare to what you’d get at a restaurant or in a packaged meal. Though over-salted food certainly tastes bad, under-salted food is bland and boring and a little dash can often save a dish.
If you think you’ve added enough salt but something is still off, try a small splash of vinegar or lemon (any acid) to brighten the flavor. If the food is dry or sticky, try adding a touch of olive oil. These three things can fix almost any lackluster meal.
9. Don’t buy regular big onions, use shallots or leeks
For most everyday cooking, milder onions will enhance your dish and give it more nuance. Big, strong onions certainly have their place in cooking (soups, roasts, etc.), but most kitchen experiments will be improved by more subtle onion flavor.
10. Fruit (other than berries) shouldn’t be stored in the fridge
Refrigerators dull the taste of most produce, so if you bought something that doesn’t need to go in there leave it out. Most fruits including apples, oranges, pears and bananas don’t belong in the refrigerator unless you’re not planning on eating them soon. I don’t refrigerate tomatoes, avocados or peppers either. Very hot climates are an exception, however.
What are your favorite simple kitchen tips?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Fun Facts about Vinegar

Vinegar is amazing, astounding, and in some cases just plain fun. We hope you enjoy some of the interesting tidbits we’ve gathered about this versatile product.For information on the world’s largest marketer and manufacturer of vinegar click here
  • Vinegar has been used for 10,000 years. It just might be the world's oldest ingredient!
  • The main uses for white distilled vinegar are cooking/food preparation and cleaning/disinfecting.
World Renowned
  • The International Vinegar Museum is in Roslyn, South Dakota.
  • The International Vinegar Festival is held every June in Roslyn, South Dakota.
The Pride of the South
  • Consumers in the South buy and use more white distilled vinegar than in any other region of the country.
There she blows!
  • Adding vinegar to baking soda produces a chemical reaction that produces carbon dioxide. This combination is often used to make a do-it-yourself erupting volcano.
It’s magic…
  • Pearls melt in white distilled vinegar.
  • An egg softens in white distilled vinegar because the acetic acid dissolves the eggshell.
  • Immersing a chicken bone in vinegar for 24 hours will make it rubbery.
A Breath of Fresh Air
  • An open dish of white distilled vinegar will help remove paint smells from a room.
Secret ingredient
  • Salad dressings, sauces, marinades, ketchup, mustard, and pickles are all made with white distilled vinegar.
From the Garden
  • Vegetable vinegars are made with potato, cucumber, beet root, and tomato.
  • Herb vinegars include thyme, oregano, basil, rosemary, sage, garlic and mint.
  • The most popular herb-flavored vinegars use thyme and oregano.
A Fruity Twist
  • Fruit vinegars include apple cider, coconut, fig, black currant, pear, prune, raisin, strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, peach, pineapple, and cherry.
  • Cider vinegar is made from apples and is the most popular vinegar used for cooking in the United States.
  • Raisin vinegar is produced in Turkey and used in Middle Eastern cuisine.
  • Germany, Austria and the Netherlands make vinegar from beer.
Sweet Treat
  • Italy and France produce a rare honey vinegar.
  • Cane vinegar, made from sugar cane juice, is popular in the Philippines.
Healthy Hints
  • Soothe a sore throat with a mixture of apple cider vinegar, water and honey.
  • Soak your feet in white distilled vinegar to stop athlete’s foot.
  • Drink a teaspoon of white distilled vinegar to stop the hiccups.
  • Pantyhose last longer when rinsed with water containing 1 tablespoon of white distilled vinegar.
  • Massage white distilled vinegar into your scalp, rinse, then wash with regular shampoo and watch dandruff disappear.
The Cat’s Meow
  • Spray white distilled vinegar on furniture to stop the cat from scratching it.

Cooking with Vinegar

Enjoying a salad with a tangy vinaigrette dressing is one of the most popular ways to use vinegar in the kitchen. But that’s just the beginning! Regular and flavored vinegars are versatile recipe ingredients that add flavor and distinction, and can also contribute to good health!
To make basic vinaigrette salad dressing use 1 part white distilled vinegar to 4 parts oil.

Make creamy vinaigrette by adding some plain or whipped cream to a mixture of 1 part white distilled vinegar to 3 parts oil.

Tenderize meat with white distilled vinegar. Use it in marinades or when slow cooking any tough, inexpensive cuts of meat.

When poaching eggs, add a little white distilled vinegar to the water. The whites stay better formed.

For extra tenderness with boiling ribs or stew meat add a tablespoon of white distilled vinegar.

To add a zesty new taste to fresh fruits such as pears, cantaloupe, honeydew, or others, add a splash of rice or balsamic vinegar. Serve immediately to prevent the fruit from becoming mushy.

Freshen wilted vegetables by soaking them in cold water containing a spoonful or two of white distilled vinegar.

When boiling or steaming cauliflower, beets or other vegetables, add a teaspoon or two of white distilled vinegar to the water to help them keep their color. This will also improve their taste, and reduce gassy elements. This also works when cooking beans and bean dishes.

Make pasta less sticky and reduce some of its starch. Add just a dash of white distilled vinegar to the water as it cooks.

Give some extra zest to your white sauce by adding 1/2 teaspoon of white distilled vinegar.

Try cider or malt white distilled vinegar instead of ketchup with french fries—that’s how the British like to eat them. Either one is also great on fish or any fried or broiled meat.

Remove kitchen odors that come from burnt pots or when cooking certain foods by boiling a small amount of water with 1/4 cup white distilled vinegar so that the steam circulates throughout the room.

Make onion odors disappear from your hands by rubbing with white distilled vinegar.

Add moistness and taste to any chocolate cake—homemade or from a box—with a spoonful of white distilled vinegar.

To keep frosting from sugaring add a drop of white distilled vinegar. It will also help keep white frosting white and shiny.

Make perfect, fluffy meringue by adding a teaspoon of white distilled vinegar for every 3 to 4 egg whites used.

Perk up any can of soup or sauce with a teaspoon of red or white wine vinegar.

Eliminate the greasy taste in food cooked in a deep fryer by adding a dash of white distilled vinegar.

If you’ve added too much salt to a recipe, add a spoonful of white distilled vinegar and sugar to try correcting the taste.

Keep molded gelatin desserts and salads from sagging or melting in the summer heat by adding a teaspoon of white distilled vinegar for each box of gelatin used.

When making tuna salad add a dash of any herb-flavored white distilled vinegar.

Turn out great rice by adding a teaspoon of white distilled vinegar to the boiling water.

To make the perfect picnic potato salad dressing combine 1 cup mayonnaise, 3 tablespoons white distilled vinegar, 1 tablespoon sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Olives or pimentos covered with white distilled vinegar can be kept almost indefinitely if refrigerated.

To keep eggs from cracking when boiling add a tablespoon or two of white distilled vinegar to water.

Vinegar uses for Automotive

Because white distilled vinegar has so many wonderful uses as a cleaning agent, it’s no surprise that it is also perfect to use on some of your bigger cleaning projects—namely automobiles. The next time you’re washing your car, shift into high gear and really make it shine with a little vinegar.
Keep car windows frost-free overnight in winter by coating them with a solution of 3 parts white distilled vinegar to 1 part water.

Polish car chrome with full-strength white distilled vinegar on a soft cloth.

Remove unwanted decals and bumper stickers by covering them with a cloth soaked in white distilled vinegar, or by repeatedly spraying them with full-strength white distilled vinegar. They should peel off in a couple of hours.

Rid the windshield wipers of road grime by wiping them with a white distilled vinegar-soaked cloth.

Remove the leftover odor after a rider has been carsick by leaving a bowl of white distilled vinegar overnight on the floor.

Get rid of hard water stains on your car with a rinse made from 3 parts soft water to one part white distilled vinegar.

Wipe vinyl upholstery with a mixture of equal parts white distilled vinegar and water.

Remove winter road salt residue on car carpeting by spraying with a mixture of equal parts white distilled vinegar and water, then blot with a soft towel.

Remove the hazy film that builds up on inside windows by spraying with white distilled vinegar.

Remove dirt and stains from car carpeting with a mixture of half white distilled vinegar and half water.

When doing car maintenance, soak rusty bolts and screws with white distilled vinegar to make them easier to remove.

Loosen chewing gum stuck to carpeting or upholstery by soaking it in white distilled vinegar.

Create an all-purpose window cleaner with a few ounces of white distilled vinegar in a quart of water.

Give leather upholstery an extra shine by cleaning it with hot white distilled vinegar and rinsing with soapy water.

Make your car extra shiny
by adding a few drops of white distilled vinegar to your bucket of water.

Vinegar for you Health

White distilled vinegar is something good for you on the inside and the outside. The next time you’re not feeling well, consider taking a break from expensive over-the-counter products and try a home remedy that is made with vinegar.
Stave off high blood sugar and other Alzheimer's risk factors with a daily dose of vinegar. According to researchers, there is evidence that vinegar sinks risk factors that may lead to memory decline and dementia -- namely, high blood sugar, insulin resistance, diabetes and prediabetes, and weight gain. While vinegar does not confront Alzheimer's directly, studies at Arizona State University have found that vinegar can curb appetite and food intake, helping prevent weight gain and obesity. Swedish investigators agree. In one study, downing two or three tablespoons of vinegar with white bread cut expected rises in insulin and blood sugar by about 25 percent. Pour on the vinegar -- add it to salad dressings, eat it by the spoonful, even mix it into a glass of drinking water. Any type of vinegar works because it's the acidity that counts.

Stop insect stings and bites from itching
by dabbing them with a cotton ball saturated with undiluted white distilled vinegar.

Soothe sunburn with a spray of white distilled vinegar, repeating as often as you like. Ice-cold white distilled vinegar will feel even better, and may prevent blistering and peeling.

For cuts and scrapes, use white distilled vinegar as an antiseptic.

Get rid of foot odor by washing feet well with antiseptic soap daily, then soaking them in undiluted cider vinegar for 10 minutes or so. Remember that cotton socks aid odor control more effectively than wool ones.

Clean a hairbrush by soaking in a white distilled vinegar solution.

Tone facial skin with a solution of equal parts white distilled vinegar and water.

If commercial aftershaves cause rashes and itching, try using undiluted white distilled vinegar as an aftershave lotion.

Lighten body freckles (not facial freckles) by rubbing on full-strength white distilled vinegar.

Eliminate bad breath and whiten your teeth by brushing them once or twice a week with white distilled vinegar.

Make nail polish last longer. Wipe fingernails with cotton balls dipped in white distilled vinegar before putting on nail polish.

Vinegar Tips for Laundry

Looking for brighter whites or bolder colors? The answer just might be white distilled vinegar. It’s a safe and inexpensive way to boost the power of your detergent and add a little more muscle to your stain remover. With vinegar in the mix, your clothes have never looked better.
Prevent lint from clinging to clothes by adding 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar to the wash cycle.

To remove soap residue that makes black clothes look dull use white distilled vinegar in your final rinse.

Get stained white socks and dingy dishcloths white again. Add 1 cup white distilled vinegar to a large pot of water, bring it to a rolling boil and drop in the articles. Let soak overnight.

Some stains on clothing and linens can be soaked out using equal parts milk and white distilled vinegar.

Before washing a mustard stain, dab with white distilled vinegar.

Attack spaghetti, barbecue, or ketchup stains
with a white distilled vinegar and water solution.

Remove perspiration odor and stains on clothing, as well as those left by deodorants, by spraying full-strength white distilled vinegar on underarm and collar areas before tossing them into the washing machine.

Forgot that you left wet laundry in the machine and it now smells moldy? Pour a few cups of white distilled vinegar in the machine and wash the clothes in hot water. Then run a normal cycle with detergent.

Remove smoky odors from clothes by filling the bathtub with very hot water and 1 cup white distilled vinegar. Hang the garments above the steaming water and shut the door so the steam can penetrate the fibers.

Keep the steam iron clean and in good working order by getting rid of mineral deposits in steam vents and spray nozzles. Fill the water chamber with a solution of equal parts white distilled vinegar and distilled water. Set it in an upright position and let it steam for about 5 minutes. When the iron is cool, rinse the tank with water, refill and shake water through the vents onto an old cloth. Test before using.

Remove scorch marks from an iron by rubbing it with a warmed-up solution of equal parts white distilled vinegar and salt. If that doesn’t work, use a cloth dampened with full-strength white distilled vinegar.

Remove musky smells from cotton clothes by sprinkling them lightly with white distilled vinegar and then pressing them.

Get water and salt stains off shoes and boots by wiping them down with a solution of equal parts white distilled vinegar and water.

Give patent leather shoes and bags a better shine by wiping them down with white distilled vinegar.

Get cleaner laundry! Add about 1/4 cup white distilled vinegar to the last rinse. The acid in white distilled vinegar is too mild to harm fabrics, yet strong enough to dissolve the alkalies in soaps and detergents. Besides removing soap, white distilled vinegar prevents yellowing, acts as a fabric softener and static cling reducer, and attacks mold and mildew.

Eliminate manufacturing chemicals from new clothes by adding 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar to the water.

Remove soap scum and clean the hoses of your washing machine with white distilled vinegar. Periodically run the machine with only a cup of white distilled vinegar in it—nothing else added to the wash cycle.

Bring out bright colors by adding 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar to the rinse cycle.

Fluff up wool or acrylic sweaters (hand- or machine-washed) and rid them of soap smell with 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar in the last rinse water.

Get rid of the tiny holes left along the hemline when you take out the hem of any garment by moistening a cloth with white distilled vinegar, placing it under the fabric and ironing

Tips for cleaning with Vinegar

White distilled vinegar is a popular household cleanser, effective for killing most mold, bacteria, and germs, due to its level of acidity. Cleaning with white distilled vinegar is a smart way to avoid using harsh chemicals. You’ll also be glad to know that it is environmentally friendly and very economical.
To shine chrome sink fixtures that have a lime buildup, use a paste made of 2 tablespoons salt and 1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar.

Make your own scouring cleanser by combining 1/4 cup baking soda with 1 tablespoon liquid detergent. Add just enough white distilled vinegar to give it a thick but creamy texture.

Clean counter tops and make them smell sweet again with a cloth soaked in undiluted white distilled vinegar.

Clean and deodorize a drain by pouring in 1 cup baking soda, then one cup hot white distilled vinegar. Let this sit for 5 minutes or so, then run hot water down the drain.

Deodorize the garbage disposal by pouring in 1/2 cup baking soda and 1/2 cup hot white distilled vinegar. Let sit for 5 minutes then run hot water down the disposal.

Deodorize and clean the garbage disposal with white distilled vinegar ice cubes. Make them by freezing full-strength white distilled vinegar in an ice cube tray. Run several cubes down the disposal while flushing with cold water.

Clean the microwave by mixing 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar and 1/2 cup water in a microwave-safe bowl. Bring it to a rolling boil inside the microwave. Baked-on food will be loosened, and odors will disappear. Wipe clean.

Clean the shelves and walls of the refrigerator with a half-and-half solution of water and white distilled vinegar.

Cut the grime on the top of the refrigerator with a paper towel or cloth and full-strength white distilled vinegar.

Avoid the bad smell when you heat up a newly cleaned oven by using a sponge soaked in diluted white distilled vinegar for the final rinse.

To clean a grease splattered oven door window, saturate it with full-strength white distilled vinegar. Keep the door open for 10 to 15 minutes before wiping with a sponge.

Remove soap buildup and odors from the dishwasher
by pouring a cup of white distilled vinegar inside the empty machine and running it through a whole cycle. Do monthly.

To prevent good glassware from getting etched by minerals
, wash then spray with full-strength white distilled vinegar. Give the glasses a hot water rinse before letting them dry or drying them with a towel.

For cloudy glassware, soak paper towels or a cloth in full-strength white distilled vinegar and wrap around the inside and outside of the glass. Let sit awhile before rinsing clean.

Get rid of lime deposits in a tea kettle by adding 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar to the water and letting it sit overnight. If more drastic action is needed, boil full-strength white distilled vinegar in the kettle a few minutes, let cool and rinse with plain water.

Remove mineral deposits from coffee makers with white distilled vinegar. Fill the water reservoir with 1 cup or more of white distilled vinegar and run it through a whole cycle. Run it once or twice more with plain water to rinse clean. (Check the owners’ manual first.)

Remove stains from coffee and teacups by scrubbing them gently with equal parts of salt (or baking soda) and white distilled vinegar. Rinse clean.

For stained and smelly plastic food containers, wipe them with a cloth dampened with white distilled vinegar.

Remove odors from a lunch box by placing inside a slice of bread that has been soaked in white distilled vinegar. Leave overnight.

Remove ugly film in narrow-necked glass jars, flower vases, and bottles by letting undiluted white distilled vinegar sit in them for a few hours. Add a little rice or sand and shake vigorously to loosen stubborn stains. Repeat if necessary.

Easily clean your mini blinds by wearing pair of white cotton gloves. Dip gloved fingers into a solution of equal parts white vinegar and warm tap water, and run your fingers across both sides of each blind.

To clean tarnished brass, copper, and pewter,
use a paste with equal amounts of white distilled vinegar and table salt.

Make a metal cleanser by adding enough white distilled vinegar to 2 tablespoons of cream of tartar to make a paste. Rub it on and let it dry on the surface. Wash it off and dry with a soft cloth.

Polish brass and copper with a mixture of 2 tablespoons of ketchup and 1 tablespoon white distilled vinegar. Rub it on with a clean cloth until dry and shiny.

Remove dark stains on an aluminum pot by boiling a mixture of 1 cup white distilled vinegar and 1 cup hot water.

Discourage ants by spraying undiluted white distilled vinegar outside doorways and windowsills, around appliances and wherever you find the pests coming in.

Get rid of fruit flies by setting out a small dish of undiluted white distilled vinegar.

Clean the wheel of a can opener using white distilled vinegar and an old toothbrush.

Remove the smell of spoiled food from a refrigerator by first rinsing the area with soap and water. Spray surfaces with full-strength white distilled vinegar and wipe them down with a damp cloth or sponge. Fill some containers with baking soda and place inside. Close the door and leave for a few days.

Wipe grease off exhaust fan grids, the inside of your oven, or anywhere grease gathers with a sponge soaked in white distilled vinegar.

To make cleaning the grill easier, spray a solution of half water and half white distilled vinegar on the cooking surface.

To remove a label, decal, or price tag, cover with a cloth soaked in white distilled vinegar. Leave the cloth on overnight and the label should slide off.

Renew sponges and dishrags by placing them in just enough water to cover them. Then add 1/4 cup white distilled vinegar. Let them soak overnight.

Get rid of calcium deposits on faucets by soaking a cloth or paper towel in white distilled vinegar and wrapping the area tightly. Let this sit for a couple of hours or overnight.

Remove soap buildup from faucets by scrubbing them with a solution of 1 part salt to 4 parts white distilled vinegar.

Rid a faucet of lime deposits by tying a plastic bag containing 1/2 to 1/3 cup of white distilled vinegar around it and leaving it there for two or three hours. If mineral deposits don’t wipe off, scrubbing with an old toothbrush should complete the job.

Shine colored porcelain sinks by scouring them with undiluted white distilled vinegar.

Rinse away soapy film on countertops with a solution of white distilled vinegar and water.

Clean grout by letting full-strength white distilled vinegar sit on it for a few minutes and scrubbing it with an old toothbrush.

Kill germs all around the bathroom with a spray of full-strength white distilled vinegar. Wipe clean with a damp cloth.

To remove grime, mildew, and scum from the tub, tile, shower curtain or door, wipe with undiluted white distilled vinegar. Rinse with water.

Spray shower doors with full-strength white distilled vinegar after you’ve squeegeed the glass, or before you step in and turn on the water. It will help release the hard water deposits so they don’t remain on the glass.

Mix up an inexpensive tile cleaner by adding 1/2 cup baking soda, 1 cup white distilled vinegar, and 1 cup ammonia to a gallon of warm water.

Get rid of stubborn bathtub film by wiping it with white distilled vinegar and then scouring with baking soda.

Soak a sponge or loofah overnight in a strong white distilled vinegar and water solution to remove dirt and slime. Rinse several times with cold water and let air dry (in the sun if possible).

Clean shower door tracks by filling them with white distilled vinegar and letting it sit for a few hours. Pour hot water into the tracks and wash and scrub away the scum with a toothbrush.

To clean a scummy showerhead, pour 1/2 cup baking soda and 1 cup white distilled vinegar into a sandwich bag and tie it around the showerhead. Let this set for an hour after the bubbling has stopped. Remove the bag and then turn on the water.

Deodorize the toilet bowl by allowing 3 cups white distilled vinegar to sit in it for about a half hour before flushing.

To make the toilet bowl sparkle, pour in a cup or more of diluted white distilled vinegar and let it sit several hours or overnight. Scrub well with the toilet brush and flush.

Freshen air in the bathroom by spraying into the air a solution of 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 tablespoon white distilled vinegar, and 1 cup water.

Get a shining finish on a no-wax vinyl or linoleum floor by cleaning it with a solution of one cup white distilled vinegar for every gallon of water.

Apply full-strength white distilled vinegar directly to tough linoleum stains. Leave it on for 10 to 15 minutes before wiping it up. If that doesn’t work, apply white distilled vinegar again and then sprinkle some baking soda over the white distilled vinegar. Scrub the area with a brush or sponge. Rinse clean with water.

For an economical and environmentally friendly floor cleaner, mix a solution of 3 drops dishwashing liquid to 1/3 part white distilled vinegar, 1/3 part alcohol, and 1/3 part water. Spray sparingly and mop for a fast clean-up.

Some carpet stains can be removed with a paste of 2 tablespoons white distilled vinegar and 1/4 cup salt or baking soda. Rub into the carpet stain and let dry. Vacuum up the residue the next day. (Always test on an out-of-sight part of the carpet first).

Bring out the color in carpet by brushing it with a solution of 1 cup white distilled vinegar for every gallon of water. (Always test on an out-of-sight part of the carpet beforehand).

To reduce soap bubbles in a steam cleaner add about 1/4 cup white distilled vinegar. Use the same amount in the rinse water to remove detergent residue and make carpets stay fresh longer.

Wash indoor/outdoor carpet with a solution of 1 cup white distilled vinegar in 1 bucket of warm water. Scrub using a brush or a broom and then hose off.

Clean up pet accidents by first blotting up the area and then adding a white distilled vinegar-and-water solution. Blot until it is almost dry. Then sprinkle baking soda over the area and let it dry. Vacuum up the residue the next day.

Create your own window cleaning solution by combining 1/2 cup non-sudsy ammonia, 1 cup white distilled vinegar, and 2 tablespoons cornstarch in a gallon of water.

Remove the wax residue left by commercial window cleaners with a solution of 2 cups water, 1 cup white distilled vinegar and 1 teaspoon of liquid soap or detergent.

To remove paint from windows try using undiluted, hot white distilled vinegar. Give the solution time to soften the paint before removing with a razor edge tool.

To remove paint splatters from windows apply full-strength white distilled vinegar with a clean paintbrush.

Get rid of mildew, dust, and stale odors by wiping down walls with undiluted white distilled vinegar on a cloth or a sponge mop.

Clean woodwork and walls with a mixture of 1 cup white distilled vinegar, 1 cup baking soda, 1/2 cup ammonia and 1 gallon warm water. Wipe on with a sponge or damp—not wet—towel.

Clean wood paneling with a solution of 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar, and 2 cups warm water. Wipe on with a soft cloth.

Remove wallpaper easily by using a paint roller to wet the surface very thoroughly with a solution of equal parts white distilled vinegar and hot water. Or spray on until saturated.

Get decals off walls or doors by letting undiluted white distilled vinegar soak into them for several minutes before trying to peel them off. Repeat if necessary.

Remove white water rings from wood with a solution of equal parts white distilled vinegar and vegetable oil. Rub with the grain.

Remove fireplace soot and grime with undiluted white distilled vinegar. Use a brush to scrub and a towel to blot up the wetness and dirt.

Clean fireplace glass doors with a solution of 1 part white distilled vinegar to 2 parts water. Spray or wipe on, then wipe clean with a dry cloth.

To kill germs, spray full-strength white distilled vinegar on doorknobs and then wipe them dry.

Remove the smell of a dead mouse or other rodent (after removing all animal remnants) by wiping down the area with either white distilled vinegar or bleach. Then place a fabric softener sheet in the area to remove any lingering odors.

Never use white distilled vinegar on marble. The acid can damage the surface.

Before painting old concrete, clean with full-strength white distilled vinegar. Let it air dry.

Clean hardened paint brushes by simmering them in a pot with white distilled vinegar. Soak them first for an hour before bringing the white distilled vinegar to a simmer. Drain and rinse clean.

Remove mud and stains from plastic, fiberglass, or aluminum sports equipment by applying a paste of 1 part white distilled vinegar to 3 parts baking soda. Wipe off with soapy water and rinse with clear water.

Clean your grill by spritzing white distilled vinegar over wadded up aluminum foil and scrubbing the grill vigorously with it.

To remove film in glass baby bottles, fill with equal parts hot water and white distilled vinegar. Let sit for at least an hour. Scrub with a bottle brush.

To clean and disinfect baby toys add a good-sized splash of white distilled vinegar to soapy water.

Clean vinyl baby books or board books by wiping with white distilled vinegar. Wipe clean with a damp sponge or cloth.

Clean scissors that have become sticky (after cutting tape, for instance) with a cloth dipped in undiluted white distilled vinegar.

Clean and deodorize urine on a mattress with a white distilled vinegar and water solution. Then sprinkle the area with baking soda and let dry. Brush or vacuum the residue after it is dry to the touch.

Shine pennies by soaking them for a couple of hours or overnight in a glass or bowl of undiluted white distilled vinegar

Vinegar uses for the Garden

White distilled vinegar provides many safe and natural ways to protect and enhance your garden and gardening tools. Not only will you feel good about keeping children and pets (and you!) away from pesticides and other chemicals, you’ll feel great about the low cost of vinegar compared to those other products.
Kill weeds and grass growing in unwanted places by pouring full-strength white distilled vinegar on them. This works especially well in crevices and cracks of walkways and driveways.

Give acid-loving plants like azaleas, rhododendrons, hydrangeas and gardenias a little help by watering them with a white distilled vinegar solution now and again. A cup of white distilled vinegar to a gallon of tap water is a good mixture.

Stop ants from congregating by pouring white distilled vinegar on the area.

Discourage cats from getting into the kids’ sandbox with white distilled vinegar.

Preserve cut flowers and liven droopy ones by adding 2 tablespoons white distilled vinegar and 1 teaspoon sugar to a quart of water in a vase.

Get rid of the water line in a flower vase by filling it with a solution of half water and half white distilled vinegar, or by soaking a paper towel in white distilled vinegar and stuffing it into the vase so that it is in contact with the water line.

Clean out stains and white mineral crusts in clay, glazed and plastic pots by soaking them for an hour or longer in a sink filled with a solution of half water and half white distilled vinegar.

Remove crusty rim deposits on house planters or attached saucers by soaking them for several hours in an inch of full-strength white distilled vinegar.

Clean a birdbath by scrubbing it often with undiluted white distilled vinegar. Rinse well.

Get rid of rust on spigots, tools, screws or bolts by soaking the items overnight or for several days in undiluted white distilled vinegar.

Neutralize garden lime by adding white distilled vinegar to the area.

Avoid skin problems after working in the garden by rinsing your hands in white distilled vinegar.

Increase the acidity of soil by adding white distilled vinegar to your watering can.

Eliminate anthills by pouring in white distilled vinegar.

Cure a cement pond before adding fish and plants by adding one gallon of white distilled vinegar to every 200 gallons of water. Let sit three days. Empty and rinse thoroughly.

Sanitize outdoor furniture and picnic tables with a cloth soaked in white distilled vinegar.

Kill slugs by spraying them with a mixture of 1 part water and 1 part white distilled vinegar.

To catch moths use a mixture of 2 parts white distilled vinegar and 1 part molasses. Place mixture in tin can and hang in a tree.

Keep rabbits from eating your plants. Put cotton balls soaked in white distilled vinegar in a 35mm film container. Poke a hole in the top and place in the garden.

Remove berry stains on your hands by rubbing them with white distilled vinegar.

Clean plastic patio furniture with a solution of 1 tablespoon white distilled vinegar to 1 gallon of water.

Wash fresh vegetables with a mixture of 1 tablespoon of white distilled vinegar in 1 ½ quarts of water.

When cleaning an outdoor fountain, soak the pump in white distilled vinegar to remove any mineral deposits.

Clean a hummingbird feeder with white distilled vinegar—soap or detergent can leave behind harmful residue.

Vinegar uses for your Pets

Humans aren't the only ones that can enjoy the many uses for white distilled vinegar-even our four-legged friends can benefit.
Give your dog a gleaming coat by spraying or rubbing with a solution of 1 cup white distilled vinegar to 1 quart water. As a bonus, you save the cost of an expensive shine product used on show animals. (Works even on a horse!)

Keep a dog from scratching its ears by wiping them out regularly with a soft cloth dipped in undiluted white distilled vinegar.

Remove skunk odors by wiping down the animal with a 50-50 solution of white distilled vinegar and water, followed by a plain-water rinse. Repeat if necessary.

Discourage a cat from sitting on a certain windowsill or other surface
, or from scratching upholstery, by spraying white distilled vinegar on the item. Test first on an unnoticeable area to be sure there won’t be a discoloration.

Keep a cat out of a garden area by placing paper, a cloth, or sponge there that has been soaked in white distilled vinegar.

Get rid of the deposits and water lines that form in aquariums and fish bowls by wiping them down with white distilled vinegar and following with a good rinse. For stubborn deposits, soak for several hours or overnight.

Keep the birdbath clean by scrubbing it often with undiluted white distilled vinegar. Rinse well.

Keep flies away from horses or other outdoor pets by spraying a mixture of water and white distilled vinegar around the area where the animals are.

Remove cat litter odor by pouring ½ inch of white distilled vinegar in the empty litter box. Let it stand for 20 minutes, swish it around, then rinse with cold water.

Kill fleas by adding a little white distilled vinegar to your dog or cat’s drinking water.

Stop a dog from barking with a spray bottle filled with equal amounts of water and white distilled vinegar. When the dog barks, spray the vinegar water in its direction but not in the face.

Remove pet odors. After cleaning, cover the area with baking soda. Let it stand overnight. The next day vacuum up the baking soda and wash the area with white distilled vinegar. Rinse and let dry.

Cats hate the smell of vinegar. If you have a cat that is marking its territory around your house, spray the area with white distilled vinegar then rinse with a hose.

Stop cats from fighting with each other with a spritz of a white distilled vinegar and water solution.

Prevent cats from eating your plants
by spraying the leaves with a solution of white distilled vinegar and water.

History of Vinegar

The word vinegar comes from the French word “vinaigre” which means “sour wine.” It was probably discovered by accident thousands of years ago—after a cask of wine had gone bad. When the wine was first made, natural sugars were fermented into alcohol. Over time, bacteria in the air transformed the alcohol into acetic acid, which gave the “sour wine” its bite.
Vinegar’s role in history is well documented. This versatile product was used by everyone—from kings and conquerors to explorers and everyday people.
  • The Babylonians used vinegar to preserve and pickle food.
  • Hippocrates prescribed vinegar as a remedy for a variety of ailments.
  • Caesar’s armies used vinegar as a beverage.
  • Hannibal drenched huge boulders in hot vinegar which cracked them into small pieces, enabling his army to continue its journey across the Alps.
  • Helen of Troy bathed in vinegar to relax.
  • Jesus was offered vinegar before he was crucified.
  • Early Europeans used vinegar as a deodorizer.
  • During the Bubonic Plague people poured vinegar on their skin to protect themselves from germs.
  • Cleopatra dissolved pearls in vinegar to prove that she could consume a fortune in a single meal.
  • Sailors used vinegar as a food preservative during long voyages.
  • World War I medics used vinegar to treat soldiers’ wounds.
Today, people are still using white distilled vinegar in hundreds of different ways—from cooking and cleaning to gardening and the laundry.

Protect Your Pets from Poisonous Plants

Plant Dangers for Pets

 Maintain the health of dogs and cats by making sure they stay away from these poisonous blossoms.
FlowersHealth Effects on Dogs and Cats
Azaleas and rhododendronsVomiting, diarrhea, leg paralysis, coma, heart failure
DayliliesKidney failure in cats
GeraniumsVomiting, depression, dermatitis
HydrangeasVomiting, depression, diarrhea
Source: American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

When Food Scares Drive the Sales Pitch

A dubious milk scandal in Australia demonstrates how quickly marketers can seize upon public fears to serve corporate interests.
The exposé was incisive, frightening, and a bit self-righteous: "Much of the milk on our supermarket shelves have been modified with a secret ingredient the milk industry doesn't want us to know about." Aired by an Australian current affairs program in 2008, it aimed to educate consumers about permeate, a watery by-product of milk processing made up of lactose, vitamins, and minerals that critics say was used to water down milk.
Once the veil had been lifted, the public demanded better, and last month two major Australian milk brands, Dairy Farmers and Pura, declared that they are officially going "permeate-free."
Pura'saccompanying campaign reads like a dutiful response to the criticism, their elimination of permeate a move toward making superior products available to consumers. "Our milk is not diluted with permeate," the company proudly proclaims, "and therefore it's less processed and closer to how it is on the farm." It's a clear victory, in other words, for healthy, natural food.
But just as friendly Old MacDonald began to skip off into the sunset with his smiling dairy cows, Dr. Frank Sherkat, a milk and dairy expert at RMIT University in Melbourne, showed up, cattle prod in hand, with a well-reasoned plea for common sense. Pura's new marketing strategy, so his accusation goes, is no more than a gimmick that plays off public fears. Permeate, he says, is simply used to standardize protein and fat proportions, far from what the campaign would have you imagine is some kind of modern additive corrupting otherwise wholesome milk. Pura itself acknowledges, albeit quietly, that the truth is nowhere near as dire. Its website asks, "Is permeate bad?" and then answers its own question: "No."
The whole non-affair is reminiscent of the sudden outcry over "pink slime," which earlier this year went from being a standard, if largely unrecognized, hamburger filler to being an egregious effort of the meat industry to pull one over on consumers. As a vegetarian who already has a beef with the meat industry (pardon the pun), I wasn't too shocked to learn about what is officially called "lean finely textured beef," but in truth, the news wasn't as scandalous as it appeared. The U.S.D.A., along with other food industry experts, insists that LFTB is safe and healthy. Safeway, to give just one example among many, got rid of pink slime anyway, acknowledging the fact that it was a non-issue -- yet boasting, in the statement it released, that the supermarket chain "is committed to providing our customers with the highest-quality products."
As so much of the food production industry is shrouded in mystery, it's easy to have doubts about what we're "really" consuming, making us especially susceptible to marketers' doublespeak. Decoding their health claims and boasts, as a result, becomes yet another challenge for consumers. Take, for example, the allure of chicken that's labeled "hormone free." Sounds great, but the producers aren't doing us any favors. They're just obeying the law: according to official USDA regulations, that claim can only be made if directly followed by the statement, "Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones in poultry."
High fructose corn syrup is another term likely to cause a visceral, negative reaction in consumers. And while the sweet stuff certainly isn't good for you, a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concludes that it "has the same sugars composition as other 'benign' fructose-glucose sweeteners such as sucrose [also known as ordinary table sugar], honey, and fruit juice concentrates and dietary sources such as fruits and juices." Thus, claims that foods and beverages are healthier or more natural because they're sweetened with "real sugar" are bogus. It's worth noting as well that the Food and Drug Administration declared, in 2008, that the presence of high fructose corn syrup does not automatically disqualify a product from being able to declare itself 'natural.' As of yet, in fact, the F.D.A. hasn't been able to define the term at all.
Keep this all in mind as the F.D.A.'s new ban on BPA in baby bottles and plastic cups goes into effect. We know that BPA is best avoided, but products absent the industrial chemical may still contain -- and emit -- chemicals with estrogenic activity, or EA. The results of a study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives put it simply: "Almost all commercially available plastic products we sampled -- independent of the type of resin, product, or retail source -- leached chemicals having reliably detectable EA, including those advertised as BPA-free. In some cases, BPA-free products released chemicals having more EA than did BPA-containing products."
Still feeling reassured?

Lindsay Abrams
Lindsay Abrams - Lindsay Abrams writes for and produces The Atlantic's Health channel. Her work has appeared in The New York Times.

Things You Didn’t Know You Could Recycle

  by Amity Hook-Sopko
Even in today’s increasingly eco-friendly society, many still think recyclable items are limited to plastic bottles or paper products. In reality, local and national organizations are on their way to collecting almost anything that usually ends up in the trash. Here are a few unexpected items that can be part of your home’s recycling routine.
  • If your kids are tired of drawing with old crayons, don’t throw them out: give them new life by sending them to the Crayon Recycle Program at This national initiative will collect the crayons and turn them into Crazy Crayons – old crayons melted into fun shapes and swirled colors – which you can then order for your kids to enjoy!
  • Join the Jewelry Brigade at TerraCycle! Send in your old or broken jewelry for free and get a fair price from a trusted source while donating an additional percentage to a charity or local school.
  • TerraCycle offers other unusual free collection programs. Mail in your worn-out flip flops to receive an exclusive coupon for an in-store purchase at Old Navy. Thanks to partner Logitech, you can also mail in old keyboards, webcams and mice, and earn money for your favorite charity by participating. Electronics and office supply stores also accept a variety of equipment to recycle, including computers and mobile phones, so don’t forget to check locally, as well. Visit to get more information on any of its collection programs.
  • Re-doing your floors? The Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE) provides solutions for recycling carpet. Visit for more information, and click the “Waste Diversion” tab to view a list of CARE’s carpet reclamation partners. There are many options for home or business owners, including drop-off locations and pick-up services.
  • Find your nearest Habitat for Humanity ReStore by visiting to donate building materials, furniture or appliances. The ReStores will sell the used items, and the proceeds fund local Habitat construction.
  • Check out to discover recycling opportunities in your local area. Just type in what you want to recycle and your zip code, and Earth 911 provides a list of drop off locations or mail-in opportunities.
Participating in collection programs like these not only help the environment but also give you the opportunity to clean out your home; make some money for yourself, charities or schools; give back to those in need; and teach your children that recycling can be easy and fun!

Lauren TaylorAs Director of U.S. Public Relations for TerraCycle, Inc., the world’s leading upcycling and recycling company, Lauren Taylor helps manage various public relations programs and campaigns of TerraCycle and its brand partners.
TerraCycle converts difficult-to-recycle packaging and products into eco-friendly, affordable items available at major retailers. When not at work, Lauren encourages her husband and stepsons to protect the planet and tries to make her household environmentally friendly through composting, recycling and buying local.

Eight Ways to Ease into a Natural Home

This post was written by Desiring Virtue’s monthly contributor, Katie Drumm.

It seems to me that there is a lot of confusion and misinformation when it comes to household cleaners. Today I would like to share some facts that may turn you off from traditional cleaners, but also provide you with some wonderful, natural cleaning alternatives. The best part is that most of the things I use to clean my home I own anyway for cooking or first aid, so they are not only healthy, but frugal options!
Living naturally can be a bit overwhelming, so I’ve broken down the way I clean my home and listed 8 easy ways that you can ease into your own natural home.

1. Learn about the products you’re currently using.

First, before you scoff and decide that you’d rather just bleach your home to death, take a moment to think about what you’re exposing yourself and your family to. For example, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Association) requires employers to provide their employees who handle bleach with gloves and safety masks. Yet we’re encouraged to clean our child’s toys by submerging them in a bowl of bleach. WHAT!?!?! The more I learn about the harsh, horrible chemicals found in the normal, everyday, popular cleaning supplies that most of us have in our homes the more and more frustrated I get with these companies!

Some More Things to Know:

  • There is no federal administration to regulate the safety of household cleaners. There’s no FDA for cleaning products! This means that manufacturers can pretty much put whatever they want in their cleaners–whatever gets the job done the cheapest. And they do.
  • Manufacturers of cleaning supplies do not have to tell consumers (or anybody else, for that matter) what is in their cleaners–they’re protected by trademarks and copyrights.
  • The Sanitation Department will not take your full containers of cleaners because they have classified them as hazardous materials.
  • Bleach irritates eyes, skin, and the respiratory tract just from inhalation.
  • When bleach is mixed with other cleaning agents, a poisonous gas is released that can cause bloody noses, neurological disorders, headaches and even death.
  • Household bleach, whether it’s mixed with other agents or not, can cause pulmonary edema, vomiting, or coma if ingested.
  • Chlorine, used in many household cleaners, was among the first chemicals used in chemical warfare during WWI.
There are many more things I could say about the dangers of bleach, chloride, lye, etc., but the point is simple: they are not safe. We have been told to rinse baby toys in bleach, to wipe our floors, kitchen counters, and bathtubs with bleach, to wash our whites with bleach, and our coloreds with color-safe bleach (whatever THAT really is), however, it simply isn’t safe. If scientists are required to practically put haz-mat suits on to handle these chemicals, why are we scrubbing our homes down with this stuff!?
If you are one of those ladies who just loves the smell of bleach, if that smell equals clean in your mind, can I encourage you to re-train your thinking? Remind yourself that that wonderful-bleachy-clean smell carries very real risks to your family.
I used to bleach my tile floors, my entire bathroom, and our white clothing. When I discovered the truth about household cleaners it was devastating: 1) that I was going to have to figure something else out, and 2) that I had been unintentionally hurting my family for so long!
Well, never fear: it’s not your fault that you didn’t know the dangers behind what you were using and you’re about to learn about natural cleaners you can use to replace the nasty chemicals! (and it’s going to be SO MUCH CHEAPER, TOO!)

2. Get rid of the toxic stuff.

To be clear, that’s probably most of what you own. It was for me, anyway. Anything with bleach, chlorine, or lye is no good. If you’re feeling really crazy you can get rid of anything with any chemicals in it, which really will be all of it.

3. Fall in love with Vinegar.

I use a simple vinegar spray as my general household/anti-bacterial cleaner and my tile/linoleum/hardwood floor cleaner. I am in love with vinegar and have re-trained my nose to smell vinegar and think, “Clean!” (instead of bleach).
Four tablespoons of white vinegar to 3 cups of water in a spray bottle will take care of most of your cleaning needs. I have yet to find something on my counters or floors that vinegar couldn’t get up. I love it!
As a floor cleaner, I use the O-Cedar ProMist Microfiber Spray Mop. It allows you to use whichever cleaning solution you’d like and comes with a washable, reusable pad. I fill it up with my vinegar solution and it works perfectly! It doesn’t make the floor sticky and it dries really fast.

4. Embrace Hydrogen Peroxide.

For those really rough stains, Hydrogen peroxide always does the trick. I use it to clean my windows, mirrors, toilet, and bathtub. You can buy a bottle of hydrogen peroxide in the first aid section of your drug or grocery store. Replace the cap with a spray bottle head so you can use it as a spray. Keep the liquid in the dark bottle, though, so it keeps its effectiveness.
The first time you use it on your windows or mirrors you’re going to think, “Oh, no! This isn’t going to work!” Because it’s natural and doesn’t have a ton of chemicals, it doesn’t wipe off as perfectly as you might hope. No worries–give it 30 seconds and your windows or mirrors will be streak-free and sparkling!

5. Make Baking Soda your best friend.

Baking soda is basically good for everything. I store it in an aluminum salt/pepper shaker and use it to help the hydrogen peroxide on my toilet and tub.
If the scum is really bad and hydrogen peroxide just isn’t cutting it, after cleaning initially with hydrogen peroxide, I sprinkle some baking soda in the toilet bowl, let it sit for a moment, and then scrub with my toilet brush.
In the shower, after spraying with hydrogen peroxide, I sprinkle baking soda, leave for a few moments, and then scrub with a Scotch Brite Scour Pad.
Since I started using natural cleaning supplies, I’ve never had to use anything stronger than hydrogen peroxide and baking soda on my toilet or bathtub.

6. Keep a bottle of Rubbing Alcohol handy.

This discovery has changed the way I feel about my carpets. I really don’t like spots on my carpet, and so I was really excited when a friend suggested trying rubbing alcohol. It works!!! (even on pet stains!) Simply pour enough alcohol right out of the bottle to cover the stain and rub it into the carpet. It dries quickly as you’re rubbing and the stain just sort of disappears!

7. Get fruity with your Dusting

I am not a fan of dusting. That’s why I was so excited when I came across this dusting/polishing recipe. It really shines up my wood furniture and (although I think I might be making this up—>) it seems to keep it dust-free for longer.
One cup olive oil & 1/2 cup lemon juice. I keep mine in a glass cruet with a spout and a stopper. Before applying to wood, with the stopper in place, I lightly shake the jar so that the oil and lemon juice mix as much as possible. Then I pour out a tiny amount onto an old rag and wipe down the furniture. A very small amount will go a very long way! Then you’ll want to wipe the furniture down with a part of the rag that you didn’t pour the mixture onto to try and pick up excess oil. This works great and keeps my furniture looking beautiful for quite a while. Also, it smells wonderfully clean!

8. Finally get your Stainless Steel Appliances sparkling!

I’ve never found a commercial cleaner that worked better than olive oil at cleaning my stainless steel appliances. Simply use with a soft cloth for getting smudges off your appliances!
And that’s it! That’s everything that I use to clean my home. Actually, switching to natural cleaning products is so easy, that this isn’t so much “Easing into” a Natural Home–this is “Easily Plunging into a Natural Home!”
I love using natural products because I don’t want to put my (or my family’s) health in jeopardy and I LOVE how these natural products really keep my home clean. Also, since I use almost all of these items for cooking, I save a ton of money each month NOT having to buy separate cleaning products!

Natural Cleaning Solutions I Use:

  • Vinegar Spray: 4 tsp. vinegar & 3 cups water in a spray bottle
  • Hydrogen peroxide: original bottle with a spray bottle nozzle
  • Baking soda: in an aluminum salt or pepper shaker
  • Rubbing Alcohol: kept in the bottle it comes in
  • Olive Oil & Lemon Juice polish: 1 cup olive oil & 1/2 cup lemon juice in a glass cruet with a spout & stopper
  • Olive Oil: Just kept in the jar it comes in (stored in my pantry)

Fresh Strawberry Kefir Scones with Orange Glaze

Post image for Fresh Strawberry Kefir Scones with Orange Glaze

makes 32 mini scones


For the Scones
4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups old-fashion oatmeal
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup Plain or Vanilla Kefir
2 large eggs
2 sticks (16 tablespoons) frozen butter
1 1/2 cups diced fresh strawberries
For the Glaze
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons fresh orange juice


Preheat the oven to 400F. Line two baking trays with parchment paper.
For the Scones
In a large bowl, combine flour, oatmeal, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Use a whisk to fully combine and aerate ingredients. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together eggs and kefir, making sure egg yolks are completely broken and combined with other ingredients. Set aside.
Using a box grater, grate frozen butter completely and add to the flour mixture. Using your hands, distribute the butter through the mix.
Add the kefir mixture to the dry ingredients and butter. You can use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to combine, but I find after the initial mixing in, it is easier to use my hands.
When there is no more spare flour at the bottom of the bowl and the entire dough mixture seems moistened and fully mixed, add the strawberries and mix again, making sure the strawberries are well distributed throughout the dough.
Mold the dough so that it is one large ball. Using your hand as a guide, divide the dough into 4 equal parts.
Flour a flat surface, then take one quadrant of the dough and drop it onto the flour. Flip it over so that both sides are well floured. Flatten and turn, patting so that the dough makes a disk about an inch in thickness. Using a butter knife dipped in flour, cut the disk into 8 triangles. Place each triangle on the baking sheet.
Repeat this process until all four quadrants of dough have been turned into mini-triangle scones. I was able to put approximately 16 scones on each baking sheet.
Bake each tray for 15-18 minutes. The scones should be golden brown. Allow to completely cool.
For the Glaze
In a small bowl, place 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar. Add 4 tablespoons of orange juice directly to the powdered sugar, then stir repeatedly until the two ingredients are completely combined to form a thick glaze, roughly the consistency of kid’s craft glue.
On completely cooled scones, use a pastry brush to brush glaze directly on to each scone liberally. Alternatively, pour the glaze into a ziptop bag. Remove all the air and seal, then cut a tiny hole into the corner of the bag.
Using a zigzag pattern, pour the glaze over the scones.
Allow to set overnight. In the morning, the scones will have a slightly crunchy exterior, like the glazed scones at your favorite coffee shop.

Make Your Own Febreze Fabric Spray

  • 1/8 Cup of Febreze Fabric Softener
  • 4 TBSP of Baking Soda
  • HOT Water (Not Boiling)
  • Spray Bottle
  1. Add Fabric Softener and Baking Soda to Spray Bottle
  2. Pour Hot Water int container to fill & Shake to break up fabric softener
  3. Shake before using, Spray on Fabrics and Furniture Items to remove odors

Butterfinger Caramel Bars


  • 6 1/2 graham crackers
  • 2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1 (11 oz) bag Caramel bits
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • 1 (10 oz bag Butterfinger Bites, coarsely chopped
  • 2 oz semi-sweet chocolate (for drizzle)
How to Make
  1. Line a 9x9 baking pan with foil, allowing foil to hang over the edge for easy removal.
  2. Spray foil with cooking spray.
  3. Place graham crackers on bottom of the pan, breaking to evenly fit.
  4. Sprinkle marshmallows evenly over graham crackers.
  5. Melt caramel and milk together in a microwave safe bowl for 1 minute. Stir and continue heating in 30 second intervals until melted.
  6. Pour caramel over the marshmallows and gently spread until evenly coated. The marshmallows will melt slightly, which is fine. Make sure to coat evenly so the caramel sticks to the graham crackers.
  7. Sprinkle chopped Butterfinger on top and and press the candies into the caramel/marshmallow mix.
  8. Melt semi-sweet chocolate in a microwave safe bowl on high power in 30 second intervals until melted.
  9. Drizzle semi-sweet chocolate on top of Butterfinger.
  10. Chill in refrigerator for 1 hour or until set.
  11. Cut into bars when ready to serve.
Store and serve bars at room temperature in an airtight container for up to a week. recipe adapted from Kraft

Fried Rice with Chicken and Veggies -- $1.10 per serving

Yummy, nutritious and made with leftover rice, the delicious recipe helps eliminate waste in your refrigerator. Use leftover chicken and fresh vegetables you might otherwise throw away.

Turkey Waldorf Salad -- $1.50 per serving

Roasting a turkey and using it all week is a trick for both saving time and cutting costs. Substitute leftovers in your favorite chicken dish -- and dice some into a quick and easy salad like this one.

Easiest Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches Ever -- $1.40 per serving

This economical dish is tasty enough to be served at a weekend gathering. Serve them as sliders, splurge on store-bought coleslaw and ask guests to bring dessert for a cost-conscious gathering.

Toss leftover cooked chicken with barbecue sauce and crunchy carrots for a quick and healthy lunch.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Ready in: 10 minutes
Yield: 1 serving
Ease of Prep: Easy

Recipe Ingredients
1/2 cup shredded cooked chicken
1/4 cup shredded carrots
2 tablespoons barbecue sauce
2 teaspoons light ranch dressing
1 small whole-wheat sandwich bun
1 leaf romaine lettuce

Recipe Directions
  1. Combine chicken, carrots and barbecue sauce in a bowl. Spread ranch dressing on the bun. Top with the chicken mixture and lettuce

Chicken Lettuce Wraps -- $1.35 per serving

If you want to round out the flavorful meal, steam up some brown or white rice for only pennies more. Leftover filling served over rice noodles or angel hair pasta makes for an quick, inexpensive meal later in the week.

Chicken and Pepper Egg Rolls -- $1.35 per serving

Chockfull of meat and veggies, the dish is a meal in itself. If you want to add a quick, bargain side dish, shred a head of Napa cabbage and stir fry it with a drizzle of toasted sesame oil.

Chicken Ravioli Soup -- $1.50 per serving

A meal in a bowl, the dish is an ideal choice to leave on the stove for the babysitter to serve the kids when mom and dad are out splurging on date night.

Cheeseburger Pie -- $1.10 per serving

Though this is a cheap and easy go-to family dinner, the recipe is fun enough to serve as a party food. Make individual tartlets to serve as delicious and inexpensive appetizers.

The holiday rush is on and before you rush off to grab dinner at a not-so-cheap-or-healthy food joint, consider this quick and easy pie. Not only does it taste just like a burger from the local drive-through, it also happens to cost less per person; about $1.10 per serving. This was a winner with my entire family as long as I used the onion powder option over the real onion. Add a green salad rather than fries and a homemade milkshake for a dinner that's both fast and economical - and healthier than the alternative.


  • 1 can crescent rolls
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion, OR 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/3 cup chopped dill pickle slices
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons dill pickle juice
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 cups shredded American cheese, divided


  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Unroll crescent rolls and press into the bottom and up the sides of an 8 inch pie pan.
  3. Cook ground beef in a skillet until browned. Drain well.
  4. Stir in onion, chopped pickle, ketchup and mustard.
  5. Sprinkle with flour and add pickle juice and milk. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly.
  6. Remove from heat and add 1 cup of shredded cheese.
  7. Pour into the prepared crust and bake for 15 minutes, or until edges of crust are golden brown.
  8. Remove from oven and top with remaining cup of cheese. Let stand until cheese melts.
  9. Garnish with extra ketchup, mustard and pickle slices.