Cold Brew Coffee + fresh mint simple syrup

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Summer is here for me in spirit and weather, just not officially according to the calendar. Nevertheless, it is still time for cold brew coffee sipping. The best thing about cold brew coffee is how easy it is to make and it can just be ready and waiting by morning! All I have to do is reuse or compost the grounds and rinse my bag out to dry.

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If you want a super special summery treat, you can make a mint simple syrup easily, too!

I feel lucky because I’ve been growing mint for years but it never really came back and I’d have to buy new plants, but this year it came back in full force! There’s always a warning about planting mint in the ground because of how much it spreads, but who doesn’t want a whole bunch of mint?

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To make syrup you’ll want about 1 cup of mint, 1 cup of sugar, and 1 cup of water. Simmer in a pan for 10 – 15 minutes, turn off the heat, and let the mint steep in the syrup until cooled. Bottle up in whatever jar you’d like.

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For cold brew coffee you’ll only need a few items, and those can vary based on what you have. The only true needs are coffee grounds and water and something to put those into.

I have been putting coffee grounds into a cloth bag that sits in the water. You could simply use a french press, or even a mesh strainer for when you are ready to drink the coffee. That’s what I used to do and it works fine, there is just more sludge and grounds in the brew.

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I use about 1/2 cup of grounds in a jar that holds about 4 cups of liquid.

Pour filtered water over the coffee grounds and place into the refrigerator.

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It may seem like it’s not infusing very well at first, but it will turn out great by morning.

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This dark brew looks much tastier and is ready to drink!

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I’m kind of particular about my coffee. Hot coffee requires a dash of half & half and absolutely no sugar, but cold brew is nice with just a touch of sweetener, some half & half, and a couple of ice cubes.

In this case, of course, I used the mint simple syrup and it is a divine treat!

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The syrup will keep for at least a few weeks, and probably a couple of months if refrigerated.

Peace and love,

Kristan

Organic Non-toxic Garden Bug Spray

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As a person who tries her best to leave a smaller footprint on the earth, I am not interested in using products on my plants which use unfamiliar ingredients. Certainly, I could spend hours doing research into each chemical and its origins and impact on the earth and then buy a product packaged in plastic to use on my organic garden, but it seems counter intuitive to me.

In an ideal world I wouldn’t feel the need to use anything on the plants I grow. However, my garden can be a bug-infested oasis. I like it, cats like it, plant eating bugs like it, even weeds like it.

My precious carrot leaves were eaten away overnight, something has gobbled my clematis, and my potato plants are more holes than green in places.

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I needed to take action. I needed a simple, effective, low-cost solution. The good news is this spray meets all those requirements and I love it! I made it last year as well and stored it in an old vinegar bottle, but when I went to retrieve it, the glass had broken. Time to make some new bug spray!

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Ingredients needed:

1 onion

A few cloves of garlic

1 Tbs cayenne powder

1 tsp – 1 Tbs soap

To make:

Blend the onion and garlic until they are nice and mushy.

Place the mush in a saucepan or pot with about 4 cups of water and 1 heaping tablespoon of cayenne powder, then turn to a simmer. Let the mixture simmer for a good 30 minutes.

Let that cool.

Use cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer to squeeze out the liquid and compost the remaining material.

Pour into a spray bottle with a teaspoon to a tablespoon of liquid soap. I use Sal Suds because of how effective it is and because it is extremely concentrated and biodegradable.

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Spray on any bug-eaten plants directly and reapply if it rains or if much overhand watering has occurred. You don’t need to worry about this spray when it is time to harvest because it is made out of mostly food and a safe soap. Obviously rinsing is a good idea, but don’t worry about health problems later on in your life or depleting soils of microbes.

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My potato plants already look much better and whatever was eating my carrot tops has stopped their destructive ways.

Do you have any favorite gardening tips?

Peace and love,

Kristan

Pasta and Beans with Garlic Butter Sage Sauce

You may know I am enamored with the combination of pasta & beans; many types of pasta, many types of beans. There are special pairs that marry and complement well, but I haven’t yet found a match that didn’t work.

The inspiration for this dish came from a desire to use fewer dishes, hence cooking the beans & pasta together, albeit staggered, and also a trip to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho where my husband and I ate a fantastic meal at an unassuming restaurant. I have tried on a few occasions to replicate the creamy, dreamy, sagey beans I ate there as well as the hibiscus & lavender iced tea. It’s honestly extremely refreshing to have vegetarian options that are not a hummus platter, boring veggie sandwich, or some hobbled together side dishes.

Coincidentally, this week I did use Zero Waste Chef’s recipe for making fermented hibiscus soda and it is AMAZING. It also fermented so fast, I burped it on the second day and the contents shot out all over my ceiling and staircase. Kind of a disaster, but it’s my fault for leaving it in a room that was reaching 88F.

The sauce is simply minced garlic and sage leaves fried in some butter, then added olive oil. Nothing else is needed when ingredients are fresh, local, and high quality.

The sage is from my herb garden. The plant has been going strong for at least four years now! I like how the beans find themselves nestled into the pasta shells. It makes for a fun eating experience!

What you could use to make this dish:

Small white navy beans*

Pasta shells

Butter (or just olive oil)

Salt

Sage leaves

Garlic

*What I have been doing when soaking beans is to add salt to the soaking water so they are soaking in a brine rather than plain water and it increases the flavor of the beans exponentially. Soak overnight, then drain the brine.

Add beans to a pot with plenty of water and some more salt.

Cook until nearly tender, then add the pasta and cook until beans and pasta are both perfect textures. Overdone beans are much more pleasant than overdone pasta. Drain the water, then put back into the pan.

Chop garlic and add to a small sauce or frying pan with a pat of butter and the sage. Simmer for approximately 10 minutes, then add in some olive oil and heat until warm.

Top the bean and pasta mixture with the sage and butter sauce.

Enjoy!

Peace and love,

Kristan