Day 75–Toxic Free Pest Control

Ok, my house is finally clean and I’m ready to take on pest control without the use toxic chemicals. Most commercially available pest sprays are neurotoxins that work by destroying the central nervous system of bugs–and pretty much all other living things. Although I don’t have a toddler anymore, it still doesn’t seem like a great idea to spray neurotoxins throughout my house.

Thanks to Toxic Free NC, we have some recipes for neurotoxin-free pest control. We will give these a try this spring and summer and report back on our experience. With our exceptionally warm winter and early spring, I expect we will have a bumper crop of bugs this year, so good to get prepared now!

NOTE: Most of these recipes use borax or boric acid. This powder is safe to handle, but inhaling it in large amounts can irritate the respiratory tract, so keep open containers of powder away from pets and children.

Ant Bait

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 tsp borax
  • 3-6 small screw-top jars (baby food jars would work well)
  • Cotton balls
  1. Mix all ingredients together and divide the mixture evenly among the jars.
  2. Loosely pack the jars with cotton balls.
  3. Screw the jar lids on and seal with tape.
  4. Poke holes in the jar lids and place jars on their sides near where ants are entering the house.

Roach Balls (this elicited much laughter from my daughter–always good to know body humor is still in fashion)

  • 1 cup borax
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp. water
  1. Make a paste of all ingredients and roll into little balls.
  2. Place 2-3 balls in a sandwich bag and leave open.
  3. Put the bags wherever you have a problem with roaches. They will eat the balls and carry them to their nests where they will die.

Herbal Insect Repellent (Do not use if you are pregnant)

  • 15 drops lavender oil
  • 15 drops tea tree oil
  • 10 drops citronella oil
  • 10 drops eucalyptus oil
  • 10 drops cedarwood oil
  1. In a small bottle, mix the essential oils with about one ounce of unscented skin oil (you could use almond oil, olive oil or a massage oil).
  2. Apply to skin as needed.

For more information and recipes, go to http://www.toxicfreenc.org

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Day 56–Warm, Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes

Pancakes being cooked on a griddle.

A reader recently asked what we do for breakfast. I spend a lot of time blogging about our dinners, but nothing about breakfast (but see our smoothie recipe from Day 53). Typically, our breakfast involves toasted Ezekiel bread w/local apple butter, a bagel or, my tween’s favorite, homemade pancakes. Actually, our dog and cat love pancakes so much that they turn into little pancake lunatics when they smell them cooking. This past week, we had our one and only “snow” delay of the winter. It was so nice to make a fresh batch of pancakes, a pot of coffee and watch the 1/4″ of snow on the ground. Almost as cozy as a real winter.

Barring the rare snow delay, our morning schedule is pretty rushed (we are all out the door at 7:00 a.m.). There is no way this mom is making fresh pancakes every morning at 5:30 a.m. Fortunately, pancakes freeze well and warm in the microwave in just a few seconds. So, 30 minutes in the kitchen on Sundays makes for an entire week’s worth of hot, warm breakfast. Here is our recipe for whole wheat buttermilk pancakes that are much more nutritious and delicious than the frozen toaster variety you can buy in the grocery. While the first side of the pancakes cook, you can add fresh fruit, wheat germ or (if you’re feeling indulgent) chocolate chips. When I’m feeling like super mom, I even warm the syrup up for a few seconds in the microwave. YUM!

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or whole wheat all-purpose flour)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. organic sugar
  • 1 1/4 c. Maple View Farm buttermilk (or any good quality buttermilk)
  • 1/2 c. organic milk
  • 1 large farm egg
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • Pure maple syrup
  1. Combine dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, soda, salt, sugar) in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Combine milk, buttermilk and egg in a medium bowl. Add the melted butter and mix.
  3. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until moist.
  4. Spray a large skillet or griddle with cooking spray and heat to medium.
  5. When skillet is hot, ladle about 1/4 cup of batter into skillet for each pancake.
  6. Cook until golden brown (about 3 minutes). Sprinkle the raw side of the pancake with fruit, wheat germ or chocolate chips, if you like.
  7. Flip each pancake with a spatula and cook until golden brown. This could be 1-2 minutes, depending on your stove and pan.
  8. Keep pancakes warm on a plate in a 200 degree oven or just serve ’em up as they come off the skillet.
  9. Serve immediately with real maple syrup.
  10. Recoat your skillet with non-stick spray as needed and continue cooking until batter is gone.

For freezing and reheating:

If you are going to freeze these, cool pancakes completely on a cooling rack.

Pack in a freezer safe storage container, putting a sheet of wax paper between pancake so they don’t freeze together.

When ready to reheat, take however many pancake you want and wrap them in paper towel.

Put the towel wrapped pancakes on a microwave safe plate and heat for 30 seconds-1 minute. Start with 30 seconds and if that is not enough, heat in 10 second increments until pancakes are hot.

Serve to your family, making sure they take note of your super parent status.

Day 6–The Winter Farmer’s Market, Part 1

The winter farmer's market still has plenty to offer!

Assumptions. I know better than to make them, yet I still do. In my mind, the winter farmer’s market was a place of leftover collard greens, cabbage and sweet potatoes. Sad. Lonely. Bereft of good eats. I should just give up and head to the grocery store, right? Wrong!

I decided to check my assumptions at the door and visit the State Farmer’s Market on my lunch hour yesterday. I am so glad I did!

Not only was the State Farmer’s Market busy, but I was really amazed at the variety of fresh vegetables and fruit (apples) that were still available. Thanks to a very mild winter (at least in NC), farmers are still growing and harvesting white potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes (mostly locally grown hothouse), salad greens, turnips, kale, spinach, green peppers, apples, fresh beans, broccoli, collard greens, beets and more. And the prices were definitely lower than the grocery stores on just about everything.

Wilmington-based Scott Smith of Heaven On Earth Organics

I was glad to find Scott Smith of Heaven On Earth organic farm at the market. He was awesome! He and his wife have a farm outside of Wilmington and they love organic farming. Farmer Scott let me taste test my way though his vegetable stand so I could discover the difference between dino kale and curly kale (dino kale is thicker and spicier), how turnip greens with a little bit of yellow (from frost) are sweeter than the bright green leaves (the frost brings the sugar to the tips of the leaves) and more.

In the end, I did buy vegetables, including the dino kale (the name alone makes it interesting). Scott suggested that the dino kale makes terrific kale chips, something I had heard of, but hadn’t tried before. OH. MY. GOODNESS. They were devoured by my family and my pre-teen daughter (who eats vegetables grudgingly) decided they were amazing. Light, crispy and salty, these are the perfect antitode to potato chips. The recipe is below.

Kale Chips! Crunchy little antioxidant chips--howgreatisthat?

  • 1 bunch fresh kale (we used dino kale, but any kind would work)
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. vinegar (we used balsamic)
  • Kosher salt to taste (we used about 1 Tbsp.)
  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
  2. Wash and dry the kale.
  3. Cut off the lower woody stems and compost.
  4. Cut the kale into pieces about the size of potato chips (2-4″ or so).
  5. In a bowl (or a plastic bag, if you don’t want your hands oily) put the chopped kale and add 1 Tbsp of the olive oil.
  6. Toss the greens with the oil until leaves are covered. (If you use the bag, massage the bag until the leaves are covered).
  7. Add the vinegar and toss again to coat.
  8. If needed, add the remaining Tbsp. olive oil (depending on the thickness of the leaves, you might not need this).
  9. Carefull place leaves on an oven safe baking rack or on a cookie sheet (I used a rack). Don’t overlap leaves.
  10. Sprinkle leaves with salt.
  11. Put rack/baking sheet in the oven and roast leaves for 20-30 minutes (this will depend on how thick your leaves are, so check on them after 20 min.)
  12. Remove from oven and enjoy immediately!

Next post, local meat producers at the farmer’s market!