Sunday, July 29, 2007

Bean Bonanza!

To start this day's post we have to delve into the primary costs of beans.
Around here we have many Amish dry goods and the like supposedly the most cost efficient stores. Most of the time all the prices are around normal ( i.e. baseline from the grocery store, seems a good benchmark ), or are drastically lower, yay. I began purchasing my bean mixes at the "country" store last year. I needed the beans as a cost limiting alternative for stocking up during the winter. Looking at the bean bag from the store I discover that the unit price of the bean mix is $ and the bag contains 1.99lb equaling $2.97. For months I have purchased this type of bean mix and have gleefully eaten it only placing some "meat" / ham base, instead of the required hock and other ingredients. once i found a stash of beans in my house i took a long look at what i was doing for daily food. All the beans were available from the local walmart at drastically reduced prices! Beans for the mix will range anywhere from $.50 per pound to the most expensive, usually large lima beans, at $1.25 per pound. This price difference seems to be only for the mixing and packaging of the beans in the mix. So, for a difference of at least $.24 per lb of beans I'll continue mixing my own. Besides its fun to feel all the beans up to your forearm and swish them around like a madman.

Yes, of course, an individual can live "solely" on pinto beans, however why not throw a mix together while you have the chance. Not only is it good for trading... Oh...look at the fancy colors. One could even take this recipe, layer the beans, enclose directions and give as a holiday present. to mix this recipe of beans together requires a massive bowl! I used a 5 gallon bucket from walmart. Beans will fill 1/2 of the bucket so be prepared. Again physics also prevails and all the lentils, split peas and the smaller beans go to the bottom of your mixing apparatus. When drawing from the bucket to fill your containers, make sure that you mix then draw from the bottom assuring that you have all the beans in a container. Not just the largest beans in the first container and the littlest beans in the last one.

Poor man’s meat?
At one time beans were called “poor man’s meat,” but the
sweeping interest in Mexican and Mediterranean food in
this country has taught us that beans are everybody’s food.

Folks on limited budgets should know that they can stretch their food pennies with a tasty, nutritious combination of pinto beans and corn. Such a diet is not the marginal bill of fare you might imagine, either. Rather, as generations of poor people throughout Mexico and the southwestern United States have proven, it can supply a fair amount of the body's daily requirements of vitamins and minerals and a goodly portion of the necessary proteins.

Neither beans nor corn alone, of course, is such a complete food . . . chiefly because neither is a complete protein. Beans, however, contain all the essential amino acids but one (methionine) . . . which just happens to be the amino acid that corn does have. Together, a mixture of two parts corn and one part beans is almost equal in protein quality to fresh milk. Add some fruits and vegetables to supply the vitamins and minerals that beans and corn lack and top with some real milk . . . and you've got a fairly well-balanced diet that is both tasty and very economical. The further addition of fresh wheat germ and an occasional egg should round this menu off a lot closer to nutritionally perfect than the "average" American diet without raising the total cost too many pennies.

Both beans and corn can be dried and kept for long periods of time with very little loss of flavor or nutritional value. Drying is a handy method of preserving the foods because the process reduces 100 pounds of either to only about 10 pounds

After the beans have matured and dried on the vine they should be shelled, placed on the drying racks and heated to 165-180° F. for 10 to 15 minutes. This will destroy any insect eggs in the beans. If you don't want to build trays, spread the beans on a flat baking pan and put them in the oven. The beans are dry enough when they no longer stick together after you squeeze a few in your hand, or when a single bean can be pressed without moisture coming to the surface. Remove the beans from heat and let them cool.

Dried sweet corn can be used in many delightful and economical soups, breads, casseroles and stews. Select freshly gathered ears in the milk stage, ready for table use. Blanch the corn by wrapping the ears in a piece of cheesecloth or placing them in a wire basket or similar porous container, and plunging them into boiling water for 8-12 minutes to set the milk. Blanching gives the corn a thorough cleaning, removes objectionable flavors and odors, kills bacteria and softens and loosens the fiber to allow quicker and more uniform evaporation of moisture during drying. Do not blanch longer than the prescribed time or color will be lost, the starch will partially cook to a paste and—worst of all—some of the valuable nutrients will dissolve out. After blanching, drain the corn well and slice off the rows of kernels with a sharp knife. Spread the corn one layer deep on a drying rack or put it in a pan in a 130° F. oven. Gradually raise the temperature to 140° F. while stirring frequently. When the corn is hard and semi-transparent remove it from the trays and let it cool.

When the dry beans and corn have cooled, place them in milk cartons (the wax coating makes these cartons great for storage) or some other light and insect-proof boxes, bags or cans. The containers should not be completely air-tight since the corn and beans must be allowed to "breathe" as they continue to dry in the cans.

Both beans and corn should be conditioned daily for the first 10-14 days after drying. Keep the containers open and covered only with clean, dry cloth during this time, and stir the dried products or pour them from container to container regularly. When no change in moisture content has been observed for several days, the food is ready for permanent storage.

After conditioning, the dried corn and beans may be sealed in the containers and stored for long periods of time if kept warm, dry, well-ventilated and protected from insects and rodents. Check the boxes, cans and/or bags from time to time and—if any dampness is found—remove the contents, dry them in a warm oven and return the corn and beans to the containers.

Approximately three to five cups of water must be added to a recipe for every cup of dried corn or beans. Before using the dried corn, cover it with water and soak the kernels until they are swollen. Add enough water to cover the swelled kernels (if necessary), put in a bit of honey or sugar and bring the corn to a boil. Then turn the heat down and cook the corn slowly until it's almost tender. Salt, pepper and butter to taste and finish cooking. Dried corn may also be run through a food chopper and added to soups at the same time that onions and carrots are dropped into the boiling water.

Holiday Bean Soup Mix
1 pound dried black beans
1 pound dried red beans
1 pound dried kidney beans
1 pound dried navy beans
1 pound dried great northern beans
1 pound dried baby lima beans
1 pound dried large lima beans
1 pound dried pinto beans
1 pound dried green split peas
1 pound dried yellow split peas
1 pound dried black-eyed peas
1 pound dried green lentils
1 pound dried brown lentils

Combine beans in a very large bowl. Pour two cups of bean mix into pretty jars ( 16-oz.) jars holds two cups of bean mix. Give with the following recipe for holiday bean soup.

You could also layer the beans in the jar for prettier effect. Just put a little of each of the beans in until you fill it to the top.

Attach To Jar:
Holiday Bean Soup

Beans from jar
1 smoked ham hock
2 cans ( 14.5 oz each ) stewed tomatoes
1 medium onion chopped
1 clove garlic minced
1 bay leaf
6 cups water
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin seed

Cover beans with water and soak overnight. Drain beans and place in a stockpot. Add ham hoc, tomatoes, onion, garlic, bay leaf and 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, cover & simmer 1 hour or until beans are tender. Remove bay leaf before serving.
Serve warm. Makes 11 cups of soup.

Pinto beans can be prepared in a variety of mouth-watering ways. They should always be cooked a long time at a low temperature (that's the secret of making them tasty). An earthenware pot is best for this cooking method but a metal kettle can also be used with success.

2 cups beans
10 cups water (approx.)
4 tablespoons bacon fat or 1 cup diced salt pork
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder salt to taste

Pick rocks, seed or bad beans from the pintos. Wash and cover with water and let the beans soak overnight. If the pintos haven't been soaked, put them over heat, bring to a boil, cover, turn off heat and let the beans sit for one hour before continuing with the cooking process. Add sugar and garlic to the pintos, place them over heat, cover and simmer. Throw in some bacon fat or a chunk of salt pork after the beans have cooked at least a half hour and add enough boiling water during cooking to keep the pintos covered. Depending on altitude and water softness, the total cooking time will be three to six hours. Add paprika and chili powder when the pintos are about half done and, after they've become tender, add salt and cook 15 to 20 minutes or until the seasoning has cooked into the beans and the juice has slightly thickened.

2 cups mashed beans
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon chili powder

Mash beans with a fork and add cornmeal, salt, flour and chili powder. Stir well. Add the chopped onion and mix until well blended. If the mixture is too dry, thin it with bean juice or a small amount of water. Heat a skillet and grease it with bacon drippings. When the pan is hot, drop in the bean mixture by the spoonful and mash each cake flat with a spoon. Brown and serve.

Melt about three teaspoons of bacon fat for each cup of leftover beans (the fat keeps the beans from losing their flavor). Add a little flour and some chopped onions or hot chili peppers to the pintos and spoon them into the hot grease. Grated cheese may be melted into the beans just before they're taken off the fire. Serve piping hot.

2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 cup flour
3 tablespoons bacon drippings
2 eggs
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups milk
3 teaspoons baking powder

Measure cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a bowl and stir. Add milk, mix well, add eggs and beat thoroughly. Stir in the bacon drippings and beat again until well blended. Melt two tablespoons of fat in a heated cast iron skillet, pour the batter into the hot pan and place it in a 400° F. oven. Cook about 40 minutes, or until the cornbread is lightly browned on top. If thinner, crustier bread is desired, divide the batter into two skillets and bake it about 25 minutes.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Oral Hygiene in a SitX

Oral Hygiene in a SitX

Most of us drudge to the store to purchase the brand of dentifrice which we grew up on, either weekly, monthly, or other. Todays blog will be telling the tale of humble toothpaste and how to acquire it from common stock come crunch time.

A little history first...
The early history and evolution of the toothbrush has its origin in the "chewingsticks" used by the Babylonians as early as 3500 BC. Ancient Greek and Roman literature even discusses primitive toothpicks that were chewed on to help clean the teeth and mouth.

As the years passed, toothpicks matured into the chew stick which was about the size of a modern pencil. One end was chewed into and became softened and brush-like while the opposite end was pointed and used as a pick to clean food and debris from between the teeth. The twigs used were carefully chosen from aromatic trees that had the ability to clean and freshen the mouth. The earliest literature showing the use of these twigs is found in Chinese literature at around 1600 BC.

The first true bristled toothbrush also originated in China at around 1600 AD. At around 1780, the first toothbrush was made by William Addis of Clerkenald, England. Addis, and later, his descendants, manufactured the finest English brushes, where the handles were carved out of the bone of cattle and the heads of the natural bristles were placed in the bored holes made in the bone and kept in place by thin wire. The natural bristles were obtained from the necks and shoulders of swine, especially from pigs living in colder climates like Siberia and China.

By the early 1800s the bristled brushes were in general use in Europe and Japan. In 1857, H. N. Wadsworth was credited as the first American to receive a toothbrush patent as America entered the growing toothbrush market. In 1844, the first toothbrush was manufactured by hand and patented as a 3-row brush of serrated bristles with larger tufts by Dr. Meyer L. Rhein. In 1885, the Florence Manufacturing Company of Massachusetts, in association with Dr.Rhein, began producing the Pro-phy-lac-tic brush for mass marketing in the United States.

As technology progressed, synthetic bristles replaced the natural swine bristles. Nylon was first applied to the toothbrush at around 1938 and by 1939, electric toothbrushes arrived in an attempt to offer the public a brush that could simulate the action of a manual brush but with better results and cleaning performance.

Hard to believe, but most Americans didn't brush their teeth until soldiers brought the Army's enforced habit back home from World War II. The first real electric toothbrush was produced in 1939, developed in Switzerland. The electrical toothbrush was first marketed in the United States in 1960 by Squibb. The brush was called the Broxodent. General Electric introduced a rechargeable cordless toothbrush in 1961. Interplak was the first rotary action electrical toothbrush for home use, introduced in 1987.

Keep Your Teeth Clean with a Chew Stick.
Thoroughly clean your mouth and teeth with a toothbrush at least once each day. If you don't have a toothbrush, make a chewing stick. Find a twig about 20 centimeters long and 1 centimeter wide. Chew one end of the stick to separate the fibers. Now brush your teeth thoroughly. Another way is to wrap a clean strip of cloth around your fingers and rub your teeth with it to wipe away food particles. You can also brush your teeth with small amounts of sand, baking soda, salt, or soap. Then rinse your mouth with water, salt water, or willow bark tea. Also, flossing your teeth with string or fiber helps oral hygiene.

If you have cavities, you can make temporary fillings by placing candle wax, tobacco, aspirin, hot pepper, tooth paste or powder, or portions of a ginger root into the cavity. Make sure you clean the cavity by rinsing or picking the particles out of the cavity before placing a filling in the cavity.

Over the centuries individuals have been trying different substances for “tooth-cleaning”. People have found some that have made their teeth and gums look and feel better. Some very beneficial combinations have been formulated without any understanding of the therapeutic properties of the ingredients used.

In the material that follows I have tried to provide a little insight into the therapeutic potential of some of these substances. Properly used they equal and often surpass the formulations found in many commercial dentifrices. They many not be as tasty or as convenient to use, but they can be far superior therapeutically.

Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)
a product used for many years by itself or in combination with other ingredients has several excellent properties. As a soft crystalline substance that dissolves readily, it has a mild abrasive potential. In solution it will kill on contact all of the motile microorganisms associated with periodontal infections, e.g. spirochetes, motile rods, etc. It will also kill other disease related bacteria. It will also neutralize and detoxify the bacterial acids and toxins that form in plaques (bacterial biofilms). I would put this inexpensive, readily available, product at the very top of the list of potentially beneficial dentifrice-ingredients.

Sodium chloride (table salt)
Like baking soda, salt has been used for many years as a dentifrice, alone or in combination. When used alone it is rather stingy and unless milled, rather grainy. It is not highly abrasive, contrary to some opinions. In solution at higher concentrations it will kill on contact all motile microorganisms associated with periodontal infections. However, its antibacterial potential, while good, is not as powerful as that of sodium bicarbonate, and it will not detoxify bacterial byproducts. In higher concentrations it will reduce edema in the gingival tissues and stimulate circulation.


Glycerin has an antibacterial potential, which is not well recognized. When living bacterial dental plaque is examined with a phase contrast microscope, all of the motile microorganisms (spirochetes, amoebae, motile rods, tricohmonads, etc) can be seen actively moving about. If a drop of glycerin is add to the solution in which the bacterial are living, all motility instantly ceases. In the scientific literature some of the antibacterial properties of glycerin have been described.

Hydrogen peroxide.

When hydrogen peroxide comes into contact with dentobacterial plaques, it breaks down very rapidly into oxygen and water. This breakdown, which causes the foaming action, is caused by an enzyme (catalase). This foaming action does two things: It helps to disorganize and disperse the bacterial biofilms growing on tooth surfaces, and it reveals places where bacteria are located. When used as an ingredient in dentifrices, it has little, if any, bactericidal action. It breaks down too rapidly.


Vinegar is another product that has been used for dental hygiene for many years. A half strength solution of vinegar (apple cider for taste) will pickle all of the motile bacteria mentioned above, and it will help to dissolve deposits of calculus. For persons whose dental hygiene does not reduce the buildup of bacterial plaques adequately, some of this buildup may harden into calculus. Brushing several time a week with a vinegar solution can help to prevent calculus formation.

Cranberry juice
Unsweetened cranberry juice can be used as mouthwash and as a solution for brushing one's teeth. It will kill all motile bacteria on contact and help to disintegrate plaques. Since it is somewhat acidic, probably it should not be used more then a few times a week. It is pleasant to use and can be swallowed. This juice can be used as a rinse and then swallowed. Brushing the teeth with cranberry juice leaves the teeth and mouth feeling very fresh and clean. After brushing one can rinse again and expectorate or swallow the juice. For the care of handicapped persons who cannot manage conventional oral hygiene measures, this could be a pleasant solution for caregivers to use. It is tasty and can be swallowed.

Neutrogena Soap (unscented)
About 25 years ago a dentist on the West Coast called my attention to the use of unscented Neutrogena soap as an ingredient in a homemade dentifrice. When a solution of this soap comes into contact with the motile microorganisms in plaques all motility ceases rapidly. To use, rub dry or moisten bristles over a bar of this soap. The unscented type tastes soapy. The scented tastes awful.

Weak solution of sodium hypochlorite (e.g. Clorox)
One teaspoon in a pint of water provides a very powerful irrigation solution (DO NOT INGEST). The taste is very unpleasant, but it can be very beneficial in the maintenance-regimen for persons who have been treated for periodontal diseases. Brushing the teeth with baking soda after using this solution will rapidly neutralize its taste. Then one can rinse with a pleasant tasting mouthwash.

There are numerous ways the ingredients mentioned above may be used alone or in combination. With their antibacterial potentials they can be very beneficial therapeutically, if properly applied to tooth surfaces and gingival crevices. They will help to control the bacterial populations that cannot be removed mechanically with irrigation, brushing, flossing, or tooth picking.

Now to combine it all...
Tooth powder recipes.

Basic Homemade Toothpowder:
  • 4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon flavoring (vanilla, almond or peppermint extract)
  • Air-tight container ( This is a must! The flavoring will evaporate without it. )
Mix the ingredients together. Be sure to cover the container with a tight-fitting lid after each use.

Homemade Mint Toothpaste:
  • 6 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons glycerin
  • 15 drops peppermint
Mix thoroughly. Should be a tooth paste consistency.
You can add a few drops of peppermint or wintergreen for flavor.
Store in a container. You'll be surprised with how fresh your mouth feels.

One can even reuse a toothpaste container for this one.
Cut out the seal in the rear of the tube.
Rinse out the old tube.
Fill with your new toothpaste concoction!

Old Fashioned Tooth Powder:
  • 2 Tbsp dried lemon or orange rind
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 2 Tsp salt
Place rinds in food processor, grind until peel becomes a fine powder.
Add baking soda and salt then process a few seconds more until you have a fine powder.
Store in an airtight tin or jar.
Dip moistened toothbrush into mixture, brush as usual.
Homemade Spearmint Mouthwash:
  • 6 ounces water
  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 4 teaspoons liquid glycerine
  • 1 teaspoon aloe vera gel
  • 10-15 drops Spearmint essential oil
Boil water and vodka, add glycerine and aloe vera gel.
Remove from the heat, let cool slightly.
Add spearmint oil, shake well.
Pour into bottle, cap tightly.

Baking Soda Mouthwash:

  • 2 ounces of Water.
  • 1/4 Teaspoon of baking soda or Sea Salt.
  • 1 drop of Pure Peppermint Oil.
  • 1 drop of Tea Tree oil.

Mix thoroughly.
Pour into bottle, cap tightly.
Hygiene can fortify an individual when humanities comforts are few.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Recycle that Brita Filter

Clean waters are something we all desire, but at what cost? Currently we use the Brita on-tap water filtration system. We have used this type of system for several years without any type of problems. These units are reasonable in price, about $32.99 for the unit and one filter. Where the price jumps up to bite you is in the cost of the replacement filters,about $34.99 for 2. That's $17.50 per filter, or $.17 per gallon of water. The manufacturer rates these filters for 100 gallons,including a 3 - 5 gallon burn in time to activate the charcoal.

After religiously replacing the filter when the little red light went on, I thought to myself. Why am I throwing away this seemingly good filter? The water tastes fine, and its still clear. As it turns out there is a way to reuse the filter when the tap unit says it is dead. In the directions it states to leave the old filter off for over 3-5 minutes. This allows the unit ( called a "memo" ) to reset its timer for the replacement filter. So instead of putting on a new filtration unit just replace the old one.
Presto another 100 gallons!
Directly from Brita Central
How long will my BRITA tap water filter cartridge last?

The tap water filter has been designed to last for an average of 3 months*. The traffic light system reminds you when the cartridge is expiring. When the cartridge is nearly exhausted the light will turn from green to amber to remind you to get your new cartridge ready. Once the cartridge has completely expired the light will go red to let you know that it is no longer working and needs to be replaced.

* Based on average usage/500 litres or 3 months. Whichever comes first.
Considering that we use the filter only to remove the sulfur smell from the water, I take that as the signifying marker of when to replace the unit.

Health concerns...
Reusing a water filter is solely up to you! If at anytime there is an unusual smell or leaking around the faucet replace the filter immediately!!! The smell could be bacteria malingering in the unit. The leak could indicate a sediment buildup. In either case immediate replacement is recommended. I try to use a filter four times before discarding it, gaining an extra mile out of the filters which are only recommended for replacement every three months. Knocking my cost per gallon down to $.04.
Water in its purist form feeds the mind, as well as the body.