DIY Orange Vinegar Cleaner + One Simple Change Giveaway

Happy Earth Day! It was gorgeous here in my neck of the woods today…I hope the same was true for you.

I have been interested in environmental issues for many, many years and the reason I called my site Healthy Green Kitchen is because I wanted there to be an focus on green living here. The same is true for my book my book One Simple Change: a good many of the chapters focus on green living because the book is about improving not just personal health, but planetary health, as well.

To celebrate the day, I want to share an easy recipe for an inexpensive DIY green cleaner; I also want to give a signed copy of One Simple Change to one of you!

It could not be simpler to make this citrus vinegar cleaner, and it’s a great natural alternative to store-bought household cleaning products. Use peels you save from eating oranges, or from using oranges in any recipe (such as this one for Orange Cardamom Curd). You can store the peels in a bag in the refrigerator until you have enough to fill whatever size glass jar you want to use. I used the peels from making fresh orange juice, which I do a few times a week: juicing oranges yield a lot of peels all at once (you can compost the extra ones). You could also make a vinegar cleaner with lemon, lime, or grapefruit peels instead (or use a combination).

orange peels_

Once you place your peels in your glass jar, cover them with white vinegar. Yes: cheap white vinegar. Vinegar is an all-natural, all-purpose cleaner that works well on many surfaces, including glass and wood, and the oils in the citrus peels boost the cleaning power further! (You can mix this cleaner with a bit of liquid soap for cleaning tiles, if you like.)

citrus cleaner_

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Why and How To Compost

Once a month, I feature a chapter from my book and partner with the folks from MightyNest on a related giveaway. This month, we’re focusing on why and how to compost! If you are a gardener, you likely know that compost is awesome, but even if you are not a gardener, you’ll be doing the earth a big favor if you start composting. So read on to learn why and how to compost, and you could win one of three counter top compost collectors to get you started!

how to compost | healthy green kitchen

Over 30% of the food that’s produced on Earth goes to waste. Discarded food usually ends up in landfills: It’s a major cause of avoidable carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Composting isn’t a solution to the problem of food waste, but it does keep kitchen and yard wastes out of landfills (plus it’s really wonderful for gardening). Composting is easy, especially if you’ve got some outdoor space: I hope to inspire you to get started with composting if it’s not something you already do.

I have been composting for many years, and believe it or not, I am still in awe of the process. I think it’s beyond cool that I can take organic matter from my kitchen and yard (plus other surprising places), put it in a pile, and watch it break down into something that I can then add back to my soil to benefit the plants that have yet to grow. That’s recycling at its finest as far as I am concerned.

Composting really is that simple; you are, after all, basically putting things into a pile to rot. But you know what? I don’t like describing a compost pile as a mound of rotting waste, because that makes it sound disgusting, and a compost pile isn’t disgusting at all.

There are basically two ways to compost: the hot way and the cool way. Cool composting is a slow process (it can take months to a year or more for it to break down). Hot composting speeds things up (your compost is typically finished in one or two months).

My method is more cool than hot. I have a compost pile made from my kitchen scraps, garden and yard clippings, and spent chicken bedding, and I keep adding material to the top of the pile whenever I have it. I keep a container for compost in my kitchen, where I collect all my fruit and veggie discards, eggshells, used tea bags, and coffee grounds. (It’s very tightly covered, which is so important, particularly in the summer, as it helps to avoid fruit flies.) I dump these on top of the pile every few days, and turn my pile with a pitchfork whenever I remember. (It’s really important to aerate your compost pile; if you find that your compost doesn’t smell good, it’s probably not properly aerated.) And I water the pile whenever it gets dry. In the winter, I add things to the pile just as in summer, but decomposition obviously slows to a halt when it’s very cold.

I like doing things this way because it’s easy and free. It doesn’t smell bad, and it does not attract unwanted critters (something a lot of people seem to worry about). Remember to never add meat, fish, or any kind of cooked animal food to your compost, though (if you do, you may indeed see some uninvited “guests”).

If you’ve never composted before, you might get frustrated with how long it takes, and you’ll probably be astounded when you see how little compost you actually end up with from what initially seemed like a big pile. But oh, how dark and glorious that compost will be, filled with nutrients and wiggling worms, which are so excellent for organic gardening.

If you’re not into the idea of having a compost pile because you think they are ugly, you don’t have the space, or you’re just impatient, you might want to try the hot approach, and buy a bin designed for composting. These are generally made from recycled plastic, and are widely available online and at large gardening centers. In my town, you can also purchase bins at the municipal recycling center. Using a compost bin definitely has some advantages: Turning the contents is easier, so you can do it frequently (yes!). Plus the bin has a lid, so the heat is contained (the hotter things become inside the bin, the sooner you will end up with finished compost that you can use).

If you don’t have a garden, and don’t see the point of composting, just think of how much less garbage you’ll make if you compost the suitable items instead. I am sure you can find a gardening friend who’d be happy to take your compost off your hands, or you could use it to enrich the soil of your potted indoor plants.

City apartment dwellers: You are probably thinking that this info is not for you, but I beg to differ. Look into urban composters for use indoors.

Features of a Successful Compost Pile

  • Your compost pile should be one-half to two-thirds “green”, and one-third to one-half “brown”.
  • The green material (high in nitrogen) can include grass clippings; green plant trimmings; young weeds (best to avoid weeds with seeds); bedding and manure from chickens, cows, and horses; and food scraps, including all raw fruit and veggie scraps, cooked grains, used organic tea bags and leaves, coffee grounds, and eggshells (but no meat, bones, dairy products, whole eggs, or oils). Avoid adding large amounts of cooked vegetables or fruit to your compost pile, but a little is just fine.
  • The brown material (high in carbon) can include raked leaves, straw, hay, waste paper and shredded junk mail, wood shavings, newspaper, and cardboard, including torn up pizza boxes and toilet paper rolls. (Somewhat surprising things you can compost include human and pet hair, dryer lint, and used tissues.)
  • For adequate heating, it is best to make a pile about 3 ft/0.9 m square. Water should be added to keep the pile as moist as a wrung-out sponge (use a hose). Keep it covered with a tarp if it’s raining a lot and the pile is getting too wet.
  • When building your pile, layer the greens and browns and add water to help jump-start their breakdown. Then keep an eye on the moisture level and turn the contents with a pitchfork every week or two to make sure it continues to decompose evenly. The more you turn the materials over and get things stirred up, the faster they will decompose.

Another option is to compost in a Worm Composter.

(Text adapted with permission from my book One Simple Change: Surprisingly Easy Ways to Transform Your Lifeby Winnie Abramson. Copyright 2013 by Chronicle Books.)

Do you already compost your kitchen waste or are you new to composting? To help you with the process, MightyNest will give three of my readers a Fresh Air countertop composting kit.

composterfront_

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Meyer Lemon Ricotta Bars

If you’ve been reading my site for some time, you likely know that I do not label the way I eat. I don’t follow any particular diet or identify with any particular eating strategy. I eat whole/real/nourishing foods the majority of the time but I also eat things that don’t fit these descriptors when I want them…I don’t exclude anything from my diet unless I don’t like it. This moderation approach works really, really well for me.

Recently my friend/writer extraordinaire Peter Barrett interviewed me about my book for a local publication called The Chronogram. He really captured what I am about- he called the piece The Moderator!- and I could not be more pleased with the article. I encourage you to read it here.

lemons | www.healthygreenkitchen.com
lemon bars | www.healthygreenkitchen.com

In other news, January was a rough month. It was cold and filled with a lot of bad news. I am hoping for warmer, happier days in February, and these Meyer Lemon Ricotta Bars symbolize that hope.

lemon ricotta bars | www.healthygreenkitchen.com

If super tart is what you seek in a lemon dessert, these may not be for you (try these lemon bars instead). Meyer lemons are sweeter than regular lemons and the ricotta cheese “mellows” these bars, so they won’t make you pucker up. They are bursting with lovely citrus flavor, though; you can find the recipe I used for inspiration over on food52. (The easy crust recipe comes from One Bowl Baking: Simple, From Scratch Recipes for Delicious Desserts.)

There is sugar in this recipe and as Peter wrote in the Chronogram article, my stance on sugar has really softened in recent years. Though I wrote in my book that it is best avoided, I currently eat sweet foods, such as these lemon bars, without any guilt or worry. Do I eat 5 of them at a time on an empty stomach? No. I cut them very small and eat one or two at a time after a meal. This is moderation in action. You can find my current thoughts on sugar in this post, if you’d like more clarification on this topic.

I sure hope your February is as lovely as these Lemon Ricotta Bars :)

lemon ricotta bars | www.healthygreenkitchen.com

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Healthy Water Intake + MightyNest Glass Water Bottle Giveaway

I am so pleased to share a special announcement today! I’ve partnered with my friends over at MightyNest, an online store specializing in natural, non-toxic products for the kitchen and home, on a series of giveaways you’ll be seeing here on the blog today and in the coming months. The giveaway items all align with topics I wrote about in my book One Simple Change. This really could not be a better fit!

As you may or may not know, One Simple Change is a compilation of 50 ways you can transform your diet, adjust your lifestyle, and overhaul your attitude in order to benefit your health and the health of our planet. The book has been out for a couple of months and I really love getting feedback from readers. One of the chapters people seem to be resonating with quite a bit is the one about drinking water first thing in the morning. So I’m going to excerpt the book a bit here in order to revisit the topic of healthy water intake.

Water First Thing from One Simple Change | Healthy Green Kitchen

Drinking water first thing is really simple to do, and it can really be beneficial. Why drink water first thing in the morning? Our bodies are more than 60 percent water and, unfortunately, this makes us quite prone to dehydration. You can be dehydrated even if you don’t feel thirsty. Having a glass of water first thing and then drinking more throughout the day will help you avoid health issues that may be related to dehydration. Eating foods that contain water (like raw fruits and vegetables) and drinking additional healthy liquids will help as well.

The benefits of drinking water in the morning go beyond the physical, though: I find that having a glass of water right after I wake up makes me feel as if I’ve kicked off the day on the right foot. Since I’ve done something good for myself first thing, I am more likely to continue to make healthy choices as the day goes on.

Know that not everyone needs to have eight 8-oz/240-ml glasses of water every day, though. We all have different needs for water intake based on our size, activity level, our climate, etc. I suggest consuming lots of fruits, vegetables, and healthy drinks, and listening to your body. Drink water when you are thirsty, and pay special attention to drinking more when exercising vigorously or spending time outside in heat. It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on your urine. When you are properly hydrated, it should be very light yellow (though certain vitamin supplements and vegetables like beets do color your urine, rendering it an unreliable indicator).

Avoid drinking water when what you are is hungry (to fill you up so you won’t eat a lot). That’s not useful and it may even be harmful. When you are hungry, your body needs food, not water. Not drinking enough water isn’t healthy, but guzzling glass after glass of water when you are not at all thirsty is not exactly a healthy habit, either! You can, indeed, drink too
 much water, and doing so may be dangerous: when you drink far more water than your body needs over a short period of time, you can dilute the concentration of sodium in your blood.

Water First Thing from One Simple Change | Healthy Green Kitchen

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Small Steps

Change. It’s something I think and talk about quite a bit. I even wrote a whole book on the subject :) Sometimes I hear from folks who wish to make some sort of change in their life. They tell me they’d really like to get from point “A” to point “B”. But they don’t know … Read more