Your guide to preserving, storing and canning food

April 30, 2020 by  
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If you’ve stepped foot in a grocery store or filled an Instacart recently, you know there are a variety of items that are in low supply. In fact, butter and sweet pepper shortages appear to be a sign of these very uncertain coronavirus times. So whether you’re looking for ways to preserve what you already have in the house or are setting goals to be better about reducing food waste in the future, we’ve got some pointers regarding the proper way to save everything from milk to peaches so you can enjoy them down the road.  Freezer  Your freezer is a golden opportunity to store ripening fruit and wilting greens . If you fear your container of strawberries, mango, or pineapple is a day away from passing its prime, cut it into cubes and put it on a cookie sheet. Flash freeze the cubes and then transfer them to a freezer safe bag. Use fruit in smoothies, compote, or pies later on. Avocados can be frozen in peeled halves or mash them and store in a bag or container to use for guacamole at a later date.  Related: Use texture, height and variety to create pizzazz in your small garden this fall Some dairy products can also be stored in the freezer, although it may change the consistency a bit. Butter can go directly in, boxes or plastic and all. Milk can be repackaged or frozen whole. It will expand, but that’s what those divots on the sides of the container are for, really. Cheese also stores well, but maintains a better texture if grated first. Be sure to package tightly and remove air before freezing.  Vegetables and freezers make great partners. Some foods first need to be blanched in order to start the cooking process. This simply means steaming or boiling them for a few minutes before cooking and prepping in containers or bags for the freezer. Blanch asparagus, broccoli, leafy greens, okra, peas, summer squash, brussel sprouts, artichoke hearts, and cauliflower . Blanching times range from one to six minutes. Some sources will tell you to also blanch corn, sweet peppers, onions, and tomatoes, but it’s not really necessary. Garlic bulbs can be frozen with or without the skin. A note: the purpose of blanching is to break down the enzymes that cause decay. While unblanched frozen food is safe to eat, the consistency and/or color may suggest otherwise.  To prepare for freezing, remove the core from tomatoes, then cut and place into a freezer safe bag. Peel and cut onions before freezing. You can combine onions with a variety of colored sweet peppers for an instant fajita mixture.  Pickling Pickling is a fermentation process that has been around for generations. It’s simple to do, although some processes are fast and others require patient observation while the process takes place. Pickle red and yellow onion, cucumbers, zucchini, carrots, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes and other favorite veggies by first cleaning and cutting into slices or spears.  One technique is called quick pickling. This results in a snackable product in just a few days, but lacks the deeply pickled taste of long-fermentation. Combine equal parts vinegar (any type) and water. You can add herbs, spices, garlic, or ginger to create unique flavor profiles. For a combination of one cup water to one cup vinegar, add one tablespoon kosher salt or two teaspoons pickling sale and an optional one tablespoon of table sugar. Boil the mixture until the dry ingredients dissolve. Stuff vegetables into clean canning jars and top with the boiling liquid, filling within ½ inch of the top. Seal with a lid and refrigerate. Wait a minimum of 48 hours before opening. The longer they sit, the fuller the flavor will be.  To ferment the traditional way, use a large crock or other container that can be out of your kitchen circulation for a few weeks. There are many, many recipes for different foods and flavors but the basic process is again to prep foods by cleaning and disposing of end pieces . Slice in the shape you prefer. Then make a brine with water, acidic vinegar, and salt. Combine in the crock and let them sit a few weeks. Once fermented, pack into jars. Different foods call for different processing times, but typically range from 15-30 minutes.  Canning Canning foods is an excellent preservation technique. Many vegetables can be made in a pressure cooker or instant pot. To can green beans, for example, select fresh beans. You will need one to three pounds per quart jar. Blanch and then cut them into bite-size pieces. Pack them into hot jars, add salt, and cover with hot water. Release trapped air from the jar and leave about an inch of space at the top. Place the jars into a pressure cooker and follow directions to create the proper amount of cooking pressure based on your model. Use caution when handling hot items.  Fruits, jams and tomatoes are processed in a simple water bath and create a plethora of food options with no waste . When your tomatoes go crazy at the end of summer, you can also make a variety of sauces to get you through the winter. Try salsa, marinara sauce, ketchup, bbq sauce, tomato sauce, tomato paste, etc. All of these items are cooked in a pot and then added to hot, sterile jars. Wipe the top of the jar with a clean cloth and seal with lid and ring immediately. Then submerge into a water bath for the recommended amount of time. The process is similar for peaches, pears, jams, and applesauce, with a bit of variation in the preparation. You can even make apple pie filling and can it to reheat and serve over ice cream or add to a pie crust during the upcoming months.  Proper Storage Even if you don’t plan to process your food, you can make it last longer with proper storage. Hearty onions can be stored for ten months or more in the proper conditions. The ideal location is a cellar or shed that maintains a temperature of around 40 degrees F. Also stored in a cool, dark location, garlic will store for several months. For both foods, be sure they are properly cured (dried) before storage. Potatoes can also join the cold and dark party where they should remain fresh for at least three months.  Images via Source Name 

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Your guide to preserving, storing and canning food

Solar-powered hotel on Grand Cayman features turtle-friendly lighting

April 30, 2020 by  
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Thankfully, the world is coming around to the fact that eco-friendly travel doesn’t have to mean sacrificing comfort or luxury. As one of Kimpton’s latest sustainable properties, Kimpton’s Seafire Resort + Spa is leading the way for travelers who want to enjoy gorgeous locations while doing their part to protect the environment. Located on the beautiful Grand Cayman, the eco-resort was built with several green features, including solar power , LED lighting, recycled building materials, native plants and even turtle-friendly lighting. Located on Grand Cayman’s Seven Mile Beach, the green hotel is the first of the Kimpton hotels built beyond the continental U.S. Perched on a slope overlooking the crystal-blue sea, the luxury property features 264 guestrooms, three distinct dining destinations, an 8,500-square-foot spa and two seaside pools all surrounded by gorgeous gardens. Related: Solar-powered eco hotel in Portugal offers surfers ocean views from green-roofed bungalows Although the aesthetics and the amenities of the beautiful hotel are sure to delight guests during their stay, it is really the hotel’s sustainable profile that makes the property stand out. While it is still considered a challenge to equip large hotel properties with proper eco-friendly features, the Seafire Resort manages to pack a punch when it comes to sustainability. In addition to using a 100,000-watt solar array to generate electricity, the hotel was built with several eco-friendly materials meant to reduce its impact. For example, guests walking or riding along the eco-resort’s many biking and walking trails will be happy to know that they are treading on a path made entirely out of recycled glass , which, according to the hotel, has diverted millions of glass bottles from local landfills. Additionally, the ample green spaces were planted with 32,000 individual plants , all native to the island and sourced from a local nursery. The gardens are irrigated through the hotel’s integral rainwater harvesting system. As part of its dedication to local wildlife, the hotel also boasts turtle-friendly lighting to prevent disrupting sea turtles’ journeys from land to sea during nesting season. The common areas and the guests rooms are all equipped with LED lighting. Additionally, small but effective measures have been put in place to help guests share in the responsibility of being more energy-efficient . Most of the guest rooms include private balconies, but as soon as the doors are opened, the geothermal air conditioning automatically shuts down, avoiding energy loss. + SB Architects Via Interior Design Images via Kimpton Seafire Resort and Spa

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Solar-powered hotel on Grand Cayman features turtle-friendly lighting

A light-filled home in India embraces indoor-outdoor living

April 30, 2020 by  
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A constant connection to nature pervades the Home by the Park, a newly completed single-family residence that faces a park in the South Indian city of Hubballi. Bangalore-based practice 4site architects designed the house to engage views of the adjacent park from multiple floors and vantage points, while bringing the lush greenery indoors with the creation of a rain courtyard and landscaped terraces. The abundant plantings not only give the house a sense of tranquility but also create a cooling microclimate to counteract the region’s tropical climate . Commissioned by a nature-loving family, the Home by the Park adheres to the teachings of Vastu Shastra, a traditional Indian system of architecture that champions the integration of architecture with nature and recommends spatial arrangements to improve the flow of positive energy. Located on a linear east-facing plot, the Vastu-compliant home spans 7,050 square feet across three floors, with the bottom-most floor partly buried into the earth because of the 3-foot change in elevation between the east and west sides. Related: Recycled shipping container cafe utilizes passive cooling in India To visually connect the home to the adjacent park to the east, the architects inserted three gardens — the elevated front garden, the central rain courtyard and the rear private garden — so that all of the main rooms in the home enjoy access to nature. The centrally located rain courtyard is a double-height space open to the sky that serves as a light well and connects to the living areas on all floors. In addition to a variety of seasonal plants that provide year-round interest, the rain courtyard also features a sculptural fountain with a waterfall feature and has become haven for birds that nest in the trees and shrubs. The driveway, garage, storage room and home theater are located on the lowest floor. The next floor comprises the main living areas, including an expansive kitchen split into wet and dry sections; a guest en suite with a living room that connects to the rear garden; dining area; the master en suite bedroom; and the prayer room located opposite the rain courtyard. The top floor houses three additional bedrooms, a family living room, an outdoor terrace and a U-shaped walkway that provides views into the rain courtyard.  + 4site architects Photography by Petrichor Image Labs via 4site architects

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How to cook dry beans

April 23, 2020 by  
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The time has come. You’ve cooked everything in the fridge, anything halfway palatable in the freezer and cupboard, and the only thing standing between you and a pandemic panic trip to the grocery store is that forgotten bag of dried chickpeas. Or maybe  coronavirus  has decimated your paycheck and you’re trying to stretch those food dollars farther than they’ve ever stretched before. Dried beans and peas are the answer. They’re inexpensive and full of protein and nutrients. And now that we’re sheltering in place, there’s plenty of time to cook them. Dried beans 101 One of the reasons that people avoid cooking dried beans is that they don’t provide instant gratification. Instead, you need to plan ahead. The first step is sorting through your beans , peas or lentils to pick out rocks. Yes, rocks. Don’t skip this step because nobody wants to make an emergency dentist trip right now. Well, ever. But especially not now. You can shake your beans into in a colander a small handful at a time, or spread them out on a cookie sheet and look for any non-beans hiding in their midst. Once you’ve sorted out any rocks or withered or discolored beans, rinse those remaining in your colander. Next comes soaking. This step is somewhat controversial. Proponents say soaking removes sugars from the beans, making them less gassy and decreasing cooking times. Other people say this step is overrated and not so effective. Still, with the pandemic forcing people to spend so much time at home, an overnight soak can’t hurt. The beans are going to swell up, so add two or three times as much  water  as beans. When you’re ready to use the beans, drain and rinse. You can feed the bean water to your  plants . Getting started So, which beans should you cook? That depends on what dishes you want to make or, in these times, which beans you can find. My nearest and least crowded neighborhood store is a big  Korean  market. So the pandemic has me experimenting with adzuki and mung beans for the first time. There are hundreds of types of beans and legumes in the world. Here we’ll consider some of the most popular and easy to find. When cooking beans, cover the beans with an extra few inches of water in the pot, to account for absorption and evaporation. You’ll want to bring the beans to a boil, then turn your pot down to simmer. Cooking without a lid results in firmer beans. If you prefer a softer bean, put the lid on slightly ajar to allow some steam to escape. If you want to flavor your beans as they  cook , throw in some onion, garlic, bay leaves, cumin or dried chili peppers. Check your beans often to make sure there’s still water, or you’ll be scraping your pot later. Black beans Black beans are a mainstay of Central American, South American and Caribbean cuisine, and are tops in tacos and veggie burgers. They go especially well with  avocado , dairy or nondairy cheese, jalapeños and tomatoes. You’ll need to cook your presoaked black beans for at least 60 to 90 minutes. If they’re still not soft, simmer for another 30 minutes. Black beans contain about 8 grams of protein per half-cup serving, according to the  Bean Institute . They’re also high in folate, manganese, thiamine and iron. Kidney beans Kidney beans are firmer than black beans. They hold up well in cold bean salads and are a mainstay of chili. They come in dark and light red, the latter being popular in Portugal, Spain and the  Caribbean . Mustard, vinegar, pasta, sauerkraut, sweet potato and yogurt all mix well with kidney beans. Allow 90 to 120 minutes for cooking. Like black beans, kidneys contain about 8 grams of protein per half-cup serving. They also contain significant amounts of folate, manganese, thiamine, copper and iron. Garbanzo beans Also known as chickpeas, this bean is a staple of Middle Eastern cooking. Think falafel and hummus. It’s also used to make chole in Indian cooking. Or toss a handful into a salad for a filling  protein  boost. Garbanzos taste good with cumin, olive oil, ginger, garlic, sesame seeds and tomatoes. Your soaked chickpeas will take 60-120 minutes to cook. Start checking their consistency after an hour. Garbanzos are particularly high in manganese and folate and contain more iron and copper than other common beans. According to  Healthline , they’re a high-carb food that’s good for increasing insulin sensitivity and reducing blood sugar. Pinto beans Pinto beans are one of the most popular beans in the Americas, and the most widely produced bean in the US. They’re the usual bean for making Mexican  refried beans, although black beans also work. Pintos pair well with chiles, cilantro, black olives and onions. Cook them for 90 to 120 minutes. Pinto beans are good sources of folate, manganese, copper and thiamine. Lentils Lentils are the exception to the soak first and cook long rule. These small, high protein legumes cook quickly, so they are very convenient to have on hand for putting meals together in a hurry. Brown lentils are the most popular type. They cook in about 20 minutes and hold their shape well for stews. Yellow and red lentils take as little as five minutes to cook and have a nutty flavor. Tiny beluga lentils are black and resemble caviar. Lentils are one of the least expensive ways to get protein, plus nutrients like folate, phosphorus, manganese and  copper . Don’t be intimidated by the need to sort and soak. Beans are good for you and good for the planet, as they provide a protein source that’s both more humane and environmentally friendlier than eating  animals . Images via Pexels and Pixabay

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How to cook dry beans

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