The Fantastic Mr. Feedbag

A website celebrating and enumerating Juneau, Alaska's food culture

Archive for the ‘d.i.y.’ Category

Organic Orange Household Cleaner

leave a comment »

Homemade Orange Cleaner

Household cleaners are over a billion dollar industry in America. They’re a chemical product that we encounter at our jobs, restaurants, schools, and homes. Many of the materials in cleaners we find under our sinks are toxic. The liquids and powders we use to clean our home can contain carcinogens, among other health endangering ingredients which can be harmful to our families and pets. Enough of my Preachie McPreachington soap box schpeal – here’s the goods.

Wouldn’t it be awesome not to spend a bunch of money on something that can be simply and safely made at home? Wouldn’t it be the raddest thing ever to make your own non-toxic cleaner? That’s what I was thinking.

Organic Orange Cleaner
It’s not as pretty up close, but here’s a look at my jug o’clean!

I have a love for the smell of the ridiculously expensive product, Citrisolv but limited means to keep it in stock at our house. So I thought I’d try a simple recipe for a household cleaner with the star ingredient being organic orange peels and white vinegar. I’m still in the process of letting my cleaner mature in a cool dark corner of my house. It takes about 2-3 weeks for the vinegar to soak up all the limonene from the orange peels. A word of warning, limonene, the main chemical in orange oil is strong and can even melt plastic at the right concentration. It’s important to dilute your homemade orange cleaner with some water when it’s done brewing. Also, test your cleaner on a small surface area before going big.

1 gallon jar
7 cups of white vinegar
5-7 organic orange peels (you can mix it up and throw in an organic lemon or tangerine peel if you want)
1 spray bottle
Some water to cut your mixture

– Collect your orange peels over the course of a few days. Eating a ton of oranges just to make cleaner doesn’t really make sense.
– You can keep your peels in the refrigerator in a container covered with paper towels to ensure they stay fresh.
– Put your orange peels in a gallon jar and add 7 cups of white vinegar and let sit covered for 2-3 weeks.
– Shake your gallon jar often, you’ll notice that your cleaner will begin to turn yellow.
– When ready to use strain the peels and vinegar through a strainer, and fill a spray bottle with 1/2 to 3/4 cleaner to 1/2 to 1/4 water.
– The smell of vinegar, if still prevalent shouldn’t linger when your cleaner dries on surfaces after cleaning.

Enjoy your economical and safe household cleaner with all the smugness of some trust fund douche working a corner for Green Peace! Let me know how your cleaner turns out and if you’ve made your own cleaner before. Did you make it differently?


Slaying the Diet Soda Dragon

with 4 comments

The new “Skinny” Diet Pepsi can design, specially made for NYC fashion week, next to the human skeleton.

I’ve had this sordid off and on again love affair with diet soda for the past ten years. If you know me, you might be able to testify to just how much I loved the stuff. If you were one of my diet soda drinking buddies you might remember some of our good times together. When I was bartending I’d enjoy more ounces of it than I could keep track of in an evening. I fondly called this sweet nectar of the gods, Diet Crack.

Diet Crack seemed an apt name for my less than ideal and definitely unhealthy relationship with diet soda. I’d wake up and open a little can, enjoying the carbonated goodness with a cigarette during the real “glory” days of my early twenties. This phase lasted an epic year and a half before I gave up both smoking and diet soda. I’d banished diet soda from my life knowing full well that the sweetener in diet soda is known to have caused cancer in lab rats, lead to weight gain, and even in some cases Type II diabetes. The awesome things I just listed can happen if you’re consuming more than one can a day. Do you doubt the siren song of my hippie sounding claims?

Why don’t you check out this article from the Mayo Clinic? It’s one of the most highly regarded medical centers in the United States and provides plenty of great information online about all different kinds of health and nutrition related quandaries.

The idea to do a blog post about diet soda has been slow cooking for a month or so. Then today, serendipitously good old Mark Bittman tweets a link to this article, by Tom Philpot. I have no idea who this Tom Philpot guy is but a lot of other food folk seem to hold his opinion in high regard. This new article by Tom might really inspire you to get off the sauce.

By sauce, specifically I mean Diet Pepsi, but this also applies to those who occasionally dabble in the world of Diet Coke. To break it down for you in case you’re not interested in reading dude’s article (hopefully you’re still reading my railing rant) -> New evidence from a recent study shows that artificial sweetener in diet soda can lead to stroke(s).

I don’t really want to get into the politics of the two super mega cola companies and how they’ve raped and pillaged their way to global market supremacy. I’m talking about crappy labor practices, privatizing water, etc. If you’re interested in reading more, specifically on Coca Cola’s crappy practices this is a good place to start. Check out some of the reference sites, I never completely trust Wikipedia, but it’s always a good place to begin gathering information. If you really want to freak yourself out about Pepsi, check out this corporate profile, prepared by the Polaris Institute, it’s a PDF file with almost too much information.

I fell off the diet soda wagon at a 4th of July family reunion last year, after not having a drop of diet soda for years. I picked up the most beautiful water-bead dripping cold can of Diet Pepsi from a cooler in my mom’s backyard. That first soda spiked an epic Diet Pepsi bender that lasted months. I’d shamefully drive out to the valley to buy the largest case possible. My Diet Pepsi was stashed in the cool stairway leading up to my attic, guaranteeing a cool soda. I’d bring three cans to work and drink them throughout the morning and into the afternoon instead of coffee. I’m going to be completely honest: if I did have water, usually it was soda water that I drank.

My last dance with DP was a long and feverish tango, one that I’ll never forget. I decided I had to break up with DP in January, the beginning of session was around the corner and my new co-worker would be sharing an office with me in mere weeks. I didn’t want to shamefully drink diet soda in a bathroom stall before work in the morning to avoid the discerning gaze of my office mate.

I went cold turkey on a Saturday, the process of letting my beloved crutch go was surprisingly difficult. I actually got physically ill that day. I felt like I had a heinous hangover, complete with a full head and body ache for most the day. I woke up fairly early that morning, but by mid-afternoon I was lying on the couch and feeling like I had a serious case of the South Franklin Street Flu. I made it through that day and I’m happy to report that I’ve successfully quit drinking diet soda. I know my sobriety is still young, but I’m taking it one day at a time.

This is my second month of not drinking diet soda and I feel so much better. I’ve started bringing my old water bottle back to work with me, filling it up twice a day so that I stay properly hydrated. My skin is clearer, my eyes brighter, and my attitude about life being rad is even radder. Sure, I’m still drinking coffee, but it’s nothing like chasing that Diet Cola dragon. It felt like I always needed just one more can, one more bottle, one more delicious artificially flavored swig of everything that’s wrong with America.

Share Share

Written by Patrice Helmar

February 10, 2011 at 4:32 pm

First Garden Harvest – small but awesome.

with 7 comments

Our feedbag gardening is a new thing. We resurrected my dad’s garden from the days of yore two years ago. The first year we gave the garden CPR we rented a rototiller, built boxes, put in fresh soil, raised beds, and planted starts. It happened to be the rainiest summer Juneau’s seen in years. This year we got a bit of a late start and our most successful crop appears to be the sweet pea. The mighty potato is looking good and our tiny carrots still fill our hearts with hope. We’re going to wait another week before pulling up all of our rows and preparing the garden for winter. Growing a garden in Southeast can be challenging and we’re by no means experts. It would help if we put up plastic coverings like sensible people to get the most sunlight and less rain. Next year will be our year, next year.

Matt with a potato plant

We couldn’t help ourselves and pulled up a couple of our potato plants. Our organic Yukon Golds are tiny but delicious looking. We’re hoping the rest of the plants go through a growth spurt. Take a second to wish our little potatoes well.

sweet peas

Our sweet peas have outdone themselves this year. This is the third time we’ve harvested our hearty peas. Today they were especially plump and delicious. We’re looking forward to adding them to our salad tonight.

Dolly, the carrot tester

Dolly Mae is especially fond of carrots and we’re especially fond of her. We offered her one of our shetland sized carrots. It took a minute for her to figure out what it was before she devoured it.

Share Share

Written by Patrice Helmar

September 7, 2010 at 7:38 pm

Dinner and Canning Heirloom Tomatoes with RP

with 6 comments

Yeah, this dinner is good! What?

A look which says to me, “Dude, what? You know this shit is good!”

Yesterday was a beautiful cool Fall day in Juneau, without much rain. Yesterday evening I made the familiar trek from my house, up to Starr Hill to visit my good buddy Sarah. It was one of those legendarily picturesque Juneau evenings in the old ‘hood. The nether regions of downtown seemed miles instead of blocks away and it felt like I was moving figure in a Rie Munoz painting. Sarah and I have been homies since the 2nd grade, where we shared an affinity for denim jackets and side pony tails.

roasted goodies

RP roasting corn, beets, and Yukon Gold potatoes for dinner. A little olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary on the potatoes does the trick. Dinner included a salad with fresh greens grown right here in Juneau.


Here are the tomatoes freshly blanched. Our mission on this fine Juneau evening was to can these bad boys with sautéed onion, garlic, fresh basil, parsley, balsamic vinegar, and red Hawaiian salt and fresh ground pepper. Heirloom tomatoes are not native of our homeland. They’re beautiful stripped exotic fruits from far away, worth their weight in gold.


After Sarah blanched the tomatoes, we got to work peeling and cutting them into can ready chunks. We sterilized our little pint jars to get them ready for their filling. There are many online resources on canning and preserving food online and at your local library so I won’t go into much detail.

little jars of wonderment

Little jars of wonderment and glory – layers of tomatoes, herbs, and awesome!


Our total haul: 5 cans of heirloom gold to be savored on the crappiest winter days soon to come.

Share Share

Tarragon Feta Kalamata Pignolia Stuffed Rolled Pork Chops

with 3 comments

I was recently inspired by Mark Bittman’s article in his regular column, “The Minimalist”. Bittman lauds the importance and difficulty of keeping lean white meat moist. He suggests not to choose the well traveled road of the marinade, but to provoke moisture of the meat from within. This is a simple concept that requires cutting or pounding and filling boneless white meat with some sort of fat source and flavorful delight.

I discovered “natural” thin pork chops on a recent long distance hunting and gathering expedition to a far off super market in the nether regions of the valley. Many known substances in the world are natural but not necessarily great for humans. That sweet little hormone free natural sticker really did reassure me that eating swine is just fine!

The packaging was a little cheesy but I was happy to find hormone free minimally processed pork in town. My conversation with the bag boy at the grocery store was even more awe inspiring than finding a quality natural meat product. As he bagged my loot, the faithful employee launched into a double rainbow-like monologue about airport scanners and whale radar. It all seemed like a perfectly normal late night valley interaction to me.

“Did you know you can hear whales under water?” He asked and before I could answer continued, “747s are loud you can’t hear them on scanners and sometimes they block out things on the radio because it’s top secret.”

I thanked the fine bag boy and wished him well on his listening in on scanning device adventures and happily left the store with my groceries. Into the parking lot I went with the bags of food and a dream of beating pork chops and filling them like little mediterranean burrito bombs.


– 6 – 8 boneless thin cut pork chops
– 1 tablespoon of pine nuts
– 3 tablespoons of low fat sour cream
– 10 – 15 kalamata olives
– 1 or 2 handfulls of fresh cut tarragon leaves
– 1 teaspoon of salt
– 1 teaspoon of olive oil
– fresh ground pepper to your taste
– 1 tablespoon of fresh finely chopped garlic
– 1 cup of flour (semolina if you have it)
– 1/2 cup of feta cheese
– 1/2 cup of white wine
– 1 to 2 tablespoons of half & half
– 1 onion

– In a food processor add tarragon, sour cream, pine nuts, kalamata olives, salt, pepper, and garlic and lightly pulse until mixed together. Add a teaspoon or so of olive oil and use a spatula to reserve mixture in a bowl alongside a bowl of crumbled feta for future use in stuffing pork chops.

good stuff

– Rinse and dry pork chops and lightly season with salt and pepper. Place pork chops in a plastic bag or between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound with a mallet, iron skillet, rolling pin, or whatever you have around the kitchen until thin.


– Making sure you have a clean and sanitary work station put a spoon full of magical filling sauce and then a smattering of feta.

pork roll

– Roll the chop up like a sushi roll or a burrito and then gently cover in semolina flour. It’s best to have a separate plate for rolling the pork chop in flour.


– Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees (or turn down oven if you’re roasting vegetables to accompany dish).

– Have a stainless steel pan with a dash of olive oil pre-heated and ready for pork rolls. Sautée rolls on each side for about 3 – 4 minutes until browned. It’s best not to use a non-stick pan so you can make a pan sauce and/or caramelize onions with the pork drippings. Let the pork rolls rest in oven while you prepare a tasty pan sauce.


– Finely dice an onion and add to pan with a dash of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Cook for 10 – 15 minutes until caramelized and then add 1/2 cup of decent white wine. You may also add a sprig of tarragon and a touch of half and half to the sauce after the wine cooks down. Top pork rolls with pan sauce deliciousness and enjoy.

Happy Eating!

Share Share

The best tuna noodle casserole, ever.

with 4 comments

cooked casserole

I happen to think that tuna noodle casserole is pretty gnarly stuff. I never really ate it as a kid, but I guess a lot of people have fond or not so fond memories of this dish. I’m in the business of making my special gentleman friend, Matt a happy guy.

The other day when I was asking him what he might want for dinner, he mentioned tuna casserole.

I’m pretty sure I lifted both my eyebrows, “Dude, seriously?”

“My mom made it for us when we were kids,” he said.

I decided to give the dish a whirl and started to look at different recipes online. I looked through plenty and adapted a few to suit my casserole needs. A lot of “gourmet” recipes suggested using tuna in olive oil for the extra moistness. I’m a firm believer in using what you have available. I decided to use an albacore in water can I had and just add a little olive oil. I also decided to forgo the two tons of cheddar cheese for a 3/4 cup or so of freshly grated parmesan regggiano.

Recipe for the best tuna noodle casserole, ever:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 celery stalks, small dice (about 2/3 cup)
1 bunch scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon Parisienne spice mix (or dried tarragon, thyme, chive)
2 tablespoons flour
1 3/4 cups milk
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
6 ounces flat egg noodles or macaroni
3/4 cup coarsely grated parmesan
1/2 cup of feta
bread crumbs & freshly grated nutmeg for the top of casserole
1 can of tuna or albacore with a dash of olive oil

For the casserole:
– Heat the oven to 350°F.
– Coat an 8-by-8-inch glass baking dish with olive oil using a towel
– bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.


– Heat olive oil and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When oil is hot and butter foams, add celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft but not browned, about 5 minutes.
– Stir in scallions, cook for 3 minutes.
– Add Parisienne spice mix and flour to vegetable mixture, stirring until flour is well incorporated. Cook for 1 minute, then slowly pour in milk, stirring well to make sure no lumps of flour are left.
– Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens slightly, about 5 minutes.
– Remove from heat and adjust seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir in sour cream and mustard, and set aside.
– Once the water is boiling, add egg noodles and cook until they are slightly tender and still white in the middle, about 3 minutes. Drain.


– Stir parmesan and noodles into vegetable-and-milk mixture. Flake tuna into mixture, and stir gently. Pour into the prepared baking dish.
– top with bread crumbs, freshly grated nutmeg, and feta cheese
– bake for 20-25 minutes until casserole is golden brown

Here’s Matty enjoying a healthy portion of the best tuna casserole in the world. It was as good as tuna casserole gets!

Matty Polaroid

Share Share

Written by Patrice Helmar

July 14, 2010 at 8:53 pm

Jacques Pépin’s Roasted Split Chicken with Mustard Crust

with 4 comments

Jaques Pépin

Watching Jacques Pépin butterfly a chicken with a pair of kitchen shears was a revelation to me. Coming from a master of technique the shear method of butchering is indeed technically awesome. This is a recipe that eases cooking time and the processing of butchering the bird. The result is a beautifully browned and juicy pan roasted chicken that will knock your socks and shoes off.

butterflied chicken

I battled a chicken last night with a pair of kitchen shears last night and won. Think of this process as simply de-turding the chicken, cutting the backbone out of the bird, and then making small cuts under the joints of the drumsticks and wings. I used a Foster Farm’s natural chicken weighing about 5 pounds for this recipe.


– Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Mustard Crust

Mustard Crust:
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (I used Louisiana hot sauce)
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
1/2 teaspoon salt

-Combine ingredients in a small metal bowl and whisk together.

– Using kitchen shears or a sharp knife, cut alongside the backbone of the chicken to split it open. Spread and press on the chicken with your hands to flatten it. Using a sharp paring knife, cut halfway through both sides of the joints connecting the thighs and drumsticks and cut through the joints of the shoulder under the wings as well. (This will help the heat penetrate these joints and accelerate the cooking process.)

– Put the chicken skin side down on a cutting board and spread it with about half the mustard mixture. Place the chicken flat in a large skillet, mustard side down.

split chicken in iron skillet

– Spread the remaining mustard on the skin side of the chicken. Cook over high heat for about 5 minutes, then place the skillet in the oven and cook the chicken for about 35 – 40 minutes. It should be well browned and dark on top.

chicken and potatoes

I added small rounded red potatoes to my iron skillet when I put my bird in the oven putting a little olive oil and salt on top. They cooked beautifully in the chicken fat and drippings of the mustard crust and were a perfect side. Don’t be afraid to use the drippings from the roast to make a delicious pan sauce for your dish.

Make sure you let the chicken rest in the skillet at room temperature for a few minutes before cutting it into pieces with your kitchen shears or a carving knife. I served my roasted chicken with the little awesome pan roasted red potatoes and a green side salad with a nice shallot balsamic vinaigrette. Happy cooking!

Share Share

Written by Patrice Helmar

July 11, 2010 at 3:52 pm