How I Prep Brussels sprouts

Although I’m a lady chemist, I’m not the cook in our home.  I don’t think that standing over a hot pan is fun, and there have been complaints about my dinners being served an hour too late!  I do, however, like to help with food prep, and I’ve become pretty efficient, not because I move quickly but because I move smartly.  One vegetable that I love to eat but dreaded prepping in the past is Brussels sprouts.  These little vitamin bombs are definitely worth the little bit of brain power I used in developing a streamlined prep process, which is shared below.  I hope that this helps those of you who aim to eat more fresh, seasonal vegetables this year but are not excited about the work that this may entail.

My Brussels sprouts routine:

  1. I pick out a batch of LARGE Brussels sprouts (at least 1 in or 3 cm in diameter) at the supermarket or farmer’s market.  The sprouts need to be handled individually during prep, so 100 large sprouts are a better choice than 150 small sprouts.  I also think the flavor of larger sprouts is better, and less waste will be produced when you shed the outer leaves during prep.
  2. I DON’T wash my Brussels sprouts.  I’m not forbidding anyone from doing so.  It just seems like a waste of water and time.  I discard the outer leaves and ends, so any dirt and bugs are shed.  The sprouts are eventually steamed and sauteed, so any microbial contaminants are destroyed.
  3. I chop off the butts and halve each sprout, making a butt pile on my right (right-handed) and a halves pile on my left.  This takes only a few minutes.
  4. I peel the outer leaves from each halved sprout and collect the sprouts in my prep bowl.  The outer leaves should fall right off, because they were attached to the butt only.  This takes a few minutes more.  Thus, I can clean a kilo of Brussels sprouts in under 10 minutes, and my sweetheart and I can prepare a hearty meal of sauteed Brussels sprouts, bacon and onions in about 20 minutes.

Minty Fresh Reusable Tissues

Reusable tissues?  Sounds familiar…

Of course, I am talking about ye good auld handkerchiefs!  Since I’m a bit of a germaphobe and herbaphile, I decided to adapt them to my liking and (hopefully) make them cool again.

First of all, cotton handkerchiefs are very easy to clean.  After removing any stains, I soak the cloth in a strong salt solution (2 tablespoons of salt per liter of water).  Concentrated salt dehydrates cells, including bacterial and fungal cells.  After an hour or more of soaking, I rinse the handkerchief with water and hang it up to air-dry or, even better, lay them on a wool blanket to dry.

After air-drying, the handkerchief is ready to be put in the Tissue Box.  I simply reuse a polystyrene (PS) box that had previously stored chocolates.  I place a peppermint tea bag (in wrapper) at the bottom, lay dampened folded handkerchiefs on top of it and close the lid.  Over time, the handkerchiefs become infused with cooling, calming sinus-clearing menthol, with the help of the humidity inside the box.  To dampen the tissues, I use a spritz of rose, chamomile or orange flower hydrosol (whatever I have the most of, because I distill them myself in small batches).  The flower water also makes the cloth softer and more skin-friendly.  A spritz of plain water or adding the handkerchiefs while they are still damp also works.  Cotton with some moisture is easier on the nose, too.

That’s all there is to it!  I want to add that I like the kids’ handkerchiefs from an Aldi promotion.  They are smaller and have a cute pattern on one side, so I can tell which side I blew my nose on.

How I De-bug my Rugs

My method for removing dust and invisible pests from floors and rugs:

  1. Obtain normal cooking/table salt.
  2. Pour salt into mortar (of mortar and pestle), add one drop of bergamot essential oil and grind salt into a fine powder.  Keep away from skin.  Make sure there is enough salt to cover all rugs.
  3. Sprinkle powdered, scented salt onto rugs.*  Let sit for at least a few hours but preferably for a few days.
  4. Sweep up resulting salt-dust patches.  Breathe easier.

*If using essential oils, make sure pets, especially cats, are not in the vicinity.   To avoid inhaling the powder, fill a salt shaker and sprinkle close to the floor.

saltrug

I haven’t confirmed (with a microscope and experience) that this method is effective in getting rid of dust mites after an infestation.  A real infestation would require more work, like laundering, steam cleaning and fumigating.  I use this method instead of my previous washing soda/baking soda method to get a more thorough floor and rug cleaning, so it is a (fun) weekly routine that I follow to prevent an infestation and the sickness that comes with one.  In the summer, the hot and humid weather can encourage an infestation, and in the winter, the heating, darkness and reduced air circulation also favor dust mite growth.

I got the main idea for this procedure from a patent for killing dust mites with various salts (US5271947 A).  I’m not sure that table salt (sodium chloride) alone is a powerful acaracide (mite killer), but I believe that it is very effective when powdered and mixed with bergamot oil.

Sodium chloride is a well-known dessicant, so it could dry out the mites.  Grinding the salt into a powder makes it more effective, because the newly exposed surfaces can absorb more moisture from the air, cloths and insects.  The powder can also travel deeper into rugs than regular salt crystals from the box.  The real danger of dust mites are the chronic allergic reactions that can occur in response to their feces and dead body parts.  The salt can help grab these allergens (through electrostatic interactions), so that the allergens can be swept up along with the salt.

Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) oil is a somewhat well-known antibacterial, fungicidal and insecticidal agent.  It contains furocoumarins, in particular bergamottin and bergaptenGrapefruit also has these compounds and effects, and the ‘grapefruit juice effect‘ (interaction with many medications) is due to certain furocoumarins.  The furocoumarins are also toxic to insects and mammals that come into contact with them and are exposed to sunlight (phototoxic).  Raw bergamot/grapefruit oil should not be applied to the skin (without proper medical instruction).

I love the calming, other-worldly smell of bergamot from the salt (also in Earl Grey tea) and haven’t had any reaction after walking on the scented salt barefoot, but I am still cautious with the concentrated chemicals.  I only use one drop each time and don’t go out in the sun right away.  The salt is used to absorb/release, dilute and disperse the essential oil throughout the area.