May 31, 2014

What I Buy from Azure Standard

Azure Standard is an on-line store where you can purchase most everything that you could get at Whole Foods and usually cheaper.  Your order is delivered, once a month, by semi-truck - details here.  The next ordering deadline is Wednesday, June 4 at 6pm CST.  Delivery is the following week.

People often ask me what I buy from Azure Standard.  Here is a list I've put together.  If I buy something once, I flag it as a favorite in my account so I can remember what I've purchased in the past.  Thanks also to Erin, who shared with me what she frequently buys.

oranges - split a 20 lb box w a friend when in season
extruded dates - 10lbs/month.  (Use them like raisins in many instances, and easier for babies to digest - cheaper by 50% than Whole Foods bulk section).

organic raisins
organic white potatoes
organic carrots
organic garlic
frozen organic blueberries
frozen peas & green beans
apples - 20 lbs every month until they're out of season. I've had mostly good luck buying the "juice" apples.  They aren't pretty but usually are fine for eating, dehydrating or pie making.  

raw cheese - 5 lb blocks
feta cheese - 4lb tub
pastured butter, when on sale
Nancy's sour cream - it's cultured (probiotics), yummo, and can't buy it at my Whole Foods

Dry Goods
organic rolled oats - 25 lbs/ every other month
sucanat (unrefined sugar) - 25lb bag, usually split with a friend
organic wheat berries - 25 lbs of hard and soft
organic popcorn - 5 lbs
organic peanut butter - (salted, creamy)
organic rice - 5lbs, white and brown
vanilla beans for making vanilla
spices (they are not irradiated)
     - cumin, cinnamon, curry, garlic & chili powder
shredded coconut - 5lbs
dried beans - 5 lb 
     - black, red, kidney, pinto, garbanzo
lentils - green or red
     - almonds, pecans, raw walnuts (to soak then dehydrate them)
gluten-free mixes
organic bittersweet chocolate chips (dairy-, soy- & gluten-free)

sprouted tortillas, burrito size
Bubbies brand ferments, cheapest in bulk 
canning jars and plastic lids
gamma seal lids and 5 gallon buckets to store bulk grains

Remember the next ordering deadline for central Arkansas is Wednesday, June 4 at 6pm CST.  Details are here for first-timers.

share facebook tweet

May 29, 2014

Breakfast Cookies {gluten & dairy free, no added sugar}

My first experience with this cookie was from reading Bread and Wine.  Shauna Neiquest says she was inspired by this recipe for Nikki's Healthy Cookies.

Since then, I've seen variations in several places both in print and on the web.  If you haven't tried something like this lately, you need to whip it up.  Seriously good without the guilt.

Because the cookie is sweetened by bananas, it is not a sickly sweet cookie.  Just prepare your taste buds for something muffin-like instead of super sweet cookie.

Here's a general recipe but use what you have on hand:

2 cups oats (quick or old fashioned. If you are gluten sensitive, be sure your oats are GF.)
2/3 cup unsweetened coconut (use sweetened coconut if that's what you have)
2/3 cup almond meal (I've also used pecan meal.  Can omit this.)
1/2 t sea salt
2/3 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds - what's in your pantry?)
2/3 cup dried fruit or chocolate chips (I've used raisins, currants, craisins, cherries, dates, white and dark chocolate chips)
3 ripe bananas, mashed (the riper, the sweeter! I've also used frozen bananas, about 1.5 cups)
1/4 cup melted coconut oil (or butter, if you're not dairy free)
1 t vanilla (or almond extract)

Often I will mix the dry ingredients at night then slop it all together in the morning just before baking at 350* for about 15 minutes, until edges are golden.  Smaller cookies will cook quicker.  I use an ice cream scoop and this makes about 16 giant cookies.  If you have 3 or more children, I promise you won't have any cookies by lunch time.


Try also:
Brookie (breakfast cookie) 
- Granola Bar Cookies

share facebook tweet

May 23, 2014

Reducing Toxins: Natural Hair Rinse

I've been using a shampoo bar by Tammy Sue for a few years.  Just recently I've been using the below concoction as a hair rinse and I really like it.

It is NOT a conditioner but it does detangle my hair and seems to make it softer and smoother than when I am not using it.  Most conditioners leave my hair feeling heavy and with an oily scalp.  This one fits my hair and scalp just right.

The Recipe
1 tablespoon (or so) raw apple cider vinegar and 15 oz water.  After shampooing, I squeeze it onto my hair then rinse.  This bottle lasts me 7-8 washes.

Anyone else use this?

share facebook tweet

May 21, 2014

New *mid-week* Farmers Markets

Sunny Days Produce 
Tuesdays 4-7pm there's a farmers market in the Heights sponsored by Westover Presbyterian Church on Kavanaugh.  It's about 5 blocks west of the University and Kavanaugh intersection.

Thursdays 4-7pm on Markham St, across from Chips BBQ, you'll find another market sponsored by Faith United Methodist Church.

You'll find some of the same growers and vendors at these markets - some include:

Freckle Face Farm (meat)
North Pulaski Farms (organic veg)Sunny Days Produce
Tasty Acres veg
Barnhill Orchard
Geek Eats hummus (have y'all tried the cilantro almond yet?)
Pratt Family salsa
Urban Art

If you find yourself in these areas PLEASE stop by and support our local growers.


share facebook tweet

May 18, 2014

Reducing Toxins: Laundry Detergent

Can you pronounce all the ingredients in your laundry detergent?  Would you rub those ingredients on your skin?

I found Charlie's Soap laundry detergent sort of by accident.  Just before my second child was born, I decided we would use cloth diapers.  I learned so much by doing a bit of research.  One of the things I learned was the importance of using a "clean" detergent, one that would not leave residue on the diapers or the drum of your washer.  Many moms, as well as diaper companies, endorsed Charlie's Soap as their go-to detergent.

Diaper companies specifically say something to the effect "Do not use the free and gentle types of detergent as these are especially harmful to the fabrics."  The very same detergents that are marketed towards babies!

If a detergent is going to clog the fabric pores, I definitely don't want to use it.  What is it doing to my skin?

Ever wondered what is in "free and clear" detergents?

The free and clear detergents tout themselves as being made for people with sensitive skin; they are not made with dyes or perfumes.  If they are so gentle, why would diaper companies exhort mothers not to use them?

Compare the ingredient list yourself:
     Tide Free & Gentle (19 ingredients)
     Charlie's Soap Laundry Powder (4 ingredients).

Researching detergent was four years ago and I haven't looked back.  I love everything about Charlie's Soap.  

At one point in life, I made laundry detergent so that I could save money.  But I was never crazy about the cleaning power of my homemade detergents.  Plus there was the time and energy factor in making it.

Charlie's Soap is rather affordable - especially when you buy in bulk.  I've had this 32 pound bucket for almost 3 years (that's 2 babies in diapers, a very dirty nine year old, and a husband that loves to exercise.)  Using Amazon Prime, this comes out to $0.12 a load!  I love that I buy a bucket and don't have to buy detergent for ...years!   There are smaller volumes to buy, too.  

I have a high efficiency (low water) washer and it works great.  Actually with many loads I use less than the recommended amount and the clothes still come out clean.  I have also used Charlie's in the old-fashioned, water loving machines and it works great with them, too.

Some people buy their detergents based on the smell, so clothes will smell clean.  I get that.  And so does Charlie's.  On the label it says, "Leaves nothing but the good old-fashioned sweet smell of clean.  If you want flowers, go pick some."

So if you are looking to reduce toxins in your home, let me recommend trying Charlie's detergent.  I am not being paid by Charlie's to endorse their product, I just like it.


share facebook tweet

May 17, 2014

Arkansas Strawberries

Oh how I love fresh, local strawberries.
If you haven't already, get some today.  The man I bought these from said there's only a week or two  (at most) left in the season.

I love using fresh strawberries in my kombucha.  Anyone else tried that?  yuuuuum.


share facebook tweet

May 11, 2014

How to Make Kombucha {for beginners}

Four years ago, I wrote how to make kombucha. (pronounced: com-boo-cha)  Since then I've heard from readers that the instructions could be clearer.  I welcome feedback.  :)

What is kombucha and why should one drink it?

It is a probiotic drink made from sweet black tea that has been fermented to proliferate the creation of beneficial bacteria.  There are enzymes in it that help break down and digest food for optimal nutrition absorption.  It contains glucuronic acid, which is also produced by your liver for neutralizing or binding with toxins so they can be flushed from the body.  Best of all, it tastes delicious and refreshing on a hot day; your body absorbs mineral ions (electrolytes) from it faster and retains them longer than plain water.

My favorite story to tell about kombucha is from a sidebar on page 587 in Nourishing Traditions.  Russian scientists, post World War II, were trying to understand why some cities were having large outbreaks of cancer while others did not.  All the cities had this in common: toxin exposure from lead, mercury and asbestos mining, etc.  These scientists were stumped until one hot summer day they knocked on the door of a babushka, an elderly woman.  She invited them in for a drink of kombucha. The scientists enjoyed the drink then asked if everyone in (this cancer free) town made and drank this drink.  Why, yes they did.

How to Make Kombucha

It's easy as 1-2-3.
1. Get a starter.
2. Make sweet tea.
3. Let it sit for a week.

First you need a starter - a scoby (pronounced: skoe-bee) and liquid from a previous batch.  SCOBY is an acronym for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.   You can find them on-line.  However, if you know some one who brews kombucha, then ask them for a starter.

Put your scoby and starter liquid in a glass gallon jar.  Some people use punch bowls or fish bowls.  Sun tea jars are great.  The important thing is that is it glass and for the diameter of the surface area to be about the same as the depth of final liquid.  You can buy glass jars like this at Wal-Mart or Target.  Or, buy a gallon of pickles at Kroger - just be sure the jar is glass.  The finished kombucha is slightly acidic which will leach chemicals from plastic.

There are lots of fun jars on the market now with spigots in the bottom.  I have a 5 gallon jar with a brass spigot that I bought on-line several years ago (the company has since gone out of business).  I also make kombucha in a plain, one gallon jar as seen above.

Next make a batch of black tea.
I use Lipton (not decaf) and regular white sugar.  Of course organic tea will have less toxins but also costs more.  I make tea in a quart jar and heat water in an electric kettle.  How you make the tea is not as important as the ratios: 1 cup sugar, 3 family sized tea bags and 3 quarts of water.

{Noteably, white sugar is a GMO.  You can use organic cane sugar but because of the cost this is one area that I compromise and knowingly use GMOs on a regular basis.  I justify the use in kombucha, hoping that the end product removes any toxins remaining from GMO sugar.  White sugar is only used in tea at my house.}

The scoby needs tannins from tea as well as the sugar to do its magic.  I like my tea stronger so I use 3 family sized bags (or 8 individual) per gallon jar.  You can use less tea, or supplement with some green tea.  Play around with the strength.  Just do NOT use herbal teas, which contain oils which will damage the scoby.
Use dechlorinated water - I have a RO filter on my sink.
To the tea, while it is hot, add one cup of sugar.  Let this cool so that it doesn't burn you or scoby (very warm is ok.) Add enough water to fill your gallon, about 3 quarts of water.  You want the maximum surface area, so in some jars you will leave a space at the top.

Cover the jar with a breathable material (like a paper towel, dish cloth, or coffee filter - all should be affixed with a rubber band so that fruit flies cannot get inside.)

Several years ago, I had my husband install a reverse osmosis (RO) water filtration system under my kitchen sink.  It's from Lowe's.  You can buy RO water by the gallon from Whole Foods.  Or, use spring water or distilled water.  The most important thing is to use dechlorinated water.  Chlorine will harm the beneficial bacteria you are trying to foster.  If you don't want to buy water, set tap water on the counter over night and the chlorine will evaporate.

Don't freak out if the scoby sinks.  It is not a big deal if it doesn't float right away - it will float eventually.

Depending on the temperature in your kitchen, after a week, your tea should be slightly tart.  In the winter my kitchen is very cold and I will let the kombucha brew about 9 days.  The summer it brews faster and is ready after a week.

When you've reached the desired tartness, you can drink the kombucha right away or bottle it.  

Before bottling, be sure to save out about 2 cups of starter for your next batch.

When you bottle it, this is called the second ferment and is how kombucha becomes fizzy - or effervescent like a soda.  The biologists out there could explain that when yeast eats sugar in the absence of oxygen, the byproduct is carbon dioxide - or effervescence.  Kombucha can be slightly bubbly after the first week (as you are pouring it from your gallon jar) but this effervescence will not last long.

If you choose to bottle the kombucha for a second ferment, it is necessary to add additional sugar if you want the kombucha to become effervescent.  I use a generous tablespoon of grape juice concentrate in the bottom of each bottle.  However, others use and enjoy all types of fruit (fresh or frozen), even dried fruit like raisins.  After bottling kombucha, I let it sit on my counter a minimum of three days before refrigerating.  During this time, the yeast is eating sugar and making carbonation.  The longer it sits at room temperature, the fizzier your drink will be.  One tip I've learned over the years is to use masking tape and a Sharpie to mark the day of bottling.  This way I can keep up with when the bottles should go into the fridge.  Yes, I have had bottles explode from too much pressure.  When it happens in the middle of the night it can sound like a gun going off in the kitchen.  Ask my husband.

In the winter, the second ferment may sit as long as a month before we drink it.  In summer, we refrigerate after one week otherwise the kombucha is so fizzy when opening that it makes a huge mess.  Refrigeration slows down the yeast and the carbonation isn't as violent.

Whew - that was a lot of information.  And may not be any clearer than the post I wrote four years ago.  Maybe you should just come to my house and help me make kombucha this week.  :)


share facebook tweet

May 7, 2014

Thai Red Curry:: My New Fav Recipe

One time I made too much Indian Curry.  Finally we have eaten our way through the quadruple batch.  Needless to say I have felt a little burned out on curry. 

 Until I remembered that it's an entirely different dish in southeast Asia.
Run, don't walk, to your nearest grocery store and scoop up some Thai red curry paste and coconut milk then make this recipe ASAP.  I bought the above jar at Whole Foods for around $3, but some larger Krogers will carry it.

The recipe written below is how I made curry for a recent dinner party.  Just remember, making curry is similar to making chili - everyone has a method and preferred ingredients.  Feel free to mix and match what you like! Or whatever is in your fridge. :)  Key ingredients are Thai red curry paste and coconut milk (full fat, your tongue will thank you later.)

It comes together quickly and is the perfect recipe to prepare/chop ahead of time and can be on the table in mere minutes.

Yield: enough for 6 women with 5+ cups leftover
(you could easily halve this recipe)


2-4 T red curry paste
2 cans full fat coconut milk
1 cup chicken broth (or water)
(optional for thickness: 1-2 T corn starch)
2 cups sliced carrots
1 diced onion*, or white parts of bok choy
1 lb asparagus, in 2 inch pieces (green beans, zucchini, or broccoli would be good, too)
1 red pepper, roughly chopped
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
4 cups cooked chicken, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

optional: cilantro for garnish
I had mango and peanuts also for garnish but forgot them!


In a large pot, bring to a boil 1 cup chicken broth (or water) then add sliced carrots.  Cook until tender, about 2-3 minutes.  Add 2 cans of coconut milk and stir.  Because I like for the sauce to be thicker, I like to add a couple tablespoons of corn starch.  (Remember when adding corn starch to hot liquids, first stir it in something cold.  You could stir it in a bit of coconut milk in the can, or water then add to your hot liquids.)  Bring all the above to a boil, constantly stirring so that the corn starch doesn't settle on the bottom of your pan.

*If using onion instead of bok choy, I recommend boiling the onion and carrots together to tame the onion.  I used bok choy and its flavor is much milder than onion.

Now that the liquid is thickened a bit, begin adding the red curry paste.  Start with a heaping teaspoon, taste then add more.  I used about half the jar.  The first time I made this recipe, I added a lot more red curry paste after removing my children's portion.  My husband and I prefer more flava than the children can tolerate.

When your sauce tastes perfect, add the reminder of the vegetables and keep stirring until you reach desired tenderness.  I prefer my veggies on the crunchier side so they were cooked in about 3 minutes.  Then add in cooked chicken and garbanzo beans.  Keep stirring until it's warm through.

Serve with rice.

Here's the recipe I used for inspiration, which used boneless chicken breasts.

Go ahead, run for your red curry paste.   Hurry and make this curry. (I crack me up.)  Seriously, try it this week.


share facebook tweet

May 4, 2014

How Long Will Ferments Last in the Fridge?

In our modern, ultra-sanitized, culture, people often freak out when I talk about lacto-fermenting foods.

Usually the conversation goes something like:

me: So you chop up your veggies, sprinkle some salt on it, put it in a jar then let it sit on your counter for 3 days.

student: Wha?!!  THREE DAYS with NO refrigeration?!

me: Yes, this is how people for hundreds of years have been preserving the harvest.  After 3 days, you put the jar in your fridge, or root cellar in the good-ole-days days before refrigeration.

student:  Are you sure it won't make me sick?  Are you sure it won't mold?  Will it explode?

...and the questions continue until either I convince them of the health benefits or they are totally grossed out and walk away.

This weekend I hosted a fermenting class in my home.  Prior to the class, because I am lazy efficient, I emailed my foodie friends and asked what kind of variety they could add to my dog and pony show.  One friend chimed in that she had a couple jars she could share.  

And that's all she said.

Fast forward to the day of the class and she shows up with the above jar of sauerkraut (labeled "Caris's Coleslaw.")

  From two-and-a-half YEARS ago.  

She said, "I think it's still good.  It's been in my fridge and hasn't been opened."

Preparing for the class, I brushed up on my fermenting knowledge by reading again from Nourishing Traditions. (If you don't have a personal copy, put it on your wish list - or very least check it out from the library.)  On page 91, in the intro to the section on fermented vegetables and fruit, Sally Fallon Morell writes:

The occasional batch that goes bad presents no danger - the smell will be so awful that nothing could persuade you to eat it.

Admittedly it was with a bit of fear and trepidation that I opened the jar.  It smelled fine.  And quite surprisingly it tasted fine, too.  I will be quick to say I don't know many people who keep jars of anything quite that long.  And, I probably wouldn't recommend you purposefully keeping lacto-fermented foods that long without adding additional "food" for the living organisms to eat (like additional fresh cabbage to existing sauerkraut.)

Sometimes mold will form on the top of some of my ferments.  Believe it or not, I will just scoop it out and continue to eat the rest of the jar.  On occasion, my banana peppers get a white film (kahn yeast) on the top.  According to Cultures for Health

Kahm yeast is a type of film that can readily be found in cultured and fermented foods. It is not harmful, although it may be unattractive or even smell a little odd. It should be removed from the ferment so it doesn’t impart a bad odor, but a little bit left in the jar won’t hurt the vegetables, and won’t hurt you. 
Kahm yeast is likely to develop if a fermentation solution is insufficiently acid, especially when you start it, or if there is not enough salt in the brine. Kahm can also develop if the culturing temperature is too warm, or if the brew is over-exposed to oxygen. Poor hygiene can be another cause. 
If kahm yeast develops in your ferment, skim it off the surface of the liquid. Discard any solid matter that has it. As usual, your senses are the test: if it smells and tastes okay, it probably is.

If you are a frequent fermenter or you have experienced mold or yeast, read the rest of the article here. 

What's your record for keeping ferments alive in your fridge?

share facebook tweet


Related Posts with Thumbnails