Herbal Tea & P90X Take Three

Over the weekend I tested three recipe batches of chocolate granola for Attune (yes, yes, the recipe is coming – in October! I’ll keep you posted) and chocolate muffins for my next cookbook. This week I have several cookies on deck for testing along with round 2 on those muffins (very good, but not perfect) and two loaves of bread. Though I definitely don’t eat all of these goodies myself (no, I share the calories with my husband and neighbor), a lot of baking means a lot of tea consumption for me.

To say that I love herbal tea would be a dramatic understatement. I have at least five different types of herbal tea on hand at all times, so this weekend when I was down to just two, it was time to go shopping. Thanks to grocery sales coupled with some Yogi Tea and Tazo Tea coupons from Mambo Sprouts, I repacked my tea box with all of these …

Alisa's Herbal Tea Collection

Yogi Ginger Tea used to be a staple in my tea box, but I actually haven’t had it in months. I’m looking forwad to enjoying this spicy one again.

Yogi Vanilla Tahitian Tea is a new one to me. I like it. Mellow, notably vanilla, and lightly sweetened with stevia. Not my favorite, but not bad.

This Rooibos is a nice one, simple but bold.

Stash Mellow Moments I’m still indifferent on. I like having a nighttime tea around, and this one isn’t bad, but I think I still like Celestial Seasonings Honey Vanilla Chamomile better.

Tazo Refresh is our favorite mint tea, and probably one of the only herbal teas that my caffeine-loving husband will drink. A nice natural pick-me-up sans caffeine.

I still need to hop on the making my own tea blend bandwagon, and also buy some teas in bulk since I do have a diffuser now.

Do you drink herbal teas? What are your favorites?

I’m off to work off some of that chocolate right NOW! After seeing that this is being released …

… I knew it was time to get my rear in gear. Today is the first day of P90X round 3 for me. The first round I did was almost three years ago (yikes!). It was amazing. I did a second round about 18 months ago that was a bit half-assed (okay, cutting myself some slack, it was more like three quarters-assed). But I’m ready to do this full force, and this time I’m trialing the Lean routine. Once I’ve conquered this again (expected end date Dec. 3), I’ll have earned the right to beg my husband for P90X-2 for Christmas.

How do you stay active in the cooler months?

(Two new recipes this week, stay tuned!)

Making Gluten-Free Flours at Home in 30 Seconds

It is so easy to forget that any food that comes in a package was derived from somewhere. Apples don’t magically dehydrate on trees, nuts don’t shed their shells and roast in the afternoon sun, and grains don’t simply turn into a floury dust without some coaxing. But all of these processes can be done quite easily in your own home.

For what seems like ages, I had been avoiding certain recipes because I simply didn’t want to invest in more gluten-free flours. My local grocer doesn’t carry several of them, which means ordering online, paying shipping, etc. Also, to get a fair price, you really need to buy in bulk, and I didn’t even know if I would like their taste and texture.

Then I had that big “Aha” moment … you know, the one where you feel like a total idiot for not thinking of it prior … the flours come from whole grains, right? Why now simply grind them up and home! So, so simple.

Within minutes, I had just enough quinoa flour (from my stash of quinoa) and millet flour (yes, I love millet, so it is in my cupboard) for my recipes. Believe it or not, all this took was 20 seconds in my handy-dandy, cheapo spice grinder. And isn’t that the freshest flour you have ever seen?

I know what some of you are thinking though … was it fine enough? Did it perform well? Yes, and yes! It worked perfectly in the recipes, producing a wonderful taste and texture … I’m venturing the flours were as good as store-bought.

You can also make nut “flours” in your spice grinder, and contrary to popular belief, they perform just as well. To test, I baked two identical batches of almond flour banana muffins, one using a very popular blanched almond flour brand, and one using unblanched “raw” almonds that I ground in my spice grinder. They were near impossible to tell apart, and my homegrind muffins were actually the winner! They rose a bit more and had a slightly bolder flavor (since the almonds had the skins on, I assume). I also make cashew flour often, as it is one of the lower fat nuts, and powders easily.

Some flours are a bit harder to make than others as the product needs to be dried and possibly defatted in some fashion first (ie coconut flour – though I will be working on it!), but you can actually make wheat, spelt, oat, and a variety of other flours to order with nothing but a spice grinder (or maybe a food processor or high powered blender if you’ve got one – but I like the ability to make small amounts with the spice grinder) and the whole grains.

Do you make your own flours at home? If so, which ones work well for you?


Blog Events:

Speaking of Whole Foods Dealios …

Thanks for all of your tips too on my money-saving organics post. Keep ’em coming!

Now onto another great value … I love that I’m on the “deal announcement” email for Whole Foods. I haven’t been the best about keeping up with some of the corporate blogs as of late, so this little update helps. So just in case you haven’t heard yet …

“Whole Foods Market will have fresh tilapia on sale for $4.99/pound this Friday, Jan. 14 – that’s nearly half off its everyday price. At that price, you can cook some up this weekend and freeze the rest for an easy late winter or springtime dinner. 

Best of all, you can feel good about serving our tilapia to your family because it’s raised by our supplier partners to meet our strict farmed seafood standards, which happen to be the highest in the industry. Whole Foods Market quality standards prohibit antibiotics, added growth hormones, preservatives such as sulfites, and poultry and mammalian byproducts in feed. Plus, we have extensive requirements for protecting water quality, wildlife, and sensitive habitats such as mangrove forests.  And, all farms must pass a third-party audit to ensure our standards are met. More here: http://wholefoodsmarket.com/products/aquaculture.php.

Little known fact: our tilapia is different than the rest because our standards prohibit the use of methyltestosterone – a hormone used by many tilapia farmers to grow all male fish. This allows for more growth, as the fish direct their energy to grow larger, rather than reproduce. Our supplier partners, however, let the fish reproduce and grow naturally and sort the males and females by hand.

Whether it’s a sweet tilapia fillet quickly broiled with fresh citrus and Kalamata olives or a zesty baked tilapia fillet with a Southwestern bite, tilapia is a winner for a simple, high protein meal on a budget.”

And for that “high protein meal” they offered some RECIPES

Whole Foods is a trek for me, so I will be missing that Friday sale, but hopefully some of you can take advantage!

Secrets to Better Prices on Natural & Organic Foods

I’ve known it for years, you’ve likely heard it dozens of times in your life, but let’s face it, most of us are often a bit too timid to utilize this sage advice or it simply doesn’t occur to us at opportune times …

Don’t Ask Don’t Get

Over the past year I’ve made a conscious effort to remind myself of this phrase everytime I want something. I take a breath, and just go for it. I might blog, I might write and publish books, I might be able to speak in front of large groups, but like many of you, I come from a very shy place. This bold and brazen approach has taken some getting used to, but I can guarantee it pays off.

This past month alone I could rattle off at least a dozen times where this advice has resulted in exactly what I wanted (though this isn’t always the case, there wasn’t a single rejection to my requests, and people couldn’t  have been friendlier), but today I want to talk about how this strategy can help you buy better quality food. Starting with an example …

If I lived alone, my food allowance would likely be a bigger part of my budget. But, to my husband, food holds equal importance to say, phone bills, and should be analyzed according … best value (quality) for the money, but not simply paying more for quality. It has to be “worth it.” When boneless skinless chicken breasts are on sale for $1.99 per lb, there is no way he will let me purchase the organic ones for $7.99 per lb. But, if they are discounted to a certain point, say $2.99 per lb, he can see the value and we upgrade.

The other day our grocer had an abundance of organic chicken that was slated to expire in two days, so about a dozen packages were marked down to $3.99 per lb. Shoot, still above the husband’s threshhold. So what did we do? We asked. We gave the butcher an option. We politely approached him, mentioned how a few weeks ago they had a couple packages marked all the way down to $1.99 per lb (this was the truth mind you!), and said, “We’ll take all of those packages off your hands if you will mark them down to $1.99 per lb.” You know what? He did it! Before you start throwing in the buts, this was a traditional, conventional large grocery chain … not a specialty or natural food store. Also, he wasn’t the manager, he was a regular employee who felt empowered enough that he could help us out. He knew that all of that chicken wasn’t going to sell in the next two days and that it would go to waste … better to sell it all at a bigger discount.

We have begun doing this sort of thing more and more with natural and organic foods to also help increase demand and hopefully bring down prices … possibly even making organic the new norm … how cool would that be?

To some it may sound like we got a steal, but the fact is, we helped all of that organic chicken sell through (if the chicken is repeatedly thrown out, the store would probably stop ordering it). Plus, we showed that there will be a bigger demand for the product at a lower price.

Other things you can do and consider to increase quality options:

  1. Always, and I mean always, compare prices of organic vs non-organic. Even my husband is okay with paying $.89 for organic green onion vs $.69 for conventional. Decide your threshhold for value. And, organic could actually be cheaper! Just this week I purchased a head of organic cauliflower which was $1 less than the conventional head (which was also smaller)! Yes, sometimes you can save money by choosing organic. Buying in-season will also help ensure that you are getting local or at least domestic produce at that lower price, bonus!
  2. If you don’t see a product, request it. My local grocer had a brand of organic milk alternative advertised as on sale, but I couldn’t find it on the shelves. When I inquired, they said, “Oh, we have some in the back, let me know how much you need.” That inventory would have sat in the back and registered as unsold, but because I requested it, they brought some out to the shelves so it would actually sell!
  3. Also, if the grocer simply doesn’t carry the food or product, they can and likely will start ordering it if you request it.
  4. Always keep in mind the idea of supply vs demand. The more we demand of higher quality products, the lower the prices will become. I’ve watched it for years. Seldom heard of fruits like pomegranates catch on, and the price drops from $3.99 each to $1.99 each. Fresh dates gain in popularity and suddenly my grocer adds them to their “bulk” fresh produce options with a much lower price than pre-packaged. People raise alarm about the “dirty dozen” and now I can buy organic apples from Washington for the same price as conventional. Do not underestimate your power. Consumers speak with dollars and companies listen.

I live in a remote mountain area, so these tips are especially for those of you who may not have many options for a garden, farmers market, big natural food stores, or direct from the ranch purchasing. If you have any of those, even better!

What are your money-saving ideas for good quality food? I would love to hear them!

Also, check out this great post at Elana’s Pantry: Michael Ruhlman: Why I Cook. Both Elana and Michael are true leaders in the food revolution.