How to

3 ways to detox using activated charcoal

Activated charcoal, sometimes referred to as activated carbon, has a long history of use throughout the world. Dating as far back as 400 BCE to purify water, research suggests activated charcoal may support total body cleansing due to its highly absorptive properties. 

Derived from non GMO coconut shells, our new activated charcoal powder makes a great base for these 3 easy detox tips. 

1. Create a skin mask

Add water or apple cider vinegar to create a paste. 

Activated charcoal skin mask

2. Create a toothpaste

Add water or apple cider vinegar to create a paste. This paste will also brighten your teeth!

Solaray activated charcoal powder

3. Add to a glass of water

Your water may turn black, but it's tasteless.  

Activated charcoal water

 

Activated charcoal is highly absorbent and may reduce the effectiveness of some medications or nutritional supplements. Use product as directed on the product label. 

How to preserve herbs

Culinary herbs are a key ingredient in many foods, but with fall rapidly approaching, it's time to start thinking about preserving your fresh garden herbs. The best way to save the taste of herbs from your garden is to preserve them before winter. While some herbal plants, such as parsley, will survive many months indoors in pots if brought in before a frost, most herbs are better frozen or dried to use in the months ahead. Dried and frozen herbs are easy to store and take up less room than a fresh herb plant. In fact, 10 pounds of fresh herbs equals about 1 pound of dried herbs. You can also process your herbs by making pesto or herb vinegars, to preserve their flavors.

Here are some tips on the best ways to preserve your herbs.

Harvest your summer herbs to savor their flavor all winter.

Harvest your summer herbs to savor their flavor all winter.

Harvesting herbs

Herbs are best harvested before flower buds form and in the morning before the sun has evaporated the essential oils in the leaves. This late in the year many herb plants may have started to flower. To create higher quality leaves for storing, snip the flower buds to encourage new side shoots to grow. A few weeks later these leafy side shoots will be good candidates for harvesting and preserving. When harvesting branches of herbs, snip just above a leaf to encourage more growth during the waning days of fall. Always select stems that have little damage from disease and insects.

Quick drying herbs

Herbs for drying can be grouped into two categories; quick drying herbs and slow drying herbs. Quick drying herbs include lavender, marjoram, mint, oregano, rosemary, and sage. These herbs are best bundled together in bunches of 10 to 12 stems, tied with rubber bands and hung upside down in an airy, cool room out of direct sunlight to keep the essential oils in the leaves from volatilizing. The bundles of herbs will dry in about 1 to 2 weeks, depending on the weather. Humid weather slows the drying process. Once dry, strip the leaves off the stems and store. Dried herbs are best stored in a dark place and used within three months of storage for best flavor.

For the best results, know the difference between slow and quick drying herbs.

For the best results, know the difference between slow and quick drying herbs.

Slow drying herbs

These herbs don't dry well in bunches and are best if separated from their stalks and dried on screens. Herbs such as basil, dill leaves, lovage, parsley, and thyme fall into this category. Remove the leaves, cut them into small pieces, and lay them on screens for air drying or place on a cookie sheet to dry in the oven or a dehydrator. Set the oven or dehydrator to a low temperature (below 150°F), and stir often until the leaves are dry. Store in glass jars.

Freezing herbs

Herbs with high water content, such as basil, lovage, mint, lemon balm, and tarragon can also be frozen. Freezing preserves herbs in a bright green state and makes them available for adding to soups and stews in winter. Wash herb stems and remove the leaves. Pat the leaves dry and place on a cookie sheet or tray, separating them so they don't freeze together in a solid mass. Cover and place in the freezer until frozen. Store in an airtight container or freezer bags for up to one year.

Another handy way to freeze herbs is in ice cube trays. This is a great way to preserve combinations of herbs you use in special soups and stews in winter. Stuff three or four individual leaves or chopped herbs in a ice cube tray and fill with broth or water. Freeze, then remove the blocks and store in freezer bags. 

Pestos & vinegars

I love eating pesto in summer and preserving pesto for winter, too. I use the ice cube tray method making batches of pesto by filling the trays and storing the cubes in freezer bags. Don't feel limited to basil pesto either. The word pesto, in Italian, means to pound or crush, so try out different leaf combinations like spinach and parsleyarugula and parsley or kale and sun-dried tomatoes. Vinegars are a great way to preserve herbs such as basil, oregano, thyme, and rosemary. Use three to four sprigs of herbs per one cup of vinegar. Experiment with white vinegar, cider vinegar and wine vinegar, using different herbal combinations and amounts.

Collecting herb seeds

Some herb plants are best preserved by collecting the seeds. Dill, fennel, and coriander are some of the most popular herbs whose seeds are used in cooking. To collect herb seeds, let the plants flower and form seed heads. When the seed head begins to yellow and dry, but before the seeds start dropping, harvest the head and cover it with a brown paper bag, securing the bottom with an elastic band. Hang it upside down indoors. Wait a week or so to let the herb seeds mature and dry. Periodically shake the bag to dislodge the seeds into the bag. Store seeds in a glass jar in a dark location. Use within six months for best flavor.

How to choose and store tofu

Soft, firm and extra-firm tofu are not only a delicious source of protein but also provide the basis for everything from sauces to stirfries and scrambles. Shefaly Ravula demystifies the most common types of tofu and offers tips on how to use and store them. She demonstrates how to make an orange dream silken smoothie. Once you have the technique down, customize this creamy treat with your choice of fruits, protein powder or flavorings.

DIY Quick Pickles

Pickling can be just that—a pickle. True pickling is an ancient miracle for food preservation, but involves a drawn-out fermentation process requiring canning equipment, sterilization procedures and a whole lotta waiting around.

But, did you know that there’s a fast and easy way to preserve and chill your fresh garden veggies? Follow these quick pickling steps for those of you not ready to go all in. 

DIY Quick Pickle

1. Pick your pickle

Although cucumbers are the most common for pickling, you can pickle almost any vegetable such as baby carrots (not the bitty mature carrots which you find in packages, but miniature immature ones with the skin still on), shallots, onion, asparagus, cauliflower, green beans, zucchini, okra, and beyond. The fresher and crispier the produce, the better the final product.

2. Prep the potion

The main ingredient in pickle brine is vinegar. White vinegar is most common, but you can also use cider vinegar or wine vinegar. Balsamic is not recommended as it’s too syrupy. Combine 1 cup vinegar with 1/2 cup water in a saucepan. Instead of diluting the vinegar with water, try including a 1/2 cup of white or brown sugar with a dash of cinnamon.

Add a few pinches of salt. Salt draws moisture out of the vegetables and encourages the growth of useful bacteria. 

5. Spice it up 

This is where it gets fun. Many "pickling spice" blends are available and work beautifully, but consider a visit to the bulk aisle at your local food co-op to customize your blend. Mustard seed, dill seed, dry coriander seed, red pepper flakes, bay leaf, black peppercorns and garlic are all great places to start.

Combine all the ingredients in the saucepan, stir to dissolve, and bring to a boil.

3. Prep your veggies

Trim off any inedible pieces of your vegetable (e.g., the ends of green beans or root ends of onions). If you're cutting your vegetables into pieces, make sure they're all about the same size for pickling consistency.

Leeks and carrots make great pickled veggies.

Leeks and carrots make great pickled veggies.

4. Submerge and chill

Place your vegetables in a clean, dry container. Glass jars are the best because they won’t absorb any odors from the pickles.

Pour the boiling brine into the jar and submerge the veggies completely (you can add water to bring up the level if needed). Refrigerate for at least one hour and let the brine work its charms. The longer you brine, the tastier the pickle.

Depending on your veggie, quick pickles will keep in the fridge for weeks to a few months. 

 

Reprinted by permission from StrongerTogether.coop. Find articles about your food and where it comes from, recipes and a whole lot more at www.strongertogether.coop.
 

How to make a banana whip

Banana whips are a staple of West Philly's biannual Dollar Strolls. Skip the lines and make your own banana whip at home by following these simple steps. 

Ingredients

  • One bunch of fair trade, organic bananas
  • Chocolate, coconut, or whatever you like as a topping

Please note, you will need a juicer to create a creamy, ice cream-like consistency. 

Preparation

  1. Peel and freeze bananas for at least 12 hours. 
  2. When you're ready to make your banana whips, thaw your bananas for a few minutes. Thawing the bananas makes them easier to cut. 
  3. Slice the bananas in half. 
  4. Push two halves of a banana through a juicer. One half - two thirds of a banana makes a 4 oz banana whip. 
  5. Top with chocolate, coconut, or whatever you please. 

DIY: Natural Egg Dye

Easter Eggs

Egg dyeing is a fun way to celebrate this time of year—and it's a tradition that goes way back—as much as 5,000 years when Persians celebrated springtime with eggs colored with plant-based dyes. Plant dyes can be just as useful today and they're plentiful; in fact you very well might have dye-worthy ingredients in your kitchen already.

Here are some great plant-based dyes—fruits, vegetables, spices and flowers.

Items Needed

  • White eggs (or try brown, keeping in mind color results will vary)
  • Egg carton
  • Stock pan(s)
  • Water
  • White vinegar
  • Slotted spoon
  • Natural materials for dyeing (see table).
Natural Egg Dye

Optional: Tape, string, rubber bands, cheese cloth squares, natural beeswax crayons to create designs on eggs, and vegetable oil for an extra sheen. 

Directions

Beet dye including pulp (top), onion skin dye with celery, bay and ivy leaves wrapped in cheese cloth (middle two), turmeric dye with rice wrapped in cheese cloth (bottom).

Hot Bath Method

  1. Place uncooked eggs in a stainless steel stock pan. Add water 2-3 inches above eggs. (When using bottled juice, fill 2-3 inches above eggs. Do not add water.) Add natural dye ingredients and 1-2 tablespoons vinegar per quart of water.

  2. Cover and bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  3. Carefully remove eggs with a slotted spoon and air dry.

Cold Bath Method

The process for cold dyeing is much the same as the hot method except the eggs and dyes are cooked separately.

  1. Simmer the dye ingredients (water, vinegar and dye matter) for 20-30 minutes or longer, until the dye reaches your desired shade.
  2. Allow the liquid to cool and submerge hard-boiled eggs in the dye for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Carefully remove eggs with a slotted spoon and air dry.  

Notes, Tips & Techniques

Color variation

Colors may vary depending on steeping time and foods used to dye eggs.

Deeper colors

The longer the eggs stay in the dye, the deeper the color will be; leaving the eggs in the dye for several hours or overnight (in the refrigerator) is recommended for achieving deep colors. Allow the liquid and eggs to cool before refrigerating and ensure that the eggs are completely submerged in the dye. Eggs will be speckled if the dye matter remains in the liquid. For more uniform colors, remove the dye matter from the liquid, by straining the liquid through a coffee filter, before refrigerating.

Egg flavor

The flavor of the egg may change based on the dye, so if you plan to eat your dyed eggs, a shorter dye bath and fresh ingredients may be preferable.

Drying

Make a drying rack by cutting the bottom off an egg carton and turning it upside down.

Decorating

  • Wrap onion skins around eggs, then wrap the entire egg with a cheese cloth square and secure it with string before placing the eggs in the dye.
  • Wrap string or rubber bands around eggs before dyeing to create stripes (use rubber bands for cold dyeing only).
  • Draw designs on hot, warm or cold hard-boiled eggs with crayons. When using hot or warm eggs, the crayon may melt slightly on contact with the egg (if eggs are hot, hold eggs with a potholder or rag to prevent finger burns). Crayon covered eggs should only be dyed in cold dyes as the crayon wax will melt in hot liquids.
  • Gently wipe dry dyed eggs with vegetable oil to give eggs an added sheen.

 

Reprinted by permission from StrongerTogether.coop. Find articles about your food and where it comes from, recipes and a whole lot more at www.strongertogether.coop

Cooking with Aquafaba

Thank vegans for this exciting new phenomenon. 

What is aquafaba?

Aquafaba is actually something we have been pouring down the drain for years. Also known as chickpea water, aquafaba (derived from the Latin word "aqua" for water, and "faba" for beans) is the liquid that forms when you cook dried chickpeas.

With a little help from sugar, starch, and a little something acidic to help stabilize it, aquafaba can be whipped up to a lofty peak, with nearly the same structure as whipped egg whites. 

How to make aquafaba

Via Creative Commons

Via Creative Commons

Many aquafaba recipes call for draining a can of cooked chickpeas to get started. That is certainly easy and it works pretty well, but you can actually make better aquafaba at home from dried chickpeas.

  1. Start with 2 cups dried chickpeas, sorted and cleaned, a piece of kombu seaweed, and water. Kombu is important, as it adds some minerals that make the aquafaba work better.
  2. Use 6 cups of water, and cover the pan so you don't boil off too much liquid. To get the best results, use a slow cooker or stovetop, not a pressure cooker. Long, slow cooking extracts the most active ingredients from the beans.
  3. Slow cook on low for 8 hours or on the stove top for about 4 hours.
  4. When the beans are very tender but not falling apart, they are done.
  5. For best results, refrigerate the whole pot so that the beans can continue to marry with the aquafaba. You can strain them immediately after cooking, if you prefer.
  6. Discard the kombu.
  7. Measure the strained aquafaba, and if it is more than 3 cups, put it in a pot on the stove and boil it to reduce it down and thicken it to about 2 1/2 to 3 cups.
  8. Refrigerate for up to a week, or portion and freeze it. Save the cooked chickpeas for another use.

Aquafaba uses

When substituting with aquafaba, remember it has none of the fat other substitutes may have. Use aquafaba as a vegan egg white substitute or in cakes and meringues. Aquafaba is a great mayo starter that can be easily blended with garlic and herbs to make aioli for dipping, meat, or seafood.

Recipes that call for an egg or two to bind them are your best bets, like meat or nut loaves, veggie burgers, or savory breads. You can blend part tofu and part aquafaba with seasonings, then scramble to make a softer, lighter version of a tofu scramble.

 

Authored by Robin Asbell. Reprinted by permission from StrongerTogether.coop. Find articles about your food and where it comes from, recipes and a whole lot more at www.strongertogether.coop

DIY Kombucha

DIY Kombucha

A popular item for Mariposa shoppers, Kombucha is a bubbly, refreshing brew that also serves as a source of healthy probiotics.

Making kombucha can also be a fun and satisfying DIY project. The only challenge can be finding a scoby, the Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeasts that floats in your brew, infusing the liquid with good bacteria. To find a scoby, put the word out to your neighbors, friends, and fellow Co-op shoppers. Anyone who brews on a regular basis will have extras. Another strategy is to look at the bottles of plain, unflavored kombucha and select the one with the largest floating blob of scoby. Strain the drink, and use the contents of the strainer as your scoby culture. The starter tea, or already-brewed kombucha, is essential to acidify the brew enough to keep less desirable bacteria from flourishing, so don't skimp on this ingredient.

Ingredients

  • 14 cups purified water
  • 4-8 teabags (white, green or black, not caffeine-free herbal teas) or 4-8 teaspoons loose tea
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups starter tea (already-made kombucha; you can use bottled)
  • Scoby

Equipment

  • 1 gallon jar or crock, no metal
  • Thermometer
  • Strainer
  • Cloth to cover jar and rubber band or string to secure it
  • Bottles with good lids for finished kombucha

Preparation

  1. Start by sanitizing your jar, strainer, measuring cups and spoons and stirring spoon; either run them through the dishwasher or boil enough water to pour into the jar, drop the spoons and cups in, and then drain. Pour boiling water over the strainer. Let dry. Wash your hand thoroughly; don't use antibiotic soap.
  2. In a large pot, bring 2-3 cups of the purified water to a boil. Add the teabags or loose tea and steep for about 5-10 minutes, then remove the teabags, or strain into the clean one gallon jar. Stir the sugar into the hot tea until dissolved, then add the remaining water. Use your thermometer to check the temperature of the tea—you need it to drop to under 85⁰F. When the tea is cool, slip the scoby into the mixture. It should float, if it falls to the bottom and stays there it may be dead.
  3. Cover the jar with cloth and secure with the rubber band or string. Keep the jar in a warm spot; the kombucha will brew more quickly at 75- 80 degrees. If you live in a cooler climate, you may want to invest in a warming device, like a brew belt or a seed sprouting mat that doesn't get above 75 degrees. The kombucha takes 7-9 days in a warm room, but takes up to two weeks in a cool room.
  4. Check the kombucha daily. A layer of scoby should form on the surface, making a thin film at first, then growing thicker. Floating yeast colonies will form, and as your kombucha starts to bubble, they will rise and fall. After the first few days, put a straw down the side, to avoid disturbing the surface, and take a taste. At first it should taste like sweet tea, and gradually become less sweet and more fizzy, like plain bottled kombucha. It will smell like cider vinegar, but not taste that sour. If it starts to taste very sour, it is overdone, and some of the good bacteria are dying off.It is still useful as vinegar, so don't throw it away. When it is ready, remove the scoby and bottle the kombucha.
  5. If your scoby does not float, or a skin never forms on top of the brew, or any kind of visible mold occurs, discard and start over.
  6. Keep your scoby at room temperature in enough plain brewed kombucha to cover by an inch, or start a new batch immediately. They can keep, in a dark spot like a cupboard,for three months, as long as you keep replenishing the kombucha.
  7. For bubbly kombucha, bottle the tea with a strong lid and leave it out to carbonate itself by continuing to ferment overnight. Be very careful, since the bottles can explode. Some brewers recommend using plastic bottles for this process. When the plastic bottle becomes very firm when squeezedthe kombucha is done. Chill the tea to stop the action. Drink cold. The kombucha should keep for a month.
  8. To flavor your kombucha, pour flavored waters or juices into the bottles before adding the finished kombucha, or put slices of ginger root or zest right in the bottle.

 

Authored by Robin Asbell. Reprinted by permission from StrongerTogether.coop. Find articles about your food and where it comes from, recipes and a whole lot more at www.strongertogether.coop

10 Ways to Cook with Ginger

Ginger

Ginger is a great source of vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, copper and manganese. It's also widely studied for its medicinal benefits, including aiding nausea and vomiting, relieving the pain of osteoarthritis, and possibly a factor in treating heart disease. Of course, it's also delicious in all sorts of dishes and versatile. Try it using one of the techniques below.

 

1. Make sauces, dressings and dips all perk up with the addition of ginger. For a simple dipping or marinating sauce, add minced ginger to soy sauce. For a salad dressing upgrade, stir a bit of minced ginger to an otherwise plain vinaigrette.

Ginger soy sauce

2. Combine it with red miso and tahini in this colorful Kale Salad with Ginger Miso Dressing

Ginger miso dressing

3. Enhance flavor. This Ginger Beurre Blanc Sauce would nicely flavor any seafood or chicken, for starters.

Ginger Beurre Blanc

4. Add it to grain dishes and mashed sweet potatoes.

Mashed sweet potato

5. Spruce up a simple stir fry with beef, chicken, or veggies. In this Grilled Tofu with Cilantro Ginger Pesto, ginger combines with cilantro.

tofu cilantro ginger pesto

6. Add fruit. Apples, pears and other fruit are delicious when seasoned with ginger. Sprinkle minced ginger on top of the fruit before baking or cook the fruit in gingered butter until softened.

poached pear

7. Pickle it. Pickled Ginger is great for cleansing the palate or a light snack. This version is easy to make and, unlike many commercial varieties, uses no food dyes.

Pickled Ginger

8. Add it to sweets. Dried and ground ginger performs well in desserts, like spice cookies, carrot cakes, or pumpkin and apple pie fillings.

Baking hands

9. Stir into cream cheese for spreading on fruit bread.

Ginger Cream Cheese

10. Serve it with curry. Offer tasty little bites alongside curried dishes.

Chopped ginger