Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Lessons Learned at my First Indy Food Swap (It was a blast!)

Last Saturday I had the extreme pleasure of participating in Indy's first Indy Food Swap. I want to start this post by complimenting and thanking Suzanne Krowiak, whose vision and hard work made the event a huge success. Thanks, too, to Sacha Brady (@Zigged), who volunteered to make everything run smoothly. You can learn more about the Indy Food Swappers on their Facebook page: Indy Food Swappers and on Twitter at: Indy Food Swap.

It was so much fun to chat with everyone who participated and to view the amazing diversity of handmade foods shared. I highly recommend attending the next event in October! I failed to take pictures of the items I took with me to trade, but the pic in this post shows the delicious items I traded for. Every one of the unique, handmade items is truly delicious!!

As with most things in life, I made mistakes at this first swap and learned valuable lessons as a result. Here are my tips based on the lessons I learned the hard way:

1) Take small servings so you have more to trade. I wasn't sure what the typical serving size would be, so I took large portions. For instance, I took homegrown, organic herbs and packed large amounts into quart-size bags. In retrospect, I should have packed the herbs into sandwich size bags. Doing so would have given me four items to trade instead of just one. Most people brought sample sizes to share. Quantities traded did vary, though ... everything from 4-ounce jars to 16-ounce jars of liquid items, and everything from plates of four cookies to a plate filled with six cake balls. Obviously, anything goes, but packaging items in smaller quantities will allow you to trade for more items.

2) Don't be afraid to bargain: Because there is such a diversity of sizes and quantities being traded, be ready to get creative and flexible about what you're trading. If someone wants to make a trade you don't think is fair, don't be afraid to offer to trade a different quantity or to ask for two of the item being offered. Most people are more than willing to bargain with you.

3) Niche items may not be popular: I took a jar of kefir grains and coconut water kefir and found that most of the people at this swap didn't know what they were. That gave me a great chance to educate people, but meant that very few swappers showed an interest in trading for them. Obviously each swap will have different attendees with different interests, so it's hard to say what will or will not be popular at each event. I'm such a firm believer in the health benefits of kefir that I'll probably continue to take a jar, but am prepared to take them home if no one wants to trade for them.

4) Is it better to bring single servings of many items or many servings of a single item? I'm still not sure what the best answer is to this question. Please share your thoughts. Is it better to bring one serving of several different items, or multiple servings of a single item? I took single portions of four different things, but wound up wishing I had multiple (smaller) servings of some of them. Most people had a single item with multiple portions to trade. A few folks had two different food items with multiple portions. The bottom line is that you can potentially take home one new item for each item you bring to trade, so having multiple portions allows you to try far more items.

I can't wait for the next Indy Food Swap! Did you go to the most recent one? What lessons did you learn? If you've never been to a food swap, what questions do you have?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Stop Being SAD NOW

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You know it's coming ... that time of year when you just feel down, have no energy, and would be perfectly happy hibernating until spring. The winter blues aren't just in your head...

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

10 Unique Uses for Zucchini

It's that time of year when people are begging their friends and family to take excess zucchini off their hands. Zucchini is far more versatile than people realize and has many more uses than the old stand-by of zucchini bread!Nutritionally, zucchini is a great source of fiber and has significant amounts of calcium, magnesium, potassium,Vitamin A, lutein, Vitamin C ... and is a fair source of Omega 3 fatty acids!

So what do you do when you have zucchini coming out of your ears? Try the following ideas that are a bit off the beaten path:

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Make Your Own HEALTHY Beer Loaded with Probiotics!!!

It is incredibly easy to brew your own healthy beer, in whatever flavor you want, that will be loaded with probiotics and enzymes. Since I'm basically a very lazy person, I did a lot of research and experimentation and simplified the basic technique to make it even simpler. My technique follows. Enjoy!!

I again want to state that I do NOT condone the consumption of alcohol and encourage everyone to use moderation in all things. I "approve" of this beer simply due to the probiotics and healthy enzymes it contains. In spite of its healthy ingredients, it should only be consumed in small quantities.

Please see my previous post, Starting Your Own Ginger Beer Adventure for a summary of the ingredients and supplies you will need. This post assumes you are already familiar with the supplies you will need.

There are three simple steps involved in brewing healthy beer. They are:

1) Making a starter culture
2) Making a flavoring syrup
3) Brewing the beer

Each of these steps is incredibly simple. The entire process takes a little over two weeks, although the start culture only needs to be made once. You can also choose to allow the beer to brew longer to create a higher alcohol content, but that is optional.

STEP 1: Making the Starter Culture

The starter culture is a fermented liquid that is brewed to create a high level of beneficial bacteria. These bacteria then spur the fermentation and production of alcohol in the beer. To make a starter culture, follow these steps:

1. Fill a quart Mason jar 3/4 full with purified water.

2. Add 1 tablespoon grated or finely chopped ginger and 2 teaspoons sweetening agent. Stir well, cover jar with a breathable material (a coffee filter or cheesecloth secured with a rubber band works well) and allow to sit out, unrefrigerated, for 24 hours. (Note: I put a lid on my starter culture, but I open the lid several times a day to release the gasses produced during the fermentation process.)

Note about sweeteners: The sweetening agent will be consumed during the fermentation process, which means it’s technically fine to use white sugar. I never use white sugar in anything, so I have experimented with a variety of sweetening agents. If white sugar isn’t appealing to you, you may substitute agave nectar, Sucanat, palm sugar, honey (not raw), molasses, maple syrup, etc. Note that the flavor of the sweetener will slightly affect the taste of the starter culture and the beer it's used to create. Organic Black Strap Molasses creates a "malty" flavored brew; agave nectar produces less of a flavor. Sucanat or palm sugar add no flavor at all.

3. On a daily basis for the next 7 days, add 2 tsp grated ginger and 2 tsp sweetening agent every day, stirring well. (If possible, stir 2-3 times during the day to hasten the fermentation process.)

4. When ready, the Soda Starter will be “cloudy” and slightly bubbly. If mold forms on the surface during the initial week, skim it off. If mold is persistent, start over.

STEP 2: Making a Flavoring Syrup

The flavoring syrup provides sugars to feed the fermentation process during the brewing process. The flavoring options are limitless. The following instructions are for making a Ginger Beer. I've experimented with fruit beers, but the Ginger Beer is simple and tastes great, so I recommend starting with it as a first batch. I currently have a batch of Pumpkin Ginger Beer brewing. Only time will tell how it will turn out, but I have high hopes! Follow these steps to make a flavoring syrup:


1 Gallon Purified Water
1 1/2 cups sweetening agent
4 tablespoons grated/chopped ginger (more or less can be used based on preference; don't bother peeling it)
Juice of one organic lemon or lime (1-2 tablespoons)

1, Heat half of the water until boiling, add the ginger and sweetening agent, and boil for about 15 minutes. (Note that you may want to boil the syrup longer if you're making a fruit beer.)

2. Remove from heat, pour into a gallon glass jar which already contains the other half of the purified water. You may want to add a metal spoon to absorb the heat and prevent the jar from cracking. (If you don't have a gallon glass jar and will be brewing in a plastic container, remove the pot from the stove, add the remaining water, and allow to sit in the pot until completely cooled after following the remaining steps.)

3. Add lemon or lime juice. This step is very important. Lemon and lime juice maintain an acidity in the brew that helps prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.

4. Allow to cool completely.

STEP 3: Brewing the Beer

Now the fun starts!!


Flavoring Syrup made in Step 2
1 cup of Starter Culture made in Step 1
1/2 teaspoon baker's yeast (champagne yeast will produce a finer flavor, but plain ol' Fleischman's bread yeast works well.)

1. Add one cup of Starter Culture to the cooled Flavoring Syrup. (The remaining Starter Culture can be saved for up to six months or you can continue making more by adding 2 tsp sugar and 2 tsp ginger every time you use some top make more beer.)

2. Pour about an ounce of the liquid from the jar into a bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the liquid and allow to sit until it's thoroughly absorbed. Blend well, then add back to jar. Swirl jar to blend.

3. Cover jar with a breathable cover such as a coffee filter/cheesecloth secured with a rubber band

4. Allow jar to sit on the counter, unrefrigerated, for 3-21 days. After at least two days, the sugar in the brew will be consumed and the brew will no longer have a sweet taste. Most brews develop a definite beer flavor after around 3-5 days. Taste your brew every few days to judge the taste and decide when you want to stop the brewing process. The longer you allow the beer to brew, the higher the alcohol content will be.

5. When the brew process is complete, put a lid on the jar. Putting a lid on the jar creates a carbonated beer. Most beers become bubbly but don't develop the carbonation we've come to expect from mainstream beers.

6. CHECK THE JAR EVERY 12 HOURS AND RELEASE CAP TO RELEASE GAS BUILD-UP. I've heard horror stories of glass jars exploding, but I've never had it happen. Making your first batch in a 2-liter plastic bottle makes things a little easier. When the pressure on the bottle builds until you can't compress the bottle, place the bottle in the fridge.

7. If desired, pour the brew into individual bottles, cap them tightly and allow them to sit for 12-24 hours to re-build the carbonation. Refrigerate after that.


That's it!! Please let me know if you try it. Maybe we should schedule a home-brew tweetup!! :)

As always, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @IndyHealer

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Starting Your Own Ginger Beer Adventure

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

My Experiment with Healthy Beer

Before I dive into the subject of this post, let me state that I do NOT condone excess consumption of alcohol. Although I don't think drinking high amounts of OTC beer to be a good thing, I also don't think an occasional beer or glass of wine (or Margarita or vodka tonic) will destroy your health. There is actually some research that suggests drinking red wine may be healthier than drinking tap water, so "moderation in all things" is a great mantra when it comes to alcohol.

After making non-alcoholic ginger ale for quite a while, I recently experimented with brewing my own alcoholic Ginger Beer. My incentives for brewing my own beer included:

1) To create a truly gluten-free beer. Since this beer contains nothing but ginger, this was easily accomplished.

2) To brew a beer that retains its health benefits because it is not pasteurized. (The "stuff" you buy mainstream is pasteurized, which effectively destroys the beneficial microorganisms that could potentially make beer healthy.)

3) For the mere heck of it and so I could say I'd done it.

I made Ginger Beer using a very simple process that included creating a starter culture using water, ginger and agave nectar. I then created a ginger syrup which I combined with the ginger starter culture. I allowed this to ferment for a few days and then added a tiny bit of yeast to start the production of alcohol. I also added lemon juice for flavor and to inhibit the growth of non-beneficial bacteria.The good news is that the fermentation process consumed the yeasts, meaning that this brew would not feed Candida.

Here are the conclusions I drew from my brew:

1) Ginger Beer maintains a healthy amount of beneficial probiotics: In spite of the yeast used to stimulate the production of alcohol, Ginger Beer is still a fermented product high in probiotics. I tested this by adding the final product to a small amount of yeast. The addition of the beer killed the yeast. (Yahoo!) I also confirmed this by testing the beer using an EDS (Electrodermal Stimulation) unit. The Ginger Beer consistently balanced people's allergy points and their Candida points. I found this very encouraging!

2) Ginger beer is cheap to make. It cost less than $3 to brew four liters of Ginger Beer. (Take that, Guinness!) Total time was approximately half an hour once I perfected the process.

3) Ginger Beer has a very mild taste. Ginger Beer smells strongly of beer but doesn't have the strong "bite" or bitterness that many beers have. Although sugar is used in the brewing process, the sugars are consumed in the fermentation process and no sweet taste remains. (I actually found that adding a bit of stevia improved its taste, but I'm not a beer drinker and don't generally like the taste of beer.) Ginger Beer has a strong ginger afternote, which I really liked. My biggest encouragement was that my husband, who's a bit of a beer snob, didn't describe Ginger Beer as tasting like "weasel piss" and actually said he likes it. (Sorry for the bluntness. That's his term for bad beers.) I also found that the probiotics and ginger in the beer could actually be used to settle an upset stomach. Imagine that!

4) Ginger Beer gets you wasted. I confess I'm a lightweight because I rarely drink. However, the alcohol content of my Ginger Beer was high enough that a single glass (6 oz) created quite a buzz. Batches left to brew longer than a week smelled more like distilled liquors than beer and had a much stronger effect. Again, moderation in all things is advised, but Ginger Beer did the trick when used as a muscle relaxant or as a calmant following a rough day.

There you have it! I'm not sure I'll continue brewing Ginger Beer, although I have enough starter culture to last a lifetime, but brewing it was quite an education!

Have you brewed your own beer? Please share what you brewed and whether you thought it made you healthier or not. Have a great week!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Myths About Kombucha and Candida

This post was moved to my permanent website. It can be read in its entirety at: Why Kombucha and Candida Don't Mix. Please click the link to read the entire article. Thanks!

This post is dedicated to everyone who has battled Candida and who wants to do everything possible to avoid making things worse. Although Candida in small quantities is a beneficial yeast our body requires for balance, the high sugar content of the Standard American Diet (SAD) often feeds Candida so that it grows like crazy and overtakes the digestive system and other body systems. (See The Top Six Ways to Maximize Digestion for more info.) I will write more about Candida in a future post. Today, let's address why Kombucha feeds Candida and should be avoided at all costs by anyone who suffers from or is prone to Candida overgrowth.......

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Top Six Ways to Maximize Digestion

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Digestive issues are becoming a widespread problem. They are so widespread that even babies and toddlers are now afflicted with painful, inconvenient digestive problems...

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