Author Archives: azuremarie

About azuremarie

Bonjour, I'm Azure; a healthy dose of eccentricity best taken with a grain of salt. Most people describe me as sassy, and I like that. I love words, and think that anyone who can twist them in their mouth and make something beautiful come out is sexy and someone with whom I want to spend my time. I read a lot (bordering on too much), and am baller at boggle. I happen to be addicted to concerts/live music, and will listen to anything that can carry a beat, and even those that don't. I believe that being normal is boring, and love bright colors. I have a soft spot for animals, particularly dogs and horses, but I am beginning to be a cat person as well. Sometimes, I will admit that I like some animals better than some people - they're great listeners and don't judge. J'adore voyager. Someday I want to be able to look at a map of the world and say "I have been there, there, and there... and there", and have a memory attached to them all. I've recently begun to work at an organic juice bar, and diet/holistic health is starting to become a main passion of mine. I want to be able to experience our world, as well as help save it. Oh, and unicorns exist.

Perfect Picnicking

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Howdy 🙂

It’s nearing the beginning of picnic season, which is always an exciting time to grab some local food and drink, prepare tasty snacks, and soak up all the beauty nature has to offer.

I’m a big fan of picnicking, and wanted to share with you some of my favorite sandwiches and snacks to bring along, as well as some other items I deem useful. I’m still on the hunt for the perfect picnic basket, so if anyone has any recommendations, please share!

Sandwich Combos:

  • fig jam/arugula/prosciutto/asiago
  • mustard/brie/ham
  • mustard/cheddar/apple
  • dijon/swiss/ham/cornichon
  • goat cheese/grilled veggies
  • gouda/chicken salad
  • cream cheese/cucumber

Snacks:

  • olives
  • fruit
  • dates stuffed with almonds
  • crackers
  • cheese
  • meats
  • honey/jam/peanut butter/chocolate spread

Other:

  • beverage: wine, of course! I store mine in my corkcicle canteen
  • blanket: very important. I adore my tarpestry
  • basket: as I mentioned… still on the hunt!
  • utensils: I want to invest in some nice reusable picnic utensils, plates, cutting board and knife. Again, recommendations are highly encouraged.
  • books, music, and a perfect location are also good to have on hand 🙂

I highly recommend you give the sandwiches a try. Tres delicious. Happy picnicking!!

Get Cultured

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Bonjour les belles,

Probiotics have been popping up in the media as of late, and I wanted to reiterate the fact that they are so essential and beneficial to our bodies. In addition, I wanted to share some recipes I have been utilizing lately that contain probiotics.

First things first: what are probiotics?

~ According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, probiotics are varieties of live microorganisms, for example bacteria and yeast, that naturally live in our bodies. Microorganisms tend to have a negative connotation, but they actually have immense health benefits and help our bodies function properly. For example, bacteria that are normally present in our intestines help digest food, destroy disease-causing microorganisms, prevent diarrhea caused by infections or antibiotics, help with irritable bowel syndrome, and produce vitamins.

*A lot of research has been done on probiotics, and a lot more is on the horizon. If anyone would like more information on the subject, I am more than happy to provide you with studies.*

Fun Fact: Microorganisms in the human body outnumber human cells by 10 to 1.

Where can I find probiotics?

~ As I mentioned, we naturally have them in our bodies already, but it certainly would not hurt to help your body out and ingest additional probiotics. Dietary supplements exist, but I would recommend first trying to incorporate into your diet food/drink that contain helpful microorganisms naturally. However, I am not a doctor, so please consult your health care provider first.

~ If you are trying to get natural probiotics, the following are popular (if you are not making these yourself, PLEASE make sure they are not pasteurized; you need the live and active culture/fermentation for microbes) : yogurt, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, miso, and anything pickled.

Fun Fact: Kefir is fermented milk, but you can also make “water kefir”. To make you will need sugar, and grains, which can be bought online at a reputable store. I have heard etsy also has reliable sources for these grains. The “common ground fair” in Maine is also a good location to find tasty kefir.

Ok! Now the fun stuff. There is this wonderful company in Bristol, Rhode Island called Hope & Main, and they offer a wide variety of classes on a regular basis. I recently attended one (taught by Susan and Bleu) that focused on fermented foods, and it was amazing. If anyone lives in the area and is interested, I highly recommend you check this company out for future classes.

From this class, I learned how to make sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha and I am pleased to share my gleaned knowledge with you all.

SAUERKRAUT

  • Ingredients: depends on how much you want to make, but I would  say start with 1 head of tight, heavy, organic cabbage. Peel off the outer leaves until they are slightly stuck to the head, then remove the core and slice thinly.
  • Use a ratio of 1 head cabbage: 1 T (sea) salt; it should taste like oversalted salad. Mix and massage with hands. The reason for this is that the salt pulls out the water and wilts the cabbage. Continue massaging the cabbage until water pools at the bottom of your bowl and leaves look shiny.
  • Pack cabbage and pooled water into jars. You will need enough water in the jar to completely submerge the cabbage to prevent molding. If you do not have enough water, make a brine: 1T salt: 1/2 gal water. Pour water on top with ~ 1.5″ space at top of freeze line.
  • That’s pretty much it! Leave lid loose on jar or cover with cheese cloth.
  • Temperature is important: high 50s, low 60s are ideal conditions for nutrients; temperature >65 creates too yeasty of a product. Basements and closets are great for this.
  • It takes about 3 weeks for the cabbage to fully ferment, but you need to push down the cabbage below water level daily for the 1st 2 weeks. This is very important as it prevents molding. A tamper is good for this, but anything that gets the job done is fine.

This is an anaerobic process, which means oxygen is not desired. This is why keep the veggies submerged is crucial, as they won’t be touched by oxygen under water.

  • You will notice in ~3 days the cabbage will look like it is cracking with air. This is a good sign. Over time, the product will get less salty and more sour.
  • If you are making larger batches, stoneware is a good investment. I personally own a 2-gallon Ohio Stoneware crock (bought at Ace hardware) with a lid and weights.
  • After the fermentation process is complete, move the sauerkraut to wide mouth glass jars with a lid. I find that plastic lids are best here, as they do not rust.

KIMCHI

  • The same process as sauerkraut applies here; you need to liberally salt your veggies and make sure there is enough brine to completely submerge ingredients.
  • Ingredients for one batch (~ 2 quart jars): 1/2 c shredded carrot, 2 Napa “Chinese” Cabbage (cut out core), 3 cloves garlic, 1 bunch scallions, ginger (as desired), 1 large daikon radish (grate/shred), red pepper flakes/seeds (as desired), salt
  • Mix all ingredients together in a crock and then either keep in crock or transfer to jars, depending on how you are storing during fermentation process.
  • The sweeter the vegetable, the quicker the process. This means kimchi takes less than 3 weeks to ferment; usually between 1 1/2 – 2 weeks. As long as the product no longer tastes salty, and you like the taste, it is good to go!

    Gingered carrots are another tasty recipe to try.

KOMBUCHA {Fermented Tea}

  • Start with a SCOBY -> symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. This is the liquid starter, or “mother” and is fed with sugar. The best way to obtain a SCOBY is to take a piece of one from someone you know that currently has one.
  • Ingredients: 1 gallon purified water in pot, get hot but not quite boiling (~ 8 min), black or green tea bags or loose tea, steep, remove and drop heat until ~ room temperature (cool to the touch). Do not put the SCOBY in until water is cool, or you could kill it.
  • After water cools, pour into a glass jar – ideally with a spout – then add the SCOBY and sugar. A good ratio is 1 c sugar:1 gallon water; brown sugar or not processed is best. Do not use metal! Only use a wooden spoon to stir.
  • Your SCOBY will need to breath, so do not put a lid on the jar. Instead, use a cheese cloth or a kitchen towel with a rubberband on top to secure. It is also best to store your mixture in a pantry or place with no sunlight.
  • You will notice that the SCOBY forms a seal on top of the mixture. This is to prevent from outside contaminants.
  • Depending on the temperature where you store the SCOBY and personal preference, time will vary until completion. A good timeline is 7 t0 30 days; a longer brewing time will result in less sugar and a more vinegar-y tasting beverage. Taste test mixture regularly to help decide.
  • When your kombucha is ready, wash your hands, remove the SCOBY (store in a ziploc bag in fridge with 1/4 cup of brew – this will serve as a starter for the next batch) and use a funnel to pour brew into separate glass jars. Again, no metal. Fill the jars as much as you can, then cover for a few days to get carbonation.

That’s all she wrote, folks! Creating probiotic friendly foods is really much easier than you would think, and the benefits certainly outweigh the costs. If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to ask! I don’t have any good photos of my endeavors to date, but I may post some in the future.

 

Beneath The Red Dress

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Beautiful Humans –

I came across this post years ago, and it just kept slipping through the cracks. It may be outdated, but it is still such a powerfully relevant topic, that it would be wrong not to pass on.

A quote from the artist sums up my thoughts pretty perfectly:

We pass people in the street every day and only see their veneer. What they feel comfortable showing to the world often tells a different story to their private battles. Under the Red Dress is a project which attempts to tell those silent stories that people are not only wanting to tell, but that people want to hear. Everybody likes to be reminded that the person next door is only human, as they are.

In today’s day and age, it is so hard not to get caught up in the superficial way of life. It’s no ones fault, but it doesn’t make it right. We can be so cruel to one another, so quick to judge, and you never know the effect you are having on another person by acting a specific way. This goes for the positive side of the spectrum as well; you really do not know how much your words or actions can influence another soul.

At the end of the day… just be kind. We all have our battles and burdens, and it really does make a difference when you know you have people rooting for you.

xx

Anti-Stress Smoothie

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Feeling a little stressed? Meh, it happens; not fun, but it comes with being well, human.

In my opinion, stress is something that absolutely needs to be combated, whether you get it out of your system by working out (my method), writing about it in a journal, or as I would like to address in this post, eating or drinking certain things that could help alleviate stress.

Anti-Stress SmoothieThat, my friends, is an “anti-stress smoothie”. It’s delicious, nutritious, and is proven to help combat dreaded stress.

What’s Inside: For one large serving
– 1 cup blueberries
– 3/4 cup homemade almond milk
– 1/2 cup chocolate frozen yogurt
– 1 medium banana
– 3-5 ice cubes
– 1 tablespoon honey
– sprig of lavender (for garnish)

It’s not even necessary to include instructions; simply combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth, then garnish with lavender – and whipped cream if you have it (I didn’t) – and enjoy!

Aaaand, just to help give you a little giggle, here’s a picture of my cat with bread on her head.

She's So Happy Looking...

She’s So Happy Looking…

Remember: deep breaths. Namaste.

Mmm…. Lemon-y

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Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins are a specialty of mine, and the lemon flavor in baked goods is one that I happen to be a huge fan of. I have a great muffin recipe that I’ll have to make again and share with you all soon, but that’s not the focus of today’s post.

Instead, I tried to branch out and find other sweet recipes that incorporated lemon and poppy seeds. After browsing the world wide web, I found this one for Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies.

Lemon Poppy Seed Goodness

Lemon Poppy Seed Goodness

If I’m being entirely honest though, I need to make this a few more times to get it to meet my expectations. The flavor was magnificent, but the texture was not where I wanted it to be; the cookies were a bit too crumbly before going into the oven, which made them become either too thin after baked or they were vulnerable to falling apart. There were some casualties that broke into a bunch of cookie nuggets while I tried to pry them off of the baking sheet.

Next time, I think I am going to leave the batter in the refrigerator for 30 minutes after step 6 before balling them up and placing them in the oven… that should hopefully help them become a little more viscous. We shall see!

Anyway, here’s the list of ingredients along with the recipe itself. If anyone tries this and has better success then me, please clue me in as to what you did!

Ingredients:
– 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 1-1/2 lemons)
– 3 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (about 1-1/2 or 2 lemons)
– 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
– 1 1/2 cups sugar
– 1 large egg
– 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
– 2 cups all-purpose flour
– 1 teaspoon baking powder
– 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
– 1 tablespoon poppy seeds, plus more for sprinkling

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a small saucepan, bring the lemon juice to a simmer over medium heat and cook until reduced by half. Add 1/2 cup butter and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat and set aside.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and poppy seeds. Set aside.
4. In a bowl, combine 1 cup of sugar and 2 teaspoons of the lemon zest, rubbing the zest and sugar together with your fingers until the zest is distributed and the sugar is fragrant. Add remaining 1/2 cup of butter and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes).
5. Add the egg and the butter/juice mixture. Continue to beat until pale, (about another 3 minutes). Mix in the vanilla.
6. Reduce speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing just until combined.
7. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons of lemon zest. Form dough into small balls about 1″ in diameter. Roll each in the sugar/zest mixture and place about 2″ apart on baking sheet. Gently flatten each ball to about 1/4″ thick with the bottom of a glass that’s been dipped in the sugar mixture.
8. Bake for about 12-13 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until the cookies just begin to brown around the edges. Allow to cool on a wire rack for a couple minutes before removing from the cookie sheet to cool completely.

Enjoy my dears!!

Snack This Out: Snapea Crisps

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Yes, you saw that correctly. “Snapea Crisps” are made from 70% whole pea, and somehow Calbee turned those darling green guys into an incredibly delicious, healthy alternative to potato chips. I’ve always been a fan of raw sugar snap peas, but these are extra crunchy, and they satiate that salt craving that so many of us have, myself included.

ImageCompared to regular potato chips, Snapea Crisps have 40% less fat, are a good source of fiber (3g compared to 1g), and have much less sodium. They also boast 4g of protein per serving (22 pieces).. pretty darn good for a lightly salted and baked Snap Pea!

So instead of grabbing a bag of Lay’s next time your grocery shopping, try these puppies out!