Tuesday
Oct212014

Tuesday Tea - October Selection Club - Simple Loose Leaf

This week we're taking a break from Fair Trade teas because I wanted to take a moment to tell you about the changes that are coming to Simple Loose Leaf, the tea subscription service I review each month. October will be the last month for the selection club, Simple Loose Leaf is rolling out a new plan called the tea co-op as well as a new online store.

The New Tea Co-op explained:

  • You'll receive a box each month with a ¼ ounce sample of each of the new teas featured in Simple Loose Leaf's online store. You can expect to receive 4 - 6 new teas each month.
  • After you sample the teas in your box you'll be able to order more from the new online store. As part of your membership you will receive a card with a discount code for 50% off your purchase in the online store (not including shipping.) 
  • All teas ordered from the online store will be charged flat rate shipping. It will be $3 in the US, and is estimated to be $5-7 for Canada (the exact price for Canadian shipping has yet to be determined)
  • The new Co-op membership will cost $15/month, $9.95 less than the current club. 
  • Your account will be charged on the 25th of the month and your sample box will ship out the 1st of the following month.  (i.e. Charged on October 25th and Shipped on November 1st.)

I'm excited to see that Simple Loose Leaf is finally offering a way for me to order more of the teas I've enjoyed from my monthly box. Check back next month for my first review of the new tea co-op and make sure to use the coupon code below if you're interested in signing up.

Where to Purchase: 

You can use coupon code NotStarvingYet for a 50% discount on your first month’s membership at Simple Loose Leaf 

October Selections:

Hojicha Green Tea 
Yunnan Jig Tea

White Pear
Pu'erh Spice Tea
Peppermint Herbal

Peppermint Herbal

Review:

There is something incredibly soothing about peppermint tea. That is why I always keep some on hand for those days when I'm stressed out or not feeling particularly well. It always manages to lighten my mood and set my stomach straight when I'm sick (or when I have eaten more than any one person should in one sitting.) Lately I've been drinking a cup after I take the pain medication my dentist prescribed, it helps ease the upset stomach it always gives me. Since peppermint is naturally caffeine-free it's the perfect late night drink so I often find myself having another cup before bed. A relaxing cup of hot tea is the perfect way to end a long day, although lately my toddler has been drinking more of my peppermint tea than I have. It's always been his favorite flavor.

My Rating: 80/100

Would I order this again? Yes! Peppermint is something I always keep on hand for when I'm sick, plus it's a great tea for children.

Disclosure:
In an effort to be open with my readers I want to let you know that Simple Loose Leaf has provided me with a free subscription to their service. As always, all opinions are my own. 
Sunday
Oct192014

Pumpkin Pie Spiced Apple Butter #Unprocessed

I really hadn't planned on buying more apples this week, but I made a last minute trip to the grocery store and discovered that they were on sale. I've never seen them priced so low and I may have been tempted to pick up a few (or possibly 12) pounds. After my marathon canning session last month where I spent my days turning 75 pounds of apples in to sauce I had decided I was done with canning for the year. Not because I was tired of canning, but because I ran out of jars. After turning my house upside down I found a few empty jars that I had been using for other purposes and decided the first project I wanted to cross off my list was apple butter. It's something that I haven't made it in years, but I felt like it was a great project to tackle for October #Unprocessed since one of my goals this month has been to reduce the amount of sugar in my diet.

Fruit butters such as apple butter, apricot butter, and vanilla bean peach butter are a great option for anyone wanting to reduce the amount of sugar in their diets. An entire batch of fruit butter uses 1 cup of sugar (or less) whereas jam or jelly will use as much as 5 cups per batch. It's definitely a much healthier option that will still allow you the occasional sweet treat. I've been enjoying mine on whole grain bread any time my craving for something sweet hits. These days I find that I don't even miss the extra sugar from jam or jelly, plus my house smells like fall every time I open up a jar. 

Apple Butter
makes 6 half-pints or 3 pints

Ingredients

7-8 lbs apples (I used Galla)
3 tablespoons home made pumpkin pie spice
1 vanilla bean
¾ cup light brown sugar or 1 cup of turbinado sugar

Equipment

immersion blender (optional)
water-bath canner or stock pot with lifter
6 half pint canning jars with lids and rings
jar grabber
magnetic lid lifter
funnel 
butter knife
ladle
clean dish towels and cloths 

Directions

  • Wash, peel, and slice apples. Place them in the crock-pot and cook on high with the lid on for 2 - 3 hours.
  • After 2 - 3 hours puree the partially cooked apples with an immersion blender or food processor, return the puree to the slow cooker. Continue cooking the apples for an additional 6 - 8 hours with the lid off.
  • After 6-8 hours the contents of the crock pot should have reduced roughly in half, if they have not you can continue to cook the apples down further. 
  • Open vanilla bean pod with a knife and scrape the insides into the apple butter. Add brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice and stir until well incorporated.
  • At this point you can fill your jars and keep them refrigerated for up to a month or process using the water bath canning directions below for storage of up to one year.
Canning Instructions
  • Sterilize your canning jars, rings, funnel, and any other equipment that will come into contact with the apple butter. You can do this easily by putting everything in the dishwasher and running it. Just don't put your equipment in with dirty dishes.
  • While your jars are sterilizing fill your stock pot with water and let it boil. It takes awhile for a large pot of water to boil, so keep this in mind. You don't want to fill your jars before your water is ready.
  • Once you're ready to fill your jars, place a sauce pan on the stove. Add your canning lids and fill pan with several inches of water. Bring the water to a simmer and allow the sealing wax on the lids to soften for several minutes.
  • Fill sterilized jars with hot apple butter leaving ¼ inch head space at the top. Remove air bubbles with a knife, wipe the rims with a clean damp rag, place lids on top and fasten ring until fingertip tight.
  • Place sealed jars on a rack in the canner or stock pot. Make sure jars are covered with water and that the waterline is about an inch over the top of the jars, then cover pot with lid.

You do not want the jars coming into contact with the bottom of the canner or stock pot because they will bounce around and likely break.

Processing times for this recipe are 10 minutes for elevations of 0-1,000 ft and 15 minutes for elevations of 1,001-6,000 ft. These times are for quarter-pints, half-pints and pints only. 
  • Process half pints and pints for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Time starts once the water has come to a complete boil again. You may need to add boiling water to keep the water level up as the jars are processing.
  • Remove jars from canner, set on a clean dish towel, and let them rest for several hours until cool. You should hear a popping sound as the lids seal. 
  • To check the seals of your jars press the center gently with your finger. If it moves up and down the jar is not sealed. You can either reprocess using a new lid never reuse an old lid or once the jar is cool, eat the apple butter. You know you want to and you deserve the treat after such hard work!
  • Label with detailed contents and date, then store in a cool, dark, and dry place.

Other Notes

I decided to use Galla apples for this recipe because they are naturally sweet which meant I could use less sugar. If you use another variety, especially one that is tart, you may need to increase the amount of sugar. 

If you're new to canning and want a more in-depth tutorial I highly recommend purchasing the most recent edition of the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving and Canning. It's full of helpful tips, recipes, and best practices to follow when canning.

Disclosure

This posts contains my Amazon affiliate links. I try to keep advertising unobtrusive and to a minimum in order to provide you with the best experience possible. Please keep in mind that this is a necessary evil to cover my expenses in running this blog so I can continue to provide you with quality content.

Wednesday
Oct152014

October #Unprocessed - Week 2 Update

Week 2 Update:

This week started out a little rough, not because I was struggling with the challenge, but because I cracked two of my teeth. That's what I get for eating fruit and nut bars instead of twizzlers on the way home from St. Louis. Unfortunately my dental problems have yet again left me scrambling for meal ideas — anything other than soft food is off the table for the next three weeks, unless my dentist can get me in earlier. I'm not looking forward to living on a diet of soup, bread, yogurt, and oatmeal so more menu planning is in order. Budget Impact: $2,000+ (which makes me wish I had just eaten the twizzlers.)

Speaking of budgets, since our food budget is so small I've been keeping a close watch on any extra spending I've done during the challenge. This was one of my husband's biggest concerns when I told him what we'd be doing this month. So far I've averaged $20 per week in extra expenses, but for the most part those extra costs have been offset by the things I haven't been buying, such as single serving yogurt cups and tortillas. Overall the impact to our budget has been minimal and if we can increase our grocery budget I feel like the changes would be sustainable in the long run.

Bringing Back Pizza Night

This week my biggest expenses revolved around pizza night. We gave it up for week 1, but I couldn't see us going a whole month without home made pizza and decided to modify my pizza crust recipe. This wasn't difficult, but finding an unprocessed meat proved to be more challenging than I had anticipated. Many of the "natural" meats are still full salt and sugar and I was determined to eliminate as much sugar as possible from my diet this month. I did stumble across one brand of deli roast beef with simple ingredients and no sugar. The meat wasn't as flavorful as I've grown accustomed to, but it did allow us to have cheese steak pizza for dinner. We'll be using the last of the deli meat next week for pizza night and I'll be looking into additional topping ideas for the rest of the month. Ultimately I'd love to find a unprocessed pepperoni, but I'm not sure if such a thing exists.

Next Week:

I'll be experimenting more with the white whole wheat flour I bough for pizza night. I can see a lot of potential uses and still plan on modifying my pita recipe when I have time. Unfortunately the next few days I'll be busy with a number of dentist appointments so my time in the kitchen will be limited. When I have a busy week like this I prefer to pick up a rotiserie chicken and not worry about cooking. I'll need to do some advance planning or pull out my crock-pot so I can continue to focus on staying unprocessed this month.