Garden Strawberries 

Unfortunately I’m not growing a veggie garden this summer, but I do have some wonderful strawberries from last season’s plantings (from Farmer Dave). 

What a difference compared to my older strawberry plants. The worms still attack the leaves, but the plants are strong enough to fight them to still be healthy. 

In just two days, I’ve netted almost 1/2 pound of strawberries.

Bowl of strawberries

Peet’s Jasmine Fancy Green Tea (Loose-leaf)

I’m a big fan of Peet’s coffee, but I’m not drinking coffee much anymore, so I wanted to try their loose teas. I chose the Jasmine Fancy green tea leaves because I really love the taste of Jasmine green tea, when I’ve made it from tea bags (Bigelow brand to be exact.)

Please know, I’m not a tea expert or connoisseur by any means. When I tried it years ago, I’m sure I brewed it incorrectly, using too high temp water or brewing for too long; I didn’t like the taste at all.

But in my opinion, this green tea is yum. Taste (when brewed properly – 175-180° for 4-5 minutes) is light but full of flavor. Delicious! Aroma is exquisite. Plus, like other good quality loose teas, I can get at least two cups from one scoop serving. BONUS! So, it’s really not as expensive as one might think. And you’re getting a fresher, higher quality product when you brew the leaves yourself.

brewing a cup of Peet's Jasmine green tea

Brewing a large cup of green tea

The dry leaves are dark (almost black) and good-sized, but after brewing, they really puff up and turn a healthy green. I have a cute little chrome/silver teapot-shaped infuser that I use, and the leaves open fully inside. In fact, they expand so much that it’s difficult to scoop them out after I’m done brewing. I don’t think that happens with the dusty ground tea bits inside most grocery store tea bags.

my little teacup shaped infuser

Now that I’ve found loose teas again, I’m looking forward to experimenting. Hmm, how about some gunpowder green tea, and oh yes, wanting to try matcha green powder!

Anyway, you can find Peet’s loose tea online or at their retail coffee shops, if you are lucky to live near one. I don’t know if they sell their teas at grocery stores, like their coffee.


Mill City Grows: Lowell Farmers Market

Today I stopped by the Lowell Winter Farmers Market (Mill City Grows) at the Mill #5 on Jackson Street.

I love this market. It’s on the 4th floor of an old mill building, complete with old creaking wooden floors, high ceilings and an old elevator to take you up. I love walking down the long isle, full of market vendors, as well as cute little artisan “shops” in their own rented storefront spaces.

I found a wonderful farm named Maple Shade selling goat meat, something I’ve been thinking of trying, since seeing it at the Salem NH farmers market. It was $10/lb for ground or stew meat. I chose ground for now. It’s supposed to be very lean. I’m excited to try it.

I also bought some lovely pork sausage from Foxboro Farm – $10/pkg (approx 1 lb), then sauntered back to the front for veggies and from Mill City Grows, I bought 2 small baggies of greens $4.50 (mixed and pea tendrils) and I spent $8 at Jones Farm for a bunch of carrots, bunch of radishes, brussels sprouts, and some awesome crisp apples.

I’m thrilled to learn that they are keeping the market going through the end of June! And I’m also thrilled that so many farmers are keeping local food available in New England all year long!

Canning & Preserving 2014

I’m so happy and proud. I “put up” a good amount of jars this season.

Canning jars on shelf 2014

There’s lots of tomatoes (pints & quarts): chopped, roasted, juiced, & slow-cooked, Concord grape jam & juice, peach maple jam, rhubarb chutney, spicy sweet tomato jam, pickled green cherry tomatoes, cortland applesauce, honeycrisp/gala applesauce, tomato jam, and one lone salsa from last year. Plus there was some spring strawberry jam that’s LONG gone because it was so scrumptious.

My freezer stash includes blanched green beans, chopped raw green peppers, raw whole jalapenos, chopped raw celery, celery leaves, lots of bone/veggie stock, and a bit of canning leftover chopped tomatoes.

We had some leftover honeycrisp applesauce for the fridge, and it was absolutely delicious. Probably the best I’ve had! Yum. I’m still contemplating if I should buy another half bushel to can more applesauce in quarts for all the upcoming holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Mother’s and Father’s day). I got a decent deal on “seconds” from Mann’s Orchard – $16 for 21+ pounds. Considering, honeycrisp are regularly $2-$4/lb, I was thrilled! I want more!

And I’d love to try a batch of sauerkraut. I’ve previously tried fermented pickles, and one batch was great, while the other spoiled. I’ve recently learned that Diamond Kosher salt (my go-to brand) measures completely different than pickling or table salt, so I wonder if that might have been the problem. I’m feeling brave enough to try on a head of cabbage I just bought at the farm.

Of course, now that I’m totally addicted to homemade water kefir, I think more fermented foods are in order.

Other canning plans? I have been saving many interesting recipes from canning and preserving books (public library I love ya), and I’m hoping I’ll find time to make some sort of hot pepper sauce (fermented perhaps), as well as cranberry relish, beet relish (w/caraway), rosemary onion confit, ginger pear chutney. There are so many wonderful recipes out there, we’ll see what I can do this year.

And well, there’s always next year too!

My Garden 2014

Finished planting our veggie garden this weekend. I wasn’t sure if I was going to have one this year, but my DH, God bless his sweet soul, borrowed a rototiller and got the soil ready. He even expanded the width of the garden a little.

So we have

  • snap peas
  • shell peas
  • carrots
  • chard
  • asian greens (with a lovely covering to keep out the cabbage moths)
  • cherry tomatoes
  • bell peppers
  • basil
  • cucumbers
  • corn (DH’s idea)

I’m hoping to get a photo of the garden soon!

October Unprocessed 2013 with Bob’s Red Mill Coupons!

I’m up for the challenge!

October Unprocessed 2013 is right around the corner, and I just took the pledge for my third year.

I just need to set some customized ground rules ahead of time; the original Eating Rules processed food definition is a bit too stringent for me, so I’ll be thinking about my own guidelines in the next few days.

It’s extra exciting this year, as Bob’s Red Mill (my fave) is sponsoring the challenge and they are offering some really valuable coupons, like REALLY good coupons, for those that sign up.


I just printed the page of coupons now:

  • Buy 1/Get 1 free (up to $4.99)
  • Save .75 on one product
  • Save .55 on package of Scottish oats
  • Save .55 of package of whole wheat flour

I’ve been slacking on my blog lately, and I’m really hoping this will spark new creativity. I’m looking forward to next month!

New Whole Foods Market in Melrose MA

When I received my receipt from my last purchase at the local Whole Foods Market, there was also an attached coupon for $10 off $50 purchase at one of two new Whole Foods Massachusetts stores (Melrose and Weymouth).

Of course I wanted to check out the closest one in Melrose, so I planned a shopping trip on Friday, which was also their one-day sale for Alaskan Coho salmon ($10/lb).

I knew the Melrose location was previously a Johnnie’s Foodmaster store, so I wasn’t sure how large the store would be, in comparison to other stores. As I suspected, it is smaller, and crowded, especially when trying to navigate a shopping cart in the produce area, during lunchtime on a Friday.

If the produce area wasn’t cramped enough, the “bulk” section is also situated in the same isle, which makes it very difficult to get near with a cart; same with the salad/food bar on the other side of the store. But I was patient, and just went with the flow.

The employees (or team members) were extremely nice, which made up for the lack of space. I had a lovely conversation with the man behind the fish counter about salmon pin bones, and the woman who helped me with my probiotics return/refund was very cheery.

I was disappointed though, when I arrived at check-out and the cashier gave me a little bit of attitude. I always put my poultry and meat purchases in one particular re-usable shopping bag, and I’ve never had any issues at the stores when I leave the meat inside the bag. The cashiers (even newbie ones) usually understand the process and scan each item from the bag then pack them back into my bag afterward.

Well this particular cashier proceeded to unpack all my poultry items onto the belt, coming inches close to my produce. I became annoyed, and told her that I didn’t want the meat touching/contaminating my other items, to which she rudely proclaimed that my fish was already touching the items (as if it was MY fault), and I told her it wasn’t the same as poultry, and that I wasn’t worried about the fish. I never raised my voice, and I didn’t take the issue further, but I could tell that she was not happy with me as she scanned the rest of my items.

If she just left my poultry in the bag, she could have easily scanned each piece and simply re-packed, like the dozens of other cashiers have done. But instead she was rude.

I’m not out to get her into trouble, and I am not one of those entitled shoppers that think customer service workers need to kiss up to me. (In fact, I really hate that!) But in this case, a little bit of the “customer-is-always-right” should have come into play.

I spend a lot of money on my groceries, and I choose specific items (especially perishable produce) very carefully, so I expect the food to arrive into my home in the same condition that I chose it. (Not covered in poultry bacteria.)

She should have seen that the situation upset me, and immediately tried to make it right, instead she tried to prove me wrong. It was something I rarely ever encounter at Whole Foods Market. They do a remarkable job at defusing any customer issues before they escalate.

But all in all, the experience was positive at this new store and I was thrilled to use my $10 off coupon!

It makes me happy that the Melrose area now has a Whole Foods, as it’ll be a benefit to the community. It was also wonderful to see local produce being sold there, but at the same time, I would rather consumers support their local farmers directly at a farmstand or farmers market.

But if shopping at Whole Foods is the first step in getting people to consciously eat more local produce, then that is what matters. The next natural step will then be seeking out a farmers market or buying into a CSA.

Healthy Food Budget June, July 2013 {{MOVED}}

My detailed weekly posts for the healthy food budget have moved to a new area.

I thought that it would be more organized to keep most of the budget posts in one separate area instead of getting them all mixed up with my regular blog posts. I know most visitors aren’t interested in my spending details, and truthfully, I am really budget blogging for myself, to keep a record I can refer to if needed.

So, detailed budget posts are found at, but I’ll continue to post quick monthly updates here as well.

I copied all older posts to the new blog, and eventually I’d like to remove the originals from here, and set up URL redirects, but that will take a lot of time, and it might not even be necessary. In the meantime, there will be two copies of older posts.

So, here’s my monthly update for two months

June 2013: $401.72

Dining Out: Total $23.57
Gardening: Total $16.39
Groceries: Total $361.76

Great month. Considering I started my cleanse/detox/elimination diet mid-month, I did very well. But truthfully, the real reason I made my budget was because we didn’t go out to eat but once all month. The bulk of the spending was groceries.

Groceries: $361.76
Trader Joe’s 119.58 (32%)
Whole Foods 99.81 (27%)
Wilson Farm 48.65 (13%)
MARKET BASKET 45.34 (12%)
Open Meadow Farm 37.41 (10%)
Wilmington Farmers Market 14.25 (4%)
Hannaford 2.50 (1%)
Food Pantry donation credit ($5.78)

July 2013: $475.43

Dining Out: Total $116.20
Groceries: Total $359.23

Boy did July kick my budgeting butt! Yikes. I didn’t just go over, I was ran over by a bulldozer!

Two changes came in July though. A lot more meat consumption. I’m still experimenting with my diet, but I drastically reduced legumes and grains, especially wheat and gluten, along with dairy and eggs. It’s been very difficult since I was such a proponent of a plant-based diet with only occasional meat consumption. My go-to meals were fried eggs, bread pizza and pasta with tomato sauce. Working with an elimination diet, I had to increase meat and lower the carbs. I’m still not ready to blog about the details yet, but hopefully soon. It’s been a long overwhelming life-changeing haul, but I’m getting closer to answers.

The second change to my budget was removal of supplements and vitamins. These really were a necessity and wasn’t something I could control as easily as groceries, so I moved them to a separate budget expense.

Groceries Total 359.23
Whole Foods Market 93.28 (26%)
Trader Joe’s 89.16 (25%)
Wilson Farm 62.83 (17%)
Local Farm 59.36 (17%)
MARKET BASKET 39.82 (11%)
Open Meadow Farm (meat) 7.54 (2%)
Penzeys Spices 7.24 (2%)

Even though the budget was over the top in July, I learned some valuable lessons. I’m still affected by impulse buys, whether it’s at the grocery or DH clamoring for take-out. When I don’t follow my specific list, I get into trouble. It’s something I need to work on.

And secondly, even though the last few days burst the budget, I was eating good healthy food, so it really was worth it. Summer fruit is expensive but it’s good for you and that’s all that matters!

Happy August Budgeting!

Coconut Palm Sap/Syrup, Responsible & Sustainable, or Not?

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about coconut vinegar, and how healthy and awesome it is.

I was browsing on this morning, checking out items on my “wish list” and noticed the coconut vinegar product from Coconut Secret – on the summary page, they praise their product, claiming it’s low-glycemic and healthier than apple cider vinegar. The vinegar is made from the sap of the coconut palm tree.

In the back of my mind, I remembered something about palm sap or sugar not being sustainable, so I googled.

tropical traditons logo

I found the article from Tropical Traditions (whose products I just LOVE) and was reminded how truly UN-natural coconut palm sugar is.

Coconuts or Coconut Sugar – A Coconut Tree Cannot Produce Both!

If a young blossom from the coconut palm tree is emptied to gain its syrup, then that blossom will never create a coconut fruit. Please read their article, as it contains a lot more information that I’m sharing here.

After more research, I found the follow-up rebuttal from Coconut Secret disputing the Tropical Traditions claims, and arguing that once a coconut palm tree has been sapped, it will continue to give syrup for 20 years. They also maintain that the benefits of coconut nectar outweigh the benefits of a mature coconut.

…sap products offer a nutrient-rich array of amino acids, minerals, B and C vitamins, are low glycemic and have a nearly neutral pH.

So who’s right? If you believe Coconut Secret, there should ultimately be a balance of both worlds, using the sap as well as fully matured coconut for all benefits.

That sounds fine, until you begin converting the sap into sugar, and because of that, I’m on the side of Tropical Traditions.

First of all, I didn’t appreciate the “tone” of the Coconut Secret article. It was a little petty, suggesting that the Tropical Traditions owner had ulterior business motives and because TT owned the web domain, they were hiding future plans.

Seriously, wouldn’t TT be jumping on the coconut sugar bandwagon to sell more products if it was truly a sustainable, responsible product? Of course they would!

And I think that it’s brilliant that Tropical Traditions had the forethought to purchase the domain so no other coconut company could profit from it! I think they should forward the traffic to their article page not their cane sugar product page, where it goes now.

Coconut Sugar – Healthy, Responsible, Sustainable or Not?

I’m truthfully not against the time-honored tradition of extracting the coconut flower sap to produce “tuba,” which is used to make coconut vinegar and coconut vodka.

What’s distressing is the world has been convinced that coconut “sugar” is better than any other sugar (shades of agave nectar!) But really, coconut sugar is SUGAR, something that should be consumed in moderation. It’s not the new wonder food, {some reports are not convinced it’s glycemic load is as low as claimed or that it’s as healthy as claimed, since it’s got a big dose of fructose}

Increase in popularity means an increase in coconut palm sapping production. How can a process be healthy and sustainable if it’s goal is to be producing SUGAR!

And that, is where the real trouble lies. Consumers love new health foods (especially when Dr Oz promotes them), which eventually leads to cheaper mass-production and loss of sustainability and integrity. Nothing is 100% sustainable when greed and profit take precedence.

The key is moderation and variation in our food consumption!

I Like Tropical Traditions :)

So, bottom line, I’m supporting Tropical Traditions in this argument. I’ve been consuming their gold label virgin coconut oil (and coconut cream and shredded coconut) for a couple of months, and wow, there is a difference in quality and taste compared to other coconut oils I’ve used.

coconut water vinegar

I also just found out that they have their own coconut vinegar product, produced from coconut water, not from coconut palm sap! Their product is not distilled or pasteurized like most commercial vinegars, it’s sold in its raw state, complete with the mother, like Bragg’s apple cider vinegar. So cool!

On the other hand, I am not opposed to trying a Coconut Secret product also; their coconut vinegar and especially their coconut aminos look promising, as both are in a raw state, like the Tropical Traditions vinegar.

As for coconut sugar, I don’t think I’ll ever be using that product. We don’t consume that much sugar/sweeteners and when I do, I try to use sucanat, honey, or maple syrup, but we also keep normal everyday white cane sugar in the house for DH’s coffee and for my canning needs.

What I do believe is that the only way to true health is a reduction of sugar consumption. It doesn’t matter if it’s white cane sugar or coconut sugar. Sugar should be considered as a special treat or reward, like it was back in the “olden days” before it was mass-produced for massive profit.

(Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate link(s) for which I might receive a small referral reward for any purchases made after clicking the link.)