Posts Tagged ‘Condiments’

My post from April 9,  Fabulously Frugal, Sprouted Lentils, reminded me that I have been wanting to share another fabulous way to save money on natural, gluten-free, and organic foods. A few months back I began actively seeking coupons, weekly sales, and special discounts for items that we regularly purchase from stores. At first I was skeptical – I though that there wouldn’t be coupons and sales for natural and organic foods – yet over the last few months I have found several ways to make these types of small savings add up – all without compromising on buying mostly local, fairly traded, and organic food! This week I’ll share my strategies for gluten-free, organic, and natural foods couponing.

Initially, I was inspired to investigate the possibilities of natural foods coupons by the Chinook Book. The book costs $20, but can be found on sale for $15 (we bought one at the Better Living Show for $10). It is filled with coupons for discounts on natural foods and at natural foods stores (and for many other green-ish businesses). In my household the Chinook Book quickly pays for itself. For example, for each of Portland’s Co-Op’s (People’s, Food Front, and Alberta Street) there are coupons for 5 dollars off a purchase of 25 dollars. That’s 25% off our groceries!

Click here to view a list of the natural grocery coupons in the Chinook Book.

Click here to view a list of the local grocery store coupons in the Chinook Book.

Keep an eye out for coupon books in your favorite grocery stores. New Season’s and Whole Foods each have in-store coupon books. (Whole Foods coupons are also available online.) People’s, Food Front, and Alberta Street Co-Ops (and other co-ops) share the bi-monthly Co-Op Advantage coupon book, though not all of the products are available at every store. Free, bi-monthly publications like Remedies for Life, Taste for Life, and Delicous Living frequently contain coupons, I pick them up at Food Front in Hillsdale. Other print publications frequently contain coupons, I like to scan neighborhood and weekly newspapers, as well as my favorite print magazines devoted to healthy lifestlyes. (Living Without and Whole Living frequently contain natural foods coupons.)

I’ve found a few coupon websites devoted to natural foods. Mambo Sprouts Coupons is affiliated with the coupon giant Coupons.com and is regularly updated with new coupons. Coupons.com, like the Sunday paper coupon inserts, is mostly for conventional foods, however, there are occasionally natural products coupons to be found on/in both. HealthESavers.com is also dedicated to natural foods, but it is updated only occasionally Whole Foods coupons are updated bi-monthly, but (of course) they are only good at Whole Foods.

Click here to view Mambo Sprouts coupons

Click here to view Coupons.com coupons.

Click here to view HealthESavers coupons.

Click here to view Whole Foods coupons.

Some natural foods companies offer coupons to people who sign up for their mailing lists or become their Facebook fans. Look for mailing lists and facebook pages that offer specific coupons when you sign-up or ‘like’ the company. I’ve had repeated success with directly contacting companies and requesting coupons. I send quick e-mail note telling the company what at I appreciate about them, which products I buy, and I request coupons. (Some even send samples!) I encourage you to contact some of these exciting companies.

Columbia Gorge Organics

Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap (they make coconut oil too),

Food For Life (sprouted and gluten-free breads)

Nancy’s Cultured Dairy & Soy

(These links provide you with the contact page, but you must make the request.)

All of this may seem exciting and overwhelming, so here are three things that I do to keep couponing helpful and under-control.

#1. My own rule has become that coupons must be for something I would normally purchase (even without the coupon) or for special treats on special occasions. (They’re for saving money not spending more!)

#2. Organization is key. I keep a small 3-ring binder with clear pockets to organize all of my coupons. It’s cute, tidy, and fits easily into my purse or shopping basket. I’m sure to keep it with me and I’ve seen other shoppers eyeing it enviously!

#3. Combining coupons and sales is always best, so next week I’ll share how I keep track of sales.

Do you have any tips for gluten-free, organic, or natural-foods couponing? I’d love to hear any suggestions in the comments below.


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Part Two: Whole, Unrefined Cooking Salts

Himalayan pink salt and sel gris

Of the hundreds of different, unrefined salts produced around the world – some bearing intriguing names like Persian Blue, Kala Namak, and Jewel of the Ocean – the commonly available choices for everyday use are limited. Jurassic salt, Himalayan pink salt, and sel gris all have loyal followers in the whole-foods community and are available in most natural-foods stores. The range of flavors, colors, and textures among these salts hint at the vast variety of salt made throughout the world.

Perhaps the most common type of all-purpose cooking salt found in natural-foods stores is Jurassic salt, sold under the brand name Real Salt. Jurassic salt is translucent to opaque with veins of pink minerals throughout. It is mined from Southern Utah’s ancient salt beds. The deposits pre-date modern environmental contaminants and have been sealed within the earth under a protective layer of volcanic ash for millennia.

Because Jurassic salt is mined and industrially ground, it’s available in different crystal sizes. I prefer to purchase it finely ground, as it has a gritty, rocky quality that is emphasized with larger crystals. Mark Bitterman, in his James Beard Award winning book, Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral, with Recipes, describes the taste of Jurassic salt as “balanced,” and “generally flat and heavy on the palate”[1].  Jurassic salt is not made through traditional methods, nor is it sophisticated or gourmet, but it is whole and unrefined. It’s far superior in taste and nutrition to industrially produced salts like common table salt, sea salt, kosher salt.

Himalayan pink salt, finely ground and rocks

Himalayan pink salt (like Jurassic salt) is mined. It’s deposited deep within the earth and protected from any modern contaminants. As the name suggests, the crystals are pink, although the color can vary from light peach to nearly ruby. When finely ground, a light pink color dominates and flecks of darker pink are distributed throughout. Himalayan pink salt has been traditionally harvested (cut by hand) from the mountains of Pakistan for over two-thousand years. It’s available finely ground, coarsely ground, in various sized rocks, and even in slabs to be used as cooking or serving surfaces.


Bitterman describes the taste of Himalayan pink salt as “spicy-hot pungency”[2]. In simple dishes seasoned only with salt and pepper, Himalayan salt actually enhances the flavor of the pepper. As an all-around cooking salt it brightens flavors and lacks the flat, heavy, grittiness that describe Jurassic salt. Himalayan pink awakens the palate and enlivens all of the senses. I favor this esoteric salt when making curries and other dishes that center on spices.

Sel gris with an Empire apple

The French culinary tradition relies heavily upon two types of traditionally produced salts. These salts, fleur de sel (literally salt flower in English) and sel gris (grey salt in English), are made traditionally, by hand, using ocean water and the sun. Fleur de sel is aptly named, as it is harvested from the top of the salt brine. It’s delicate crystals are nearly opaque and silvery white. Fleur de sel is reserved for finishing dishes. It’s beautiful crystals should be spared from dissolving in the soup pot.

Sel gris is more abundant than fleur de sel. The coarse crystals are translucent light-grey and naturally retain some moisture, telling of its origins in the sea.  Sel gris is truly an ideal cooking salt. It tastes sweet and pleasant on the palate. With only 85% sodium chloride, much of the briny flavor is derived from other minerals abundant in the seawater.[3] It has a mildness that is in marked contrast to both Jurassic and Himalayan pink salt.

Sel gris is commonly sold under the brand name Celtic Sea Salt. It is available in large natural crystals or finely ground. I prefer to purchase the large crystals. They can be ground in a mortar and pestle if needed or left whole to use a finishing salt on breads, salads, or meats. Finely ground sel gris, Jurassic salt, and Himalayan salt can be substituted directly for table salt, kosher salt, or sea salt in most everyday recipes.  To use coarsely crystaled sel gris for preservation (canning, fermentation, etc.) use 20% more than the recipe calls for to ensure adequate sodium chloride in the finished product.

Local, West coast salts from The Meadow

These unique salts look and taste vastly different from common industrial salt. Salts like Jurassic, Himalayan pink, and sel gris, are the salts of our ancestors. These irregular, colorful, aptly named crystals have nourished and delighted people for ages, made preserved foods possible, and supported traditional economies around the world.

In ancient and recent history the control of salt has been a political stronghold. This legacy continues today. Among scientists, doctors, and health professionals public health policies that focus on reducing salt intake are controversial. Remember that these modern-day battles concern industrially produced salt in industrially produced food. When we rely on real, whole foods, prepared at home, we can include real, whole, unrefined salt. We can partake in a global artisan food-making culture and we can support environmental responsibility – all through seasoning our food with the most satisfying, life-giving salts that the world has to offer.

Click here to read Part One: Industrial Food, Health Policy, and Home Cooking

This was shared on Fat Tuesday Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, and Real Food Wednesday.

[1] Mark Bitterman, Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral, with Recipes, (New York: Ten Speed, 2010), 164.

[2] Bitterman, Salted, 163.

[3] Bitterman, Salted, 165.

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Part One: Industrial Food, Health Policy, and Home Cooking

Today’s plain, ubiquitous table salt is the center of power-struggles and politicized battles within the health-care community. Ancient empires, like those of Rome and China, valued salt and the social power that controlling it offered[1]. Because the potassium to sodium ratio in vegetables and grains isn’t ideal for people,  all agricultural peoples require supplemental Sodium in the form of salt[2]. For an example of the symbolic and economic importance of salt we only need to look as far back in history as 1930 and to the political statement conferred by the Salt March (a peaceful resistance movement, organized by Ghandi, in response to British monopoly of salt in India; and by extension a peaceful resistance to British colonial control of the country).

Sodium and chloride (the chemical building blocks of salt) are needed for some of the most basic functions of the body. Sodium maintains fluid balance and ph of the blood[3]. Chloride is essential for digestion, maintaining ph, and for potassium absorption[4].

Still, contention surrounds this utterly unique and essential food. Some health authorities, argue that consuming more salt than recommended increases the likelihood of high-blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, while other highly-qualified authorities question the salt/ high-blood pressure connection.

In 2010 the United States Food and Drug Administration announced that it was beginning a 10-year program to implement legal limits on the amount of salt allowed in foods[5]. While, the administration relies upon studies that link cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure with high salt intake, other studies, like the frequently cited Intersalt Study find no link between salt intake and high-blood pressure[6]. To complicate matters even further, one recent study has found that low-salt diets actually increase mortality rates[7].

This same study, published in the May 2010 edition of the JAMA, found that worldwide salt intake is within a relatively small range (around 3700 mg. per day) [8]. This suggests that humans consume relatively equal amounts of salt across cultures. Thus,  recommendations to reduce salt intake might be unwarranted and perhaps even harmful to public welfare in the long-run. This fact was featured in the July 8, 2011 Scientific American article “It’s Time to End the War on Salt” [9].

The average American consumes 75% of their salt from processed convenience food and restaurant food. These industrial foods rely on salt as the main flavor enhancer. As proof, “low-sodium” versions of these foods don’t sell well[10]. Furthermore, the salt within industrial food is itself an industrial product, as highly refined as white sugar or white flour[11]. Industrially produced sea salt is about 99.5% sodium chloride. The remaining .5% is made up of industrial anti-caking agents like calcium silicate, sodium ferocyanide, and magnesium carbonate[12].

Natural unrefined sea salt is about 85% sodium chloride, and it contains no anti-caking agents[13]. The other 15% is made up of trace minerals from the ocean. Thus, it is naturally lower in sodium than industrially produced salt and has no chemical additives. The exact mineral composition of the salt varies depending on the source sea-water and the process used to extract the salt[14]. The abundant minerals offer layers of flavor and added nutrition.

When foods are made from scratch, whole, unrefined salts can be included to enhance the  natural flavors and enhance health. Bitterman suggests five rules of strategic salting. I find them to be rational guideposts in the fleeting power-struggles and controversies surrounding salt.

The Meadow on North Mississippi Avenue in Portland, Oregon

Bitterman’s Five Rules of Strategic Salting[15]:

  1.  Eat all the salt you want, as long as you are the one doing the salting
  2. Skew the use of salt towards the end of food preparation
  3. Use only natural, unrefined salts
  4. Make salting a deliberate act
  5. Use the right salt at the right time

For an in-depth exploration of the fascinating subject of whole, unrefined, artisanally produced salts I highly recommend Mr. Bitterman’s book, Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral, with Recipes. Those of you in Portland, Oregon and New York city can visit the internationally renown shop The Meadow, at 3731 N. Mississippi Avenue in Portland, and at 523 Hudson Street in New York. Visit the store online, and Mark and Jennifer Bitterman’s blog Salt News.

Next Week, More Than Salt Part Two: Whole, Unrefined Cooking Salts

This was shared at Fat TuesdaySlightly Indulgent Tuesday, and Real Food Wednesday.

[1] Mark Kurlansky, Salt: A World History (New York: Penguin Books, 2002), 31.

[2] Kurlansky, Salt, 9.

[3] James F. Balch and Phyllis A. Balch, Prescription for Nutritional Healing, (Garden City Park: Avery, 1997), 29.

[4] Sally Fallon-Morell, “The Salt of the Earth: Why Salt is Essential to Health and Happiness,” Wise Traditions 12-2 (2011): 29-38, http://www.westonaprice.org/vitamins-and-minerals/the-salt-of-the-earth.

[5] Lyndsey Layton, “FDA plans to limit amount of salt allowed in processed foods for health reasons” The Washington Post, 20 April, 2010, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/19/AR2010041905049.html.

[6][iv] Melinda Wenner Moyer, “It’s Time to End the War on Salt: The Zealous Drive by Politicians to Limit Our Salt Intake Has Little Basis in Science,” Scientific American, 8 July 2011, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=its-time-to-end-the-war-on-salt.

[7] Fallon-Morell, “The Salt”.

[8] Michael H Alderman, “Reducing Dietary Soduium: The Case For Caution” JAMA 303 (2010): 448-449, http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/303/5/448.short?rss=1

[9]  Wenner Moyer, “It’s Time”.

[10] Layton, “FDA Plans”.

[11] Paul Pitchford, Healing with Whole Foods, (Berkley: North Atlantic, 2002), 196.

[12] Mark Bitterman, Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral, with Recipes, (New York: Ten Speed, 2010), 191.

[13] Bitterman, Salted, 165.

[14] Bitterman, Salted, 81.

[15] Bitterman, Salted, 196.

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Kefir Sauerkraut

Makes about 1 quart

Dairy kefir grains can be used to make quick and consistently delicious cultured sauerkraut. The kefir grains act as a starter culture for the cabbage, the ‘kraut ferments for just 2-3 days, and the results are predictable: tangy, crunchy, and palate pleasing. To preserve the probiotic content, heat raw, cultured sauerkraut to no more than 110 degrees F. Serve as a garnish to savory dishes like baked beans, vegetable or lentil salads, roasted meats, or stir-fries. This recipe is inspired by Dom’s Kefirkraut recipe.

1 medium sized white cabbage

1 tablespoon unrefined sea salt

1 tablespoon dairy kefir grains, well rinsed (see cooks notes)

clean (well, spring, or filtered) water

Prepare a half-gallon (or one-gallon) wide-mouth glass jar by washing it in hot soapy water (use soap, not detergent). Remove any wilted or discolored outer leaves on the cabbage. Discard them. Peel off one crisp outer leaf. Trim it one-inch larger than the diameter of the jar. Set it aside to be used later as a cover for the sauerkraut.

Use a chef’s knife to half, core, and thinly slice the cabbage. Place one quarter of the sliced cabbage in a large bowl. Sprinkle with one quarter of the salt. Use a large wooden pestle, kraut pounder, or the flat end of a meat hammer to bruise the cabbage leaves. When the vegetables have been thoroughly bruised, add another quarter of the cabbage. Sprinkle with another quarter of the salt. Repeat the bruising process with the remaining cabbage and salt.

Place one half of the kefir grains in the bottom of the prepared jar. Add one half of the cabbage. Press down firmly with your pestle, pounder, or hammer. Evenly compact the cabbage within the jar. Add the remaining kefir grains. Then add the remaining cabbage. Again, press down to evenly compact the mixture. Cover the shredded cabbage with the reserved cabbage leaf. Tuck the edges of the leaf into the sides of the jar. Add a weight heavy enough to hold the cover leaf in place (see cooks notes). Add enough water to cover the top of the sauerkraut by one inch. Cover the top of the jar with a cloth or paper towel. Secure the cover tightly with a rubber band or string.

Store at room temperature (about 65-75 degrees F) until the kraut smells and tastes pleasingly tangy, about 2-3 days. Skim any foam that rises to the top during the fermentation period. If the liquid evaporates, add water to keep the sauerkraut covered by one inch.

Store tightly covered in the refrigerator. The taste of kefir kraut is stable for two weeks. After 2 weeks of storage it becomes increasingly, though pleasantly, tart. Eat within one month.

Cooks notes:

To prepare kefir grains for making sauerkraut rinse them in water until it runs clear. No traces of milk should remain.

If it fits through the opening in the sauerkraut jar, a pint-sized mason jar, filled with water, and capped tightly may be used as the weight. To use a stone as a weight for fermentation, select one that is non-porous, relatively heavy and flat, and fits easily through the mouth of your fermentation jar. Scrub the stone with hot soapy water. Then, sanitize it by dropping it into a pan of boiling water for 2 minutes (alternately, drop the stone into the silverware tray of the dishwasher and sanitize it with the next load of dishes).

Read more about Making Kefir

Read more about why Fermented Beverages are Homemade Probiotics and Multi-Vitamins

This recipe was shared on Fat-Tuesdays, Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays,  Hearth & Soul Hop, Real Food Wednesday, and at the Probiotic Food Challenge.

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Many of the talented from-scratch cooks that I know shy away from making homemade mayonnaise (also called aioli). The simple ingredients and fresh clean flavors inspire them, but the results sometimes disappoint. My results too, have always been varied. An emulsion of common kitchen staples (oil, eggs, vinegar, salt, and mustard) that can be made in minutes – had us bewildered. I was fed-up with inconsistent results and nutritional compromises from store-bought brands. I committed to discovering the secrets of a creamy, tangy, always goof-proof, homemade mayonnaise. Here are the secrets I’ve found and my recipe for Goof-Proof Mayonnaise.

High quality ingredients are essential to terrific mayonnaise. Eggs should be large and fresh (preferably less than two weeks old). Only use eggs from chickens that are allowed to forage and are fed a diet appropriate for hens. Raw eggs from healthy, naturally-raised fowl are unlikely to be contaminated or dangerous.

The neutral taste of high-oleic sunflower oil produces a classically flavored mayonnaise. Sunflower is preferable to other options for neutral tasting oils because it is unlikely to be contaminated by genetically engineered genes (even in organics genetic contamination can occur).  All sunflowers are currently non-GE.

Extra-virgin olive oil is also a safe and healthful option for lovely mayonnaise. The olive taste is prominent and I prefer to use it for garlic aioli.

Use white vinegar for a traditional tang. Dijon-style mustard, sea salt, and a small amount of whey (a natural preservative) complete the ingredient list. The whey is optional and can be omitted if desired.

When making mayonnaise have the ingredients at room temperature (about 70 degrees F). Remember that chilled eggs can be brought to room temperature by placing them in a bowl of warm (about 100 degrees F) water for about 15 minutes.

Always begin with the eggs, salt, mustard, and a small portion of the oil (¼ cup) in the pitcher of the blender. Use the lowest speed. The eggs, oil, and other ingredients will quickly emulsify. When the remaining oil is added slowly, in a thin stream, it is easily incorporated into the emulsion.

Always use the lowest speed on the blender. This discourages the emulsion from ‘breaking’ or separating into oil and egg. Should the mayonnaise ‘break’, it can be repaired. With the blender on low add an additional room temperature egg yolk. The emulsion should re-form.

Thus, the secret ingredients: Excellent eggs, neutral flavored oil (I prefer sunflower), mustard, sea salt to taste, white vinegar for classic zest, and naturally preservative whey. The goof-proof method: All of the ingredients must be at room temperature; begin with ¼ cup of the oil in the pitcher (along with the eggs, salt, and mustard), always use low speed, slowly drizzle in the remaining oil. Should the mayo ‘break’, simply add an extra yolk!

Goof-Proof Mayonnaise Recipe

This was shared on Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday.

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Goof-Proof Mayonnaise

Makes about 1 ¼ cups

This recipe is the result of combining techniques from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook and Nourishing Traditions.

1 cup high-oleic sunflower oil

1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard

¼ teaspoon unrefined sea salt, finely ground

2 tablespoons white vinegar

1 tablespoon whey (strained from plain yogurt or other plain cultured dairy product), optional

Have all ingredients room temperature (about 70 degrees F). In the pitcher of a blender combine ¼ cup of the oil, eggs, mustard, and salt. Turn the blender on low speed. In a slow, thin stream add the remaining ¾ cup of oil. Stop the blender. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the pitcher. Add the vinegar and optional whey. Pulse on low speed until incorporated, about 1 minute.

Store tightly covered in the refrigerator. Use within 1 week if you have omitted the whey. Goof-Proof Mayonnaise will keep for 2 weeks with the addition of whey.

Begin with ¼ cup sunflower oil, eggs, mustard, and salt in the pitcher


Garlic Aioli

Substitute extra-virgin olive oil for the high-oleic sunflower oil. Add one clove of peeled garlic to the pitcher of the blender along with the ¼ cup oil, eggs, mustard, and salt.

Tips for Goof-Proof Homemade Mayonnaise

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