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Food Matters
All about fresh, flavorful food

Making Apple Cider Vinegar: Invasion of the Brown Fuzz

Dear Readers, I have to post the results of my apple cider vinegar experiment so you will know how it might look when it all goes wrong. Unfortunately, at 4 weeks when I was advised to remove the apple slices and take out the weight holding down the apple parings I must have introduced bad bacteria. Even so, at 5 weeks my ACV looked like it was doing all right. At 5 weeks I checked on it and even noticed slime forming which I interpreted as the Mother or SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) forming.  There it is. On the 6th week when the vinegar should be ready to go, I find this.

mold 1   mold 2

I have not been able to confirm with my fermenting friends that this is, indeed, mold but in my long history of making food in many forms and styles my experience tells me that this must be mold and no doubt about it. It’s fuzzy and brown! I am so disappointed! Strangely enough, it doesn’t smell bad. If anything, it smells like what I would describe as sweet vinegar. The liquid beneath the layer of mold is clear and peach colored.

This just shows that you can do everything right or think you did everything right and it still doesn’t work. Once the ball is rolling on this process of fermenting apple cider vinegar, as far as I know, there is nothing a person can do to prevent it. What will be will be.

To quote one of my favorite newscasters from my childhood, Paul Harvey. “And now you know the rest of the story.”

4 Ways to Find Food For Free

Let’s face it, most of us don’t have tons of extra money laying around the buy food. Whether you’re a starving college student, single bachelor, or have a ton of mouths to feed at home, it helps to source food locally for free.

I’m not talking begging for handouts or asking friends and family for assistance. No, I’m talking about practical ways you can get back into nature and gather some of her bounty.

The four methods I’m going to outline will take some work, planning, and maybe a bit of money to get started. However, once you’ve gotten the basics set up, you’ll be gathering heaps of food for many years to come.

Grow Calorie-Dense Food


When growing for substantial amounts of food, it’s important to focus on calories. This means you want to grow crops like:

Fortunately, these are some of the easier crops to grow. It’s almost like Mother Nature wants to cut you some slack if she knows you’re growing for your own survival. If you live in an area with a lot of space, then you can grow enough of these crops to keep you well fed for months.

If you’re in an urban area or smaller space zone, you should check out my urban gardening book that outlines everything you could possibly need to get started growing your own food.

Foraging for Food

Foraging for food is the fastest way to gather free food...just be careful! I’m sure you’ve heard horror stories about people picking random mushrooms or berries and eating them without checking, only to get sick (or worse)!

I’m not saying this to frighten you, only to shock you into doing your research ahead of time. There are usually foraging guides or clubs in every city, so before you grab a handful of books and try it yourself, go visit one of these experts.

I’ve been doing a lot more urban and coastal foraging lately with great success. I’ve been given local avocados from a neighbor (after asking of course), found some loquats on a tree in a park, and even some hearty mussels from my local beach. If you don’t know where to begin, check out Falling Fruit for local items in your neighborhood you can grab.

Host a Potluck

This method is a bit unorthodox, but since that’s what my family calls me, I figured you’d enjoy it too! Since we’re all social creatures, why not lean on our fellow humans for some food. Hosting a potluck is a great way to enjoy the company of others and share in their favorite foods.

Best of all, usually the host gets to keep the leftovers, and for good reason! You’re doing all of the prep and cleanup, so the extra food is often the “payment” for hosting. You don’t need a fancy reason to have friends over...just say you’re trying to unplug from technology a bit and spend some quality time with others.

Learn to Fish


If you didn’t know, this June I’m doing a “survival challenge” called Apocalypse Grow, where I have to live off of only what I can grow, forage, fish, and barter for. As you might imagine, it’s hard to grow a lot of protein and I’ll be relying on fishing.

Thankfully, I live near the beach so I can do some surf fishing and spearfishing for my meals. Yeah that’s right, I swim in the ocean with just a mask and my snorkel to shoot fish in the most sustainable way possible. Who says finding free food isn’t an adventure!

If you don’t live near the beach, don’t worry, there are plenty of rivers, lakes, and ponds that you can fish in for freshwater fish.

3 Ways to Reduce Food Waste

I really hate food waste, so it’s no surprise I wrote an ebook about it. As someone raised in a traditional Italian family, I was always taught to eat everything on my plate and save the leftovers for later. 

Not everyone shares these ideals though. In fact, 40 percent of food is wasted in America alone. Where does it all go? To a landfill. There, it cannot properly decompose so it produces methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that’s 30 percent more potent than carbon dioxide. As you might be able to guess, all this food waste is a huge contributor to climate change. 

But why would anyone throw out good food, you ask? Plenty of reasons. Grocery stores will toss any food they cannot sell by a certain date, instead of giving the food to people in need. But consumers are at fault too: Every time you throw food in the trash, including the odds and ends of food, you’re contributing to food waste.  

Let's put an end to food waste once and for all. Here are three ways to reduce food waste. 

food stored in glass jars
Photo by Ella Olsson on Unsplash


Planning out your meals will help you avoid purchasing food on impulse. Impulsive shopping decisions lead to getting items you may not even eat. This results in produce sitting in the back of the fridge and rotting.

Instead, go to the grocery store with a plan in mind. The best way to do this is by creating a meal plan and grocery list before heading to the store. Sit down with a piece of paper and write out the meals you’d like to eat over the week. Write out each recipe you’d like to make over the course of the week so you know what to expect. Then, check your house for the ingredients to those recipes. Do you have any ingredients at home already? If so, great! You don’t need to buy those items. Any ingredients you don’t have, add to your grocery list. I call this shopping your kitchen first

Once you get all the items you need for the week ahead, it’s a good idea to come home and start meal prepping some items. Cook some rice, cut some vegetables, prepare some chicken: Whatever it takes to make your life easier throughout the week. I like to go shopping on Saturday with my meal plan and grocery list in mind, then prep some food ahead of time on Sunday. 


Storing your food properly can really extend the life of your produce. A lot of people don’t realize not all produce items go directly in the fridge. Produce can actually be quite finicky, and there are even some items that shouldn’t be stored together at all.

Generally speaking, you should always consider temperature, lighting, proximity and humidity levels when storing food. Food is very sensitive to these four things, so understanding what your produce items need will help them last longer.

Here are some items that should be kept in the fridge at 40 degrees F or lower: Grapes, apples, berries, cherries, broccoli, carrots, leafy greens, green beans, cauliflower, and asparagus. Keep squash, melons and tomatoes on the counter, but away from direct sunlight. Potatoes and onions should be kept in a cool dark place. Let avocados, pears, nectarines, plums and peaches ripen on the counter, then store them in the refrigerator. 


Whatever you can’t eat, such as onions skins, strawberry tops and peach pits, should be composted. There’s no reason to throw food scraps into the trash. If you do, they’ll still produce methane in a landfill. I recommend investing in a compost pail and keeping it on your counter. Just add your food scraps to it over the course of the week, then take it to your local farmers market. Most farmers markets are more than happy to take food scraps off your hands. They use it to make life giving compost that acts as a soil conditioner for crops. 

For more ways to fight food waste, be sure to check out my ebook, How to Reduce Food Waste. It’s loaded with tips, tricks and recipes to make you a certified food waste warrior

Ariana Palmieri is the founder of, a blog dedicated to zero waste living and sustainability. Her work has been featured on MindBodyGreen, Green Matters, RecycleBank and several other publications. Get her ebook "How to Reduce Food Waste" to learn how to become a food waste warrior today.

The Costs of Making Homemade Bread

Basic homemade bread costs less than commercial loaves, especially bakery-style loaves.

However, it’s relatively easy to spend a significant amount of money on homemade bread if you’re not paying attention to the cost of high-quality and/or organic flours.

It goes without saying that, whenever possible, avoid paying shipping costs for flours you purchase online. The cost of delivery can easily double the original price of your flour.


If your flour source requires a minimum purchase to qualify for free shipping, determine what supplies you’ll need for three or four months and stock to help reduce the overall cost of your bread.

If you prefer the quality and/or results of using a higher cost flour, consider the option of blending a more expensive product with one you can purchase at a lower price.

For instance, I love using bread flour. However, it is often nearly twice as expensive as all-purpose flour. To find a happy medium, I started mixing bread flour and all-purpose flour half and half. It’s all organic, the all-purpose flour cuts the total cost by at least 50 percent, and I’m still delighted with my bread.

When you're really pinching pennies, there’s no reason all-purpose flour – at less than half the cost of bread flour – won’t produce a highly satisfactory loaf of bread. In fact, you may find you can use just a bit less all-purpose flour in your recipe. Experiment with it a bit and see what works best.

If like me, you appreciate sprouted grains and flours, there are a couple of ways to incorporate them into your bread baking with busting your budget.

You will save the most if you’re willing to sprout your own grains. This requires careful monitoring of the grain as it’s germinating and a process for thoroughly drying it once it is sprouted. It may be possible to sprout just the amount of grain you need for a recipe and immediately use it in your baking. I need to test that out!

If you’re less adventurous, you can save money by purchasing whole sprouted grains. There is a difference in cost between sprouted grains and sprouted organic grains. Organic products are generally more pricey. For me, they’re well worth it.

It literally takes seconds to grinding grains to produce flour. About 30 seconds per half cup. You need some 3.5 cups for a loaf of bread, so you’ll spend around 5 minutes grinding grain. And you will love the flavor!

If neither sprouting your own grain nor grinding whole grain appeals, it’s easy to mix the more expensive flour with something less costly and still have a high-quality bread that fits your budget.

You might also consider replacing a higher cost item (i.e., meat) for a meal that consists of whole grain bread and nut butter or eggs, vegetable or bean soup, etc. The money saved by substituting the cheaper, yet highly nutritious bread could be used to help pay for flour.

Overall, you may find that homemade bread provides so many health benefits to you and your family and saves so much in comparison to purchasing bakery-style breads that no flour is off limits in terms of costs.

Find more of Loretta Sorensen’s recipes, bread baking tips, bread-making videos and her book at and her YouTube channel, Bake Your Best Ever. Her book, Secrets To Baking Your Best Bread Ever!contains recipes and a wealth of baking pointers. Follow her on Facebook and Pinterest (Secrets To Baking Your Best Bread Ever).

12 Foods to Increase Brainpower for Students

When it comes to your studies, your brain is a big deal. It’s your body’s control center that is responsible for maintaining important activities such as breathing, moving, thinking and heartbeat to name a few. This is why it’s important to keep your brain healthy.

The foods you eat on a daily basis determine the health and performance of your brain. You cannot focus on your studies if your brain is weak and tired. Eating the right brain foods will make your mind healthy and improve your concentration and performance in school. Today, we are going to discuss 12 of the best foods to increase your brainpower while studying.

woman grocery shopping in produce section
Photo by
Artem Beliaikin from Pexels

1. Fatty Fish

Most people associate sea food with increased mental performance. And you know what? They’re right. Fatty fish is number food for the brain. As you probably know, there are very many types of fish. Fish such as trout, salmon and sardines are rich with omega 3 which build the nerve and brain cells.

These cells improve learning rate and memory. Omega 3 has additional benefits. It slows down mental aging and reduces the chances of one getting Alzheimer’s disease. Lack of enough omega 3 in the body leads to difficulty in learning and depression.

A study conducted recently found out that people who ate fish regularly had more gray matter. Gray matter boosts memory, making decisions and generating emotions. In general, fatty fish is the best brain food.

2. Coffee

If you love taking coffee before heading to class, you’ll be amazed by the benefits you get. Coffee contains two ingredients namely antioxidants and caffeine. Caffeine has several effects on your brain. They include:

  • Alertness – Caffeine keeps your mind extremely alert by blocking the chemical adenosine which makes you feel tired and sleepy.
  • Feeling good – Caffeine induces the hormone serotonin which boosts your moods.
  • Improved concentration – People who drink coffee regularly are more effective and productive than those who don’t because caffeine improves concentration.

Coffee has also been known to reduce neurological diseases and Alzheimer’s.

3. Blueberries

Blueberries have several health benefits to your mind and body. Blueberries have anthocyanin which is a compound with anti-inflammatory effects. It also contains antioxidants which relieve stress and reduce inflammation. Stress and inflammation have been linked rapid aging and neurological diseases. The antioxidants found in blueberries accumulate in the body and this helps in improving communication between cells in the brain. Blueberries also boost memory.

4. Turmeric

Turmeric is a spice found in curry powder which improves the performance of the brain. Turmeric contains curcumin which improves blood circulation in the brain. Blood carries essential nutrients and oxygen around the body while taking away toxic wastes. Therefore, the better the circulation, the better the performance.

Turmeric has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Curcumin boosts memory especially for people with Alzheimer’s. Turmeric induces the secretion of dopamine and serotonin which boosts moods and reduces depression. It also helps the growth of cells and this delays mental aging. You can start reaping the benefits of turmeric by cooking food with it or drinking turmeric tea.

fresh veggies for sale
Photo by
Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

5. Broccoli

Broccoli is packed with antioxidants and vitamin K which accelerate the growth of brain cells and boost memory. It also has anti-inflammatory effects which protects the brain from being damaged

6. Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are rich with antioxidants which protect the brain and body from being damaged by free radicals. They are also rich in several minerals such as iron, magnesium and zinc. People who don’t have enough iron usually suffer from impaired cognitive function and brain fog. Zinc improves the signaling of nerves.

People with zinc deficiency usually suffer from neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and other conditions such as depression and Alzheimer’s disease. Magnesium improves memory and learning. People with low magnesium suffer from depression, headaches and even epilepsy.

7. Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate and cocoa powder are rich in compounds that boost brain functions. They include caffeine, antioxidants and flavonoids. Flavonoids enhances learning and boosts memory.

Scientific researchers have reported that chocolate compounds slow down mental aging and boost memory. A study involving 900 participants found out that people who ate chocolate regularly were effective mentally than those who did not. They also experienced positive feelings.

8. Nuts

Several studies show that consuming nuts regularly improves the heart. Nuts also improve brain functions and prevent it from neurodegenerative diseases. People who eat nuts on a regular basis have a sharper memory than those who don’t.  Nuts contain antioxidants, healthy fats and vitamin E which all improve the functions of the brain.

Eating nuts specifically walnuts will boost your health since they contain omega 3.

9. Oranges

Oranges are rich in Vitamin C which plays a crucial role in the prevention of mental aging. Eating foods rich with vitamin C regularly will protect you against Alzheimer’s disease and mental aging. Vitamin C fights off free radicals that destroy brain cells.  Apart from oranges, other foods rich in vitamin C include guava, strawberries and tomatoes.

10. Eggs

Eggs are rich in choline and vitamin B which develop the brain and improve its functions. Lack of vitamin B leads to depression and rapid mental decline. People with dementia are encouraged to eat eggs to control the condition.

11. Green Tea

Green tea is a beverage that supports brain functions. It’s rich with caffeine that makes an individual alert and antioxidants that protect the brain from damage and helps an individual relax.

12. Whole Grains

Whole grains are rich with vitamin E which enhances memory and brain functions. Whole grain foods include oatmeal, brown rice, barley and wheat to name a few.

There are lots of other foods that improve brain functioning and keep it healthy. Fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants that protect the brain from free radicals and any other damage in general.

Coffee and tea promote alertness and also prevent brain damage. Eggs and nuts boost memory and develop the brain. You can keep your brain healthy, boost your memory and generate positive feelings by eating the foods discussed above on a regular basis. Also, drink enough water. Your brain needs it.

Harry Southworth is a professional content writer and proofreader for essay writing service Studyclerk. He loves sharing the best self-improvement and writing tips for students in his blog. During his free time, you’ll find him riding his horse or playing with his two lovely daughters.

Why Food in a Jar Is the Fun Your Family Has Been Missing

Food in a jar might sound strange, but it can be a fun way to make full meals you can toss in your lunchbox. If you haven't tried preparing food this way, here are some easy recipes to get you started that the entire family will love.


1. Salted Turtle Overnight Oats

Overnight oats are a fantastic make-ahead breakfast. Prepare them the night before, and you've got a morning meal ready to eat right out of the fridge. This recipe uses the natural caramel flavor of Medjool dates instead of caramel sauce. Cocoa powder and pecans, along with pure maple syrup, make it taste exactly like your favorite chocolate turtle treat.

Try our Savory Overnight Oats to mix up your weekday breakfasts!

2. Deconstructed Sushi

Sushi doesn't seem like a meal you'd eat out of a jar, but this is a fun deconstructed version of this Japanese favorite. All you have to do is layer your favorite sushi ingredients in a mason jar and keep it in the fridge until you're ready to enjoy it. Make a deconstructed avocado roll with rice, carrot, cucumber and avocado, or get fancy with some imitation crab or even tuna. We'd love to see some deconstructed sashimi.

3. Chicken and Dill Instant Noodles

Noodle cups are a quick and easy lunch, but they're packed with MSGs and enough sodium to choke a cat. Thankfully, it's easy to make your own instant noodles. All you need is some shredded chicken, rice noodles and frozen peas. Pour some hot water on top when you're ready to eat, and you've got the perfect DIY instant noodle cup.

4. Mini Frittatas in a Jar

Who doesn't love frittatas? They're like omelets, only better. For this recipe, you'll need mason jars you can toss in the oven. Canning jars work well for this because they're designed for high temperatures. Then, all you have to do is brown your sausage, mix all your ingredients, and bake at 375 F for 10-15 minutes until a knife comes out clean and the tops are brown.

5. Chicken Potpie in a Jar

We all love a good chicken potpie, but taking one to work with you can be messy. These super-tasty potpies in a jar are the perfect solution. Line with pie crust, fill them and top with more crust. Then, throw it in the oven until it's baked to a perfect golden brown, and you've got a tasty, healthy lunch in a jar you can easily reheat in the break room microwave.

6. Burrito Bowl Mason Jar

Burritos are great for lunch, but they're not always the healthiest option. This burrito bowl mason jar is the perfect alternative. Layer up an avocado lime dressing at the bottom, and top it with roasted sweet potatoes, black beans, tomatoes and any other toppings you like on the top. Layering it like this keeps your soft ingredients, like tomatoes, from getting soggy in the dressing while you wait for lunch.

7. Apple Pie Pancake in a Jar

You don't need a griddle to enjoy pancakes. These apple pie pancakes feature baked apples, apple butter, almond butter and all sorts of spices. You won't even know you're not digging into a slice of pie. Mix up a batch, bake them and enjoy warm. You can toss anything on top, from yogurt and almond butter to ice cream, if you've got a craving for apple pie a la mode.

8. Shrimp and Feta Cobb Salad

Food in a jar doesn't have to be sweet. You can enjoy all your favorite savory flavors too, like this shrimp feta cob salad. Start by putting your favorite dressing in the bottom of the jar and layer everything up, starting with your heavier ingredients like whole grape tomatoes or chopped red onion. Top it with cheese and shrimp and toss it in the fridge until lunchtime.

9. Caprese Salad in a Jar

Caprese salads — made up of tomatoes, basil and mozzarella cheese — are super tasty, but they're not exactly the easiest thing to bring with you when you're away from home. The difference between this and other mason jar salads is that you don't want to put your dressing in the bottom. The arugula and basil will get soggy quickly, so bring your dressing along in a separate container.

10. Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food, and adding pumpkin to it makes it even tastier. These single-serving mason jar snacks use elbow mac, fontina cheese and canned pumpkin to create one of the most amazing types of mac and cheese you will ever enjoy. Bake them in the oven, then reheat in the microwave when you're ready to eat.

If you're always struggling to figure out what to make for lunch, consider some food in a jar. These make-ahead meals are super simple and can be stored in the fridge. You'll always have something tasty to enjoy when you're out of ideas.

White Wheat: What Is It?

What is white wheat and why would you care?

White wheat isn’t just processed white flour. It’s a 100 percent whole wheat variety that is lighter in color than the typical red wheat we’re used to. The Whole Grains Council says we can think of it “as sort of albino wheat” because its genes for bran differ from standard red wheat. White wheat also has a less intense flavor than typical red wheat flour.

White wheat has gained popularity over the past 10 years or so because when it’s used to bake bread, the finished loaf has an amber color, which is more appealing to some people. In baked goods, white wheat gives a lighter texture and color.

white wheat
Photo by Loretta Sorensen

I use white wheat in my bread baking for the lighter, less coarse loaf it produces. It’s the only wheat flour I use in my Ezekiel bread because it results in a more fluffy, tender loaf than red wheat flour.

White wheat flour and white wheat berries are showing up on more and more grocery store shelves, which means it’s easy to add it to your pantry. Depending on the brand, the cost of white wheat flour is very comparable to red wheat.

To store white wheat flour or berries, follow all the recommendations for any whole grain or whole grain flour: keep it in the freezer to retain its freshness and quality for a long period of time – a year or more. It can also be stored in the refrigerator for a short time or in the cupboard on a short-term basis.

When it comes to using white wheat in your favorite recipes, you can substitute it one-to-one for traditional whole wheat. There’s no difference in how it works in your bread dough.

While white wheat flour works very well in bread recipes, it can also be used as a substitute in any type of recipe that calls for wheat flour. That includes cookies, bars, muffins, etc. Note that if you’ve previously used processed white flour in your recipes, 100% white whole wheat flour will likely produce a somewhat heavier product.

If you’re happy with regular wheat bread, you may consider substituting a portion of your red wheat flour with white wheat. The result will be a loaf that’s somewhat lighter colored, lighter textured and less intense flavor.

As far as how long a white whole wheat loaf of bread stays fresh, that is also the same as any 100% whole grain bread. I store all my bread in the refrigerator in a bread keeper (because plastic bags can gather moisture and more quickly spoil your loaf). They keep for as long as 14 days.

White wheat can be a great addition to regular whole wheat bread and other whole grains breads such as rye and multi-grain breads. It’s lighter texture and less intense properties may also work very well in making pastries calling for 100% whole grain flour.

The health and nutrition benefits of white wheat flour, says the Whole Grains Council, are considered to be the same as red wheat. “Most nutrition differences among wheat varieties are driven by environmental conditions, such as weather and soil composition. For example, when crops are in a drought, the protein in wheat will be higher . . .”

The Kansas cooperative, Farmer Direct, is comprised of more than 300 producer members who “have been working for almost two decades to grow and popularize white wheat,” which has been a principal Australian commodity for many decades.

Learn more about this wonderful whole wheat flour option.

Find more of Loretta Sorensen’s recipes, bread baking tips, bread-making videos and her book at Bake Your Best Ever Bread. Her book, Secrets To Baking Your Best Bread Ever! contains recipes and a wealth of baking pointers. Follow her on Facebook and Pinterest (Secrets To Baking Your Best Bread Ever).

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