Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Easy-Growing Herbs for Medicinal & Culinary Use

By Maria Noël Groves, RH (AHG), Registered Clinical Herbalist & Co-op Wellness Educator

As an herbalist without a green thumb, I assure you, only weeds surpass herbs in ease of cultivation. Many thrive in spite of terrible soil, varying sun, and infrequent watering. Hungry critters lurking in your garden? Not to worry, most herbs rank low on the taste buds of bugs and other browsers, yet they’re utterly delicious to us. Here are some of my favorite herbs – some common, some less well known – that grow easily and provide a bounty of flavor and medicine for your kitchen... (Learn more and register for the May 27, 2015 class in Canterbury.)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Green Cleaning with Essential Oils

By Kelly Lang, Health Coach & Co-op Wellness Educator

Kelly is teaching a FREE Green Cleaning Class in Concord on July 8, 2014. Click here for details and online registration.

Even if you’re not ready to install solar panels or a composting toilet, you can still take smaller steps to be more green and environmentally conscious.

Using all-natural cleaning products is be one excellent step toward living a greener lifestyle because the chemicals found in typical cleaning solutions can be some of the most toxic both to the environment and your health.

One way to upgrade to all-natural cleaning products is to learn how to use essential oils. Essential oils are highly concentrated aromatic extracts from plants, and most are naturally antibacterial. In some cases essential oils are also antiseptic and anti-fungal, making them a powerful germ-killing, mold-eradicating option without the toxic side effects.

At first it may seem daunting to learn which oils to use for the cleaning task at hand, but once you find a few favorites you can easily forgo the bottles of toxic spray under your sink and enjoy cleaning in a healthy, environmentally safe way.

Here are a few essential oils that can be excellent and effective for cleaning:


Lemon essential oil is both antibacterial and antiseptic. It can be used in a spray bottle with water to disinfect cutting boards, counter tops, sinks and other surfaces, or just to impart a clean, fresh scent into the room. It is also great for whitening, so you can add it to your homemade floor cleaner to whiten tile floors or add it to homemade laundry detergent to brighten whites. You can also drop lemon essential oil onto sticky substances like gum or glue to remove from just about any surface (including skin). Just be sure to use good quality, pure oil and dilute it if you’re using it directly on the skin. Lastly, lemon oil is a great essential oil to add to homemade furniture polishes.

Tea Tree

Tea tree oil, also known as Melaleuca can be a wonderful antibacterial cleaner for germ-ridden areas like the bathroom. You can add tea tree to a spray bottle with water and spritz bathroom fixtures and flooring before you wipe or mop. Tea tree is especially effective on showers, since its antifungal properties can cut through mold and mildew. It’s also a great choice for cleaning plastic patio furniture that develops mold spots.

Peppermint Oil

Peppermint is another oil that kills bacteria, but it also has a wonderful, fresh scent. Peppermint oil is a great option for any room but because it also increases alertness it can be a perfect choice in the homework area or home office. You can also add one drop of peppermint oil to your toilet to keep it smelling fresh and kill bacteria at the same time. Peppermint oil also deters pests and can be sprayed or placed on cotton balls in areas that are prone to infestation.

Kelly sees clients and runs Green Life Wellness. Learn more at

Monday, April 21, 2014

Use It or Lose It: Thrifty Kitchen Tips

By Maria Noël Groves, Clinical Herbalist & Co-op Wellness Educator

I grew up with a plaque above our kitchen table that my mother cross-stitched by hand. It said, "Waste Not, Want Not," and it was no joke. This mantra was pounded into me from a young age, and I still try to keep it in mind now that I've got a kitchen (and home) of my own.

Let's face it, almost all of us buy some food that we never get around to finishing. It's actually a colossal waste. America loses a whopping 40 percent of its food from farm to fork to landfill, according to a report by the National Resources Defense Council. This translates to $165 billion in food rotting away in landfills. In our homes specifically, we throw out approximately 25 percent of the food and drink that we buy, which costs a family of four approximately $1,365 to $2,275. You could take a vacation with all that money!

In honor of tomorrow's celebration of Earth Day, here are some of my favorite things to do with food that's about to go by in the fridge...

  • Once the peels dry out, eating that orange or grapefruit as a snack becomes a whole lot less appealing. What to do? Juice it! A simple handheld juicer turns old-ish citrus into the most delicious juice you can imagine within seconds! (I like this one by Pampered Chef, which gets a lot of juice and is dishwasher safe.) Drink it straight, mix it with seltzer for a healthy soda, or use it to make a tasty cocktail (mimosas, anyone??).
  • If lime and lemon juice is a bit tart for your taste buds, add a tablespoon or two to soups and stir fries just before serving to perk up the flavor. You can often keep the juice in a container in the fridge for a few days or longer.
Citrus Rinds
  • Before you toss that citrus rind in the compost, use it to make your stainless steel sparkle. Sprinkle the sink with a bit of baking soda, then rub it with the cut side of a lemon (as if it's a bristle brush). Let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing away. 
  • Squeeze a wedge of rind into a glass and cover it with plain seltzer for a refreshing drink.
  • If the citrus rind is still fresh and happy, use a microplane grater to grate the zest to flavor dishes (add them at the end of cooking), baked goods, and tea.
  • Maybe they're getting a little over-ripe or you ended up with more than you needed (a common scenario in summertime). Core larger tomatoes (cherry tomatoes can be left whole), put it in a zip-lock freezer bag, and stick it in the freezer. That's it! You can pull them out to toss into soups. Just throw them in whole - they'll break up as they simmer. If you run it under warm water first, you can easily wipe off the peel. If you want to chop it up, just let it thaw a tiny bit under the water, than use a good knife to break it up. Perfect for sauces and soups! So much easier than canning, too.
  •  Another easy treat is to cut tomatoes into 1/8-inch slices (or cut cherries in half), lay them on a dehydrator tray, and sprinkle them with a little salt, pepper, and oregano. Dehydrate them til they're crisp. These are a great savory, crunchy snack, and you can also soak them in olive oil or water to use them like sun-dried tomatoes in recipes.
  • Day-old (or even week-old) bread makes great toast, first and foremost. Keep it the fridge to  slow the mold process.
  • You can also use it to make French toast.
  • Stale bread can be drizzled with oil and spices and baked into homemade croutons or stuffing.
  • My mom used to save rock-hard stale bread in a paper bag and then run it through a food mill or meat grinder to turn it into bread crumbs.
  •  Is that bunch of kale beginning to wilt and yellow? Maybe the arugula is getting past its prime? Tossing it into a cooked dish will make short work of it since greens cook down to hardly anything. But here are some other tricks.
  • Toss it in the juicer with some sweeter things like oranges, carrots, or apples.
  • Break it into pieces, rub it with olive oil, season with salt and pepper (and whatever else you like - we add red pepper flakes) and bake it in the oven at about 350°F. Kale chips are particularly awesome, especially the curly varieties.
Chickpeas & Other Beans
  • Drain the chickpeas, put them in a pan, sprinkle with oil, salt, pepper, and seasonings (I like a combo of turmeric, rosemary, crushed red pepper, and coriander) and bake them at about 400°F, stirring occasionally, until they are golden and crisp. That lingering can of chickpeas will be gone in minutes! 
  • Toss them in a food processor with olive oil and seasonings of your choice - maybe also some lemon juice and tahini to make hummus. This works well with white beans and Italian seasoning or black beans and Mexican seasoning for a healthy dip.
  • It's quiche or frittata time!
  • For a more decadent and involved approach, you can turn a dozen eggs into an angel food cake (whites) and pound cake (yolks).
  • Beet chips disappear quickly! Peel and slice beets into thin slices or matchsticks, drizzle with oil (no other seasonings or even salt is needed), and bake in the oven at 400 degrees, tossing frequently, until crisp but not burnt. You can also try dehydrating them into chips instead of roasting them.
  • Slice up fresh beets and pickle them in a combination of water (you can use beet cooking water, if you have it), vinegar, and whatever seasonings you like. Or follow this recipe.
  • Play around with home fermentation!
Nuts & Seeds
  • Store them in the freezer, and they will last for months or longer!
  • Grind them up to make nut butters, gluten-free flour, etc.
 Hot Peppers
  • Got an abundance? Just toss them in a freezer bag, get out as much air as you can, and store them in the freezer for later use. To use, just run them  under a little warm water, and then they will slice up easily to add directly to dishes. (Once they totally thaw, they are a bit mushy and more awkward to slice.) We eat garden-fresh hot peppers year round!
  • My mum loves to turn an excess of hot peppers into hot pepper jelly to give as gifts or serve over warm brie or cream cheese with crackers at parties.
 Apples & Pears
  • Make applesauce (it's sooo easy), which you can freeze or can. And if *that* sticks around for too long, then smear it on a fruit leather tray (or wax paper) and dehydrate that into fruit leathers that will be gobbled up in minutes.
  • Dehydrate 1/8-inch slices for snacks. I like to sprinkle some with cinnamon or nutmeg.
  • Slice and freeze it for baked goods later on. I find that you often don't even need to peel it.
Potato Peels
  • Rub the peels in a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake at 350-400°F, tossing occasionally, until crispy. I like to add fresh or dry rosemary when they are almost done cooking. 

Last Ditch Efforts

Do you deem it inedible? At least skip the trash can, and try this:
  •  Backyard chickens will gobble up most almost-past-their-prime treats, but don't give them anything that's actually gone bad or moldy. They can eat almost everything mentioned in this article, but check this list for other foods that you should not feed chickens (like onions, potatoes, avocado pits, and, well, poultry). My chickens even eat crushed up egg shells and cooked fish heads, as well as kale stems, lettuce butts, and other kitchen scraps.
  • Compost just about anything except a lot of meat or oil. Don't have an outside pile? Try worm bin composting.
I hope that gives you some fresh takes on old food in the kitchen!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Naturally Dyed Eggs

Reprinted from

Egg dyeing is a fun way to celebrate this time of year—and it’s a tradition that goes way back—as much as 5,000 years when Persians celebrated springtime with eggs colored with plant-based dyes. Plant dyes can be just as useful today and they’re plentiful; in fact you very well might have dye-worthy ingredients in your kitchen already.

Here are some great plant-based dyes—fruits, vegetables, spices and flowers.

Items Needed

White eggs (or try brown, keeping in mind color results will vary), egg carton, stock pan(s), water, white vinegar, slotted spoon and natural materials for dyeing (see table).

Optional: Tape, string, rubber bands, cheese cloth squares, natural beeswax crayons to create designs on eggs, and vegetable oil for an extra sheen.


Hot Bath Method
  1. Place uncooked eggs in a stainless steel stock pan. Add water 2-3 inches above eggs. (When using bottled juice, fill 2-3 inches above eggs. Do not add water.) Add natural dye ingredients and 1-2 tablespoons vinegar per quart of water.
  2. Cover and bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  3. Carefully remove eggs with a slotted spoon and air dry.
Cold Bath Method
The process for cold dyeing is much the same as the hot method except the eggs and dyes are cooked separately.
  1. Simmer the dye ingredients (water, vinegar and dye matter) for 20-30 minutes or longer, until the dye reaches your desired shade.
  2. Allow the liquid to cool and submerge hard-boiled eggs in the dye for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Carefully remove eggs with a slotted spoon and air dry.

Notes, Tips & Techniques

  • Color variation: colors may vary depending on steeping time and foods used to dye eggs.
  • Deeper colors: the longer the eggs stay in the dye, the deeper the color will be; leaving the eggs in the dye for several hours or overnight (in the refrigerator) is recommended for achieving deep colors. Allow the liquid and eggs to cool before refrigerating and ensure that the eggs are completely submerged in the dye. Eggs will be speckled if the dye matter remains in the liquid. For more uniform colors, remove the dye matter from the liquid, by straining the liquid through a coffee filter, before refrigerating.
  • Egg flavor: the flavor of the egg may change based on the dye, so if you plan to eat your dyed eggs, a shorter dye bath and fresh ingredients may be preferable.
  • Drying: Make a drying rack by cutting the bottom off an egg carton and turning it upside down.
  •  Decorating:
  • Wrap onion skins around eggs, then wrap the entire egg with a cheese cloth square and secure it with string before placing the eggs in the dye.
  • Wrap string or rubber bands around eggs before dyeing to create stripes (use rubber bands for cold dyeing only).
  • Draw designs on hot, warm or cold hard-boiled eggs with crayons. When using hot or warm eggs, the crayon may melt slightly on contact with the egg (if eggs are hot, hold eggs with a potholder or rag to prevent finger burns). Crayon covered eggs should only be dyed in cold dyes as the crayon wax will melt in hot liquids.
  • Gently wipe dry dyed eggs with vegetable oil to give eggs an added sheen.

Article and photos reprinted by permission from Find articles about your food and where it comes from, recipes, conversation, and a whole lot more at
Egg dyeing is a fun way to celebrate this time of year—and it’s a tradition that goes way back—as much as 5,000 years when Persians celebrated springtime with eggs colored with plant-based dyes. Plant dyes can be just as useful today and they’re plentiful; in fact you very well might have dye-worthy ingredients in your kitchen already.
Here are some great plant-based dyes—fruits, vegetables, spices and flowers.
- See more at:

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Last-Minute Local: Holiday Gift Ideas

by Maria Noel Groves, Co-op Wellness Educator

Oh snap! Guess what I forgot?

If you're anything like me, you've got about six holiday shindigs coming up in the next week and are scurrying to get the last of your holiday gift list checked off. Instead of torturing yourself with a trip to the mall or supporting some faceless chain store, swing by the Co-op for sweet localvore gifts. By buying a locally made product at your local Co-op store, you're not only getting a great present, but you're also supporting the local economy... times TWO.

For every dollar you spend on *anything* at the Co-op, 70 cents is reinvested into our local community. Buy a local item here, and almost your whole dollar stays in NH. Compare that to just 20 cents at a chain store, 6 cents at a big box store, and nada on an online store.

Oh, and did I mention that these are some pretty cool gifties? Perfect for a fellow foodie, party host, stocking stuffer, or Yankee Swap! Here are some of my favorite gift ideas from the Co-op's local and regional businesses...

The Local Gourmet

Everyone loves to eat, but the folks who come by the Co-op have turned it into an art form (and, one could ague, a political act). Forget those prefab "Fancy Farms" cheese and sausage packs, the Co-op has the real deal with real flavor and none of those nasty chemicals.

Wine, Beer & Spirits
  • Local Wine - I'll be stocking up this week so I can bring a bottle everywhere I go... Personal faves include Granite State Red by LaBelle Winery (the closest thing we have to a "real" red made locally) and lightly sweet table reds like South Hampton Red by Jewell Towne Vineyards. LaBelle's Reisling will appeal to the white wine drinker. Also check out the unique selection of fruit wines made locally including the pleasantly tart Heirloom Crabapple Wine by Hermit Woods.
  • Local Brews: Not being a beer fan, I had to turn to the Co-op's beer buyer Shane Smith. He highly recommends anything from White Birch Brewing, especially the Tavern Ale, which was recently rated in the 25 brews nationwide. Also check out the 603 bombers and classics like Tuckerman's.
  • Unique Spirits: For creative palates, try something new this year. The Co-op offers an impressive selection of local mead. Try Kurt's Apple Pie, Coffee in Bed, or other cutely named options (Stiletto, Deviant...) by Moonlight Meadery. The Vanilla Bean by Sap House Meadery is sure to please, and you can also go for extra-local Sugar Maple or the unique Hopped Blueberry Maple. Old-fashioned dry Farnum Hill Ciders are perfect for those who don't like their drinks sweet.
Cheese & Friends
  • New England Cheese: For a classic set, check out the many cheddar, jack, and colby options by Neighborly Farms of Vermont. The goat cheese lover will be thrilled by the specialty chevre by Heartsong Farm and Vermont Creamery. And the baby brie by Sandwich Creamery is fabulous.
  • Fancy Spreads: Check out the Peach Ginger and Red Pepper Jelly by Bonnie's Jams and the tasty selection of jams, spreads, and dressings by Stonewall Farm (see the bookcase of goodies near the coffee machine). 
  • Something to Put It All On: The artisan Craquelin crisps are amazing. Enjoy locally baked bread made with locally milled flour from artisan bakeries including Sunnyfield and Canterbury Bread Shop. It's the perfect accompaniment to a selection of cheese and/or jams, but be sure to give it the same day you buy it to ensure good flavor and texture. Pick up a locally handcrafted wooden cutting board to go with it all!
The Sweet Stuff
  •  Sweet Syrups: Give the Sweet Tooth on your list the gift of local goodness with Hillside Apiaries honey, North Family Farm organic maple syrup, and ale-inspired sauces by the BEERkery Co. (yes, seriously!).
  • Buzz Buzz: Enjoy all-natural sugar-free cocoa by In Joy Organics and delicious roasted coffee beans by Equal Exchange (I highly recommend the Midnight Sun!) or Granite Ledge.
  • Chocaholic Delights: Ok, the chocolate itself may not be locally grown, but you can still get New England-made specialty chocolates by Equal Exchange and Lake Champlain Chocolates.
  • Crafted Cookies: Enjoy all-natural decorated homemade cookies by the Co-op's own Bakery Box pastry chefs (really, these are the best around!) or the packaged delights from Fancypants Bakery and Dancing Deer Baking Co. Dancing Deer also makes great gingerbread house kits... and if gingerbread houses are on your to-do list this year, I highly recommend them! I once spent four FULL days making my own gingerbread houses from scratch for a group activity, and I don't recommend it. Guaranteed kitchen meltdown.

Natural Beauty

It's true, there are a few things at the Co-op that you can't eat. Here are some great options for the  glam gal (or guy) in your life, sans those nasty chemicals...
  • Bee Beautiful: The "Bee" line from S Formulators features an amazing fresh-floral fragrance specially crafted from essential oils. You can find the cream, toner, spritz, and "bee snug" warmers. A portion of the proceeds is donated to the Honeybee Research Fund.
  • Super Scents: Pocket-sized solid perfumes by Healing Earth Vermont Herbals are the perfect stocking stuffer.
  • Lip Service: Tinted and healing balms by W.S. Badger are a holiday classic!
  • Clean & Green: Everyone needs soap! Check out handmade soap bars by Northwood Naturals and Paris Market.

Natural Home

Ok, so these products aren't local or regional; however, I can't help but mention them. The Co-op  has a *wide* range of slick, eco-friendly housewares including composting buckets, mini blenders, lunch boxes, brushes, bamboo cutting boards and kitchen utensils, soy and beeswax candles, and more! Don't forget the pots and pans, knives, etc. that you can get with your Green Stamps or purchase outright.


Time is of the essence, but if you want to make your own all-natural gifts, here are some of my favorite recipes!

The Tangible Intangibles

 These gifts keep on giving!
  • Co-op Gift Cards are available in any denomination.
  • The Gift of Co-op Membership will last a lifetime!
  • Registration for a Co-op's Health & Wellness Series is sure to please. The Eat Well, Be Well Healthy Cooking Series begins January 13, 2014, with two more series scheduled later in the year.

For more gift ideas, check out the Co-op's Holiday Gift Guide, but remember, it's still just a sampling - see the store for the full selection! Don't worry, they've got stuff to wrap it, too!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Zero Waste Shopping at the Co-op

by Maria Noël Groves, Clinical Herbalist & Co-op Wellness Educator

Imagine doing your shopping, bringing groceries home, and eating them without throwing a single thing in the trash can. While it's difficult to be 100% perfect, here are some easy ways to reduce your grocery waste:

Brendan can answer your bulk questions!
Refill Your Own Containers in Bulk. Buying items from the bulk aisle automatically means less waste. However, you can improve your carbon footprint by bringing your own containers in to fill rather than using a new plastic bag or container each time. Wide-mouth mason jars work particularly well and are also great for storing items in your pantry, but any container will do. Try masking tape to label the jar - it stays on well and then comes off easily when you want it to. You'll need to at least put the PLU number from the bin and get the "tare" (weight of the empty container) at the registers so that the cashier can properly ring your item. A wide range of products are available: grains, snacks, beans, coffee, spices, olive oil, maple syrup, honey, granola, nuts, kombucha, olives...

Buy Local Dairy with a Bottle Deposit. Some of our dairy farmers provide milk, keifer, and cream in glass containers. You pay a bottle deposit up front, and when you bring the clean container back, the cashier will refund you. Look for items from Bartlett Farm in Concord and Brookford Farm in Canterbury.

Re-use Produce Bags. Whether you bring lightweight cloth, Ziplock, or re-use plastic bags, you can easily reduce your waste. Or buy items lose and transfer them into storage containers when you get home. Be sure to wash them regularly.

Bring Your Own Grocery Bags. Bring your own canvas (or any type of) bag to bring your groceries home. This saves on plastic waste and also earns 5 cents per bag for the Community Partner of the month.

Shop Fresh. Eating from the perimeter of the store, particularly our produce and bulk aisles, will automatically generate less waste... and is generally healthier for you, too!

Compost. Toss corn husks, peach pits, apple cores, kale stems, teabags, outdated leftovers, egg shells, coffee grounds, stale bread and the like in the compost bin. Even a lazy compost pile will eventually turn into great soil, and urban composters can try composting with worms. (Don't compost meat, bones, excess grease, eggs, or dairy products, though.)

BONUS: By eating more fresh foods and storing them in glass or cloth, you'll significantly reduce your blood levels of harmful BPA and other problematic plastic compounds within just a few days! Click here to learn more about the study.

What's YOUR favorite way to reduce waste when you shop? Let us know in the "Comments" section below!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Cheaper, Greener Way to Drink Water

By Maria Noël Groves, Clinical Herbalist & Co-op Wellness Educator

Want a new water bottle for the car and office? Check out the Co-op's glass bottled water selection! Opt for stylish glass bottles with screw-tops, which are dishwasher safe, only cost a few dollars, and are perfect to re-use. Even BPA-free plastic water bottles can leach dangerous chemicals, and stainless steel water bottles often impart an unpleasant metallic flavor.
Lots of Great Glass Bottles to Choose From!

To drink clean water, you just can't beat glass. Once you finish the water in your bottle, refill it with filtered tap water. Seltzer fan? Check out the Soda Stream carbonator (available at Things are Cooking in downtown Concord) to make tap water fabulously fizzy. Add a squirt of flavor extract from the baking aisle (lemon, vanilla, orange...) or a few sprigs of fresh herbs from the garden to the bottle for a sublime summer sipper.
Lemon Verbena Leaves Infusing in Seltzer

* Glass is non-leaching, which makes your drinking water safer and better tasting (not to mention more elegant). Re-using a glass drink bottle is super cheap compared to buying any type of "water bottle," and it's even dishwasher safe.
* Refilling with filtered tap water eliminates waste, costs next to nothing, and has a low carbon footprint.
* Homemade seltzer costs less than bottled in the long run, eliminates waste, and offers endless opportunity for creative drinks.