Sunday, May 11, 2014

Quirky Urban Bread Geek

Bread, the staple in cultures around the World. It has a bad reputation at the moment.  There is a campaign that is out to crush bread.  Everyone should cut wheat out of their diet.  It's bad for you, causes wheat gut, leaky gut syndrome and other things that I have never heard of.  There are some who have a true allergy to wheat or a disease that will not allow them to eat gluten but the whole Country?  Now that thought has to make you scratch your head.  "They", once again, are out to convince us that we need gluten free products.  The question I would like to ask you today is why are we letting the media tell us what we need or don't need. We allow them do it with drugs, food and well, pretty much everything.  The media is not our friend.  They just want our money!!!!

Okay I'll get off my soapbox and get on with the bread making. So bread is kind of a mystery to some. You put something alive in bread. Yeast. It  It  bubbles as it feeds on gluten.  It rises and then is popped into an oven and then comes the smell.  The smell that fills your home with feelings of love and warmth. The moment that it happens you cannot help but feeling the love that went into those loaves.  The recipe is simple. Flour, water, yeast.  Yup that's it all you need to create a simple loaf is that. Nothing more.  Why the heck "they" put yoga mat in it is beyond my comprehension.  True, that simple formula is for a simple loaf but even the most complex ones don't require much more.  Perhaps some salt, oil, potatoes water, spices.  Maybe some eggs for that fluffy Challah.  Simple as that!

But is it?  I have been on my quest for the perfect loaf for years.  I have tried, failed and tried again.  It has become an obsession and a passion for me.  To create that perfect loaf. Crisp golden brown crust and soft fluffy crumb on the inside or the tunnels and bubbles of the perfect sourdough, that is the goal.

For my next few blog posts I am going to do a series on how to make the perfect loaf.  From instant yeast to sourdough you will learn what this quirky urbanite has learned.  I hope that you find it helpful.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Media deception: You don't need 99% of the stuff "they" try to sell you!!!

Have you noticed how the media makes you think that you need stuff.  All kinds of stuff.  Some of it is useful but some of it is just silly!
These disposable hand towels are a perfect example of stuff that you don't need.  People have been using terrycloth towels in their bathrooms for decades and I have never heard of anyone becoming sick or dying from a disease contracted from a towel!  I don't even want to start with the environmental repercussions of this.  Not just the waste but also the carbon footprint from the factory.  I change my hand towel daily depending on use.  It adds about 5 to 7 small towels to my laundry that I am already washing anyway.  UGGGGH!  Just use a towel people don't buy into this unnecessary product.
I don't use paper towels in the kitchen either.  I think they are wasteful and again unnecessary.  I went on a quest for a inexpensive green alternative and was a bit disappointed because cloth napkins can be very expensive.  I was at the $.99 only store and came across packages of mens hankies.  They came 6 in a package and I bought 6 packages.  I put them into a half gallon mason jar and use them as napkins and for small messes in the kitchen.  If I have a big mess I use a dish cloth.  I toss them into a small basket under the sink and throw them into the wash.  They don't take up any more room or add any extra work except for cramming them into the jar once they are clean.  Works like a charm.  I do keep some paper towels on hand for biological animal happenings but that's all I use them for.  Oh and as far as my dish cloth being filled with germs as the media warns us about, I just use one per day let it dry out and toss it into the under the sink basket.  

These suckers are a HUGE pet peeve of mine!  Frozen PB&J are you kidding me?  I am sorry but you have to be a special kind of lazy if you can't get out a loaf of bread, peanut butter and jelly and make a sandwich for your kid. Seriously?  UGH!  Things make me so mad.  Not to mention the ingredients.  Subway's yoga mat bread, yup it's in there along with high fructose corn syrup and a myriad of other chemicals. This is lazy America at it's finest!!!  If you want cute shapes head over to your favorite big box store, they sell cute sandwich cutters and you can make your own!!!  

As far as what I use to clean my sink and stove?  I use baking soda and soap.  My grandmother did it.  It left our stovetop spotless when I was growing up and it does the same for my sink and stove today.  I found the little shaker at the dollar store.  You can use a parmesan cheese container too but the one I have is paper and the lid did not screw off so I just picked up the one at the store. Sprinkle a little in you sink or on your stove and put a little dish soap on your sponge and clean away!!!  No harsh chemicals is a bonus!!!

The media is just doing it's job.  The ad companies are just trying to make a buck.  You don't have to put money into their pockets.  Stop buying stuff that you don't need!  Save your money, the environment and keep chemicals out of your house and out of your body!  I read on a blog the other day, "Think before you buy, do I really need this?"  

Give it a try.  I am sure you have baking soda in you kitchen right now!  

What useless products do you avoid?  What is your "green" alternative?  Please share in the comments.

Remember: Stay Quirky my friend

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Day I Stopped Using Toothpaste

Yup, I Becky, AKA the Quirky Urban Girl, no longer uses toothpaste!  After reading about all the harmful chemicals in toothpaste I decided to get into my way back machine and make my own.

Very simple ingredients

1/2 cup baking soda
1/4 cup coconut oil
peppermint extract to taste
stevia to taste.

Mix it all up and put it in a jar. scoop a little bit onto your toothbrush and that's it.

I will admit that it took some getting use to. It has a very bitter taste and does not bubble up at all.  I am not sure that I will use it forever but I am giving it a shot for now.  It's easy enough to make and I know what all the ingredients are.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Quirky Urban Pizza

I love pizza!  It is my favorite. After reading this blog post from Food Babe it only confirmed my suspicions, pizza, potentially healthy meal, is not healthy because of what's in it.  Oh and I am not talking about the cheese and meats.  It's the hidden non-food chemicals like MSG hidden is ways such as Autolyzed Yeast Extract & Natural Flavors. Not to mention the unhealthy oil factor.

But I love those savory pies so much!!!

For years now I have been making my own pizza crust using this recipe from Breadtopia.  I make both the instant yeast and the sourdough pizza crusts.  It is super easy and you are in control of the ingredients. Here they are folks. Instant yeast, Organic Flour (either unbleached or whole wheat), Olive Oil, (I use organic coconut oil) Sea Salt and water.  That's it, no more!  

This recipe produces a tasty crust with basic ingredients that I'll bet you already have!

Top it with fresh veggies and nitrate free meats, organic cheese and you are good to go!!!

For today's pie I chose to make a vegan version.

1 recipe Breadtopia's basic pizza crust
1/4 C. prepared hummus
1/2 organic tomato, sliced thin
1/2 bunch organic asparagus, chopped
1 handful olives (your choice) chopped
1 handful artichoke hearts packed in water. chopped
1/2 organic red bell pepper
1 handful organic baby spinach

Prepare crust as directed and cut in half. (freeze second half for later use)
Heat oven and pizza stone to 475
Roll out dough and place on parchment
Spread Hummus evenly around dough and layer vegetables.  You can add as many or as little veggies as you like.  So if you want more or less of something go for it.

Transfer pizza to the stone with the parchment paper. (yes, leave the parchment paper under the pie, If you have a pizza peel you don't need the parchment.  I use a non-rimmed cookie sheet.  I place the parchment onto the cookie sheet, prepare the pizza, and then slide it onto the stone in the oven.) Bake 10-12 minutes until crust is brown.

  Cut and enjoy

*Notes: I used 1 1/4 wholewheat flour & 1 cup unbleached flour.

Thanks for stopping by and remember, stay Quirky! 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Roadrunners & Rattlesnakes

It was a balmy 79 here in the Sonoran Desert so off I set out on a little hike in my backyard AKA Dreamy Draw Park.  I love living here!  I am close to a huge mountain preserve called The Phoenix Mountains.  Two parks are attached to it Piestewa peak & Dreamy Draw.  Urban hiking at it's finest.  We are lucky like there here in Phoenix.  I didn't see any Roadrunners or Rattlers today.  I have seen both before on my hikes.  I think it was just too warm for them.

 So many trails, so little time.

First flowers of the season

I was hoping for more flowers.  I was either too early or we just didn't get enough rain.  I did see a few and lots of plants with buds so there is hope.

Today's trail choice.
The trailhead is just a block away from my house.  When I am hiking by myself I choose to walk an extra .5 miles to a trailhead that goes directly under the 51 freeway.
Going under the freeway

At the trailhead

Even with the disappointment of no roadrunner or rattlesnakes and the minimal amount of flowers it was a beautiful hike.  If you are ever in Phoenix you have to look up Dreamy Draw Park and give it a try!

Selfless Selfie


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Citrus Cleaner & Ant Begone!

About 2.5 weeks ago I came across this blog post from Kitchen Stewardship and decided to give it a try.  I am really shying away from chemical cleaners in my home since I had an allergic reaction to homemade laundry soap. I am amazed how well this stuff worked!!!  Not only did it clean my microwave, stove and counter tops but also I had an issue with tiny ants and they are gone too!  I used about a ratio of about 5:1 vinegar to water.  If you want it to disinfect add about 10-12 drops of tea tree oil.  I am truly amazed at the results.

Here's how to do it.

Fill a jar with orange, lemon, or grapefruit peels
Cover with distilled white vinegar
Set it on the counter for about 2 weeks
Shake when you think about it.

Add some to a spray bottle, top it off with water and spray.

It smells clean and fresh like oranges and even took off the grime under my stove vent!

Go ahead and give it a try.  It is so much more cost effective than those store bought natural cleaners and it works!  I would love to hear your results in the comments.

Thanks for stopping by,
Quirky Urban Girl

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


So I received an Easy Sprout back in August for my birthday and for whatever reason I was resistant on using it.  I finally decided to dust it off and give it a try.  I had forgotten the instructions that my friend had given me so I went on a YouTube adventure and this is what I found.

It does a great job explaining how the process of sprouting works.  After watching it I thought okay I can do this.  So here goes nothing.
Day 1 3 Tablespoons spicy broccoli mix
Time to soak
After soaking I did the human salad spinner thing that he showed on the video twice a day or "12 hours later" just like the video 
Day 3 and again with the spin 
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6. 
Time to eat these bad boys. I tasted them and they were peppery tasting they did have radish and arugula in them but I really did not think about that when I tossed them into my Ninja for my morning smoothie. Um, yeah let's just say that radish and arugula sprouts are NOT tasty in a smoothie AT ALL just don't do it.  Yuck!  I choked it down anyway because of the protein powder but NEVER again!!!
The next day I put them on a turkey burger and the result was much , much more palatable!  In fact, quite tasty,  I love them now!  I even bought more seeds to sprout and am looking forward to eating these little protein power packed bad boys!

Sprouts are so good for you and are packed wit enzymes, fiber and protein.  You should give it a try!
Click here for a great deal on 1lb of seeds and an Easy Sprout both for $12.95 + shipping. (this is where I got my seeds from.)

So go ahead and give it a try!  Your body will thank you for the healthy fresh food!

(PS I do not work for or get paid by Sprout House if you choose to buy your sprouts from Sprout House.  They just sell good quality organic sprout seeds and I wanted to pass that information along to you.)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Soap Nuts & Dryer Balls

Laundry!  Can you think of anything more unfun?  Okay, I am sure you can but still its yuck with a capital Y! So time consuming and boring.  I hate it!  A few weeks ago I hated it even more.  I had been making my own laundry soap using 1 bar of Zote, 1 Cup Borax and 1 Cup Washing Soda and then something went wrong!  I developed an allergic reaction to the soap. Not the I have a rash, my skin is red and I itch reaction but the  lymph node swollen, joint pain, skin rash uncontrollable itching go to the hospital and get a bunch of IV meds kind.  I figured out that it was the laundry soap because I woke up one morning and had a smoothie, became cold, put on a jacket and WHAM! out popped the welts after just a few minutes.  I was relieved but frustrated because I had to buy new laundry soap and wash EVERYTHING I own.  I am 99% sure that it was the Zote soap that did it.  I am 100% sure that I never want to do it again so after reading several blogs and reviews I decided to give soap nuts a try.

What the heck is a soap nut you may ask?  Well apparently, according to Wikipedia it is the fruit of a small tree or shrub that has been used for cleaning things for cleaning things for thousands of years.

I ordered my soap nut sample on ebay here.  Not because of any particular reason except that they cost $2.99 and it was free shipping. So now onto the experiment.

After reading 2 blogs Kitchen Stewardship & Becoming Peculiar I learned that because I use cold water that it is best to put my little nuts in the sack and soak them in warm water before I commence laundry doing.

So after that I decided to squeeze them and see if they really do make "soap". Guess what?  They do!

I tossed them into the wash and started the machine.  I wasn't sure if I was supposed to remove them during the rinse cycle.  I still don't know but I think I removed them twice and one load I forgot all about them.

Wash, wash, rinse, rinse!  The load was finished and I took the clothes out and they looked clean and smelled like nothing.  Nothing is good.  I then tossed them in with my dryer balls.  Yup folks I said dryer balls.  They are felted wool balls that you can make yourself or buy.  I got mine here.  I use six. Just toss them in and my clothes dry so much faster and come out soft.  They still have static but I am not willing to chance it and use fabric sheets after my reaction to chemicals, I also toss in some distilled white viniger to the fabric softener dispenser.

After that more washing and more drying happened. I decided to test the soap nuts for effectiveness and how you do that is see if they still bubble up and they did after two loads.

Then it was time for the true test.  Stained handkerchiefs.  I use them like a non quirky person would use paper towels.  They have avocado and spirulina stains on them from smoothie making.

Into the washer they went and the result was...

Not perfect but not bad either.  I am not worried that they are still a little green.  They are my sustainable paper towels for Pete's sake.  They are as clean as they ever came using my old soap.  You can use an eco friendly pretreater or Oxyclean to help with stains.  I didn't because, like I said with these I am not that worried.

After I was finished with laundry I took the soap nuts out of the bag and dried both.  No one told me to do this I just thought it made sense.

So what do I think of soap nuts?  I like them so far.  I even bought some more from here to test them out even more.  I will post an update in a few weeks and let you know how it's going.  For now soap nuts get a thumbs up from this Quirky Urban Girl!

Have you used soap nuts?  Please post your results in the comments.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

A Little Quirky in Arizona

Ah, Urban life in North Central Phoenix, Arizona.  Nothing like the sound of an occasional coyote, or owl along with the occasional appearance of the token javelina, quail, cottontail, or roadrunner.  Hold it, let's back up a bit.  Who is this quirky urbnite and why should you read this blog?

Hi, I'm Becky. Born in Ft. Dix, New Jersey, raised in Phoenix, AZ by my grandparents who happen to be from Mountain City, Tennessee. I lived in the same house and went to the same grade school and high school.  I didn't move around much until the 1990's where I lived in both San Diego and Los Angeles.  During that time I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease.  More on that later.  I moved back to my childhood home in Arizona in 2000.  In 2006 I moved to my cute urban condo located smack dab in the middle of a mountain preserve  here in North Central Phoenix. AKA Dreamy Draw.  I am an avid hiker, baker and kayaker. Oh and I just happen to teach preschool at an all natural organic preschool.

I have one small goal these days.  I want to live as sustainable as possible and eat the best quality foods and rid myself of dependence on chemicals and all things processed in my diet. I know, lofty!.  I have another blog that has kinda fizzled for me it was a food blog.  Baking bread and cupcakes is fine but I really wanted more.  So here goes.  My goal is not to be a how to blog but a what happens if? blog.  I will be testing other people's blog ideas for natural sustainable living and clean eating and posting my findings here. My posts will be about the most frugal way to live clean and green!

I hope that you will follow me on my journey.  I am always open to ideas for posts.  If you want me to try something please suggest!

Live Green
The Quirky Urban Girl