"Living Sustainable Earth Stewardship"

VTGW began as a small, mom owned & operated venture, with many ideas of how to offer consumers what they are seeking. With many changes necessary for growth, natural ingredients bath & body products continue to be the main focus of VTGW. A recent addition of featuring farmer's market vendors, emphasizing the support of the Local Movement, will be highlighted weekly. Striving to provide all Earth patrons with what YOU are seeking, VTGW is your destination. Enjoy the journey!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Food From The Islands, Vermont that is...

Sofrito Ingredients
Clockwise: Sweet pepper, yellow onion, garlic,  fresh cilantro & oregano, Sea salt & Black peppercorns, lemon, and green pepper. Center stage: tomatoes from Mr Harvest.

Finished product

Recipe for Sofrito

Fresh cilantro & oregano (the oregano came out of my garden)
1 medium bell pepper, chopped (Mr Harvest)
1 clove garlic, crushed (Mr Harvest)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 sweet pepper, chopped
8 small to medium tomatoes, chopped (Mr Harvest)
Lemon juice, fresh squeezed from 1 lemon
Olive oil & Achiote oil* (oil typically used in Spanish cooking)
Salt & pepper to taste

Add olive oil to medium saucepan to heat; chop all veggies necessary to recipe. When oil is heated, add garlic to saute for 1 min. Add onion, both peppers & saute for 3 mins. Add tomatoes, saute for 5 mins. Add juice from lemon, chopped herbs, and lower heat to simmer. Simmer for about 10 mins, then add achiote oil for color; salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat. Once cool, can be transfered to a jar for storage; you can also transfer to a Mason jar and allow heat to seal the lid.

*This recipe can be put through a food processor and used the same day, if needed. I prefer to saute my ingredients, store, and use as necessary. I'm not a "fresh sauce made every day kind of girl." I'm a busy mom who chooses to prepare ahead of time, and when needed, then use what I've prepared. Quicker for me, and I think the "aging process" adds more flavor to the dish.

Kale Chips (Mr Harvest)
(recipe to be added on another post)

Bruschetta (the tomato part [tomatoes from Mr Harvest])
[recipe to be added on another post]

Mr Harvest
South Burlington Farmer's Market, Summer 2012

Yes, I opened this post with a recipe. And there are recipes to follow on future posts.

Writing about a produce vendor is different than writing about specialty food vendors. And this is my first. Based out of South Hero, VT, Mr Harvest is a certified organic farm by NOFA-VT (Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont). http://nofavt.org/programs/organic-certification There is also a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) available, which can more information can be found on www.mrharvest.com

What I purchased initially from this family was strawberries, garlic, garlic scapes, and tomatoes. Each week, I try to pick up more, such as the kale one week to make kale chips (they didn't last long, they were so good!)  Some of the produce available this market season:
-bell peppers
-garlic (& scapes)
-swiss chard & kale

Mr Harvest can be found at the following places:
-Their farmstand in South Hero, VT
-South Hero Farmer's Market (South Hero, VT)
-Essex Farmer's Market (Essex, VT)
-Fletcher Allen Health Care Farmer's Market (Burlington, VT)
-South Burlington Farmer's Market (South Burlington, VT)
-local area stores
-CSA program

I will be adding more information about Mr Harvest as the season progresses, along with other produce vendors (I made the bruschetta using ingredients from Mr Harvest & another produce vendor I'm hoping to highlight here). Here's to another fabulous market day!

The Idyllic Vision in a Mason jar

The Vermont Switchel Company
South Burlington Farmer's Market, Summer 2012

I sit to write this post, sipping on the last of this week's Switchel (mixed with sun brewed iced tea & fresh juiced pineapple lemonade).  I have wondered all week how to truly compose this piece, and my epiphany came through this morning @ the usual hour: early and without warning. So are the lives of writers and authors; the muse comes to whisper in my ear what I needed to sing all this time.

I met Susan Alexander, Switchel's founder, at the South Burlington Farmer's Market, last month.  As my eyes swept the numerous tents for who was there and what to take home to savor, I stopped in for a sample. I had my two boys in tow, which is the typical vision when you see me. I fell in love with the sample, looked over the sizes available for purchase, and the Mason jar captured my heart. Just about everything and anything I can put into a Mason jar goes there, so it was easy for me to make the decision to snap it up. I've also discovered, it lasts a week for me, so it's the obvious choice for this busy mom on the go.  I engaged in a conversation with Susan, and after mentioning my own business ventures, on hold pit stop, I walked away with this: enjoy being a mom at this time. My kids would grow, creating room along the way for me to get back to my passion, and the journey along the way would be the greatest. I've not looked back since. Thank you, Susan.

By this time, you are all (my readers) wondering, what is switchel? Switchel is a blend of honey, apple cider vinegar, ginger & water; historically, its origins go back to colonial times here in New England. More noteably, referred to as "Haymakers Punch," it was used as a thirst quencher during haying season. The ingredients in switchel are high in potassium, a much needed electrolyte for replenshing what is lost during labor intensive activities. Which is why I purchase mine for use as a pick-me-up in the afternoons after a busy morning (about 2 oz or the size of your average shot glass), and most importantly, as a boost before my trip to the gym (roughly 6 oz), as I've begun triathlon training to keep up with my boys (another story on another blog outlet).

Susan's passion for creating the current formula has historical family roots, as her husband  recounts his grandparents making batches for consumption during haying season; as well, she was introduced to its taste about 25 years ago; falling in love with this tangy beverage set the gears to move towards bottling and selling. Of course, as we moms can attest, life's ingredients of work and children can send us on the detour we need to take and, if we are still passionate about something as wonderful as switchel, when the time is right, it will happen. For Susan, it did.  In the early part of June (this year), after years of refining and perfecting the formula, The Vermont Switchel Company launched during a tasting at Dealer.com. 

Now, just where can one find switchel?  The Vermont Switchel Company can be found at the following farmer's markets:
-Richmond Farmer's Market (Richmond, VT [Fri 3:30-7 pm])
-South Burlington Farmer's Market (South Burlington, VT [Sun 10 am-1 pm])
-Stowe Mountain Resort Farmer's Market (Stowe, VT [Fri 11 am-3 pm])

As a note, switchel is not only a straight up beverage. You can mix, as I noted in my opening paragraph.  Now, I do have to tell you, I have tried another mix, and it was pretty good for an afternoon after a crazy morning; I tried this on a weekend when I didn't have to be anywhere or do anything that required use of heavy equipment.

Switchel Toddy

2 oz BeefEater's Gin
4 oz fresh juiced lemonade
6 oz Vermont Switchel
8 oz sun brewed iced tea (with lemon, of course)

Combine the above ingredients in a 20 oz straw cup, ice if you prefer. Sip and enjoy!

"SO GLAD I had a bottle of Vermont Switchel in my fridge after mowing the lawn---....refreshing & hydrating---...makes me feel renewed...."  -KC W.

For more information on The Vermont Switchel Company:

http://m.facebook.com/TheVermontSwitchelCompany (please Like their page and show your support for local business!)

My beverage runs dry, and my post is complete. Looking forward to going to market today to get my next Mason jar and enjoy some shopping.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

                                                    And it started over a passion for pickles...

  Hey folks!  Pull up a chair, take a seat with your smart phone, whatever way you are reading this blog and come into something new for this mom.  I am venturing into writing about market vendors, their products, where you can find them, and a little background on each vendor.  The person who fueled the fire for me to write about vendors is my first feature, Michele Carson of Vermont Pickle.  I have known Michele for almost five years, and have seen some of the great changes that have brought Vermont Pickle to where it is today.  What gravitated my interest in her products is the garlic, which is the catalyst for her success today.
                                       Michele @ South Burlington Farmer's Market, July 1st

  Vermont Pickle started its journey in 1994, at the Rutland County Farmer's Market in Rutland, VT.  Michele began with Rhubarb Jam, Pickled Green Tomatoes (still a product available to consumers), and food related craft items; offering consumers something different seemed to peak her interest and its a food love affair she's perfected over time.  After discovering pickled garlic, through a vendor (no longer in business) @ a fair, she found the signature item that would take center stage for her small, made in Vermont, specialty food company.
From left to right: Hot Carrots, Carrots, Fiddleheads (limited time only), Snap Peas, Dill Beans, Maple Sweet Pickles, Dill Pickles, Hot Dills, and Garlic.

Michele recalls the memorable milestones for Vermont Pickle, from obtaining a distributor for her products, qualifying for a small business loan, and growing beyond her small kitchen she started in.  Other great moments have been placing first @ Farm & Food Fest 2000, and taking second place @ the International Pickle Fest, both for garlic.  She enjoys going to various markets and festivals, meeting new consumers and indulging their quest for specialty food items.

I asked Michele for a moment that wasn't in her favor, which turned out to be a batch of garlic that didn't turn out well; this far from deters her from pushing forward to succeed at what she does best, providing quality products for consumers.
As a small business owner, Michele offers this advice to anyone wanting to start their own business or looking to expand on an already existing small business: start small and do your homework first, most importantly, love what you do.
I close this post with a recipe, one of many that can be found on Vermont Pickle's website; as a garlic lover and an omnivore, listed below is a yummy pasta dish to try (can be vegan, non-vegan, & gluten free, if needed).

Garlic Angel Hair Pasta

2 Tbsp Olive oil
6-8 cloves, Vermont Pickle Garlic, chopped
1 14 oz jar Artichoke Hearts (not marinated)
1 6 oz package of sliced Baby Portabella mushrooms
1/2 lb Angel Hair pasta

Start water  to boil for the pasta, and follow package directions (angel hair is so fine, it really only needs 5 mins to cook pasta).  Heat oil, in a skillet.  Drain artichoke hearts, and coursely chop.  Add garlic to skillet, along with mushrooms, to saute for about 1 min.  Add artichoke hearts, season with salt & pepper, saute for about 1 min.  Place prepared pasta into a shallow serving platter, pouring vegetable mixture over pasta.  Serve while hot.  Serves 4-6.

Visit Vermont Pickle today!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

And the Phoenix Will Rise, Part Two

April 22, 2012 (one month after visit to the emergency room)

So, I introduced my readers to what happened to me and why I ventured into a new skin care line to breathe life back into my home-based business.  I continue with my story here today, introducing my "comeback" product while waiting to take additional photos to post with my online stores to start selling (jpeg only....).  The above photo of my left hand is one month to the date of my initial visit to the ER and treatment plan implemented.  As I write, sometimes I look to see if its really "all gone."  I know I'm going to have to be careful when gardening this year, so I started a project I need to finish; yes, I'll be posting that here, too as it applies to what I do and the drive I have to share with my readers.

Barbi's Beauty Basics was born out of a wake up call to a pretty hefty allergic reaction, coupled with my pursuit to create, indulge in, and ultimately, share with consumers the passion I have for natural ingredients bath and body (beauty, if you prefer) products.  I had originally started my business exploration due in part to becoming a new mom and wanting to make sure what I fed my new baby and what I used to keep him clean were not loaded with chemicals, preservatives, additives, and questionable ingredients.  I made soap for him (which will come back to the table for consumer availability), breastfed him, handmilled organic foods for him to eat, and read labels like I had OCD.  With the soap creation, I ventured further into natural ingredients products for the body, created several different bars of soap, sold at local farmer's markets, and enjoyed my exploration and steady climb into the area of running my own business.  Then, choosing to have another child, I was yoked with morning sickness and fatigue that grounded my ambitions for 9 mos.  After Zachary was born, I had my hands full with him & Tristan, so I had to box my venture in hopes of possibly going back to the drawing board and picking up where I left off.  Goals, dreams, and ambition is great to have, but when you need to (and constantly redirected) prioritize how you navigate life, you have to start one step at a time, much like how children learn to walk.  Wobble into a standing position, do the sofa and/or coffee table shuffle, and when the moment is right, take that first step into the world of possibilities.  And that's just how its come to happen for me.

"My father always used to say, 'Smile & you'll always be happy.'"
My grandmother (mom's mom) is such an inspiration in my life.  She helped teach me how to drive, she taught me how to make bread from scratch (over the phone, as I was living 1500 miles away @ the time), counseled us all at the kitchen table, loved us unconditionally, always told us she loved us, there was always a hug (and usually coupled with a goose), and never let any of us (her children , grandchildren, & great-grandchildren old enough to understand) give up on what we believe in.  After a seven month battle with pancreatic cancer, she let go and went home on April 22, 2011.  I miss her dearly, as do all her family and anyone who knew her in the small town she lived in (and the surrounding towns as well).  In honor of the strength and endurance she relied on to navigate life (and she bestowed this ability on several of us as well), I dedicate my lauch product in her name. 

From left to right: Astringent, Cleansing Grains, Goat's Milk/oatmeal soap, lotion bar, castille shampoo, and maple/oatmeal conditioner.
So, I leave you with this: if you wouldn't eat it, why are you putting it on your skin?  Your skin is the largest organ in regards to the human body.  Pores open with an increase in temperature, making almost like little mouths (yeah, I had to think about that one, too).  Thus, whatever soaps, lotions, cleansing products, bug sprays, etc..that you put on your skin is absorbed into your body.  So, what are you eating?  What is your skin drinking in?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

And the Phoenix Will Rise, Part One

Barbi's Beauty Basics Sampler Pack

After a severe time delay in launch, which I refuse to label this delay as failure to launch, here I am.  Telling you my story and how this came to be that I am coming back into soap making and sharing my craft with the world (be it on the small scale at this time in my life).
I embarked on a spring detox, using a simple tea formula consisting of four herbs: Burdock Root, Turkey Rhubarb, Sheep Sorrel, and Slippery Elm Bark.  As I have done this in the past (granted its been about 6 yrs to do so), having the experience and herbal knowledge I've acquired (earned!) over the years, I went ahead and set out to cleanse my system.  Mind you, I've either been pregnant or breastfeeding in the last 6 yrs, so I was eating for nutritional value not only pertaining to my own body and immune system but for the health of my boys (who will be focus of another post here later on). 
And so I dove into the detox pool.  I usually wait until the Vernal (spring) Equinox to do so, but as I'd been experiencing extremely dry skin on my hands, and a chemical burn (which I suspected but didn't resign to) to boot, I started a week early.  I had it in my mind I could kick this skin thing, participated in a "Increase Your Water" challenge with a college friend at the same time, and had high hopes for a good result in the end.  Little did I know the adventure I was about to embark upon.
Within one week, using salves that I make as well, my dry/chemically irritated skin went from my fingers/back of my left hand up to my forearms.  No sweat, I thought. Maybe its something else.  Google University.....yeah.....remember that wonderful week in March we had here in Vermont?  Fabulous sun and great temps?  My son, Tristan (4yrs) and I spent huge amounts of time outside, full sun, working in the gardens.  Great idea?  Mmmmm....maybe not.  After a week of basking in the glow and feeling energized internally, my external shell was on fire. What had seemed so simple to possibly take care of on my own was like a wildfire out of control.  And I was still detoxing. 

March 22, 2012
The morning of the date above, I woke up, realized I was out of options as to self treating.  I didn't want to be a baby about going to the Emergency Room but I couldn't keep doing what I was doing; and good thing I didn't wait any longer. 

March 22, 2012
After a couple of hrs in the ER (go figure, as most people know it can take half your day just to be seen for something non-emergent, according to med staff), I was diagnosed with a possible allergic reaction to one or more of the herbs in my detox tea (which I actually figured out [Google University] on my own @ home and stopped taking the tea), and a possible photosensitive reaction to the salves I was using for itching/burning/peeling relief (or would that be no relief?).  A call to Dermatology got me in to see them within 30 mins of the call (yeah, someone was looking out for me that day), and upon discharge from the ER, I went to my first derm appt.

March 22, 2012
Within 5 mins of questions, it was confirmed on the allergic reaction AND photosensitivity.  Two herbs (that fit description for allergic reaction) were culprit to my situation.  Sheep Sorrel (in the detox tea) and Lavender (essential oil form in the salves I made and was using on my skin at the time I was out playing in the sun for a week).  I was stunned.  I didn't think this would happen to me; I'm educated in herbs, why didn't it occur to me that this can happen to ME?  I know folks who are allergic to Chamomile, Calendula, you name it.  I've created soaps for people who have allergies to certain herbs.  Sitting for a moment, alone in the exam room, I realized: this can happen to anyone, even me.

With scripts for Prednisone and Hydrocortisone cream you can't get over the counter, I went home to start my healing process.  I kept with the increase in my fluids, turned to juicing to help detox my system of all the craziness that was now going on with it, and wondered what the next step in my life would be and where was it going to take me.  That's when the "barn burner" of an idea struck me and I knew right then and there, no turning back for me.  Its like being at the bottom and the only way you can go from there is up. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Updates and Changes

Wow! Its been busy here for the last couple of weeks; I've been away from blogging for what feels like forever. I spent almost everyday of last week troubleshooting my formula for my new soapmaking process; the first batch didn't set up the way I had hoped, sending me back to research and cross referencing to solve the mystery I found myself faced with. After a couple of resources found, articles combed over, and the motivation to try again cropped up-24 hr. turnover-I was at it again.
The open air Farmer's Market season 2010 is upon us, and I'm so not ready at this time. Its about two weeks or a little less to be ready for the first days, beginning at Shelburne. I have to double check my schedule and coordinating calendar for dates, so I can post here as to where I'll be and when.
I'm two days away from my new batch of soap being set enough to take out of the mold box, cut and lay out to continue curing (drying). My new process starts with a week of setting up and then 2-6 weeks to cure to the desired firmness. My patience is being tested for this new method but I feel confident now, with the bugs worked out and moving forward to produce a new line of product. I am also considering to take recipes for my handcut soaps I've been producing and move them over into this new process method; I hand cut the new processed soap into bars, so it would primarily be the same, just moving from one processing method to another.
So, here's to another wonderful spring day and a good day to be had for all. Enjoy!
~Momma G

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Vermont Potash Soapmaking in the 21st Century, Part One

"Ashes on Branches Filter"

"Nature's Filter-branches from my backyard"

"Two Gallons Water, 16 oz. Ash"

"Necessary Equipment for Ash Based Lye Water Processing"
I love it when setting up images on blogger seem to go their own way as opposed to how you originally want them set. No use getting upset over the situation, as with reflecting on the process, I had to do it twice to get the right consistency and potency. Lessons learned along the way, and more to come as each step of the process comes into view.
I chose ash based lye processing as opposed to using sodium hydroxide crystals; yes, the lye water produced using the ash is the same as the sodium hydroxide but to me, I feel that using the ash is a more natural process; it also puts me more in touch with what I'm producing, why I choose to make soap and who my consumers are, and I feel I'm picking up and carrying on with a process that is a part of my state's history, especially the industrial/homesteading element.
Necessary Equipment for Lye Water Making:
-1 gallon bucket, galvanized steel
-1 7 oz. stainless steel coliander (pasta strainer)
-1 pair industrial rubber gloves*
-1 pair safety glasses*
-1 4 cup glass measuring cup (Anchor Hocking or Pyrex, your choice)
-1 handful of branches (birch or maple work best) for filter purposes
-2 gallons non-tap water
-16 oz. potash (I used a 12 oz. container to measure out what I needed)
-1 set of kitchen scales
I worked this process in the garage, as this is my first time making soap from "scratch." Taking appropriate safety measures with lye water making should be as the same as necessary safety measures needed for working with sodium hydroxide crystals; lye is caustic and can burn the skin if it comes into contact with exposed skin. This is something I don't need to be worrying about, especially being pregnant. Also, working outside gives an open air environment to work in as opposed to being inside and perhaps having to move outside just long enough to combine lye and water (ash and water with this process).
My first time through this process, I felt confident but when I went back later to cross reference my process with two resources that I implement in my new processing method, I realized I may not have produced lye water that would be of the correct potency. Therefore, after some thought, I went back, remembering my original measurements, recalculating and reworking my lye water production. Working through the process once again, I felt a surge of even more confidence and felt satisfied when closing the garage door.
Because of the attention to detail process necessary to temperatures and when ingredients need to be added to the base, I will be processing after my son goes to bed tonight; more at ease with a little one NOT underfoot? You better believe it. I will be documenting and photographing while processing, resulting in additional posts as I move deeper into this project. I'm excited and hope all who read stay tuned; here's to soapmaking! ~Momma G