Thursday, June 28, 2012

Sink or Swim?

There was a recent study on rats to determine what effects probiotics, the live bacteria and yeast found in your digestive system, had on mood. That's right, not on digestion, but on how it effects the brain. Scientists fed one group of rats high doses of probiotics for a couple weeks and a control group a low dose. After some time on the regimen, the rats were placed in a pool of water. The control rats would try to swim to get out, but after about 30 seconds of trying would give up and float in the pool. The rats given probiotics, however, would continue to swim... and swim... and swim...

The scientists found that the high doses of probiotics in the rats' systems assisted in the release of serotonin, a calming hormone in the body. The scientists hypothesized that due to the calming effect of the extra serotonin, the rats on probiotics were better able to cope and to continue looking for routes for a solution to their predicament.

At first, this study was fascinating to me because of the extraordinary effect of probiotics on the body. It seems so providential to know that by what you eat and being healthy and balanced on the inside, one can directly effect one's own brain function positively. Probiotics are found in many fermented foods, like almond milk yogurt, kombucha tea or kimchee, a sort of fermented pickled cabbage. They can also be easily added to the diet as a supplement, found in most natural food stores.

However, I feel like the rats' reactions are a good allegory to life, too. When faced with a new and unexpected challenge, there are often multiple solutions. However daunting the task, however hopeless the odds, you must always keep swimming. Not taking action is still exercising a choice. In stories and fables, characters are often outlined as either good or evil. In reality, the obstacles we face are not always so cut and dry, and there will be many paths that are not necessarily considered bad and may even be widely acceptable. The challenge, as Dumbledore put it, lies in choosing between what is right and what is easy.

It's almost the end of the week, but keep trying and stay strong! Remember that it's all in your head. And until next time, keep it clean! :)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Infinite Uses of Salt

Last time we discussed the amazing cleaning power of vinegar. Another great simple ingredient is salt! Salt sometimes gets a bad rap for being bad for you, but when used properly it has an amazingly broad range of benefits.

Probably the most familiar use for salt is in the kitchen. Salt as a seasoning is great for savory foods, but has tons of applications with a wide variety of ingredients. Small amounts of salt enrich and deepen the flavor of delicate desserts, especially chocolate. If your coffee is too bitter, put a pinch of salt in the pot to get rid of the overcooked flavor. Washing your produce in salt water yields cleaner fruits and veggies and can prevent sliced fruit and vegetables from turning brown. A pinch of salt in your milk will also make it last longer. Use natural sea salt and rock salt when cooking to gain the benefits of micronutrients found in the earth. Remember that if you make most of your food from scratch, you can safely use salt in your cooking when used with discretion without having to worry about harmful effects. Herbivores (that means you, vegetarians!) actually can have more salt added in their diets because they don't get salt from meat. Of course, be sure to check with your nutritionist when judging how much salt you need based on your diet and how often you exercise.

Salt is also excellent for beauty. Put a couple tablespoons of salt into a spray bottle of water and shake it up, then spritz it on your hair and comb through and let it air dry. Salt water helps tame frizziness, and because of the antibacterial qualities it can relieve itchiness and dandruff on your scalp too. Scrubbing your face with a paste made from salt and oil removes dead skin and brightens your complexion. Sprinkling a mixture of table salt and baking soda (also, incidentally, a type of salt) onto your toothbrush and brushing your teeth will whiten your teeth and remove hardened plaque.

As an antibacterial, salt works surprisingly well. Bacteria can cause itchy skin, wound inflammation and bad odors from the waste they create (like stinky armpits). When salted water is introduced to bacteria, the salt causes the bacteria to absorb far more water than their bodies can contain. Eventually the bacteria will absorb so much water that they burst, effectively and naturally killing the bacteria. Pressing salt into minor cuts and scrapes will kill bacteria and help the wound heal. It also relieves bee stings, bug bites and poison ivy. You can swish salt water as an effective alternative to mouthwash, and gargle warm salt water to relieve a sore throat. My favorite antibacterial use for salt, however, is as a deodorant! After you shower, wet a smooth piece of rock salt and rub it in your armpits and you'll be fresh all day. Rock salt is a cheap and easy alternative to deodorants and antiperspirants that lasts a long time. If that's not motivation enough, consider that the majority of waste in the body are eliminated through sweat. Blocking your sweat glands with chemicals and introducing metals such as aluminum (found in most deodorants) to your body has been strongly linked to cancer, especially breast cancer. Sweating is a normal function your body needs to perform to stay healthy, so spare your sweat glands and your precious disease fighting lymph nodes the abuse!

Here at Azuma we love budget-conscious ways to make a happier, healthier and cleaner home. We know you'll enjoy these simple, cheap, eco-friendly and effective alternatives to the store-bought stuff. We have plenty more tips coming, so until next time, keep it clean! :)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Make Apple Pie like a Pro !

     As you all of my friends and family know, I am very much a beginner in the kitchen. Especially when it comes to desserts!  So when my mom assigned dessert to me for a benefit that was hosted for my dad, I was in full panic mode as I didn’t want to let everyone down! Dessert, afterall, is the most important part of the meal.  Furthermore, I was instructed that store-bought items were not welcome – we all know I was already planning to cheat..
     After consulting Pinterest for some Apple Pie recipes, I came across this recipe for Apple Pie Baked in the Apple – I thought it was a nice blend of simple instructions and a gourmet look.  I’m a big fan of things that look more impressive than they actually are! Less work for me, but I look like I slaved in the kitchen and everyone is impressed, its a win win!

Step 1:
Cut off the top of 4 apples off and discard. Remove the inside of each apple with a spoon or melon baller very carefully, as to not puncture the peel. If you’re a skilled interior apple excavator, salvage as much as you can so you can use it for Step 2.  I, on the other hand, am not skilled so I just had to throw my interior apples away and chop up additional apples for filling.

Step 2: Remove skin from remaining apple(s) and slice very thinly. These apple pieces will give you the additional filling needed to fill the four apples you are baking. Mix sliced apples with sugars and cinnamon in a bowl. If you prefer more or less cinnamon make adjustments as desired. Same goes for the sugar. Scoop sliced apples into hollow apples.

Step 3:
Roll out pie crust and slice into 1/4 inch strips.  You can also add a strip of pastry inside the top of the apple almost like a liner to add a little more texture/sweetness to the pie. Cover the top of the apple in a lattice pattern with pie crust strips.
Step 4: Place apples in an 8×8 pan.  Add just enough water to the cover the bottom of the pan. Cover with foil and bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown and sliced apples are soft.
How neat does that look? The entire thing is edible and best served with ice cream if you ask me.I hope you take this recipe and use it to impress, as i have! From us at AZUMA Leasing, until next time - keep it clean! :)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


     As I grow older and wiser there are many changes I have decided to make in my life. These start as small as buying generic items, and can be as big as changing my diet! Some of the smaller in-between consist of trying to recycle, conserve water and energy, and even be more organic in my everyday life! When I began trying to cut out all of the harsh chemicals in my life, i began to realized how many options there really are for natural cleaners! I've learned most of them here on this blog from my fellow bloggers. :) Since gaining the interest to make these changes, you wouldn't believe the time that I spend on the computer researching new ways to clean and/or create things for my home. I not only enjoy knowing that I am handling things without the use of chemicals, but I also enjoy expanding my knowledge on the topic! One of the best universal cleaners I have discovered is: Vinegar. It's an amazing little tool that I never thought had the capabilities that it does! Here at AZUMA Leasing we all know our favorite topic is Laundry! So here's a few reasons why you should use this god sent item in your laundry room!

     First, lets talk about your clothes. We all know that wash after wash the colors become dull, and that is something we all dread! Just by adding 1/2 a cup to the rinse cycle, will keep your clothes bright and looking brand new! No more faded jeans! This, my friends, is priority number one in my book! At the same time we're not only brightening our colors, but fabric softener won't be needed!  That's right! Vinegar is a great substitute for softening your fabrics!
      Have you ever forgotten your clothes in the washer because you got busy, or even fell asleep, and when you return they smell gross?! All you need to do is throw a couple cups of vinegar into the washer and run through a rinse cycle - once completed, wash them again with detergent. Your clothes will be fresh like they never sat over night forgotten in your washer! Vinegar also works great to remove perspiration odors AND stains! Spray a little bit of vinegar on the stain or 'smelly location' before throwing the item into the normal wash and you'll be covered. :)
     Any pesky residue from walking around after it rains that sticks around and leaves your shoes looking dull, can be easily removed by wiping them down with an equal part solution of water and vinegar. Not only does it clean the stains from your garments, it is also great for cleaning the washer, itself! Run a load in the washing machine without any clothing, and add a few cups of vinegar with hot water. This will clean out your washing machine and keep it fresh for your clothing! Not only can it clean the washing machine, it is also great for your iron! We all know that starch, and all sorts of funk can build up on the iron over time. In order to clean it and keep it working well, take equal parts vinegar and water and use this mixture in your iron. Fill it up, let it heat up and steam upright for about 5 minutes, then let the iron cool. Once cool, rinse and fill back up with water. This keeps the mineral deposits from building up in the steam vent and spray nozzle! This cleans the inside of the iron, for the outer surfaces, you can use the same mixture with warm water to scrub the residue off of the heat plate itself (when cool, of course)!
     Vinegar is an amazing substitute for bleach! Add 1-2 cups of vinegar to a pot of boiling water, then add your whites to the pot (socks, dingy rags, etc), then let it soak over night, you'll be amazed at the difference! Not only can it whiten those dingy whites, but it also works great as a spot treatment! Take a spray bottle with equal parts water and vinegar and apply mixture to the stain and rub it in. Then throw it in the wash, and watch the stain disappear! Last but not lease, lets talk about our towels. Are your towels not absorbing as much as they used to? Run then through a warm wash with 2-3 cups of vinegar. This strips all of the extras that get absorbed into your towels, causing them not to do their job!

     If this didn't convince you to run out to the store and buy some vinegar for your laundry room, I don't know what will! From your friends at AZUMA Leasing - until next time, keep it clean! :)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Homemade Sandwich Bread!

   Last week, you were taught how to make a delicious homemade pizza crust using simple ingredients.  I love this idea because the more basic the ingredients, the healthier the outcome. This week, I would like to provide you with another easy, yet extremely satisfying, homemade bread recipe for a white sandwich loaf.
   If you are an avid label reader like myself, you have probably noticed the lengthy, unpronounceable list of ingredients on store-bought breads. This is very unsettling and I much prefer to make homemade bread whenever I get the chance. The following recipe yields three loaves of sandwich bread. That way, you will have a couple of loaves to freeze for a later date or give away to friends!
   First you will need to gather your ingredients:
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tbsp yeast
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 4 cups warm milk or filtered water (or half and half)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 4 1/2 - 5 1/2 cups bread flour (more or less depending on consistency of dough)
   Now for the fun part. Mix together yeast, all purpose flour, oil, and milk and/or water. Rest for about 20 minutes. Now add the salt and enough bread flour until the consistency is no longer sticky. Knead several times and allow to rise until doubled (about 1 hour) in a warm area. Shape the dough (I usually flatten the dough and then roll it up like a burrito almost, pinching the ends in and the bottom until there is no seam.) Place in pre-oiled bread pan ‘seam’ down and allow to rise again for another hour or so. Bake @ 375 degrees F for around 35 minutes until tops are nice and brown. If you do not have a bread pan, you can also just shape the dough into 3 rounds, slice an X on the top, and bake it the same way! Either way you do it, this bread is a winner.
    You can use this loaf for sandwiches, but don't stop there! This bread is wonderful for bruschetta, french toast, and bread pudding. You can also use leftover bread to make amazing croutons or breadcrumbs for your next fried endeavor! Use this recipe and help eliminate the processed, store brand breads with all of their additives and preservatives. Eat homemade bread the healthy way! Because is there anything better than warm bread and butter? Happy eating! :)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Grow Your Own: Sprouts!

   Sprouts are baby plants with a lot of impact. The health benefits for these tiny seedlings are abundant. Sprouts contain antioxidants that fight free radicals along with protein, chlorophyll, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. The enzymes in sprouts allow for the plant to digest itself, giving your hard working body a break while still invigorating you thoroughly! It is recommended to eat large portions of sprouts as they contain all essential vitamins and minerals.
    Almost any grain, legume, or seed can be sprouted and consumed. Most common sprouts are mung bean, alfalfa, and lentil, however, you can sprout just about anything! They are a delicious addition to salads, sandwiches, stir-frys, and more! You can easily purchase pre-grown sprouts at your grocer or health food store. Sprouts are also super easy, fun, and rewarding to grow yourself!!!
   To grow sprouts you don't necessarily need any fancy equipment. I have a special three compartment sprouter made specifically for this purpose. You can you also just as easily use a jar to make your sprouts! To do this you want to:
  • Soak seeds in water for 8-12 hours. Larger seeds may need longer.
  • Drain the water using a sieve or cheesecloth. 
  • Rinse seeds well and swish slightly to remove any hulls.
  • Drain again and keep seeds in jar covered with cheesecloth.
  • Rinse and drain every 12 hours.
  • Harvest and enjoy!
   Depending on what you are sprouting, you will usually be able to harvest within a couple of days! You can keep sprouts fresh in the fridge and eat within 3 weeks. If they start to get slimy or smell funky, it's best to toss them!
   Sprouts are quick and delicious nutritional powerhouses that are easy to grow yourself. I encourage you to try this method and also increase your sprout intake! Until next time, stay healthy and have fun! :)

Thursday, June 7, 2012


The weekend is approaching fast! A Friday night staple is pizza, but how about a healthier, tastier, cheaper and easy-to-make alternative to delivery? This recipe is simple. Though it takes only 30 minutes of actual preparation and ten minutes to bake, it's a few hours to allow it to rise so it gets that lovely chewy texture. This can be made in the afternoon and be ready to bake by dinner, or can be made the night before and frozen for use later. Makes 2 medium-sized pizzas.

1 cup warm water
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar (optional)
1 (1/4 oz) packet of active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp if you buy the stuff in the jar)
2 tablespoons olive oil (and more for drizzling)
3 cups flour (I use whole wheat pastry flour)
1 teaspoon salt
cornmeal or extra flour for dusting

Add the sugar to the warm (not hot) water and stir to dissolve. Add the yeast and stir again. Set aside until yeast becomes frothy. If yeast does not get frothy, use new yeast, water and sugar and try again.

Mix together flour and salt. I usually use whole wheat pastry flour. Whole wheat flour is fine, but you'll get a smoother texture to your bread with the finer grind of flour. You can also mix the 3 cups any way you like. Part whole wheat and part all-purpose, part spelt and part whole wheat, try experimenting. Different whole grain flours create slightly different consistencies and have different nutritional content. Remember that whole grain flours are easier to digest and have more protein, which keep you fuller for longer. Try to opt for the healthier choice, and you'll be rewarded with a richer flavor and a happier tummy.

Now for the mixing. Let me start by saying that making pizza dough, like any bread, is more of an art than a science. Add the water and oil to the flour and stir until it's as incorporated as possible, then begin kneading with your hands. If after thoroughly mixing the dough is too dry, add more water a tablespoon or two at a time and knead it in completely before adding more. If the dough feels tacky or sticks to your hands, knead in a tablespoon or two of flour at a time until it's about the consistency of play-dough. Then knead it for ten minutes. Once you're done kneading, pack the dough into a ball shape, roll in a little oil, and place it in a clean bowl. Cover the bowl with a wet towel and leave it in a warm place to let it rise, about an hour or two.

Once you come back, the dough will have doubled. Punch it down and begin kneading again, for a minute or two. Dust with flour to make it easier to handle if necessary. The dough should feel spongey and elastic. Let it sit for 10 minutes. You can freeze the dough at this point for later, or proceed to get ready to bake!

Divide the dough in two and preheat your oven as hot as it will get, about 500 degrees. Flatten your dough into a disk and stretch and roll it into a pizza shape. It helps to let gravity do some of the work (remember those guys at the pizzeria who would toss and spin the dough? This is the fun part!)

Once you're done stretching your dough, sprinkle a cookie sheet with about a tablespoon of flour or cornmeal, lay out the dough, put on your sauce and toppings and bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the crust is brown and crisp. Pizza dough also makes great breadsticks, just roll the dough into little baguettes and rub with olive oil, garlic powder and salt.

There you have it! A delicious weekend meal that's a blast to make, especially for kids! Happy baking!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Greening your Groceries

A lot of the things we do daily are what contributes to waste the most, but can be easily "greened" to reduce your waste. Here are a few tips on what you can do with your groceries to make them more environmentally friendly.

Bring your own containers.
Did you know that 40% of the waste that goes into landfills each day is packaging that's only used once? It's common practice in many places now to bring your own tote bag to the store, but what about the plastic bags you put your produce in, the cardboard box and plastic for the pizza, the bags for your cheese? Find a store or local farmer's market that sells in bulk, and bag your own. Bulk is often far cheaper because you're not paying for the packaging, and you're not chucking needless waste when you get home. If you want to use a jar, weigh the jar at home or bring the jar to the customer service counter at the store and they'll weigh it for you, then tag your container to be used again and again. Cheesecloth, linen bags or drawstring lingerie bags work great for produce, cheese, nuts and grains.

Shop in season.
When you look for seasonal foods, you're also more likely to get local foods, which leaves less of a footprint from having to ship something from far away. Sites such as will tell you where to find local farmer's markets and co-ops, and apps such as Locavore will tell you what's in season now and for how long. Foods shipped from far away often require more care to stay fresh which may mean more packaging, more pesticides and more ripening agents.

When it seems too expensive, do it yourself.
Some specialty items at the store not only cost more but can put a big dent in your pocket. A bag of french fries can cost 4 times as much as a bag of potatoes, but all you have to do is peel and chop them and stick them in the oven with oil, salt and pepper to get the same thing for fresher. Pizza dough is just flour, salt and yeast and can be made with very little effort for less than a dollar per pizza! Have fun and learn something new, and skip the packaging at the same time.

Buying in bulk seems daunting, but it can actually simplify your food and your shopping experience. It may take a little more time, but you'll find it's worth the effort.