Healthy in Hernando : Perfect Balance Organics

This started out as a post for vanilla extract, but since it takes a while to make, that’ll be later. 

Vanilla extract
Vanilla extract

In the meantime, it seems I’ve used up almost all of my ‘nilla beans on this project. So, when my Mom said she needed a run to the health food store, then I had a reason to go too. Besides, she said it was ‘under new ownership‘. Hmm – curious. Our local haunt is, Perfect Balance Organics in Weeki Wachee.

Tucked away in a strip mall.
Tucked away in a strip mall.

Every few weeks I go ‘shopping’ with my Mom. We go wherever she needs and sometimes to places she doesn’t – like Target, for a coffee and stroll through all the new stuff. It’s fun. I also have to say that a trip to the health food store wasn’t always so enjoyable. Even though she knows all the staff and they’re super friendly and helpful, the previous owner, an older gentleman, wasn’t the happiest person. He tended to let his political views run his world (and run a few people out of his store). Later on the road construction put a crimp on sales. Well, as the story goes, he sold the store.

Wow, really? Since my Mom teaches art to one of the long-time employees, she give’s me the low-down on our little healthy outpost. The new owner is an actual ‘health food person’,… you know the tea-drinking-yoga type. Fabulous! 

Keep in mind, this post was a complete after-thought. So, there’s no interview,….I don’t even know her name. However, I did find that she’s a light-hearted soul with a lovely smile…

Happy to help !
Happy to help !

Apparently, this is a second career for her and I hope it’s enjoyable. We don’t have many health food options here in Hernando. Yes, everybody’s heard of Whole Foods, but that’s an hour’s drive. Recently, we got a Vitamin World, and it’s well…vitamins. Ok, then there’s not one, but 2 GNC’s which are filled with weightlifting supplements, weight-loss supplements and a few vitamins tossed in. Not exactly ‘nutritious’ to me. There’s a place called ‘Good4U’, which is another place I like, and it has mostly cooking equipment, and some healthy ingredients – yay. And lastly there are 2 places way out of the way (down by County Line Rd. and off in Brooksville). The Green Bean in Spring Hill shuttered it’s doors long ago.

This is so close for me. The corner of SR 50 / US19, just beyond the CVS in a small strip mall, across from the Quality Inn hotel. The ‘Gold-buying’ store is gone as well as the furniture store, but Perfect Balance hangs on. Don’t be afraid of the traffic pattern. From US19, make sure you turn right just before light at Deltona. From 50 East, just use the new turning lane going into CVS’s side drive, and make a U. The light at 19 will even hold the traffic for you. Why go?

Organics for glory.
Organics for glory.

It’s a small space crammed with treasures ! Every kind of essential oil you can think of and a holistic something for whatever ails you. Yes, there are vitamins, but also…

Gleaming chill chests.
Gleaming chill chests.

Lot’s of chilled foods too. Raw cashews, yes – whole or pieces? Coconut milk coffee creamer. And who knew there were 4 varieties of Veganaise ! Really?

Vanillllllla
Vanillllllla

Oh, yes, my vanilla. There’s a huge section of dried goodies and herbs. Organic dried rose petals? Yes. Calendula?,….yes. Spices galore,…and bulk is always cheaper. Bulk chia seeds, and organic pastry flour, steel cut oats and more. The adzuki beans were on sale and cheaper than Whole Foods!

What ?!
What ?!

Where else are you going to find dried Chanterelle mushrooms? OK, if you’re ‘a cook’ you know what I’m talking about! These are $10/lb + wonder ‘shrooms, unavailable most of the year, and at $4.63 this is probably a pound worth reconstituted. (my mushroom soup will thank me) And, of course, my ‘nilla beans. Mmmm, can you smell them? Awww, you can’t. – Go and get some. 🙂 

I’m glad that the big stores are carrying more organic and healthy options, but they don’t have everything and what they have can be really expensive. Besides, they’re just that, ‘big stores’ – this is a ‘Shop Small’ spot. Local owner, employing locals, and paying local taxes….if you have the need and find yourself in the area, stop in a shop small.

I guess I may have to do a little ‘interview’ later, and get the new owners story. I heard a rumor that she may do more in that plaza – I can’t wait ! (but it’s just a rumor) 

Fresh Tomato Soup : a Panera classic

Since we’re on the subject of restaurants, one that used to be one of my favorites is Panera Bread. I say ‘used to be’ because recently our local one has made my ‘no-go’ list. Overnight, it’s dirty, poorly staffed, expensive, and I even hate the new mix of music they play. Oh, and remember hanging out and surfing the net munching sweets and drinking coffee – no more. There’s 30 minute wi-fi limit. So, Panera has gone the way of Mickey-D’s (another no-go) ‘Get ’em in and get ’em out’.  Maybe your neighborhood one isn’t like this, but I’m speaking strictly local here. What’s a girl to do – make some of the favorites myself. Since it’s cold and rainy… how about a Fresh Tomato Soup straight from their website. Sure, why not.

Panera Fresh Tomato Soup:

1 Tbl Olive Oil

1 Tbl Butter * optional

1 large Onion, chopped

1 large Garlic clove, minced

2 ribs, Celery, chopped

1 Tbl Flour

5 large, super-ripe Tomatoes (about 4 lb) chopped

1 tsp Sugar

4 Basil leaves, + 1 Tbl chopped (for garnish)

3/4 tsp Salt

1/8 tsp Black Pepper

Pinch of Cayenne Pepper

Step 1
Step 1

Step 1

Make sure those ‘matoes are really ripe. These, in hind-sight, weren’t really as good as they could be. Next time I’ll opt to use the box tomatoes and add a few fresh for taste. The celery, as a trick, lives wrapped in a paper towel and then foil…it keeps forever!

Step 2
Step 2

Step 2

Get everything chopped.

Step 3
Step 3

Step 3

Saute the celery and onion until soft (but not brown) in the oil/butter, then add the garlic. Add in the flour and stir in.

Step 4
Step 4

Step 4 

This doesn’t look like much but…

After a few minutes...
After a few minutes…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now we're talking...
Now we’re talking…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Add in the basil, sugar and spices. Let it simmer a bit. Smells amazing!

 

Ok, break out that emersion blender, or just that margarita machine.
Ok, break out that emersion blender, or just that margarita machine.

Step 5

OK, now e’re ready to blend. If you’ve got an emersion blender, get it. Or just work in batches with a regular blender.

Here's the business end...
Here’s the business end…

 I can’t show you how to do this because I only have 2 hands and I need BOTH of them for this. Seriously, hold it upright and use the pulse function ONLY. 

That's it !
That’s it ! (oops, is that a toe? – on the floor silly LOL)

Finale:

That’s it. Really good and warm and yummy and totally ON your diet !! You can add a touch of cream to make it more luscious. It’s ok, I won’t tell.

Yuummmm
Yuummmm

Some multi grain crackers and you’re good to go. 

Oh, wait – I have a prettier plate…

Looks good enough to eat !
Looks good enough to eat !

I’m working on the whole ‘food styling’ thing. 

Go and make this – it keeps a long time in the fridge – and your diet needs all the vitamins packed in this tiny bowl of goodness. This is NOT your Mom’s re-constitued ‘Red & White’ canned soup. This is the real thing – mmmmmm good. 

[yumprint-recipe id=’16’]

Rec – Room fun : the ‘B’

I know this is a re-run from my site but, since this was a find from a shopping trip with Kathy, I thought it was appropriate.

Back in October, I went with my Aunt and her friend Connie to Renningers Antique Extravaganza. I’d picked up one of those old sign letters that have become popular these days. It cost me a whopping $25. I loved it because this one was from a real sign and not one of the reproduction Chinese metal ones. I was so happy the vendor had a ‘B’, which are always gone. It was even blue to match our rec. room – how cool is that!

The B
The B

I was too busy to deal with it right away, so I sat it side. The holiday’s came and went and I recently dug it out to hang it. But first, I gave it a shake…? what’s in there rattling around? Maybe I don’t want to know – no, it’s killing me. Besides, it may be a light fixture that’s repairable. Wouldn’t that be fun! A lit sign letter over by the pool table. Yes, please. 

Step 1
Step 1

Step 1

Get out the socket set and open that puppy up. Carefully,…you don’t know who’s living in that box!

Step 2
Step 2

Step 2

Ewww ! Well, it could be worse. There’s no telling how long it’s been rained and snowed on,….and ‘anointed’ by birds. Nah, this just looks like a lot of weather dirt. Get it cleaned up.

Step 3
Step 3

Step 3 

Hey, look LED’s ! It can’t be that old. I wonder if they’ll fire? This is when you have to stop yourself. Because I didn’t. I asked my favorite electrician, aka : Mr. B, to wire it up and plug it in. “No sweat”, he said. Before I could say anything,…actually I was on the phone and I heard the “BZZZT !!” from across the house. I was just hanging up and he looked at me, rather irritated. Then, as we often do,  we said the same thing,…”LED’s need a transformer ! – oops” After a good laugh, I told him I was going to use one the transformers from the leftover set of lights from Ikea. “You could’ve told me…” he said, “I thought you were busy and would get to it later. You beat me to it!”, I replied. Anyway, there’s no telling what size this commercial grade set would need – advice – don’t bother. Just assume you’ll need new lights.

Step 4
Step 4

Step 4

OK, so, moving on… go and get some of those cheapie Christmas lights. I know you bought a set or two while they were on sale after Christmas! Set them in and test the layout.

Yes, you can use a nice new set from the under cabinet/counter lighting section at H/D or Ikea, or wherever, but they’re NOT cheap. I, however, am.

Step 4a
Step 4a

Now, use some little Command hooks and get them secured in position. Mind how the light will sit, so you can make sure they don’t fall out of their hooks after you get it reassembled. And, if the weather is cooperative (which it was NOT while I did all this), spray paint over those numbers.

Step 5
Step 5

Step 5

Now, since Christmas lights don’t come with their own switch AND the plug is too big to thread through the wire-access hole, cut the plug end off. Get a switched plug from the lamp repair area at your Home Depot for about $5 bucks (Lowes didn’t have one). Cut the end off and using wire nuts, re-wire the light. String lights have their own mini-transformers.

Step 6
Step 6

Step 6

Hey ! It works !! OK, now, before you get all excited, lay the light cover back on and make sure it looks good. Replace the cover and that’s it ! 

I love it !
I love it !

Finale:

All done ! It looks good lit in the day time…

                                                                               But even better at night,….

An LED nightlight ? Yes, please.
An LED nightlight ? Yes, please.

This is so cool next to the pool table. It’s felt is a navy blue, and most things in that room are a blue hue – Perfect ! 

So, if you’re out ‘junkin’, go ahead buy that light. And don’t just hang it on the wall all lonely – give it another chance to shine!