Inspiring DIY projects, beauty recipes and advice to green your daily routine.

Welcome to A Green Routine! This blog chronicles our journey toward a greener lifestyle. We hope to inspire you to try some new things and that you’ll share your experiences with us too. Subscribe to A Green Routine’s email list to stay connected.

 

How To Make Yogurt

Posted by on Apr 25, 2015 in Food & Recipes | 6 comments

How To Make Yogurt

For years I’ve thought about making yogurt but never tried because I was intimidated. I had read so many blogs where people experienced failure after failure for months before being successful. Then, when other bloggers found success, the techniques did not seem like something I could duplicate. I’ll write more about that in a bit. When I finally decided to give it a go, my first attempt was a massive failure. Luckily, when you really screw up making yogurt you end up with ricotta, so it wasn’t a waste. I made manicotti. My next attempt was successful, and I’ve been refining my process ever since because I wanted to develop a technique anyone could duplicate. Why Should You Make Yogurt? In recent posts, Kim and I have talked about how we’ve been trying to reduce the amount of packaging we buy. Ultimately, that’s why I finally decided to make yogurt. I had stopped buying single serve plastic yogurt cups a long time ago because those are incredibly wasteful, but even the large plastic tubs were getting on my nerves. With the added benefit of experience, here are my top 6 reasons you should make your own yogurt too. Almost zero waste. The plastic ring that seals the top on the milk jug is the only waste. Cost. I make greek yogurt from local, organic milk for 50¢ a cup. Compare that to $2.69 for 3/4 cup at the store. Quality. It’s the most delicious yogurt you’ve ever had. Health. No preservatives, no added sugar, no contact with plastics. Customization. Get the exact taste and thickness you want. Status. By making your own yogurt you solidify your homesteading rockstar status. Bask in glory of this accomplishment and awe your family, friends, and colleagues. What You Need To Know Making yogurt is all about temperature control. First, the milk is slowly heated to 185°. This kills bacteria and mold spores that may be in in the milk and helps guarantee a yogurt similar to your starter. Heating also denatures the whey proteins, resulting in a firmer, thicker yogurt. Be careful though, go too high and you end up with ricotta cheese. Next, let the yogurt cool to 112° and try to keep it at that temperature. 112° is the ideal temperature for live yogurt cultures. Yogurt cultures are dormant below 90°, active from 90-120°, and start to die at higher temperatures. Heating the milk and maintaining the incubation temperature are crucial. Before perfecting my process I ended up with equal amounts of yogurt and whey. Now I get about 6 six cups of yogurt and only 1/4 cup of whey. Better temperature control results in more productive cultures. Buying Milk Regular, pasteurized milk is fine but don’t buy ultra-pasteurized milk. Ultra-pasteurized milk is heated to 275° during processing so it won’t make good yogurt. I also recommend buying whole milk because it’s going to taste the best. Choosing A Yogurt Starter This is easy. Pick out you favorite plain yogurt and read the label. If the label says it has live cultures, and most good yogurts do, buy it. You’ll only need to buy a starter once. Next time, you’ll use some of your own yogurt. Process, Process, Process I first tried making yogurt when it was -5° outside, so when I read...

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Homemade Hummus Recipe

Posted by on Apr 15, 2015 in Food & Recipes | 0 comments

Homemade Hummus Recipe

Last week, Sabra voluntarily recalled their hummus due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination. In light of this recall and Kim’s post last week about buying in bulk, I thought you all would enjoy an easy recipe for homemade hummus.  By using dried chickpeas and making your own tahini from sesame seeds, it’s possible to avoid all packaging and I give you props for that! But, if you go the easy route with canned chickpeas and store bought tahini you’ll end up with an aluminum can and glass jar which can be legitimately recycled, not just downcycled like the plastic containers used to package hummus. This recipe is for a basic, traditional hummus but I encourage you to get creative by using different beans or adding ingredients. Below are a few of my favorite combinations. roasted red pepper roasted garlic sun-dried tomatoes and basil chipotle and lime Sriracha black bean and basil A Simple, Basic Hummus 2015-04-11 13:08:04 A traditional hummus for dipping chips and veggies or spreading on wraps, sandwiches, and burgers. Spice it up with add-ins like roasted garlic or sun-dried tomatoes and basil. Write a review Save Recipe Print Total Time 10 min Total Time 10 min Ingredients 2 cups chickpeas (drained and washed) 1/3 cup tahini 1/4 cup lemon juice (juice of 1 lemon) 4 cloves garlic 1 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoon water or liquid drained from chickpeas Instructions Mince the garlic. Process all ingredients, including add-in, with a food processor until you get the texture you want. A Green Routine http://agreenroutine.com/ If you’ve recently purchased Sabra hummus, please take a minute to review the recall information on the FDA’s website for details. Like this post? Subscribe to our email list, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Pinterest for more green living...

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Bulk Shopping Facts And Fiction

Posted by on Apr 7, 2015 in Food & Recipes, Lifestyle | 0 comments

Bulk Shopping Facts And Fiction

Next time you’re putting your groceries away, pay attention to how many items have a plastic component to the packaging. On a recent trip to the grocery store I bought about 35 items and only a handful were completely plastic-free. My cereal was double-packaged in a plastic bag resting inside a cardboard box. My rice, nuts and hummus were all packaged in plastic too.   Plastic Is Downcycled, Not Recycled I never thought this was a big problem until I stumbled across an article that changed the way I think about plastic recycling. It said that recycling plastic is better than throwing it away but only “barely.” That’s because plastic can only be reused a finite number of times and the process of recycling it is relatively inefficient.   So I started thinking about ways to consume less plastic and packaging at the grocery store. First, I went for the low hanging fruit like buying orange juice in a cardboard container and choosing glass jars when the cost difference is reasonable. I also decided to do more of my shopping in the bulk bin section. If I brought my own bags, this shopping would be zero waste. It doesn’t get any better than that! Bulk Shopping Mythbusters I’ve long been reading about the advantages of bulk shopping, I wondered if the claims were all they were cracked up to be. Through the last month, I’ve been putting some of the myths to the test.  It’ll save you money.  This is the big one. Who doesn’t want to save money? But if bulk bins are so much cheaper why do so few people shop them?  I did some bulk bin comparison shopping and here are my field notes from my local stores: Yes, some items can cost significantly less. Pecans cost $7.99/lb in bulk and $9.99/lb prepackaged, a savings of $2 per pound. Organic is the only option for some items which can drive the price up. For example, I typically buy conventionally grown peanuts for $3.49/lb in a plastic jar but the bulk bin only has organic peanuts for $5.99/lb. Grains and rices seem to be fairly priced. For example, basmati rice costs $1.99/lb in bulk and $2.30/lb prepackaged.  Spices can be a good deal. I bought herbs de provence for a specific recipe at $1.99/ounce in bulk. The amount I needed cost me less than $0.50. The same spice pre-packaged in a spice jar would have cost $4.69 for less than one ounce. Even when the item costs more, the ability to buy only what you need can make a big difference, especially if you’re making something for a special occasion or trying a recipe for the first time. This myth is PLAUSIBLE but you need to know what you’re buying. TIP: Compare one or two new items each week so you can become familiar with the price differences.  The food is fresher. While I don’t know how long the food sits in the bulk bin, it seems likely that the bulk food would be fresher than the stuff on the shelf. More importantly, you can buy just what you need which means that you won’t be adding peanuts you bought in 2013 to a dish in 2015 (true story).  With spices, teas and coffee where freshness has a tremendous impact on taste, shopping in bulk can be a big win.  This myth is CONFIRMED.  It’s environmentally friendly. There’s little difference between filling a plastic bag with...

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Goodbye Snow. Hello Litter.

Posted by on Mar 26, 2015 in Green Clean, Lifestyle | 0 comments

Goodbye Snow. Hello Litter.

The last of the snow finally melted in Pittsburgh, just in time for the first day of spring. Sadly, the melting revealed discarded soda cans, candy wrappers, dryer sheets, cigarette butts and other miscellaneous items. It was disgusting. So this weekend I took a couple of bags and walked my small block to pick up the trash. Then, on Monday I carried a bag with me on my walk to work to pick up trash on that half-mile route. While it’s easy to dismiss litter as an eyesore and ignore it, there are environmental consequences to turning a blind eye. The Darker Side of April Showers Yes, April showers bring May flowers. The story that goes untold is that April showers also flush litter to the sea. Rainwater carries trash from the street to the storm drain where it moves through the sewer system only to get dumped into your local waterways. Once there, the bellies of fish and birds  are filled with disposable lighters, bottle caps and colorful bits of plastic because they can’t discern the plastic from their prey. Elk and deer die when they eat plastic bags caught in brush or trees. Cigarette butts pollute the ground and water with carcinogens, toxins and highly flammable chemicals. Not only does litter have an environment toll, it comes at a high cost that is often paid with tax dollars. Municipalities have to filter pollutants from drinking water, clear litter from clogged storm drains, and remove litter for beautification.  In Pennsylvania alone, more than $10 million is spent every year to pick up roadside litter.   Show Us Your Trash! The good news is that people caused the litter problem and people can fix it. Since life’s not fair, it’s unlikely the litterers will suddenly gain a conscience and clean up after themselves. But, you are awesome so I know you’ll do it! Arm yourself with a pair of work gloves, a trash bag and a recycling bag. Then, hit the streets in your ‘hood. When your done, take a picture and send it to us on Twitter or Facebook. Tell us about how much you collected or an interesting thing you found. Like this post? Subscribe to our email list, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Pinterest for more green living...

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Green Your Coffee Routine

Posted by on Mar 18, 2015 in Food & Recipes | 0 comments

Green Your Coffee Routine

A few years ago, I realized how my massive coffee consumption increased my environmental footprint because it used lots of water and energy, and created lots of food and paper waste. To green my coffee routine, I decided to evaluate where I could be more efficient and less wasteful. Easy, First Steps To A Green Coffee Routine The odds are good that you’re like me and over 100 million other Americans who need to kick-start our mornings with a cup or two (or ten?) of coffee. For those of us who get our fix at a local coffee shop or at the office, the java is likely to come in a single use cup. It’s estimated Americans throw away 25 billion Styrofoam and 23 billion paper cups every year. That’s 23 pounds of trash, per person. Trips to the local coffee shop are a dangerously easy way to create a ton of waste. At the time I was assessing my routine, I was working from home a lot. Sometimes, to get out of the house, I went to work at a local coffee shop. By default, the baristas assumed I was getting my coffee to go and would put it in a paper cup, with a plastic lid, and a paper insulated sleeve. Since I planned on being there for several hours and drinking several cups of coffee, I started to ask them for a ceramic mug. For days when I was going into the office, I had a reusable coffee mug that the barista would fill. It’s pretty common for coffee shops to give you a discount when you use a ceramic mug or bring your own to-go container, and my local shop is no different. So, as an added bonus, I was saving money. Make An Eco-friendly Cup Of Coffee At Home For times when I did stay at home, I needed to change how I made coffee. Keurig machines have become all the rage and, I’ll be honest, it was very tempting to get one. Even though the coffee is only good, not great, they are extremely easy to use, really fast, don’t require any clean-up, and K-cups come in a variety of roasts and flavors. However, the waste is just too much. Most K-Cup pods are not recyclable or compostable, and refillable pods are only available for first generation machines. The negative environmental impact of the K-cup even has John Sylan, the Keurig machine’s inventor, regretting his invention. Coffee connoisseurs favor the French press for making the best tasting coffee, and so do I. This method takes a little more time and effort than a using a drip coffee maker, but here is what I love about the French press from a sustainability perspective: It doesn’t require any paper filters, reducing my paper product consumption and the packaging it comes in. You measure precisely the amount of water and coffee grounds you need, so there is no waste. Unlike automatic drip coffee makers, there is no hot plate using electricity to keep the pot warm. Using an electric kettle is the most efficient way to boil water, especially in the small amounts needed for French press coffee. Coffee grounds are compostable, so cleaning the French press simply means adding a little water, swishing it around,...

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A Plastic-Free Lunch That’s Kid-Friendly

Posted by on Mar 10, 2015 in Food & Recipes, Lifestyle | 0 comments

A Plastic-Free Lunch That’s Kid-Friendly

When I was snowshoeing with two athletic and environmentally-minded friends we got into a conversation about plastic. They had both seen reports that BPA-free plastic may be just as bad as plastic with BPA. BPS, the chemical that replaced BPA in plastic, was thought to be a good alternative because it was less likely to leech into food or water, according to Scientific American. But it does leech and it’s showing up in our bodies. The article cites studies done on zebra fish and rats as evidence that the chemical is dangerous. At the same time, other articles that say more research needs to be done to determine if BPA and BPS are safe or not. Regardless of where you stand on the science and the debate, my friends were concerned about the safety of the containers they and their families use for their food and drink. While it’s fairly easy for an adult to give up plastic and use glass containers, you can’t send kids to school with glass, which can be heavy and breakable. So on our snowshoe hike, we discussed what it would take to pack a lunch without plastic food containers for my friend’s kid. That means: no glass reasonable prices in case the container(s) accidentally get lost a format that supports variety (I was informed that kids like options.) What a challenge! We didn’t have all the answers right away, so I went home to do some online research. Here’s what I found:   LunchBots has reasonably priced stainless steel bento boxes and ECOlunchbox has containers with stackable layers.     Silicon is considered safe and comes in the form of collapsible lunchboxes – a great space-saving solution!     Small stainless steel containers from Kids Konserve can be an alternative to plastic containers.      Cloth sandwich bags are a thing.     Sending kids to school (or yourself to work) with a plastic-free lunch can be done. But if you’re not ready to give up your reusable plastic containers right now, there are steps you can take to minimize the potential for plastic to leech into your food. Recommendations from Earth 911 are: Make sure plastic food containers are #2, #4 or #5 Don’t use scratched, worn or cloudy containers because they’re more likely to leech Keep the containers away from heat, so don’t put them in the microwave or dishwasher Do you have any experiences with packing plastic-free lunches? Please share in the comments below. Like this post? Subscribe to our email list, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Pinterest for more green living...

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Repair or Replace Broken Appliances?

Posted by on Feb 23, 2015 in For Your Home | 0 comments

Repair or Replace Broken Appliances?

In the past year I’ve had to repair or replace many broken appliances and fixtures around my house. The bigger items include the dishwasher, refrigerator, and washing machine. Every time something breaks I try to take the most environmentally friendly and fiscally responsible approach to solving the problem. In the process I’ve made some mistakes, learned a lot, and come up with some pretty smart solutions that I’d like to share with you so next time an appliance you own has a problem you might approach the situation a little differently and with a little more knowledge than you had before. A Mistake: Repairing The Dishwasher My first major appliance to have an issue since I bought the house 8 years ago was the dishwasher. The dishwasher was older and within the first year of owning it both door springs broke, so I had to lower the door carefully and use the lock to keep it in the upright position. A minor inconvenience. Six years later the gasket around the door started leaking so I had to decide whether to repair or replace it. At first I wanted to get a new dishwasher with a sterilize cycle for canning, one that would match the refrigerator too. However, I looked online and saw a gasket and 2 springs would cost less than $40. There was also an instructional manual to show me how to do the repairs. The repairs were fairly easy and cost efficient, but in the end it wasn’t worth it. The dishwasher itself had slowly degraded over the years, and after another 6 months it was barely washing the dishes so I stopped using it. I was so focused on what was broken, and keeping the dishwasher out of the landfill, I failed to realize the whole unit was reaching the end of it’s useful life. The door works great, but that’s about it. If you find yourself in a situation where you have to replace an appliance, be sure to you recycle the old one. Most companies that deliver new appliances will recycle your old one for free. Some cities, including Pittsburgh, offer free curb-side recycling for appliances too. If these aren’t options for you, consider giving it away on Freecycle or Craigslist. Post an ad clearly stating it’s for parts or scrap. Lessons Learned: Tips & Tricks For Undertaking A Repair Buying Parts Shopping local has been a challenge. The parts stores in Pittsburgh are usually only open during normal business hours on weekdays, which is also when I’m working. I could leave work early one day and make a special trip, but none have their inventory online and my voicemails or emails inquiring about what they stock are never answered. These stores are mostly wholesalers and my search for a $15 part is not that important to them, so I opt to shop online instead. My favorite website is PartSelect.com. It’s easy to find what you are looking for, the selection is huge, prices are fair, and they have a lot of useful information and videos to help with the repair. It’s also a good idea to check the manufacturer’s website where parts are often competitively priced and some offer mechanical diagrams too. If your repairing a wear and tear issue, and there are multiple parts like the broken one in the appliance, consider buying and replacing all the parts. If they are used evenly, like the springs in my dishwasher, they will all break...

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Are Solar Lights A Good Choice For Your Yard?

Posted by on Feb 18, 2015 in For Your Home | 0 comments

Are Solar Lights A Good Choice For Your Yard?

This is a guest post from Tim Smith at Modernize.com.  Solar lighting is becoming a more popular way to light driveways, sidewalks, yards, and swimming pools. It is convenient, easy to install (no wiring!), and, best of all, it does not add to your electric bill. Before purchasing solar lights, however, it’s important to consider if solar is the right choice for your home by doing your homework to make the most of your investment. If your yard gets several hours of direct sunlight on most days, solar lights may be a great option for you. If your yard is heavily shaded or if you need lighting early in the morning during the winter when the lights may not get a full charge or the batteries may not be strong enough to last through a 12+ hours of darkness, solar lights may not be an ideal solution. Types of Lights The most popular types of solar lighting are solar path lights and solar spot lights. The solar path lighting is used to illuminate a walkway or driveway, and is self-contained. Solar spot lights,or any type of larger solar light, have a larger solar panel so they will gather more energy to create a brighter light. Battery Powered Each light contains a rechargeable battery, usually nickel cadmium, and has a solar collector panel. Most units use a LED bulb and the stored power is given off as light each night. The rechargeable batteries last up to two years on average. You’ll know when it’s time to replace the batteries because the lighting will be dimmer, flicker, or not stay light for very long. Both the batteries and bulbs are easily replaced when needed. Most hardware or home improvement stores carry the replacements. Some very inexpensive solar lights do not have replaceable batteries or bulbs, and are discarded when worn out. To minimize your environmental footprint, consider investing in a better quality lights that can be used for years to come. Placement Place your lights where they will receive some direct sunlight each day and where foliage or shadows from your house do not interfere with sunlight. Also, be aware that winter sunlight is weaker and so the lights are less likely to get a full charge, which means they will not stay on as long during winter months. Maintenance If you notice your lights dimming but the battery is good and it’s getting enough light, try cleaning any dirt or debris from the solar panels. Solar panels can be wiped with a damp cloth but they can be delicate so you should not brush the panels. Cost The cost of solar lighting for your home varies widely, from a few dollars for small, individual lights that are thrown away when worn out, to lights with reusable batteries, and larger lights that can be mounted to provide lighting for pools, yards, or security. Expect to pay around $50 for a set of 8 or 10 good-quality lights to line the walkway and $150 for a decorative lamp post with a more powerful light. For more home solar information from Modernize.com click here. Like this post? Subscribe to our email list, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Pinterest for more green living...

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What To Do With Old Electronics: Recycle, Sell, Donate

Posted by on Feb 9, 2015 in For Your Home | 0 comments

What To Do With Old Electronics: Recycle, Sell, Donate

My vintage desktop computer was going to turn 10 this year. I turned it on occasionally (maybe once or twice a year) to access old files, but trying to do any meaningful work on it tried my patience. It was painfully slow. Alongside my desktop, I had an ancient flip phone and a new-er smart phone that I didn’t need. Together, the devices—along with their chargers, wires and other accessories—had created a pile of digital trash that took up precious space in our spare room. When I had a few weeks off around Christmas and New Years I decided to finally figure out what to do with these old electronics. Back Up & Delete Data I kept my old computer for so long because it had information I needed. Most of the files were backed up on an external hard drive but I never took the next step … putting them on my laptop so they’d live in two places in case one device failed. Backing up data is a crucial first step before selling, donating or recycling electronics. Failing to do this could mean losing all your contacts, photos and files. Only after all the important information from the device is backed up, is it time to restore the device to the factory settings. For cell phones, there are usually three steps to restoring the device to the factory settings: Remove the SIM card, which is often stored near the battery. If you installed a memory card in the phone, take that out as well. Reset the phone to the factory setting. The easiest ways to learn how to do this for your phone are to look at the manual or Google the directions. For computers, consider what will happen to the device. If donating, selling or giving away the computer so it can have a second life, reset the hard drive so it can be used again. The computer’s manual will have instructions on how to do that. If the computer is destined for the recycling center, there are a few options: reset the hard drive or remove and destroy the hard drive (which can be interesting and fun). The latter gives you the opportunity to take your computer apart without needing to worry about damaging it and, once you’ve removed the hard drive, you can take your aggression out on it if you wish. Some people decide to smash them with hammers. If that’s the road you want to take, use safety goggles and be safe! Resell One of my cell phones was an older Samsung Galaxy in working condition. It had some value so I chose to sell it to the online buyer/reseller Usell. Usell was offering the biggest paycheck and, by selling to them, I didn’t have to deal with listing the device myself on Craigslist or eBay. It was fast and easy. Usell mailed me an envelope that I used to send the phone to them. About a week later, I received a check in the mail. Donate My other phone—a flip phone circa 2004—was in working condition but had no resale value. When I looked into donating it, I found that organizations that accept electronics donations typically use some of the items for their charitable purpose and sell the electronics they don’t need to recyclers. That...

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A Green Valentine’s Day: Food, Wine & Chocolate

Posted by on Feb 3, 2015 in Food & Recipes, Lifestyle | 0 comments

A Green Valentine’s Day: Food, Wine & Chocolate

Greening a holiday usually takes a little extra planning, so let me help you out this Valentine’s Day! Last weekend my boyfriend, George, and our friends, Adam and Allison, tried green versions of Valentine’s Day staples: food, chocolate, and wine. Low Impact Dinner: Pad Thai From Thug Kitchen We started the evening off with pad thai, straight from the Thug Kitchen cookbook. The cookbook is vegan, although the Thug Kitchen blog, which I’ve been a fan of for years, is not strictly vegetarian or vegan. Neither my friends or I restrict our diets, but using a recipe with no or few animal products is a good idea if you are trying to make a meal with a low environmental impact. Just make sure you buy organic tofu for the pad thai because soybeans are one of the most common genetically modified (GMO) foods. GMO foods are usually sprayed heavily with pesticides and that negates the low impact advantage of a vegan/vegetarian meal. We ate our pad thai with reusable chopsticks, cloth napkins and a glass of organic 2012 Pacific Rim Riesling, $14.99 at Pennsylvania Wine & Spirits stores (only $2 more than the non-organic version.) Neither me or any of my friends are professional wine tasters but we’re going to share our tasting notes with you. Take ’em for what they’re worth! For your viewing pleasure, below is a photo of Allison’s pictorial tasting notes.  We all enjoyed the Pacific Rim Riesling. Adam and Allison thought the wine smelled like cinnamon or a freshly baked apple pie. George and I smelled minerals, like a mountain spring. We all agreed the wine first tastes bright, tart and citrusy and follows with a sweet, clean finish. This wine paired perfectly with the pad thai and I would definitely buy it again. Taza Chocolate: An Ethical, Organic Chocolate There are several labels chocolate companies use to inform you of their practices. For me, the most egregious companies buy cocoa from plantations who use child slaves, and in an effort to figure out how to purchase ethical chocolate I researched labels and companies. See my post from last year for more information on labeling. A package of Taza chocolate got my attention a few weeks ago when I was browsing the food isles in Marshall’s. I had never heard of Taza chocolate, but it caught my eye because the package carried the USDA Organic, Direct Trade, and Non-GMO Project labels, and it’s handmade in Somerville, MA. I bought the Chocolate Mexicano Sampler with 8 flavors for $14.99, but it normally retails for $21.00. Taza chocolate is ground using authentic Oaxacan stone mills called molinos, which leave tiny bits of the cocoa beans and organic cane sugar in the chocolate. This gives the chocolate a bold flavor and texture I didn’t expect, having never even heard of stone ground chocolate before. The sampler contained a wide variety of flavors from sweet to spicy to bitter. We were all a little surprised by the flavor profiles of the chocolate, and I have to admit that I didn’t think I would enjoy all the flavors as much as I did. You may notice there are only 7 chocolate discs pictured, from the 8 flavor sampler I bought. Cinnamon is one of my most favorite spices, so the cinnamon disc was gone long before I planned this evening. It was good! Cacao Puro: Traditional chocolate. The grainy texture made Adam think of hot cocoa powder. Salted Almond: Sweet and...

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