Happy holidays, everyone! Our kids are out of school for roughly seven thousand years-- how about yours? So this week, we turned DIY Tuesday over to them, since they had some extra time on their hands. Our 11-year-old, Walter, is a master cookie maker, and he took the reins in order to bring you one of his very best recipes-- apricot cherry white chocolate oatmeal cookies, made from scratch. He even mills his own wheat berries and rolls his own oats, although you can certainly buy yours at the store, instead.

It's ridiculous how fast, fun, and affordable it is for kids to make treats for eating and sharing. And sure, these cookies contain butter and sugar and whatnot, but using 100% whole meal and fresh live grains makes you feel much better about letting the wee ones pig out on a decadent and delicious snack.

Here are the simple ingredients to make 36-48 cookies:

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
2 cups rolled oats
¾ cup granulated raw sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
1 cup butter
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup dried apricots
1 cup dried cherries
½ cup white chocolate chips

To find out how Walter works his baking alchemy to turn these ingredients into terrific cookies, watch this video!

I drink kombucha every morning. Some people claim it reverses arthritis and supports healthy joints, due to naturally occurring glucosamines. Others say it fights cancer, thanks to being chock full of enzymes, probiotics, and glucaric acid. Lots of people tout kombucha's digestive benefits and mood boosting, immune-enhancing properties. All I know for certain is that it tastes great and makes me feel awesome.

But if you've ever grabbed a bottle of the stuff from a store  shelf, you know that what DOESN'T make you feel so awesome is the hefty price tag. Kombucha is spendy! Fact is, we're simply talking about fermented sweet tea here, nothing more than that. Making it yourself is fast, easy, and costs just pennies per batch. All you need are 8 tea bags, water, sugar, and a gallon jar, plus the probiotic colony to kick things off. Just be sure you get your starter (also called a "mother") from a reliable source and heed all precautions for cleanliness and handling so nothing scary grows in your tea. Ditch any batch that may have been contaminated, grows mold, or smells funky.

Try using different varieties of tea, or experiment with adding fruits, herbs, or juices after fermentation and right before bottling your kombucha. The permutations and possibilities for flavors are endless. You'll never buy kombucha again!

Keeping backyard chickens has been a terrific project for our family. Each little creature has her own personality and character. Our birds are our pets and our friends, plus the fresh eggs are unbeatable. It's been great for our kids to get a tiny taste of what's involved in animal husbandry and farming. If you have the time and the space, I highly recommend starting a flock. But watch this video first to see what's involved and what you should consider before taking the plunge!

Already have chickens or know someone who does? The King's Roost carries a full stock of supplies. We found the very best feed (your chickens will go nuts for it and lay eggs like maniacs-- trust us, we tried every kind of food out there), as well as treats, feeders, waterers, hay, bedding, books, chick starter kits, and best of all, chicken-themed gifts for the poultry geek in your life. Come visit the shop for chicken gear or free advice anytime!
I started my first batch of homebrew at boarding school in England around 25 years ago. I brewed 5-gallon batches in plastic barrels using assorted beer kits sold at the local village pharmacy. Teachers and fellow students alike sat around my dorm room, drinking hard cider and ale from plastic cups swiped from the refectory downstairs.

After moving back home to the States, where those kits were not readily available, I took the next logical step and bought all the equipment needed to to brew craft-style beers from scratch, using steeped whole grains, hops, and specialty malts and yeasts. Each batch was boiled in my huge lobster pot and fermented in a heavy 6-gallon bottle, then transferred to a 5-gallon keg and stored in a special beer fridge in the garage where it was tapped with a restaurant-style carbonator and CO2 tank. It was a big deal.

And while NOTHING beats a fresh glass of homebrew, I never looked forward to spending the vigilant four hours it required to sterilize all the equipment, boil gallons of water, soak grains, avoid messy boil-overs, time the hops in the wort, siphon sticky wort (unfermented beer) from one vessel to another, carry the insanely heavy and fragile glass fermenter across the house. UGH.

Rather than becoming more and more excited about brewing beer, I began to dread the process. Plus, I don't have the room to store more than five gallons of beer at one time, so we found ourselves drinking the same beer for so long we got sick of it.

I missed that old British-style kit method that was so simple and easy. You avoid all the preservatives, artificial colors and flavors, additives, chemicals, and weird ingredients (like caramel coloring, propylene glycol and fish bladder, to name a few) and you  still get the freshness and taste of homebrew without all the mess and hassle. These types of kits are more readily available in England and Canada, reason being that their liquor taxes are so high-- people just want good beer without a big fuss and without breaking the bank. For them, it's sensible to make your own, fast and cheap. Here in the US, beer's so inexpensive, most people don't bother.

So I did some research and found a terrific self-contained system that uses far less equipment, brews two gallons at a time, takes less than half an hour to get started (compared to 3-4 hours the old way), and best of all, can be used again and again with different recipes, reusing the same bottles and fermenter. How's that for efficient and eco-friendly? Instead of recycling your old beer bottles, just fill them up with your next batch of homemade beer!

Needless to say, I sell the system at the King's Roost now. And the refill recipes I carry are created by master brewers  in two different breweries in New Zealand and Australia. You can make American ales, IPAs, amber ales, wheat beers, ESBs, winter ales, spiced ales, pilsners, lagers, Mexican-style cervezas, porters, seasonal brews, regional brews, countless hard fruit ciders (apple, pear, cherry, boysenberry!).... the list is endless. You can even use your fermenter to make wine or kombucha.

So the next time you buy cheap beer, just think: you could be paying the same kind of money for fresh, craft homebrew made in a fermenter whose footprint is no bigger than a dinner plate, with no artificial ingredients, while drastically reducing your recycling waste. Look how simple, fast, and fun it is-- in the video below, I walk you through the entire process in fifteen minutes!

We're expanding our store hours! Thanks to all the folks who have been stopping by the shop after work, we're going to start staying open until 7pm on weeknights, at least through the holidays. Still closed on Mondays and still open until 5pm on weekends. 
Making my own flour from whole wheat berries was an eye-opener for me about seven years ago. I had been bitten by the bread-baking bug, and was using high-quality store bought whole wheat flour in my recipes. When some friends turned me on to the idea of grinding my own grains, it took me a few minutes to get over the fact that they sounded like fringe health-nut purists at first. But as the idea sank in, the whole thing began to make a lot of sense. 

The taste and nutritional value of whole grains is indescribably superior to stale, processed, store-bought grain products. Even the "100% whole wheat flour" you see in stores has had much of the oil and germ removed to preserve shelf life, since grains begin to oxidize and go bad the minute you open them. Many people find their food sensitivities go away when they stop using prepared flour and instead mill their own whole, live grains. Plus, whole grains are affordable, they stay fresh indefinitely, and there is virtually no maintenance or clean-up with a grain mill. It's even easier and less messy than grinding your own coffee beans.

Can you tell I'm a zealot about this? My grain mill has been my constant companion for seven years now. It's paved the way to a whole new way of thinking about food, cooking, and the adventurous world of DIY. Our family uses our mill on a daily basis for everything from oatmeal to cornbread to tortillas to granola bars to birthday cakes. Want to see one in action? Come get a demo at the shop!

Meantime, here's a look at how to grind grains, and why you should consider doing it in the first place: