Sometimes, I just give in to the craving...
Apparently four-year olds want to eat spray-painted cartoon characters. Here is a conversation between Sam and I, with direct quotes. "Sam, what kind of cake do you want for your birthday?" I'm thinking he'll request one of my regular culinary wonders: a nice sourdough chocolate cake, maybe honey-sweetened carrot cake, or perhaps one of my favorites, whole wheat cake with burnt butter frosting. Instead he says, "I want a JUNKY cake! From the store! With PINK frosting!!!" Um... yeah. So, what does one say to the light of their life on their fourth birthday when the desire of their little heart is a poisonous cake?
So, I got this jar from a neighbor, and when she handed it to me it was all I could do not to recoil. Does it not totally look like something you would see in some back alley curiosity shop where they have pickled two-headed goats and unicorn horns for sale?
You may have seen this picture from a Thanksgiving a year or two ago, but I haven't shared the recipe until now. I love this pate (it's just veggies and nuts!). Something savory, and light sounds SO good right about now...
This is a yummy recipe for when you want something satisfying, sweet, but healthy enough that you can say yes when the kids ask if they can have it for breakfast. I totally hijacked a Williams Sonoma recipe; do you do this too? I see so many recipes that look so delicious if only... and then there's a whole list of things I want to change and by the time I'm done it's a totally different beast. Granted, a much more delicious one, in my opinion.
Last weekend I was making this dessert that I anticipated turning out all fabulous and impressive. As I mounded up the rich concoction of ground roasted almonds, fluffy egg whites and spices I was already patting myself on the back, "This is definitely going to be blog-worthy." I got out the camera and snapped a few shots. And then five minutes later I peeked in the oven to find this...
I've been slowly collecting delicious, no sugar (just unrefined sweeteners: honey, molasses, maple syrup, maybe a little sucanat) cookie recipes. These are the ones that health nuts like us AND regular folks think are declious, the all-around winners:) I thought I'd round them all up for you! I've starred the ones that we've tried and loved; the others are still awaiting the taste test...
I'm so excited about this recipe! I've been working on it for awhile and finally have it to a point where it's ready to be shared. Clay LOVES lemon bars, but since they're mostly white sugar, I never make them, and up until now haven't been able to come up with a delicious alternative that doesn't rely on white sugar and flour. But these little darlings are whole wheat and almond meal and sweetened with honey and maple syrup. And they are SOOOO good! Get the recipe over at Plan to Eat, and if you try them (which you should!) let me know what you think.
I often have trouble with gift giving. For one thing I just kind of stink at picking out the perfect thing. And for a lot of my growing up years, money was tight, so if a gift was to be gotten, it had to be good, and it had to be EXACTLY what the person wanted and needed, and not just something to fill a gift bag. Also, not to be a scrooge, but I just think there's a lot of stuff in this world already, and if you live in a first world country you're really not hurting for much, so gift giving sometimes seems a little, I don't know, silly? So with all that overthinking of gift giving swirling around in my head, when it comes time to give birthday and Christmas presents, I often feel completely lost!
I love what our friend Greg got for his wife Megan, for her birthday. Something absolutely perfect for her, that she loved, that wasn't more stuff, and that she could share with her friends!
After all our holiday travel I became pretty proficient at making sure my kids' snacks were super nutrient-dense and healthy, so they didn't only eat party food, especially when I knew we wouldn't be sitting down to three square meals a day. I did a post for Plan to Eat about our favorite healthy snacks for the road. Check it out and add yours to the list; I'm always on the look-out for new healthy snacks my kids love!
PS Come back Monday for a Shabby Apple giveaway; I'm really excited about it!
UPDATE: Some people have ordered directly from the links below, which is okay, but they don't get you the good price! Use THIS LINK and click "Invite Friends," then add yourself. That way you'll get the party prices too, which are at least half the price of the store snacks!
Sam and Vivi love freeze dried fruits and veggies and I get them as often as I feel I can afford it. I usually reserve them for car trips, weddings, church or other events where I need something delicious enough to keep their attention, but not messy. Kid snacks can be kind of tricky when you don't do processed food (no dried cereal for us, it's sad). Freeze dried foods are the best solution I've found yet. The only drawback is the price ($5-6/oz., Ouch!), but I've just figured out how to get them for half that!
This guest post is shared by Megan, author of the completely gorgeous blog, Fig and Fauna.
The farm is so full of life. A pulse that arises at the first tinge of dawn, ready to be fed and greeted with our early morning smiles. The garden is dripping with unripened tomatoes and cabbages just begining to form. The beet greens have been a favorite amongst the caterpillars and loose chickens, but just under the dark, cool soil are the bulb-shaped beet roots that we've all been waiting for.
On Christmas Eve, my Mum would traditionally make an assortment of sugary Christmas delights. They were all heavenly, but the only one that really mattered to me were the chocolate covered coconut balls. Our own pantry and garden provisions inspired a slightly different take on my special childhood treat. I dare you to take this to your next Christmas party and ask the guests what the ingredients are!
The GAPS diet we're doing is no sugar and no grain (among other things); I thought I would miss sugar the most, but that hasn't been the case at all. I'm actually pretty okay without it. But I do really miss starches and grains. So, this recipe for GAPS granola has been on my list to try. It was such a hit!! My mom who is in town for a month and has gamely been sticking to the diet with us (and by the way, feels great, has lost some weight and her arthritis is hardly bothering her at all where it was quite bothersome before) declared it was the best granola she has ever tasted, with or without grains! I must admit, we're all pretty crazy about it. The original recipe is from the Internal Bliss cookbook, but I modified the recipe quite a bit, so I'll share our version here:
1 cup pumpkin seeds
2 cups sunflower seeds
3 (or maybe 4, I can't remember) cups dried coconut, the large flakes
1/4 cup honey (warmed, if necessary)
1/8 cup oil (something mild-tasting; I used safflower)
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup dried fruit pieces (I cut up apricots, apples, dates and then tossed in some raisins and cranberries too)
A bit of coconut flour (optional, but I used it to toss the cut dried fruit pieces in so they didn't stick to each other and clump up in the granola)
Mix everything but the fruit and coconut together, spread it out on a cookie sheet and bake it at 350 for at least fifteen minutes. Mix in the coconut and give it another five minutes, but keep an eye on it and stir it every few minutes as it browns quickly. Finally, toss it with the dried fruit and then pour yourself a big bowl and enjoy! We think it's soooo yummy; let me know if you try it and love it too!
I am REALLY craving these! We've been so good sticking to our GAPS diet, even on a road trip to Oregon last weekend (lots of fruit, veggie sticks and nuts!). But if chocolate were allowed I'm pretty sure I could figure out a way to adapt this. I already adapted it to be relatively healthy, so if I can't enjoy it right now, I'll at least share the love so some of you can:)
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour (pastry flour if you have it)
1/2 cup almonds
1/4 cup cane sugar or rapadura
1/2 tsp. salt
4 TBSP cold butter, cut into pieces
2 TBSP canola or safflower oil
1 TBSP ice water
Process the dry ingredients in a food processor until the nuts are finely ground. Add butter, one piece at a time to just barely incorporate, then add oil and water until just incorporated. Press into a 9x9 pan. It'll be crumbly, but just work with it.
1 cup chopped walnuts
Chocolate chips to taste (I sprinkled a nice layer in)
At least a cup unsweetened, dried coconut
1 can coconut milk, melted in a pan with 2 TBSP cane sugar
Layer in the ingredients, drizzling the coconut milk over the top last. Bake in the oven at 350 for 20-25 minutes. You could get creative and add additional ingredients, I think; craisins? date bits? slivered almonds? Granola? Enjoy and think of me as you indulge:)
I almost forgot to share these little pre-GAPS gems I recently made. Yep, pita pockets; turns out they're not so hard either! First the English muffins, and now pita bread. It's as if this whole bread conspiracy has come crumbling down! I seriously thought these would be so hard to make, like there was some secret trick to it. But not so! There was hardly any hands on time involved, though there was a lot of rising and letting sit. Even as I slid them into the 500 degree oven I had my doubts. There was a rather loud and skeptical portion of my mind that fully anticipated hard pancakes emerging from the oven. But, like magic they puffed up like fat little balloons!
Pita bread is such a nice change from regular old sandwich bread. (Of course, any bread would be nice right about now...) This one I filled with tzatziki, cucumbers, sprouts and a little farmer's cheese. I usually add tomatoes too, but this one got a bit too full:) We're fully anticipating working soaked grains into our diet after awhile (6 mos.? A year...?), so until then little pita pockets...
I shared a recipe over on the Plan to Eat Blog that you might like. Sadly, it's no longer in our diet due to the whole GAPS thing... I bet I could figure out a substitute for wheat though. It would be totally worth it; I love this dessert!
This week we started the GAPS Diet (hence the light posting; I've been passed out on the couch from major detoxing even though I'm only partially doing the intro diet). We have some friends whose son was recently diagnosed with autism so they started the diet. We thought now would be the perfect time to start so we could simultaneously support them and have someone to talk with about it. Although, they've ended up being more of a support to us since they started first and can assure us that there is indeed a light at the end of the tunnel! We've been wanting to do the diet for awhile to help Sam get his digestion back on track after all his abdominal surgeries and the major load of antibiotics and hard drugs that were involved.The silver lining of this crazy diet is that I was inspired to make lots of yummy, femented veggies!
I mostly used recipes from Nourishing Traditions, plus that exotic beet one from the Nourished Kitchen. We found that the Nourishing Traditions recipes were a bit too salty for our taste, so I think I'll cut back next time or just try a vegetable starter culture and skip the salt altogether.
But what fun it was to fill jars and jars and line them all up on my counter to work their magic! It makes me smile every time I look at them. And, of course, now that they're ready to eat it makes me smile to eat them too:)Sam is a good helper; his favorite job is grating the ginger:) After several days of being so lethargic and having no appetite I was so thrilled when he requested some saurkraut, of all things. He's really quite good at listening to his body and knowing what it needs.
We made the beets with orange zest and spices, daikon radish, gingered carrots and a medley of turnip, golden beets (such a gorgeous color!) and onion, and I've got a pineapple waiting to be combined with some cilantro and other goodies for a fermented chutney!
PS If you're thinking about doing this diet, totally get the guidebook . Dr. Campbell is brilliant, but I found myself hunting through the book for information; it just isn't organized in a super user-friendly way. I also just ordered the cookbook ; I'm excited for a little variety:)
I tried making mayonaisse once upon a time, but it turned out runny and gross. I think the trouble was that I made it in the Vita-Mix - too much power. A girlfriend recently made some though, and was insistent that it was easy as pie (way easier, actually). So, I gave it another go, this time in the cuisinart, and that seemed to work much better.
I followed the recipe for cultured mayonaisse from Nourishing Traditions, just making a few adjustments. Her basic recipe is to put 1 room temperature egg and egg yolk in the blender, along with 1tsp. dijon mustard, 1 1/2tsp. lemon juice, 1 TBSP whey and salt. Blend it all up. Then add 3/4 to 1 cup of olive oil or sunflower oil in a VERY thin stream, mixing as you pour. Leave it on the counter for about 12 hours, then it keeps in the fridge for a couple months.
I used olive oil and also added a bit of Bragg's apple cider vinegar and a splash of Cholula sauce(!) at the end. My mom always puts a bit of tabasco in her hollandaise sauce, which my mayo was seriously reminding me of, so I thought it could use a little something extra like that. I think the ACV and the Cholula, plus an extra helping of salt aided the flavor, but next time I'm going to try a milder oil. The mayo is pretty good, but the olive oil is a rather dominant flavor. The best part is that this time it actually turned out thick, the way mayo is supposed to be. Of course, the color is a little off... I think that's due to the dark olive oil and the bright orange yolks from our chickens. But I'm okay with yellow mayo, especially if it means I made it myself and know exactly what went into it! And the thing is, it really was SO easy! You can do this, seriously. It was really quick to throw those ingredients together, and with the help of a modern appliance, the stuff practically makes itself. And now you'll have plenty of mayo for making piles of egg salad sandwiches with all those colorful, hardboiled eggs filling up your fridge!
We used to save our heels of bread for feeding to ducks at the park, or more often than not, just feeding to our own chickens. But the other day it dawned on me, while making some delicious bread crumb encrusted eggplant parmesan, that it's completely silly to be buying breadcrumbs when I have them right here!
Seriously, 30 seconds in the Cuisinart, toss them on a cookie sheet in a 200 degree oven (with occassional tossing and mixing) until they're crispy and that's it! (And according to Sam, they taste great right off the tray!)
I mean, really, what a silly thing to buy; bread crumbs are scraps! It's kind of like buying lawn clippings... So, now we make our own bread crumbs, and aside from being basically free, they're also 100% whole wheat and I know exactly what went into them. I'm feeling pretty satisfied with my cleverness and frugality here. This almost makes up for the $6 chocolate bar I bought the other day. Sometimes I just need a reward for grocery shopping with two kids...
Clay has been bemoaning the lack of healthy snacks in the snack cupboard lately. And since he asked so nicely (and maybe because he was wearing his cute carpenter overalls) I decided to make these Quinoa Clusters from Power Foods.
We already had all the ingredients on hand (I love when that happens), so they were quick to whip up. I also added the last lone slice of dried pineapple and a handful of dried coconut since we had those as well. If you add coconut to yours, toast it at the last minute because it browns much quicker than the other ingredients.
Although the recipes in this book are great and I've loved every one, you do have to watch out for the tell-tale Martha Stewart-esque, completely uneccessary extra steps. I don't know what it is about that girl, but she just seems to like to do things in five steps that only take two.
So, if you make these, instead of toasting each ingredient separately (the nuts and grains and whatnot have different baking times, but the same temperature), just add them to the cookie sheet one after the other. For example, start with the oats, they need about fifteen minutes, after five minutes toss on the nuts, for the last few minutes sprinkle in the coconut. You save time and dirty dishes. Also, whatever you do, do not try and remove the clusters to a cooling rack as the recipe suggests. You will only end up with crumbled clusters. Leave them on the sheet until they firm up a bit, it won't do them any harm. And you won't have to feel bad for cursing at your cookies.
These garnered rave reviews from both toddlers and grownups alike. They have very little sweetener (they use egg as a binder and reduce the need for so much honey), so I'm happy to let Sam eat as much as he likes. When I make them again I think I'll try not toasting the cooked quinoa, or at least for not as long as the recipe suggests; I think it would be better a little chewier and not quite so crunchy. You'll have to let me know if you try them out!
I'd been feeling like our meals were more filler than nutrient-dense powerhouses of nutrition. We hadn't been eating anything particularly unhealthy, I think it was just an end-of-winter culinary malaise. Tired of things in the brown spectrum: grains, beans, potatoes, bread etc., I wanted a rainbow on my plate, a whole assortment of healthy vitamins and minerals. I get feeling like this at the tail-end of winter, like a sailor looking at the last orange in the barrel.
And so, to provide some inspiration for more colorful and exciting fodder, I picked up the book Power Foods. So far we've tried a really fabulous Asian-inspired shitake and soba noodle soup, quinoa granola bars, rice bowls, mushroom and nori wraps and I'm about to make a walnut and olive oil cake tonight. I haven't delved into the dessert section too much yet, but I'm excited about it because they look like the kind of desserts we make around here, and we wouldn't even have to adapt the recipes. Generally we halve the sugar, replace the white flour with whole wheat etc. But these desserts look delicious and like they won't leave you with a sugar hangover.
Sometimes I need a little inspiration to shake things up in my cooking routine and this book has been providing just that. Often I get a cookbook and abandon it after a recipe or two simply because the recipes aren't that outstanding and it just doesn't hold my attention. But it seems to me like a lot of work went into really refining the ingredient lists and proportions. The flavor combinations are just right. They're often surprising and I find myself wondering if I shouldn't adjust something, but when I just forge ahead and trust the recipe I've had wonderful results. And each successful meal leaves me wanting to return to the book for another go around with a new recipe. That's a successful cook book in my book!
images from Whole Living.
You may have noticed that things have been a bit quiet on the cheesemaking front. Well, the sweet cow at the farm where we get our milk was busy having a baby and couldn't be bothered to be making extra milk. So, we've just been waiting patiently and drinking our almond or coconut milk, which was a nice change anyway. But, we were excited to hear that she finally had her calf and we could finally get fresh, local, raw, delicious milk again.
I also received my cheese making kit from Homesteader's Supply in the mail a few weeks ago, which I was so excited to rifle through and examine; I love getting new tools and materials for projects. It's the same feeling as getting a new, clean notebook for the start of school. Everything came so neatly labeled and organized. I never would have known how to go about ordering the various culturing elements and implements on my own. But, now I'm all set with all the cultures, rennet, cheesecloth, measuring spoons (going as tiny as 1/64th tsp!), a cheese press etc. And I'm ready to get culturing!
I started with butter. The milk from that mama cow was so rich; there was a ton of cream on top. Do you like my makeshift siphon? I still haven't figured out the easiest way to get the cream off the top; any tips?
It was seriously miraculous to watch the butter fat and buttermilk separate in the mixer. Clay and I stood over it oohing and aahing like it was the 4th of July. I will just never tire of the magic of kitchen alchemy. Like kneading bread, pressing and washing the butter had a meditative quality to it. There are certain things that can't be rushed, but simply ask you to slow down and enjoy the process. Making butter is one of those things, not time consuming, but just something that asks you to be present.And the result? Oh, mercy! It's cultured. It's creamy. It's flecked with local, ancient salt. And I put it on everything I can get away with. We feel like kings eating something this delicious. Clay is talking about making me a butter mold, something a little better than this tart pan. How fun would that be?