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Parenting Recipes Uncategorized

Recipe: Energy Balls

IMG_1172 2It took me a while to transition mentally from having an exclusively breastfed baby to a happily eating toddler.  One of the areas I struggled in for a while was what snack I could have on hand that was fat- and protein-filled rather than 100% carbohydrate.  It would make it so much easier to quickly throw together a balanced meal on a busy day.  And it would provide my toddler with a more grounding energy-dense snack if he was crashing well before the next meal.

The answer: Energy Balls!  (or “nut balls” as our family calls them)

Energy balls are made from nuts, coconut, and dried fruit.  They are mildly sweet and their texture isn’t as sticky as nut butters.  When hungry, my toddler will always eat them when offered.  They travel well and store for weeks in the fridge.  And, if you’re comfortable having your toddler help with using the food processor, they can be made with full toddler involvement.  In other words, making energy balls can BE your fun activity for the day.

Once you master the general recipe, there’s lots of room for improvisation.  I like having cashews for at least 50% of the nut/seed mixture because they have a neutral flavor and result in a creamy final texture.  The most important part of the process to remember when experimenting is making sure the texture gets sticky enough to clump into balls.  Try the recipe below to get comfortable, and then  try your own variations based on flavors you love or ingredients you have on hand.

A note: We soak, sprout, or ferment all the grains, beans, and seeds we eat.  The nuts I use for this recipe have been soaked in salt water and dehydrated first.  This makes them easier to digest and makes more nutrients available to our bodies.  If you’re interested in learning more, I thought this was a clear and informative article.  Both soaked/dehydrated and “regular” nuts can be used successfully for this recipe!

Final note: Dessert energy balls!  The recipe below is meant to be a nourishing every-day snack that you can feel good about feeding to your kid whenever they want.  If they eat a bunch for a snack and don’t eat their protein at dinner, no big deal.  However, the recipe can also be turned into a nourishing and indulgent treat by adding a few more dates and/or chocolate chips.  They can also be coated in melted chocolate.  Yum!  We did this around the holidays for stocking stuffers and to enjoy (it was not a sacrifice, we all really enjoyed!) the resulting nut balls instead of cookies.

Energy Balls

(makes apx. 1 quart of small balls)

2 cups cashews
1 cup other seeds/nuts
1 cup shredded coconut
1-2 t. spices (I use ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, nutmeg, and/or vanilla with a pinch of black pepper)
6 dates, chopped (or more if you want the energy balls to taste noticeably sweet – like cookie dough)
pinch of salt
1/2 cup dried fruit (If larger pieces, dice into small bits.  If hard, soak ahead of time in water.)

  1. Assemble food processor on a counter that toddler can safely stand at.  Do not plug in yet.
  2. Fill measuring cups with cashews, nuts and seeds.  Have the toddler dump them into the food processor.  Taste testing is allowed 🙂
  3. Provide toddler with ear protection if desired.
  4. Blend until nuts have turned into flour.  Let your toddler turn the blender off and on.  (Note: this is the step that can mess things up… if you don’t blend enough here, it can be hard to get the balls to stick together later).
  5. Add coconut, dates, spices, and salt.  Allow toddler to taste test ingredients and smell spices.
  6. Blend until mixture forms a ball.  This is hard work for the food processor.  It can help to stop every once in a while, break up the clumps with a spoon, and/or pulse.
  7. Taste test and take a spoonful out to see if it can be squeezed into balls without crumbling.
  8. When the mixture passes your squeeze test, put the mixture into a mixing bowl and add in your dried fruit.  Mix together with washed hands or a mixing spoon.
  9. When still warm, squeeze teaspoon-sized portions of the mixture into balls and place on a plate.
  10. Refrigerate plate for several hours to harden.  Then pour into a storage container and store in fridge.

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Recipe: Nourishing Pancakes

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Slowly but surely, pancakes have become our #1 breakfast staple.  L would eat bread, butter, and fruit all day every day if he could, but he also consistently likes pancakes.  And because I can put things like vegetables and eggs into pancakes, most days we have them.

I realized pretty early on that though L wasn’t adventurous when it came to eating a variety of textures or certain flavors, he would still accept a variety of colors and some different flavors when they were served in the shape of a familiar food.   I have fun thinking about how to make a batch of pancakes turn into a certain color or what new veggies or dinner leftovers I might include.

One thing that is probably already apparent is that I very very rarely follow a recipe when cooking.  I can’t bear to – there’s almost always something I want (need?) to change or add.  I prefer to get comfortable with a process, like cooking pancakes or muffins, and then follow a basic foundation recipe with regular tweaking.  I’ve finally forced myself to write down some notes while cooking, and have two recipes to share: 1) Carrots and Greens Pancakes is written out all the way and can be followed strictly to make yummy (and greenish) final products.  2) A basic Nourishing Pancakes recipe which provides you with the opportunity to play around with some of the add-ins based on preference or what leftovers and veggies are in your fridge or garden.  Both recipes are gluten free and leftover pancakes can easily be refrigerated or frozen and heated in the toaster.

One more note: I use ingredients like soaked oats and cassava flour because they are things we have in our pantry and fridge at all times.  I use oats soaked in water and a splash of sourdough starter and cassava flour because I generally avoid grains that haven’t first been soaked, sprouted, or soured.  These processes (soaking, sprouting, or souring) help reduce the amount of phytic acid in the grains (or beans, nuts or seeds) and therefore allow your body to absorb more of the nutrients the oats contain.  If you want to read more, I found this article to be informative.  Scroll down to find the section on oats.

 

Carrots and Greens Pancakes

Makes approximately 14 4-inch pancakes

3 eggs
2 carrots, chopped (cooked is even better, but I rarely have cooked carrots on hand)
1 banana chopped
1/4 cup packed cooked greens (spinach, kale, chard, nettles, etc.)
1/2 cup strained soaked oats (oats soaked in water with rye flakes + 2 T. vinegar or 2 T. sourdough starter for 24 hours)
1 T. cassava flour (if you bake with wheat flour, feel free to use 1T. wheat flour here)
1/4 t. ginger powder
1/4 t. nutmeg
dash of salt
butter for frying

  1. Adult: chop carrots and gather ingredients.  Toddler: chop banana with butter knife and small cutting board.
  2. Put all ingredients into a wide-mouth quart jar or mixing bowl with tall walls.  The adult can fill measuring spoons or cups, toddler can dump them in.
  3. Use an immersion blender to puree all ingredients.  Help your toddler know how to safely use an immersion blender (if you don’t have an immersion blender, put all ingredients into a food processor and blend).  This can be really fun for them once you can trust they will keep the tool in the liquid while pressing the button.
  4. Heat large cast iron skillet and have the toddler add a pad of butter. Once hot, turn pan down to low.
  5. Pour batter into pan in small circles (we like pancakes that are about 4″ diameter).
  6. Flip when tops are no longer liquidy looking.
  7. Enjoy with your preferred condiments.  L and I put pads of butter on ours, I add a sprinkle of salt, and Evan adds a drizzle of maple syrup.

 

Nourishing Pancakes

Makes approximately 14 4-inch pancakes

3 eggs
1/2 cup vegetables (cooked and not watery is best).  You can add more if dry roasted root veggies.
1 banana chopped
1/2 cup strained soaked oats (oats soaked in water with rye flakes + 2 T. vinegar or 2 T. sourdough starter for 24 hours)
1 T. cassava flour (if you bake with wheat flour, feel free to use 1T. regular flour here)
1 t. total spices (we like a mixture of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cardamon, and/or fennel)
dash of salt
butter for frying

Optional nourishing add ins:
– 1/4 t. turmeric + 1/4 t. ginger + 1/8 t. black pepper (this combo is very anti-inflammatory)
– 1/2 t. dulse flakes (adds iodine, important if you’re using non-iodized sea salt)
– 1/2 t. camu camu (adds vitamin C)
-whole blueberries, add a few to the top of each pancake after pouring into the skillet

Color ideas:
– using one beet for your vegetable choice will turn pancakes magenta
– using greens will turn pancakes green
– using sweet potatoes + turmeric will make pancakes orange-yellow

  1. Adult: prepare and gather ingredients.  Toddler: chop banana with butter knife and small cutting board.
  2. Put ingredients into a wide-mouth quart jar or mixing bowl with tall walls.  The adult can fill measuring spoons or cups, toddler can dump them in.
  3. Use an immersion blender to puree all ingredients.  Help your toddler know how to safely use an immersion blender (if you don’t have an immersion blender, put all ingredients into a food processor and blend).  This can be really fun for them once you can trust they will keep the tool in the liquid while pressing the button.
  4. Heat large cast iron skillet and have the toddler add a pad of butter. Once hot, turn pan down to low.
  5. Pour batter into pan in small circles (we like pancakes that are about 4″ diameter).  If adding blueberries, add them now.
  6. Flip when tops are no longer liquidy looking.
  7. Enjoy with your preferred condiments.  L and I put pads of butter on ours, I add a sprinkle of salt, and Evan adds a drizzle of maple syrup.

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Toddler Eating and Recipes

I am amazed how intuitive toddler eating is and how much it drives me crazy.

When our little one eats everything served for dinner, I think to myself, “Yes! Now I can make that again and he’ll actually eat a full balanced meal.”  Nope.  It actually means that he’s gotten his fill of those foods and is ready for something different.  He’ll eat only cheese for lunch (as in, no other foods, just cheese), and then not eat cheese again for another few weeks.  He’ll get really into roasted carrots before dinner when we’re preparing them, but then choose not to eat any when it’s time to sit down and eat the meal.

The one thing that is clear is that feeding a toddler is a lesson of letting go of control and practicing to trust the intuition that’s naturally built into each little person.

There are, however, a few standbys that have been happily and consistently accepted by our little one.  Yes, that list includes all the fruits, bread, and butter.  But it also includes “nut balls,” veggie pancakes, and other nutrient dense choices that include nourishing fats and proteins along with the ever-loved carbs.  And yes, those little bodies are moving around ALL day long and do need a lot of carbs!  But having a variety of macro-nutrients, along with a variety of colors, textures, and flavors, will set them up for a lifetime of healthy intuitive eating.  I believe that if sugar is kept away and most food choices in a house are nutrient-dense whole foods prepared from scratch, toddlers will choose to eat an adequate amount of varied items and get the nutrients they need.  It might just take a week (or a month) to balance out all of those seemingly bizarre daily eating choices.

In the next few posts I will be sharing some of our favorite recipes – the ones that ALL members of our house enjoy.  Cooking projects keep kids busy, engage all the senses, and result in ready-to-eat snacks and meals that need to be prepared anyway.  With every recipe I post, I’ll highlight good opportunities to engage helping toddler hands.  Enjoy!

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Reflections on Health

I’ve been reflecting more and more about the purpose of this blog as I watch my personal path transition from a career-focused life in the city to growing a family in Vermont.  I am incredibly thankful to have made certain health-specific discoveries in this journey, before we started thinking about having children.  I want to share them with you.  Read on to hear the story.  It’s long but worth reading, especially if you’re thinking about having kids or are working to solve a chronic health issue…

This blog was started to answer questions frequently being asked of me while I was still living in Somerville coordinating school gardening programming.  It was 2010.  I had a thriving porch container garden and had built up considerable experience growing food in the city at my first job after college.  Rather than answering the same question multiple times, I’d write about the topic on my blog and share it with my urban gardening friends.  The blog also served as a journal, allowing me to make note of ideas, projects, and changes that seemed important at the time.

It is now seven years later.

My work transitioned away from kids and gardens.  I live in Vermont.  Many of my interests and hobbies, however, are still related to health, food and nutrition.  These topics have become even more important to me as I experience pregnancy and prepare for a growing family.  I love being outside in nature, managing (and eating from) a big garden, cooking and playing with new flavors, reading articles about nutrition, and listening to podcasts focused on food and health.  Because of all this, I now field a lot of questions about healthy lifestyles.

I rarely, however, am asked about the exact same topic by numerous people all at the same time.  In the past week or two I’ve fielded many questions from friends and family who watched the movie “What the Health.”  The movie promotes a diet free from meat and animal products.   Realizing how many people were watching the movie, I became concerned that these ideas were being promoted with cherry-picked data as a healthy life style.  My deep concern was rooted in my personal journey, which taught me that organic pastured or wild animal products are crucial for my body to be optimally nourished and able to have children.

The back story:

When living in the city ten years ago, there was not good access to pastured organic animal products.  Having grown up with backyard chickens, I thought grocery store eggs tasted disgusting.  I felt similarly about out-of-season produce, conventional meat, and many available dairy products.  And so, without realizing it, I adopted a low-fat nearly vegan diet.  I was always excited to eat “happy” animal products, but that opportunity rarely arose.  I thought I was living healthily and ethically.

And then I started having some health issues.  Most significantly, I lost my period.  Doctors tried to figure out the underlying cause without success, so I was put on some vitamins and the pill.  Prescribing hormonal birth control is a very common “solution” for a wide range of complaints including acne, depression, irregular periods, and PMS.   However, taking the pill didn’t fix my underlying issue, it just patched symptoms.  I would need to figure out the real solution to my missing period later, when coming off the pill, which would likely correspond to the time when I was thinking about having kids.  At the time, however, I accepted my doctor’s advice and moved on with my life. 

About five years ago my boyfriend and I decided to move to Vermont.  The move led to many other transitions in my diet and lifestyle.  We had access to raw dairy, homemade yogurt, garden-grown produce, pastured organic meat and backyard-grown eggs fed organic feed.  We lived around others who felt like all of these local whole foods were an important part of a healthy diet.  Without making a conscious effort, I found myself eating a lot more pastured animal fat but less highly processed vegetable oil.  I learned how to make sauerkraut and other ferments at a free hands-on workshop.  I learned about Weston A. Price’s research, which clearly illustrates the value of nourishing traditional diets for reproduction, growth, and health in all stages of life.  I was struck by the fact that traditional diets studied by Price contained ten times the quantity of fat-soluble vitamins compared to a typical modern American diet.  I ate organ meats I’d never tasted before.  I drank well water.  I spent a lot of time outside: barefoot, breathing clean air, soaking in sun, and swimming in the lake.

These changes marked the start of a transition in my nutrition and health beliefs.  I stopped trusting the recommendations from groups like the USDA and CSPI.  They just weren’t resonating and started to seem contradictory and industry- (rather than data-) driven. I started reading more about the microbiome, traditional diets, truly nutrient-dense foods, the nutrient differences between pastured and conventional animal products, health impacts of various common household chemicals, and more.  A lot of information on the internet is sensationalized and misleading, but there is also a lot that is based on data and science.  I read with a discerning eye about one of the most emotionally-charged topics out there: health and nutrition. I soaked it in.

My new diet, like my old one, was made up of whole foods prepared from scratch.  Now, however, it included a variety of pastured or organic animal parts; raw dairy from grass-fed Jersey cows; soaked, soured, or sprouted nuts, grains, and seeds; bone broths; plenty of fermented foods made at home; eggs with golden-orange yolks; vegetables grown in the backyard without pesticides; local maple syrup and honey; and sun-ripened organic fruits picked nearby.  Besides these wonderful attributes, it all tasted amazing as well.  I minimized vegetable oils that weren’t cold-pressed, white sugar, and all processed foods.

The effect on me after a year was tangible.  I felt more balanced and healthy, so I decided to try going off the pill to see what happened.  It turned out that all those lifestyle changes (or who knows, maybe just one of them) had solved whatever imbalances or inadequacies existed in my body five years earlier.  Everything that was broken before was now functioning normally.

Interestingly, I was still under a lot of stress at work.  This was one of the factors I thought might have caused me to lose my period.  As I was still experiencing considerable stress, I feel quite strongly that it was my higher consumption of fat soluble vitamins via pastured animal products that helped my body decide that I was nourished enough to reproduce.

Time went on, my boyfriend and I got married and we built a house together.  In the building process, when possible, we chose non-toxic options.  We filled our pantry with only organic foods.  We use soap, baking soda, and vinegar for most of our cleaning.  I make my own salve and picked out a new shampoo without any crazy chemicals.  Call me crazy, but we eliminated wi-fi and other sources of electromagnetic radiation from our house.  I transitioned out of a job that was full of joy but also stressful – both mentally and physically.  After doing all these things I felt ready to start a family.

I am writing this post now because I’ve realized how big of an impact small changes can make and that time is often needed before seeing significant health improvements. Looking back, I didn’t have a road map. For that reason I am incredibly grateful that this progression happened gradually and naturally for me.  It was mostly a result of personal interest and happenstance.  Mixed with a lot of luck.  I was lucky to experience near-perfect health over the last several years.  I was lucky to be able to make decisions about my living environment.  I was lucky to be surrounded by friends and family who were adopting similar changes in their diet and lifestyle.  I was lucky to live close enough to farmers that I could get to know them and their agricultural practices personally.  We are all lucky to live in an age where options exist to live a healthful yet modern lifestyle.  We don’t need to run back to caves to eat a balanced diet and live a fulfilling life.  For everyone, but especially those thinking of having kids, today is a good day to implement a small change to improve your well-being.  Similar to planting a tree, the best time to start thinking about your long-term health was 20 years ago.  The second best time is today.

Feeling good and being healthy doesn’t need to be a lesson in sacrifice.  I still enjoy trips to the creemee (a.k.a. soft serve) stand, have slices of birthday cake, and eat out at restaurants that are making dishes from food that is not organic.  But my daily life, which encompasses the huge majority of my time and eating, reflects my new health values and I feel better for it mentally and physically.

I realize that I live in a setting that makes my diet and lifestyle easier to sustain.  I realize how much work it takes to grow my own food and cook from scratch.  If those things don’t increase your inner joy there are still options, like mail-order companies, that make these foods readily available to those without enough free time or interest and those lacking access to the ingredients in their community (links below).   It might cost more in the short term, but everyone can make any number of these transitions without spending too much additional time and effort!

The time and effort I put into my family’s health feels worth it to me.  I bet your wellness is worth it too.

Almost every one of these paragraphs could be it’s own blog post, but I’m stopping here for now.  I hope you gained something from reading through to the end.  I would love to continue this conversation or go into more specific detail with anyone who is curious – just let me know!  Wishing you happiness and good health.

Sustainable Nourishing Sources of Meat Available Online: U. S. Wellness Meats, Vital Choice Seafood

Weston A. Price Dietary Principals: (Not delivered with sleek graphics, but info about dietary guidelines and nutrition that makes the most sense to me).  Characteristics of Traditional Diets, Dietary GuidelinesPrinciples of Healthy Diets, Vegetarianism and Plant Foods

Women’s Health: Learn what nutrient deficiencies are caused by taking oral contraception, and take steps to nourish yourself accordingly.  This book, and the accompanying website, would have been super helpful for me 10 years ago!  If you’re wanting to conceive in the next few years, it will make life way easier to start thinking about your (and your partner’s) fertility and health now!

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Summer Garden Bounty

The end of July and beginning of August are an exciting time for Vermont gardeners.  Finally we enjoy a huge diversity of sun-ripened fruits, berries, and vegetables from our gardens and farms.  We’ve been savoring first raspberries, blueberries, cucumbers, fennel, tomatoes, peppers, green beans, broccoli, onions, garlic, and beets.  Waiting all these months, of course, makes it all much more exciting and delicious.

garden goodies

After several long rainy weeks, we’ve been enjoying a stretch of sunny low-humidity days and cool nights.  Though it’s meant fewer lake swims, it has been perfect weather for daily weeding sessions, keeping up with the ever-growing lush green lawn, and kitchen cooking projects.

End of July Garden

In the kitchen, I excitedly pickled a batch of kohlrabi, fennel, and beets.  They flavors and colors are blending wonderfully, turning bright pink (click here to learn more about natural fermentation).

July Pickles

buckwheat pancakes

I’ve also been LOVING a newly discovered recipe for Sourdough Buckwheat Pancakes.  Buckwheat is a really interesting “grain” and  offers a unique alternative to wheat.  This recipe sprouts and sours the buckwheat, making it even more nutritious and digestible.  The pancakes were nutty and tender with crisp edges (be sure to use plenty of grass-fed butter in your pan), and a perfect vehicle for the delicious fruits and berries that are now in season. 

Happy harvesting, happy feasting!

lake sunset

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July in the Garden and Kitchen

Vermonters are basking in a string of sunny summery days after many many (many) days of rain.  The change in weather means I can finally deal with the grass and weeds that have been happily growing in our lawn and garden.  I’ve also been able to enjoy the best part of summer in VT: after-work swims in Lake Champlain.

Lake in July

Over the past several weeks I realized I’d posted blogs in previous years about many of the seasonal tasks I was busy with in the kitchen and garden.  I’ve included a recap and links below, in addition to a delicious nourishing shortcake recipe we’ve been enjoying with our freshly picked strawberries and whipped cream.  Enjoy!

Nourishing Strawberry Shortcake: This recipe involves soaking the flour in yogurt 24 hours before baking.  To learn more about how this makes flour products more nourishing and digestible, check out this article and video.  (recipe adapted from Nourishing Traditions)

Ingredients: 2 cups white flour, 1.5 cups whole wheat flour, 1 cup yogurt/buttermilk/kefir, 4 tablespoons melted butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons baking soda, 3 tablespoons maple syrup.

  1. Mix yogurt and flour.  It will be a very stiff dough, don’t worry.  Cover and leave at room temperature for 12-24 hours.
  2. Melt butter.  Mix butter and maple syrup into dough.  In a small dish, mix baking soda and salt, breaking up any little balls of baking soda.  Sprinkle dry mixture onto dough and mix, just until ingredients are barely combined.
  3. Divide dough into apx. 12 balls and place on baking sheet.  They will spread a bit while baking.
  4. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes, or until bottoms are golden brown.
  5. Enjoy with fresh strawberries and whipped cream!

biscuits

strawberriesStrawberry Season in VT: This year’s strawberry season was admittedly rain-drenched.  Luckily I was able to sneak in a few mornings of before-work picking.  We’ve been enjoying plenty of fresh berries in all our meals, and froze several gallons for the winter.  Check out this blog post to learn how to quickly freeze berries so that they stay delicious and easy to use in the future.

Other Firsts from the Garden: The last several weeks have brought the first crunchy harvests.  We’ve been enjoying kohlrabi and sugar snap peas in addition to plentiful lettuce, spinach, chard, and herbs.  And just a few days ago we picked the first handful of raspberries from our bushes.  It’s really starting to feel like July!

Crunchy first harvest

And Speaking of HerbsI’ve been enjoying going out to the field and garden each morning to gather leaves for my pregnancy tea blend (also gentle and delicious for other people): nettles, raspberry leaf, and mint.  ‘Tis the season to harvest herbs you’d like to freeze or dry.  Harvest most herbs now – they’re best when young and tender.  Check out this blog post to learn about harvesting and preserving herbs.

Tea Leaves

Garden Pests: Many flying garden pests are busy laying eggs at this time of year.  If you monitor your plants closely, squishing mating pairs of insects and any eggs they’ve laid (often on the undersides of leaves), you can prevent their population from booming in your garden.  This post has more information about pest control in the garden.

squash bugs

Granola: In the summer I find myself wanting something cool and fruity for breakfast – a big swing from my savory broth, soaked oats, and egg-based breakfasts of winter.  Unfortunately store-bought cold cereals and pasteurized milk are a pretty tough way to start the day for my digestive system.  Plus, they are often loaded with crazy ingredients and sugar and leave me craving more.  Thank goodness for my favorite nourishing homemade granola, homemade kefir or yogurt, freshly picked berries, and local raw milk!  Note to self – next year make a lot of granola early in the spring when the oven heat is appreciated in the kitchen.

Homemade Granola

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Snack Attack

snack food!

If you’re anything like me, you try to cook from scratch and eat whole foods.  When you do end up buying packaged food from the store, you check out the ingredients list and try to find something that’s pretty simple and made from things you can pronounce.  Well, last week I just really wanted goldfish!  Or some other cheesy crunchy orange snack from the middle aisles of the grocery store.

goldfish ingredients

The ingredients in goldfish certainly aren’t the worst, but for someone who eats organic, savors grass-fed dairy, avoids highly processed vegetable oils, and soaks her grains and flours before baking, they’re pretty far from what I’d like to be eating on a daily basis.

What do do?  Make my own!

Here are a few recipes I’ve tried recently to add some fun snacky homemade foods into our lives:

homemade cheez its

Homemade Cheeze-Its
-The recipe I followed: Serious Eats Cheez-Its
   -Thoughts: Addictive!  Totally met my craving for goldfish, but probably wouldn’t want to have around the house all the time.
-How I tweaked it: I used whole plain yogurt + 3 tablespoons of melted butter (1 cup total volume) instead of cream.  I then mixed the yogurt, melted butter, and flour 24 hours ahead of time, allowing it to soak covered at room temperature (read more about soaking grains here).  When I was ready to bake, I mixed the dry ingredients first, dumped them into the wet ingredients, and kneaded the (very wet!) dough on a floured surface.  I followed some advice from the recipe’s comments and rolled out the dough directly onto my silicone pad (which I use instead of parchment paper).  The wet dough on the pad was super easy to slide on to a tray, cut into squares, and put in the oven.  I baked at a lower temperature (325) for a longer amount of time (until they were golden brown) to get them crispy without burning.  I put the tray back in a warm oven later that night (after I had baked something else) to help them dry out all the way.

homemade kind bars1

Homemade “Kind” Bars
-The recipe I followed: Fruit and Nut Bars from The Nourishing Home
   -Thoughts: It totally worked!  Mine are slightly more fragile (crumbly), but they do stay together as bars and have a great balance of salty and sweet.  Perfect for keeping at work for days that I didn’t pack quite enough for lunch.
-How I tweaked it:  I used maple syrup instead of raw honey – my preference when baking (raw honey loses its benefits when heated).  Molasses would also be a sweetener that would add an interesting twist to the flavor.  I also splashed in some vanilla.  In need of more “glue,” I added a bit more nut butter+coconut flour.  It would definitely be possible to change the ratio of fruit to nuts (or add something else, like chocolate chips or granola), as long as the total amount comes to just under 2 cups total.

homemade gummies

Homemade Sour Watermelon Gummies
-The recipe I followed: Sour Watermelon Gummies from Meatified
   -Thoughts: Not as good a match to the real deal as the recipes above (adding more honey would likely get it closer), but a great way to enjoy a fruity snack and get some pastured gelatin into your diet (your skin, hair, nails, and joints will thank you).
-How I tweaked it: Didn’t!  I did end up adding a heaping tablespoon of honey.  This was the perfect use of the extra watermelon we threw in the freezer last summer.   If you don’t have silicone molds, it totally works to pour liquid into a flat-bottomed dish and then cut into squares when gelled.  A note: If you taste your liquid before cooling, it should be super tangy and sweet – it will become much more bland when cooled.

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Indoor Kitchen Projects

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Don’t open the back door!

We are finally enjoying a true blizzard in our new home!  Fluffy white drifts tip into the house each time I open the front door.   I’m excited to play in the snow – my first priority is sledding or cross country skiing down Mt. Philo.  I think I’ll wait, though, until I can confidently get back up the driveway when I return.  In the mean time, here are some fun indoor projects that are perfect for a snowy day:

salve-ingredinets

Soothing salves

homemade-crackers1

Homemade crackers

marmelade

Marmalade

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Recipes

Homemade Crackers

I baked crackers once in middle school.  My main memory was about how terribly long it took, only to produce a small tin of crackers.  I don’t remember how they tasted.

homemade-crackers Luckily, my past memories didn’t prevent me from trying again.  I love making things from scratch because I get to pick the quality of ingredients and method of preparation.  My recent batch of crackers was delicious – their nutty whole grain flavor had the perfect crunch (not too hard, not soft).  My  recipe made quite a few – they packed six cookie trays full.  I soaked the flour overnight to make the flour more digestible and make the whole grain dough easier to work with (if you’re interested, read more here).  Soaking requires you to plan ahead, but it doesn’t increase the overall prep time.  I played around with mix-ins, choosing to make plain, sesame & honey, and za’atar flavored versions.  Happily, my homemade cracker memories have been replaced.  The verdict: definitely worth it!

zaatar-crackersSoaked Flour Crackers

Ingredients (makes about 6 full cookie trays of crackers):
1.5 cups whole wheat flour
1.5 cups rye flour
1/2 cup white flour
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 stick pastured butter (8 tablespoons)
1.25 cups plain whole fat yogurt

Instructions:
Day One: Mix dry ingredients.  Cut butter into flour and pinch until crumbly.  Add yogurt and mix (easiest with hands!).  Let sit, covered, at room temperature for 12-24 hours.

Day Two: Knead in any add-ins (see below).  Roll as thin as you can on a floured cool counter.  My first batch always comes out a bit thicker and sometimes puffs in the middle. I then realize I could actually roll the dough thinner, resulting in crispier crackers.  Cut with a butter knife and arrange on a cookie tray.  They can be quite close, but not touching.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.  I take them out when they’re just starting to brown.  Cool on a stone countertop or on cooling racks.  Enjoy!

Add-Ins: I divided my dough into three parts.  One I left plain.  Into the second I kneaded in honey, tahini, and sesame seeds.  I added a favorite herb blend – za’atar – into the third until the dough couldn’t hold any more.  All baked well and tasted delicious!

honey-sesame-crackers

homemade-crackers2

Categories
Personal Sustainability: How-To Recipes

Busy in the Kitchen for the Holidays

Between special meals and homemade gifts, we’re busy in the kitchen this holiday season. Click on photos below to read more about the recipe behind the image.  Happy Holidays!

homemade granola

elderberry-syrup

salve

marmelade

Read More!  Check out the following past posts to learn how to make these yummy homemade goodies yourself: