Sunday, August 25, 2013

Perfect Pie Crusts and Yummy Hand Pies

Even as a fairly adept baker, pie crusts always intimidated me. Finally, in an effort to move away from pre-made, packaged foods, I started learning the ins and outs of pie crust making. After much trial and error, and several burned, tasteless, or dry crusts, I've finally come out on the other side with a pie crust that's easy and versatile.

I choose to make mine with whole wheat/spelt flour. You can use any flour you prefer to make these.

This recipe makes ONE pie crust. For a two crust pie, double the recipe. 

Perfect Pie Crusts

1/2 cup local raw organic unsalted butter
1 c. organic wheat flour
1/2 c. organic spelt flour
1/2 tsp salt
(for sweet pies, add  up to 1tsp-1TBSP organic whole cane sugar)
1/2 c. ice cold water

Make sure you start with ICE COLD water. Keeping the butter cold assures a flaky crust. Sift all dry ingredients together into a bowl. Mash in butter until mixture is very crumbly. Add water, 1TBSP at a time, until mixture holds together. It may take less than 1/2 a cup. Kneed just enough to press together. Do NOT overwork or crust will be dry and tough. Refrigerate apprx 30 mins to make rolling it easier. Remove from fridge and turn out on lightly floured surface. Gently roll out as needed.

I love to make turnovers with them! Roll it out, cut out circles, fill, fold, and bake! I sprinkle herbs on each circle for savory pies, or cinnamon sugar on each circle for sweet pies. Here's two of my favorite turnover recipes. I like to make large amounts and then freeze some for an easy dinner/dessert later. Just freeze individually on a tray and then place in ziplock to store until ready.

Spinach Feta Turnovers

Organic Local Raw Butter
Organic Chopped Spinach
Chopped Onion
Minced Garlic
Juice from half a lemon
Pie Crust
Herbs of choice

Melt butter in saucepan.
Saute spinach, chopped onions, and minced garlic until soft. Add dill and lemon to taste. Remove from heat. Gentle stir in feta (I prefer herbed feta).
Cut circles out of pie crust (I usually do about 6-8 inches across) and sprinkle with herbs.
Place spoonful of spinach feta mix inside.
Fold circle in half and seal the edges with the tines of a fork.
Brush tops with egg white. Cook in 350 degree preheated oven until crust starts becoming firm and light brown. Do not overcook. Times will vary based on size of turnovers, amount of filling, elevation, etc. Mine typically take about 16 minutes. Just watch closely.

Apple Hand Pies

4 organic granny smith apples - 
     peeled, cored and sliced
2 tablespoons local raw organic butter
1/2c to 1c brown sugar
1 tsp- 1 TBSP ground cinnamon to taste
1 tablespoon cornstarch or arrowroot powder

1 tablespoon water
Organic whole cane sugar
Pie crust
Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add sliced apples and let cook 2-4 minutes.
Add brown sugar and cinnamon and stir until well combined.
Mix cornstarch and water and add to pan. Cook until sauce thickens, 1-2 minutes.
Remove from heat and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cut circles from pie crust (apprx 6-8 inches across) and sprinkle with cinnamon.
Brush tops with egg white and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake in preheated oven until crust begins to firm and turns light brown. Do not overcook! Time will vary based on size, amount of filling, etc. Mine typically take about 16 minutes.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Sack Lunches- the Whole Food, Eco-friendly Way!

Although my son is not in school (and in fact, may never really be), we pack a lot of sack lunches for hikes and adventures, as well as the rare days he goes to someone else. Being so heavily invested in our minimally processed, low sugar, natural lifestyle, it's hard for me to trust others to make healthy food choices for him. The first time I sent him to a sitter at a year and a half, she fed him hot dogs, microwave popcorn, and ritz crackers. I was pretty upset, but I recognize that those are 'normal' foods for much of the population! To keep it from happening again, I always pack a full meal!

I spent a lot of time looking into and trying out different options for eco-friendly lunches. Stainless steel lunch boxes. Plastic bento boxes. Tupperware individual containers. PUL/cotton reusable snack/sandwich bags. There are so many options! We ended up with several different things that I use together depending on what our daily needs are.

Here's an example of what a fully packed lunch looks like in this house, along with links to products I find helpful!

 Food contents: 
Spinach, chard, and feta hand pie, hummus, sprouted lentils, homemade trail mix, Annie's graham bunnies, Simply Sprouted Way Better Snacks Multigrain Tortilla Chips, Clif Kids ZBar, Plum Organics baby food pouch, Justin's Almond Butter Packs, and an Almond Breeze 11oz Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk.

Recipe for Spinach Feta Hand Pie:

 (All Packed Up And Ready To Go!)

Way Better Snacks- Whole Grain Tortilla Chips:

Annie's Graham Bunnies:

Almond Milk- Shelf Stable- 11oz option:

Rubbermaid Lunch Blox Sandwich Kits:

Bamboo Utensils in Eco-friendly Recycled Carrying Case with Carabiner:

Kid Kanteen Stainless Steel Sippy Cups:

Toxin-free Eco-Friendly Reusable Cloth Snack and Sandwich Baggies in CUTE designs:

Silicone Baking Cups:

Amazing Stainless Steel Bento Boxes (Pricier but worth the money!)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Ready To Go Superfood Smoothies

Being a single mom often means not having enough time to get the nutrition I need. I tend to rush out the door in the morning, and when I get hungry later, I too often find myself reaching for something fast and easy, and, generally,  full of empty calories. Learning how to make my own frozen packaged foods has been a lifesaver,   but something was still missing. I love my breakfast smoothies, but never have the time to make runs every other day to the store for fresh produce, or to gather, clean, chop, and blend all the ingredients while trying to get myself and my 2 year old ready for the day. Finally, I've found the perfect solution: premixed, frozen smoothie cubes! Now, me and my son have a great tasting, healthy, go-to breakfast drink that we both love!

First, gather all your ingredients. I choose a base of our favorite fruits, add greek yogurt, and then pack it full of our favorite superfood ingredients. (See end of post for nutrition information and benefits.)

14 strawberries
1/2 banana
1.5 c blueberries
heaping TBSP almond butter
heaping TBSP coconut oil
1 cup greek yogurt
1 cup nut/seed/oat mix, ground
1/2 cup almond milk

Nut/Seed/Oat mix
1/4 cup flaxseeds
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup almonds


Place seeds, nuts, and oats in processor and grind until fine

Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth

Pour mix into ice cube trays and freeze until solid

Remove from trays and place in ziplock in freezer. 

When ready to use, take 4-8 cubes, add almond milk, blend, and enjoy!

Ingredient Benefit Information:

Flaxseed: ( )

Coconut Oil: ( )

Rolled Oats: ( )

Almonds and Almond Butter: ( )

Blueberries: ( )

Probiotic Greek Yogurt: ( )

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Chemical Free Cold Season

Fighting our way through winter often means battling colds that can wipe out entire households.Especially for children, there are few natural options, but coughing, running noses, congestion, stomach upset, and sleeplessness can greatly interfere with the entire household.

First, we use honey with fresh ginger root and lemon slices. Just fill a jar with honey, slice the ginger and lemon, and let it steep. Honey is a natural preservative, so this will never go bad. Just put a TBSP in your tea when cold symptoms set in to treat sore throat and coughing.

We know that Vicks VapoRub is dangerous for kids, but do you use Vicks BabyRub? It's base is petrolatum, a known carcinogen!

Instead, we made our own mentholated salve. Here's our recipe! 

Carcinogen Free Vicks BabyRub replacement:

1/2 cup coconut oil
2 TBSP of beeswax shavings
10 drops of Eucalyptus Essential Oil
5 drops Peppermint E.O.
5 drops Rosemary E.O.
5 drops Lavender E.O.

Slowly melt beeswax and coconut oil until combined. Add essential oils, mixing well. Pour into small jar or other container (I personally like using chapstick containers for ease of application). Apply to baby's feet at night under socks to treat symptoms of a cold.

More info on petroleum jelly:Source:
The raw material for petroleum jelly was discovered in 1859 in Titusville, Pennsylvania, United States, on some of the country's first oil rigs. Workers disliked the paraffin-like material forming on rigs because it caused them to malfunction, but they used it on cuts and burns because it hastened healing.
Robert Chesebrough, a young chemist whose previous work of distilling fuel from the oil of sperm whales had been rendered obsolete by petroleum, went to Titusville to see what new materials had commercial potential. Chesebrough took the unrefined black "rod wax", as the drillers called it, back to his laboratory to refine it and explore potential uses Chesebrough discovered that by distilling the lighter, thinner oil products from the rod wax, he could create a light-colored gel. Chesebrough patented the process of making petroleum jelly by U.S. Patent 127,568 in 1872. The process involved vacuum distillation of the crude material followed by filtration of the still residue through bone char.
Chesebrough traveled around New York demonstrating the product to encourage sales by burning his skin with acid or an open flame, then spreading the ointment on his injuries and showing his past injuries healed, he claimed, by his miracle product.
He opened his first factory in 1870 in Brooklyn using the name Vaseline.


"PAHs. PAHs, or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, are common contaminants in petrolatum, also called petroleum jelly and sold under well-known brand names likeVaseline. Petrolatum is found in one of every 14 products on the market (7.1 percent of the products assessed by EWG), including 15 percent of all lipstick and 40 percent of al baby lotions and oils. FDA restricts petrolatum in food to no more than 10 parts per million, and requires petrolatum used in food packaging or drugs to meet impurity restrictions for PAHs (21 CFR 178, 21 CFR 172.880).
But the agency allows any amount of petrolatum of any purity in personal care products, many of which are applied directly to the lips and swallowed.
Manufacturers would find no legal impediments to using the same unregulated petrolatum in personal care products as can be used in shoe polish.
Among the studies linking the petrolatum impurity PAHs to breast cancer is a Columbia University study in which researchers found that the breast tissue of women with breast cancer was 2.6 times more likely to contain elevated levels of PAHs bound to DNA (called DNA adducts) than the breast tissue of women without breast cancer (Rundle et al. 2000). The National Toxicology Programs finds that some PAHs are reasonable anticipated to be human carcinogens, and the State of California lists a number of PAHs as carcinogens in its Proposition 65 program (NTP 2002, OEHHA 2004).
Petrolatum is listed as a probable human carcinogen in the European Union's Dangerous Substances Directive (UNECE 2004), and its use in cosmetics will be banned by September 2004 with the following caveat:
“The classification as a carcinogen need not apply if the full refining history is known and it can be shown that the substance from which it is produced is not a carcinogen.”
Chemical industry sources have interpreted this clause to mean that petrolatum will continue to be allowed in cosmetics in the EU if it is refined and meets PAH purity standards for food set by FDA (Faust and Casserly 2003). Even this purity standard does not set direct limits on PAH content, but instead relies on a light absorption test as an indirect indicator of contamination.
In the U.S. no requirement for refinement applies for petrolatum in personal care products. Some manufacturers likely choose refined petrolatum low in PAHs, but perhaps some do not.
Product labels do not uniformly show the “USP” certification on the petrolatum listing in EWG's ingredient label database, and in any event, the certification criteria for a USP listing are not public.
Some product labels include the term “skin protectant” in parentheses after the petrolatum listing, an indication that the petrolatum has been refined and meets FDA requirements for drug applications.
But in most cases a consumer buying a product containing petrolatum has no way to know if the ingredient is low in carcinogenic PAHs or not."

Monday, October 8, 2012

Dessert in the Raw

Okay, I can admit it, I have a sweet tooth (or two!).

It's one of my biggest fights between how I used to eat and now. So many desserts call for unhealthy ingredients, and don't get me started on premade overprocessed junk! I thought eating well was going to be a constant test of my resolve to remove these horribly unhealthy ingredients from my life, things like HFCS, bad oils, and GMO's. One of the coolest things about this journey has been finding that not only can I make amazing, wholesome renditions of my favorite treats, but as my body has filtered out all the MSG and HFCS, I crave it much less, and am beginning to prefer desserts with less sugar and fats.

One of the many bounties of this season are the very plentiful blackberries spread throughout the Rogue Valley. Tasty, juicy, and a good mix of sour and sweet, blackberries make the perfect filling for my favorite raw cobbler! Here it is, enjoy!!

(All measurements approximations, I cook to taste!)

1 cup soaked almonds
1 cup walnut pieces
1/2 cup flaxseed
1 TBSP+ cinnamon
Honey to taste (if wanted)
coconut oil (melted)
2 cups blackberries
1/2 cup blueberries

Place nuts and flax seed in food processor and grind until resembling graham cracker crust texture. Add cinnamon and honey to taste, pulse through. Add coconut oil by the TBSP until mixture is moistened throughout and can be packed together.

Take 1 cup of blackberries and mash them to form the juice base. Mix into the remaining blackberries and blueberries. Place into the bottom of a glass baking dish. Top with nut mixture and gently pat down onto fruit, mashing them together a bit to soak in some of the juice. Dust with cinnamon. Place into the fridge for at least an hour to 'set'.

I have two favorite raw recipes for ice cream. One can be made without an ice cream maker and is fruit based. You just take frozen bananas and process them until smooth. When they've reached the right consistency, mix in 1/4 cup soaked cashews, ground, and blueberries, a tsp of lemon juice, and a dash of ginger. Blend until smooth. Add almond milk to thin if/as needed.

If you happen to have an ice cream maker, you can substitute almond cream and agave for heavy cream and sugar. Here's a basic recipe:

1 1/2 cups almond cream
2 tablespoons maple syrup or agave nectar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Dash salt

Combine all ingredients and whisk together. Freeze as instructed by ice cream maker.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Harvest Bounties; Or, What To Do With All This Darn Zucchini!

Isn't autumn lovely?

Of course, it's sad to see summer fading, with all of it's sunny day glories. Summer means lake trips, barbecues, and warm days laying out with a cool drink. I can't help it though. As the nights get cooler and the days get shorter, as the leaves on the tree began changing into their more festive attire, and we begin bringing in the bounties from our gardens, the scents, flavors, and colors of fall bring to mind warmth, light, and happiness. 

Of course, there's always the question, just what to do with all that bountiful bounty!!

Today I faced three of my biggest harvests this year, squash, zucchini, and blackberries. The zucchini and squash came from home, and the blackberries were wild-harvested well away from pollutants from the road. Now, I love squash, and find it to be extremely versatile, especially considering that it's one of the Bug's favorites. Soup, pies, sauteed, pureed, for breakfast, dinner, dessert, whatever you can imagine! This year, however, I had just as much zucchini! Even after trading/gifting half of it I was worried I had too much. I definitely try to live by waste not, want not.

Luckily, I found out that zucchini is just as versatile! I've discovered an amazing zucchini secret... If you skin, seed, and chop zucchini, then simmer it in lemon juice, it makes a passable apple cobbler imitation! Here's what I came up with.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook and stir 8 cups zucchini and 3/4 cup lemon juice until zucchini is tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and nutmeg and cook one minute more. Remove from heat and set aside. Use as the filling for your favorite cobbler recipe! Here's one I like: 

Combine 1 cup flour, 1/4 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp baking powder, and a pinch of salt. Mash in 6 TBSP butter with your fingertips, or a pastry blender, until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in 1/4 cup water until just combined. D
rop spoonfuls of topping over filling. Sprinkle entire cobbler with a mixture of 1 TBSP brown sugar, 1TBSP white sugar, and 1 TBSP cinnamon. Bake until topping is golden, about 30 minutes.

Another amazing way to eat zucchini is to skin, de-seed, and grate it. Mix in egg and flour for binder, and onions, garlic, cheese, salt, and pepper to taste. I pat them into patties, top them with panko/bread crumbs, and then lightly fry them or bake them in a pan lightly treated with olive oil. 

Tomorrow I"ll tackle all the blackberries!! Raw blackberry cobbler? I think so!!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Waste Not Want Not!

   One of the first things I got into with the new, healthier me was juicing. It was simple, nutritious, and best of all, yummy! Fresh juiced apple cider is as good as dessert! I fell in love with green goddess juices. I  save the pulp of the carrots and the apples and freeze them for use later in cakes, breads, and the like. Some of the veggies I mix in fresh to my little bug's mashes. Still, so much of it wasn't getting used! Watching all that fibrous, usable material go to waste just felt wrong.

   I decided to try my hand at make-shifting a cracker made from this high fiber pulp. I don't have the best juicer, so some of the nutrition and juice is left in the pulp I use. I just set up all my veggies for my morning juice yesterday and went to juicing. This time I used apples, carrots, kale, and tomatoes. I was thinking of the crackers when I made this juice selection for sure!!

I juiced all my fruits and veggies, not being too careful to get all the juice out, I thought leaving some in would improve the flavor of the crackers and help me form them before drying.

  (Man am I glad my kid already makes healthy decisions when it comes to food, out of habit. I really wish that for him, when he's older, that it's easier for him to eat well, not just out of concern for health but out of habit. He loves him some kale!)

   Once everything is juiced and put away, it was time to start on the pulp. I dumped it all into a bowl and mixed in a big handful of flax seed for that extra punch of nutrition:

I separated the pulp into three bowls. One I left plain. The second, I mixed in a bit of minced onion and garlic and a bit of cracked pepper. The third I mashed some fresh blackberries into, just in case the rest didn't turn out well. I cut out sheets of parchment paper to lay out on the trays of my 5 layer dehydrator, packed the pulps into the trays in their individual flavors, and set it to work. (NOTE: This can be done in the oven, on the lowest heat, if you don't own a dehydrator. I got mine for $5 at a garage sale. It's not the best but it gets the job done! )

After over 24 hours of dehydrating the chips were done. Next time I will make the indents where I want the crackers to break after the first couple of hours, but I just snapped them into casual squares this time. 

This made a large bag of crackers for me. The blackberry crackers were definitely the best! We liked them all however. The garlic ones were great with feta and apple slices! I keep all the little piece for the Bug. He eats them up!! 

So much cheaper than the kale chips from the store, no preservatives or weird ingredients, and fresh fresh fresh!! I can't wait to experiment more with different juices, pureeing the ingredients together before adding flax, and adding different herbs and spices.  

I can't believe eating raw, cheap, and healthy can be so yummy!!

Happy Dehydrating!