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."