Monday, February 28, 2011

Almond Delights

So, after more reading and research, I really feel as if I need to cut out more dairy (or at least cow dairy). No, I'm not going to totally give up my Perrydell ice cream or Organic Valley raw cheese, but try my best to lessen my intake. I have been drinking less and less milk anyway, mostly just on cereal or baked oatmeal in the morning and then only water, hot tea or Cafix the rest of the time. I was still left wondering if I would be able to cut it out completely, and if it would make any difference in how I feel. When I found this recipe from the Gorgeously Green site, I knew I had to try almond milk. I had some this summer at the beach, and also tried coconut milk but all of the commercial ones (even organic) had additives that could be problematic. How else should I go but with homemade? This recipe is based on the Gorgeously Green one, but I made changes to make a little more milk and without using dates as a sweetener (since I don't have any on-hand right now!). Also see below to find out what I made with the leftover ground almonds (hint- includes chocolate!).

Almond Milk
1 c raw organic almonds (really important to use raw, as roasted nuts are not as nutritious and non-organic almonds are riddled with pesticides)
4 c water
1/2 T vanilla
1 tsp Sun Crystals

Place almonds in glass bowl and cover with cold water. Cover and store in refrigerator overnight (or for a few days, it won't hurt if it has to wait :). Drain almonds. Place 1/2 c almonds and 2 c water in blender or magic bullet and blend about 1 minute. You will still have some almond pulp. Pour into a cheesecloth (unbleached if possible) covered sieve or strainer that is in a large bowl. Blend the rest of the almonds and water and strain. Gather up the cheesecloth and squeeze to get out as much milk as possible. Save almond puree in refrigerator. Rinse blender. Pour half of the milk back into the blender and add half of the vanilla and half of the sugar. Blend a few seconds and pour into glass container for storage. Repeat with second half (you can do the whole batch at once depending on the size of your blender.). You may want to taste test for sweetness and vanilla amount and add more if necessary. The milk does get frothy in the blender.

I have used the milk in my baked oatmeal recipe as well as to pour over it. I have also eaten it over Kashi Go Lean cereal.

I used about 1/2 c of the puree in my baked oatmeal instead of whole or chopped almonds.

I used the other cup of puree in this Chocolate Almond Torte recipe. I will not repost it as I followed it (almost) exactly. It turned out well, although I cut the baking time by 5 minutes and it was still too long if you want it gooey in the center. It was still good, but I think I will actually like it better cold (I'm strange like that). 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Graham Crackers and Potato (Cauliflower?) Soup

Here are two new-to-me recipes that turned out well tonight. The cauliflower soup recipe came from my friend Jess' blog. I had to make a few modifications due to not having an ingredient and also needing to mask it as potato soup instead of cauliflower. This turned out wonderfully, very creamy and tasty. The milk is really not necessary at all, just add a little extra broth. It also freezes extremely well.

1 Large Head Organic Cauliflower
1 Large Onion, sliced
5 cloves Garlic, each halved
3 TBS Olive Oil
2 small organic potatoes
1 box organic free range chicken broth (32 oz)
1 C water
dried crumbled bay leaf
1 TSP dried thyme
1 C 1% milk with 1/3 c nonfat organic dry milk (this is my concoction in place of half and half) (optional)
1 TSP Salt (I usually do not add and let those eating add what they want)
1/8 TSP Black Pepper (Ditto with the salt)
Optional- Bacon and shredded cheddar as garnish

1.) Heat Oven to 400 degrees F. In large roasting pan, toss cauliflower, onion slices and garlic with olive oil.
2.) Roast in 400 degree oven for 30 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes.While it is roasting, wash and cut potatoes in small pieces (I left the skin on).
3.) In large saucepan, combine roasted cauliflower mixture, potatoes, chicken broth, water, bay leaf and thyme. Cover; bring to boiling. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, 20 minutes. At the same time boil potato in a smaller pot.
4.) Strain potatoes. In blender or food processor (I used a Magic Bullet in 2 batches), puree soup (not potatoes). Return soup and potatoes to saucepan. Stir in milk, salt and pepper; gently heat (I do not add milk or salt/pepper so then you are ready to serve right away!).

Graham Crackers

This recipe I took from the Heavenly Homemakers site exactly so I will not repost. I did split the dough in half and added cocoa powder to make chocolate graham crackers. The next time I will add more cinnamon :) Are you surprised? I was a little worried after taking out of the oven because the dough was still "bendy" but after cooling is crisped right off. I was also not overly concerned about consistency in size and shape for this first try. I'm not real picky about that (it's just going to get chewed up anyway, right?). Very yummy, and I can't wait to make some pumpkin dip to dip them in!

Chocolate fresh out of the oven.

 Cinnamon Honey fresh out of the oven!

Chocolate Chip Cookies (with a secret ingredient)

So, our furnace was having issues this weekend and we had a technician out to clean and service it, which unfortunately made a horrible oil smell throughout the house. It was necessary to bake SOMETHING to help with the odor, and chocolate chip cookies won the vote from the kids. For some reason I didn't want to make my usual recipe so I decided to raid my Sneak Chef cookbook. I, of course, had to alter even this healthy recipe a little :)  Pictures were taken by my daughter, Leah.

1 c Bob's Red Mill organic pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 c wheat bran
4 T butter (softened)
1/4 c sucanat
1/8 c Sun Crystals
2 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla 
1/2 c lentil puree
1/2 c plain yogurt
1/2 c mini organic choco chips (plus I sprinkled a few more on top :)

Whisk together first 4 ingredients. In another bowl using mixer, beat butter, sucanat and sugars until creamy. Beat in the rest of the ingredients (except chips), then stir in flour mixture and then chips. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet and bake 16-18 minutes at 350 degrees.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sneaky Valentine's Dinner

I have to admit, we are not much of a Valentine family. We don't typically do more than possibly cards, it just isn't one of the high points of the year for us. So this year I decided to at least make a special meal for the family. One of our favorites is shrimp, and since Route 30 Seafood had a special, it sounded like a great deal to me! I did forgo on the scampi this time, as I seemed to be the only one eating them and we ran out of steamed. I included the cheddar biscuits as a side, heart-shaped, of course, and rounded it out with a salad. One word of caution, though, is to make sure you add the baking soda to the biscuits! I thought they seemed a little dense (although they looked fine) and it wasn't until driving to work the next day that I realized what I had forgotten! It definitely makes a difference!

I really wanted to have a special dessert, and having just picked up the The Sneaky Chef: Hot to Cheat on Your Man in the Kitchen, I knew I had to find something in there! (It was only $6- on sale at Giant!) I love the Sneaky Chef book that is focused on kids along with Deceptively Delicious. They are both based on the premise that if those you love are not choosing nutritional foods on their own, then you have to help them along a little, by way of sneaking nutrient-dense foods into their "normal" recipes. I have been doing this for over a year now although I have to say in the last 6 months not as much as a was before, mostly because I am making almost everything from scratch and feel that it has a good deal of nutrition in it already. But, there's always room for more ;)  The idea is to make and freeze a selection of purees that are then carefully hidden in various meals, desserts, and drinks. My favorite is adding cauliflower puree to mac and cheese, as well as spinach or beets to various desserts. This for me was a great first step to whole eating. I continued making most of my normal meals but added purees to make them healthier. Then I transitioned to more real home cooking.

So, after a quick perusal of the pictures (yes, I LOVE pictures in cookbooks, and that is my only issue with the Sneaky Chef series- too many without pictures) I decided on the Vulcan Molten Chocolate Cake (p. 334). Of course, I did make a few modifications (were you expecting anything less?). The girls loved it, the boys, not so much. There was a hint of the blueberry flavor and I think next time I will go with 1/4 c spinch puree and 1/4 c purple puree (a combo of spinach and blueberry) to take away any berry flavor. I didn't mind it, but if I am eating a dessert this chocolate-y, I want to taste the chocolate! If you are one who likes chocolate and berry flavors mixed, it would also probably work with cherry or raspberry instead of blueberry. My other caution is the cooking time. I checked the cakes at 12 minutes and my gut told me to take them out...but I waited dutifully to the 14 minutes recommended. Unfortunately the cakes continued to bake in their glass dishes after removing from the oven so they weren't as gooey as I was hoping, but still delicious. We finished off the one leftover cake tonight and it was almost better now! So if you have to make ahead, it will work, and no icing needed :)

5 ounces organic dark chocolate chips or bar
3 T Earth Balance organic vegan butter
1 egg
3 egg whites
2 tsp organic vanilla extract
1/3 c Sun Crystals
1/2 c purple puree (spinach and blueberries)
1/4 c plus 2 T King Arthur organic all-purpose flour
1 tsp (heaping) Cafix (or instant coffee, but if you have never tried Cafix as a coffee substitute, you need to!)
1/4 tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray 6 small cups (I used the glass prep bowls from Pyrex but you can use ramekins, custard cups or muffin tins) with nonstick spray. Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler or in the microwave (be careful not to overheat in the microwave). In a large bowl whisk egg, whites, vanilla, sugar and puree. Mix in chocolate mixture. In another bowl whisk together flour, Cafix and salt and add to chocolate mixture and blend thoroughly. Divide batter evenly among bowls, place on cookie sheet and bake about 12 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the middle should NOT come out clean. Can serve as is or turn upside down on plate for full volcano-like effect. Although, please warn your family that they won't really erupt, or you may have some disappointed family members!

 Waiting to be eaten with some leftover shrimp.

This dessert reminded me a lot of the dessert from my favorite meal ever this summer!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Blueberry Walnut Coffee Cake

This recipe is based on one from the free magazine that Giant Food Stores offers. I have had it for a long time but for some reason never tried it. Finally had the reason to yesterday (to make a snack for Sunday School) and it turned out great! Definitely will repeat, and maybe try as muffins.

1 1/2 c King Arthur Organic All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 c Bob's Red Mill Organic Pastry Flour (I can only find this at the bulk food store at the Markets at Shrewsbury)
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
2 T Sun Crystals
3 T cinnamon, divided (I shouldn't even bother putting an amount, just count on lots of it!)
1 c chopped walnuts (I didn't chop mine too small, next time I will go smaller because they were falling off as I was cutting the cake!)
3/4 c sucanat
3 T butter at room temperature
3 T organic unsweetened applesauce
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract (make sure you use organic, most have bad stuff in them, so much for being "pure")
1 1/2 c Stoneyfield Organic plain nonfat yogurt
2 c blueberries (frozen or fresh)

Preheat oven to 350 and spray angel food pan with cooking spray (you could also make in a cake pan or 2 loaf pans, or as muffins). Whisk together flours, soda, salt and about 1 T of cinnamon. In small bowl combine Sun Crystals, 2 T cinnamon and walnuts. In a large bowl beat the sucanat, butter and applesauce until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until fully combined. Beat in vanilla and yogurt. Add the flour mixture in 2 batches, to wet mixture stirring until just combined. Spread half the batter into pan. Sprinkle half of the walnut mixture and top with blueberries. Spoon the rest of the batter into the pan (I had to spread it around a little, it was pretty thick) and sprinkle with the rest of the walnut mixture. Bake 35-40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean (Caution- my toothpick came out clean but when we ate it today it was still slightly doughy on the inside around the blueberries. My hunch is that since they were frozen it was taking longer for the dough to cook next to them.). Cool and slice. This went over really well today in class. At home, Leah heated it up and poured milk on much like shortcake and loved it! Definitely one to repeat!

Homemade Oatmeal Cream Pies

Well, I have been SO hungry for these Little Debbies. They bring me back to being a young girl, as these were one of my favorite snacks. Of course I don't want to eat them anymore, and really hadn't looked around for a from scratch recipe. Then my sister, Angela, showed me a magazine that had one in, yes! I was very excited! At the moment I do not have the magazine name, but I will post it as soon as I get it from her! Needless to say, I was a little disappointed in them. They got much "puffier" than I wanted and had a more crumbly consistency instead of chewy. The taste was still good, and I attribute the "puffiness" to my, *ahem* lack of measuring and just dumping in ingredients (the baking powder decided to heavily dump in the bowl, so there was a LOT more than needed) and possibly to using some coconut oil instead of all butter, but I haven't had trouble with it in other items so I'm blaming it on the baking soda and possibly baking too long. Good news is, after keeping them in the fridge they soaked up some moisture and became better with age! I will try the recipe again and let you know how it goes!

1 1/2 c King Arthur Organic All-Purpose Flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder (I probably had at least 1 T- haha!)
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cinnamon (ok, this is the amount in the original recipe and you KNOW I put a lot more than this in!)
1 c butter at room temperature (I used 1/2 c butter, 1/2 c coconut oil)
1/4 c brown sugar (I used sucanat)
1 T molasses (be sure to use organic, other molasses has a lot of added ingredients)
1 tsp vanilla (yeah, I probably put more than this in as well)
2 eggs
1 1/2 c organic rolled oats (not quick)
1/2 c raisins (I omitted these)
8 oz organic cream cheese (Organic Valley is a great company)
6 T organic powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350. In large bowl whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon. In another large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar and molasses on high, scraping down bowl until light and fluffy about 4 minutes. Add vanilla, beat until combined. Beat in eggs one at a time scraping down the bowl after each addition.

With mixer on low add flour mixture and beat just until combined. With a rubber spatula, stir in oats and raisins. Drop dough in 2 T full mounds, 2 inches apart onto 2 baking sheets (I sprayed with olive oil first). Bake until cookies are just set at edges and slightly soft in the middle, about 11 minutes, rotating sheets halfway. Let cookies cool on sheets 5 minutes and transfer to wire cooling racks.

In medium bowl using mixer beat cream cheese and sugar until light, about 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed. Spread filling on flat side of half the cookies and sandwich with the remaining cookies.

Keep in refrigerator in airtight container.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


The moment we have all been waiting for....another guest blogger post from my sister, April! Please enjoy and be inspired and encouraged by her message!

I've already written several notes asking for prayer and sharing about how my health isn't doing well... but a LOT has happened in the last 6 months and it's about time I wrote a note TESTIFYING of God's goodness and how my health has been improving:).

**This turned out WAY longer than I intended, I assure you it's a good read:), but if you just want to hear how my health has improved, skip to the last few paragraphs:)

First, I want to share a little background of my journey this past year... I believe it was about this time last year when Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution was on TV (I watched it online) every week and it totally inspired me to cook fresh, stay away from processed foods, eat more veggies, etc. I've always had a desire to eat healthy and make things from scratch, but time, money & energy was often an issue and it was just easier to buy a little processed foods here and there. Then in April of last year I visited my Grandma who was recovering from a stroke, she also has diabetes and other health issues. She had just become a vegan like my Aunt (who she lives with), she had lost a ton of weight, was weaning herself off her diabetes medicine and her blood sugar levels had never been better! She had so much more joy and vibrancy for life than I had ever seen her before. While I was there I got to try some interesting vegan food, like vegan chicken breast, etc. I thought eating healthy was cool but being vegan or vegetarian seemed a little much to me at that time, though I loved that my Grandma, who had eaten meat and diary all her life, probably 3 meals a day, was LOVIN' being a vegan and had absolutely NO desire to eat meat... that my friends is nothing short of a miracle, seriously.

A few months later... I hear about the movie Food Inc. and ladies and gentlemen I was in for the SHOCK of my life! I mean I knew our food system wasn't the best, I had heard about hormones in the chicken we eat, pesticides on my veggies, but oh. my. It was SO much worse than I ever thought. (If you haven't seen it, you need to:) This basically thrusted me into buying mostly, if not all, organic foods and doing lots of research and discovering where our food comes from. I had heard several testimonies from different people about how when they switched to all organic foods it made them feel so much better, which needless to say, I was stoked! I did feel somewhat better eating organic, but really after a few months I didn't see the results I was hoping for... and I was starting to get discouraged and wondered why it wasn't make much of a difference.

That's when I decided to purchase the DVD, "Processed People." Which I am SO thankful I did! Processed People came at things from a different angle than Food Inc. which was exactly what I needed to hear. It basically talked more about the type of diet and lifestyle we have in the Western World (esp. in America), and also our horrendous health care system which is really more about "sick care" than it is about teaching us a healthy lifestyle. The doctors interviewed on this Documentary gave example after example of people who have come into their practice with incurable diseases, they taught them healthier ways of eating and living, and they were CURED of these diseases! I want to say it clearly that these were not diet plans, these were lifestyle changes, and most of these patients continued to get healthier and healthier years later as they continued with the diet & lifestyle change. I literally sat their crying, thinking of myself and so many others I know that deal with chronic, incurable diseases... and the best thing the medical field provides is pills for pain and controlling the symptoms, when really our bodies are malnourished and screaming for some REAL food:)! This anger of injustice being done against our bodies (and our environment) burned in my heart, and the Lord really put a resolve in my heart to make changes for myself, as well as bring that change to others & our nation.

The main diet change that Processed People talked about was how we were never made to eat the amount of meat and diary products we do in America, let alone processed and fast foods. If you look at other cultures who eat more of a vegan diet, they live quiet healthy lives till the day they die and suffer with far less degenerative diseases as we do. Let's just say after watching this DVD I was convinced, and I decided that the change that needed to happen was not just switching to organic, but nixing the meat and diary and moving to a vegan diet.

I was NEVER more excited in my LIFE to NOT EAT MEAT! I truly believed that this was one of the biggest changes I needed, and knew I would see the results. I also knew it would not be easy (if you know me well, you know that i <3 meat & diary!), but this was far more important than my cravings, and I felt it was bigger than even just myself. SO, the very end of August of 2010, I set myself on the journey of eating a mostly vegan diet, and I have seen and continue to SEE the RESULTS!!! What's even more interesting is that around this same time my schedule (not intentionally) became more full than it ever had in the last few years since being sick. There were several times that I felt I would crash because of it, since I always had the previous 3 years, but I NEVER did!!!! Crashing for me looks like several things, but the biggest thing is I am forced to lie on the couch all day or maybe up to a week just to recover from pushing myself too hard. The Lord was is so wise to change my diet right before my schedule increased:)!

I am still fighting chronic fatigue and definitely have not been cured YET, but this progress is HUGE. The fact that I don't have to spend most of my time lying on the couch everyday is crazy. The fact that I can participate and enjoy more of life is SO refreshing, and I'm able to do daily activities that most people take for granted. Currently as I write this I haven't even been feeling the best the past few days, but I know I need to testify of this improvement and thank you all so so SO much for your prayers and encouragement while I've been fighting this sickness. The Lord knows I wouldn't of made it this far with out all of you, and especially my roommates who have also embraced a lot of changes as a result and supported me in this change! I <3 you girls!

Maybe partly why I haven't been healed yet was because God didn't just want to heal me of a disease, but He wanted to change my lifestyle and give me a ministry I didn't even know was needed. There's so much more I could say about this journey, but I think this is long enough:):). Excited to continue to walk in this way... and try and bring as many people along as I can!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Old Bay Pretzels

Well, I won't promise you that this recipe is organic but it is a lot better than buying flavored pretzels as you won't have the bad oils, fake and "natural" flavorings and preservatives. It is a great snack to take to a gathering, and since they are spicy you can't eat too many! I'm still on the look-out for a good, organic gluten free pretzel but for now have to settle for the excitement of those who can eat and enjoy!

2 gallon zip-top bag
1/2 c organic olive oil
2-3 T Old Bay (or more if you like them hot!)
1 bag Snyder's Nibblers or 1 28 oz tub of Wege hard pretzels (or your favorite brand/shape)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Pour oil and Old Bay into bag and mix. Add pretzels, seal bag and shake until well coated (I usually shake over the sink just in case it would open on me). Pour onto large cookie sheet in single layer. I will often give another shake of Old Bay once they are on the sheets. Bake 1-1 1/2 hours, stirring/turning occasionally, about every 1/2 hour or so. If you use less oil they take less time, more oil takes more. I usually test them throughout and when they are dry and crunchy they are ready! Cool and place in air-tight container. Usually I will turn off the oven when they are close to being done and let them cool in there. They will most likely stay fresh longer than they can go without being eaten :)


So, I realized I have not made homemade pizza in a while, and it was time :)
A few years ago my sister April made homemade dough for us, and this is the recipe she used. The only changes I made were to use King Arthur's organic bread flour and Hodgson's Mill yeast which is meant to help whole wheat flour rise, and I have had great success with it! I did not have the time to let it have the second rise, it did have a good 45 minutes and looked like this:
Then I punched it down and recovered it and let it rise while I was cutting up the veggies, maybe another 10 minutes, and that worked just fine.

I don't have a round pizza pan so we had to go with a rectangle. I used Nature's Promise Garden Veggie sauce, mozarella and a little colby cheese, purple onions, green peppers and mushrooms (all organic) as well as garlic and onion powder and parsley and oregano on top. Very yummy!

Of course on the page I had printed it did not have the oven temperature or cooking time, so I went for 400 for about 20 minutes, only to find now it was supposed to be 450 for 15. Oh well. The middle of the crust wasn't quite as hard as I would have liked, but the proper baking time/temp will probably fix that!

Banana Muffins

These are the lightest and best banana muffins ever- and I don't even LIKE banana bread or muffins! I definitely want to try this recipe with either pumpkin, butternut squash or yam as well. I got this recipe from Heavenly Homemakers. My only changes were to add cinnamon (if you have read prior posts this does not surprise you) to the flour mixture and vanilla to the banana mixture. I'm sure if you are a nutmeg or allspice fan they would be good as well, or some added walnuts or pecans. I have found that 13-15 minutes bake time is plenty as well. Here's how they turned out (and they don't even need butter added!):

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