Monday, February 27, 2012

Almond Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies

Life has been so busy the past few weeks.  I feel like I've just been shuffling my children from one thing to the next, putting them to bed, and then starting all over the next day.  Last Friday we had a snow day and even my husband was home from work.  We had an entire day to relax and have fun together.  I noticed that my children's behavior problems and bickering lessened dramatically.  It is so hard for me to just slow down.  So in an effort to extend our fun, relaxed weekend, today I promised my children we would make cookies and watch a movie together after our schoolwork was finished. We did a little cookie experimenting and these turned out just great! 

Almond Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies

5 1/2 cups almond flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda
3/4 cup of coconut oil warmed to liquid
2 eggs
3/4 cup of honey
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Stir almond flour, sea salt, and baking soda in a large bowl.  Beat coconut oil, eggs, honey, and vanilla in a medium bowl.  Combine wet and dry ingredients.  Fold in chocolate chips.  Place on parchment paper in heaping tablespoons.  If dough is sticking, refrigerate for 15 minutes until it becomes firmer.  Bake for 7-10 minutes. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Gluten free homemade macaroni and cheese

Almost every child loves macaroni and cheese.  It was the first thing I learned to make.  I remember coming home from high school almost every day and making box after box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.  Those little bright orange, salty noodles would just slide down my throat...

We try to eat few grains in our house, but sometimes it is nice to have a meal that will only bring smiles from our children.  We replace pasta made from wheat flour with rice pasta.  I have tried quite a few different kinds of rice noodles and was pretty disappointed because they were very mushy.  Then I found Tinkyada Brown Rice Pasta.  Most people can't even tell it is different.  I buy it from our co-op in 10 pound packages.

Macaroni and Cheese
1 pound rice noodles
1/8 cup butter
8 oz cheddar cheese (grated or cut into small pieces)
1 cup of milk
1 Tablespoon of arrowroot powder (optional but it makes a thicker sauce)
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
1/2 package of frozen spinach (optional)
Cook noodles according to package directions.  Steam spinach.  Place butter, cheese, milk, arrowroot powder, and pepper in a sauce pan and stir constantly over medium heat until cheese had melted and sauce has thickened.  Combine noodles, spinach, and sauce.

I have to say, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese doesn't even compare!

Homemade "Jello"

I answer so many questions on Facebook about recipes, traditional foods, etc.  I need to blog more, so I have a place to send people!  Today we were discussing homemade "Jello".  Most children love Jello.  I think of the bright green, red, even blue Jello we ate as children.  But have you taken a second to look at the ingredients on the commonly used boxes of Jello?  You'll see artificial food coloring, artificial sweeteners, artificial flavorings, preservatives, and/or corn syrup.  Gelatin, which is the main ingredient in Jello and can be purchased in an unflavored/unsweetened form at your favorite grocery store, is also an animal by-product.  It is made from the bones and hides of animals-unhealthy animals that are raised in factory farms.

Gelatin itself can have many health benefits. It can help heal the gut.  It strengthens hair and nails and it is known to help stiff or sore joints.  It can also provide a protein boost when eaten with other foods.

The way to receive the health benefits of gelatin without exposing yourself to the unhealthy Jello ingredients above, is of course to make your own!

I purchase Great Lakes Unflavored Kosher Gelatin from Amazon.  Great Lakes Gelatin is from grass fed animals that are assured to be free of antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, or herbicides.  I calculated the price to be only 34 cents more than the unflavored gelatin at my local grocery store and the two containers sold on Amazon will make 64-108 batches of Jello.

Here is our recipe.

1 3/4 cup cold juice (freshly squeezed fruit is best- apple, grape and orange are our favorites)
1/4 cup hot (not quite boiling juice)
Honey as desired
Fresh or frozen fruit (berries, peaches, oranges slices)
Shredded coconut (optional)
1-2 Tablespoons of gelatin (if you want a thicker Jello, use more)

Mix gelatin in the cold juice and let soften while heating the remaining juice in a pan.  Mix hot and cold liquids until all gelatin is dissolved.  Add fruit and coconut.  Pour into a mold or casserole dish and refrigerate until firm.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Aroma of Life

Cooler temperatures are here and fall is coming. All the windows are open and the breeze is flowing through the house. This morning my children and I picked beets and long, bright orange and purple carrots from our garden. While I carefully cut off all the greens and brushed the dirt off the roots, my children played Peter Pan, chasing each other around with a carrot that looked like a hook.

I blanched the beet greens and froze them to eat this winter. Some of the carrot greens went into a huge pot of chicken broth I had started on the stove. I also washed and prepared fresh basil and parsley, both from our garden and the CSA. I'll put some in the stock an hour before it is finished and dry the rest. Mint tea, made with fresh leaves, is steeping on the stove. My house and my hands smell like heaven. If only I could find a way to bottle this smell and this day. Thank you God for your blessings.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Soup for the Postpartum Mother

In non-Western cultures throughout history, the postpartum period was considered a sacred time. Postpartum women were cherished and honored. The mothers were the center of attention, not the baby. They were not allowed to do anything at all stressful and were catered to by everyone around them. Their only expectation was to rest and take care of the baby. This postpartum period lasted at least a month and often longer. Although traditions vary greatly among cultures, two common themes were warmth and lots of nourishing food, including soup. The kind of soup varies. In Asian countries, women were fed seaweed soup. In Jamaica, Guatemala, and Lebanon, chicken soup was common. In Burma, mothers were fed oxtail soup. Source. Source. Source.

Soup is one of the most nutrient dense foods in the world. Properly prepared soup is full of easily absorbed nutrients and minerals. Tradition and scientific studies have contributed amazing health benefits to soup, especially to soup including bone broth. It is said to strengthen bones and teeth, heal the gut, improve hair, nails and skin, strengthen immunity, enhance sleep, and heal numerous illnesses. Source.

When I bring food to a postpartum mother, one of my favorite things to bring is soup. Since processed or canned soup does not have the same health benefits as homemade soup, I take great care in making the soup. The first step is to make chicken stock. I only use locally raised, free range chickens. I place the bones and chicken parts in the slow cooker with a splash of apple cider vinegar (this helps to bring out the minerals in the bones). Next, I add whatever vegetables I might have around. This often includes carrots, celery, garlic, and onions. It also may include fresh herbs, especially parsley which I put in near the end of the cooking time.

I use local and/or organic vegetables whenever possible. Last, I fill the slow cooker with filtered water. I let the chicken and vegetables sit at room temperature for about an hour and then turn the slow cooker to low. The stock cooks for 12-36 hours. When it is finished, I strain out the vegetables and bones and put the stock into glass jars. Look here for specific quantities and directions.

Stock can be used in all sorts of recipes. I store it in the freezer so I always have some on hand. By the way, the leftover vegetables and bones make wonderful dog food! The bones get very soft when they are cooked for so long and are still full of nutrients that are wonderful for pets! There is no danger in the dog chewing and digesting these bones.

My next step is to make the actual soup. Again, what I put in it varies according to what is available to me. I often start with brown rice. After 20 minutes or so, I might add onions, garlic, and celery. I sometimes add carrots, summer squash (shredded is best), broccoli, cauliflower, peas, green peas, or kale. Last, I add Himalayan salt or sea salt. The entire process sounds complicated, but it really is not that time consuming, especially considering that I make 3-4 gallons of soup or stock at a time and freeze it.

One of my goals in starting Nurturing Traditions Postpartum Doula Services is to bring back and recreate postpartum traditions. Feeding friends and clients healthy food, including chicken soup, is one time honored tradition that I love to reinstate.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Community Supported Agriculture

For the last three years, we have been part of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) through Garden Gate Farm. A CSA is an arrangement made with a farmer (usually well before their crops are planted) to purchase a share of their harvest. Most often, a variety of produce is included in a CSA, but sometimes other farm products such as honey, eggs, bread, meat, etc. are included as well.

CSAs are becoming more and more popular and have numerous benefits for both the farmer, you the consumer, and the environment. Farmers benefit by having the money they need upfront to cover some of their costs. They have security in knowing the price and quantity at which their crops will be purchased. They also are able to focus marketing efforts of their food before their busy seasons begin. Consumers benefit by getting the freshest produce possible at a low price. A variety of items are available throughout the growing season and consumers can try different foods (most CSAs provide their members with recipes). And, anytime you buy local you decrease your food's carbon footprint in the reduced miles traveled from farm to your table. Additionally, we've witnessed the ways our CSA farm is committed to sustainable, organic and biodynamic practices.

The relationship between the farmer and the consumer is a key component of a successful CSA. We know exactly where our food comes from and how it is grown. Our family has visited "our" farm and has had the opportunity to help at the farm each year. Our farmers know our family and they frequently ask for our feedback. There is some shared risk associated with a CSA. The consumer is basically purchasing a portion of the farmer's crop. If the growing season is poor, the consumer will get less food. Again, this is where relationship comes in. You must be able to trust that your farmer did the best he or she could and that the next season will be better.

Our experience the last 3 years with Garden Gate Farm has been nothing less than excellent. We have always received plenty of beautiful, fresh produce. In September we paid $500 for this season's CSA. That included discounts for paying early and participating in Field Clean-Up Day at the farm. Our $500 went toward a Regular Season Share which is meant to feed a family of four. Each week, we receive about a 1 1/9 bushel bushel box of vegetables, fruits, and herbs. Depending on the time of year, it may be a little more and it may be a little less. The season starts mid June and lasts 14-16 weeks. That comes out to $31-36 a week for a bushel of organic, sustainably grown produce.

Garden Gate Farm is the third CSA of which we have taken part. Our first CSA was not a good experience, which is why I highly recommend that you get references and ask a lot of questions before joining a CSA. Our second CSA was with Swier Family Farm. We also had a wonderful experience with them but decided to try Garden Gate Farm since their delivery site was much closer to our home.

Today was our first delivery of the season from Garden Gate Farm. As the season progresses, the amount of food we receive will increase, but today we received rhubarb, lettuce, chard, garlic scapes, tea leaves, basil, parsley, kale, scallions, popcorn, and tomatoes (our farmers extend their growing season with greenhouses and raised beds).