Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Memorial Day Dessert

Contributed by Kathleen Pierce

Memorial Day confuses me a little bit. Here is a day that is a day off for remembrance of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice so we can live in a free country...and we are celebrating with cookouts and parties? On the other hand, I suppose that those cookouts and parties are all part of the special freedom we enjoy because of those who gave up their lives. So I like to at least honor the memory of those who died by serving something patriotic at our cookout. Yesterday I made this:

It was an easy creation. Here's how:

1. Make your choice of pie shell - gluten-free or with flour. Press into a tart pan and bake until lightly browned. Cool completely.

2. For the filling: combine 1/2 block of softened cream cheese, 1/4 c. honey, 1 c. of heavy whipping cream whipped to stiff peaks, and 2 t. vanilla. Spread over cooled crust. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

3. Slice strawberries and arrange on tart. Add blueberries to the center. Chill.

A yummy dessert for Memorial Day or for the 4th of July!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Almond Flour Focaccia

Original source: Cooking for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet by Erica Kerwien (the voice behind Comfy Belly)
Contributed by: Kathleen

Pizza Crust (Focaccia)

2 c. blanched almond flour
1/4 t. each dried basil, oregano, garlic powder (optional)
1/8 t. salt
2 eggs
2 c. shredded parmesan cheese (or a softer cheese or mixture of hard and soft)
1 T. olive oil

Mix flour, herbs, and salt together. Add cheese. In a separate bowl, beat eggs and add olive oil. Add egg mixture to dry ingredients and mix. Divide into separate "pies" or keep as one large one. On parchment paper, spread mixture out to desired size, shape, and thickness. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and top with hidden vegetable pizza sauce and whatever other toppings you prefer. Bake for an additional 5-10 minutes.

Parchment paper is one of my newest best friends. Seriously. It makes it possible for me to make things like kale chips and...well, and almond focaccia pizza crust without having to scrape them off my baking pan like yesterday's road kill on Rt. 66. If you don't have a roll several rolls in your pantry, go buy one several now.

To aid in spreading the "dough" out, I find that dipping your fingers in water before attacking the task helps.

Basic Pizza Crust (with Herb variation)

Original source: The Urban Homemaker
Contributed by: Kathleen

Basic Pizza Crust(Makes 2 crusts)

4 c. whole wheat flour
1 T. yeast
1 T. olive oil
1 T. honey
1 1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 c. warm water
3-4 garlic cloves, minced (optional)
1-2 T. each basil and oregano (optional)

Combine oil, honey, water, and yeast in mixing bowl. Allow yeast to bloom. Add salt and flour and mix using the dough hook on your mixer. You may not have to use all 4 cups of flour - use just enough that the dough pulls cleanly off the sides of the bowl. Add in your optional ingredients to make this an herb crust. Knead for 4-5 minutes (and by kneading, I mean with the dough hook, though I suppose you could do it the old fashioned way with some muscle behind it). Let proof for 45 minutes to an hour. Then roll out, top, and bake.

So in the actual recipe that comes from The Urban Homemaker, she says to just mix all ingredients together. I personally like to let my yeast bloom first. I think it's because I just enjoy seeing the concoction poof up. Dare I say it delights me?

She also instructs you to go directly from kneading to rolling out and finishing it up. Not that I like to drag things out or anything, but I prefer to have my dough of any kind proof before I do anything to it. This is probably because my oven has a really cool proof setting, and I feel all professional and Food Network-y using it. Also, there is nothing quite so satisfying as punching down your dough after it's risen. Am I right?

For the toppings, I always, always hide a ton of vegetables in my pizza sauce. Because as most anyone knows who knows my kids, 3 out of 4 of them are deathly allergic to vegetables. That's why this is one of my favorite meals to feed them...they love it, and I can hide so much in it! Today, for example, they are getting pizza topped with kale, red peppers, and onions, and they don't even know it. They are especially allergic to kale. I'm such a mean mom. To hide these insidious ingredients, I just throw them into my NutriBullet and pulverize them into unrecognizable oblivion.

I should play a villain on some sort of Food Network superhero show.

Oh, one other note: I most often feed them pizza for lunch, so if I plan ahead, I make this dough the night before, let it proof, then stick it in the fridge. Then about an hour before lunch, I get the dough container out and let it sit again before proceeding.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

No-Bake Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

Contributed by Kathleen Pierce
Original Source: Lauren's Latest

If you're an avid Pinterest-er like me, you've noticed that if you try to pin a pin you've already pinned before, you get a little message that says, "Pssst! It looks like you have already pinned this." So glad they added that because I am a grievous multi-pinner. Like the pin for these No-Bake Chocolate Chip Granola Bars? I pinned it 4 or 5 times.

So I figured I ought to try it. I did, and I love it!

Here is the original recipe:

1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. honey
1/3 c. packed brown sugar
2 c. quick cooking oats (not rolled oats)
1 c. crispy rice cereal
1/2 t. vanilla
2 T. mini chocolate chips

1. In a large bowl, combine oats and rice cereal.
2. In a saucepan over medium heat, bring butter, honey, and brown sugar to a bubbly boil.
3. Reduce heat and cook for 2 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and add vanilla.
5. Pour hot liquid over oat mixture and mix together.
6. Spread on a lightly greased 12x8x1 pan. (If your pan isn't small enough, pack mixture to one side.)
7. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and press down lightly. (See #8 in the notes below pressing.)
8. Cool to room temperature for about two hours and cut into bars.

1. The original author noted that you should not use rolled oats (in the original, she even punctuates this instruction with a !). I'm a rebel. I don't do quick oats or whatever you call them, so I used rolled oats. And guess what? They turned out just fine.

2. This recipe needs a whole lot more to healthify them. Add whatever you have: coconut, chia seeds, millet, nuts.

3. I hesitated about putting rice cereal in them because the Kelloggs brand is what comes to mind when we think Snap! Crackle! Pop!, and Kelloggs is notorious for their GMO-laden boxes of cereal. So I bought a brown rice brand called Erewhon. Really, you have to add the crispy cereal; it really adds a lot to the texture of the granola bar.

4. I have doubled the recipe each time I have made this because, A) I have 4 kids and B) I wanted to use an entire large jelly roll pan instead of smooshing it over to the side.

5. I found the recipe to be a tad too sweet, so I reduced the (organic) brown sugar to 1/2 c. for a double which is, obviously, 1/4 for a single.

6. I mentioned I'm a rebel. This is especially so when it comes to chocolate. I don't just want chocolate sprinkled OVER the bars. I want chocolate IN the bars. So I added a 1/2 cup (1/4 c. single) mini chips to the oats and cereal. Naturally, they melt when you pour the hot liquid over it...which is perfect!

7. And what is this about 2 tablespoons of chocolate chips to sprinkle on top? On top of one BAR?? Or what? I sprinkle the chips very liberally by the handful.

8. A note about pressing the mixture onto your pan: Spread it all out and take a piece of waxed paper. Press down hard all around, making sure to get all of the edges. Then sprinkle the chocolate chips on and press once again, though maybe not so vigorously the second time. You want to embed the chips into the bars, but you don't want to ruin the integrity of the chips. :-)

9. You can store these in the fridge too - they're just as good.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Chocolate Avocado Mousse

Contributed by Kathleen Pierce
Original Source: Creative Simple Life

Chocolate Avocado Mousse

3 medium ripe avocados
1 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4-1/2 c. honey
2 t. vanilla extract
1/4 t. salt
1 T. milk (optional for thinner consistency)

How I did it (along with how I might do it better next time):
1. I felt just like someone from Food Network Star cutting the avocados open and removing the pits by embedding a knife in them and giving them a twist. (I don't DO avocado, you see, so this was my first experience with the mushy vegetable (?) fruit (?), and I learned the nifty pit removal technique from Bobby Flay.) Scrape all the pulp into a food processor.

2. Dump in all the other ingredients. Be sure to use at least a tablespoon of vanilla. Whip it good.

3. So I ended up using a bit more than 1/2 c. of honey. I wanted to make sure it was sweet enough that the children would actually eat it. I think next time I will try cutting the cocoa powder in half and adding some melted dark chocolate. You can't go wrong with melted dark chocolate. Especially Lindt melted dark chocolate.

4. I also added a bit more than 1 T. milk.

5. I chilled the mousse overnight. The next day it did not have the nice whipped texture it had after swirling around in the food processor for awhile. So I added a bit more milk and used a handmixer to re-whip it.

6. Then of course I served it with whipped cream. It was homemade at least. Well, homemade in that I whipped up some heavy whipping cream. It was grass-fed, organic whipping cream. OK. Enough rationalizing. Someday perhaps I'll try the whipped coconut milk recipe I keep seeing on Pinterest. Until then, grass-fed, organic, semi-homemade whipped cream it is.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Homemade Lotion

Contributed by Kathleen.
Original Source: The Whole New Mom

Do you know how many chemicals are in the lotion or body cream you are currently using? Just take a look at the looong ingredients list! Some culprits: anything that ends with "paraben", fragrances, colors, propylene glycol...just to name a few. It's hard to get away from all of the chemicals and toxins that bombard us everyday, and to purchase the brands that make pure products can get very expensive.

Here is a lotion that is effective both on the skin and on the wallet. It is so easy too!

1/4 c. coconut oil
1/8 c. shea butter
1/8 c. cocoa butter
1 T. aloe vera juice
1 T. jojoba, almond, or other oil
5-10 drops essential oil (noted as optional, but necessary in my book! :-)) (I used 7 drops Wild Orange, 2 drops Lavender, and 1 drop Frankincense)

Over low heat, melt the coconut oil, shea butter, and cocoa butter. Remove from heat and add the rest of the ingredients. Stir well. Then pour into jar. Will take some time for the concoction to "set" into a smooth lotion.

A few notes:
1. The ingredients are easier to find than you would expect. I got the coconut oil at my local grocery store. The shea butter, cocoa butter, aloe vera juice, and jojoba oil I used are all available on Amazon. You can purchase essential oils here.

2. A couple of the items might seem expensive to purchase up front, but when you consider that you use such a small amount to make a jar and 1/2 of lotion, it is a lot cheaper even than buying chemical-laden lotion off the shelf at Wally World.

3. The perfect jar for storing your lotion is the smallest canning jar. These are abundantly available at the moment since it is spring and canning season is coming up. But off season, some grocery stores will still carry, or you can find them on Amazon as well.

4. This lotion can take awhile to set, especially in warm temperatures. If you get frustrated waiting, just stick it in the fridge. It'll set pretty quickly. Better yet, just stick it in the fridge; then you don't have to wait until frustration sets in.

5. Don't make a quadruple batch thinking you'd like to stock your own shelves. Make a single batch and try to use it in a month or so. Since there are no chemicals in this cream, it will not keep for a hundred years like your last bottle of Jergens.

6. This lotion is a tad bit greasy when you first apply it, but the greasy feeling goes away in less than a minute.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Chicken Broth

Contributed by Kathleen.

Next time you cook a whole chicken - or take the easy way out for dinner and pick up one of those rotisserie chickens at the grocery store (not that I EVER do that) - use the leftover carcass to make your own chicken broth. It's done in the crockpot. It's easy peasy.

1. Pick the bones clean and save chicken pieces for chicken noodle soup.

2. Place the bones (that sounds better than carcass, no?) in the crockpot.

3. Now look in your fridge and grab any veggies you see. These are to add flavor and nutritious nutrition to your stock. This time for my stock, I used celery, carrots, onions, and garlic. You don't need to spend much time at all preparing these veggies for their bath. A rinse and very rough cut for the celery, carrots, and onions (I didn't even peel the carrots since they are organic) and a smash for the garlic. Throw them in along with a few bay leaves.

4. Now cover all the stuff with water and add a generous amount of salt.

5. Now turn your crockpot on low and wait. At least let it simmer overnight. Me? I let it go a little longer. Typically, I let it go overnight. Then in the late morning, I steal enough broth to make some chicken noodle soup for lunch. Then I refill the crockpot and add a little more salt and let it go until after dinner.

6. Strain out all the stuff and pour your stock into whatever containers you are using. I use mason jars. I usually put the jars in the fridge overnight and then into the freezer the next morning. This way they aren't in total shock!

And that is all there is to it! I got about 14 cups out of this (plus the generous amount I stole at lunch for our soup!).