Kids Clean Up! Marshmallows

Marsh Cut on Board

It’s time for another installment of Kids Clean Up! It is here that I search for cleaned up recipes of our kids’ favorite processed foods. I promise to bring you the good, the bad and the ugly as some recipes work and others don’t.

Our record of success continues today with this delicious marshmallow recipe. This was a fun one. Why? Because you feel like a rockstar when you can offer someone a homemade marshmallow. Grown-ups and kids are equally impressed.

MARSHMALLOWS! Kids love them and they are filled with junk. Let’s take a look at the ingredient list for Jet Puff Marshmallows, shall we…

Marsh Kraft Label   Marsh Kraft Ingredients

Can we just take a moment to chuckle at the red box that provides a Choking Warning and the tip of “Eat one at a time.” It’s all fuzzy, but underneath it also says, “Children should always be seated and supervised while eating.” Thank you, wise Kraft company, for these illuminating tips. I was going to teach my child to eat five marshmallows at a time, but thanks to your counsel I will provide one marshmallow to my seated and supervised youngster. Now how are they going to win the Chubby Bunny game in high school??

I digress.

So we’ve got corn syrup, sugar, dextrose, modified corn starch, water, gelatin, tetrasodium pyrophosphate, natural and artificial flavor, artificial color (Blue 1). Bleh.

What recipe did I use?

Here is it, from The Urban Poser: Rustic Homemade Marshmallows with Honey. Click over to see the ingredient amounts and the step by step instructions. Even better, because The Urban Poser is awesome, she has a how-to video at the bottom of her blog post which is super clear and supportive.

Our marshmallow ingredient list looks like this: honey, gelatin, vanilla, sea salt and filtered water. That’s it.

Marsh Ingredients

I quickly realized that only three things stand in your way of making nutrient-rich clean marshmallows. Figure these three things out and the rest is truly easy. No joke.

Thing One: You need to have a candy thermometer. Do it without and it is no longer easy.

Thing Two: You need a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Do it without and it is no longer easy.

Thing Three: You need a source for high quality gelatin from grass-fed cows. Do it without and it is no longer clean as it is most likely made from cows on factory farms, called Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations or CAFOs. This is not clean due to the quality of the gelatin and the conditions for the animals. Here is my recommendation for high quality gelatin: Great Lakes Unflavored Gelatin. In all of my clean food blogger circles, this product comes up again and again as the clear favorite. It’s a big bottle and will make you clean jell-o, marshmallows and gummy snacks for a LONG time.

For some of you, maybe we need to take a step back and acknowledge that gelatin based foods are made from animals. Gelatin is the collagen pulled out of the by-products like bones, tendons, hooves, cartilage. For those of us who eat meat, quality gelatin has many health benefits. You can read this blog post by Wellness Mama for more details on the wonders of gelatin, if you’d like. For my vegetarian friends, I found this recipe for marshmallows that uses agar instead of gelatin, but it has many other ingredients in it that I avoid, so it’s not perfect by a long shot.

If you have things one through three figured out, all you need to do is watch the video and away you go.

The Results: Oh boy, are these super flavorful marshmallows with the distinct flavor of the honey and the perfecto marshmallow-y texture. You cut them up to whatever size you’d like. (This was hard for me for some reason, like I’d never thought about what my ideal marshmallow size would be.) The kids all noticed immediately that the marshmallows tasted like honey. It slowed them down for about a millisecond and then they chowed the marshmallow down and asked for another. I used a pretty strongly flavored honey, so I’m guessing a milder flavored honey like clover might be closer to the classic marshmallow taste.

We keep eating them plain, but I plan on toasting one with my culinary torch. I hear they don’t work real well for toasting over an open fire because they melt before turning brown and fall off your stick. The best s’more action happens by placing the graham cracker, marshmallow and chocolate in tin foil and placing the whole thing over the fire for a bit. I’m also going to use them for some version of a rice krispie treat and see how that goes. I really can’t wait to play around with them to see what else I can do!

Here are some fun photos of the process:
Marsh Pot

Candy thermometer is KEY!!

Marsh Beginning Whisk

Honey soup just added to the gelatin and water.

Marsh Whipped

Seriously! This is where the magic happened. In just seven minutes of whipping on high, this beautiful marshmallow creme appeared. Just think what you could do with this marshmallow creme in a piping bag, in chocolate mousse, as an ice cream topping… YUM!

Marsh in Pan

Here is the marshmallow creme in the pan. I used parchment to tamp it down. Next time, I might just dab my fingers in coconut oil and go without the paper. It was a little tricky to pull off afterwards. I did use a dusting of arrowroot powder on the bottom and that worked like a charm.

Marsh Lump

Here is my marshmallow lump four hours later. While taking this photo I am realizing that the Jet Puff people are not the boss of me and I can chop my marshmallows up in whatever sizes I want. This leads to confusion and stress and about twenty different sizes as I change my mind over and over.

Marsh Storage

This is how I store my marshmallows. This is about 3/4 of a batch as the family has already eaten many many marshmallows at this point.

You guys, if we can make beautiful clean marshmallows, we can clean-up anything!! Seems like I better get to work on graham crackers so I can finish these s’mores up.

Then what should I work on next??

Check out our past Kids Clean Up:

Chocolate Syrup   Chocolate Sauce

IMG_5773  Magic Shell

Weekly Tip: Check Your Honey and Olive Oil

honey and olive oil

Two of my kitchen’s heaviest lifters are honey and extra virgin olive oil and I strongly encourage them to become a main player in your conscience eating efforts as well. But as with all things food related, it seems lately that both of these ingredients must be selected carefully, because all honey and olive oil are not created equal.

HONEY:  In order to be considered “honey,” food safety organizations require that honey have pollen in it. This seems really reasonable, because when you get honey from bees and put it in a jar it has pollen in it. Delicious. All is well.

But here’s the sticky part (pun intended), food safety organizations can tell where a honey comes from by analyzing this pollen. Who cares? The food safety organizations do. Because if they can’t tell where it came from, they can’t deem it safe. And that is apparently why MOST companies selling honey are taking it out. Because they are buying cheap ultra-filtered unsafe honey from China (where antibiotics are often found in honey) and selling it to their US customers in cute little bear containers. This is illegal by the way, but unregulated.

VOCAB WORD OF THE DAY: Melissopalynologist – an investigator of pollen in honey.

A “premiere” melissopalynologist (is there really more than one in the world!?!) took samples of honey from grocery stores, big box stores and drug stores and found that 76% of them had no pollen in them. Whoops. That’s a big fail. This included 100% from the drugstore honey samples – no pollen, 77% from the Costcos, Sams Clubs, Targets – no pollen, 76% from the grocery stores – no pollen. And I should mention that 100% of the fast food sample packets had none, but then who is that surprising at this point?

Honey is GOOD. Creepy de-pollened secret honey from China is, well CREEPY. So do me a favor and find a farmers market and buy yourself some honey from a real person who took care of the bees and smiles and thanks you personally for your support. If you can’t do that, the study showed that 100% of the honey from natural food stores and Trader Joes had the full amount of pollen. So there’s another option for you.


EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL: The highest quality of all the olive oils, extra virgin means the oil is defect free, produced without chemical solvents and should have the taste of fresh olives. This is all a lot of work to comply with, and thus extra virgin olive oil costs a bunch more than the other grades. Turns out it is also rather unregulated and easy to slip in other oils (either lesser grades of olive oil or other oils altogether – cheap canola, sunflower, for example.)

The University of California at Davis Olive Center (did you know they have an Olive Center – how cool is that!?) conducted tests in 2010 and found… wait for it… 2/3 of the olive oils they analyzed were not what they claimed to be. Some even had nut oils mixed in, which seems horrendous given the nut allergy situation these days. One article I read implicated the Italian Mafia in this mess and stated that 80% of the oil in some bottles of extra virgin olive oil is something else. I’m not sure which of those statements is more alarming.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a beautiful fat, and the number one oil I’d recommend you use for your salad dressings, final drizzles over pastas and rustic bread dipping. So if you have access to a farmers market with an olive oil table, go find out all about their oils, enjoy a tasting and purchase your favorite. Whole Foods and the Nugget also have olive oil tastings sometimes. If you don’t have this option, check out this link by Truth in Olive Oil for more than you ever wanted to know about selecting an olive oil. Or if you find yourself becoming a little olive oil obsessed you can read Tom Mueller’s book Extra Virginity.


Sometimes eating real (good) food seems remarkably challenging. But if we just break it down into little steps, and clean things up a thing or two at a time, pretty soon our kitchen is rather transformed.  Perhaps honey and olive oil could be your little step for now.

I am a work in progress. And I’d like to take a time machine to 1871. That’s all.

River quote small

It feels like it has been a million years since I’ve had – count them – TWO whole hours by myself to sit down and give my favorite little blog some love and attention. I have shipped my sweet little people back off to school (by ship, I mean they are a half a mile away expanding their minds for six hours a day).

This is really great news for me, because my head cannot hold all the fun food thoughts and ideas that come and go throughout the day. I have wished I could remember them in the few minutes a week I gazed adoringly at my computer this summer.

But I am a work in progress, and progress we shall make!

Everywhere I look, I see things I would like to do better, would like to learn more about, would like to try. It can be maddening. Luckily my hope is to live long and prosper, so I have time to explore all the things I can imagine plus more.

One of the things I will remember most about this summer is reading “Little House in the Big Woods” to my six-year-old. We cuddled up at night and I would read a chapter or two. She loved Laura’s story of homesteading in 1871 – her chores, her dog Jack, Pa’s fiddle, and her rag doll. Yes, yes, that’s all very sweet and fun.

But for me, I couldn’t help but be completely enthralled and fascinated by Ma and Pa and all they did to eat (and avoid bears, but that’s only because bears freak me out). Ma and Pa were so connected to the land and the rhythms of the seasons. They had such reverence and understanding of the animals. I can’t forget the image of Pa “hunting” by sitting up in a tree on a moon lit night NOT shooting a bear because the woods were so peaceful that he forgot all about the gun.

Ma and Pa’s foresight, planning, and plain old hard work is inspiring. It makes my meal planning, lame ol’ herb garden, Community Supported Agriculture subscription, and beef share seem like whoppy-freakin-doo.

And the way they celebrated maple syrup season (with big parties), finding honey (with all-you-could-eat-buffets), and buying a candy from the town store (never to eat it, because it was too pretty and special), made me realize that my own culture’s preoccupation with sugar comes from these roots. We just have too much of the sugar and not enough of the planning and hard work for the other 99% of the food we should be eating. It’s hard to celebrate a piece of candy when you get 35 in a bag and you get a bag every few days — or whatever our sugar of choice looks like.

Anywho… I’m rambling because it was awesome, thought-provoking and in many ways I’d love to see the world a little closer to the 1871-Wisconsin-Big Woods version, instead of the one we’ve managed to create. I could do without the bears, but I’d throw a sweet Maple Syrup Party. And you’d all be invited.

Like I said, I’m a work in progress and if you are too then I think you’ll enjoy the future of the Lean.Green.Kitchen. Thanks for being a part of the progress.


Food for Thought: Road Trip

LGK Logo

Howdy everyone! I should be doing last-minute laundry, food prep and reviewing my many packing lists. Of course, I should have been doing these things all week, but I got really involved in a book I was reading, the kids had a bunch of commitments, and I was most definitely procrastinating. I find it to be very challenging for us conscientious/clean eaters to know what to do about a road trip. Especially if you are not a Holly Homesteader who food plans and preps days or weeks in advance routinely. I look forward to the days when I have canned foods in my beautiful dream pantry and frozen meals I’ve made over a long weekend in my shiny deep freezer in my big garage (I currently don’t have a garage or a deep freezer).

Here are the four guidelines I’m following for our six-day road trip adventure.

  1. Understand that we aren’t going to eat like we do at home. Be okay with it – in fact, embrace and enjoy it. For example, today I had a great time picking out some processed foods at Trader Joe’s. Many of my choices are things I wouldn’t normally buy, but they are much better options than anything we’ll find on the road. Convenient food is meant for just these situations, right!?
  2. Have a food plan/menu that includes cleaned-up camping favorites. My self-proclaimed “semi-vegetarian” six-year old’s favorite meal is hot dogs and mac n cheese. So I purchased what I consider a clean option for hot dogs (Applegate) and a mac n cheese (Annie’s) that uses real organic cheese and has no food dyes or additives.
  3. Pack the cooler with as many healthy options as we can cram in there. I went a little crazy on the fruit, veggie slices, organic cheeses, and nuts and nut butters.
  4. Take some of our staples. We are packing our honey, coconut oil, butter from grass-fed dairy, our favorite dark chocolate chips, tea, probiotics and coconut water.

So what do you think? Could I make it all cleaner, sure. But I’m just not there yet, and wonder if I really ever want to get that compulsive. Not sure where this journey will ultimately lead me. For now, I feel like we are balancing the fun of vacation with my goal of providing a base of quality nutrient-rich food to my family so we can be at our best to enjoy our time. Good enough.