It’s October. Let’s Enjoy Treats, Not Mindlessly Gorge on Them. We Can Do This!

pumpkin blog ready

Welcome to October. This past week I had a little a-ha moment and wanted to share, in case it resonants with you as well.

Last weekend I made a few homemade treats for my husband’s birthday. It was so fun and so easy because I used ingredients that included sugar, flour and cream. With these ingredients everything was basically guaranteed to turn out dreamily (and it did!) I made brownies, cookies and chocolate ice cream – all the birthday boy’s favorites.

Then we had a few people over and we ate them. The end.

It should be the end, right? That’s how treats work in the perfect world:

  • There is something celebratory going on.
  • A person lovingly makes a special food using pronounceable ingredients.
  • A group of people come together and enjoy the treat in accompaniment with other fun activities.
  • And then we move on in our lives back to nutrient-rich conscious eating for our health.

But this is October, so that’s not how treats will roll out for most of us.

  • We will be bombarded with little packaged candies in every house, school and work cubby,
  • Pinterest-worthy Halloween themed treats will be at every event (big or small), and
  • Pumpkin spiced sugary hot drinks will somehow be desired and easily obtained every day.

I encourage us all to make this October the month we evaluate our mindless treat eating and drinking habits.

  • If you don’t feel like your energy is as high as you’d like it,
  • if your immunity is not as strong as you would like it,
  • if your belly is not as tight as you would like it,
  • if your mood is not as peppy as you would like it…

… then you may wish to experiment with turning treats back into what they were designed to be: a special celebratory accompaniment to other fun activities made and consumed with happiness and love. If consuming a treat won’t make you feel wonderful in every way, then SKIP IT!

If you love baking, hot sweet drink consuming, and the smell of pumpkin spice, then use your powers for good and make beautiful, autumn-y, cleaned-up, nutrient-rich, real foods using ingredients that build us up and power us forward. Here are a few of my recommendations:

Pumpkin Spice Mini Muffins from the Gracious Pantry — I use whole eggs or flax “eggs.” Egg whites are so 2000.

Pumpkin Spice Granola from Sally’s Baking Addiction — I say ditch the egg whites and use two extra tablespoons of coconut oil.

Upside Down Apple Tartlets from Elana’s Pantry found on Rubies and Radishes — Just go look at these. They are beautiful!! (I haven’t made them, just drooled on my computer over them.)

Pumpkin Spice Creamer from Coconut Mama — I don’t even like coffee and this looks yummy. I’m going to add it to my Chai tea!

Healthy Halloween Treats on Pinterest — There are SO many great ideas for ways to incorporate Halloween into your food without sky-diving out of a plane into ProcessedFoodTown and/or SugarVille. If you have the time, energy and creative spirit to throw a little holiday fun into your October, then I say you do it! And this Pinterest link leads to hundreds of ideas to get you started.

candy rain This is what SugarVille and ProcessedFoodTown looks like when the candy rains down. ;)

Enjoy October everyone!

 

Interested in the Lean.Green.Kitchen’s Halloween Manifesto? You’ll find it here:

Halloween Manifesto  Halloween Manifesto

Nectarine Ice Cream (non dairy, refined sugar free)

nectarine ice cream The first month with our new ice cream maker (affiliate link) was so much fun. I made fantastic vanilla, chocolate, and mint chocolate chip ice cream and wooed my friends and family. It was so splendidly summer, but once you have a little homemade ice cream, you then want it all the time. And there it was in the freezer calling my name each overly warm evening.

So I came up with this EASY recipe to clean up my ice cream act and celebrate the nectarines all around me without all the sugar and cream! It’s especially good with a few chocolate chips on top!

NECTARINE ICE CREAM (non dairy, refined sugar free)

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 super ripe nectarines (the one’s you can get at the farm stand for super cheap because of their ripeness), roughly chopped
  • fresh squeezed lemon juice from 1/2 of a lemon
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 13.5oz can coconut milk

Instructions:

  1. Place the chopped nectarines in a bowl or Ziploc bag and squeeze the lemon juice over them. Allow to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes or so.
  2. Puree nectarines with maple syrup and coconut milk in blender.
  3. Refrigerate puree.
  4. When chilled, pour into ice cream maker. Soft serve consistency was achieved after about 25 minutes in the ice cream maker.
  5. Enjoy at soft serve consistency or place into the freezer for harder ice cream texture.

I would guess this would work with peaches and apricots as well. And you could play with add-ins too, like chocolate chips, nuts, shredded coconut, etc. Report back if you make something great!

nectarine ice cream

Crunchy Granola Recipe (Paleo, Gluten Free, Vegan, Insanely Delicious!!)

granola recipe

Here it is… The Granola Recipe that is delicious, crunchy, nutrient-packed and so easy to make! It makes a nice big batch of super versatile goodness. Grab a handful for a snack, use it as a cereal substitute, take your parfaits up about ten notches!

Crunchy Granola

Dry Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup Ground Flax Seeds
  • 1 cup Raw Pumpkin Seeds
  • 1 cup Raw Sunflower Seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups Almond Meal
  • 2 cups Shredded Unsweetened Coconut
  • 4 cups Raw Slivered Almonds
  • 1 t Cinnamon
  • 1 t Sea Salt
  • 1/2 t Baking Soda

Wet Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup Coconut Oil (melted)
  • 1/2 cup Raw Honey (or Maple Syrup to make it Vegan)
  • 1 T Vanilla Extract

Add ins:

  • Raisins or Dried Cranberries

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
  2. Mix together all the Dry Ingredients in a BIG bowl.
  3. Combine the Wet Ingredients in a SMALL bowl.
  4. Stir the Wet Ingredients into the BIG bowl with the Dry Ingredients until evenly distributed.
  5. Spread the mixture onto two baking sheets as thinly and evenly as possible.
  6. Bake until toasted – from 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  7. Remove from oven and stir on the baking sheets to bring the edges to the center and the center to the edges.
  8. Place back in the oven for 15 more minutes.
  9. Remove from oven and let cool completely on the baking sheets.
  10. Crumble the granola as you remove it from the baking sheets and add in the raisins or cranberries.
  11. Store in a dry, cool place (like a 1/2 gallon glass mason jar) and enjoy!

BIG THANKS to one of my earliest friends (I think we met when we were three years old!) and a Lean.Green.Kitchen community member Melissa, who sent this recipe my way. The world needs this granola!!

Granola Recipe  Yogurt Parfait? Why, yes thank you!

Granola Recipe  Granola Cereal? Don’t mind if I do.

I would highly recommend putting together a batch of homemade yogurt to go with all this granola goodness!

homemade yogurt   The Easiest Real Food You’re Not Making… Yet!

Kids Clean Up! The Shamrock Shake

Healthy Shamrock Shake Recipe

It is March and in the past that meant two things: 1. Time to celebrate my birthday and 2. Time to get my annual Shamrock Shake from Mickey Dees. Now-a-days it means: 1. Time to celebrate my son’s birthday and my birthday and 2. Time to get some ice cream to make my own healthy Shamrock Shake recipe.

What is a Shamrock Shake?

A Shamrock Shake is a minty green milkshake made famous by McDonalds and sold only during the month of St. Patrick’s Day (March 17th). It is not a healthy treat. It’s pretty disgusting. It contains 54 ingredients, most of them are chemicals from a lab and refined sugar or sugar-like products. It contains 820 calories and most horrendous to me, 115g of sugar. That is over 27 teaspoons of sugar which equals about a 1/2 a cup of sugar!!

This infographic by the Huffington Post lists out all the ingredients in an easy to view format. I highly encourage you to check it out real quick: What’s Really In That Shamrock Shake?

How can we clean this up? There are a few options here, depending on what level of splurging you are interested in and your dietary preferences. I’ve come up with three healthy Shamrock Shake recipes to meet your needs.

And the secret ingredient for that fun green color is… nutrient-rich fresh spinach. It adds color and you can’t even taste it! Boom, this Shamrock Shake just got a rocket boost to planet good-for-you.

Shake One. ShamROCK Your Socks Off Shake: This one is for those interested in a cleaner but still classic Shamrock Milkshake. It contains dairy and the ice cream contains sugar. It removes the laboratory chemicals and over half the sugar and adds our secret ingredient for that important green color! I have found Straus Organic Vanilla Bean Ice Cream to be the cleanest “real” ice cream in stores around my house. Look at the labels and find one with ingredients you believe should be in ice cream! Or you could make your own with this beautiful recipe from Ted Allen: Vanilla Ice Cream with Honey.

Healthy Shamrock Shake Recipe

Recipe: ShamROCK Your Socks Off Shake

Ingredients

  • 4 medium scoops of high quality organic vanilla ice cream (about two cups)
  • 1 cup of whole organic milk (you could also use cream or half and half if you’d like it really creamy)
  • 3/4 teaspoon of peppermint extract
  • 1 large handful of fresh spinach

Instructions

  1. Blend it all up in a blender.
  2. Serve in two glasses. Can be topped with fresh whipped cream and a few mini chocolate chips if you are really going for it!

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 2

Shake Two. SHAMrock Non-Dairy Shake: This one’s for my dairy-free crew and uses vanilla coconut milk ice cream and almond milk as “sham” dairy. You can make your own “ice cream” with this delicious recipe from Coconut Mama: Coconut Milk Vanilla Ice Cream. It’s easy if you have an ice cream maker. Or you can buy coconut milk vanilla ice cream, but note that they usually have some added ingredients that you wouldn’t use at home (like tapioca syrup, fructan, acacia gum, sunflower lecithin, locust bean gum and guar gum). I used Julie’s Organic Non-Dairy Coconut Milk Frozen Dessert (Simply Vanilla flavored) for this recipe.

Healthy Shamrock Shake Recipe

Recipe: SHAMrock Non-Dairy Shake

Ingredients

  • 4 medium scoops (or about 2 cups) of vanilla flavored coconut milk non dairy ice cream
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1 large handful fresh spinach

Instructions

  1. Blend it all up in a blender.
  2. Serve in two glasses. May be topped with a little dark chocolate shavings or a mint leaf.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 2

Shake Three. Get Lucky Shammy Smoothie: This one’s for those of us looking for big flavor and no refined sugar. Lots of nutrients and still big green fun. Shoot, you could have this one for breakfast. In fact, I just did. :)

Healthy Shamrock Shake Recipe

Recipe: Get Lucky Shammy Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 8oz frozen ripe bananas (about 1 1/2 bananas)
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk (almond milk would also work)
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large handful of fresh spinach

Instructions

  1. Blend it all up in a high quality blender.
  2. Serve in two glasses. Top with a mint leaf.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 2

Enjoy this beautiful month everyone! Hope you find pots of gold at the end of the rainbow and find time for a cleaned up Shamrock Shake or two.

Healthy Valentine Treats

Healthy Valentine Treat

What if this year, instead of gorging on chalky little heart candies and overly processed chocolates in little packages, you truly shared your love with others and made nutrient-rich healthy valentine treats?

They are easy. They taste better. They feel special. They look fancy.

You’ll have a smile on your face while making them, and your recipients will have a smile on their face enjoying them. Win win. Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

Healthy Valentine Treats

Recipe: Black Cherry Chip Non Dairy Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 10oz frozen bananas
  • 16oz frozen black cherries (divided)
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2t vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup dark chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. In quality blender, blend all ingredients EXCEPT for 4oz of frozen black cherries and chocolate chips. Blend until smooth like soft serve ice cream.
  2. Remove “ice cream” from blender into a tupperware container.
  3. Put remaining 4oz of frozen black cherries into blender and blend on low for just a few seconds until black cherries get chopped up a bit.
  4. Add chunky cherries and the chocolate chips to the “ice cream” and stir in with a spatula.
  5. Serve immediately for soft serve (delicious!!) or freeze until hard for scooping (also delicious!!). Can be garnished with whipped cream, chocolate sauce, magic shell or a few more chocolate chips. Goes especially well with brownies and port.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Number of servings: 6ish (I mean let’s be honest, two of us may have taken a whole batch down at one point. But I also made a batch and served six people reasonable servings with some to spare for later.)

Healthy Valentine Treat

Big love to the Smitten Kitchen – her delicious recipe for brownie cookies made a MARVELOUS accompaniment to this treat. We made little “ice cream” sandwiches that were delectable!

PLUS 2 MORE EXCELLENT, EASY, DELISH, NUTRIENT-RICH TREATS:

Healthy Valentine Treat

Raspberry Secrets

Simply buy beautiful dark chocolate chips and a box of raspberries. Stick a chip into each raspberry and serve! Shhhh… it’s a secret that something this good is this easy.

Healthy Valentine Treats

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

These are so easy and decadent! Place a saucepan with an inch or so of water in the bottom on the stove top and turn on heat to medium-low. Place a metal or glass mixing bowl on top (to make a double boiler) and pour in 1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips and a tablespoon of coconut oil. Use spatula to stir around until the chocolate and oil are melted and incorporated together.  Turn off heat. Dip clean, dry strawberries into the chocolate to cover and place on parchment lined cookie sheet. Once you are finished dipping your strawberries, place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or so (until chocolate is cool and hardened).  Go crazy and sprinkle shredded coconut or mini chocolate chips over them to beautify them for the big day, prior to placing them in the refrigerator.

Want more ideas? I’ve been pinning like crazy over on Pinterest as I see Valentine’s food that fits my real food lifestyle. Check out my Valentine Food board.

Also, Almond (True Joy) Bark would be a pretty beautiful treat.

Healthy Treat

And there are a few more ideas on this old blog post all about Cleaned Up Treats.

Healthy Treat

And don’t forget Kids Clean Up Magic Shell

Healthy Treat

And Kids Clean Up Chocolate Sauce!

Chocolate Syrup

 

Hope you and yours have a super lovey heart day!! 

The Easiest Real Food You’re Not Making… Yet! Homemade Yogurt

homemade yogurt

I’m going all-out-hippie-chick on the blog today, crew. And dragging you along with me. Homemade yogurt is your ticket to high quality, affordable organic probiotic goodness. And it is so easy!! You’ll thank me when you are scooping that first luscious, creamy bite of yogurt out of your crock pot.

Of all the “it-looks-like-a-health-food, but-it-is-not” propaganda circulating out there, it seems like most people have gotten the message on conventional yogurt. It is basically a processed dessert in a little container, whether you call it breakfast or kids afternoon snack or end of soccer game treat. Each container is filled with sugars, corn syrups, coloring agents, flavoring agents, stabilizers, and other unpleasantness.

But that’s only the stuff you’ll find in the conventional dairy section of your grocery store. If you travel over to the health food aisle or a natural foods store, you can find a whole other group of options, many of which are delicious and nutritious and made from organic cow milk that was not pumped up with terrible chemicals in horrible conditions and then flavored with man-made lab fluids. Big problem here for many of us – the good stuff is expensive. Like $8.00 for a quart expensive.

Now yogurt happens to be one of very few probiotic/fermented foods that my daughter will eat. In fact, she loves it and requests it regularly. So when I heard that it was simple to make, I knew this was my ticket to happy-daughter-gut-health-without-financial-hardship.

Then I proceeded to fail completely with my first batch. And learned the number one rule of yogurt making – know your milk. And now, by teaching you this one homemade yogurt secret, you will be able to make gorgeous yogurt for your family with success right from the beginning. You can’t use ultra-pasteurized milk. It’s dead and doesn’t work. Which probably makes complete sense to you, but I hadn’t even realized my milk was ultra-pasteurized. So a failed batch later I was researching to find my family a new milk source. Just proving that there is always a next step in your real food journey!

Recipe: Homemade Yogurt

Ingredients

  • 1 quart organic whole milk – pasteurized. NOT ultra-pasteurized. We are clear here, yes?
  • 1/4 cup of the highest quality purest yogurt you can get. This is the only time you are buying yogurt, because after this batch you can use the remaining 1/4 cup of your homemade yogurt to make the next batch! So go crazy and buy the beautiful whole organic plain (or Greek) yogurt. It’s a worthwhile investment!

Instructions

  1. Pour the milk into your crock pot and heat on low for 2 hours. * You want the milk to hit somewhere in the 180 – 190 degree range. Use a cooking or candy thermometer to confirm your crock pot’s timing.
  2. Turn crock pot off and leave the milk in it for 3 hours (lid on). You want the milk to cool to a temperature of about 110 degrees. This is the magical yogurt temperature.
  3. When 110 degrees is reached, add 1/4 cup yogurt and whisk it around to mix. Place crock pot (with lid) in your oven (not on!!) with the oven light on for 8-12ish hours (you can go up to 24 hours if you wish to have thicker and tarter yogurt). I also wrap a towel around the crock pot to help keep the temperature stable.  photo 1 photo 2
  4. Transfer yogurt to a container and store in the refrigerator. I use old quart sized yogurt containers and just write the date made on the lid. Mine last over two weeks in the refrigerator.
  5. You can strain it through cheese cloth for a few hours if you are looking for thicker Greek style yogurt, but I’m lazy and never do. It’s a lovely consistency without straining.

After you have successfully completed your first batch, I highly recommend doubling the second batch if your family goes through yogurt the way mine does. We consume about a quart a week, so I only need to make yogurt twice a month if I double it.

My yogurt works out to about $3.50 a quart (because I buy very high quality milk – it could be made much cheaper if you have a better source for milk). Much better than the $7-8 I had been paying. We use it as sour cream on tacos, as a base for dips and dressings and as a late night treat with maple syrup, pomegranate seeds and a little granola.
It also is fantastic as the base for our Kids Clean Up! Flavored Yogurt recipe.

 

My gift to all the new homemade yogurt makers out there: a Pinterest Board full of recipes that include… YOGURT. Also pinned to the board is a recipe for making yogurt out of coconut milk for the lacto-free peeps. Might try that next.

homemade yogurt  Go get ‘em, yogurt makers!!

The Real Deal Hot Cocoa

photo 5

Happy December Everyone!

I am so excited about this month. After spending the month of November minimizing and purging my home, it is time for the rewards! The uncluttered space motivates me to take things to a new creative place. Plus, I know where to find my stuff now. Mega-bonus.

One way this is manifesting is through our Advent Calendar tradition for the kiddos. In past years, we have phoned it in with a 99 cent calendar from Trader Joe’s with a little milk chocolate candy for each day.

This year I wanted to use it as a tool to connect with each other, create with each other, and give to others together. I’ve had many people ask what we are doing, so I’m sharing — please know that we are in beta-mode on all this. I’m sure by next year I will have many lessons learned.

photo 2

I bought little envelopes and holiday tape and the kids and I decorated the envelopes, you know, to build suspense. :) Then I brainstormed a million ideas and stared at our calendar for a very long time and plugged in the ideas I think we can pull off. I sealed the envelopes very loosely with the tape so I can do some last-minute switch-a-roos if I need to as the days get closer. Then I did the smartest thing of all! I typed each day’s activity into the calendar on my phone so I can be prepared for what is coming next. I know, brilliant and a bit out of character for me.

December 1st was a big success. The note said, “Dear Ones, Happy December! Tonight we will drink hot cocoa together and make paper snowflakes to decorate our front window.” Because it was the end of the kids’ Thanksgiving vacation, we took the time to make homemade marshmallows to go on top. (SO EASY AND REWARDING, NOT TO BE MISSED – Marshmallow Link!!) After dinner we got right to it, the kids were VERY eager. It was a lovely evening, and our front window looks quite festive today. The husband even pulled off a Darth Vader snowflake, receiving ample praise from the littles.

Here’s the recipe for the hot cocoa we enjoyed. It is a tweak on a recipe from The Gracious Pantry. I highly, highly recommend making your own cocoa – it is so far superior to the chemical ladened packets from the store and the questionable ingredient list in Starbucks.

Recipe: Real Deal Hot Cocoa

Ingredients

  • 4 cups milk (any unsweetened kind will work, I use organic whole milk)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 3 T high quality unsweetened powdered cocoa

Instructions

  1. Put it all in a saucepan and heat it up over medium heat while whisking away until serving temperature.
  2. Pour into cups and serve (preferably with homemade marshmallows!!!)

Preparation time: 1 minute(s)

Cooking time: 5 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

photo 2  My marshmallow helper.

photo 1  Dusted them with cocoa powder!

photo 4  Crazy snowflake cutting action.

photo  Window is looking good! (We don’t get snow here, so this is our winter wonderland.)

photo 1

For those interested in ideas, here is what one might find in the envelopes over the next 24 days…

Hello Dear Ones. Welcome to December! Tonight we will drink hot cocoa and cut out snowflakes to decorate the front window.

Hello Dear Ones. Let’s make a paper chain to countdown to the big day!

Hello Dear Ones. Today we will make rosemary wreaths for your bedroom doors!

Hello Dear Ones. Hidden in the back room is a present for your housemates. Enjoy! [Mom Note: The housemates are our cats and the kids really want to train them, so they will get some cats treats and a dangling stick toy.]

Hello Dear Ones. Treat Time!! [Mom Note: These are strategically placed on nights the grown-ups have events and we need an Advent break!]

Hello Dear Ones. Let’s pull out the Legos and make Christmas themed stuff together!

Hello Dear Ones. It’s tree time! Let’s get one and decorate this house up!!

Hello Dear Ones. This evening we are going to eat pizza and cuddle up on the couch to watch the new Sound of Music movie together!

Hello Dear Ones. Christmas Book Time!! Boy picks the book and girl picks the spot for our reading snuggle.

Hello Dear Ones. Here is $10. It’s not for you. You’ve got to make someone else’s life better with it. Let’s talk about what we could do with it and then do it!

Hello Dear Ones. Let’s stay up late and watch Sing Off together!

Hello Dear Ones. It’s Origami night!! Let’s make Christmas craziness!!

Hello Dear Ones. Let’s make cookies together and wrap some up to give to others!

Hello Dear Ones. Today we are going on an adventure. It’s exciting and fun and awesome. Hope you are ready!!

Hello Dear Ones. Date Day with a parent. Might be a good opportunity to work on a gift for your bro/sis!!

Hello Dear Ones. Christmas Book Time!! Girl picks the book and boy picks the spot for our reading snuggle.

Hello Dear Ones. Let’s watch YouTube and make some crazy Christmas Rainbow Loom Charms together!

Hello Dear Ones. Tonight is going to be crazy rad! We are going to look at lights. And there’s a twist, but it is a surprise!!

Hello Dear Ones. Treat Time!! And we get to wrap up a gift for your teachers together.

Hello Dear Ones. It’s Christmas Movie Night! Put on your PJs and enjoy some popcorn!

Hello Dear Ones. Crazy fun family night… Love you guys so much!!

 

It’s not perfect, but it is a wonderful start and suits us and our style real nicely. I even have a few envelopes that are empty so we can inject some spontaneity into the whole thing which is really our style. Like everything else on the Lean.Green.Kitchen site… I recommend taking the parts that interest you and leave the rest!

May you make the most of the final month of 2013.

 

This post is linked to Party Wave Wednesday at HolisticSquid.com!

Read more: http://holisticsquid.com/party-wave-wednesday-120413/#ixzz2mWYES12i

Clean Treats: Almond (Real True) Joy Bark

IMG_7788

It has been a week since Halloween, so by now you have either thrown away, donated or eaten all of your Almond Joy bars, right? What if I told you that a superior version could be made by you with only four real food ingredients? And it is easy. And ready in an hour, though you only need to put in about seven minutes of hands-on time. In my opinion, that would be some real true JOY!

Recipe: Almond (Real True) Joy Bark

Ingredients

  • 1 cup high quality dark chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup raw almonds (love almonds? then use more!)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil

photo 5

Instructions

1. Place a thin layer (around 1/4 inch deep) of unsweetened coconut on parchment or Silpat on a baking sheet.
photo 4 2. Sprinkle the almonds over the top. Be sure the almonds aren’t on top of each other, spread them out.

3. Using a double boiler, melt the chocolate chips and the coconut oil until smooth.
4. Spoon or slowly pour the chocolate over the coconut/almond layer.
photo 2
5. Put it in the freezer until it hardens (30 minutes or so).
photo 1 6. Crack off pieces and enjoy. It will slowly soften, so I like to wrap my piece in a paper towel if I’m planning on savoring each bite.
7. Store in a ziplock in the fridge.
Preparation time: 7 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 8

IMG_7790

Do you have a soft spot for treats? Here are some other great ideas for clean treats!

Lean.Green.Kitchen Clean Treats

Kids Clean Up: Chocolate Syrup

Kids Clean Up: Magic Shell

Kids Clean Up! Cheese Dip

cheese dip

Welcome to another installment of Kids Clean Up! Today we are tackling a Halloween holiday favorite… Cheese Dip! You know, the one made with the infamous Velveeta. It has been a part of Halloween tradition in my family for a very long time. Since “cleaning up” my food act a few years ago, Halloween is the one time of year that Velveeta has managed to get in my grocery cart.

This year I was ready to give it up – I just couldn’t buy it anymore, and worse share it with my kids and their friends. And then I ran into the Food Renegade’s recipe and nearly swooned. The only reason I didn’t swoon was due to having no faith it would actually taste good. Cheese dip made without the Velveeta? How’s that supposed to work? But it did…

What are we cleaning up? Classic Cheese Dip made by melting a Velveeta cheese chunk with salsa.

velveeta cheese dipVelveeta cheese dip

Ingredients: Milk, Whey, Skim Milk, Milk Protein Concentrate, Water, Milkfat, Whey Protein Concentrate, Sodium Phosphate, Modified Corn Starch, Salt, Calcium Phosphate, Dried Corn Syrup, Canola Oil, Maltodextrin, Lactic Acid, Sorbic Acid, Sodium Alginate, Sodium Citrate, Cheese Culture, Enzymes, Apocarotenal and Annatto.

Basically, Velveeta is a chemical cheese product that has been made in a lab. It’s a “cheese-like substance.” Kraft doesn’t share the process by which it is made, but it is clearly made by chemists in a laboratory. If you are looking for some science behind how they make it all melt-able, check out this article by Discover. Beyond the Frankenstein laboratory creep factor of Velveeta, I am also avoiding this product because it is made by Kraft, a company I don’t choose to support. Kraft Mac N Cheese (my daughter’s favorite restaurant kids menu choice) is made with several artificial food dyes ONLY WHEN MADE FOR CONSUMPTION IN THE USA. For example the version sold in the UK does not include artificial food dyes (the UK is phasing out allowing artificial dyes in food due to consumer pressure). Over 300,000 Americans have signed a petition asking for Kraft to stop using the artificial food dyes and give us the other version that tastes and looks the same, but they are not willing to do so. So I say BOOOOOO to Kraft. (Want to add your voice to the petition? Go here.)

Here’s the cleaned up version: Food Renegade’s Creamy Mexican Cheese Dip. I used organic cream, organic milk and organic cheddar cheese, plus egg yolk, arrowroot powder, diced tomatoes, a can of mild green chiles, salt and chipotle chili powder. All ingredients that I am happy to use in my kitchen! The process was completely do-able, and not very many steps, which I appreciated. (Especially since the Velveeta version is so easy.)

The result was a very smooth, silky cheese dip that tasted terrific. It actually tasted much stronger of cheddar cheese than the Velveeta version does, which was welcomed. Mine turned out a little thinner than Velveeta dip is, and I think when I do it again I will let the milk and cream warm with the thickener a little longer. I might also mix in a little of my favorite clean salsa to make it taste more like my family’s version, though I did enjoy the chipotle flavor. But enough about me…

My kids LOVED this stuff. I wondered if they would enjoy it because the color isn’t as bright as the Velveeta and the taste is a little more well-rounded and grown-up. Both of them can be very picky when it comes to foods like this, so I was happily surprised with their enthusiasm over this version.

It is very interesting to me how we often eat less of the cleaned up version of foods than we would of their processed version. This cheese dip was a great example. When the Velveeta version is out on the table, I can’t stop eating it. Each bite makes me want another bite as soon as I’m done. But with this cleaned up version, I had several bites and then felt fullish and done. The kids seemed to be the same way. Amazing what happens when you nourish your body with real food.

Before we go, let’s talk chips real fast. Ideally, we’d all be making our own corn chips using organic corn tortillas and a great fat (like coconut oil or tallow). Gracious Pantry has a baked chip recipe I like, here. That may be more than some of us can do right now. This is especially true for me when we are having other people over, that’s just more chips than I can pull off! My recommendation for buying chips is to go organic to avoid GMO corn and GMO vegetable oils. I am not a fan of processed vegetable oils, so purchased corn chips are a fun treat food, not an every day food for me.

I’m not the only one who grew up on Frankenstein cheese dip, am I? Is there anything that is always on your Halloween menu?

cheese dipHere I am, stealing the cheese dip. Happy Halloween everyone!

 

Kids Clean Up! Flavored Yogurt

Flavored Yogurt

It’s time for another installment of Kids Clean Up! This week I have tackled my daughter’s favorite food — yogurt. And specifically, flavored yogurt. She would eat 14 Go-Gurts if I had them and would let her. This actually isn’t all that much, since each Go-Gurt seems to have about a tablespoon of yogurt in that little tube. What a waste.

Anyway… this clean up didn’t call for internet recipe searching, I had a plan. It just needed to be executed and tested. And tested. And retested. And tested some more. And not by my daughter. It turns out that this became our first Grown Up Clean Up, because I could not get enough of these.

Back to the beginning, here is what we are replacing: Flavored Yogurt

sunnyside front sunnyside label

This ingredient list reads: CULTURED PASTEURIZED GRADE A NONFAT MILK AND WHOLE MILK, BOYSENBERRY BASE [SUGAR, WATER, BOYSENBERRIES, MODIFIED CORN STARCH, NATURAL FLAVORS, PECTIN, CITRIC ACID, SODIUM CITRATE], SUGAR, FOOD STARCH MODIFIED, KOSHER GELATIN.

I guess we can start with the two pluses I see here. One, there is actually at least a speck of boysenberry in this product (though I bet we’d all be astounded by how little it actually is). Two, it does contain live and active cultures which is what makes yogurt a health food. But the rest of this list is full of questions and ingredients that were selected for their cheapness over their quality.

How about this one:

activia front activa label

This ingredient list contains: CULTURED GRADE A NON FAT MILK, SUGAR, BLUEBERRIES, WATER, MODIFIED CORN STARCH, PECTIN, NATURAL FLAVOR, LACTIC ACID, FRUIT JUICE AND VEGETABLE JUICE, CARRAGEENAN, CALCIUM CITRATE, SODIUM CITRATE

Can we take a minute to talk about “NATURAL FLAVORS?” This, the vaguest of terms, means that natural things (essential oils, plants, animals, trees…) are used in laboratories and turned into flavorings. For an over the top (but true) example, there could be castoreum in these products, because it is sometimes used as a flavoring for berries and vanilla. What is it? It’s the secretion from a beaver’s castor sacs, used to mark their territory. So, that’s gross, but more importantly to me, it’s a clear indication that the food industry is willing to put things in processed food and not be transparent about it. Because if BEAVER SAC SECRETIONS was written on the packaging of a yogurt container, many of us would probably skip it.

This yogurt also contains CARRAGEENAN which has been found to be a carcinogen (a substance that may cause cancer).

Let’s not skip this kid favorite:
gogurt front gogurt label

This ingredient list states: Strawberry Splash – Cultured Pasteurized Grade A Low Fat Milk, Sugar, Modified Corn Starch, Kosher Gelatin, Tricalcuim Phosphate, Colored with Vegetable Juice, Natural Flavor, Potassium Sorbate, Carrageenan, Vitamin A Acetate, Vitamin D.

I feel I’ve belabored these ingredient lists, so I’ll be brief on this one. There are no strawberries in this yogurt, which is called Strawberry Splash. That seems fraudulent. That’s all.

So here’s my recipe for making your own.

Recipe: FRUIT ON THE BOTTOM YOGURT

Ingredients

  • 2 Cup Frozen Organic Fruit of your choice
  • 2 Cups Organic Whole Milk Yogurt (you could even go crazy and make your own with this HOMEMADE YOGURT RECIPE)
  • 1-3T Local Honey
  • 1/2t Vanilla (optional – goes great with cherries)
  • 4 1-Cup Mason Jars or 8 1/2-Cup Mason Jars (or mix and match!)

Instructions

  1. Heat frozen fruit and 1T of the honey in a small saucepan on medium-low heat.
  2. Bring to a simmer and heat until the fruit is nice and soft and gooey. Add in vanilla if you are using it. My mixed berries took about six minutes to be the consistency I wanted.
  3. Place about 1/4 cup of the mixture in the bottom of each 1-Cup Mason Jar or half that if using 8 1/2-Cup Mason Jars.
  4. Allow the fruit mix to cool a little before layering in yogurt (1/2 cup total per jar) and a few mini drizzles of honey.
  5. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 6 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

RESULTS:

I’ll be frank. If my daughter was offered a Go-Gurt or this, she would take the flashy, chemically Go-Gurt. But then she’d be hungry after eating that minuscule amount of food in a tube and would happily eat my hearty version.

I’ll be double frank. The first time I made these (and when I took the photos) she did not like it. I realized later, that was because she didn’t stir it up so she was eating plain tart yogurt. My next batch I added in the extra drizzles of honey and -boom- she was all in.

Since we turned this into a Grown Up Clean Up, I will mention that as a grown-up who was raised on Fruit-On-The-Bottom yogurt (which is no longer the rage, apparently) I was able to stir mine and I inhaled the entire first batch in less than three days. Added some granola for a grab-on-the-go breakfast. Ate one after a grueling work-out. Had one for a late night treat while watching some Game of Thrones from the couch. And the last one while powering through a manic afternoon.

I will make these again and again. And my daughter and I can fight over them. Take that tiny Go-Gurt.