Kids Clean Up! Graham Crackers

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Kids Clean Up! is back with a new installment. As summer wanes, we are busy cleaning up the components of a s’more. We’ve already tackled the marshmallow with much success, and today we try out…

THE GRAHAM CRACKER!

Let’s take a look at what we are cleaning up:

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Sorry about my fuzzy stealth photos. I’m terrible at grocery store investigative photography. But here is the ingredient list: Unbleached enriched flour (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), graham flour (whole grain wheat flour), sugar, soybean oil, honey, leavening (baking soda and/or calcium phosphate), salt, soy lecithin, artificial flavor. Not much here that I’d like to be eating. And even the honey is suspect, since we have learned that all honey is not equal.

As I searched for cleaned up graham cracker recipes to try I was looking for a recipe that is A.) do-able and B.) nutrient-rich and, of course, C.) delicious/kid approved. And I found all three with a beautiful grain-free recipe by Deliciously Organic. Carrie Vitt, the creator of the recipe, makes beautiful food and produces a lovely blog. I’m a big fan.

Click here for the recipe: Deliciously Organic’s Grain Free Graham Crackers.

Here are the ingredients:

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INGREDIENTS: Almond flour, coconut flour, honey, butter, gelatin, baking powder, baking soda, sea salt, cinnamon, molasses, whole milk, vanilla extract.

Now here’s the thing with these ingredients, the graham cracker’s nutrient-rich-ness (that’s now a word) is very dependent upon said baker (that’s us) using quality ingredients. We’ve got to use real honey from a trusted source, gelatin from a trusted source, quality sea salt, unsulphured molasses, organic dairy, butter from quality dairy, etc. See what I’m saying? This graham cracker can be nutrient-rich or it can not be, all depending on what choices we make when filling our pantry. When we buy Honey Maid, we can assume we are buying the lowest quality and cheapest version of each ingredient. So by making our own, we put ourselves in charge of ingredient selection. Each little choice adds up to the final product, so make as many quality choices as you can!

RESULTS: These were delicious. I have to use past tense, because we ate them all VERY quickly. I’m always a little nervous baking something for the first time, but I can follow directions and these directions were very clear. The trickiest thing was rolling out the dough without getting it stuck on everything (it is very tacky). I accomplished that by placing parchment paper between the dough and the rolling pin, and that worked it right out. I also improvised and used a skewer to attempt to make them look like “classic” graham crackers. Next time I’d use a ruler and make them a little more consistent in size.

Too bad I’m not on the ball enough to be able to make my graham crackers the same week as my marshmallows. Then we could have completed the look of the s’more. Oh well. These were great with a glass of milk and I was dreaming about making a cream cheese frosting, like we used to eat on our graham crackers when I was a kid.

At one point my son said they could be sweeter, but then he ate four more. The boxed ones are sweeter, but these have much more depth and flavor and color (from the molasses). I’d consider them a grown-up graham cracker, except the kids ate most of them, so there you go.

I did make a fancy (but easy) dessert with them that I’d highly recommend. I simmered diced fresh pears in butter with a dollop of honey, a little water and a little cinnamon until the pears were soft. Whipped some organic heavy whipping cream with a little coconut sugar and vanilla. Put it all together by plating the graham cracker, then pears, then whipped cream and dusting with a little cinnamon. It was DIVINE!! I’d have a photo, but we attacked them too quickly.

Here are some photos from my graham cracker adventure:

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The magic happens in the food processor.

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Dough is ready.

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Fought and won by rolling the dough out with parchment paper on both sides, and went for Pinterest points by using a skewer to create classic graham cracker lines. It sort of worked.

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Final product! Can’t wait to make a second batch soon.

In the mood for marshmallows? Check out our Kids Clean Up! Marshmallows.

Marsh Cut on Board

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

Kids Clean Up! Magic Shell

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This week the family experimented with cleaned up versions of Magic Shell recipes, so I am sure my mom-of-the-week prize is coming soon, because the little people were very happy with me and the results. This one was a definite winner for hitting the mark (looked, tasted and acted just like Magic Shell), being easy to make and pretty darn cheap. I like that it made plenty for the four of us to have a lot on our homemade ice cream with a little leftover, but not so much that it will sit around for sixth months like the bottle of Magic Shell usually does.

So here’s what we are replacing: Hershey’s Shell. The ingredients are: sugar, palm oil, coconut oil, cocoa, soy lecithin, artificial flavors, salt. I took a photo of the ingredients, but I should really make sure I get a focused photo when I’m doing my grocery store detective work. So you’ll just have to trust me that these are the ingredients!

Hershey's Shell And here is what we are replacing it with: coconut oil, cocoa, honey, vanilla and sea salt gently warmed together in a saucepan and then drizzled over said cold item for the “magic” hardening to happen. This recipe comes from The Coconut Mama, a great blog dedicated to real food, natural living and coconut love. :)

Recipe: Magic Shell

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The kids enjoyed their Magic Shell poured over the top of their ice cream – the classic style, if you will.  The grown-ups enjoyed mixing it in to create a chocolate swirl in our ice cream. It was DEE-licious!

If you are looking for a non-dairy clean ice cream recipe… be sure to check out my post on Clean Treats, linked here. We used banana for the fruit in the recipe which paired beautifully with the magic shell.

We are cleaning up kids processed food, one recipe at a time!

Kids Clean Up! Homemade Chocolate Syrup

Homemade Chocolate Syrup

Welcome to the first of many of a new segment we call Kids Clean Up! It is here that I research, attempt and review clean recipes for all the foods our kids are begging for that are full of gross chemicals, additives, colorings, flavorings, fake food products.

Up first is a tasty item that my kids ask for all the time. They want to be like everyone else and have chocolate milk. I have to admit, I very fondly remember squeezing the chocolate sauce bottle into my milk as a kid. Pouring it in until my mom hollered “that’s too much!” Then stirring it up until the white milk turned that pretty tan color. When I asked my kids if they’d like to help me make chocolate syrup for chocolate milk, they about fell over. It was worth getting off the couch!

I also chose chocolate syrup because it’s a pretty easy clean recipe, and I don’t want to psych any of us out with labor intensive duties right off the bat. We’ll save that irritation for making clean Twinkies some other time. And chocolate syrup is so versatile! I mean we are going to need this component to tackle banana splits one of these days.

The ingredient list for the classic Hershey’s Syrup – “Genuine” Chocolate Flavor is well, gross. Ingredients: High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, Water, Cocoa, Sugar, Contains 2% or less of Potassium Sorbate, Salt, Mono- and Diglycerides, Xanthan Gum, Polysorbate 60, Vanillin, Artificial Flavor

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So let’s not eat that any more, okay?? I chose to try the clean recipe “Real Food Chocolate Syrup” from Hands On Learning 4 All because it is do-able with a short ingredient list. But did it work? Was it good? And did the kids approve?

Chocolate Syrup Ingredients

Recipe: Clean Chocolate Syrup

Just cocoa powder, maple syrup and vanilla thinned with a little water! [For exact measurements the Hands On Learning 4 All people have requested that you click onto their site (you can do that through the recipe link).]

We found the recipe makes a little over a cup of syrup. Two teaspoons of syrup in 8 – 12oz of milk was the right amount for our chocolate milk. Any kind of milk can be flavored (rice, almond, soy, coconut)! My only recommendation would be to serve it chilled.

CLEAN CHOCOLATE SYRUP IS A GO!! This recipe is a total winner! It was absolutely as good (better?!) than the Hershey’s original (if memory serves) and SO easy to make. This is a great place to get some nasty chemicals out of your kids’ little bodies and still allow them a treat.

ADULT MAKEOVER: You could kick this syrup up a notch by adding in a few drops of almond extract or peppermint extract. Just think of the cocktail/mocktail possibilities of clean chocolate syrup.

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What’s next? So many things to choose from! I’ve got a clean “Magic Shell” recipe queued up for this weekend – if it works, I will be a rock star mama around here for a while. I think in honor of summer we might take on s’mores soon. That’s going to be more work, but we get to learn to make marshmallows, and that is just RAD!

Feel free to let me know the foods your kids are begging for, so we can clean them up!

Recipe: Zucchini Bread

Zucchini Bread

Take an awesome zucchini bread recipe from SmittenKitchen, tweak it up to make it fit my preferred ingredients, and – boo-ya – a super delicious bread emerges that disappears from the house in a day. We all celebrate around here when we find something that every member of the family likes (feels like a short list sometimes). This bread is on the list!

Recipe: Zucchini Bread

Ingredients

  • 2 Eggs (you can substitute 2 “flax eggs” to make it vegan)
  • 1/4 cup Applesauce
  • 1/4 cup Coconut Oil (melted)
  • 3/4 – 1 cup Coconut Sugar
  • 1 cup Zucchini (grated)
  • 1t Vanilla Extract
  • 1 1/2 cup Whole Wheat Flour (I use sprouted whole wheat)
  • 2t Cinnamon
  • 1/2t Nutmeg
  • 1/2t Baking Soda
  • 1/4t Baking Powder
  • 1/2t Sea Salt
  • 1/2 cup Pecans (chopped)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease and flour a loaf pan.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk. Mix in applesauce, coconut oil, coconut sugar, zucchini and vanilla.
  4. Combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, sea salt and pecans.
  5. Stir this into the egg mixture.
  6. Pour into the loaf pan.
  7. Bake loaf for 45-60 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  8. Let sit cooling for 15 minutes before removing from loaf pan and slicing.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)

Cooking time: 1 hour(s)

Number of servings (yield): 8

Enjoy!

Zucchini Bread

Recipe: Cherries Jubilee

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THIS is my FAVORITE dessert of.all.time.

I was going to post this recipe for the Fourth of July holiday, but I started thinking you might need time to practice it a few times and get the ingredients and practice a few more times and maybe even surprise a father or two on Sunday. So find some local cherries, make some ice cream (or buy the good stuff) and enjoy!

Recipe: Cherries Jubilee

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Heat up the butter/coconut oil in a skillet on medium heat.
  2. Add cherries and sauté for 2 minutes.
  3. Add liquor and flambé (light on fire in the pan) while swirling the cherries in the pan. The flames are really exciting and then die out as the alcohol burns off. You just stand there and swirl the pan and everything will take care of itself!
  4. Add spices and simmer for 5 minutes or until the cherry juice reduces to a syrup consistency.
  5. Pour over vanilla ice cream and top with a few mini chocolate chips.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

 

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If you need a taste taster, just let me know.

Happy Summer Celebrations!!

 

 

Happy Two Month Birthday to the Lean.Green.Kitchen Blog!

Berry Popsicle

It was just two months ago that the Lean.Green.Kitchen blog was launched! The site is slowly filling up with content and recipes and insights into my foodie journey… every day it is getting closer to fulfilling my dreams of a thriving blog making a difference to those conscious about their eating.

This summer I will take the next step with the blog and begin to actively work to bring new people to the Lean.Green.Kitchen community both through the blog and the Facebook page. Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool, so if you have gotten something out of the time you’ve spent on the Lean.Green.Kitchen blog, I’d love for you to share it with others you think may enjoy the experience!

In honor of the past two months, I’ve created a celebratory popsicle recipe for us to enjoy this summer!

 

Recipe: Blueberry Bananza Popsicle

Ingredients

  • 1 banana (the riper the better)
  • 2 cups frozen organic Blueberries
  • 1/2 cup organic unsweetened Kefir
  • 1 cup organic coconut water

Instructions

  1. Blend all the ingredients together until smooth.
  2. Fill popsicle molds and freeze for 4-6 hours.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Looking for popsicle molds? There are so many great ones on Amazon! Here’s a link for the two I own and like:
Norpro Ice Pop Maker         Tovolo Blue Rocket Pops, Set of 6

 

TOP 10 MOST VIEWED POSTS

Let’s reminisce a little. Here are the Top 10 Most Viewed Posts to date on the Lean.Green.Kitchen. Have you seen them all?

Number 10: Food Rules

Number 9: A Tragic Love Story with Sugar

Number 8: Crock-Pot Chicken & Eggplant Parmigiana

Number 7: Clean Up Treats

Number 6: Enjoy a Food Tour

Number 5: The Simplest Salad

Number 4: Spring Veggie Polenta Pizza

Number 3: Know the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen

Number 2: Stay Hydrated

Number 1: I Bought a Cow

Thank you so much for all the support over the past two months. Now go share your favorite post, enjoy a super healthy popsicle and have a wonderful summer!

Quick, Easy and Healthy Sweet Treats

sweet treat

Like many of us, I love a tasty sweet treat some time after dinner and before bed (you know, like after the kids go to bed!) When I started cleaning up my food act and really evaluated how much sugar I was consuming, I knew I needed to find a plan that satisfies that little part of my stomach that my family calls our “treat spot.” No matter how full you are from dinner, the “treat spot” is always ready for dessert.

As I’ve mentioned in my Food Rules, I enjoy a refined sugar filled treat pretty much once a week. But what about the other six days a week? Here’s a list of my favorite sweet treats:

  1. Sliced fruit with fresh whipped cream. This is a wonderful way to fully appreciate the seasons of fruit. It’s exciting when something new shows up at the farmers market.  We do occasionally purchase a pineapple to pretend we are on a tropical island – everyone in the family is a huge fan.  During the winter months we use frozen berries or bake apples.  I whip a pint of organic heavy whipping cream with a dash of vanilla extract and less than a tablespoon of turbinado sugar for the whipped cream. It makes a lot of whipped cream that our family slowly uses throughout the week.
  2. Apple slices with almond butter and a few dark chocolate chips on top. This combo always hits the spot. You can get fancy and add shredded coconut on top, but I’m an old-fashioned dipper, so I just make three piles (apples, almond butter, chocolate chips) and dig in!
  3. Tea and toast. A warm cup of herbal tea with a little honey and a crunchy piece of toast with butter (made from grass-fed cows milk) makes a nourishing and fulfilling evening snack. If you have a beautiful favorite clean jam, that would make a lovely addition.
  4. 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 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).  Enjoy.
  5. Chocolate covered frozen bananas. Use the same chocolate from above and heavily drizzle over quartered bananas on a cookie sheet.  Sprinkle with chopped nuts if desired.  Place in freezer and enjoy about 30 minutes later.
  6. Homemade ice “cream.” A family favorite recipe heavily adapted from the Vitamix Whole Food Recipe book by my husband Matthew, this creamy treat makes us give thanks for the power of our Vitamix blender. It can be made in any blender, but the better the blender the creamier the ice cream.

Recipe: Thew’s Sherbet

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Coconut Milk
  • 1lb any frozen fruit (Strawberries and Peaches are favorites)
  • 1/4 cup Maple Syrup
  • 1/2 t Vanilla Extract

Instructions

  1. Blend to smooth.
  2. Serve soft or freeze for harder consistency.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

Sweet Treats

 

What clean treats do you enjoy after dinner?