Archives for October 2012

Upcycle Your Spice Jars | Flour Shaker

I have reader Amy to thank for this hot kitchen tip that comes just in time for all your holiday baking. In the comments on my Kitchen Shortcut: Seasoning Food in a Pinch Amy wrote:

I keep kosher salt in an empty spice jar, and also keep one with corn meal for shaking onto pans for pizza or artisan-type breads and one with flour for dough that’s just a touch too sticky or for slashing bread dough before baking.

I loved the idea of putting flour in a spice jar for evenly distributing flour on a sticky surface before using a rolling pin. Pie crust, cookies, gingerbread – they can all be a sticky mess to roll out if you don’t keep them dusted with flour. I put her spice jar trick to the test when I rolled out my homemade whole wheat pie crust.

It worked beautifully! It was easy to shake the flour exactly where I needed it. The surface had a nice dusting of flour and prevented the rolling pin from sticking to the dough and tearing it.

Thank you Amy. I have a feeling this will simplify holiday baking for many of us.

The GBG It Works for Me

“The GBG: It Works for Me” is a weekly series all about that thing you’ve started doing that you’d wish you’d known you should be doing all along.

Solutions, quick tips, and shortcuts. Time savers and sanity savers. It’ll all be right here.

Have a solution, tip, or time saver of your own? Let me know by filling out this form, I’ll try it then share it!

Homemade Whole Wheat Pie Crust

I finally found a Homemade Whole Wheat Pie Crust recipe that really delivers in both taste and ease of recipe.

As much as I try to make meals from scratch and forgo processed foods, pie crust is one thing I typically will buy. Pie crust really isn’t hard to make – I just don’t like rolling things out. It’s messy. It’s sticky. It can be frustrating. And my crusts are never really pretty.

However, the holidays are the exception. Finishing a really great homemade holiday meal with a homemade flaky whole wheat crust just seems fitting. And no matter how my crust looks, I assure you it tastes amazing! In fact, I served this whole wheat pie crust in an Apple Cider Pie to 10 adults – not one knew it was whole wheat!

This recipe calls for whole wheat pastry flour and real butter. Do not substitute anything else for these two ingredients. And of course, if you go through the trouble of making a homemade pie crust, only top it with homemade whipped cream.

If you don’t already cook with whole wheat pastry flour – it is an awesome whole food ingredient to have in your pantry. Whole wheat pastry flour is lighter than regular whole wheat flour, so it bakes more like an all-purpose white flour – making it easier to substitute in your recipes that call for all purpose flour.

To buy whole wheat pastry flour inexpensively, I suggest you use your $10 Vitacost Rewards to order some.

The recipe below calls for a food processor. No food processor, just use your hands!

Homemade Whole Wheat Pie Crust

Yield: 2 crusts

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/8 tablespoon salt
  • 7 tablespoons butter
  • 6 to 8 tablespoons ice water

Instructions

  1. In the working bowl of a food processor, add the flour and salt.
  2. Cut the butter into slices and add to the work bowl. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal.
  3. *If no food processor, use a pastry blender or even your hands to cut in butter.
  4. Slowly add ice water one tablespoon at a time. Pulse after each addition until dough sticks when pressed together.
  5. Form dough into a ball, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes before rolling.
http://naturalgreenmom.com/homemade-whole-wheat-pie-crust/

Do you already make your own pie crusts? Have you made a whole grain pie crust before?

A Recipe to Impress Your Friends: Homemade Whipped Cream

It is so easy to make Homemade Whipped Cream and it tastes so much better than the canned stuff!

My mother always makes homemade whipped cream.

I never knew I was spoiled. I thought this was true of every household.

However, through the years, we’ve had guests at various Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations. I can’t count how many people have remarked ~ “Wow. You can make homemade whipped cream?”

Once you learn how frightfully easy it is to make homemade whipped cream, you too can impress your friends and guests!

Helpful Hints

  • 1 cup of whipping cream makes 2 cups whipped cream
  • If you are using a stand mixer, cover the bowl with a towel to keep cream from spraying your kitchen when you first turn the mixer on.
  • You can substitute granular sugar for powdered but it will take longer to mix-in. If this is the case, stop the mixer before soft peaks form so you don’t end up with sweet butter instead of whipped cream.
  • Do not buy half and half. Buy whipping cream.
  • This recipe is your gateway drug. Once you know how to make the basic recipe, you can add spices like cinnamon or use a different extract like peppermint.

Homemade Whipped Cream Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 cup organic whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Add whipping cream to a large mixing bowl.
  2. Beat at medium speed until soft peaks start to form.
  3. Stop mixer and add powdered sugar and vanilla.
  4. Beat just until all ingredients are combined.
  5. Keep cold until serving time.
http://naturalgreenmom.com/a-recipe-to-impress-your-friends-homemade-whipped-cream/

Do you already make homemade whipped cream? Will you try it this year?

No Guilt Healthy Halloween Snacks

Are you looking for healthy Halloween snacks to bring to your next Halloween party? My girls are old enough that we don’t have Halloween class parties anymore. But I remember the guilt associated with being the mom who brought the healthy snack. A part of me wanted to be the fun mom who brought the big bag of fun sized treats.

However, eight years of elementary school parties taught me something. Kids like fruit.

Sure. Everyone loves candy. But given the option to have a healthy snack, you will be surprised how often the kids will pick it. Sure they might want a candy corn chaser, but don’t feel guilty offering fruit.

Of course, you can always make your fruit offering a little more fun! Get out a non-toxic marker and get creative!

On one side of a banana, make a Jack-O-Lantern smile!

Then, on the other side of the banana, make a moustache!

And don’t forget to make some bloodshot clementine eyeballs!

The GBG It Works for Me

“The GBG: It Works for Me” is a weekly series all about that thing you’ve started doing that you’d wish you’d known you should be doing all along.

Solutions, quick tips, and shortcuts. Time savers and sanity savers. It’ll all be right here.

Have a solution, tip, or time saver of your own? Let me know by filling out this form, I’ll try it then share it!

Getting Ready for the Holidays

Clean Silver and Crystal NaturallyIn a few short weeks, I’ll be using my grandmother’s crystal and silver to set the table for Thanksgiving dinner. Thanksgiving and Christmas seem to be the only two times a year I use my good place settings. Inevitably, that means they needs to be cleaned before they can be used!

Since these are precious heirlooms from my grandmother, I want to take care of them so they can be handed down to the next generation. Perhaps you have some precious heirlooms of your own?

I choose to clean with natural cleaners like vinegar. I prefer chemical-free cleaning to harsh, synthetic cleaners that can harm and scratch my crystal and silver.

You are now ready to get everything sparking and shining for your holiday table!

How to Clean Cloudy Crystal with Vinegar

Hard water can leave crystal cloudy like my grandmother’s wine goblet pictured below.

To clean your cloudy crystal gently and naturally, fill a plastic tub with vinegar. Then add your crystal and allow to soak for about 30 minutes:

Helpful Hint: Use a plastic tub instead of a sink to keep from accidentally chipping your crystal.

After soaking, simply wash with a gentle dish soap and allow to air dry. Check out the before and after:

How to Clean Silver Using Vinegar

Soooo. This is my gravy boat. It is silver, even though it appears to be black. I failed to clean it before Thanksgiving last year, so we resorted to using a measuring cup. True story.

This year, I’ve cleaned my gravy boat early. I started by mixing together 1 cup vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 cup flour. This should make a runny paste. I then rubbed the silver with the paste using a soft piece of flannel. Allow to sit for 20-30 minutes. Wash off using a gentle dish soap. If your silver is as tarnished as mine, it may take several applications.

Helpful Hint: Wear rubber gloves since the vinegar has a way of “finding” even the smallest of cuts.

Here is the after:

For more ways to use vinegar to do healthy cleaning around your home, check out:

How to Clean Burnt Pots and Pans Non Toxically
How to Make Non Toxic Cleaners
Spring Clean Your Outdoor Living Spaces
Kill Weeks Organically

Secret Shortcuts Everyone Needs to Wash Dishes Quickly

For years we did not have a dishwasher and had to wash dishes by hand. I have a dishwasher now, and believe me when I say I will stuff that bad boy completely full before I have to do any dishes by hand.

I like to pretend using the dishwasher to it’s fullest potential is part of my green lifestyle. After all, a dishwasher actually uses less water and energy than doing dishes by hand.

But that’s not the truth.

The truth is I do not enjoy doing the dishes and will do anything to avoid it. However, since it has proven impossible to avoid all hand washing of dishes, I thought I’d share a few of my secret shortcuts for getting the chore done as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Secret 1: Don’t Wash What You Can Wipe

This calls for some judgement on your part. Does it really have to be washed to be clean? For example, if you just used a measuring cup to measure one cup of dried beans – how dirty is that measuring cup? I use a clean dishtowel and give it a good swipe and call it clean.

Secret 2: Have the Right Tools

Start with a clean sponge, scrub brush, and gloves. I prefer a sponge to a cloth so I can nuke it between washings to kill any lingering bacteria. I also like to wear gloves and use a scrub brush. The scrub brush makes light work of tough dishes and the brush can be put in the top rack of the dishwasher to sterilize. The gloves not only keep me from having to touch anything slimy and gross, they also keep my hands from getting chapped during the winter.

Secret 3: Keep Baking Soda Handy

Have a dish that is going to present a challenge? Sprinkle it with baking soda and fill with about half an inch of hot water. Put it to the side and let it sit for a bit. This should help get off anything that is sticking. However, if you can’t get the goop off with the baking soda and a scrub brush, try my How to Clean Burnt Pots and Pans method.

Secret 4: Fill A Sink With Hot, Soapy Water As Soon As You Start Cooking

Have your sink prepped with hot, soapy water, then the process looks like this:

  1. Use a dish and get it dirty.
  2. Immediately take it and scrape it into your compost pail or garbage disposal if needed.
  3. Scrub with scrub brush under running hot water, then place it in the soapy water.
  4. Continue to do this with each dish as you use it.
  5. When you are finished prepping and cooking, you will find you all you need to do is finish scrubbing. Letting dishes air dry in a dish drainer saves you from having to hand dry.

Secret 5: Scrub Starchy Dishes in Cold Water

If you’ve cooked potatoes or rice, you actually want to initially scrub those dishes in cold water. The cold water keeps any potatoes or rice that are stuck in the pan from getting gummy and sticky. So rinse in cold, then put in your sink of hot water to scrub.

Your Turn: Sponge or Rag? Ok to wipe and not wash? Ever leave the dishes until the next morning?

The GBG It Works for Me

“The GBG: It Works for Me” is a weekly series all about that thing you’ve started doing that you’d wish you’d known you should be doing all along.

Solutions, quick tips, and shortcuts. Time savers and sanity savers. It’ll all be right here.

Have a solution, tip, or time saver of your own? Let me know by filling out this form, I’ll try and share it!

25 Slow Cooker Recipes | Quick and Healthy Recipe Roundup

25 Slow Cooker Recipes

The last time I was at Bunco, one of my friends commented, “I really need some good slow cooker recipes.”

That prompted me to think: Don’t we all? My family would not be eating if we weren’t using our slow cooker this month. We have evening activities every night of the week.

The problem is, it can be hard to find a quick and healthy slow cooker recipe that doesn’t feature a whole lot of “packet of this” or “can-a-cream-a-that” but instead features healthy, quality ingredients. So I set out to collect slow cooker recipes that not only taste great, but use the ingredients I want to serve to my family.

The list below is the result of my asking my online friends for their best slow cooker healthy recipes as well as combing the web for great slow cooker recipes that I’m proud to pass on and share. I haven’t cooked every recipe, but I have been making my way through the list. Anything I’ve cooked that I’ve tweaked, I’ve noted it next to the recipe.

25 Quick and Healthy Slow Cooker Recipes


MAIN DISHES

P.F. Chang’s Lettuce Wraps Copycat Recipe
Healthier Mississippi Pot Roast in the Slow Cooker

Tried and True: How to Cook a Roast in the Slow Cooker

Slow Cooker Mediterranean Beef Ragout

Cabbage Rolls *I left out the rice to make this paleo. I could eat it once a week and even reheated leftovers for breakfast!*

Chicken Chili

Cheesy Vegetable Chowder

Cashew Chicken

Whole Chicken in a Crock Pot

Chicken Curry

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

Pork and Green Chile Stew *I used two pork tenderloins instead of chops. So good!*

Creamy Slow Cooker Tortellini Soup *I didn’t know what a “packet of white sauce” was. So I left it out. Results were still so good this is a family favorite!*

Honey Apple Pork Loin

Slow Cooker Lemongrass and Coconut Chicken Drumsticks *I did not enjoy the smell of this while it cooked. However, it was really tasty!*

Crockin’ Ham

Orange Chicken

Slow Cooker Meatball Sandwiches


SIDE DISHES

Sweet Potato and Feta Mash

Slow Cooker Applesauce

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash in the Slow Cooker

DESSERTS AND EXTRAS

Pumpkin Butter

Homemade Crockpot Apple Butter

Brown Rice Pudding

Sugared Cinnamon Almonds