Cooking with the Kiddos: Muffins with Cream Cheese “Frosting”

20160406_145231

Lately, Audrey has been asking to look through my one cookbook I have here with me in Alaska (The Wellness Mama Cookbook). She loves cooking with me and it’s fun to watch her culinary skills develop, like when she starts recognizing smells and perfects her egg whisking. The other morning she chose muffins. We made them and added pecans to some…yum! And the girls enjoyed them.

Today, we continued the fun and created our own cream cheese “frosting” recipe and decorated our muffins (our recipe is down below).  Mira had the genius idea to put the frosting in sandwich bags and cut off the corners so we could use them as cheap pastry bags. It worked perfectly. The girls made all sorts of designs and gobbled them up!

P1020293

Frosting Sharing 🙂

Here’s our recipe:

  • ½ cup cream cheese
  • 1 T milk or water (add more or less depending on consistency you want)
  • 1 T honey (optional)
  • Blueberries (optional; I thawed about 15 frozen blueberries and it turned the frosting purple, and I found myself singing Purple Rain as a tribute to Prince)
  1. Put everything in a bowl.
  2. Use an electric mixer (or whisk) to combine ingredients into desired frosting-like consistency.

 

Why We Stopped Using Vegetable Oil or Canola Oil

Costco carries this grass-fed butter! So when we don’t have access to local delicious butter, we use this one.

Sometimes it’s hard to get quality information about what’s healthy and what’s not. Things are sensationalized on TV and then there are issues of business and profit and politics, and it’s just hard to know what’s a healthy food choice.

Especially now that we have kiddos, we try to make healthy choices for our family. That’s why a few years ago we stopped using vegetable or canola oil. We now use primarily coconut oil, butter from grassfed cows, and olive oil (there has been some debate about cooking with olive oil but I’m convinced it’s safe to cook with though). And quality of the oil DOES matter: you’ll want organic, virgin, cold-pressed, unrefined oil (thanks Costco for making all of these so affordable!). Occasionally, I use avocado oil in stuff like homemade mayonnaise, but I haven’t looked into it enough to recommend it as a primary cooking oil.

What’s wrong with canola and vegetable oils?

Well, I’ve read a lot about problems with canola oil, but I took the approach of a newbie and googled “dangers of canola oil” to see what someone new to this whole idea would find. The first several links weren’t research-based and appear to freak-out about the dangers (this kind of extremist approach usually makes me more skeptical instead of winning me over), but Dr. Axe and Dr. Gangemi at least provide sources from scientific journals.

After reading and listening to blogs about the dangers of canola oil, here’s my very unscientific summary of the problems: canola oil is made with GMO seeds that are sprayed with harmful pesticides. The oil-making process consists of lots of high heat, resulting in rancidity (e.g., a rank smell because it’s no longer fresh). Since it’s rancid, chemicals and deodorizers are used to remove the stink. Then it’s packaged and sits on the shelf to get more rancid. That just sounds unhealthy. I’d rather stick with organic, virgin, cold-pressed, unrefined olive and coconut oils, especially since they’re more accessible now.

Oh, and I checked on sites like snopes, and I didn’t get an up-to-date answer since most sources were from the 1990’s and were from somewhat biased sources like the Canola Council.

What’s right with coconut and olive oils?

People and health professionals are mostly in agreement about the benefits of olive oil. But coconut oil is a bit more controversial, probably because there are fewer studies on coconut oil and it’s higher in saturated fat; the fear of saturated fats comes from a several-decades-old study linking saturated fat and heart disease, but those fears about saturated fat have been refuted many times. Mainstream media doctors are starting to argue for coconut oil benefits. One of my favorite bloggers, Wellness Mama, explains how coconut oil is beneficial.

Here’s my unscientific summary of the benefits:

  • Olive oil contains monounsaturated fats, vitamins A and K, and antioxidants. Mostly, it has anti-inflammatory properties, which I’m finding is a common link between good food and bad food (anti-inflammatory=good; inflammatory=bad).
  • Coconut oil contains medium chain fatty acids (which are easy to absorb) and lauric acid (which is found in breast milk and increases immunity).
  • Grassfed butter is loaded with the vitamin K2 (which is supposedly one of the most important nutrients; Weston A. Price fans are big on vitamin K2).


Some health professionals are still leery about coconut oil, but so far, I’m convinced. If you’re not convinced though, hopefully these resources are a good starting point for even more research. As you can tell from all the links, this topic is still pretty controversial. I’d love to hear your comments below about what you’ve found and what oils you use.

Bone Broth

20150212_120154

I’m learning that quality broth is one of the most important ingredients for making delicious food. Broth, also called stock, is used in all kinds of dishes, from braises to soups to stir fry dishes.

Additionally, bone broth is supposed to be like a super multi-vitamin. When I checked out some recent news, I realized that there’s a new craze about broth (particularly the term “bone broth” which might be attributed to Kobe Bryant’s rave about it). I don’t believe that broth will fix all health issues (check out this NPR article), but we do try to incorporate more broth when we’re sick. And besides, it really does make my food taste better. And it’s usually cheaper (unless you’re buying the concentrated stuff from Costco).

Making my own broth has been one of the easier things I’ve learned on this whole food journey. While it takes some time to locate quality ingredients, it doesn’t take much hands-on work (although it does need to simmer for like 12-24 hours).

Here’s my version:

  • 5 pounds bones (I save bones from our meals and buy whatever grass-fed or organic is cheapest; this time I found lamb bones for $2.99/lb)
  • ½ cup raw apple cider vinegar
  • 2 onions, quartered
  • 3 celery stocks, washed and broken into pieces
  • 2 carrots, washed and broken into pieces
  • filtered water
  1. Fill a large stockpot with bones. Cover with vinegar and let sit at room temperature for an hour.
  2. Add all other ingredients and cover everything with filtered water. I add about a gallon or two of water (I haven’t measured, so I’m picturing milk jugs to guesstimate).
  3. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 12-24 hours.
  4. Strain the solids (you can store them in the freezer to make another batch, although the stock will be weaker).
  5. Put the broth in the fridge. The fat will freeze on the top for easy removal. If you’re feeling brave, you can use that fat to make pemmican (this fat can be used in place of the rendered fat in the recipe).
  6. Store the stock in the fridge and/or freezer. I put some in the fridge and freeze the rest in ice cube trays for easy use later.

    Right before the broth finished cooking.

    Right before the broth finished cooking.

Here the solids are strained from the liquid.

Here the solids are strained from the liquid.

The fat solidified at the top.

The fat solidified at the top.

Fat removal. I gave it to my dog, Nala...it didn't go over too well. So I don't recommend giving it to your dog. I'm always learning something.

Fat removal. I gave it to my dog, Nala…it didn’t go over too well. So I don’t recommend giving it to your dog. I’m always learning something.

My other resources for broth recipes and info are Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and The Elliott Homestead: From Scratch by Shaye Elliott. I also love everything Wellness Mama; here’s her recipe and benefits of bone broth.


Hope you enjoy it! We sometimes drink a cup or make a quick soup with whatever leftover veggies and protein and spices we have on hand. I’d love to hear how you use broth. Share your comments below 🙂

Best Popcorn Ever!

20150201_212901

20150201_213113

My husband loves popcorn. He remembers when he was young and he’d get some air-popped popcorn and a soda as a treat on the weekend. When we first got together (like 19 years ago!), I kinda liked popcorn but didn’t truly appreciate its delicious flavor until we started making our own on the stovetop. Homemade popcorn rocks the socks off microwave or movie theater popcorn and it’s pretty cheap. This recipe is one of our family favorites and it might be the best popcorn you’ve ever tasted. Plus, it’s a great snack to bring on the road with you, especially if your kiddos are always asking for snacks like mine!

Here’s what you need:

½ cup organic popcorn

¼ cup coconut oil (this oil works best because it can be heated at higher temps)

1 teaspoon salt (or to your liking; generously if you’re like me!)

½ teaspoon (or more) oregano

¼ to ½ teaspoon (or more) garlic powder

Large pot with a lid

  1. Melt the coconut oil on high heat (that oil should be really hot).
  2. Turn the heat down to medium-high and add in the popcorn. Put on the lid, propping it a bit to allow steam to vent.
  3. Wait until you hear popping. Some people shake the pot but it’s not necessary. When the popping slows to a second between, remove from the stove.
  4. Put the popcorn in a bowl and season with salt, oregano, and garlic powder.

Hope you love this popcorn as much as we do! It has such a great tang with garlic and a little zest with the oregano. We’ve also experimented with different spices and cheeses, but this is our favorite combo. Share your favorite popcorn flavor variations below.

Preparing Oatmeal a Better Way

Blog Oatmeal

Our family has been eating Paleo-ish for the last few years. And by “Paleo-ish”, I mean that we eat mostly Paleo: meats, fats, and lots of veggies. But we also eat dairy, rice, and some grains, like oatmeal, because we also follow the Weston A. Price-ish diet that contends that grains are fine if prepared properly. So that’s what I’m dedicating this post to: explaining how to prepare oatmeal properly.

We’re eaten more oatmeal since moving to Alaska. It’s a nice warm food in the mornings. Plus I’ve started making my own cereal, which most people probably wouldn’t like, but the kids and I like it because it’s the only cereal we eat.

Okay, so oatmeal. According to Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, grains were meant to be eaten only after soaking or fermenting them because grains contain phytic acid in the outer layer of the bran; Paleo people might have heard this term before and people like Chris Kresser suggest soaking and roasting nuts, like almonds, to remove some of the phytic acid. What’s the harm of phytic acid (aka phytate)? Chris Kresser’s link explains it more in depth, but if we get too much of this phytic acid, it binds to other minerals (that we need to nourish our bodies) and prevents their absorption. So a diet high in processed foods and unfermented grains and nuts can lead to mineral deficiencies, bone loss, allergies, celiac disease, mental illness, chronic indigestion, and whatever else. Geez! Sometimes it’s hard to know what’s best to put in our bodies, and when I say ours, I’m thinking mostly of our girls and their two tiny bellies that need the best nourishment possible. It’s a really hard thing to know what is best. I mean, even while writing this, I am wondering if organic steel cut oats are the best choice. Or even how much oatmeal is too much? Ahhh! This is tricky. But the important thing for me is to keep fighting the fight. Just keep trying to put what’s best in our bodies by researching what we’re doing. It’s hard sometimes because we have to spend a lot of time trying to figure out what’s best, but it’s worth it because it is true that food can hurt as well as heal. And I want to make sure we are all nourished the best way possible.

Okay, so here’s what I do:

Oatmeal

1 cup oats (I use organic steel cut oats)

1 cup warm filtered water

2 tablespoons whey, yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, lemon juice or vinegar

½ teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

butter (optional, I use Kerrygold or when I really hit the jackpot, it was butter from Spring Hill Dairy in Petaluma)

raw honey

diced apples (optional)

Soaking the Day/Night Before: Mix oats and warm water with two tablespoons of whatever liquid listed. I usually use apple cider vinegar because I don’t always have the other stuff on hand (vinegar and lemon juice are good options for those with milk allergies). Cover the oats and place in a warm spot for at least 7 hours or as long as 24 hours.

Cooking: When you’re ready to cook, you just rinse the oatmeal thoroughly (this is especially important to get the vinegar smell and taste out).   Bring 1 1/2 cup water to a boil and add oats. Reduce heat and cook for several minutes, stirring occasionally. It depends on which type of oat. With my steel cut ones, it takes about 8 minutes, or I just notice the water has evaporated. Remove from heat and then add cinnamon, lots of butter, some raw honey, and diced apples. It is soooo yummy! This really is a tasty treat!