Turn the Castoffs of Coconut Milk into Coconut Flour

I have made my third batch of coconut milk this weekend.  In my quest to go trash and plastic free, this is one change that has also been cost effective.  I can easily spend over $4 for a half gallon of unsweetened coconut milk.  This store bought coconut milk comes in a vessel that is non recyclable in our city, so it ends up in the trash.

By making coconut milk, I end up with the scraps of coconut that didn’t make it through the colander.  Some of what I made with the castoffs were these Energy Balls.  But I wasn’t going to be able to keep up with this leftover coconut.

So, I made coconut flour.  This will make many baked goods gluten free; if you replace regular flour with this.  It’s really simple too.  When you strain the coconut milk from the coconut, make sure to squeeze out as much liquid as you can.  You will have to dry the coconut on the counter for awhile or you can dry it in the oven over a few hours.  I actually opted for both.  I have cats so I can’t leave anything on my counter.  They have a growing like for coconut milk too so I needed to overnight dry the coconut in the oven.  I just left it in there with the oven off.

The next day, I used Wellness Mama’s advice and popped it into the oven at the lowest setting for about 3-4 hours.  I put the pulp on cookie sheets and I checked on it every hour or half hour to ensure it’s not browning.  At about 3.5 hours it was ready to come out.  A few flakes had a touch of brown on it but that didn’t matter.

Coconut Pulp

Then I put it in the food processor and to grind it up as finely as possible.  Mine never got to a powder consistency; however, it’s going to work for me.  Our food processor got warm when I ran it for more than a few minutes so I had to give it a few breaks to cool down.

coconut flour

I have my flour stored in a mason jar on my counter currently.  I found a site, Coconut Mama that has quite a few 100+ Coconut flour recipes you should check out.  I ended up making the Coconut Flour Pumpkin Bread.  I didn’t cook it long enough, unfortunately, so I don’t have a photo of it.  But the above site would be great to save for future recipe ideas.

From making coconut milk, I will end up with lots of flour so I will need to find more uses for it.  So I made this homemade soap.  It literally took 5 minutes using the microwave and melt-able goat’s milk soap base.  I added some dried up rosemary that was for cooking that was about to go bad and I also added in some of the coconut flour for texture.  This will be good as to exfoliate.  I added in some Winter Green Peppermint essential oil for fragrance.  It looks and smells amazing.

coconut soap

My soap isn’t in a very cool shape because I don’t want to buy soap molds.  Instead I use what ever container I have around to shape the soaps.  You can use old milk containers, muffin tins or any other container you have around the house.

Do you have any grace recipes to use coconut flour.  I’d love to hear them!

Vegetable Broth Made From Scraps

I was reading the blog, The Rogue Ginger, start to finish over the course of a week recently.  I not only learned about going waste and plastic free, but I also learned that making vegetable broth is EASY.   The carton that we buy vegetable broth in is non-recyclable in our area so it would always go into the trash.  On my quest to go waste free, I happened to come across the steps to making homemade vegetable stock that I can freeze in mason jars.  This is perfect.

By the way – go check out The Rogue Ginger‘s site.  Lots of great recipes and tips.  I honestly don’t know how I found it but I am glad I did.

For the past two weeks, I collected all of my carrot, onion and celery scraps and put them in a separate container in the freezer.  I keep my compost in my freezer too (in a re-purposed metal coffee canister) until it’s full and ready to go outside. These three veggies are called mirepoix, a flavor base for stocks and broths.  I learn something every day.  You can add more veggies than just these 3.  Check out the image containing veggies to skip on the Rogue Ginger’s post.

I saved up about 5 cups worth, then put it into a pot on the stove top.  I put enough water to cover the veggies and so I can easily stir it.  Next, you add the spices.  I combined the Rogue Ginger’s herb combinations with the kitchn‘s.  I ended up adding Basil, Bay Leaves, Parsley and Thyme.  I eyeballed it; about a teaspoon of each, but it depends on how much water and veggies you have.  This will be a learning experience since this is my first try.

Vegetable Broth From Scraps

I got it to simmering, stirring every now and then for about an hour.  I let it cool for a while, then filtered out the veggies and herbs with a colander and a coffee filter.  I will be composting the coffee filter.

Store them in the freezer or in the fridge and use within 5 days.

**Update – I won’t need to strain the veggies from the broth with anything other tha just the collander.  It doesn’t matter to my husband and me if there are bits of veggies and spices left over.

Plastic Free Dishwasher Detergent

I have been obsessing over having a plastic free and trash free lifestyle.  This is a slow change in progress as I have a husband who prefers convenience; plus, he does all of the grocery shopping.  I don’t want to throw 0% waste at him all at once.  It would never happen.  So, I am trying to remove as much plastic from my life as I can in my chores by means of making things myself.

I have been using homemade laundry detergent for a while and I love it.  It is plastic free and very easy to make.  I have heard debates on whether or not Borax is safe.  Well, I have been using it for about a year or more and I haven’t had any issues: rashes or skin irritations.  However; I am going to try a new recipe next time (I am soon out) that is Borax free to see how it works.

I am soon out of my store bought dishwasher detergent (my husband bought not knowing I had planned to make my own).  I wanted to use up what we had first before making my own.  I don’t like wasting.

Store bought detergent doesn’t contain ingredient list. Claims it’s safe for the environment.

I tried finding an ingredient list on my store bought detergent, but I couldn’t find one.  Look at all of the warnings on this stuff.  This is “Eco” detergent, “Friendly to Lakes and Steams.”  It says Phosphate Free; but since there isn’t an ingredient list; I am not confidant in this claim.  I am maybe reconsidering my dislike of wasting.

Toxic Dish Detergent

I wanted to find a non-toxic, plastic free recipe for dish washing detergent.

I found a recipe I wanted to try on thank your body.  For dish detergent, I wanted something borax free for sure since you use dishes to put food into your mouth.  I didn’t want to chance it.  This recipe was easy.  I had to only buy citric acid; the rest I already had in my pantry.  Citric acid is good for cheese making too (which I learned today).  So whatever you have left over, you can use to make cheese too.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups citric acid
  • 1 1/2 cups washing soda
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 1/2 cup sea salt

Directions:

Combine all together.  Blend out any lumps.  Store in a sealed canning jar with lid.  The jar that I used had been storing canned tomatoes.  Instead of throwing out the lid, I labeled that this jar contained dish-washing detergent.  It can be reused infinite times.

Three of the ingredients of this recipe are food-based.  Washing soda is closely related to Baking Soda; it’s also known as sodium carbonate and can also be created from sodium chloride, also known as table salt.  This plastic free homemade detergent will be much safer for your dishes and for you.

Easy Homemade Energy Balls

Energy Balls DIY

After I made my homemade coconut milk, I was left with over 2 cups of coconut that I could use for anything else.  I didn’t want to waste it and throw it in the compost bin, which was my initial thought.  I searched Pinterest for recipes that included coconut and came across many yummy ones, but I didn’t want anything with added sugar or covered in chocolate.

I hit the jackpot when I found The Organised Housewife’s blog post about Healthy Chocolate and Coconut Bliss Balls.  I had to try it because I had most of the ingredients and it’s a sure way to curb cravings mid-day when I would otherwise reach for a naughty snack.  Below is the recipe I took from The Organised Housewife:

Ingredients
  • 2 cups medjool dates
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1 cup hazelnuts
  • ⅓ cup cacao
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut

Okay, so I didn’t have all of the ingredients so I made some substitutions.  I used raisins instead of dates, and I didn’t have the 2 cups of nuts.  What I did have was about 1/3 cup of walnuts, so I supplemented the remaining with oatmeal.  I am sure it doesn’t taste AS good but it works until I can buy nuts for my next time making this recipe.

Directions
  • Combine the dates/raisins and nuts in a food processor.  I probably blended for about 45 seconds.
  • Add the cacao and coconut and blend for another 60 seconds.  After it’s done, the food processor will tell you by throwing the ingredients around in a big ball.  Scrape down the sides.
  • Roll into balls any size you want.
  • Refrigerate until you are ready to use.

I still have over a cup left of the coconut so I could use it to make the following:

  • Homemade soap and add the coconut to exfoliate.
  • Use in a breading concoction for coconut crusted chicken, fish or shrimp.
  • Make homemade Almond Joy or Mounds.
  • Homemade smoothies.

Easy Homemade Coconut Milk

I have been obsessed with Coconut Milk since I found that the unsweetened kind had barely any sugar.  It’s nearly 0%.  I have been trying to reduce my sugar intake; milk being really high in sugar, was the first thing I considered removing from my diet.

If I had realized how easy it was to make this stuff, I would have been making this for a long time.  I found a recipe to try out on Wellness Mama here.  I figured I’d give these instructions a try, and if needed, I would alter or add more coconut, based on my taste preference.

I had sweetened coconut shreds in my fridge I wanted to use, so this isn’t the true unsweetened variety that I want, but I wanted to use it and there is no better way than to use it for something I need anyway: coconut milk.  So I measured what I had available, which was about 3 cups.

Homemade Coconut Milk 12

Based on the ratio on Wellness Mama’s site, this didn’t match so I had to do some math.  Brings me back to the good ole days of junior high school or elementary school.  When did we learn ratios, I don’t even remember.

Homemade Coconut Milk Calculation 1

So my recipe called or about 6.85 cups of water to 3 cups of coconut shreds.  Wellness Mama used approximately 1.75 cups of coconut shreds to 4 cups of water.  Adjust as you see fit.

Heat the water to hot, but not boiling.  I went a bit too far with the temperature so I let it sit for a while.  Once it was at a good temperature, I added the coconut and used an immersion hand blender and blended it for a couple of minutes.

Then you send it through a colander to collect the coconut and release the coconut milk.  Originally I had planned to use a colander and a coffee filter but this deemed TOO slow so my husband told me to use the metal strainer (which he uses for cheese).  Worked like a charm.  I owe him credit: thanks Ben!

Homemade Coconut Milk Strainer 1

I popped the coconut milk into the fridge to cool for a while before I put them in my reusable bottles.   Love these things.  I found a box of them in our garage and thought they were perfect!  I think they were purchased years ago to make homemade booze and gift them, but that never happened.  I will put them to use in a different way.

Homemade Coconut Milk 21

Now, I need to find a use for these left over coconut shreds.  No reason to put them in the compost bin when they can be used in a healthy recipe.  More to come on that.

Homemade Coconut Milk Shreds 1

Remember to shake your coconut milk before you use.   This should last me a week or so.  I will update with how it holds up.

Homemade Non-Toxic Deodorant

Now that I do not plan to purchase regular deodorant anymore I needed a replacement if that one day I forgot to use my Crystal stone and it ends up being a really stressful day where I sweat a lot; I have something to fall back on.  In order to not smell up the workplace, I wanted to try to make a homemade deodorant with healthy and non toxic ingredients.

I found this tin among all of the garbage in my husband’s car and I was about to throw it or recycle it.  This is a perfect size for storing my deodorant.  Please note: I am not sure if I would travel with this container because if the deodorant does liquefy, I do not feel confidant that this container will contain what’s inside.  This is really a trial run with this deodorant since I do not know if it will work for me.  I will add an update after I give it a go for a few months.

Deodorant Tin

I won’t document the process with images or a video since there is a great video on Trash is For Tossers here.  The recipe is below.

2 Tablespoons Arrow Root powder

1 Tablespoon Baking Soda

1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil

1 Tablespoon Shae Butter

5-10 drops of your favorite essential oil

Combine all of the above ingredients and melt down in a double boiler.

Transfer into a jar or a canister that has a lid and pop in the fridge for 10 minutes to solidify.

**You can replace Arrow Root powder with cornstarch.  I had to order my Arrow Root powder online so if you already have cornstarch, use that instead.

Homemade Laundry Soap

I am now on my second batch of laundry detergent.  I have never thought powdered detergent would be effective.  But this stuff IS.   I found the recipe here.  I have a very messy husband who stains every shirt he wears daily, so I require something powerful.   Honestly, I don’t know why he owns anything but black t-shirts.

The hardest part of this recipe is shredding the Fels Naptha soap.  You need 1 bar of Fels Naptha.  You may actually get carpal tunnel shredding this thing.  I shred mine very fine; almost like a dust consistency.

Homemade Laundry Soap

Then you stir in 1 cup of Borax and 1 cup of Washing Soda.    Stir it really well.  And that’s it!  Easy Peasey!  I store mine in a glass jar with a clamp locking lid.  I shake it a bit every once in a while to ensure it is mixed thoroughly.  When it’s laundry day, all you need is one tablespoon per load.  This stuff works amazingly!

Homemade Granola

I have been looking for healthy snacks while I am at work.  My wonderful friend made me some plain yogurt, topped with fresh fruit and granola while on vacation and I wanted to make some homemade granola for this.  I came across a health granola recipe which I HAD to try since I had all of the ingredients.  That never happens at all.

Go check out Elizabeth Rider’s blog here for the recipe.  It’s easy and quick to make.

DIY Toothpaste

Every year around Earth Day I get inspired to make a change to be more environmental.  I happened to find this awesome website Trash is for Tossers, which is just what I was looking for this year.  I have always been intrigued at creating Zero Waste so to find this website right before Earth Day was perfect timing.  I am going to try making my own stuff to eliminate packaging from entering the landfill and also to save a little money and control the chemical ingredients that come in contact with my body.  Below is the recipe for making your own toothpaste right from Trash is for Tossers:

Toothpaste Ingredients: (feel free to double or triple recipe)

2 Tablespoons organic coconut oil

1 Tablespoon baking soda

15-20 drops food grade mint extract

Directions:  Mix it all together.  Store in your medicine cabinet in a cute mason jar.  Run under warm water if too hard, or put in the fridge if too soft.

Sunday Waffles

Martha Stewart is a genius.  She helped make the best brunch I ever have.  Why go out for Sunday Brunch when you can make it at home:

Waffles by Martha Stewart

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • Maple syrup and butter, as desired, for serving

Directions:

  • Preheat waffle iron according to manufacturer’s instructions. In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  • In a small bowl, whisk milk and eggs; pour over flour mixture, and whisk gently to combine (don’t overmix). Gently whisk in butter.
  • Following manufacturer’s instructions, cook waffles until deep brown and crisp. (For a standard waffle iron, pour a generous 1/2 cup of batter into center, spreading to within 1/2 inch of edges, and close; waffle will cook in 2 to 3 minutes.) Serve warm, with maple syrup and butter, as desired.  *I used the blueberry sauce instead (below)

Blueberry Sauce by Martha Stewart

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint fresh raspberries (I used blueberries instead)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

  • Combine blueberries, sugar, lemon juice, and salt in a small, nonreactive saucepan over low heat. Cook until berries release their juice and just start to break down, about 5 minutes. Use a rubber spatula to press berries through a fine sieve; discard solids. Let cool, and refrigerate until ready to use.

Lavender Extract

Today I was due to pull out all of my dead flowers for winter.  It’s said to snow this weekend so I wanted to make some lavender extract before the flowers went bad.

All you need to make lavender extract is the flower heads of lavender and vodka.

Separate the flower heads from the stalk and place them in a container with a lid.

Cover with just enough vodka and let sit for a couple of weeks.

Shake once every other day.

Then use it in cooking.  I have never used lavender extract in any cooking before but I look forward to experimenting.

extract
Homemade Lavender Extract

Crockpot Apple and Cinnamon Oatmeal

Again Pinterest has really come through.  I am addicted.  I think Pinterest is a place to find unique things.  I have found some of the coolest things on there.  This recipe is one of them and I plan on using this recipe lots and making minor changes based on my mood.  I have a feeling you can make just about anything with a just the main staples in this recipe: oatmeal and water.  I like how easy this recipe is.  You just do the prep work, throw it in the crock pot, then let it go overnight.  The next morning you just dish up.

Ingredients:

2 chopped apples

1/3 C brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

2 C oatmeal

4 C water

Directions:

Throw in a crock pot the night before.  Turn on low.  It will need 6-8 hours in the crock pot.

In the morning, add some milk or cream and enjoy!

*What about substituting any fruit for apples?  I think replacing peaches with apples will make a nice peach cobbler style oatmeal.  I plan on trying that next time.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Homemade Chocolate Syrup

For most people who know me, they know that I have a big sweet tooth.  I was craving jelly beans this weekend but I knew that I was going to be making some chocolate goodies so I had to stay away.  The Dairy Queen is also my addiction.  I honestly believe that I am addicted to sugar.  For one or two weeks this spring I decided to go on a low sugar diet.  I didn’t want anything with refined sugar like cupcakes, doughnuts or candy.  I was very good during this time frame, but I still just craved the goodies.  I knew that if I was to break down I would go on a chocolate/candy binge. This was right before vacation, so let me tell you it didn’t last long.  I haven’t tried the low sugar diet since then, but I do know that it will require lots of determination.

One of the chocolate treats I made this weekend was chocolate syrup.  There is nothing like a good chocolate drizzle on your favorite fruit, or ice cream.  This was quite easy for the amount that it made.  And pretty cheap.  This is also a great gift for all of your foodie friends.

Ingredients

1 + 1/2 C water

1 C sugar

1/3 C cocoa powder

1/2 C chocolate chips

1 tsp vanilla extract

pinch of salt

Directions

1.  In a saucepan on medium low heat, add cocoa powder to water and whisk together.

2.  Stir in sugar and mix until dissolved.

3.  Add chocolate chips and salt and stir until chocolate chips are melted.  Add in vanilla extract.

4.  Bring mixture to low boil and stir frequently.  Boil down for approximately 30 minutes.

5.  Store in the fridge.

If you store it in a cute glass container like in the photo, you have an instant gift.  Just attach a gift card to the metal clasp and you are done.

Cranberry Infused Vodka

I am realizing that Christmas is going to be upon us before we know it.  It feels like I was just staying awake until midnight watching the new year start.  Now 2012 is about 66.67% over.

I am one of those people who starts thinking about Christmas shopping in July, but usually ends up buying the presents the week before Christmas stressed out of my mind.  I want to change that this year for sure.  We have 4 months to go and I want to start making my homemade gift lists now.

I had this bag of frozen cranberries in my freezer from last year that I wanted to use.  Our freezer is stuffed with food I want to start using before it goes bad.  I HATE wasting food.  I don’t want to know if rotten food is being thrown away.  I’d rather not know.

I figured, around Christmas, who doesn’t have a holiday party with family or friends at least once?  Why not bring the host a gift of infused vodka?  It is SO easy to make.

Ingredients:

12 oz of whole cranberries

1/3 cup sugar

1/8 cup stevia

800 mL of vodka

1 lime

funnel

Before I give the directions let me explain these weird measurements.  I had a 1.75 L of vodka and I just used the rest of it.  It was about half full.  It also meant I could store the infused vodka in the vodka bottle.  Nice reuse. :)

I put the cranberries and sugar on the stove in a pot on about medium.  I started them off frozen, right out of the freezer and it worked fine.  It will develop a liquid on the bottom of the pot.  Once all of the sugar is blended well into the cranberries, and the cranberries are not mush (but whole, for the most part), you can remove them from the heat and add them to the vodka via funnel.  My funnel had a hole too small to fit the cranberries through so I just spooned them in.

Chop up the lime in thin circles and squeeze them into the bottle.  I shook the bottle up a bit just to blend the syrup into the vodka (with the cap on).

Store in a cool dark place.  Let me tell you that cranberries and lime marry very well together.  My friend at Recipe Diaries told me that and it’s true.

Fifty Shades of Bacon

We decided to make a cookbook, but not just any cookbook.  A bacon parody of the Fifty Shades of Grey.  All 50 recipes in this cookbook feature bacon of some sort.  We spent a month cooking up all of these recipes to make sure they were good, then went back and made them even better.

We just received our cookbooks yesterday and I LOVE THEM.  They turned out much better than I expected.  If you need a goofy Christmas gift I suggest you consider this.  Who wouldn’t get a kick out of this bacon themed cookbook?

You can check out our createspace store here.

We also have it listed on Amazon here.

For a little more information you can check out our website at Fifty Shades of Bacon.

If you are considering buying this cookbook but have questions first, please let me know.  I’d love to hear your comments.

Refrigerator Pickles

Growing up, during the summer months we always had a large bowl of refrigerator pickles in our fridge.  One of my parents favorite veggies to garden was the cucumber.  The nice thing about these pickles are that you do not need to can them in a hot water bath.  Thus you save lots and lots of time from canning and cleaning your kitchen afterward.

My husband and I made these once for a couples dinner night and it was reviewed very well.  This recipe I made says you only need 24 hours before you serve.  In the past, I always thought it took about a week.  In any case, they do not as long as preserving pickles.  Plus, if you have very large cucumbers, like we did…see below…they make very good refrigerator pickles.

*Update – I just tried my pickles that I made 2 days ago and they need a little extra time.  They do taste good, but I think they taste better when the edges get all curled.  That’s when you know they are done.

My husband bought this massive Ball jar that I thought was a joke.  I had no idea he intended on using this for these pickles.  But, it works just fine.  Otherwise you can just use a big bowl and plastic wrap the top.  That is what we have done in the past, but the sugary liquid, when spilled, get’s sticky.

Recipe

6 cups cucumbers, sliced

1 cup raw onion rings

2 cups sugar

1 cup vinegar

2 Tbsp salt

1 Tbsp celery seed

Combine the vinegar, sugar, salt and celery seed.  Heat to the boiling point.

Pour over the sliced onions and cucumbers.

These keep well in the refrigerator for weeks.  You can replace the onions and cucumbers as they are used.  The liquid mixture may not appear to come close to covering the cucumbers and onions but the vegetables will extract liquid so over night they will be covered.  Make sure to keep them covered.

Enjoy!

Homemade Pesto

I could eat something covered in pesto any day of the week.  And it is so easy to make.  You can easily add pesto to pasta or on top of toast, and it is so yummy.  Yesterday, my hubby and I were very busy in the kitchen.  We received lots of organic basil from our CSA and used it all for pesto.  Pesto also freezes really well.  We froze 12 servings for the winter months.

Other than making pesto, we also made refrigerator pickles and canned 5 jars of spicy dill pickles.  This was our first year making canned pickles so I look forward to tasting them.  I hate doing all of this preserving on an already hot day, but we had no choice.

Here is my favorite pesto recipe.

Ingredients

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano Cheese (Do not add pesto you plan to freeze.  You will add it after you thaw it.)

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts

2 medium sized garlic cloves

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Lime juice

Food Processor

1.  Wash basil well and remove as much water as possible and place in food processor.  Add pine nuts and pulse a few times in the food processor.  Add garlic, pulse a few more times.

2.  Slowly drizzle the olive oil while the food processor is on.  Turn off the processor, and scrape down the sides with a spatula.  Add the grated cheese and pulse until blended.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

3.  If you won’t be using the pesto right away, stir in a few drops of lime juice.

4.  Serve as you wish.

 

Easy Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Soup

I hate cooking meals.  I would rather bake something sweet.  But I came across this easy recipe that even I could make.  It didn’t require making a huge mess or a lot of ingredients.  It is gluten free and vegetarian.  If you like squash soup you will probably like this one too.  It has the same consistency as mashed cauliflower.

 

Ingredients

3 medium sized sweet potatoes

1 head cauliflower

1 onion

2 cloves of garlic

7 cups of water

Cut the cauliflower into smallish pieces, drizzle with olive oil and bake in the oven at 400 for 20 – 30 minutes.  Roast until light brown and but not mushy.

Chop the sweet potatoes, onion and garlic and put in water to soften.  When the cauliflower is done put this in the veggie mixture.  Once the potatoes are soften allow to cool before you blend.  I took mine off the burner and went for a walk.  Once I returned I took the hand blender to it and blended it to a lumpy texture.   Reheat on the stove until hot.  Season with salt and pepper.

My husband and I had enough for 2 full meals each.  We at it again the next day, but we added some diced ham to it.  We are by no means vegetarians and we had ham left over in the fridge.  It did add a little salt to it and it tasted like scalloped potatoes.   It was yummy and easy.

 

DIY Almond Butter

I eat a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich almost every day.  It’s quick to make and somewhat fulfilling.  I suppose not as satisfying as a pizza or Fettuccine Alfredo.  In trying to eat healthier I found that almond butter has less fat than regular peanut butter.  I love Trader Joe’s almond butter specifically.  Unfortunately, here in Fargo, we are 3 hours away from the closest Trader Joe’s.  Yes, we have it here in the grocery stores, but it’s double the price.    Plus, I had no idea how easy it would be to make it myself.   It’s easy AND it tastes delicious.  Here are the easiest steps.

Ingredients

Almonds

Honey (optional)

Salt (optional)

Really, that is it.  However, I found a recipe that adds a bit of raw honey (which I had) and salt.

I bought a bag that was 2 and a half cups of chopped almonds.  I toasted them on a skillet on medium until it browned a bit.  Popped the almonds in the food processor, added a couple of teaspoons of raw honey and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.  It blended for about 5 minutes until it turned into a butter consistency.

Have you looked at the ingredients on a peanut butter jar?  Molasses, Hydrogenated Oil, Sugar…Why are these things needed?  Peanuts and almonds are tasty all by themselves.  And I know that hydrogenated oils are NOT healthy.

I suppose the bag of almonds cost about $4.50.  I could have saved some money but I didn’t want to spend time shopping.  So for less than $5 I have good, raw and tasty almond butter.  You have to really try this yourself!

Pumpkin Pancakes

I must be in the fall mood because I have been craving fall flavors like apple butter and pumpkin.  I think that you can enjoy these flavors any time of the year, but it is extra special at the right season.

Two years ago we had a great harvest of pumpkins.  I don’t remember the exact count, but we ended up with the equivalent of 60 cans of pureed pumpkin.  I have found some great recipes using my pumpkin.  I love this Pumpkin Swirl Bread recipe from my friends’ blog.  I also have tried pumpkin risotto which is great.  Here is my favorite recipe using pumpkin.

Pumpkin Pancakes

2 cups all purpose flour

3 Tbsp packed brown sugar

1 Tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 3/4 cup milk

3 eggs, lightly beaten

3/4 cup canned pumpkin

1/2 cup cooking oil

1.  Combine flour and other dry ingredients.  In second bowl combine eggs and remaining ingredients.  Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients.  Mix until mixture is just a bit lumpy.

2.  Heat frying pan until water dances or sizzles.   Flip once the sides lift off the pan and bubbles form and stay.

I really enjoy these both hot or cold.  I usually make 3 small pancakes for a snack at work.  It is even quick enough to make before leaving for work.  And there is barely any sugar in it, but it’s sweet enough if you have a sweet tooth.   I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.

 

DIY Homemade Vanilla Extract

I hate buying vanilla extract.  It is so expensive and you only get a small amount.  Since I like to save money I found a recipe for making my own at home.  All it requires is vanilla beans, vodka, an air tight container and time.  I found some reasonably priced vanilla beans at beanilla.  They have a great assortment of varieties.  I went with the Madagascar Vanilla Beans because a friend told me they were the best.  It really only took about 4 days to receive too.

I purchased 10 beans because it had the best value.  I ordered half for myself and half for my friend.  For this recipe I used 5 vanilla beans.  This is what you need to do to make your own vanilla extract.

Find a container to store it in.  I found an old fashion mason jar.  Even a cleaned out wine bottle would work.  Make sure it’s good and clean.

Cut the vanilla beans in half length wise.  Then use a kitchen scissors to cut them down the middle, to expose the vanilla.

Put them into the container and fill with vodka.  At SimplyRecipes, my inspiration for this recipe,  they use 3 vanilla beans and added 1 cup of vodka.  For me, I had to use a little algebra to figure out I would need 1.666 cups of vodka for my 5 beans.

Then store them in a cool dark place.  I put them in a cabinet in my laundry room.  Make sure to give it a shake every once in a while.  After a couple of months it will be ready.  You will have a dark brown extract ready to bake with.

Add more vodka every so often to keep up a good supply.  I will update this blog as it starts to darken.  I look forward to saving lots of money with this recipe and using my own vanilla.  Not only do I save money, but I reduce waste.  The cap to the vanilla bean extract I purchase in the store is not recyclable.  Making my own helps me to reduce waste.

*Updated 7/15/2012.  Vanilla is now ready to use.  It didn’t take long for it to get this dark brown color, but I wanted to give it extra time to infuse into the vodka.

 

Healthy Banana Cookies

Do you ever have the problem that your bananas have gotten too ripe you can’t eat them anymore?  Sometimes when we go shopping at the grocery store we guy a bag of bananas that are too ripe to sell.  We end up with about 3 bunches for $2.99.  We never can use that many before they go bad so I just throw them in the freezer.   This is a great way to hold on to them and use them when you need them.  I take out three for this recipe at a time and let them thaw out.  It’s a great way to save money on bananas for baking.  Here is the recipe.

3 ripe bananas

2 cups rolled oats

1 cup dates (or raisins in my case)

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In medium/large bowl mash bananas.  Stir in oats, dates/raisins, oil and vanilla.  Mix well.  Allow to sit for 15 minutes.

3. Bake for 20 minutes in the oven, or until lightly brown.

Make sure to wait the full 15 minutes.  Once I baked these without waiting and my cookies were hard.  I still ate them, but they weren’t as chewy and soft as they should be.

I actually didn’t have any dates or raisins when I made them today so I just left them out.  You could also subsitutute almonds or walnuts.  If you usually bring a granola bar to work with you for lunch or a snack this is a good substitute.  I am on a low sugar diet and granola bars from stores are loaded with sugar.  For this recipe I didn’t add any sugar.  It is just the natural sugars from the bananas.

DIY Cherry Cordials

I didn’t make as many gifts as I would have liked this Christmas, but I am going to dedicate a large portion of 2012 in making my own gifts for next year.  However, I did have difficulty finding gifts for my mom this year but I remembered she used to always have a box of Queen Anne’s cherries in her fridgerator.  I decided to give making my own a try this year.   I found a recipe that I thought was at my culinary skill level and got busy.
First the recipe; courtesy of veronicascornucopia.com

2 (10-oz) jars maraschino cherries (you’ll need 40-50)
¼ c butter, softened
2 ¼ c powdered sugar
1 T reserved cherry juice
½ t vanilla extract
¼ t almond extract
1 (12-oz) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
¼ cake paraffin wax, shredded OR 2 T vegetable shortening

*I replaced the chocolate chips and shortening with Baker’s Chocolate.

First step is to get the cherries out of the juice.  I drained it with a colander and saved the juice.  (Do not rinse) I plan on using the cherry juice for something else.  Possibly cherry infused vodka or brandy for another gift.  I placed the cherries then on a paper towel to rid the excess juice.  This helped when wrapping the fondant around them.

In the meantime, cream the butter with 1 cup of the powdered sugar, then add 1 T reserved cherry juice, the extracts, and the remaining sugar; stir until mixed. You may have to knead it with your hands as it will be firm like dough.  I ended up adding about another tablespoon of non-butter (the kind in the tubs) to give it a dough like consistency as I kneaded it.

Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Take small pieces of fondant, about 1 or 2 teaspoons, and press them flat on your palm. Wrap around the cherries, pinching off the excess before rolling them smooth and placing on the wax paper. Repeat until all cherries are covered with the fondant. Set in the freezer until well chilled. I did this step a day in advance and proceeded with the dipping the following day, so they were frozen hard.

Melt the Baker’s chocolate until smooth. Dip each cherry in the chocolate using a fork, drawing fork across rim of pan to remove excess coating. Drop coated cherry upside down onto waxed paper, swirling a thread of coating from fork across top for a decorative touch.  Once all are coated, place in the refrigerator until the chocolate is set; check bottoms and reseal with additional melted coating, if necessary. You want every part of the fondant covered or it will start to leak out as it liquefies.  Store in a cool place (do not refrigerate) for 2 weeks to form cordial.

I tried mine about 5-6 days after making them and they were not ready yet.  Make sure you give them enough time to liquefy.

Place in a nice tin with tissue paper.  No other wrapping needed.  You don’t want to use wrapping paper that will just get thrown away, do you?  This year I ended up doing all of my wrapping with reused wrapping paper from previous years, bags or tins like for these delicious treats.  Everything can be reused or repurposed.  Hope you all had a Merry “Green” Christmas!