Tip Tuesday, no. 4

Green smoothies are all the rage, right? All over pinterest, in the to-go mugs of lululemon moms everywhere. They’ve been one of my favorite breakfasts since I went grain-free and my standby granola went by the wayside.

Most smoothie recipes call for grabbing a bunch of fresh leafy greens and grinding them to liquid with some other yummier items (bananas or other fruits). This is what I did most of last summer, pulling straight from our garden, where our little patch of kale was prolific for many months.

But then I kept reading things about raw greens* containing chemicals that can worsen the effects of hypothyroidism. My thyroid has lately tended to be slightly weak — so while I loved getting my greens in my morning smoothie, I thought it best not to eat them raw every day.

Solution: cook a batch of kale, puree it down in a blender or food processor, and freeze it in ice cube trays. Once frozen, pop out and store in a zipper bag. When it comes smoothie time, just grab a cube and stick it in the blender with the rest of your ingredients. You get your serving of dark greens, but they’re cooked to inhibit those goitrogens.

If you drink green smoothies every day, you might consider keeping these kale cubes in your freezer to alternate with raw green smoothies (of course you could do this with any green, I just prefer kale). Perfect for those days you’re clean out of fresh greens — the flavor is still mild, usually overcome by fruits, and you start the morning with a serving of veggies.

* Goitrogens are not present in lettuce greens — so eating all the salad you want doesn’t effect thyroid function. It’s the sturdier greens, including spinach, along with cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower.

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Looking for a great way to add immunity-supporting probiotics to your smoothie? Check this Kid’s Probiotic Smoothie — it’s for grownups too (delicious with kale cubes added)!

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This post was linked up to Simple Lives Thursday.

Kids’ power smoothie

Sometimes, it feels as though 90% of my energy on any given day is spent figuring out how to get as many nourishing foods into my kids’ bodies as possible, given their standard-fare pickiness, a limited budget, and their battle-weary mom.

Another 5% is spent doing the laundry.

I don’t know if you’re keeping up with the math, but that leaves 5% of my energy for doing things like brushing my teeth, showering on occasion, keeping up with social media, and watching my library-loaned copies of Lark Rise to Candleford (a BBC period-dramedy chosen specifically for its solid escapism capabilities).

I’m not (always) bitter, just constantly surprised by how much energy it takes to feed kids well. And looking for better solutions.

Thankfully, last spring I landed on an easy, sure-fire way to get loads of good probiotics into the bellies of my kids: the smoothie. We’ve been enjoying them all summer, but school starts Monday (!) — and my goal is to pack them full of friendly gut-flora, daily, year-round, to give their immune systems that much-needed school-year boost.

The great thing about smoothies? You can sneak things into them. Things like greens, kombucha (a how-to-make-your-own post is coming soon!) beet kvass (a lacto-fermented beverage made from beets — great for the liver, not-so-tasty for the kids), or brain-boosting fish oil (tastes like lemon!). I like using probiotics from multiple sources — yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and a powdered kids’ probiotic supplement — to get as much variety as possible in beneficial bacteria.

If you want a protein boost, you can add a spoonful of nut butter (almond and cashew butters are more neutral in flavor than peanut butter). For constipated kids, grind some flaxseed and throw it in (1 tsp should do). And my personal favorite for getting some extra brain-boosting fats? A quarter of an avocado makes the smoothie thick and creamy, and you can’t taste it at all.

The best part of all? No complaining. At afternoon snack time, when my kids hear the blender running, it’s like a Pavlovian reaction — they come to the table, ready to drink. It keeps them satiated until dinner, and gets those good bugs into their adorable little bellies.

Leaving me just enough time to switch out the laundry, check twitter, and change out of my pjs before dinner.*

* Of course I’m kidding. I’m totally done with laundry by dinner.

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Old-fashioned Blueberry-Basil Preserves

I love using descriptors like “old-fashioned.” They are completely undefinable (from the time of yore?), and conjure images of everything on the shelves at your local Cracker Barrel.

(In case you’re wondering, other adjectives falling into this category include old-timey, prairie-style, country — oftentimes spelled with a “k” — and grandma’s.)

But I’m coming up empty on finding another name for these preserves. Honey-sweetened, commercial-pectin-free, and lacto-fermented. Seems like the way our great-great-grandmothers likely had to make jam, yes? On the prairie or in the country, no doubt.

My motivations for making them this way should come as no surprise: I’m still not eating sugar, which leaves most jam recipes out of reach — and I’m totally into fermenting things these days. Give me a jar of just about anything, and I’ll stir a little whey into it, let it sit on the counter for a day, and let those good lactic acid bugs multiply (granted, the honey in this recipe probably halts that growth a bit, but they do still grow, according to what I’ve read in Sandor Katz’s The Art of Fermentation — ahem, many thanks to Suzanne for the weekend book loaner! It’s now on my to-acquire list!).

Oh how I heart this jam. The high salt content helps with fermentation but also lends a delightful surprise flavor component to what we’ve come to expect from jam (read: candy-sweet). Simmering the berries with honey helps bring out their natural pectin — so once chilled, the jam really does jelly up (though some liquid does remain). I’ve recently been allowed one slice of Ezekial bread each day on my diet, and don’t think every one of those precious slices hasn’t included this jam, since the day it was ready.

Old-fashioned, somewhat near a prairie. I think I’ve found my kountry urban calling.

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Blueberry-Basil Preserves (lacto-fermented) on Punk Domestics

Breakfast: marinated asparagus & a five-minute egg

It’s safe to say that breakfast has had a regime change in my world.

My old routine, for something like 10 years:

  1. wake up.
  2. drink coffee, with half-n-half.
    (you might correctly notice that nothing happened between points 1 & 2 — it was a seamless transition that needed to occur as soon as possible after consciousness. also, a confession: I might have been guilty, for 10 years, of faking sleep so that my husband would give up, get out of bed, and make the coffee. the coffee which he roasted from green beans. can someone please tell me why my husband bothers to stay around?)
  3. sometime later, maybe 9-ish, have a bowl of homemade granola and milk.

A perfect setup that I never tired of in a decade, until last summer when all of a sudden I no longer wanted granola. And then, in a related move, I went grain-free. And simultaneously (begrudgingly) decided that caffeine is something that — if I look myself in the eye and speak the truth — is best for me to avoid.

I had no idea what to do with myself in the mornings.

Until I started the GAPS intro diet, back in January, and began a few new habits. Now my mornings look something like this:

  1. wake up.
  2. drink a glass of water.
  3. about half an hour later, drink fresh juice (carrot, celery, apple, ginger, etc.)
  4. around 10 or 11, eat a “brunch” that involves at least 2 eggs. could be scrambled with veggies, could be poached, could be fried — whatever I fancy.

Of those egg options, my favorite is poached. A runny yolk, a firm white, void of fried crunchy edges (not that there’s anything wrong with that). But I don’t always want to bother with poaching — the splash of vinegar, the vortex-creating, the watching — sometimes it’s more than I can handle on a busy morning. So lately I’ve replaced it with a good ol’ five-minute egg. Soft-boiled, still runny in the middle if you cool it quickly.

A couple weeks ago I picked up some purple asparagus at the Broad Ripple Farmer’s Market — the stalks were thick, but it was too pretty a color to pass up. It ended up marinated (boiled and then tossed with a simple vinaigrette), and one morning I grabbed a handful cold from the fridge and plopped two 5-minute eggs on top of it. A few cracks of black pepper, a good sprinkling of salt, and I had myself a fancy breakfast.

And then had it again the next day, and then again the next.

Slightly-warm eggs over the cold tangy asparagus, with a few leaves of thyme and a sprinkling of seeds over top. It’s safe to say a new breakfast is in town.

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Recipe: Cold Marinated Asparagus

: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound asparagus
  • salt
  • 1 Tbsp cider or wine vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Snap off tough ends of asparagus, or peel the thick bottoms of the spears to allow for uniform width all the way down the stalk. If you have some kitchen twine, tie the asparagus in a bundle — it makes for easier removal from the water (this is optional).
  2. In a pot large enough to hold the asparagus lying on its side, bring 3-4 quarts water to a boil. Add 1 Tbsp salt, and the asparagus spears. Return water quickly to a boil.
  3. Once water returns to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 8-10 minutes or until spears are tender but not mushy (I usually start checking the spears after 6 minutes).
  4. Remove spears with a slotted spoon or tongs, and spread on a clean kitchen towel to cool quickly.
  5. Meanwhile, make vinaigrette: combine vinegar, olive oil, mustard, and salt in a small jar. Cover tightly with the lid and shake to emulsify.
  6. Once asparagus has cooled to room temperature, transfer to a container and drizzle entire bottle of dressing over the top. Toss to combine. Taste for seasoning — may be served immediately or stored 2-3 days in the refrigerator, eaten cold.

Recipe: Five-minute Egg

Ingredients

  • as many eggs as you’d like to serve

Instructions

  1. Bring a pot of water large enough to hold your eggs to a boil. Gently lower eggs into boiling water — once water returns to a boil, reduce to a low simmer and cook for exactly five minutes.
  2. While eggs cook, fill a bowl with ice water.
  3. After five minutes, remove eggs from boiling water and plunge quickly into ice water. Let cool for about 5 minutes (longer if you prefer cooler eggs).
  4. Peel and eat immediately, perhaps over marinated asparagus.

Copyright © Katy Carter, 2012.

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This post was linked up to the Seasonal Recipe Roundup: Asparagus at GNOWFGLINS.

Sweet & tart ginger-rhubarb jam (small batch)

chopped rhubarb in pot

Yesterday was a long day in my kitchen, but not one of those blissful, satisfying days where nightfall leaves you with a beautiful layer cake, or a cleaned-out pantry, or 30 sealed jars of something preserved. It was one of those days that happens, one where you’re really just getting caught-up, doing the un-sexy things that simply need to get done (hello, stock-making!), and scattered in there are a couple of botched experiments. By nightfall, after washing the 100th dish, it’s hard not to loathe the very sight of your kitchen.

Everybody has those days, right?

One of my failed experiments wasn’t a total bust — just a disappointment and therefore a lesson learned (optimism! it can be mustered!). I picked up a pound of rhubarb at the Broad Ripple Farmer’s Market last weekend, with hopes of making my first jam of the season — one that skips the sugar. You’d think that the whole no-sugar thing would be the challenge — but the recipe actually came together quite nicely.

It was the aesthetic realm in which I missed the boat. My rhubarb was mostly green, with just a couple inches of bright red at the very bottom of the stalk. I became concerned when I chopped it all up and noticed I had a pot-full of green. And then, when I cooked it, while the flavor was sweet-tart and punchy, the essence of coming summer, the color was a chilly autumn day.

rhubarb jam

I realized very quickly why rhubarb is often paired with strawberries: it’s not only for their sweetness, it’s for their color. When I think rhubarb, I expect pink. When I look at this jar of jam, my tastebuds expect something different, something maybe pear.

But, as is usually the case, we’ll eat it. And enjoy it. And make a note to try and buy the mostly-red rhubarb next time (or add a least a small amount of bright-red berries to punch up the color — this recipe utilizes this trick!).

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Recipe: Ginger-Rhubarb Jam (small batch, refined-sweetener-free)

: makes about 3/4 pint

Rhubarb is low in pectin, so while this jam with thicken up with cooking & cooling, it won’t set up  like a commercial jam. Feel free to add a little pectin to attain a thicker texture.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound rhubarb, cut into 1/2″ pieces (a heavy four cups, chopped)
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tsp grated or minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 cup mild honey (can sub sugar)
  • pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Place the rhubarb in a medium non-reactive saucepan and add the salt. Over medium heat, cook, stirring occasionally, until juices begin to release (about 5 minutes).
  2. Add the ginger, cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until rhubarb is very soft and falling apart (10-15 minutes).
  3. Add the honey and cinnamon, and cook uncovered, mashing up big chunks with a fork. Cook an additional 5-10 minutes, or until thickened to desired consistency (it will thicken a bit once cooled).
  4. Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla. Let cool completely before transferring to a clean jar and storing covered in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks (freeze for up to a year).

Copyright © Katy Carter, 2012.

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The elusive grain-free muffin

blueberry-grainfree-muffin

When I first gave up eating grains, I searched high and low for any and all recipes that would replace bread products in my life. Pizza dough, muffins, scones, sandwich bread, crackers. I googled, experimented with alternative flours, and baked like my life depended on it.

And day after day, I was sorely, even desperately disappointed. Gluten-free is one challenge; grain-free is a whole other ball game — and when it comes to beloved sandwich bread, it’s a game I have forfeited. Nut flours are an entirely different creature than their grain counterparts, and in most cases do not behave remotely the same.

I had to learn to change my expectations. For the most part, I think I’m there (though I still long for the day when I can once again have pizza, because right now there’s nothing grain-free that compares to an airy, stone-baked crust).

So far, the thing that seems easiest to replicate is the muffin. But it’s not as simple as replacing wheat flour with almond flour — you’d end up with a crumbly, dense almond ball. My local GAPS-friend Jen shared a banana muffin recipe that called for no flour at all — just almond butter and eggs — and it had the lightest, most delicate crumb of any recipe yet. Wanting a blueberry muffin, with a little less banana, I decided to develop my recipe from that no-flour starting point. After a few failed tweaks, I ended up with a keeper (though a 1/4 cup of almond flour did find its way back into the mix). So good, my kids beg for the muffins, even though they know they are “mommy’s special breakfast,” (I *might* guilt them every time their greedy, fat little fingers unwrap one for snack — while also secretly loving the fact they want them, being the high-protein, low-carb treat they are).

Not too dense, not too eggy — these muffins are just right. Goldilocks would have gobbled them up.

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Recipe: Blueberry Crunch Muffins (grain-free, dairy-free, GAPS-friendly)

: makes 10-12 muffins

Since this batter can be thin, it works best for blueberry distribution if half of the berries are reserved for dotting on top of the batter (otherwise they all sink to the bottom of the cups). Feel free to substitute ghee or butter for the coconut oil.

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe banana
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup almond or cashew butter
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tsp coconut oil, divided (room temperature ok)
  • 3 Tbsp honey, divided
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp blanched almond flour, divided
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 3 Tbsp finely chopped nuts
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325°. Have ready a standard 12-cup muffin tin, either very well-greased or lined with muffin cups.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mash the banana to a pulp. Add the eggs, nut butter, 1/4 cup coconut oil, 2 Tbsp honey, vanilla, and cider vinegar. Using a fork or whisk, mix vigorously until well-combined.
  3. Sift together 1/4 cup almond flour, nutmeg, salt, and baking soda. Add to the liquid ingredients and mix well.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the chopped nuts with remaining 1 Tbsp honey, 1 tsp coconut oil, 1 Tbsp almond flour, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Set aside.
  5. Add half of the blueberries to the batter, and fold in. Scoop batter into muffin cups, filling 3/4 full. Divide the remaining blueberries among the cups, pushing into the batter.
  6. Break off small pieces of the honey-nut paste and dot on top of the batter, dividing evenly.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until tops are golden and centers are set.

Copyright © Katy Carter, 2012.

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This post was linked up to Simple Lives Thursday, via GNOWFGLINS.

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Lara Bars

larabars

Ever looked at the ingredients list on a LaraBar? It’s basically just dried fruit and nuts — nothing else. I think my favorite flavor (Cherry Pie) lists cherries, cashews. That’s my kind of convenience food.

But there’s that matter of the price tag. While I’ve no problem grabbing one when on-the-go and in need of a blood-sugar fix, I don’t want to drop the cash to unwrap a bar every day. Plus, my kids like them. And we all know the pain of watching your children discover a delicious mommy-treat, becoming fierce competition in the pantry habitat (I still rue the day I encouraged my kids to choose dark over milk chocolate — now none of them will touch a Hershey’s kiss, but they’ll scrap for my Chocolove bar).

Many months ago, I found a post that gave a formula, of sorts, for making your own. I’ve been using it since then, never making the same bars twice (and yes, I finally made my own version of Cherry Pie, but didn’t write down what I used, and curse if I’ve not been able to repeat them).

The great thing about it is that you can throw in whatever you have. At a bare minimum, you need dried fruit and nuts. Preferably, you have at least a cup of pitted dates — I’ve started keeping them in my pantry for this reason — because they are full of digestive enzymes that take the benefits of these bars up a notch  (about $5/pound in bulk at your health food store). My luxury additions include — you guessed it — dried cherries, since those are a thing of which I apparently cannot get enough.

A food processor makes these a breeze, but you could likely get away with a mini-prep processor or other chopper, working in batches. If you have neither of those, but are adventurous and looking for a bicep workout, go at the fruit and nuts with a chef’s knife until they are pulverized.

Just be ready to stash these somewhere, or make up a mystifying name for them, or in some other way deflect questions of their existence. Otherwise, it’ll be survival of the fittest — may the most snack-desperate mom/dad/chef win.

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Recipe: Homemade Lara Bars

: based on this post at GNOWFGLINS

makes about 20 1×1/5″ bars

I like to use at least 1 cup dates in every batch I make, then use a mix of fruits for the additional necessary cup. If you like the flavor of cherries, but not the price, try starting with just a quarter-cup, using dates and raisins as the rest of the fruit. If the cherry flavor isn’t strong enough, use more on your next batch. Feel free to make up recipes — try a pinch of cinnamon with dried apples for an Apple Pie flavor, or maybe a little lemon zest with apricots & golden raisins to make a Lemon Chiffon. This recipe is meant to be a base for experimentation — with the ratios below you really can’t go wrong.

I use raw nuts and seeds that have been soaked & dehydrated, to help nutrient absorption and digestion. You can also use roasted nuts, but look for those that have no additional flavorings and are naturally-roasted (if salted, be careful adding salt in step 1). If you can find it, look for fruit with no sulfites or sugar added.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unsulphured, unsweetened dried fruit
  • pinch sea salt (may omit if nuts are salted)
  • 1-2 Tbsp cocoa powder (optional)
  • 1 1/3 cups nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, or a mix)
  • 1/3 cup optional additions (dried unsweetened coconut, seeds such as flax, sesame, pumpkin)
  • 1 Tbsp (or more) water, if necessary

Instructions

  1. Chop large pieces of fruit into smaller pieces. Place the dried fruit, salt, and optional cocoa powder in workbowl of a food processor. Process until fruit is finely chopped and begins to form a ball. Remove to a bowl and set aside.
  2. Add nuts and any optional additions to empty workbowl, and process until finely-ground.
  3. Return fruit to bowl with the nuts. Process to combine. Squeeze the mixture — if it doesn’t stick together, add water, 1 Tbsp at a time, and process. Dough is ready when it holds together.
  4. Press dough into an 8×8″ baking pan. Refrigerate for about half an hour, or until firm enough to cut into bars.
  5. Store bars in an airtight container for up to a week.

Copyright © Katy Carter, 2012.

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