More dates!

The response to the snowballs recipe was so terrific that I decided to include another variation that’s definitely much less involved.  And if you are a Larabar fan, you’ll really like these and will appreciate not having to recycle those little foil wrappers.  Just like the snowballs, these are high in fiber and potassium.  One thing I forgot to mention in the snowballs post: these recipes are also gluten-free.  We have found that by mainly focusing on whole and homemade foods in our house, we don’t have to be too concerned about gluten.  But, I know that some individuals are truly highly sensitive to gluten and need to eliminate it completely.  So these are a great on-the-go snack for kids for whom gluten may be a big concern.  This recipe uses walnuts, but feel free to substitute pecans, almonds…whatever you have on hand; my sons particularly like these with chopped dried cherries and pecans.  And if you are new to dates, pitting is easy: simply put a slice in them with a paring knife and the pit will pop out easily.  Anyone know if you can grow dates from those?

Date bars

about 3 or 4 Tbsp organic unsweetened coconut

14 ounce package organic Medjool dates, pitted

1/4 c walnuts (if you want, you can lightly toast the walnuts), chopped (I typically chop half very finely and leave the other half as small chunks)

Sprinkle about 2 or 3 Tbsp of the coconut in the bottom of a glass 8×8″ square baking dish.

Press the dates into the coconut, covering the entire bottom of the dish.

Quickly mix together the walnuts and the remaining coconut then cover the date layer by giving them a gentle push.

Cut into whatever shape you like.  Sometimes we do triangles, squares, rectangles, whatever.

Enjoy!

Snowballs…mmmm GOOD

I figure spring has sprung for my loved ones in the northeast so it’s ok to use the word ‘snow’ now.  Especially since the snow in this recipe is coconut.  These are my husband’s favorite ‘legal’ sweet tooth fix. These little date balls rolled in coconut are relatively easy to make and keep well in the refrigerator.

They pack a huge nutritional punch: dates are wonderfully & naturally sweet and are high in dietary fiber, vitamin A, iron and potassium; walnuts add vitamin E, manganese and omega-3 fatty acids; coconut for the antimicrobial and antiviral properties of lauric acid (on a side note: I know that for a long time coconut got a bad rap during the snackwell, ‘fat-free food obsession’ years, but it’s a really amazing food in all its forms…coconut water, shredded coconut, coconut oil, etc….I’ll spend more time later discussing the nutritional value of coconut, specifically; but in the meantime, just do an internet search on the nutritional benefits of coconut and you’ll wonder why you’ve avoided it all these years).

This recipe definitely does not require precise measurements and the amounts given for each ingredient are approximate.  Feel free to add a little extra here and there if you, for example, love raisins or love apricots.  If you prefer, you can use dates as the base, but switch up the dried fruits and/or nuts, substituting dried cherries for raisins or pecans for the walnuts.  As long as you stay relatively close to 1/2 c. nuts to about 1/2 c. dried fruit to each 14 ounce bag of dates, you’ll be fine.

As always, I list the ingredients that I use which are organic and unsulphured.  I’m fairly certain that if a product is labeled organic, it cannot be sulphured.  We use so many almonds in our house that I do buy them truly raw and organically grown.  Here’s the deal with truly raw almonds: the government requires that raw almonds be at least quickly pasteurized; however, I have found 2 farms in CA that will sell them directly to you and, because they are the original grower of the almonds, they can sell them to you without having been first pasteurized.  ‘What the heck is the difference?’ is what you are probably saying about now…and I know some of you are saying a word other than ‘heck’.  Like any whole food, almonds contain their own, God-given digestive enzymes.  The more the food is cooked (i.e. brought to a higher temperature), the more the food’s own enzymes are destroyed, thus requiring YOUR digestive enzymes to do more of the work, which of course requires more energy of your body, allowing less energy for the GOOD things like repairing your immune system after your 4th coca-cola of the day (that one is for Uncle Ken).  I’m completely over-simplifying, but if you look at your body’s energy in its entirety, then each system of your body gets its own slice of pie.  What you want, is for only a tiny little sliver of that pie to be used by the digestive system, so your immune system, for example, gets a huge slice of pie.  Hope that makes sense.

Here’s where I get my ingredients, but please use the best of whatever you can get.

Raw, organically grown almonds I get from 2 places, as it always seems one is out of their supply at any given moment.  I buy them 25lbs. at a time because it’s much more economical and because it takes a lot of gas to ship these little gems from CA to FL.

Briden Wilson Farms  www.homegrownalmonds.com

25 lb box for $204.75

Organic Pastures  www.organicpastures.com (I actually have to call them at 877-RAW-MILK because I can never successfully place an order via their web site)

25 lb box for $225

The dates I use are the best and freshest I’ve been able to find.  I actually order them from amazon when I’ve accumulated other things in my shopping cart so that I always have them on-hand.  They are organic Medjool dates from the Bergin Nut Co.  Here’s the link:

Everything else you should be able to readily find.

 

Snowballs…or ‘those balls’, as my middle son calls them

1/4 c. organic raisins

1/4 c. raw almonds

one 14 ounce bag Medjool dates, pits removed

1/4 c. walnuts

about 5 or 6 dried apricots (totally optional)

organic, unsweetened shredded coconut (I throw maybe a 2 Tbsp. in, but mostly you just need this for rolling the balls in ‘snow’)

Combine raisins, nuts, pitted dates and apricots (or whatever dried fruits and nuts you prefer) and a couple tablespoons of coconut into your food processor. Pulse until the mixture becomes one big clump.  Remove and roll chunks of it into bite-size balls, then roll in the coconut (this part is kind of tedious, but I consider it a labor of love).

Ours don’t usually last too long, but if you have left-overs, refrigerate them.  Those Pyrex containers with the dark blue lids are great: not only are they are made of glass so there’s no concern about BPA, they are also proudly made in the USA.  When you have finally used and re-used your plastic Gladware, recycle it with your yogurt containers and other #5 plastics (www.preserveproducts.com for their Gimme 5 locations) and invest in a variety set of Pyrex storage containers.  The lids can go in the top rakc of your dishwasher and they don’t affect the taste of your left-overs.

Enjoy!

SKOY cloths…no more paper towels

These little alternatives to paper towels are wonderful.  We use old dish towels for rags in our house and have just about eliminated the need for paper towels, but sometimes you ‘just need a paper towel’, as my husband is so fond of reminding me.  Even buying rolls of paper towels from seventh generation or whole foods, I still feel incredibly wasteful. Not only are these cloths reasonably priced (about $7 for a pack of 4), they are cute, wash wonderfully in the machine (I recommend air-drying) and last forever.  They’ll pay for themselves in about a week. Great for spills on the floor, cleaning countertops with your brand new homemade cleanser (see post from April 11), cleaning your sinks…a zillion uses.  They are made in Germany and each one saves 15 rolls of paper towels.  Definitely GOOD STUFF.  Especially when you have a teething baby in the house who leaves little puddle trails of ‘spitty’ (as his older brothers have affectionately named his saliva) wherever he goes.

Here’s the link to purchase on amazon:

Organic ‘hummus’

We make this about every other day in our house; my middle son literally eats it by the spoonful.  It’s technically not hummus because it doesn’t contain tahini, but ‘hummus’ rolls off the tongue of a 2 yr. old much more easily than ‘Mediterranean garbanzo spread’.  It’s a nice ego boost; someone requests this recipe every time I serve it, probably because it’s not only easy and yummy, it’s also incredibly good for you.  At some point I’ll go further into nutrition, but if you are following an elimination diet or cleanse (or ever plan to), this is a great meal as it goes wonderfully with baby carrots and broccoli and, if you’re off the wagon, equally well with pita and pretzels.  Or, you can just eat it with a spoon.  Sometimes I get a real treat when my son dips his carrot, licks the hummus from it then stealthily returns the carrot to the bag.

As with most things, I can’t take complete credit: I’ve adapted this recipe from a 2003 edition of Martha Stewart Living.  I’m going to give you two options: the first one is with organic canned beans, the second with organic dried beans.  The latter is definitely more time consuming, but eliminates the need to recycle cans and also produces a slighter richer taste…and, if you do the math, the cost is cut in half as it doubles the yield.  When cleansing, we do this in our house with baby carrots and broccoli, but when not, we love it with Ezekial brand pitas, kalamata olives, feta cheese and my boys (husband included) love it with Newman’s Own organic pretzel sticks.  The chick peas are high in zinc & protein, the extra virgin olive oil is high in Vitamin E and the garlic is a potent natural antimicrobial, so be sure to load up on that GOOD STUFF!  Also feel free to slather it on your favorite wraps, bagels, you name it.

Option 1

2 cans (15.5 oz each) organic chick peas, drained & rinsed

1/2 c. organic extra virgin olive oil (plus a little extra depending on what consistency you like…I usually add another Tablespoon or 2)

juice of 1/2 lemon, freshly squeezed (chop up the peel and put it in your garbage disposal to clean it and give your kitchen a nice citrus smell)

1 small head of garlic, cloves peeled (I have basically de-sensitized my taste buds when it comes to garlic so I add a ton; feel free to add less or more depending on your fortitude)

freshly ground sea salt and peppercorns to taste

Puree in a food processor until all ingredients are well blended.  You can also cut this recipe in half or double it.

Option 2

16 ounce (1 lb.) bag organic dried chick peas

(Soak the beans in 4 cups H2O over night.  Add another 2 c. H2O or so and boil, then simmer (adding a little more H2O as needed) for another 2-3 hours.  Allow to cool to at least room temperature)

1 cup organic extra virgin olive oil (plus a little extra for your preferred consistency…I usually add another 1/4 c.)

juice of 1 lemon

2 heads of organic garlic

freshly ground salt and pepper to taste

Of course, if you can’t get organic ingredients, don’t beat yourself up.  I plan to spend more time heralding the benefits of ‘going organic’ but, in the meantime, if you’re still not sold, this is a delicious and highly nutritional snack, regardless.  I look forward to hearing how you enjoy it!

Natural floor cleanser

I was trying to think of some exciting way to ‘kick off’ the blog but I have paralysis by analysis so I’m just going to start and post things as they come up daily. Tons of people have asked for my all-purpose and floor cleanser recipes.  Well, it’s really the same recipe and I can’t take credit for it.  It’s from the book Gorgeously Green by Sophie Uliano.  There are some things in the book with which I don’t agree but there is also a ton of GOOD STUFF.  This recipe calls for essential oils; I use lemon grass when I make it for the floors and peppermint when I make it as a spray cleanser.  Otherwise, the recipes are identical.

For my spray cleanser, I use a ‘recycled’ method brand spray cleanser bottle. For the floor cleanser, I use a ‘recycled’ dish detergent bottle because I like to squirt it onto the floor in front of my mop.  My mother-n-law gave me the greatest mop kit years ago and it’s still going strong.  If you’re still using a Swiffer type system, requiring you to not only use disposable pads with terribly toxic chemicals on your floors, but also to chuck them into a land-fill when you are finished, please finish with it and then get yourself one that uses washable, micro-fiber pads like the one I’m going to include in this post.  If you know me, you know I avoid as much as humanly possible buying items made in places like China.  This set passes the test in part: the actual mop is made in Italy and the USA, but the pads are made in Hong Kong…life’s little compromises.  The guy who owns the company that did our ‘green’ renovations when we purchased our house in December (I’ll do a post with all that info. when I have more time) said he has a set at his retail store made in Denmark, but I haven’t gotten around to switching yet.  I figure it’s better for the environment if I use the ones I have for as long as I can, anyway.  Btw, his name is Derek and his website is www.ecosimplista.com.  I found him in Ft. Lauderdale in my search for non-toxic and responsibly harvested hardwood floors, which are from www.ecotimber.com.  They are gorgeous and this floor cleanser recipe works amazingly well for them.

(I know there is a way to more efficiently include links on a blog, but until I figure that out, I’ll give you the domains for links to various products.)

Here’s the link for the mop and pads:

And here is Sophie Uliano’s recipe for all-purpose spray cleanser and floor cleanser (ecosimplista did poured concrete in our bathrooms and laundry rooms; this works great for those floors, as well, in addition to tile, ceramic, etc.):

In a 32 oz bottle, combine:

2 c. distilled or filtered H2O

1/2 c. distilled white vinegar

1 tsp. pure castile soap (I use a tea tree scented kind that I get from Whole Foods; Dr. Bronner’s is another great brand that is readily available and it comes in a zillion different scents)

3/4 c. hydrogen peroxide

20 drops tea tree essential oil

20 drops of your favorite essential oil

Enjoy!