Thursday, April 28, 2011

Healing Nettle Chicken Stock

Stocks or broths can be used in many different ways, well beyond soups. Homemade stock is far more nutritious than store-bought stock, even the organic brands. For one, commercial stocks, whether chicken or vegetable, use many different "natural" flavorings. What is a natural flavoring anyway? It can be anything, but most often it is a man-made chemical, often containing MSG (free glutamic acid). Did you know that the FDA classifies MSG as "natural" and by using other terms such as "natural flavoring" or "yeast extract," manufacturers can somewhat deceive label-reading consumers into buying their products? The flavoring industry is a billion dollar industry. Most of us won't buy a product that doesn't taste good. Humans have receptors on their tongues for glutamate, the amino acid we recognize as the common "meat" flavor in foods. Using MSG in foods such as chicken stock is a way to cut corners and create a cheap food for a profit. And unfortunately, MSG is a neurotoxic substance causing headaches and in large amounts, possible damage to the brain (in B6 and magnesium deficient people). By making your own stocks using high-quality ingredients, you create so much flavor you would never need to add anything else to them.

Here is an ingredient list for an organic chicken stock made by a well-known company: Organic chicken broth (filtered water, organic chicken), Organic chicken flavor (organic chicken flavor, sea salt), Natural chicken flavor (chicken stock, salt), Sea salt, Organic evaporated cane juice, Organic onion powder, Turmeric, Organic flavor.

Now let's look at the ingredient list for a homemade stock: Organic chicken carcass, onions, garlic, leeks, celery, carrots, parsley, rosemary, thyme, black peppercorns, Herbamare, and fresh nettles.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Healthy Easter Basket Ideas

Did you know that Americans spend around $2 billion each year on Easter candy? Did you know that loading up Easter baskets with candy is a relatively new phenomenon? Eggs have always been a part of Spring and Easter festivals predating passover. Eggs are a pagan symbol of fertility and rebirth. Dying eggs came a bit later and may have originated in Poland, possibly around the 13th century. But candy? How did that come into play?

Some theorize that it was the exchange of Hot Cross Buns for Easter many hundreds of years ago that began the treat giving on Easter. In 1361, a monk named Father Thomas Rockcliffe began a tradition of giving Hot Cross Buns to the poor of St. Albans on Good Friday. Interestingly, like so many Easter symbols, Hot Cross Buns have their roots in ancient pagan traditions. Hot cross buns are regarded by many as the outgrowth of the ancient Pagan sacramental cakes, eaten by Anglo-Saxons in honor of their goddess, Eostre. The cross on the bun representing the four quarters of the moon.

The exact origin of the Easter Bunny is unclear, but rabbits are an ancient symbol of fertility and new life. Some theorize that it has its roots in the 1700's, when Germans settled on the East Coast of the United States and brought with them their tradition of an egg-laying hare called "Osterhase" or "Oschter Haws." Their children made nests in which this creature would lay its colored eggs. The custom then eventually spread across the United States and the Easter Bunny's early morning deliveries expanded to include chocolate and other types of candy and gifts, using decorated baskets to replace the nests.

The business of selling candy on Easter began to take off from the 1930's to the 1960's when candy makers began developing new candies and displaying them in storefront windows before Easter. According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics for 2007, each person in the U.S. eats about 24.5 pounds of candy per year! That is a lot of toxic sugar, food dyes, and chemical stabilizers going into a young child's growing body each year!

Are there other alternatives? Yes! 

This is a photo I took in 2005 on Easter when our oldest daughter was 3 years old. Her basket is filled with natural goodies (it was also the only photo I could find of one of our Easter baskets)! These are some great ideas for all children:

  • organic fruit leathers
  • chamomile tea bags 
  • organic sunflower seeds for the garden (any seed pack would work) 
  • a small box of Glee Gum 
  • some natural children's toothpaste and a new toothbrush 
  • natural lotion and soap 
  • a few dark chocolates
  • art supplies 

I always fill the Plastic Easter Eggs with simple things that be used in creative play or eaten as a healthy snack. It is the joy of opening them up to see what's inside for young children, not the exact contents:

  • polished stones 
  • crystals
  • marbles 
  • beeswax crayons
  • money
  • raw nuts and seeds 
  • dried cranberries 
  • dried mango 
  • usually a few organic jelly beans

Interested in dying eggs naturally? We've done it before with red onion skins, turmeric, and spirulina. Here is a link to an exact process for dying eggs with natural colors from plants: Naturally Dyed Eggs from Healthy Child Healthy World, which originally came from Michelle Stern's blog What's Cooking with Kids!

Please share any other ideas you have for a Healthy Easter Basket. I would love to know what you do for your children! :)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Stevia Sweetened Sugar Cookies (sugar-free, gluten-free, grain-free, vegan)

These beautiful holiday cut-out cookies are made with whole food ingredients and sweetened only with stevia. Not only are they gluten-free, but grain-free as well. I use a combination of almond meal and shredded coconut pulsed in the food processor to create a nutritious, low-glycemic, and naturally sweet "flour" blend.

These cookies certainly don't have that toothsome sugary bite even though they use naturally sweet ingredients and a little stevia to help boost the sweetness. My children are not accustomed to really sugary treats so they love these cookies and will devour the whole batch in one day if I let them. If you are accustomed to treats being a little on the sweeter side you may consider replacing 2 tablespoons of the applesauce with 2 tablespoons of pure maple syrup or honey.

Coconut Almond "Sugar" Cookies

These flakey, flavorful cut-out cookies can be used for just about any holiday. Here we have used Easter cookie cutters and colored the icing with natural food colorings. In the past to color the icing I have used turmeric powder to create yellow, beet juice for pink, and spirulina powder for green. This time I thought we would try something new. I used Seelect plant-based food coloring in these photos. Once the cookies are baked and frosted they are best frozen until ready to serve. This keeps them crispy and flakey and the icing set in place. They will thaw out in a matter of minutes. This is also nice if you don't have a large family and would like to store your cookies for a longer period of time. 

Note: I have only tested this recipe twice. First with 1 cup each of the almond meal and shredded coconut and the second time with 1 1/4 cups each. Both ways worked, however using 1 1/4 cup of each resulted in a little more fragile cookie but with great flavor and texture. You can decide how much to add. If you get a chance to leave me some feedback in a comment that would be very helpful, thanks!

Dry Ingredients:
1 to 1 1/4 cups almond meal (I use Bob's Red Mill)
1 to 1 1/4 cups unsweetened finely shredded coconut
1/2 cup arrowroot powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Wet Ingredients:
6 tablespoons virgin coconut oil (I use Nutiva)
4 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon lemon flavoring
30 to 35 drops liquid stevia

Place the dry ingredients into a food processor fitted with the "s" blade. Pulse the ingredients until combined and ground fine, about 60 to 90 seconds.

Add the wet ingredients and process until a dough ball forms. It will be soft but you should be able to form it into a ball. Place the dough into a bowl sprinkled with a little arrowroot powder. Chill for one hour in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Then remove from refrigerator and roll out in between 2 pieces of wax paper or parchment paper to about 1/8 inch of thickness. Cut out with your favorite cookie cutters (they should all be fairly equal in size).

Bake for 10 minutes and watch carefully as timing and temperature may need to be adjusted. If they cook fast and brown then turn oven temp down to just over 325 degrees. Cool on a wire rack.

1/2 cup raw cashews
6 tablespoons melted coconut oil
1/4 cup warm water
2 tablespoons coconut nectar, honey, or agave nectar
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
1/2 to 1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon lemon flavoring
2 to 3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Place all ingredients for the icing into a high-powered blender and blend until ultra smooth, stopping the machine if necessary to scrape down the sides. Spoon icing into individual small bowls and add a tiny amount of natural food coloring if desired. We used chopsticks to ice each cookie, then sprinkled them with shredded coconut or natural sprinkles. Freeze the cookies for at least 20 minutes to set the icing. Source:

More Easter Dessert Recipes:
Oatmeal Cut-Out Cookies
Chocolate Macadamia Nut Clusters (stevia sweetened)
Raw Chocolate Pie
Mango Coconut Pudding

Friday, April 15, 2011

Gluten-Free Bread (xanthan-free, vegan)

Today I have a very unique recipe to share. A gluten-free bread recipe that needs to be kneaded! It is made of whole grain flours and is also free of xanthan gum, starches, nuts, eggs, and dairy. Last August I began creating kneadable dinner rolls and braided bread free of the above mentioned ingredients. But something was missing. You see, I grew up making whole wheat bread from scratch with my mother. When I was two years old I was at the counter kneading bread. In high school I would bake my own bread for sandwiches. I have missed the feel of bread dough.

A few months ago I decided to try adding psyllium husk to my bread to see what would happen....and wow....gluten-free bread that really kneads! I was already using ground chia seeds, which help to hold moisture and bind everything together. But the combination of psyllium husk and ground chia works wonders! Psyllium is a fiber that is used in colon cleansing. It also works wonders on lowering cholesterol levels. It can be found on or at your local health food store. Be sure to look for "whole psyllium husk." Whole chia seeds can be found at your local health food store and online. See the tip at the bottom of the recipe for grinding them.

If you try this bread, I would love your feedback in a comment below. Or, you could even upload a photo to our Facebook Page! I have many more kneadable gluten-free, xanthan-free, vegan bread recipes in my book, Nourishing Meals. Some examples include Buckwheat Cinnamon Raisin Bread, Everyday Sandwich Bread, and Sourdough Teff Bread! Enjoy!