Sunday, December 30, 2012

To Daddy, Love Katie (a video)

Katie made this video for her wonderful daddy! He is such a wonderful pappa to her. My heart melts when he cuddles and loves her! I am grateful for a wonderful husband and father to our sweet baby.

(click on the title to enjoy.)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

“Healthier” Chocolate Chip Cookies: a new twist on an old favorite

I love cookies! They are my favorite treat by far! But they have to be homemade, chocolate chip cookies. Store-bought cookies - blah! Bakery cookies - so-so. Homemade - YUM!

So you can imagine I was very happy to figure out how to make a healthier version! I say healthi-er and not health-y because it's still a sweet treat and should be eaten in moderation. A green smoothie is healthy, an egg is healthy, but I just can't quite call a cookie healthy, but that's not to say I don't eat one or two with a cup of raw milk for a quick breakfast before heading to Crossfit!

My dad was actually the one who started this healthier version recipe. He's is a cookie master! Just about every Sunday growing up he would whip up a batch of tasty homemade cookies made with white sugar, white flour - the works. But we've all changed our ways and now enjoy seeing what healthier variations we can come up with. Oh, and he loves to see how many fillings he can mix into the dough. It's not unusual to see walnuts, coconut, cocoa nibs, chocolate chips and oats all appear in the same cookie! We prefer a textured cookie - needless to say.

I took what he had and made a few alterations myself and now we have my version.

In this recipe we are replacing butter, refined sugar and all-purpose flour, and table salt with whole food options - coconut oil, coconut or unrefined cane sugar, whole wheat or sprouted flour and REAL salt. Also, you can add some whole nutritious fillers (unsweetened shredded coconut, cocoa nibs, and nuts) to make this cookie more textured and flavorful.

“Healthier” Chocolate Chip Cookies
Modified from original recipe: Quaker Oats Vanishing Oatmeal Cookies

1/2 cup plus 6 TBL Coconut Oil
1/2 cup Coconut Sugar
1/2 cup Sucanat, or more Coconut Sugar
2 Eggs (farm fresh, cage free, local source is best)
1  teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2  cups soft-white wheat or sprouted wheat or spelt flour
1  teaspoon baking soda
1  teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
1/2  teaspoon REAL salt
2 Cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)
1/2 cup chocolate chips and/or nuts (optional)

Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, beat coconut oil and sugars on medium speed of electric mixer until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well. Add fillers; mix well. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheets. Bake 7 to 9 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack. Cool completely.

Please refer to my must-have ingredients post to see where to find the ingredients in these recipes.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Building a Healthy Kitchen: Must-Have Ingredients

As you start to build your healthy kitchen there are some essentials that must make their way into your cupboards. Below I have listed some of my favorite staples, why it is a better option, where to find it, and a brand I like. I am constantly expanding my staple ingredient list, if you have a favorite ingredient that you always have in your kitchen please share!

Below are just little snippets of why these foods are a great addition to any kitchen  I don't claim to be an expert, like I mentioned, I just like to share what I know and have read. If you are interested in learning in more depth about each item listed below, you can find pages and pages of research and data on a number of other healthy food blogs. Some of my favorite healthy food blogs include:

Coconut Oil: any brand that is extra-virgin, organic and possibly raw. Coconut Oil is a fabulous replacement for butter and vegetable oil. Unlike many other oils, coconut oil can stand high temperatures without becoming damaged. It is great for cooking, baking and I use it as a moisturizer as well.

Young Coconut: Not the brown coconuts, these are picked earlier and have a higher coconut water content. They are highly nutritious, young coconuts have also been exceedingly revered as having medicinal qualities for heart, liver and kidney disorders. In fact, the coconut has recently been reported to reduce the viral load of HIV.

Natural Sweeteners:

Natural sweeteners are a wonderful alternative to white and brown sugar, corn syrup, and Karo syrups. Natural sweeteners are in their whole and unrefined state and therefore can be accepted by your body more readily. And since they are not processed they are not stripped of their minerals and nutrients. They are still sugars, so use in moderation. I usually half or use a 1/3 less than the sugars that are recommended in the recipe.

Coconut Sugar: Can be found in bins at Good Earth (or your local health food store).

Sucanat (unrefined cane sugar): “Wholesome Sweeteners” Sucuanat -10 lb bag at Costco. SUgar CAne NATural - if you’re curious where the names come from.

Maple Syrup: Choose Grade B or Grade A (Grade B has less sugar content than Grade A). Say goodbye to Mrs. Butterworth’s which is an industrialized version of maple syrup made with corn syrup and artificial flavors.

Agave Nectar: This mild sweetener is made from the Blue Agave plant. It has a distinct flavor that you may or may not prefer. It is heated and lightly processed so it’s not a raw sugar.

Honey: Always choose raw honey from local sources for best quality.

Farm-fresh eggs: Cage free, farm fresh eggs are full of more nutrients and hormone free than the thin-shell white eggs that are usually purchased at Walmart. Look at your local health food store or a nearby farmer’s market. Good Earth sells some from a local farm in Lehi for about $3.50

Whole Wheat Flour: Whole wheat flour is a much better option than all-purpose white flour which is just one part of the wheat grain (basically the middle “glue” part). The danger in white flour is that it is no longer a WHOLE food and your body has a difficult time assimilating anything that is processed or refined from it’s natural state. White flour is digested the same as sugar, and can cause weight gain and increase in blood sugar.

You can buy the whole grains and blend them yourself or by the ground flour in bulk at any health food store. Soft white wheat is best for baked good. 

*Spelt flour is another great alternative to wheat that is has fewer calories and 10 to 20 percent more protein than wheat flour. Also, many people with wheat allergy find themselves able to tolerate wheat. In terms of taste, spelt has a distinct chewy consistency with a strong nutty flavor. Wheat flour, however, has more fiber than spelt, which many people find easier to digest. You can also buy spelt grains and grind them yourself.

Sprouted Flour: Sprouted flour is a fabulous alternative to just ground wheat. Anything that is sprouted has been soaked in water and in a way “has come to life.” It’s like planting a seed, you add water to make it grow. Sprouting soaks wheat berries just long enough to open up vital nutrients and pre-digest the gluten. Many people who have gluten sensitivities can tolerate sprouted grain. 
You can sprout your own flour, but it’s very labor intensive. I like to buy mine at REAL Foods in Orem or you can buy it online

Almond Meal/Flour: A wonderful gluten-free flour to bake with. You can buy it in the bins at the local health food store or grind your own almonds to create a flour.

REAL Salt: Basic table salt (what is in the salt containers on the tables of restaurants) has been stripped of many of its nutrients and can be harmful to the body because it can’t break it down. Redmond Farms sells a fabulous real salt that is harvested from a mine in Redmond, Utah.

Unsweetened Shredded Coconut: can be found in bins at health food stores or online and makes a great addition to any baked good. Sweetened shredded coconut has been coated with refined sugar.

The Healthy Kitchen Club: Quick Cookies

I recently hosted my first Healthy Kitchen Club meeting in my neighborhood. I commented about it on Facebook and you asked for the recipes and notes. So here they are! I am contemplating creating another blog with the sole purpose of sharing my healthy living tips!

As you know, I love learning about healthy eating/living and I feel I have a lot of great things to share. I read a lot of healthy blogs which are all great, but I find myself asking, "What do they eat on a regular basis?" "How do they prepare their food and where do they get their stuff." And, "Do they ever 'slip-up' and eat a little junk food?" I want more day-to-day real-life tips. I don't claim to be an expert, I don't run tests and studies but I have read a lot from the experts and I know what makes my body feel good!

That was why I decided to start these little classes - share simple tips with a little bit of the background info to help you make healthy changes in your kitchen. And I think there's a bigger audience wanting this information... so... what do you think? Let me know if you would enjoy reading my tips and advice and what it is you are looking for in a healthy lifestyle blog (please tell me in the comments).

So... here we are... it's the Holidays and, as I mentioned in my Halloween post, treats and sugar are a plenty! And you don't want to miss out on the fun. But if you indulge too much you'll end up feeling like Jolly Old Saint Nick himself (with the belly that shakes like a bowl full of jelly) come New Year's Day. So here are some sweet treats that are much healthier than what you might find at the dessert table at the church Christmas Party!

Amaze your friends with these tasteful treats - or save them for yourself (that's what I like to do!!). 

(I have decided to share these recipes in 3-4 posts, so it doesn't get too lengthy. So if you haven't please follow by email so you'll get the next recipes.) 

The goal with these treats is whole, non-processed sugar. Also using  about 1/3 less of what the recipe original recipe calls for. And rather than using white flour we are choosing gluten free flours, no flour or sprouted flours. 

Healthier Chocolate Chip Cookies, Coconut Macaroons, No Bake Cookies

No Bake Cookies
Original recipe from: Raw Melissa

4 cups oats
6 TB cocoa powder
1/2-3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup almond butter
3/4 cup agave or honey
1 TB vanilla

Combine all dry ingredients.  Incorporate wet and mix with hands.  Place on a cookie sheet with wax paper, freeze or refrigerate for a bit.  Place them in a ziploc bag in refrigerator and enjoy!

Coconut Macaroons
Originally from Diet Rebel's Cookbook. I have made a few adjustments.

Lightly textured and full of healthy fats, this cookie will satisfy a sweet tooth, but not too sweet to have a few for a great addition to a snack or after meal treat. Great for pregnant or nursing mothers.

1/2 - 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 1/4 c almond meal or flour
1/4 tsp. real salt
1/2 cup coconut oil at room temperature
1/4 cup maple syrup (Grade A or B)
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Optional: 2-3 TBS ground flax seed

Optional Topping
1/3 semi-sweet chocolate chips
2-3 TBS cup milk source (cow’s, almond, coconut, etc.) or coconut oil

1. in a bowl, whisk together the coconut flakes, almond flour, and salt
2. in another bowl, blend coconut oil, maple syrup, and vanilla
3. blend dry with wet
4. spoon onto cookie sheet
5. melt chocolate chips and milk on low
6. drizzle chocolate on macaroons
7. Freeze for 30 minutes to 1 hour then move to fridge and enjoy! (Will get gooey if stored at room temperature.)

Please refer to my must-have ingredients post to see where to find the ingredients in these recipes.

Stay tuned for the next recipe: "Healthier Chocolate Chip Cookies."