Cashew Sugar Cookies

After a not-so-successful attempt at gluten free gingerbread cookies last week a little voice in the back of my head has been begging for delicious holiday cookies. Cookies may be super easy to eat, but they are also one of the most complicated items to bake. Add gluten free and dairy free to the mix and things get even more complicated.

In November I had great success baking both an almond flour and a hazelnut flour tort, so I thought Id go check out Elanas Pantry for a sugar cookie recipe. I found this one for Pecan Shortbread Cookies, which looked perfect, until I realized that Id used up all but 1/2 cup of my almonds earlier in the week. Upon further inspection I realized that I have a ton of cashews that my son has been refusing to eat because they’ve lost the flavor of sweet fresh cashews and are now a bit stale. Elana lives in Boulder (we are thus at the same altitude) and her recipes are quite popular, so I figured that Id have a better chance of success at mixing and matching to make a new recipe for Cashew Sugar Cookies.

Dry Ingredients (mix well):

2 cups Cashew flour (I used raw cashews, ground fine)

1/2 cup almond flour

1/4 cup arrowroot powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup white sugar

Melt Buttery stick and stir in the following ingredients:

1 Earth Balance Buttery Stick Melted (1/2 cup)

2 tbsp honey

1 tsp vanilla (Costco brand)

1/2 tsp real almond extract

1/2 tsp kosher salt

Once both wet and dry ingredients were mixed well I poured the wet into the dry and mixed the dough thoroughly with a spatula. I then scraped the dough into a sheet of wax paper and rolled it up per Elana’s instructions. After an hour in the freezer I removed the cookies and sliced them about 1/4 inch thick. I next laid them out on a cookie sheet (Id separate by at least an inch). To add a festive holiday look, brush each cookie top lightly with water and sprinkle decorative sugar on top! Promptly bake at 375F for about 8 minutes or until the edge of the cookies just start to turn golden.

I used a honey/sugar mixture rather than Agave, because I am also out of Agave. I was a bit skeptical that the recipe only need 1/4 tsp of baking powder, but Ive never actually made short bread before, so I went with her recommendation and it worked. I left out the chopped pecans, because I was hoping for a more sugar cookie texture. Cashews are already sort of buttery in nature and I think the combination worked just fine. Next time I might try macadamia nut flour for an even creamier flavor!

Conclusion: Flavor is very good, but crumb is a little large. Next time I think Ill go for more finely ground flour. The cookies are also a tad crumbly, but not so much that it bothered me. My assistant 100% approved and promptly ate two!

The Green Frugal Divas Mid Century Modern Bedroom

On a daily basis I am a jeans and t-shirt girl; however, were I to come into a glut of time, money, and fashion awareness, I would gladly dress and decorate like a diva. And, so I am pleased to announce that we (the husband and I) have a matching and decorated room (just like grown ups and real divas as shown on TV).

Thanks to my desire to be frugally green (that means saving the planet and saving money) the entire project cost about $260. That is $160 for designer organic sheets and an organic duvet cover with matching shams, and just under $100 on fabric and supplies for curtains, pillows, and recovering our lamp shades. Up front that may not seem cheap (and I am sure someone could do it for less!), but I could have easily spent that much on 4 miss sized curtains from Target or JC Penny and still been left with my old and worn duvet cover that Ive had for over a dozen years!

First I found the duvet cover and sheets. I tried to buy them locally and failed. I considered buying the organic sheets sold by Target, but wed bought a set when our son was born two years ago and they became holey (filled with holes, not religious) after a year and a half. My previous sheets (that are still in great shape, but fit a full and not our queen bed) were hand-me-downs from my mom and are over 10 years old. And, they have yet to acquire any holes! I was insistent on organic given that we spend a good 8 hours per night in our bed and cotton is one of the most pesticide intensive crops. Eventually, I found a designer set (whatever that means) at a discount price on Amazon, so I bought them.

Next, I checked out a few local fabric stores and finally found a striped pattern that matched the duvet cover and would both warm-up and brighten our bedroom. I used these for window curtains and two European Shams (this is a term I just learned, so I couldnt pass it up, Google it if you are unsure). I also bought a simple chocolate brown fabric that matched our sheets to make into closet door curtains and to recover our lamp shades. We have Asian style bedside lamps that we found about 4 years ago and whose lampshades were damaged (bent and smudged) in our move this summer.

The curtains were pretty simple: just measure your window, measure your fabric, hem on all four sides, leave an opening for the curtain rod and ta-da! you are done! The pillow inserts I repurposed from some old fleece couch pillows, so I just lay the fleece covers on the fabric to use as a pattern, sewed three sides shut and left a third open for stuffing in the pillow (I plan to seal the 4th side with Velcro or a zipper, but have yet to do so).

The lampshades were a little more complex and scared me half to death in the making, but turned out really well!

  • First, I lay one side of the lamp shade on a piece of paper and traced the outline. I cut out the pattern and compared it to all 8 sides of the lamps (two shades with 4 sides each).
  • Next, I used chalk (from my sons chalk board) to trace the pattern on my brown fabric and cut out the pieces. As I cut out the pattern I cut down the chalk line with the knowledge that my fabric pieces would end up slightly larger than my lamp shade. This was intentional, so that I could wrap the fabric pieces around the edge of the shade to the interior for a more finished look.
  • With all my fabric cut out I laid a shade on its side, spread sewing glue (not basting glue) on the side facing up and placed the fabric on top. At first I was terrified that this would not work as the fabric glue (white) showed through my brown fabric, but it dried clean and with out a trace!
  • Once I had applied all 8 sides I cut 1 inch wide strips of matching fabric from my pillow/curtain fabric. I measured the length of each ridge/corner on the lamp and cut the strips with about an inch of extra length on each end. I then folded the strips in half long wise, so they were 1/2 inch wide and ironed them to make a crease. Next I laid the strips open and folded in the raw edges to meet in the middle at the ironed crease to finish or hem with the iron my strips.
  • I then used a paint brush to spread fabric glue on the ridges/corners of the lamps and applied the fabric strips to create coordinating trim.
  • Lastly, I realize that this would make a real tutorial with pictures, but I didnt plan for this project to work, so I did not document each step. If I had any more lamp shades to cover Id cover one just to show you want I did step by step. Perhaps Kellie (whos eternal craftiness served as inspiration) will cover some lamps and make a proper tutorial!

I can however provide pictures of the final product!

Curtains for our walk in closet that lacks a door:

 

 

I chose this angle for the lamp shade, because on a few sides I did an S pattern with the glue. When the lamp is on you can see the S. Fortunately, on most of the shades I smeared the glue around and the smeared glue does not show through the shade!

 

Inside the shade: note that the edges are not perfect and see the bent/crumpled spot in the corner? This used to be visible on the outside of the shade!

 

The whole Shebang:

 

Last, but not least, I should mention that all the colors, patterns, themes in this room came from my desire to use this picture frame that I painted during a get-together at a paint your own pottery store last December! It is hard to see in our bedroom lighting, but the blue, brown and red in the frame are repeated in the curtains, the sheets, and the pillows!

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Have you ever had a miracle in the kitchen? I can claim to have had more than a few miracles visit my kitchen over the years; however, this is the first time I’ve been visited by three consecutive miracles, including, a visit by the Virgin Mary.

It is late afternoon and the husband has gone out to run a few errands, while the kid takes a nap. Appropriately, it is also Sunday and I am putzing around the house getting things done, when I realize that Id like to have pizza for dinner. I pull up the recipe for the Friday Night Pizza as published in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  Opening the cupboard I am dismayed to discover that not only am I completely out of Canola oil, but that I also only have a few drops of Olive Oil left in the bottle. The recipe calls for Olive Oil and truly, any oil would likely do, but it looks as though I may be flat out of any kind of oil.  Ive already started to proof my yeast in the water, so I decide to try and claim the last of the Olive Oil from the bottle.

The first miracle is that I had exactly 3 Tablespoons of olive oil left in the bottle, the exact amount called for in the recipe. Does that EVER happen? The second miracle, is that my husband was diverted on his errand run and had not yet made it to the grocery store, so I was able to call and add both kinds of oil to his shopping list. (This was a rare event, he has ALWAYS left the store by the time I call to ask him to pick up something else).  Miracle #3 is that the Virgin Mary showed up in my yeast mixture as I added the Olive Oil. Coincidence? I think not

And now, we know why it is called Extra Virgin Olive Oil!

The truly amazing part of this story is that I just drizzled the oil from the tablespoon over the proofing yeast, shook it a few times, and ended up with what, really does look like some intentional fresca fresco of the Virgin Mary!

Vegan Red Curry Squash Pie

Tomorrow I am entering a non-vegan version of this pie in the City of Louisville (CO) Fall Festival Annual Pie

Contest. This was my first time baking a pie at our new-to-us home and in a disposable pie tin, so it is not as pretty as could be, but I do hope that it is at least delicious!

For at home consumption I made a vegan version of the recipe, which takes inspiration from my moms famous pumpkin pie and the Farmers Daughters Butternut Squash Pie. When I first made a pumpkin pie a few years ago I learned that the reason I dont like many pumpkin pies is that I am not fond of the combination of spices. My mom likes to keep it simple with cinnamon and all spice. She also uses less sugar than is called for in many pie recipes.

Prior to reading about the Butternut Squash Pie last fall, I had not considered making a pie with anything besides pumpkin. However, there are several varieties of sweet fleshed winter squash that can also make delicious pies. At our local farmers market the winter squash are just starting to make an appearance and the Red Curry Squash was recommended to me by Anna of Ollin Farms. Lest you are concerned, Red Curry is indicative of the color of the squash and has nothing to do with the flavor!

Vegan Red Curry Squash Pie
  • 1 cup pureed squash
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¾ tsp allspice
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 3 Ener-G eggs prepared
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • ¾ cup sugar

Instructions:

Prepare pie dough for one pie (I used Earth Balance Buttery Sticks in standard pie dough recipe). Preheat your oven to 425F.

Add pureed squash to bowl. Sprinkle with spices and salt. Mix together Energ-G eggs and add coconut milk and sugar to the mix. Add to pureed squash and stir until thoroughly combined and smooth.

Pour mixture into prepared pie plate and raw crust. Bake at 425F for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and bake and additional 35 to 45 minutes 60 minutes (or) until firm in the center or a tooth pick inserted comes out clean and dry.

Apparently, Ener-G Egg does not cook like egg in a pie! At an hour and 10 minutes out my pie still smells great, looks great, but is liquid in sidegoing to bake another 10 minutesmaybe it will set as it cools. I ultimately took it out and it started to set, but tastes very carmelized. Hubby says this is yummy and I am disappointed! At least this was not my contest pie! I might have to try this recipe again with arrowroot instead of Ener-G.

Let pie cool completely before serving.

More on SIGG: trade secrets and our health

The recent hoopla over hidden BPA in SIGG water bottles was made possible because it is legal for a company to not disclose the ingredients of packaging that comes in contact with our food and water because of trade secrets. Now, I cannot claim to be an expert or to even have done significant research on this topic; however, had SIGG been legally required to disclose the content of their old liner (and even their new one) for the simple fact that it comes in contact with beverages consumed by humans (or anyone really) we would not have had this issue arise.

I find it ironic that paint (such as non toxic milk paints) or even my non toxic cleaning products, must have a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), because many of these items do contain toxic ingredients. And yet, SIGG (and other manufacturers) are allowed to claim trade secrets and not reveal the ingredients of their liner, despite the fact that over time food containers and utensils have been found to contain ingredients that are toxic, such as lead, and more recently, BPA. This is especially silly considering that no one actually expects you to eat paint; however, the primary expectation for a water bottle is that it holds beverages that folks intend to consume. How can it possibly be legal that SIGG was able to claim trade secret and not disclose the ingredients of their water bottle liners?

This line of thought has led me to wonder what else I dont know about food containers and the regulations that direct how they can be made and what exactly makes them food safe. If there is not already legislation in the works to require full disclosure on ingredients (even non reactive ingredients) for containers that hold food and beverages for human consumption, there needs to be one!  In the meantime, our family will do our best to stick with glass and stainless steel.

If you have any ideas or great resources regarding this topic please share them below or write about them on your blog and send me the link to share.

The Deceit of SIGG

Recently it has been brought to my attention that all SIGG water bottles produced prior to August 2008 contained BPA. Prior to this date SIGG misled consumers into believing that their product was not plastic, but a water based epoxy resin the implication being that it was safe and did not contain BPA.

Read more at these links:

SIGGS BPA Confession at Zrecommends

How to Identify Your SIGG at Consumerist

Letter from SIGG CEO at SIGG

The big SIGG BPA letdown at Crunchy Domestic Goddess

Here is my open letter to Steve Wasik the CEO of SIGG. Please feel free to write him yourself and do spread the word.

Dear Mr. Wasik,

The news that your SIGG water bottles (prior to 2008 production) contain BPA is the greatest news of deceit that I have encountered as a consumer in my lifetime. Since learning I was pregnant with my son in September 2006, I specifically avoided and continue to avoid plastic products, including those products containing BPA, as it is a known endocrine disruptor. Around this time our family purchased two SIGG water bottles that we have used religiously when out and about and away from our water glasses at home.

While preganant I drank from my SIGG bottle 4 days per week as I had a long commute to a college campus where I did not have easy access to water. When my son was born I breastfed him and carried my SIGG bottle around with me to have water on walks and at the store. Last year, when my son turned one we got him a big boy SIGG water bottle. I would not have made any of these purchases had I known your products were lined with BPA. I am in fact outraged to know that if my son were to be tested and show levels BPA in his system the most likely culprit would be our SIGG water bottles.

First off, I was raised in a family that never trusted plastic products and so, I was an early adopter of the theory that one ought to be better safe than sorry in regards to BPA and plastics in general. From 2005 to 2007 I switched out all of our older Tuperware for glassware. During this time I elminated plastic bowls and cups from household use and I continue to purchase food products in glass and or I make my own. We eat out in frequently and have minimal exposure to BPA.

When my son was born I purchased BPA free bottles, teething rings and other baby products. When I supplemented breast milk with formula I did so with the only brand that guaranteed no BPA in their liner. I would have spared no expense to buy a BPA free water bottle and so I did OR at least I was led to believe that my purchase was a BPA free bottle. To say the least your tactics and wordings were deceptive and at worse, lying through omission.

I am outraged that despite my personal research and diligence, to learn that I have been reading drinking from a bottle lined with BPA. Needless to say, we will no longer be drinking from our SIGG Bottles and I will not be purchasing new ones, rather, if we do purchase replacements, we will do so from a company who willingly acknowledged the BPA content of their water bottles, while working to develop a new formula.

Sincerely,

Green Me (personal information withheld for privacy)

P.s. This is an open letter that will be published at www.greenme.vg and will be shared with friends and family.

P.p.s. I have read that 3rd party testing has not found leaching of BPA from bottles, but I wonder (a) how old are the bottles that they are testing and (b) have they left them in a hot car on numerous occasions? Heat and age cause other products to leach and our bottles have been left in the car on numerous occasions and are over 3 years old!

**** Prompt Response Received from SIGG ****

Hi Alison,

First off, thank you for taking the time to write to me.

I understand your point and recognize that there is a lot of confusion about BPA out there right now. To my knowledge, we at SIGG have never advertised our old liner bottles as being BPA free.  Sometimes SIGG retailers or journalists will hear the “no leaching of BPA” message and inadvertently shorten that in their communications to “no BPA”. We did our best to correct them but usually it was after the fact.

We believe we have the best protective liners in the world and have been extremely transparent with the testing of our bottles which you may have seen in the info section on our site (www.MySIGG.com/bulletin). The controversy that has swirled around BPA in the past has involved the problems of plastic bottles leaching BPA into the water – and in my 4 years with the company, SIGG has never had a problem with leaching. For the record, my family and I are still drinking from SIGG bottles with the former non-leaching liner which I have complete confidence in.

We actually did make an announcement about the new liner in January when the bottles hit the market. However, the media did not pick up the news. Due to a long-term agreement that SIGG had with our supplier (& owner) of the old liner formula, we were unable to speak about the ingredients. This placed us in a difficult situation and was another reason we began development of our new EcoCare liner with a new supplier.

Sorry to hear that we have lost your faith. If you should reconsider, please feel free to contact our Customer Service Department ([email protected]). They will contact you directly if you wish to exchange your old SIGG bottles for new SIGG bottles with the BPA-free EcoCare liner. Thanks again for your email.

Best regards,

Steve

Our Slow Food Dinner: good, clean and family food!

On Sunday afternoon we hosted half a dozen families (about 14 adults and that many kids) for a local slow food dinner. Everyone made his or her own dishes (including some home brewed hard (local) apple cider and Kombucha) and used as many local ingredients as possible. The spread covered everything from home baked Artesian breads and freshly made Queso to massaged kale salad (delicious!), cantaloupe salsa, beet salad, roasted corn and Colorado grown beans and tortillas.

The motivation for this dinner came from our small organic co-op organizer (otherwise know as Nature Deva) who has been lamenting the fact that our local Slow Food organization does not welcome children to their dinners. And what could emphasize the values of Slow Food more than taking the time to break bread and savor it with both friends and family? In our view teaching everyone, children included, about the pleasures and history of our vast food heritage is of utmost importance.  Indeed, we all had a wonderful meal and, the highlight of the evening was enjoying our children eat, play, sing, run and be silly. My husband (a self proclaimed foodie) said that it was the best party weve ever had and with out the kids it just would not have been the same.

As a group we are compiling recipes and pictures for the evening. I will post links to other blog posts about the event as they are published. In the meantime here are the recipes for the dishes that I prepared:

Simple Madagascar Style Beans (made from a Colorado cousin of a pinto bean):

To start:
-2 tbsp canola oil in bottom of crockpot
– 1 large or several small onions diced (I used fresh small red onions from the Farmers Market)
– several cloves of garlic chopped (also local from market)
– 2 to 5 bay leaves
– 2+ cups beans (2 cups dry, soaked over night in water)
– 1 tsp allspice
– water to cover beans plus an inch
Cook beans in crock pot until tender about 3 to 5 hours depending on your pot.

Add when beans are cooked:
– 1 to 2 tsps salt (depends on taste preference)
– 1 tsp ground coriander
– 2 large or 4 to 6 small potatoes chopped
Cook an additional 2 to 4 hours until potatoes are tender and soup is starting to thicken

When I was in Madagascar I stayed at a reserve where the Malagasy cook made salty beans cooked until almost mushy with onions. This recipe is about as close as I can replicate you can make it with any type of bean and I think it tastes delicious over a bowl of rice. When our beans were too salty one night at the Reserve, the Malagasy researches that I was staying with said that it meant the cook was in love! So, if your beans come out too salty, it just might be good news! Simple, but satisfying!

Tortillas (I found my recipe here, but altered as seen below):

– 4 cups fine whole wheat flour (we are lucky to have a great source for locally milled flour!)
– 3 teaspoons of baking powder
– 2 teaspoons of salt
– 2 tbsp canola oil
– 2 tbsp melted Earth Balance Spread
– 1 tsp local honey
– 1.5 cups warm coconut milk

As the recipe at Home Sick Texan recommends, knead the sticky dough for two minutes on a floured board. I covered mine with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes. I then pinched off small balls and rolled them out flat (about 6 inch tortillas) and cooked in a skillet.

Homemade Yogurt (vegan yogurt too!)

We’ve made many changes in our home over the past few years to reduce our consumption of plastic and make things from scratch. And yet, we’ve continued to bring single serve yogurt containers into our home on a weekly basis. We are able to recycle them, but that only reduces the waste created by this tasty habit.

Folks have told me I need to buy a yogurt maker, but I am hesitant to own single use appliances (outside of the coffee maker). I don’t own a bread machine nor do I own a yogurt maker. However, I do own a crock pot, so imagine my glee when I came a across a thread on the Mary Jane Farm message board regarding making your own yogurt and then a few folks suggesting a particular simple recipe for crock pot yogurt. I was literally jumping for joy!

Now as you all know I am lactose intolerant, so I generally do not join in the yogurt eating fun at our house, except when I decide to indulge in a non dairy yogurt. These days there are a variety of non dairy yogurts, but none of them are really up to the job or for daily consumption: soy yogurt (not satisfying), a rice yogurt (spendy and weird flavor), or the newer coconut yogurt (tasty, but SPENDY).

So, I decided to try the crock pot recipe with coconut milk for a nice vegan yogurt that is also dairy, casein and lactose free! Start up costs were not cheap with cans of organic coconut milk at $1.99 each (needed 5) and a starter coconut yogurt at $1.59. This made about 10 servings of yogurt for $1.15 each, which is still more expensive than your average soy or regular dairy yogurt, but much cheaper than the $2.59 coconut yogurt sold at Whole Foods ($1.59 at my local health food store). Now I have my own starter and just need to find a more affordable source of coconut milk if I didnt use organic for example, I could further reduce costs!

The important question however is: how did the yogurt turn out? Excellent! The flavor is delicious and only very mildly coconut. The texture is smooth and creamy. The consistency is thick, although more like yoplait than some of the almost jello style yogurts. I also used a table spoon of arrowroot powder in my cooking process in hopes that it would help thicken things up and although I dont know if that helped; perhaps next time I will use two tablespoons and see if I can get it a bit thicker. Nevertheless, my experiment was a success!

And, now that I know that I can make yogurt in a crockpot, I can also start to make some at home for my son and maybe even talk the husband into taking it in his lunch to work!

Hoo! Hoo! and Meow! Crackers for the Munckin (and his Dad)

A few day ago I was finally inspired to make the cracker recipe published at the Green Phone Booth a few months ago. Baby Green Me has discovered bunny crackers and I am hesitant to not only feed him a snack on a regular basis that is lacking in nutritional value (no fiber, just carbs) and that is also quite pricey per ounce. On the flip side, who can pass up cute animal crackers?

The first time I made the recipe I followed EnviRambos recipe, except for substituting sesame seeds for rosemary. The second time I made the crackers I increased the nutritional yeast to 4 tablespoons for a cheesier flavor, increased my sesame seeds to two table spoons and I added an extra 2 tablespoons of water to make the dough work (with the extra yeast & seeds).

Both times I used my mini kitty and owl cookie cutters to make animal crackers that my son would love. Not only did the crackers work, but Baby Green Me loves themhe might eat them in exclusion of any other foods if I let him! And these crackers are filled with fiber, protein, and a little extra calcium and B vitamins thanks to the nutritional yeast and sesame seeds!

I wont recreate the recipe here as the original is a perfect starting point; however, I have included a few photos of my cracker making experience. Enjoy!

If you have a cracker fiend in your home or just need some healthy on the go snacks for your kiddos I highly recommend trying out these crackers. They were super easy to make (it took less than 10 minutes to mix up the dough), easy to handle, they cook in 15 minutes (or less) and then are ready to go!