One of the issues I have with hitting the gym (or a CrossFit class) in the early mornings is that it kind of screws up normal mealtimes. I also cannot eat a big meal before exercising or I will get crampy so most days I grab a Lara bar and call it my morning meal. Then when I get home I debate whether or not to fix a meal for myself (everyone is still sleeping) or snack until we can eat a meal together. Either way I usually have a cravings for breakfast style foods whether it is actually breakfast time or lunch. Pancakes is one thing I LOVE to eat post workout.
Today was one of those days when I just grabbed a banana and waited until lunch time before I made my first big meal of the day. I wanted a change of pace from our usual coconut pancakes but my order from Tropical Traditions arrived just as a I got home with Organic Maple Syrup. Yum! This is my fave maple syrup ever! So, to mix it up I made cheesy french toast pancakes. Okay the name is lame but they taste like french toast without the toast and in a pancake form with just a hint of fried cheesecake in the middle. Seriously good and they are grain free and lacto-paleo.
Creamy French Toast Pancakes Recipe
4 pastured eggs
8 ounces (one package) organic full fat cream cheese
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 cap full pure vanilla
Coconut oil for cooking (we use Tropical Traditions coconut oil)
Pure maple syrup
Mix up in a good blender (I am partial to the Vita-Mix) and pour on to your cast iron skillet or griddle, aiming for pancakes about six inches in diameter. Use cooking oil to grease your pan/griddle if need be. Cook 2-3 minutes on each side. They will be a glorious golden brown. Top with pure maple syrup and enjoy!
This recipe makes about 15 thin pancakes and three of us gobbled them all up today so if you have a big family you may want to double this recipe.
Added to Traditional Tuesdays
Cleaning the kitchen is one of those things that I know needs to be broken down into daily tasks but an actual plan of action seems to elude me. I always seem to get the bare minimum done… aka cleaning the counters so I can prepare the day’s meals or loading/unloading the dishwasher so we have clean dishes to eat off of. But cleaning the spray off the backsplash and stove, wiping down the walls, or cleaning up stray peas underneath the kitchen table… forget it! This year I totally planned to hire someone to clean the kitchen for me 2-3 times a month but contributing to our retirement accounts before the deadline has taken precedence. It’s always something. Even though I LOVE the idea of having outside help, and I DO hire someone a couple times a year, I really struggle with forking over money for something I can do myself.
So I decided to sit down and write out a 30 day plan to see if I can tackle this once and for all. We shall see how it goes. I figure each item should only take 10-15 minutes tops and it will hopefully help me stay on top of the kitchen so it never gets so bad I decide that takeout sounds like the best option. I plan to hang this on the fridge and check things off each day after the relevant task is accomplished. I have my bottle of vinegar, castile soap, and tea tree oil at the ready. I also acquired a Neato Automatic Vacuum Cleaner that will clean of debris from my kitchen floor for me. I just have to remember to press the button at least once a day and “Cheese” as my son lovingly named him, will cleanup those stray peas for me. As a bonus he will even clean the rest of the first floor! I highly recommend a Neato if it is in the budget.
So…assuming that I can make the time to wipe down counters and do the dishes daily here are my 30 day tasks…
1. Wipe down all appliances (stove, fridge, Vita-Mix, ect. )
2. Wipe down and de-grease cabinets
3. Mop floor
4. Wipe down and de-grease the backsplash
5. Deep clean and shine sink
6. Clean the trash can inside and out
7. Clean drawers and declutter counters
8. Mop Floor
9. Wipe down all walls and baseboards
10. Clean out the fridge/freezer (refrigerator water filters should also be changed upon expiration)
11. Wipe down all appliances (stove, fridge, Vita-Mix, ect. )
12. Clean under the fridge and stove
13. Mop floor
14. Deep clean and shine sink
15. Wipe down and de-grease cabinets
16. Clean windows and sills
17. Clean out the pantry
18. Mop floor
19. Wipe down all appliances (stove, fridge, Vita-Mix, ect. )
20. Deep clean and shine sink
21. Deep clean stove
22. Wipe down interior of cabinets and pantry
23. Mop floor, wipe down and de-grease the backsplash
24. Wipe down all walls and baseboards
25. Dust light fixtures and vent covers
26. Wipe down all appliances (stove, fridge, Vita-Mix, ect. )
27. Deep clean and shine sink
28. Mop floor
29. Organize pots and pans
30. Wipe down and de-grease the backsplash
Do you have any advice or tips to offer?
I got a great email question from a reader this week and decided to answer it on the blog. I think more and more people are wanting to transition from the Standard American Diet and easily available processed food to real, healthy, homemade goodness. The issue of course is that we find ourselves unprepared to cook real food because we are so used to heat and serve style meals. When we want to cook and bake from scratch we need the right tools so that we can stick with his new lifestyle and not decide that it is ultimately too much work. Our health will improve and so will our impact on the planet so it is important that we manage to set up our kitchen to make it easier to eat real food!
Here is what Danielle had to say:
Hello from Wisconsin. I have one daughter and trying for another. I have just recently become more aware of the choices I make for the my family and the impact it has on all of us. I started out by bringing my own bags to the grocery store, making my daughter her own baby food, getting rid of paper towels altogether, and a few other little changes. My goal for the new year is going to be making all our own food from scratch. Whether it’s snacks, dinner, smoothies, ect. With that being said, do you have any suggestions as to cookware and/or kitchen tools to help with doing so?
I have been trying to go back to a lot of your older posts and learning but as you probably know with having a little one I don’t get much time to do so. What are some of the best tips you could give me as to making my family and our house more green? As most of the people these days, we are on a budget. So I am hoping to make changes in small increments.
The following are some of the things I think a real food kitchen needs. As with anything you can start small and add things as you can. Also depending on what you are cooking some of these things may not apply to you but hopefully these ideas give you a place to start. Make sure to comment and add YOUR must have kitchen tool at the bottom of this page.
What You Need for a Real Foods Kitchen
Vita-Mix – My number #1 must have for the kitchen would have to be the Vita-Mix. I use mine literally all the time and have even joked that if the house were burning down I would run back inside to grab my camera and this amazing blender. We use it for making homemade nut butters, almond milk, butter, crackers, baby food (back in the day), popsicles, ice cream, sorbet, smoothies, mixed drinks, salsa, soup, raw cookies and desserts, and so much more. It is one of those gadgets that is always out on the counter because someone in the house will use it… at least 2 or 3 times each day. It is an expensive item but worth every penny and then some. If you have one you may not even need an immersion blender or a food processor plus you can buy a separate dry container for grinding your own flour.
I also have a Blendtec but I like the Vita-mix better.
A Dutch Oven – You can buy many different types of Dutch Ovens from the posh and stylish Le Creuset to the uber affordable Lodge Logic. The latter option works swimmingly so unless looking at that French version will make you super happy you can just go with the cheaper option. I use my cast iron Lodge Logic oven for making soups and stews when I don’t have time for a crock-pot. And as you can see below I also use it to make whole wheat sourdough bread on occasion.
Pressure Cooker – Okay, so you planned things REALLY badly and you need to cook up something really fast but you want that slow cooked for hours taste. You need a pressure cooker. If you’re are a meat eater you can also turn out really tender and juicy dishes using traditionally tough cuts of meat and you can do it 20 minutes instead of 2 hours. Some units can be used as a canner as well. I have no personal experience with these but I hear I am getting one for Christmas!
Crock-pot – These are perfect for meals with long cooking times… think chicken noodle soup, meatloaf, or chili. You can use a dutch oven or pressure cooker to get the job done faster but you may not want to heat your oven (summer) or you may need to cook while away from home. Since crock-pots plug into the wall and don’t require a stove they are perfect for slow cooking meals while you are working. You can also put them on a timer and have them start cooking while you are sleeping… ala overnight oatmeal.
I use my crock-pot more often than my dutch oven simply because I like to do all the food prep while my kids are at school. It can get hectic in the evening to have to chop all the veggies and such. For meals that only need 30 minutes or so, like my Potato Leek Soup, I use the cast iron dutch oven. Can’t wait to see how the pressure cooker works itself into the equation.
Bean Pot – These awesome pots can be used to soak and also cook your beans. I have an antique one that I got as a gift but you can also buy them new.
Dehydrator – I have an Excalibur food dehydrator and it is almost essential if you enjoy raw foods. In mine I have made cookies, crackers, dried fruit, fruit rolls, almond flour from almond pulp, and many other raw food dishes. They are also great for campers and hikers because you can make home cooked meals and then dehydrate instead of buying those freeze dried packets at sporting goods stores. Being able to dry fruit is a great way to preserve foods for winter time consumption.
Rice Cooker – If you eat a lot of rice or quinoa (raising hand) then having one of these saves loads of time and you don’t have to worry about burning. Most of these have non-stick coatings though so I suggest clay or stainless steel. They are pricier than your $30 rice cookers at Walmart but you don’t have to worry about cooking your food in nasty chemicals.
Pizza Stone – In my mind there is no reason to order pizza out. It is super easy to make your own pizza and it is MUCH healthier. My kids eat pizza loaded with fresh basil and spinach and you won’t find that at Pizza Hut. If you do make pizza at home then having a good pizza stone is nice. You can use them in the oven in winter and on the grill in summer. Easy!! You can also use these for things like biscuits and cookies.
Waffle Maker and/or Griddle - If you like waffles ( I recommend sourdough waffles) then you will love a cast iron waffle maker. Don’t buy the conventional ones with a non-stick finish. Same goes for griddles. A cast iron griddle is perfect for cooking eggs, pancakes, and even homemade english muffins.
Cutting Boards – Nourished kitchens see lots of veggie action. As a result of this I seem to have a bit of a bamboo cutting board addiction. I have 2 regular ones, a cutting block style board, and one that has a nifty colander built in for cutting and rinsing over the sink. I also have a plastic one from my non-green days and I keep it around for cutting meat. I won’t let meat touch my wooden boards. I also have a glass cutting board.
Colander – Typical kitchens usually have one but just in case I love the metal ones that are designed to fit over the sink. Love, love, love them! Plus you can use them as baskets when not in use to hold potatoes, fruit, eggs, etc.
Mixers – I have wanted a good mixer with a dough hook for years. I cannot seem to rationalize the cost of a KitchenAid though when we don’t do that much baking or bread making. Maybe someday if we find an awesome deal I will finally get one.
Good Pots and Pans – I wrote an extensive post on healthy and green cookware already so you can refer to that for the ins and outs of cast iron, stainless, aluminum, copper, etc.
Yogurt Maker – You can make yogurt in a crock-pot if you make up large batches and you can even use a jar and a heating pad. I happen to prefer the ease of a yogurt maker and I use the same one today that my mom used when I was a kid. If you decide to get one look for ones that have glass containers, not plastic.
Ramekins – Love these for reasonable portions of things like pudding and ice cream but also for cooking. I love to toss a egg in one and then top with a slice of fresh tomato, a sprinkling of herbs, some bread crumbs, and some cheese. Meat eaters like some crumpled bacon. Cook in the oven until the eggs set and voila, an easy an delicious breakfast for the whole house. Love these colored Rachael Ray ramekins!
Casserole Dishes – Speaking of Rachael Ray I am also loving her Stoneware bake sets that can be used for casseroles. Her cooking gear started out very cheesy (and plastics heavy) but it has taken a turn for the better in recent months. I can see making a veggie casserole or sweet potato casserole in these.
Juicer – I used to have a juicer but decided that I ultimately enjoy drinking the pulp and fiber of a fruit rather than just the juice. But if you are into raw foods or you need the extra healing that fresh juicing can provide, then a good juicer is essential.
Water Purification – We use Brita pitchers for filtering our water and an Alkamate for alkaline water.
Ball Jars – I use Ball jars for tons of things around the kitchen. We use small ones as drink cups for the kids and quart sized ones for protein shakes and green smoothies for adults. I also use them to store flour, grains, quinoa, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, rice, dehydrated fruit, cereal, oats, etc. You can fill them from the bulk bin at your local grocer or you can buy packaged and then transfer it. It keeps things fresh, bug free, and I label the bottom of the jars so that I know what is in them. I put a sprouting lid on them and use them for sprouting seeds. The lid and jar combo can be used for sprinkling powdered cleaners, like my homemade scented scrubs to. I use them to make fermented foods like sourdough and kefir and store things in the fridge. They have a million uses!
Also, any glass jar will do. I just mostly use Ball jars because we don’t buy much food packaged in jars but I do have a couple Bubbies pickle jars in there to.
Below: Potato flakes, quinoa, brown rice, wild rice, coconut flour, quinoa flour, almond flour, flaxseed cereal, flaxseed meal, and some others I am likely forgetting.
Glass Refrigerator Dishes – As I mentioned above, I use Ball Jars for lots of my storage needs but when I have leftovers that won’t fit in jars I use glass refrigerator dishes. I have lots of vintage pyrex for this purpose as well as some Anchor Hocking glass dishes.
Storage Baskets – For food that stays outside the fridge like potatoes, onions, garlic, apples, bananas, lemons, bread, etc, we use baskets for easy storage and they go on a large metal shelving system that sits in our kitchen.
Chef’s Knives – Just like you need good cutting boards for all those fresh veggies you will be chopping, you need some good knives to.
Miscellaneous Stuff – An apple corer, wooden cooking utensils, wood and metal serving bowls, a hand crank mixer, a nut chopper (go vintage if you can!), spiral slicer, nut milk bags and cheesecloth, a kitchen scale, metal spatulas, a Tagine, and a fermenting crock.
Whew! Did I go a little crazy with this run down? What do you have to have in your kitchen?
We aren’t all that big on desserts around here. I think that may be because we live within 15 minutes of what has been called America’s best ice cream… the local artisan creations from Jeni’s. I have no problem loading the family into the car and making a trip there once or twice a week but recently we decided that needed to change some. We aren’t worried about our health or the size of our jeans. Rather we are trying to reduce the “dining out” portion of our monthly budget. Dagnabit! Since we can easily spend $30+ for each trip to Jeni’s we decided to get creative and make more dessert at home.
The first way to accomplish this was pretty glaring. We can have Jeni’s at home by using the recipes in her book Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home. So once or twice a month we plan to make some of her delicious recipes. Secondly we want to make more frozen kefir and frozen yogurt. I have made my own frozen yogurt from homemade yogurt but I have yet to make my own frozen kefir. Sadly I let my kefir grains die over the summer and need to buy some more but when I passed some Lifeway Frozen Kefir at the market I decided to give it a whirl.
We have tried two flavors now… original and strawberry. My 5 year old and I went to town on the strawberry and ate the whole container earlier this week. Don’t tell my other kids! I reserved the original for dessert tonight and spiced it up with some homemade blackberry compote. YUM!!!
The blackberry compote was super easy. I just simmered a cup of blackberries with 3 Tablespoons of Thai Coconut Sugar and a couple tablespoons of water. When it was sufficiently reduced and thick I blended it up in the Vita-Mix and poured it over the kefir. The one pint size was perfect for me and my 3 kiddos (Dad works at night). Divide by four and serve. I can see us buying these more often in the future. At $1.24 per serving (family of four) it will definitely help us keep the budget in check.
If any of my readers want to give it a try Lifeway has graciously given me a couple coupons for a free pint. Comment to let me know you want one and I will draw a winner at random next week. Good luck!
This week I decided to try my hand making coconut yogurt AND coconut water kefir with young coconuts. If you are unfamiliar with young coconuts they are the white coconuts you often see in health food stores, not the mature brown ones that usually taste nasty (IMO at least). This yogurt is a raw food dish and it is nice for an occasional treat.
I started by cracking three of them open. Actually my husband did that part. He drained the coconut water as he opened them and reserved it in a bowl. I then scooped out the meat of the coconuts and tried to keep the brownish skin on the other side of it from coming with it too much. I ended up with a fair amount of meat from just 3 coconuts.
I added the meat, a cup or so of the coconut water, and a Tablespoon of commercial coconut yogurt from Whole Foods, to my Vita-Mix and blended well to make milk. I didn’t heat this mixture at all, just let it warm a bit by letting the blender run. Afterwards I poured it into the pint jars of my yogurt maker. This machine just keeps the jars warm so that the beneficial bacteria can work and create yogurt. I had enough for 3 of the jars.
After 15ish hours I removed them and put them in the frig. The yogurt is quite tasty although my husband prefers the sweet taste of the milk without the added fermentation. I admit that it is quite delish both ways. In fact I think this would be an excellent pie filling. Just make a pie crust from raw nuts and dried dates and then fill with coconut milk or coconut yogurt, top with some sliced fruit like Kiwi or strawberries, and you have a raw pie for dessert. I also imagine that we will eat coconut milk ice cream, frozen coconut yogurt, and coconut Popsicles this summer.
I have been eating a ramekin full most mornings with a little dollop of lemon curd made with pastured eggs, honey, and coconut oil.
The water from the coconuts went straight into a quart size ball jar with some water kefir grains. The coconut water has natural sugars that the kefir will chow down on. After 15 hours it was tangy and slightly fizzy and it went straight into a glass pitcher destined for the frig. LOVE these pitchers for kefir and juice!
And my fave way to use up the coconut water kefir? Green Smoothies of course!
Oh and we used the top of the coconuts for soap dishes and the remaining shells will be used for planters!
Ready to try coconut yogurt?
Top Photo by FotoosVanRobin