Sunday, December 21, 2008

Snowstorms and Maple Syrup

I love this time of year. Everything is covered in thick layers of snow, people seem nicer somehow, and we fill our days playing board games and drinking far too much honey-sweetened tea. We've had some wonderful snowstorms over the last few days that have left us with great mounds of white stuff to build snow forts in. 

As tradition dictates, fresh snow means maple syrup taffy in our family. We have delicious maple syrup that we buy from a local farmer. When I say "delicious", what I really mean is that this maple syrup is above and beyond any I've tried before. It's wonderful - mineraly, subtly sweet, complex. Amazing stuff.

This year we roasted some brazil nuts in a little bit of ghee and sea salt and added them to the taffy. It was divine.

If you want to try it on your own, get yourself a large bowl of clean, fresh snow. Boil up maple syrup until a strip poured on the snow firms up immediately (if it just melts into the snow, it's not ready). Use chopsticks or something similar and wind the taffy around it. The more snow caught up in the taffy, the better. Yum!

Monday, December 15, 2008

What's in Your Shampoo?

The Environmental Working Group has an absolutely fabulous database that allows anyone to figure out exactly what's in their shampoo, cosmetics, or whatever other toiletry they want to know about.  The site is called, "Skin Deep".  You can do a search on a category and find out which products are safest or you can search specific products and see where they fall on the toxic scale, what's in them, and what it's doing to you.  You can even create a customized shopping list based on safe ingredients.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

On Hiatus

A wonderful, surprise visitor from the Netherlands has occupied my time and energy (and I couldn't be happier about it). I'll try to get a blog or two in here over the next week, but please forgive me if I don't. If you knew my visitor, you would totally understand.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Update - Can I Bake Again?

Apparently not.  I wrote about Organic Zero and Lakanto on a previous post. I was looking forward to whipping up some raw treats last weekend using some Organic Zero (still no luck sourcing the Lakanto yet). 

I made some 'raw' chocolate using some melted cocoa butter, Organic Zero, cocoa, vanilla, and a pinch of salt. I then froze the chocolate in molds. While they were freezing I mixed some organic coconut butter (not the oil) with some peppermint oil and Organic Zero and poured this mixture over the frozen chocolate and returned it to the freezer. The result? O.k., but the Zero didn't dissolve at all. It was grainy and crunchy and definitely not subtle. It sunk to the bottom of the mixture instead of dissipating throughout. I tried another recipe where I had to heat the liquid, but again, the Zero tended to sit at the bottom of the pot, burning somewhat even though the heat was quite low and I stirred constantly.

The kids ate the chocolates (we all did), but then later complained of tummy aches. At $15.00 a bag, I will likely not be using Organic Zero as a substitute in my baking anymore. I'll save it for our Earl Grey tea where it tastes great with some heavy cream.

Darn it! I was so looking forward to a decent substitute for my beloved baking. If I can't have it tasting as good as it once did, I'd rather not have any. 

Monday, December 1, 2008

Homemade Cream Cheese

Homemade cream cheese is so rewarding to make. It's easy, it's fast, it's pretty much 'zero' on the effort scale. Best of all, it's delicious. If you make your own yoghurt, just whip up some extra in your next batch for this recipe. If you don't make your own yoghurt, a good quality, organic, whole milk yoghurt is what you'll need to get. You should be able to find one that is not homogenized - buy that one.

It's nice to have a container of this cream cheese in your fridge. My kids like to come home from school and put a good size dollop on some sourdough bread with a little bit of raw honey on top. I just like to eat a spoonful whenever the desire so compels me.

Homemade Cream Cheese
  • 1 litre of raw or unhomogenized, organic, whole yoghurt
  • cheesecloth
  • sea salt
Place a sieve over a large bowl, line it with the cheesecloth (folder over a couple of times) and pour in your yoghurt. Allow to drain for a couple of hours on your countertop. After a couple of hours take a large wooden spoon (longer than the width of your bowl) and tie the cheesecloth to it tightly. Remove the sieve. Leave the yoghurt dangling above the bowl for about 6 more hours or overnight. 

You'll notice a clear liquid in the bottom of the bowl. This is the 'whey' that has separated from curd. Don't throw this away. You can put it in a jar and keep it for a couple of months. Use it to make cultured vegetables. 

When your yoghurt is done hanging about, give it a good squeeze and untie it. Scrape out the now cream cheese into a glass container, mix in a bit of sea salt to taste, and keep it covered in the fridge.  

There you have it - cream cheese without all of that chemical grossness.  In fact, what you have is a healthy cream cheese loaded with probiotic goodness. See, I told you it was easy!