greenmama: (Default)

Remember Fudgesicles and Dreamsicles? Those were just lovely yummy things, and I miss them. 

So I went experimenting, pretty much as soon as I remembered that I had bought a quart of plain nonfat yogurt yesterday (we put a dollop on the dogs’ food daily.)

Two recipes, reviews to come:


  • Stir together 1 tbs cocoa powder (unsweetened) and 2 tbs sugar. Drizzle in a little hot tap water and stir to make a paste. (For the grownup version, a little instant coffee might be nice in there too…)
  • Mix in 1 cup plain nonfat yogurt (or to taste)
  • Try to refrain from eating it all standing at the counter. (Put down the spoon. Right now. Put it down, I say!)
  • Pour into popsicle molds, paper cups (not as green!), or even ice cube trays
  • Stick popsicle sticks (recycled?), chopsticks, or whatever works–I use some of the plastic utensils that never seem to get used around the house from before my green days. Re-usable sticks are probably best. If your mixture isn’t thick enough for them to remain upright, put a layer of cling wrap or foil over the top and stick the sticks through.
  • Freeze till solid.  Eat. Share with your kids.  Really.

Dreamsicles (sort of…these don’t have the white inner layer we remember from childhood, but the flavor seems pretty darn close!)

  • In a bowl mix 1 cup orange juice, 2 tbs. plain nonfat yogurt, 1 tbs sweetener (I used agave syrup; maple or honey would probably be nice), and a few drops of vanilla extract. You may need an electric mixer or blender to really break up the yogurt.  I also suspect that 3 tbs vanilla yogurt would probably work in lieu of the plain-yogurt-and-sweetener of this recipe, though I’d probably add the vanilla extract anyway.  In fact, I’d guess that the whole yogurt/juice ratio could be very subjective.  Nor would I discourage anyone from using WHATEVER yogurt you have in the fridge that’s about to pass its “best if used by” date.*
  • Pour into popsicle molds or whatever else (see fudgesicle recipe for thoughts); here you will definitely need the cling wrap or foil to make the sticks stand up, since this recipe is much thinner.
  • Freeze. Eat. Share. If you want to.

I tasted the pre-frozen goo for each, and it’s fairly yummy…can’t wait for the final product. I’ll update this post  again when we’ve tried them.


*p.s. everyone knows, right?, that the dates on dairy and such from the store are the sell by date, not the use by date–it’s the latest date the store is allowed to sell it, which means it’s guaranteed to be good for at least a week or so (and often much longer, in the case of eggs and yogurt and such) after that date.  So please don’t toss your dairy just because it’s a day past its “expiration”!

greenmama: (Default)

I put my first potions of the season up today: the first step for orange-mint liqueur, and lemon balm vinegar.

Liqueur is an easy but seriously time-consuming process.  It’s similar to making “tincture,” which is basically extract of fresh herb in alcohol.  (Glycerine tinctures are available as well, and they are good, but they don’t get as many of the alkaloids from the plant as the alcohol.)

Herb Tincture Recipe

chop up enough clean fresh herb to fill a clean jar 2/3-3/4 of the way full. (I use a food processor for this–one of the only things I use it for.) 

(Note: what part of the herb you use will depend on the herb itself, and what part of it has the medicinal qualities you are looking for.  St. John’s Wort is usually “flowering tops,” which means the top part of the stems and leaves that mostly include the flowers.  Lemon balm and mint and such are herbs where the virtue is mostly in the leaves, and you want to get the leaves when they’re still basically young and tender.  Echinacea is debated–most agree that the root is the most medicinal part, but I personally have always preferred the “whole plant” echinacea extract–flower to root, all tinctured together. This is a subject for a whole bunch of other posts, but I wanted to at least mention it…)

Over the chopped herb in the jar, pour 100 proof alcohol of some kind–easiest and cheapest route for this is a half and half combination of 190 proof grain alcohol (i.e. Everclear or Spiritus) and distilled water. (Yes, do use distilled water rather than tap.) If you can find 100 proof vodka, that’s fine too.  And honestly, if you’re making the tincture in order to make liquer, rather than for trying to squeeze every last bit of medicinal alkaloid out of the plant, 80 proof  vodka will work just fine.  Try to fill the jar all the way to the top; the less air it has to react with, the better.

LABEL YOUR JAR.  Write what you put in it, and most importantly when you made it.  Be as completely obsessive about labelling your potions as you possibly can, or you will forget.

Let the herb/alcohol mixture steep in a cool dark place for about 2-4 weeks for liqueur grade, 6-8 weeks for medicinal grade tincture. Shake the jar every couple of days; this will keep any of the herb that emerges over the top from oxidizing too much and/or growing things you don’t want growing there. (It has to sit a long time for that to happen, though–remember, your herb is pickling in pretty strong alcohol in there.)  It’s not an exact science, just kind of try to remember to give it a turn every once in a while.

After your preferred steeping time is up, drain the liquid through a coffee filter, cheesecloth, or muslin; squeeze out every last bit of liquid from your herbs.

You now have tincture–herbal extract.  Medicinally, you can put a few drops into water or juice; some tinctures (lemon balm, lavender) are okay to just drip into your mouth onto your tongue, but some can be too strong for that, so be careful.

To make it into liqueur, you now have a few more steps and a couple more months:

Make a simple sugar solution, equal in amount to the amount of tincture you want to make into liqueur. As in, if you have 2 cups of tincture, make a solution by mixing 2 cups of sugar and 2 cups of water over heat until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Let cool.

Mix together sugar solution and tincture in equal parts in a bottle or jar. Label it. (If you wish, you might note on the label that what’s in there is about 45-50 proof.) Let it cure for 6 weeks to whenever, tasting it periodically to see how it’s doing.

By Christmastime, if there’s any left, pour into pretty bottles you’ve saved from liqueurs or vinegars or whatever you think would be nice, put pretty labels on, and give as gifts.  If you really want to do that. These liqueurs are pretty good.

For vinegar, you basically do exactly the same thing–chop the herb, let it steep in vinegar for a few weeks, drain, and re-bottle.  Lemon balm and Tarragon are great for this…

greenmama: (Default)

Yummy dip for veggies...pretty healthy too!

1 cup yogurt cheese (make this by placing plain yogurt in a cheesecloth or muslin-lined colandar for several hours or overnight)
1/8 to 1/4 cup prepared pesto sauce (depends how much basil flavor you want!)

Mix. Dip.  That's it. And if you make your pesto without much oil in it, this is a really good-for-you way to be all indulgent with creamy dippy goodness.  It makes a nice sandwich spread, too...

greenmama: (Default)

Okay, so we're doing Father's Day breakfast a day late, i.e. tomorrow, because I had to be out of the house at 6:45 this morning and Daddy would not have been so pleased.  So we'll do it tomorrow.  Scrambled eggs with onion and garlic, which he loves, and--

Baked Oatmeal

mix together:

  • 1.5 cups oatmeal
  • 1/8 cup oat bran (optional)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup applesauce (unsweetened)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • Few shakes cinnamon, ginger, and/or nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (opt)
  • 1/2 cup (or more!) dried fruit, like cranberries, currants, raisins, blueberries, whatever (add last)
Spread in 8x8 greased baking dish. (or 9x9, because that's what I have, it's just a little thinner)

Bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes.  Let cool. Cut into squares.

This is lovely and easy and even the kids will eat it--like a big soft oatmeal cookie thing, but with very little fat and lots of good stuff.   This is one I adapted from the Crockpot Lady, at --I discovered after the fact that this is one of very few things that's actually easier OUT of the crockpot.  But that will work too in a pinch--you just have to use a lot less milk. 

The real test will be whether we'll get our butts out of bed early enough to make the eggs...

EDIT: Okay, the oatmeal thing YUMMMMMMM.  With all the fruit in it I could have cut the sugar still more.  Look at the ingredients! Look how healthy they are!  Ohhh, it was yummy...
greenmama: (Default)
I have the flu. This time it's my stomach, and my equilibrium--dizzy spells every so often, for no apparent reason.

So it seems like a good day to share my favorite natural tummy remedy.

**note: only very rarely do I take any essential oils internally. They are extremely concentrated and can be harmful or sometimes fatal in too-large doses; most should never be taken internally at all.  Do your homework. And keep out of reach of your kids. **

Yucky Tummy Potion
Heat up a mug of water in the microwave

While it's heating, drizzle a little honey onto a spoon.

Onto the honey drop one drop each ginger essential oil and sweet fennel essential oil. (ONE drop each. Two max.)

Drizzle more honey over that. (This helps the eo dissolve a little; it is still very volatile and most will just escape into the air.

Stir mug of hot water with the honeyed spoon.

At this point you should have a lovely fragrant steaming beverage; inhaling the fumes is honestly about as helpful as actually drinking it, IMO, but it tastes lovely anyway.

And now I'm going to go make some more.
greenmama: (Default)

Okay, this is awesome:

Basically, it's a recipe blog, in which Nicole deVries develops healthy alternatives to lots of "typical" foods that normally come all processed and nasty.  She's onto my "substitute drained yogurt for mayo or sour cream" trick, which of course I applaud...

(Digression: last night we did chicken fajitas. I put a dollop of very drained yogurt on them with the salsa and veggies, and it honestly tasted JUST like sour cream, only way healthier.  Love it!!)

This is the blog's description:
Delicious Wisdom is a daily source for healthified, whole versions of useful and tasty recipes. We define 'healthy' as 'beneficial', so the idea is that almost every ingredient is going to do something nice for you. With that in mind, you won't find much meat, sugar, or refined flour here, though you will see all sorts of useful substitutions for them.

Go over there!  Lots of very yummy recipes to be found!
greenmama: (Default)

Okay, so here ( ) I talk about how to make your own yogurt in the crockpot.  Easy, fun, and if you're not all Buy Organic Milk like me it's probably way cheaper than the store-bought stuff, especially if you go through it at your house like we do here. 

This is just an easy addendum recipe that I tried last time I made the stuff: the next challenge after making homemade yogurt is of course to flavor it.  The easiest way is honestly to just drizzle a little honey and cinnamon, or maple syrup, or hell even chocolate syrup over it.  Yummers.

But I really was curious about trying to do the whole fruit yogurt thing.  So this is what I did:

Place in a bowl a pound of fresh-frozen fruit. (I used triple berry mix.)  Sprinkle maybe 1/4 cup sugar over it  and maybe a tbs. lemon juice (opt) and stir. (Different fruits and different tastes will obviously have different ideas here about how much sugar to use, and whether to use the lemon juice!)  I also add a sprinkle of cinnamon to it.  Just let it sit there at room temperature until the fruit melts and gets all mooshy with the sugar. 

That's it.  Easiest thing in the world.

This stuff was amazing--just perfectly sweet, incredibly fruit-y.  Very runny, of course, and you could cook it over the stove and mix in a little cornstarch-or-flour-and-water mixture to thicken it, but for my purposes it really didn't need it.  I honestly don't know if it would work the same with fresh fruit, and I'm inclined to doubt it, because I suspect it's part of the frozenness that breaks down the fruit enough to behave like this.  But honestly, when I get fresh fruit I'm not likely to cook or moosh it up; we eat our fresh berries straight.

Drizzle to taste over your (strained and thickened) yogurt.  Or...well, you can also stand over the bowl with a spoon, like I did, but that sort of defeats the purpose. 

Alternative: mix to taste with the yogurt and then freeze in an ice cream machine for frozen yogurt.  This should be delish.  Try it with raspberries, and then drizzle a little chocolate sauce over it when you serve it.
(EDIT: Just to note, I probably won't actually mix and store the fruit and yogurt together, although once the yogurt is strained well it's fairly easy to do that.  I'd rather just keep plain gurt in the fridge and have an assortment of things to treat it with, way more flexible...)

Man, this weight loss thing stinks...I mean, yes, it's working, but I just once want to have a Big Pig Out, eat as much as I want of something...anything...

greenmama: (Default)

Okay, we know that one of the best ways to "green" our lives is to stop eating meat, right? ( )

And I'm trying to lose 30 lbs. Okay, 20 would be fine.

So today for lunch I discovered a really quick and absolutely yummy recipe.

Black Bean Quesadillas (for one)

corn tortillas (2, at about 50 calories each)
black beans (2 or 3 tbs, I don't know calorie count but can't be too bad)
1 pepper jack cheese slice, torn in half (about 110 calories) (Okay, I used two whole slices, but you don't have to.)
2 tsp salsa (negligable calorie count, as far as I know)

Grill the tortillas lightly, in toaster oven or if you're us directly on your stove burner. This is a trick I learned from my husband--it works with gas burners, at least, but one needs to pay really close attention to not start a fire or char your tortillas. Turn the burner on its lowest level, and just lay the tortilla directly on the burner. When it starts to curl and crisp a little (or burn, of course), flip it over.  It takes maybe a total of 30 seconds on each side, depending on how grilly you want them.

On half of each tortilla, place half a slice of the cheese, 1 tbs black beans, and 1 tsp salsa.  Fold the tortilla over, and microwave for about 45 seconds. (30 is too little, 60 is too much.) Voila. Lunch. Surprisingly yummy and filling. And we're talking a total of under 300 calories any way you slice it.

Variations on this could be endless--I happen to keep a container of cooked black beans around most of the time and throw them into all kinds of things--even delicious super-nachos can be pretty darn healthy if you go light on the chips and cheese and heavy on the beans and spices, and use yogurt cheese (strained or mediterranean yogurt) instead of sour cream.  Next thing you need a can of beans for, throw in a can and a half and save the rest for later.  A few strips of sauteed or grilled peppers and onions ( ) instead of or in addition to the beans.  Almost any meltable cheese would work; Chihuahua is actually by far the best, but not when one is trying to lose weight, unfortunately.  But this is EASY, and really good.

Seriously nummy.

waiting to see how the giant crockpot of white beans does, so I can have a freezer full of those as well as the black ones.
greenmama: (Default)

Okay, I realize a big part of the point of jams and preserves and such were--hence the name--to enable fruit products to keep for a really long time when there were no freezers and such.  But I honestly can't be bothered (yet...but my evolution as a greenmama is still in its early stages) with the whole hot messy process of canning.  So finding recipes for jams and preserves that you can freeze was kind of cool...

This recipe for plum preserves was in this month's Cooking Light; I imagine it could easily be adapted for other fruits, adjusting sugar and lemon juice amounts...

Plum Preserves
6 cups (about 3 lbs) slice ripe plums
2 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tbs lemon juice
1 cinnamon stick

Combine plums and sugar in a large bowl; cover and let stand 8 hours at room temp.
Combine fruit mixture and remaining ingredients in a dutch oven and bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer 15 minutes.
Uncover and cook over medium heat about an hour, until reduced to 5 cups (stir and mash fruit occasionally). Pour into a large bowl and let cool completely; discard cinnamon stick. Refrigerate up to 2 weeks. (I bet it would freeze too.)

It makes me wonder what else you could do with it...blueberry preserves are one of my absolute favorite things, and that could be really would probably even keep the cinnamon stick for that.

Then this same month's Good Housekeeping had this:

Raspberry Jam
3 cups raspberries
1 tbs lemon juice
5 tsp fruit pectin
1/2 tsp margarine or butter
1 1/4 c sugar

Combine berries, juice, pectin, and margarine in a 12 inch skillet. Heat to boiling on high, blending and mashing fruit; boil 1 minute.  Stir in sugar, return to boil and boil 2 more minutes, until syrupy, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and cool at room temperature 15 minutes.
Pour into clean 1/2 pint jars with tight lids. Cover and refridgerate until jam is set and cold.  (Or pack into freezer-safe containers and freeze)

This recipe also gives variations for strawberry ( extra tbs lemon juice, 2 full tbs pectin) or three-berry (combination of raspberry, blackberry, and strawberry, also 2 tbs pectin) jams...

I'm looking forward to trying them.  Especially variations on the preserves thing...

greenmama: (Default)

Tonight the woman from Dachshund Rescue is coming over to do a home visit and make sure our house is an acceptable place to raise an abandoned doxie. I know we are fine, but I will schmooze her anyway by making this:

White Gingerbread

In a bowl mix

·         1 cup applesauce

·         2 cups sugar (cut to 1 cup?)

·         2 tsp nutmeg

·         Dash vanilla

Add to this:

·         4 cups flour (half white, half whole wheat)

·         Pinch salt

·         Tsp baking soda

·         1 1/3 cups buttermilk (or milk with a slug of vinegar)

Blend and turn into greased 9 by 13 pan

·         Sprinkle 1/3 cup sugar on top

·         Bake at 350 for 30 minutes (took 45 for me, just in an ordinary pan.)·        

This is an adaptation of a recipe my mom gave me on, of all things, a refrigerator magnet.  The original version had an entire cup of oil in it and all white flour--tastes yummy indeed, but very hi-cal and in my opinion overly sweet.  I've played around with the recipe and above is my new and improved take on it.  The applesauce actually does really good things to the consistency of the cake--less crusty, moister, and keeps longer.  And while the whole wheat does alter the lightness of the cake, it's a worthwhile change. 

Once I tried this after brewing the milk in black tea and using a greater variety of spices; it was very nice, but IMO the nutmeg-only version is the best. (Despite being a gingerbread recipe in which there is no ginger at all.  Whatever, right?)

And by the way, doubling this recipe is the perfect size for a bundt cake.  Has to bake longer, though.
greenmama: (Default)

If I don't do this now, I'll forget.

Sauteed Peppers and Onions
Slice 2 or 3 large white onions into rings or strips, as desired.
Cut maybe 4 or more bell peppers (color of choice) into strips (Trader Joe does it for me and freezes them)
Put a little olive oil into a skillet (cast iron is best) and heat on medium-high. Into oil, put 1 tsp ground cumin and/or 1 tsp dried (or 3 tsp fresh) chopped oregano. Or other spices. Whatever. McCormick has a good fajita seasoning that's good too.
Drop vegetables in, stir till softened and hopefully browned on edges. Your call how long to do it.

These make great taco garnishes, burrito or sandwich fillings (may I mention yogurt cheese again?),  what-have-you.  And it freezes well. Make lots, save in small quantities for future cooking.

If you want to hedge your bets, leave the cumin out and use just garlic and a little salt to season while sauteeing, and you can use it for various ethnicities of cooking...

greenmama: (Default)

Those who read my blog with any regularity are probably sick of hearing me sing the praises of Stephanie the Crockpot Lady ----I don't know if I've ranted much about her here on dreamwidth yet, but there ya go. ( )

A month or two ago I became intrigued by her method of making yogurt in the crockpot: 

The first time I tried it, it worked well, although it was very runny and didn't strain well. (That was the time I followed her directions pretty much to a T.)  The end result was better suited to "kefir" (that yogurt drink you pay an arm and a leg for at Whole Foods) than any more traditional yogurt.

The second time I tried it, I made a gallon instead of a half gallon and threw in some powdered milk as well--the basic method I used:

  • heat a gallon (Stephanie did 1/2 gallon, so I'm adjusting) milk in crockpot on low for 2.5 hours
  • unplug crockpot and let sit another 3 hours
  • whisk a cup of plain yogurt in a bowl; whisk in a cup or three of the warm milk till it's nicely mixed, then pour back into the crock. (Here I added a cup of powdered nonfat milk.)
  • Cover the crock, drape a couple of heavy towels over it for insulation, and let sit unplugged overnight.
This second time I let the yogurt incubate a lot longer--10-12 hours rather than the initially suggested 8. (Perhaps longer than safe...the greenmama is not responsible for your kids' stomach upsets if you follow any bad advice I give on this blog.  I tried it, I felt fine, it tasted perfectly good, my kids ate it, all was okay.) This time it strained like a dream.  Turns out (thank you, internet) that once the yogurt incubates past a certain point, the whey and curd naturally separate, so the gelatinous fragility of lots of store-bought yogurt actually intensifies, and it just starts to "leak".  (This happens with bigger containers of store-bought yogurt too, after you've cut into them with a spoon, you've probably noticed.)

This time I immediately strained it, putting a piece of natural muslin (from my fabric stash, prewashed of course and dampened before dumping the yogurt in) into a vegetable strainer over a big pyrex measuring container--I used a measuring container because I was curious about how much whey would actually drain out.  Also, every 10 minutes or so I scraped the muslin with a spoon, to clear away the already strained stuff and make room for more; not sure how big a difference this made.

The strainer held about a quart of unstrained yogurt and over about half an hour abandoned about a cup of clear whey, leaving a nice thick creamy yogurt in the muslin.  I did this three times, transferring the finished strained yogurt into old saved yogurt containers.  The kids took this to lunch and ate it for snacks, and we went through 2+ quarts in maybe a week.  I would put some of the yogurt into one of those little cup tupperware things and drizzle some honey or maple syrup or even chocolate sauce over it.  I bet apple butter would be yummy too. 

The last of the unstrained yogurt (1 gallon=4 quarts) I put in the muslin/strainer over the pyrex again, but this time since it was time to go to work I put it all into the fridge and let it drain for 6 hours or so.  By the time I got home it had given up just over 2 cups of whey, and  was honestly "yogurt cheese," a thick stuff about the consistency of cream cheese.  I've made dip with it, or used it as a mayonnaise substitute on sandwiches.  Good stuff.

Cost Analysis: Okay, a quart of organic yogurt at Trader Joe's costs about $3.  To make this, I needed a gallon of organic milk ($6--obviously WAY cheaper if you get conventional), a cup of regular plain yogurt ($1-ish, but once you've made it once you can keep using the starter for subsequent batches), and the powdered milk (hard to gauge, since I bought a giant box ages ago that I just keep around).  So, assuming I'd've gotten about 3 quarts of plain yogurt out of this, that comes to about $2 savings, which isn't much.  Again, using conventional milk and yogurt starter would drop the cost of making my own dramatically.  Plus...well, it's sort of fun.

I'm told that one can use instant gelatin in the milk to help it set a bit more, though I haven't tried it.  And apparently when the fruit-on-the-bottom yogurts get made, they actually put the fruit in first, then the infected milk, and let it incubate right there over the fruit, so that's how it keeps its nice still gelatin texture in the commercial brands.  That's also, I presume, why the "yogurt makers" you buy use all the little cups instead of doing one big Vat of yogurt like the crockpot does. 

So...bon appetit!  It's fun! And healthy! And reduces your footprint by not going through (as I do) 2 plastic quart containers every week!


greenmama: (Default)

A couple of weeks ago I made a huge mess of pasta sauce.

A lot of my green efforts come from an increasing p.o.'d-ness at how many pasta sauce jars and yogurt containers and applesauce jars I find myself throwing into the recycling bin.  It's a a lot of refuse.  Makes me mad.

So I saved a few jars from purchased pasta sauce, and I made sauce in the crockpot.  A whole lot.  Again, the basic easy ridiculous recipe involves a lot of non-measuring and throwing of handfuls of stuff into the pot.  Something like this:

Vegetarian Crockpot Pasta Sauce:
  • Fill the crock about 2/3 full of various raw veggies: mushrooms (not more than half a pound unless you brown them first), cut up bell peppers, chopped onion, zucchini, whatever else you can think of.
  • Add maybe 3-4 (or more, if you're me) spoonfuls of crushed garlic from a jar, or the real stuff if you're up for it, in with the veggies.
  • Ditto a few teaspoonsful of Italian dried (or 3 times as much of fresh) herbs and spices.
  • Pour 4 big cans of diced tomatoes with juice into the pot.  Add 1 can of tomato paste.  Stir if you want to, or don't bother.
  • Cook on low all day.  Give it a good stir when you get home from work.
  • About half an hour before serving, start some pasta to go under it, toss in a couple of glubs of cheap red wine, 1-2 tsp. salt, and more Italian herbs.
  • If you live with kids who won't eat recognizable veggies, attack it (gently!) with an immersion blender to obliterate/disguise the veggie pieces.  (And as careful as you're being, don't wear your white tank top while you do it, because if you're wearing a white tank top you're guaranteed to splatter.  Murphy's law.)
Got a total of 4-5 jars of pasta sauce this way, with very little work and not much cost either.  And it's pretty darn healthy.

Think that's what we're having for dinner tonight...


greenmama: (Default)

December 2012

1617181920 2122


RSS Atom


Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags