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Naturally Sweetened Cookies for the Holidays

Cookies
Photo by iStock

Festive cut-out cookies are a staple of the holidays, and decorating them in the colors of the season is a classic family tradition. If you’re in search of a healthier alternative to refined sugar cookie recipes, try this naturally sweetened version from author Diana Bauman’s blog, My Humble Kitchen. This version uses honey instead of sugar, and can be made with whole-wheat flour or gluten-free ground oat flour. 

Soft “Sugar” Cookies 

• 3 cups unenriched, unbleached all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour or gluten-free ground oat flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 ⁄ 2 teaspoon salt
• 1 ⁄ 2 teaspoon kosher salt
• 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
• 4 ounces cream cheese (we like Nancy’s Organic Cultured Cream Cheese)
• 1 cup honey
• 1 teaspoon lemon zest
• 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
• 2 egg whites

1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and both salts; set aside.

2. In a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream together butter, cream cheese and honey at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

3. Add lemon zest, vanilla extract and egg whites until combined, about 2 minutes.

4. In mixer, on low speed, incorporate flour mixture, 1⁄2 cup at a time, until just combined. Do not overbeat.

5. Cover dough and chill overnight.

6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

7. Working 1 ⁄ 3 of the dough at a time (keep the rest chilled), roll dough onto a floured surface 1 ⁄ 8- to 1 ⁄ 4-inch-thick. Cut into shapes and place on baking sheet, 12 at a time.

8. Bake 7 to 9 minutes. Allow to cool on baking sheet 1 or 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 5 dozen cookies. 

Honeyed Buttercream Frosting

• 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
• 1 ⁄ 4 cup honey
• 2 cups organic powdered sugar
• 2 tablespoons milk

In bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream all ingredients on medium until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Natural Baking Decorations

Plant Power
Image Courtesy India Tree

Plant Power

India Tree’s Nature’s Colors line uses colors derived from plants and includes sprinkles, decorating sugars and food coloring.
To Buy: indiatree.com

Super Sprinkles
Image courtesy Quality Sprinkles

Super Sprinkles

Quality Sprinkles products are free of GMOs, nuts, soy, gluten, preservatives and dairy.
To Buy: qualitysprinkles.com

Colorful Cookies
Image courtesy Pepper Creek Farms

Colorful Cookies

The all-natural decorative sprinkles and sugars from Pepper Creek Farms come in a range of colors.
To Buy: peppercreekfarms.com

Get Real
Image courtesy Maggie's Naturals

Get Real 

This family-owned business in Portland, Maine, lists all ingredients in its sprinkles and food colors.
To Buy: maggiesnaturals.com

Go Geeky
Image courtesy Geeky Hostess

Go Geeky

Geeky Hostess offers a range of sprinkles and sugars appropriate for any time of year, including fun shapes.
To Buy: geekyhostess.com

Beyond the Latte: Pumpkin and Health

Pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice and even pumpkin beer. With October’s arrival, pumpkin season is finally here! While pumpkins may seem frightening in their Jack-O-Lantern state, they are actually one of the most nutritious fruits out there. That’s right, pumpkins are actually fruits and they are loaded with antioxidants and disease-fighting vitamins. We’ve rounded up a list of some of the greatest health benefits of these superfood gourds.


Photo via Pura Botanica

Keep Eyesight Sharp

Did you know that just one cup of cooked, mashed pumpkin contains over 200% of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin A? This is why pumpkins are great for helping to keep your eyesight sharp, especially in dim light. Pumpkins are also rich in carotenoids, the compounds that give them their bright orange color, including beta-carotene, which the body then converts into Vitamin A for additional eyesight protection.

Can Help With Weight Loss

When it comes to weight loss, pumpkin is not often the first thing that comes to mind. However, with 3 grams of fiber for every cup, it can keep you feeling full for longer hours with fewer calories. Fiber-rich diets tend to help people eat less and therefore shed a few pounds. If you are one who is looking to lose some weight, try adding pumpkin into your diet for quick results.

May Reduce Risk of Cancer

Just like the sweet potato, the carrot and the butternut squash, pumpkins boast the antioxidant beta-carotene, which may play a major role in cancer prevention, according to a study done by the National Cancer Institute. They found that food sources high in beta-carotene seem to help more than simple supplements. Even more reason to scoop up some pumpkin seeds for your next meal.

Promote a Healthy Mind

Pumpkin seeds are rich in the amino acid tryptophan, which is the famed ingredient in turkey that many believe brings on the post-Thanksgiving snooze. While experts agree that it’s likely overeating rather than tryptophan that puts you to sleep, there is no doubt that the amino acid is important for the production of serotonin, a major player when it comes to controlling your mood. Just a small handful of pumpkin seeds may help your outlook stay bright.

Treat Intestinal Worms

Pumpkin seeds can help your body get rid of nasty gut parasites that can make you sick, according to licensed pharmacist of Living Well Magazine, Debbie Edson. She states that “They have traditionally been used for this purpose by Native Americans and even today pumpkin seeds are used to treat tapeworms in some parts of Africa.”


Photo via Pura Botanica

Pumpkin: It’s that time of year. While most pumpkin-flavored treats should be added to the once-in-a-while list, pumpkin itself is actually one of the healthier foods of the season and now you know why. Next time someone mentions pumpkin spice, it’s OK to be totally obsessed with this season’s superfood.


This blog post is republished from Pura Botanica.
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How to Make Agua Fresca - 4 Recipes

You've heard it a hundred times - water has so many benefits. Still, for some reason, most people find it hard to drink the recommended amount of water in a given day. To make water intake more appealing, trends such as flavored waters, zero calorie vitamin waters and more have been heavily marketed. In reality though, none of these are as good as the real thing. Flavored water comes with more sugars and chemicals than you bargained for, making it  more malnourishing than healthy.

If you struggle to drink plain water and prefer something with some taste, then try agua frescas as healthy alternatives to flavored water. Translated directly, this means “fresh water” in Spanish. Agua frescas are blended beverages that often contain a combination of fruits, cereals, seeds mixed with water.

Here are a few of my favorite fruit agua fresca recipes (adapted and modified into their healthy versions), that are refreshing and delicious and, most importantly, a great way to get in more water in your system.

General tips:

1. Don't add any sugar. Even though traditional agua frescas have sugar in them, remember that you are using these as a way to drink more water. Your drink will already be sweet from the sucrose in the fruit you use, so don't feel like you need more sugar.

2. Reiterating on the water intake point, make sure your Agua Frescas are diluted and watered down. The fruit additions are just for taste.

3. For all the recipes below, blend the “tastegivers” and water in a blender. The approximate ratio for one 8 oz. glass should be around 1 oz. of the fruit pulp, to 7 oz. of water. Even though this isn't traditional, I promise the finished drink will still taste great, and be much healthier too!

4. The reason the proportions are per glass is because I believe in making and consuming something in the freshest possible way, so that you are benefited most by the nutrients. However, if you have time constraints, feel free to double/triple the recipe for the fruit pulp and refrigerate. Mix the water as and when you are drinking it. I wouldn't suggest refrigerating the pulp for more than a night.


Photo via Healthy Bits and Nibbles

Waterberry!

This recipe is adapted from Healthy Bits and Nibbles. Watermelon is  a cooling fruit, so this recipe is perfect for hot summer days. Mint is great for the stomach, and also helps cool down the system.

• Two cubes of watermelon
• Two strawberries

Garnish with mint


Photo via The Wanderlust Kitchen

Honeydew and Lime

I first saw this recipe on The Wanderlust Kitchen, and instantly fell in love. The sweetness of honeydew and the slight tartness of lime not only compliment each other in flavor, but also in terms of benefits to your body! Honeydew has high levels of potassium, helping maintain stable blood sugar levels. Lime has a plethora of benefits, ranging from skincare to weight loss.

• Two-three cubes honeydew
• a lime, juiced

Garnish with a few berries of your choice (I like raspberries or blueberries)


Photo via The View from Great Island

Papaya and Lime

A slight variation of the recipe above is featured on The View from Great Island, subbing in papaya for honeydew. Papaya does wonders for the digestive tract, and also, the final drink comes out in this beautiful pinky orange that is sure to please.

• Two cubes papaya
• a lime, juiced


Photo via The Little Spice Jar

Peach, honey and jalapeño

For those looking for a unique taste, this recipe, modified from Little Spice Jar is the perfect mixture of sweet and spicy, with jalapenos adding just the right kick. Peaches are packed with nutrients and fiber, and raw honey is a great finisher to smooth out the taste.

• Two peach slices
• 1 tsp. raw honey
• 1 jalapeño slice (blended in for more spice, or used as a garnish for less)

So there you have it - four wonderful alternatives to flavored water! These are better in every way, from being more nutritious to tasting a whole lot yummier. Do you have any favorite agua fresca recipes? Let me know in the comments below!

 


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Homemade Carrot Ketchup


Michaela Hayes

As a chef turned farmer, few things excite me more than food preservation. It’s a perfect match for the waves of produce we have on the farm at various times of the year. It is also the sweet intersection of three of my favorite subjects: food, art, and science.

Here on the farm, though the days are getting slightly cooler now, our summer season still has some kick. Nothing says that more than the continuing deluge of heirloom tomatoes coming out of the field. Though we sell many of our heirloom beauties, we can’t always sell the split tomatoes (also knowns as “seconds”), so we scramble to preserve them in a myriad of ways.


Michaela Hayes

One new way to preserve tomatoes arrived this year, thanks to a class I teach for Farm School NYC called Community Food Arts. This is the fifth year I have taught the class and each year I feel reenergized by the excitement of the students. People take the class for a variety of reasons - to save produce from their gardens and farms from going to waste, to create a product for a new food based business, or to eat more healthily. Some students want to recreate foods of the cultures they grew up in or to learn the preservation methods they saw their elder family members using. Others are excited to build new flavors to use in their own cooking. In addition to these reasons, drying, freezing, canning and fermenting are also simply delicious.

As a teacher, helping the students transform their relationships with food is a joyful experience. One of the big projects we do in the class is to create a group small batch product. Every year it’s different because the students bring in their own ideas and we vote on what to make. This year, carrot ketchup stole the show. After some recipe development to make sure our recipe was safe for canning, we were ready to go.


Michaela Hayes

On our production day, the class met at the farm - first we had some harvesting to do! We hit the carrot bed with forks and gloves, loosening the soil and pulling out handfuls of tender carrots. We raided the farm tomatoes - scooping up flats of heirloom seconds that would be perfect for flavor and preventing waste. And we gathered onions and cured garlic to round out our ketchup flavor. One of the requirements for the class recipe submission this year was that at least one ingredient come from the farm. Fantastically, with this recipe, all of the produce did.

After a fieldside lunch, it was off to the Chester Presbyterian Church, home of the commercial kitchen space we temporarily use to make our value added products. In the next two months, Rise & Root Farm will build our own commercial kitchen down the road from the farm. We have big plans for the new kitchen space, including a dedicated fermentation walk-in cooler, drying room for herbs and more, large scale equipment for quicker large batch processing (including a steam kettle!), and multiple work stations so our neighbors can work alongside us. The kitchen will be a welcoming, dynamic, healing space that will focus on local produce and healthy cooking. Future Farm School NYC classes and other students will be able to see fermentation and preservation happening at every stage of the process. They’ll be able to experience the farm-to-kitchen-to-table, all on one road.  

Happy cooking!

Michaela


Ethan Harrison

Carrot Ketchup

Yield: 4 pints

• 2 pounds carrots, sliced
• 2 pounds tomatoes, roughly chopped
• 1 medium white onion, chopped
• 1 cup cider vinegar
• 2/3 cup maple syrup
• 1/3 cup honey
• 1 clove garlic, sliced
• 4 teaspoons sea salt
• 1 teaspoon dry mustard
• 1/8 teaspoon chili flakes
• 1/8 teaspoon allspice

Instructions

1. Clean and prepare all the ingredients.

2. In a large pot, cook all ingredients together until carrots and onions are soft.

3. Carefully puree the hot ketchup until it is smooth, and strain to remove any chunks.

4. Return ketchup to a pot and cook down until thickened.

5. Meanwhile, wash jars and lids. Bring hot water bath to a boil and warm jars.

6. When thickened, ladle ketchup into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace.

7. Wipe jar rims, seal with two piece or button lids and process in boiling (212ºF) water bath for 15 minutes.

8. Remove jars and cool. Check for a proper seal.

Enjoy within one year!*

* The trick is to let the ketchup sit for at least three weeks before you eat it - that way the natural sugars from the carrots and tomatoes will meld with the acidity of the vinegar and taste more smooth than if you eat it right away.


Michaela Hayes, Karen Washington, Lorrie Clevenger and Jane Hodge run Rise & Root Farm, a 3-acre organic farm in Orange County, New York. They are currently raising money to build a new community and commercial kitchen space. Find out more, and support their project on Indiegogo. Read more about Rise & Root in this article from our September/October 2016 issue: Growing Community at a Social Justice Farm in New York.

5 of the Best Food Subscription Boxes for Healthy Snacks

Bestowed food box

Photo courtesy Bestowed

1. Snacks that Give Back

Love With Food sends organic snacks, with an option for celiac-safe, in sizes for individuals or whole offices. For each box sold, Love With Food donates meals to food banks.

To Buy: From $9 monthly

2. Plants and Protein

Healthy Surprise specializes in customized snacks for vegan and Paleo diets.

To Buy: From $43 monthly

3. A Deal for Every Diet

Urthbox offers a wide range of tasty snacking options, from classic natural snacks to gluten-free and vegan—all sustainably sourced and nutritious.

To Buy: From $13 monthly

4. Beehive Bounty

Hive Box’s organic and locally sourced bee-themed items range from raw honey to pollinator seed bombs.

To Buy: From $25 monthly

5. Whole-Body Health

Started by a dietitian, Bestowed goes beyond snacking, offering food, supplements and personal-care items.

To Buy: From $20 monthly


5 Healthy Ingredients to Stock Your Kitchen With


Photo by Fotolia

More than one-third of U.S. adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you struggle with your weight, there are many options available that can help promote a healthier lifestyle. One of the most important is to stock your kitchen with healthy foods. Here are five staples you can add to most any meal to make it both nutritious and delicious.

Salmon

Salmon is high in quality protein, vitamins and minerals. The benefits of wild salmon are even stronger. Salmon and other fish are particularly high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for your skin and heart. Omega-3 fats contribute to healthy brain function, and may even lower the risk of some cancers. It also lowers cholesterol and helps protect against heart disease. Other Omega-3-rich fish include Albacore tuna and oysters.

Seeds

Seeds also are a great food to keep on hand regularly. They are full of protein that can help you build muscle and gain energy. In addition to adding them to baked goods and breakfasts, they’re also a convenient snack that you can keep handy on the go. To make it even easier, you can order seeds online from sites such as www.sincerelynuts.com, saving you a trip to the grocery store. It really is amazing how much good seeds can do for you. For example, just one ounce of chia seeds contains 11 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein!

Kale

Kale has become a particularly popular health food, and with good reason. This leafy green has the highest levels of beta carotene of all green vegetables, as well as high levels of vitamins A, C and K. These vitamins are important for making a person feel full and keeping them healthy while they’re dieting. Too often, people will neglect their nutrition for the sake of losing weight. Kale can help you eat a delicious meal that fills your stomach and fortifies your body.

Watermelon

If you're constantly feeling hungry in between meals, you may be tempted to eat unhealthy things. Instead of chips and cookies, it's important to stock up on good, healthy treats such as watermelon. The health benefits of watermelon are pretty impressive. Due to being over 90% water, a 154-gram serving contains only 84 calories, but loads of nutrients. A 10-oz wedge of watermelon has about one-third of the recommended daily value of vitamins A and C, and is also one of the best dietary sources of lycopene, an antioxidant linked to the prevention and treatment of prostate cancer.

Onions

Onions are loaded with goodies. Just a few include Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, potassium, and fiber. They are also loaded with antioxidants. In particular, the antioxidant quercetin. This food, as well as garlic, is not only full of healthy nutrients, but are an easy and flavorful addition to many dishes as well.