A few months ago Bob’s Red Mill sent us a package of Almond Meal to try. Since last November, I’ve been trying to drastically limit/eliminate my consumption of refined grains and white sugar. While it’s difficult to be at absolute zero on these items and lead a normal life, getting close to zero has been easier than I anticipated. That said, my husband has a sweet tooth and I want my kid to be able to have chocolate chip cookies once in a while. (Oh, and yes, I too like chocolate chip cookies!)
The back of the flour bag had this wonderful-sounding recipe, and I had all the ingredients in my house (including dark chocolate chips in the freezer). I gave it a try and oh-my-gosh these cookies are amazing! No. 1 cookie priority: They are incredibly delicious. Like, didn’t last in the house for more than 24 hours delicious (maybe a little too delicious?).
Along with the incredible taste factor, though, these cookies are in the not-that-bad-for-you realm with no flour, coconut oil instead of vegetable oil or butter (not that I would ever dis butter) and pure maple syrup as the sweetener (and 1/4 cup rather than the whole cup many recipes call for). I don’t think I had the optional almond extract, which was totally fine. They do include a bit of sugar in the dark chocolate chips, but you could even go with cacao nibs and I think this recipe would be fabulous. The almond meal gives the cookies a crumbly and delicate texture, and they taste buttery and rich even without actual butter. And that combination of dark chocolate and salt is the way to my heart.
So if you are looking for a sweet treat that tastes completely indulgent yet is not too bad from a health aspect (I didn’t even go into the nutritional benefits of the almond meal—3 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein per serving, plus a dose of healthy fats), I cannot encourage you enough to try these cookies.
One thing to keep in mind: At $11 a bag, almond meal is expensive—waaay more expensive than flour. But I justify the expense by considering that I rarely make home-baked goods, so when I’m going to splurge, I say go big.
• 3 cups almond meal
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
• 1/4 cup coconut oil
• 1/4 cup maple syrup
• 1 whole egg
• 2 egg whites
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
• 1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
• 1 cup dark chocolate chips
• 1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds*
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Combine almond meal, baking soda and sea salt and set aside.
3. Mix coconut oil and maple syrup in a mixer or by hand until creamy but not fully incorporated, about 5 minutes. Add whole egg, egg whites and extracts (if using) and mix for 2 additional minutes
4. Slowly add dry ingredients to egg mixture and mix briefly. Add chocolate chips and toasted almonds and mix until well combined.
5. Place large rounded tablespoons onto prepared baking sheets, about 1-inch apart. Flatten slightly, to approximately 1-inch thickness. Bake until set and golden, about 15 minutes. Makes 25 to 30 cookies.
*To toast almonds, simply add sliced almonds to a hot, dry pan and saute, stirring regularly until slightly browned and fragrant.
Here at Mother Earth Living, we’re no stranger to amazing natural skin-care products. We’re in the very lucky position to have many wonderful companies regularly send samples our way—so much that it’s hard to ever share all of our favorites in the magazine.
Here are three products currently on my bathroom shelves (or at my office desk) that have become must-haves for my skin.
Iwilla Remedy My Skin Glows Nourishing Cream
This rich, healing cream is light enough for me to use on my face daily, yet also powerful enough to combat skin problems such as eczema, psoriasis and rashes. It’s good for cuts and scrapes, too. This smooth and supple cream is made with a blend of health oils (sweet almond, aloe vera, neem seed and vitamin E) in a shea butter and beeswax base. It also includes skin-healing herbs and soothing essential oils: calendula, bergamot, Roman chamomile and frankincense/myrrh. Every Iwilla products is handmade in Brooklyn. The company is owned by two women dedicated to helping educate people about the power of pure herbal products. They offer private consultations, as well as answering any and all product questions within 24 hours. Learn more.
Everclen Eye Cream
As the parent of a high energy 2-year-old, sometimes I don’t get enough sleep. This means waking up with dark circles under my eyes (they say dark circles aren't caused by lack of sleep, but it certainly seems that way to me!). Our friends at Everclen sent over a sample of their eye cream a few weeks ago, and it’s a morning lifesaver. It’s amazing what a great job it does of alleviating the look of dark circles—a few tiny dabs and a few minutes, and they’re gone! With aloe juice, lavender, green tea extract, and grapeseed and jojoba oils, it’s soothing and firming. After seeing what an amazing job it did, I looked up the ingredients on the EWG’s Skin Deep database—most eye creams that work well are filled with potentially hazardous ingredients such as parabens and petroleum byproducts. This eye cream contains none of the typical skin-care nasties such as parabens, phthalates, petroleum, dyes, SLS and fragrance—not a claim most undereye creams can make. Only a couple of the ingredients looked questionable: dimethicone and phenoxyethanol. Both of these ingredients rank on the low side of the moderate concern level for the EWG (a 3 and a 4 on the 10-point scale), and I asked Everclen about it. Both are used in miniscule amounts to help prevent the product from getting moldy on the shelf. What's more, all of Everclen’s skin-care products have been tested in both clinical trials and by focus groups of women with sensitive skin--in both settings, the products proved safe and non-irritating for sensitive skin. Learn more.
Wild Carrot Herbals Soulshine Rosehip & Raspberry Seed Ambrosial Serum
If you are looking for luxurious natural skin care, this is it. Over the past few years, Wild Carrot Herbals has become one of my absolute favorite personal-care companies. This incredibly rich facial oil is made to maintain plumpness in the skin and to protect and encourage cell regeneration. With rosehip seed oil, organic olive oil infused with elder blossom flowers, vitamin E oil and the essential oils of Turkish rose otto, blood orange and Australian sandalwood, this serum is designed to protect skin from the elements and help it actually regenerate and look younger. It is an absolutely lovely, indulgent product, and it only requires a few tiny drops with each use. I love it. Learn more.
If you want to help support an amazing program this fall, all you have to do is buy your omega-3 supplements from Nordic Naturals. Through the end of the year, Nordic Natural is supporting the nonprofit Paws for Veterans (watch a video about the program), which pairs combat-wounded military veterans suffering from neurological and physical disabilities with task-trained medical service dogs, saved from shelters where they would otherwise have faced euthanasia.
This program is saving lives: 22 veteran suicides are reported daily and 1.2 million dogs are euthanized every year in the U.S. With every purchase of a single Nordic Naturals featured product (this includes all sizes of Baby’s DHA, Children’s DHA, Complete Omega, Nordic Berries, Omega-3, Ultimate Omega, Pet Cod Liver Oil and Omega-3 Pet), Nordic will donate a one-year supply of omega-3s to a veteran and service dog in the Paws for Veterans program. Nordic Naturals plans to donate a total of $30,000 to Paws for Veterans, to help fund a new training facility.
The dogs help remind veterans to take medications, physically interrupt panic attacks, help retrieve medication, phone, water or other family members, help owners wake from nightmares and more. Nordic Naturals offers a superior product, made from 100 percent wild-caught, sustainably managed fisheries. Now buying your supplements from them means helping veterans and shelter dogs, too. Learn more about this life-saving program.
Most of us are familiar with the delicate flavor of herbal iced teas and the soothing, warming properties of hot herbal teas—but have you ever incorporated tea into your cooking? This had never occurred to me until one of our partners—Teatulia, a socially conscientious organic tea company—started telling me about the recipe development they do. I found the concept fascinating. For example, one of their recipes involves tucking chamomile tea bags into the water with cooking quinoa to flavor the cooked product. They used chamomile tea for a breakfast quinoa, topped with walnuts, honey or dried fruit. I make quinoa all the time and this idea has the wheels spinning on the myriad ways I could incorporate this technique. I also love the recipe for tea-smoked chicken, which was submitted by one of Teatulia’s Facebook friends.
Teatulia offered to share one of their recipes with us. I selected this recipe for traditional Chinese marbled tea eggs—a simple but impressive dish for upcoming holiday parties.
You can find many more recipes for cooking with tea.
Photo courtesy Teatulia
7 Fun Ways to Cook with Tea
1. Hard-boil eggs in using your usual technique.
2. Steep strong Teatulia black tea and add star anise and soy sauce to taste.
3. Carefully roll eggs on counter, gently cracking them all over, but keeping shells on.
4. Place eggs in tea mixture and refrigerate overnight.
5. Gently peel eggs to reveal a spectacular cracked marble appearance.
6. Slice eggs in half lengthwise and put the yolks in a bowl.
7. Mash them with other ingredients to your liking and refill the halved whites for a more elegant deviled egg.
Do you use cast-iron pans? I love my cast-iron pans. They’re naturally nonstick, they add a delicious flavor to foods, and they’re totally chemical-free. Cast iron’s heaviness also helps keep temperatures even and thus cooks foods more evenly. Anyone who loves cast-iron knows you never want to let soap touch your seasoned pans. That means scrubbing them out with water after you’re done cooking. This task is made MUCH easier with a stainless-steel chainmail scrubber. It makes scraping food off of my cast-iron incredibly easy. I use this product daily and strongly recommend getting one if you cook on cast-iron regularly.
You can buy two stainless-steel scrubbers and a cast-iron cookbook from CM Scrubber.
A long time ago the kind folks at Big Tree Farms were kind enough to send me a bunch of samples of their Organic Coconut Palm Sugar. I will admit the items sat in my kitchen untouched for quite a while. Since last November, my husband and I have made it our mission to severely limit our sugar intake. We slip up and/or cheat sometimes, but I haven’t been baking anything or making anything with white sugar. Then I decided to make a few sweetened summer drinks for a get-together I was having, and realized I could replace the white sugar with coconut sugar.
Replacing White Sugar with Coconut Sugar
I started reading about it and was impressed with coconut sugar’s benefits as a white sugar substitute: Like maple syrup and honey, coconut sugar retains some of the nutrients from the coconut palm, notably iron, zinc, calcium and potassium, along with some short-chain fatty acids, polyphenols and antioxidants. It also contains the fiber inulin, which helps slow glucose absorption and may make coconut sugar have a lower glycemic index than regular table sugar (although thus far there are really no solid studies to back up these claims). I certainly think severely limiting our intake of sugar is a major benefit to our health. However, if I am going to use sweeteners, I prefer to use ones with at least some redeeming health qualities such as honey and maple syrup. I now add coconut sugar to that list.
Consider this blog a sneak peek of the upcoming September/October issue, because I’m already using tips from it in my kitchen. In that issue, we included simple recipe ideas for eating the plethora of veggies our gardens start pumping out at this time of year. Of course no one in my house is complaining about too much fresh, homegrown produce, but sometimes you need ideas for veggie-full meals that are easy to whip up on a weeknight. Enter our brilliant regular contributor Barbara Pleasant. This “recipe” is a jumping-off point for a lot of dishes (I’ve already made a Mexican-style version with oven-roasted Anaheim peppers after making this one, but I digress…).
Polenta with Garden Produce
Start by whipping up a batch of corn grits, also known as polenta (ground corn is the only ingredient). I used Bob’s Red Mill’s White Corn Grits. You simply add the grits to boiling water and stir. It’s done in mere minutes.
These are the veggies sautéing.
Meanwhile, I started on the veggies I wanted to cook: I had on hand onions, garlic, mushrooms and some Swiss chard. I sautéed those together in a pan.
Then I spread a thick layer of the cooked grits into a very well-oiled cake pan and topped it with a layer of marinara. Then I added some veggies I didn’t plan to cook: I had roasted red peppers and a bunch of heirloom tomatoes I roughly chopped.
Finally, added my sautéed veggies, topped with cheese, and put into a 400-degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until bubbly. Delicious, incredibly easy and almost entirely veggies!
Here's the finished product!