Homemade Chocolate-Dipped Ice Cream Pops.

You know those ice cream bars covered in rich, dark chocolate that you have to bite deeply into in order to get through the thick layer of chocolate before you hit the smooth, creamy, vanilla ice cream in the middle?  Yeah.  I’ve got you on rich, dark chocolate.  Right?

Do you know what’s in those bars?  Probably more than you’d like to think about.  Want to make them at home with your own, all natural, homemade ingredients?  It’s easier than you think!

If you haven’t bought an ice cream maker yet, buy one now.  You can save a lot of money making your own ice cream, and even better, you can use ingredients that you KNOW are fantastic.  No preservatives.  No thickeners.  No artificial flavour or color.  Nothing to make it stop from melting.  Just cream, vanilla, milk and sugar.

If you don’t have stainless steel popsicle molds buy them here.  Unlike plastic, stainless steel does NOT leech toxic chemicals into your lovingly homemade popsicles.

Ingredients:

  • Homemade ice cream ingredients (see your recipe book that comes with your ice cream maker)
  • Organic, all natural dark chocolate chips or bars.
  • Unrefined, fair trade coconut oil.

Directions:

  1. Follow the directions for homemade vanilla (or other) ice cream from your recipe book that comes with your ice cream maker.
  2. Once the ice cream is mixed, spoon it into popsicle molds.  Poke the popsicle sticks in and freeze for 2 hours.
  3. In the mean time, make your chocolate dip.  Over low heat, melt 1 part coconut oil to 3 parts dark, organic chocolate (or your cholice of chocolate).  Allow the chocolate/coconut oil to cool to close to room temperature before dipping so you don’t melt the ice cream.
  4. Remove ice cream pops from freezer.  Run popsicle mold under hot water for 1 second.  Carefully remove ice cream pop from popsicle mold.
  5. Quickly dip popsicle in a mason jar filled with (not hot!) melted chocolate/coconut oil.  Mason jar must be tall enough to allow the popsicle to be well-dipped.
  6. Hold right side up for a minute until chocolate starts to solidify.  Lay down carefully in a glass pyrex container.  Place container in freezer.  Repeat with other ice cream pops.
  7. Freeze for a few minutes and serve whenever you want to eat them!

And oooooh they’re good!

Notes

  • Store left over chocolate/coconut oil in mason jar in fridge for a week or more.
  • Try experimenting with different flavours of ice cream, or even non-dairy ice cream!
  • Double dip for thicker chocolate.  Do it AFTER you have refrozen the first dip!

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This post has been shared on The MorrisTribe’s Homestead Blog Carnival #14 and The Real Food Forager’s Fat Tuesday.

To Can or Not To Can? BPA is the question.

With preserving season just around the corner and fresh fruit already arriving for jam, I start, once again, to get that little niggling feeling in the back of my head.  That feeling that tells me that something isn’t quite right, and I don’t have a good answer for it.  I hate that feeling.  I am a problem solver by nature and when I can’t fix a problem I sit and stew about it.  My ongoing problem about preserving is just this: plastic.

By now we all know that BPA is NOT. GOOD.  Bisphenol A is a chemical found in a certain kind of plastic that can leach out of the plastic and into your food.  BPA mimics estrogen and is known to be an endocrin disruptor.  Some countries have banned the use of BPA in baby bottles, and some companies are changing the lining of their cans to not include BPA.

The problem with removing BPA, though, is that it has to be replaced with SOMETHING, and in many cases, a different chemical which is even less studied and could potentially be more dangerous.

A few years ago I learned that canning lids are coated with BPA. This shocked and horrified me.  I searched for a solution but came up with nothing really appropriate.  Tattler sells canning lids that are BPA-free, but what else is in it?  Is it safer or not?  Weck sells glass jars and lids, but not only are the jars very expensive, they are also more difficult to tell if a true seal has been made, leaving botulism and other nasties a remote possibility.  So I gave up.  I continued to can food.  I have hundreds of jars, and many lbs of vegetables to preserve.  But that annoying little feeling continues to bother me.

Some people say that canning is safe because the food doesn’t sit on the inside of the lid, which is the only place that BPA is found.  But when you actually boil your jars, the food bubbles up and boils against the lid, likely plenty long enough to leach out some BPA.  There are NO STUDIES that I have found, that can tell me how much BPA is present in food preserved in a home canning jar compared to a regular aluminum can.  Who is going to do a study on that?  Certainly not the companies selling canning lids!

There are a few other alternatives to canning, and those are freezing and dehydrating.  Freezing generally requires plastic bags (see, plastic again!), especially for items that you would normally can.  Freezing glass jars is a tricky experiment and I have cracked many a jar in the process. Freezing isn’t especially sustainable, either, since a power outage could easily cause mass destruction to the food in your freezer.  Dehydrating is fine, but dehydrated pickles, or salsa, just doesn’t cut it for me…

So I continue to preserve by canning, and I continue to push aside that niggling little feeling.  Until something changes, and we find a better way to preserve our food without the use of any plastic I will still be preserving food in mason jars with BPA canning lids.  And I will HOPE that because the surface value of the lid is so much less than the surface value of aluminum canned food, that the amount of BPA that has leached into the food is minimal.  Maybe someday someone will test glass-canned food and see how much BPA is present.

I would love to hear your opinions on the matter, how you preserve your food and why you choose that method.  Do you think BPA in canning lids is a very real issue?  Why or why not?

This post has been shared on TheMorrisTribe’s Homesteader Blog Carnival 13

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Homemade, Whole Wheat Tortilla Shells. Soft, tasty and preservative-free.

Tacos, fajitas, tortillas, wraps… whatever you call them, they make an easy, quick meal that almost everyone likes, even the pickiest children.  You can stuff them with vegetables, peanut butter and bananas, salmon, beef, chicken, fruit, pretty much anything goes.  You can make them as healthy as you like.  Or can you?  Have you ever read the ingredients of typical soft taco wraps?  Here is an ingredient list for Dempster’s original flour tortillas.

Enriched wheat flour, water, vegetable oil (canola or soybean), salt, sodium acid pyrophosphate, potassium sorbate, sodium bicarbonate, sodium propionate, monoglycerides, sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate, fumaric acid, cellulose gum, carrageenan, maltodextrin. May contain sulphites. [K804]

Impressive!  Just want you want to eat, right?  Aside from the soybean oil, I can’t even pronounce the other unacceptable ingredients.    They are pretty much all preservatives.  No wonder they last so long.

I flatly refuse to buy these anymore.  It takes me half an hour or less to make them from scratch.  They taste delicious.  They freeze nicely and store in the fridge as long as bread does.  The ingredients are simple, and now you can really, truly have healthy, safe tortillas.  You can even buy or make tortilla presses which would significantly decrease the amount of time it takes to make them.

 

Ingredients

  • 1 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 c. white flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 c. warm water (may add more to achieve appropriate texture)

Directions

  1. Mix flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl.
  2. Slowly add water, mixing to combine.  Add extra water by the tbsp. if needed.  Dough will form a ball.  Do not make too wet!
  3. Kneed dough for briefly.
  4. Divide into 8 equal pieces.
  5. With flour on counter and on rolling pin, roll out each piece into a flat, thin circle. Add flour to rolling pin and counter as necessary to prevent dough sticking to counter.
  6. Cook in ungreased frying pan over medium-low heat until one side is just starting to bubble.  Flip and repeat.  Caution: this stage is easy to burn.  Keep heat low and watch carefully!
  7. Serve warm or cold.  Enjoy!

Notes

  • The longer you cook your tortilla the harder (crisper) it will get.  Don’t let it brown or it will be hard to fold!
  • Store in airtight container for the length of time you would store homemade bread.
  • These freeze beautifully!
  • Makes 8 tortillas.
  • Doubles easily.

This recipe has been adapted from Whole Wheat Wraps Recipe.

This post has been shared on Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #32.

 

 

Safe, Stainless Steel Popsicle Molds. Bring on summer!

Everyone loves popsicles.  Cold, refreshing, and sweet.  Fun for everyone, especially the kids.  I grew up eating homemade popsicles.  Mom would pour lemonade or apple juice into her Tupperware plastic popsicle molds, freeze them and we would have a cool treat on a hot summer day.

When I had my own family, I remembered those popsicles.  I wanted my own children to share the enjoyment of homemade popsicles.   Mom still had her Tupperware popsicle molds.  She gave them to me.  I used them for a bit, but by then I was starting to become more aware of the health risks of plastic, and I took a better look at my popsicle molds.  100% plastic.  Even the little chewed-on sticks.  What kind of plastic?  Who knows?  Was there BPA in the plastic?  Were those toxins leaching from the plastic into the popsicles?  I gathered up all my popsicle molds and sticks and tossed them into the recyle bin.  Sadly, I disposed of a part of my childhood.

It was 4 long years later before I saw advertised some stainless steel popsicle molds. 4 years of my kids’ childhood wasted without homemade popsicles!  (I am serious, by the way.)  When I tried to order them through Amazon they were out of stock.  Everyone wanted them!  And why not?Locally- and sustainably-sourced party supplies.  They weren’t made of plastic!  They were non leaching.  They were a safe alternative to store-bought sugar- and preservative-laden, artificially colored and flavoured popsicles.  A year later I was given a set to try out from Green Planet Parties.  Talk about excitement!  We had popsicle molds in the house again!  Safe ones!

So here I am writing a review on stainless steel popsicle molds.  Never have I been happier. I am writing a review on a product I love.  We have made juice popsicles, yogurt popsicles, and homemade ice cream popsicles dipped in a coconut chocolate sauce to create a hard chocolate shell.  The kids are over the moon and so am I.  Because popsicles aren’t just for kids.  :)

My Healthy Green Family Review Criteria
1.  Kid/Parent Appeal 5/5
The stainless steel molds have brightly colored silicone stick holders and a sleek design.
2.  Eco Appeal 4.5/5
The stainless steel popsicle molds are made of stainless steel, silicone, and wood popsicle sticks.  The molds were packaged in a small cardboard box.  Inside the box each item was wrapped in a plastic bag.  Packaging was acceptable.
3.  Functionality 5/5
The molds work beautifully.  They are made of high quality 18/8 stainless steel.  Run the popsicles under hot water for a few seconds to loosen the molds and then remove.  Molds are dishwasher-safe.
4.  Company 5/5
Green Planet Parties is a source for sustainable and locally-made party supplies and more.  This is one of the greenest companies I know, with some of the best-made, and locally-sourced products I can find.  I shop here regularly for gifts and browse for party ideas.

Based on our product review standards, this product recieves a 5 star rating.

Purchase these stainless steel popsicle molds at Green Planet Parties.

Disclaimer:
As per usual, reviews are based on my own opinion.  I follow a set of review guidelines that are the same for every product I review.  I am not paid to write these reviews.  This popsicle mold was given to me by Green Planet Parties to try out and review.

 

Simple, All Natural, Homemade Yogurt. Plastic-free, Additive-free and Sugar-free.

 

Yogurt is considered a health food.  Yogurt contains acidophilus, a lactobacteria. Among other things, acidophilus aids in digestion, helps maintain a healthy colon, can decrease yeast infections, and helps lower cholesterol.  Unfortunately, most yogurts contain sugars, fillers, artificial flavors, preservatives, color or thickeners.  For example.  Yoplait Yogurt, Made by General Mills, contains:

  • Vanilla: Skim milk, sugar, cream, milk and whey proteins, modified corn starch, active bacterial cultures, gelatine, natural and artificial flavours, locust bean gum, pectin, concentrated lemon juice, colour, vitamin D3, potassium sorbate.
  • 14 grams sugar per 100 gram serving. (that’s 3.5 tsp. of sugar).

Some types of vanilla yogurt have as much as 30 grams of sugar per serving.  That’s over 7 tsp. of sugar!  Many have ingredients such as gelatin, locust bean gum, corn starch and pectin to thicken.    And of course artificial color and flavour, and preservatives.

Another fact about store-bought yogurt that has been nagging me for years is that they are all sold in plastic containers.  I have been fighting a constant battle with plastic and this is just another example of how plastic is quietly ruling our lives.  With recent studies indicating health risks from BPA in plastics (as well as plastics made from other chemicals) I can’t help but think that “good, healthy yogurt” isn’t so good or healthy after all.

I started making my own yogurt about a year and a half ago.  I haven’t bought yogurt since.  With only 2 or 3 ingredients (depending on what product you want) this recipe is healthy, safe and easy.  SOOOOO easy.  So easy, in fact, that I felt silly I hadn’t listened to my mother years ago and made it back then.  So easy, that it takes 10 minutes at the end of the day to start it, and you have fresh, natural yogurt ready for breakfast.  I use either my own goat’s milk, or organic milk I buy in glass bottles.  This avoids plastic entirely.

Tools you will need:

  • thermometer (candy style, or digital will work)
  • large pot
  • roasting pan
  • 5 x 500 ml mason jars (1/2 quart)
  • whisk
  • oven

Greek Style, thick, creamy yogurt
Ingredients
1 L milk (1 quart)
1 L 18% table cream (1 quart)
2 tbsp. plain yogurt (from a previous batch, or store-bought)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 105F.  If your oven doesn’t maintain heat at that temperature, turn to 350 for 2 minutes and then turn off.  Check temperature.  Make sure your oven temperature is less than 115F before you put your yogurt in it.
  2. Pour milk and cream into pot.  Heat until temperature reaches 112F.  Remove immediately from heat.  Once you are sure the temperature is steady at 112 (under 115, anyway!) stir in yogurt with a whisk.  Whisk well.
  3. Pour into 500 ml. sized (1 pint) mason jars.
  4. Place filled jars in a roasting pan that has about 3 inches of warm water in it.
  5. Place roaster in warm oven.  (No warmer than 115F)
  6. Leave in oven overnight or for 8 to 12 hours.
  7. Remove from oven and serve warm, or refrigerate and serve cold.

Low Fat Yogurt
Ingredients
2 L (2 quarts) skim milk
3/4 cup skim milk powder
2 tbsp. yogurt.

Follow above directions except add skim milk powder to milk while heating and whisk very well, until dissolved.  The milk powder thickens the yogurt.  Without it, the yogurt will be quite runny.

Low Fat Yogurt without milk powder
Ingredients

2 L (2 quarts) skim milk
2 tbsp. yogurt

Follow above directions.  This will make a runnier yogurt.  You can strain it through cheese cloth, though, and this makes a thicker yogurt.  Save the whey for baking with!

Tips

  1. Some people use a heating pad instead of an oven.  In this case, you could make the yogurt in a pot, cover with a thick towel,. and place on heating pad for 8 to 12 hours.
  2. Some people make yogurt with a crock pot.  I haven’t tried it but here are the instructions.
  3. You can pasteurize your milk first if you like, by bringing the milk to 165F and then allowing it to cool to 112F before stirring in yogurt.  I see no reason to pasteurize if you are using pasteurized milk.  I don’t pasteurize my goat’s milk anyway :)
  4. It is important to NOT stir in the yogurt until the temperature is less than 115F or you will risk killing the bacteria and you will end up with a product that is NOT yogurt.  If this happens, don’t throw it out!  Use it as you would use buttermilk in a recipe.
  5. Flavor with vanilla and honey, maple syrup, fruit, jam or ???

Enjoy!  Let me know how you love your homemade yogurt!!!

This post has been linked to Whole Foods Wednesday #56, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #31 and The MorrisTribe’s Homesteader Blog Carnival #11.