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Why do people buy tubs of frosting that are full of icky chemicals?

I was watching the Food Network the other day and saw LOTS of ads for a new Duncan Hines product, Frosting Creations.  Basically, it is a tub of white unflavored frosting to which youDuncan Hines Flavor Creations add an artificially flavored and colored powder to make a flavored frosting.  The powders have things in them like: Red #40  Blue #2, Yellow #5, and lots of what they themselves call “artificial flavor”.

Why buy tub frostings at all?  Buttercream frosting is one of easiest, most foolproof things you can make.  At its most basic, it has only three ingredients:  butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract.  Here is an oh, so, simple recipe.

Simple Homemade Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 stick butter (1/4 pound)
  • 2-3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp real vanilla extract
  1. Leave butter on counter for at least 30 minutes so it will soften.
  2. Put soft butter in mixing bowl.  Put bowl on mixer and put beaters on the mixer.
  3. Turn on the mixer and run it on medium to cream butter until light and fluffy.
  4. Slowly add the confectioners’ sugar and beat in until thoroughly mixed.  The exact amount of sugar is dependent on the consistency you want.  If you screw up and put too much, no problem, just add a tablespoon or two of milk.
  5. Add vanilla. You now have frosting. If not using right away, refrigerate in a closed container until ready to use and then just fluff it a bit with a spoon.

If you want LOTS of frosting, then double the recipe.  If you do not have a mixer, use a whisk or even just a spoon.  Should still work if the butter is soft.   If you want to get fancier and make cream cheese frosting, then substitute some cream cheese for some of the butter.  If you want a different flavor than vanilla, then use almond, mint, lemon, or orange extract instead of the vanilla.  If you want chocolate frosting, add about 1/4 cup of cocoa powder.  Here are several variations from Taste of Home.

So, you really still think buying the tub is easier?  Well, lets look at what is in the tub.  These are the ingredients in the Betty Crocker Vanilla Frosting: 

Betty Crocker Rich and Cream Frosting Ingredients

My Stars!  They actually still have and are willing to admit that they have TRANS FATS in their product.  2 g of trans fats per serving!  Trans fats are the worst fat you can eat and they are a man-made concoction.  That is the “partially hydrogenated” oils in the ingredient list.

Read what the Mayo Clinic has to say about trans fats here.  Be sure to read the part where it says ” in the United States if a food has less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, the food label can read 0 grams trans fat.”  So, lots of products that say 0g of trans fats, actually have 0.5g in them.  So, even if the container says 0g trans fats, if any of the ingredients are “partially hydrogenated”, the amount is not REALLY zero.

There is also artificial coloring in this frosting…isn’t vanilla supposed to be white?  So, why do you even need artificial color here? 

Okay, I am not saying that frosting is ever a “health food”.  But, if you are going to indulge, at least use a frosting made from real food ingredients.  It is so easy to make, I am not sure why they ever started selling it in a tub to begin with.  The tub stuff has such crappy ingredients, please just mix some powdered sugar into some real butter yourself instead.

Off my soapbox.  Sorry, “convenience foods” made of crappy ingredients that are actually no more convenient than making something from scratch are a pet peeve of mine.  If you are going to indulge in cake, at least make it a quality cake made from real ingredients.

– Stacey

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Banana Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting – our Easter Dinner dessert

Kid with Banana CakeI recently started using Pinterest and came across a link there to some banana cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese frosting that looked good.  So, I decided to make the recipe into a layer cake as our dessert for yesterday’s Easter Dinner.  Several of the comments at the Dash of Sass website thought that the original recipe made too much frosting, so I took their suggestion and halved the frosting.  It still made more than enough to frost the cake.

I used organic unbleached white flour, but I might try whole wheat pastry flour the next time I make this.   I also did not have any buttermilk as the original recipe specified on hand, so used my regular substitute of mixing plain yogurt with whole milk, and that turned out fine.  I may add another egg next time I make this to get some more lift. The cake is similar in texture to banana bread or carrot cake.

For the cream cheese, I was looking for one that did not have a lot of thickeners and preservatives, so I used Nancy’s Organic Cultured Cream Cheese.   Unlike most cream cheese that is thickened by using guar gum and carob bean gum, this one uses probiotic cultures to thicken it and so is more natural and you get a bonus dose of probiotics.  🙂  It’s ingredients are: Organic cream, nonfat dry milk, L. acidophilus, B. bifidum and 4 strains of Lactic cultures, salt.

Mike and the girls all loved this recipe.  While it is definitely a rare treat with all that butter and sugar, I will make it again.  I tried “decorating” it with a star shape made out of cinnamon, but it didn’t come out that well.  🙂  On a positive note, if you are not that great at frosting cakes and occassionally get a bit of crumb in your frosting, the cinnamon flecks in the frosting will help hide that.

Banana Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

Cake:

  • 2 1/4 cups white flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp aluminum-free baking powder (such as Rumford)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cup mashed bananas (about 3-4 bananas, very ripe)
  • 1/8 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/8 cup milk
  • 1 tsp real vanilla extract
  • 1 -2 Tbsp rum (spiced rum is even better), optional (if you leave out, add a bit more milk instead)
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) real butter
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs

Frosting:

  • 1 8-oz. package of cream cheese
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) real butter
  • 3 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp real vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9″ cake pans. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon from the cake recipe. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the mashed bananas, yogurt, milk, vanilla and rum. Set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl (the big one that fits on your mixer), beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, blending entirely before adding the next egg.
  5. Once the eggs are combined, add the dry and wet ingredients in alternating order. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients, beat on slow to combine. Add 1/3 of the wet ingredients, beat on slow to combine. Repeat until all of the wet and dry ingredients have been combined.
  6. Scoop batter into prepared cake pans. Bake 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Let cakes cool in the pans on a wire rack for 5 minutes before removing from cake pans. Let cakes cool completely on wire racks before applying frosting.
  8. While cakes are baking, prepare the frosting. Beat cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Add confectioners sugar in 1 cup increments. After 2 cups, check for desired sweetness. Continue adding confectioner’s sugar until you have achieved desired level of sweetness.  Blend in salt, vanilla and cinnamon. 
  9. Once cupcakes are completely cool, frost with cinnamon cream cheese frosting.

Banana Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

Chocolate, Peanut Butter & Oatmeal No-Bake Cookies! – but at least they are made with real ingredients

Chocolate, Peanut Butter & Oatmeal No Bake Cookies

I shop at a variety of places for our food, the locally-owned natural food store (Native Roots), a regional chain natural grocery store (Natural Grocers), the local farmer’s market, the local regular grocery store (Homeland), and even Wal-Mart.  The bakery at my local Wal-Mart is right next to the produce section and so I end up walking by all the cakes and cookies on my way to get the healthy fruits and veggies.  🙂 

The last few times, the packaged bakery “Peanut butter fudge no bakes” cookies have definitely been tempting me.  But, I know that they put lots of unnecessary and kind of scary things in packaged cookies.  The Wal-mart ingredients are: Granulated Sugar, Oats, Water, Peanut Butter (Roasted Peanuts, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, Salt, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean & Cottonseed Oil), Margarine (Vegetable Monodiglycerides, Soy Lecithin, Beta Carotene, Vitamin A Palmitate, Artificial Butter Flavor), Cocoa, Non-Fat Dry Milk Solids, Vanilla.   Actually, not too horrible compared to other packaged cookies, except the peanut butter has hydrogenated oils in it and we don’t use margarine because of all the crap in it.

So, I dug out my recipe for no-bake cookies and decided to make my own.  These cookies are a bit addictive.  This recipe makes about 28-30 cookies.  Luckily, I have 6 people in the house to eat these things so that is only 4 or 5 cookies each and we stretched them out over 3 days.  I did cut the sugar a bit and upped the peanut butter from the original recipe and they were still just great.

Chocolate, Peanut Butter & Oatmeal No-Bake Cookies
makes 2-3 dozen depending on how big you make them

  • 6 Tbsp (that is 3/4 of a stick) real butter
  • 1 1/2 cups Demerara sugar (or other unrefined sugar such as “sugar in the raw”) 
  • 1/2 cup organic milk 
  • 4 Tbsp cocoa powder (not hot cocoa mix, I used Hershey’s)
  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups quick cooking oats (I used organic, the only ingredient on the package should be OATS)
  • 3/4 cup creamy natural peanut butter  (made with just peanuts or peanuts and a bit of salt)
  • 1 1/2 tsp real vanilla extract
  1. Add the butter, sugar, milk, and cocoa  to a large saucepan.  Bring to a rolling boil for at least one minute, but two is better.  Note: To make sure cookies set up properly wait until mixture comes to a complete FULL boil and then start the timer for one minute.
  2. Remove from heat. Stir in the peanut butter and vanilla and mix well with a whisk until smooth and the peanut butter is fully melted in.  Add the oats and stir well.
  3. Drop by heaping Tablespoonfuls onto waxed paper or parchment paper lined baking sheets (I used my silpats). Let them set up and cool for at least one hour.  If you can’t wait, you can put a few in the freezer to speed thing up. 

Some folks like to add a bit of coconut flakes to the mix, but we like ours traditional.  We managed to ration these out over 3 days, but it was hard.

Note for those with special diets:

  • These are naturally gluten-free as long as you are sure about the source of your oats.  I understand that some oats are grown in the same fields as or near wheat and can become contaminated.
  • If you wanted to make these vegetarian, you could probably substitute coconut oil for the butter since it is also a solid a room temp. 
  • If you have a peanut allergy, I am sure that almond butter or sunflower butter or any other nut butter would work just as well.

 

– Stacey

Orange Almond Cake – and it is even gluten-free

Sarah and I were watcOrange Almond Cake - slice with whole cake in backgroundhing Laura Calder’s “French Food at Home” show last weekend and she made this as part of her “French Africa” episode.  There are very few ingredients and it looked yummy, so Sarah wanted to make it.  She and Emma helped me in the kitchen today.

This deliciously moist cake really has just four ingredients: oranges, eggs, sugar, and almonds.  Three out of the four are wonderfully healthy. The eggs and almond meal give you some protein and allow you to make a Orange Almond Cake - admiring the cakelight flourless cake.  The oranges provide an intense taste, sweetness, and some Vitamin C.  Sugar… well, it is sugar.  I used a less refined version, but it is still sugar.  Based on 12 servings, each piece will have 1 tablespoon (3 teaspoons) of sugar in it.  Just plan on it being your treat for the day.

I used packaged almond flour, but you could always just grind up some raw unsalted almonds in your food processor instead.  The reason I specify organic oranges it that you are using the zest and you don’t want there to be pesticides on the skin.

The girls described this cake as: juicy, sweet, orangey, tangy and yummy.

– Stacey

Orange Almond Cake
Yield: 12 slices
Variation on Laura Calder’s recipe
 
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar, divided, (3/4 cup goes in cake & 1/2 cup in the syrup)
  • 3 ORGANIC oranges, separate zest and juice (FYI, my 3 oranges yielded 1 cup juice)
  • 1 1/2 cups ground almonds AKA almond mealOrange Almond Cake - Preparing the ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp orange liqueur such as Grand Marnier, optional (I used peach schnapps, what I had in the cabinet)
  • Candied orange zest or rind, optional for garnish (I pulled a few bits of orange rind out of some orange marmalade)
  • Whipped cream, optional for serving
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and line with parchment a 9-to-10-inch springform pan.
  2. Separate the eggs into two bowls.  Beat the egg yolks with 3/4 cups of the sugar, and the orange zest until bright yellow.  Then, stir in the ground almonds.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks.Orange Almond Cake - ready to go into the oven
  4. Stir a few spoonfuls of whipped egg whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the rest, gently.  Keep it light and fluffy.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until set, about 40-45 minutes.
  6. While the cake is baking, prepare the syrup.  Heat the orange juice and remaining 1/2 cup sugar together in a saucepan and boil for 5 minutes. Take off the heat and stir in the optional liqueur.
  7. When the cake is done baking, remove it from the oven and spoon the syrup evenly over the cake, letting the syrup soak in as you go; it will absorb all of it.
  8. Let cool, then unmold onto a serving platter. Serve the cake with candied orange zest on top and whipped cream on the side.

Orange Almond Cake - finished cake

Fruity Terrine – an updated gelatin salad

Most folks wouldn’t admit to liking a gelatin salad.  And considering some of the weird combinations that people have come up with, especially during the 1950’s and 1960’s, I don’t blame them.  The recipes always seem to start with some bright artificially colored gelatin and then add things like vegetables, canned fruit cocktail, cooked seafood, mini-marshmallows, or cottage cheese.  The results looked something like this:

Weird Jello Salads

But, a gelatin salad doesn’t have to be yucky; it can be yummy.  You just have to use juice to flavor the plain gelatin and be very selective with the add-ins.

This recipe is really just a souped up version of the Juicy Gelatin Jigglers recipe that I posted awhile back.  I was inspired by the Citrus Berry Terrine that Dorie Greenspan has in her “French Fridays with Dorie” cookbook and that had been the featured recipe for the “French Fridays with Dorie” group where lots of folks make and photograph the same recipe from the book with their own variations.

Fruity Terrine – an updated gelatin salad
Serves 4-8 depending on your appetite

  • 2.5 cups of orange juice (I used refrigerated not-from-concentrate, but freshly squeezed is always better)
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 2 envelopes of unflavored Knox gelatin, each envelope holds about 1 Tbls gelatin
  • 2 cups fresh fruit of your choice (strawberries, orange segments, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, etc.)
  1. Place 1.5 cups of juice in a microwavable 2-cup measuring cup. Microwave juice for 60-75 seconds.
  2. Pour hot juice into a 5-cup container (I used a Rubbermaid plastic container with a lid). Stir in honey.
  3. Sprinkle gelatin powder on to hot juice and use a fork or small whisk to mix it in until it dissolves and there are no clumps.
  4. Pour in the other 1 cup of juice and mix well. Put the lid on your container and refrigerate for about 30-45 minutes while you prepare your fresh fruit.
  5. When the gelatin had slightly thickened but is not set, stir in the fruit.  Continue to refrigerate for 4+ hours.  Unmold and serve with additional fresh fruit as a garnish.  I unmolded mine by setting the mold in the sink filled about halfway up the mold with hot water for a few seconds.

I made this as a part of our Christmas meal to add something “fancy” that contained fresh fruit.  I used just strawberries and clementine orange segments.  The kids liked it so much they wanted me to make it again. So, I made it again for New Year’s Eve dinner with different fruit, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries.  I have since made it yet again with just blackberries and raspberries.  They really like it.

– Stacey

Two notes:

  1. Gelatin is made from animal parts, so it is not vegetarian or vegan.  If you want to make a veggie version of this recipe, I have been told that you can substitute agar-agar for the gelatin.
  2. If you want to use pineapple or pineapple juice in this recipe, you can’t use fresh of either and have it work.  Fresh pineapple has an enzyme in it called bromelain that will prevent the gelatin from jelling.  Apparently, papaya and kiwi also contain similar enzymes.  But don’t fret, canned pineapple and pineapple juice don’t contain bromelain. The canning process heats the pineapple to a temperature sufficient to break the enzyme down, making it gelatin friendly.
Fruity Terrine - Christmas

Fruity Terrine - Christmas

 Fruity Terrine - New Year

 

 

 

 

If Eggnog were a cookie… Frosted Nutmeg Logs recipe

Frosted Nutmeg LogsOk, it is the holidays, so we still want to use real food ingredients, but white flour and sugar are going to be a part of things this time of year. 

This recipe is one that we have made just about every year since I was a kid.  I believe it originally appeared in a Pillsbury(?) Christmas Cookie Cookbook.  It is not diet, it is not gluten-free, it is not low-carb.  But, it is yummy.  Just don’t eat too many at one sitting.

The flavor to me is what eggnog would taste like if it was a cookie, thanks to the nutmeg and rum.  The original recipe used rum extract, but since that is artificial, I just use real rum…it is only a few teaspoons.  I did try this recipe substituting whole wheat pastry flour for some of the white flour and it was not as good…so don’t do it.

The cookies are supposed to look like logs with snow on them.  So, let your kids help roll them out as they are not supposed to be perfect.  They can also help “score” the frosting with a fork to make it look like bark.

The original recipe calls for rolling the dough into logs and then cutting into 2″ pieces.  This is a fun activity for kids.  But, if you are making them by yourself and want to hurry things along, just roll the dough out flat about 1/2″ thick and then cut into 1/2″ X 2″ long strips with a pizza cutter.

Frosted Nutmeg Logs

  • 1 cup real butter, softened (that is 2 sticks, or 1/2 lb.)
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoon real vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoon rum
  • 3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/3 cup real butter, softened  (a bit more than half a stick)
  • 2 cup confectioners’ or powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoon rum
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  1. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, vanilla, and rum; mix well.
  2. In another bowl, combine the flour, nutmeg and salt; gradually add this to the creamed mixture. 
  3. Cover dough and refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm. (optional, kids usually won’t wait)
  4. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into 1/2-in.-wide logs. Cut into 2-in. pieces. Place 1″ apart on greased baking sheets.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees F for 12-14 minutes or until center is set and edges are lightly browned. Cool for 2 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.
  6. For frosting, in a mixing bowl, combine the butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, rum, and enough milk to achieve a spreading consistency. Frost cooled cookies and sprinkle with a little extra nutmeg.

I am not even going to bother to do a nutritional analysis for these…just remember,the main ingredients are butter, white flour, and sugar.   Enjoy!

– Stacey

Frosted Nutmeg Logs on plate

Another Holiday Treat… Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge

Chocolate Peanut Butter FudgeI made this fudge last night to add to the treats box the girls gave their 1st grade teacher. The box included Sugar Plums, this Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge, and Frosted Nutmeg Logs

This fudge recipe is from Mindy at The Purposed Heart and she adapted it from Kimi’s Chocolate Fudge recipe at The Nourishing Gourmet. Kimi adapted her recipe from Sally Fallon’s recipe in Nourishing Traditions, which uses butter instead of coconut oil. So if you don’t have coconut oil or really don’t like coconut oil for whatever reason, you can try substituting butter in this recipe.  It needs to be a fat that is basically a solid at room temp, but let’s not use shortening or something like that, OK?

Mindy made her fudge cups larger than mine, as her recipe yields 10.  I used the mini-muffin papers in my mini-muffin pan and got 19, but could have squeezed out 20, if I had really scraped the bowl.  I used a 1 Tablespoon measure to pour the fudge into each paper.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge
from The Purposed Heart

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (at room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not hot cocoa mix)
  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp real vanilla extract
  1. Prepare a mini-muffin pan with 20 mini-muffin liners.
  2. Put all ingredients except vanilla in a microwave safe bowl.
  3. Microwave bowl for like 10-15 seconds.  Stir mixture with whisk.  Microwave another 5 seconds.  Stir mixture again.  Do this until the coconut oil is melted, but not hot.  In the summer, your coconut oil may already be melted in your house depending on how cool you keep it as the melting point of coconut oil is 76 °F. 
  4. Stir with whisk until everything is smooth and nicely combined; it will be very liquidy.  Stir in vanilla extract.
  5. Pour the liquid fudge into the prepared muffin liners dividing evenly between them.  I used a 1 Tablespoon measuring spoon to scoop them out.   There will be about 1/2 inch of fudge in each mini-muffin liner.
  6. Place the muffin pan in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or until the fudge has hardened.  Or, you can use the freezer to make it even faster.
  7. Remove the muffin liners from the pan and store in the refrigerator or freezer.
  8. Another liner-less option is to pour the fudge into the compartments of an ice cube tray and freeze it. They should pop right out when frozen!

Here are the nutrition stats on the fudge from About.com’s Recipe Analyzer.  Note the low amount of carbs/sugar in a fudge.  The calories mainly come from fat, but it is what many consider good fats, coconut oil and peanuts. 

– Stacey

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