You are going to learn how to make your own homemade vanilla extract in the steps ahead. I’m going to guess a few of you do a fair amount of baking. Did you have to buy vanilla extract at the store? It’s expensive and it’s not always that healthy for you. Many of the vanilla extracts sold are “imitation” and are really just filled with ethyl alcohol and chemicals. That doesn’t sound like a great way to make your desserts taste extra special now does it.  Here is an easy recipe to make your own vanilla extract. I give bottles of it away as hostess gifts, and have one more mason jar saved for myself. Time to make a few more batches.

vanilla extract label

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Course: Extract

Ingredients

  • Alcohol- either vodka rum or bourbon
  • 5 vanilla beans I ordered mine from amazon

Instructions

  • I cut the vanilla beans in half with scissors, then scraped the vanilla beans out into an sterile quart size glass mason jar. The vanilla beans are also added to the mason jar. Then cover the beans with your alcohol of choice.  I used all three alcohols (separately) so I could decide which one is better. The bourbon smelled the best by far, but it is a more expensive choice. The better the alcohol you use, the better the end result.  If you choose vodka, skip the plastic bottle bottom shelf vodka and get a mid-level priced option instead. It will create a better end result.
Tried this recipe?Mention @emilyroachwellness or tag #erwellness!

vanilla extract with rum

Next, store the jars in a cool, dark place. It has to be handy so it may be easier to just make some room in a kitchen cabinet. Over the next week, give the jars a gentle shake. After a week is up, transfer the jars to a storage area and let them sit for a minimum of six weeks.  The longer they sit, the better. For the Christmas gifts I made, I did this in August and let them sit for months. Some say you can do it right away, others agree that longer steeping time is better.

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Photo courtesy of Nikki from Days With Us

Once your vanilla is ready, I strained the mixture using a double layer of cheesecloth. I bought adorable swing top bottles from a local store. I used these labels and printed them on sticker paper. I had to create my own sheet of just the vanilla labels, cut and paste into a new document to print just vanilla labels. Once the jars were full, I added in some of the vanilla beans for decoration.

There are tons of different ways to make your own vanilla extract.  This article here has links to many other crafters which helped develop my own recipe.

Let me know if you have any questions. Enjoy your homemade vanilla extract!

 

I started making homemade granola bars about a year ago and have been tweaking the original recipe ever since.  It’s finally ready to share with all of you.  Our whole family enjoys them and it’s a healthy, hearty snack for mid-afternoon to hold us over till dinner. I usually make the granola bars while I’m making my weekly batch of granola.  The ingredients are already out so I just need a second large bowl and a couple additional items.

Healthy Homemade Granola Bars

Healthy Homemade Granola Bars

The best part of making granola bars in your own kitchen is you know exactly what inside each one. No scary ingredients you can’t pronounce. No strange preservatives and no high fructose corn syrup. This recipe uses only natural ingredients and you can doctor it up with your favorite add-ins like cranberries (our favorite), nuts, chocolate chips and other dried fruits. We also make them nut free sometimes so I can pack them in school lunches. I’ll add in pepitas instead of nuts to keep it protein heavy.

Homemade Granola Bars

Homemade Granola Bars

Kid friendly healthy granola bars
Course: Snack
Cuisine: American
Servings: 16
Author: Emily

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 1/2 cups oats
  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup cranberries or other add ins

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 13 x 9 pan with parchment paper, or grease well.
  • Melt first four ingredients in a medium saucepan.
  • Mix balance of ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Add melted butter mixture to the oatmeal mixture. Stir until well mixed.
  • Pour mixture into prepared pan. Press down on the mixture to ensure bars stick together.
  • Bake 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned.
  • Let cool completely before cutting. Store in an airtight container.

Notes

If you bake this at 300 degrees with granola, bake for 22 minutes.
Tried this recipe?Mention @emilyroachwellness or tag #erwellness!

 

Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

I just can’t get enough pumpkin these days. Muffins, breads, lattes and finally, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.  I created this recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies using Stonyfield yogurt to replace the butter and fats called for originally.  The cookies come out very moist and are healthier than the average cookie.  It makes me feels better when I reach for more than one!

Recently I teamed up with Stonyfield as part of their Clean Plate Club. Here you can find lots of family friendly healthy recipes sure to make your kids join the Clean Plate Club. I am excited to come up with challenges in the coming months of how to use more yogurt in recipes to create healthier options, like these pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.

Blend the sugar, pumpkin, and yogurt.
Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

Healthy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Course: Dessert
Keyword: Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Stonyfield Organic Yogurt Plain or French Vanilla. (I think Greek would work fine too)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree not pumpkin pie mix
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Instructions

  • Mix yogurt, sugar, and pumpkin. Don’t over mix.
  • Add egg and mix well.
  • In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients. Add to pumpkin mixture and mix well.
  • Stir in chocolate chips.
  • Drop spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet.
  • Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes. Let cool for 2 mins before transferring to a cooling rack.
Tried this recipe?Mention @emilyroachwellness or tag #erwellness!
Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl

 

If you ever wonder how to swap out fattier ingredients for yogurt, here is a handy reference guide.

Enjoy!

 

 

It’s finally soup season around here.  The air is chilly and it’s (sadly) getting dark early in the evening. Now is the time for warm and hearty soup.

Here are my favorite recipes I’ve posted here…
Slow Cooker Tomato Soup
Sausage, Bean and Spinach Soup
Slow Cooker Beef Chili
Basque Fish Soup

Got a favorite recipe post? Share it in the recipe round-up below!

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I love to hear your feedback and comments. Stop by and visit FacebookPinterest or Twitter for more conversation!  Or get posts delivered via Email or RSS Feed

Next to apples, pumpkins are my second favorite fall flavor.  Pumpkin muffins, pumpkin spice lattes from Starbucks and pumpkin candy corn are some of my seasonal must-haves. This year I loved seeing all the many pumpkin spiced desserts around the web.  I decided to test out a Pumpkin Gingersnap Cookie recipe and give it a healthier twist.

Pumpkin Gingersnap Cookies

Pumpkin Gingersnap Cookies

Delicious fall cookie for pumpkin lovers!
Course: Dessert
Author: Emily

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter softened
  • 1/4 cup applesauce my substitution for the second stick of butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar white plus another 1/4 cup for rolling the cookies
  • 1/2 cup pure pumpkin puree not tge pie mix, but canned is fine
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour my 2nd substitution for the other cup of white flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  • In a stand mixer, beat butter, applesauce and sugar together until creamy. Add pumpkin, molasses, egg and vanilla. Mix well.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, spices and salt. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Refrigerate dough for at least 2 hours, otherwise it’s very difficult to roll the cookies into balls.
  • Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place sugar in a small bowl. Roll tablespoon sized balls of dough in sugar and then place on baking sheets. I fit about 15 per tray.
  • Bake 10-12 minutes, or until edges are set and cookies look cracked. Let cookies sit for 2-3 minutes before moving them to a cooling rack. Let cool completely.
Tried this recipe?Mention @emilyroachwellness or tag #erwellness!

 

Delicious pumpkin gingersnap cookies made the house smell amazing!

Yield: 3 dozen cookies.

Adapted from Two Peas and their Pod
Enjoy!

No Crust Apple Pie

I took the kids apple picking last Friday and came home with a bag full of Macintosh apples.  I usally make apple pie, but this time I tried a new, or rather old, family recipe.  My Nana’s No Crust Apple Pie sounded perfect for my girl’s night out dinner.  Easier than a pie with two crusts rolled out, yet hopefully just as delicious.

Nana’s original recipe for No Crust Apple Pie

My guess is my friends would agree that it was pretty darn delicious.  My Nana, Priscilla Abbott, always had a dessert on hand in the house.  She was a cake baker, but she sure could turn out an amazing pie too.  She had five children so she knew a thing or two about creating a great meal in a timely manner.  This recipe is easy enough for a casual gathering, but respectable enough to follow a holiday dinner.

No Crust Apple Pie

Course: Dessert
Keyword: Pie

Ingredients

  • Peel and core 5-6 large apples
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 cup sugar separated
  • 1 1/2 sticks of butter melted
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

Instructions

  • Fill pie plate with cut up apples. Sprinkle with cinnamon and 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Mix butter, flour, sugar and egg together.
  • Add chopped walnuts and pour over apples
  • Bake 50-60 minutes at 350 degrees
Tried this recipe?Mention @emilyroachwellness or tag #erwellness!
The finished no crust apple pie.

Enjoy!

After I mentioned making our own foaming hand soap in yesterday’s post about household cleaners, more than a couple people have asked how to make it.

Here is the super easy recipe I use to make the foaming hand soap. I use Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps Pure-Castile Soap as the base.  This product got an A from the EWG Healthy Cleaning Guide. Tea tree oil is also a great addition because it has antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and antiseptic qualities.

I reuse the foaming hand soap dispenser from CleanWell.  This line of products is a favorite and when I need a fresh bottle.  They have antibacterial soaps without triclosan, which is a big environmental hazard.

DIY foaming hand soap recipe

Foaming Hand Soap Recipe

Keyword: Soap

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons Castille Soap
  • 2 drops of Tea Tree Oil
  • 2 drops of Essential oil I use lemongrass currently

Instructions

  • Add ingredients to empty foaming hand soap dispenser (about a 9 oz size). Fill the balance with water and shake gently.
Tried this recipe?Mention @emilyroachwellness or tag #erwellness!

 

DIY foaming hand soap recipe

 

This is a super cheap way to keep up with the kids overuse of the foaming hand soap.  I have found Madison “cleaning” the bathroom sink with half the bottle.  At about 25 cents a bottle, I don’t have to stress about it.  Plus, there’s no sodium lauryl sulfate, triclosan or synthetic fragrance involved in her cleaning project.

If you can handle making your own hand soap, now you can move on to making your own bubble soap for kids!

Happy washing!

Disclosure: Some affiliate links are included in this post. 

I am always looking for new ideas for healthy snacks.  There are just some days when we all need something to bridge the afternoon gap from lunch to dinner.  In our house, we often do a late dinner so we can sit down as a family. I need to give my kids something substantial on these days, but I don’t want it to be processed. As kids get older, I see the need for easy options in between sports practices and homework sessions.

I met Amie Valpone during my trip to New York last month.  She writes the blog The Healthy Apple and is a Manhattan based culinary nutritionist, personal chef and food writer.  Amie shares her struggle and triumph in going gluten free.  So many of us have family and friends dealing with food allergy issues. Amie’s story sounds like so many of my friends and I love her positive attitude towards dealing with this challenge.

I’m happy to share Amie’s list of Healthy Snacks to get you through the mid-afternoon snack slump! Baked Pear is first on my list to try.

  • Hard boiled eggs with Hummus (Remove yolk)
  • 1 piece of  whole grain or gluten-free toast with melted SoyaKaas cheese and a slice of tomato
  • 1 sliced fresh pear with a slice of SoyaKaas Mozzarella Cheese
  • 1 piece of good quality dark chocolate with a few nuts
  • Dried pineapple and dried papaya dipped into Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 avocado (pitted) filled with salmon salad (canned salmon + Greek yogurt)
  • 3/4 cup red grapes with 2 crackers and hummus
  • Sprouted English muffin toasted and topped with apple butter and sesame seeds
  • Organic apple sauce mixed with Greek yogurt and peanuts
  • Bowl of puffed kamut with honey and pistachios
  • 2 Spelt rice cakes spread with mashed avocado and organic peanut butter
  • Ground flax seeds and chia seeds added to a banana and mango smoothie
  • Pineapple chunks drizzled with with lime juice, fresh mint leaves and warm almond butter
  • 1/2 cup chickpeas with tomato sauce and Galaxy Vegan Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/2 cup steel cut oats with spinach, rice milk and 1 egg
  • 1/2 hemp bagel toasted and drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Wasa crackers topped with grated carrots (use blender/food processor) and pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup gluten-free pasta (cooked al dente) with Greek yogurt, low-sodium tamari sauce and sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup brown rice with snow peas, dried cranberries, rice vinegar and avocado
  • Steamed broccoli and carrots drizzled with honey, stevia and chili powder
  • Asparagus sp
    ears topped with slices of SoyaKaas Gluten Free/Dairy Free cheese (bake in toaster oven until cheese is melted)
  • Fresh grapefruit, sliced in half drizzled with agave nectar and crushed almonds
  • Zucchini and squash, thinly sliced, spritzed with sesame oil and sesame seeds and baked for 20 minutes in oven
  • Make your own frozen yogurt–(Rice, Almond, Hemp, Soy, etc. milk mixed in a blender with ice cubes, banana, raspberries and strawberries.  Pour into cups and freeze until desired consistency.
  • Sardine Salad (1 can sardines mixed with with 2 chopped celery stalks, Nu-Salt and pepper and Greek yogurt) and wrapped in kale leaves
  • Collard Green Wrap (Spread hummus and salsa with crushed peanuts atop large collard green leaves; wrap up like a burrito
  • Jicama and carrot stalks dipped into macadamia nut butter
  • Star Fruit and red cabbage mixed with honey and almonds
  • Sweet Potato Disks (slice 1 sweet potato into disk-like shapes (microwave or toast and sprinkle with paprika, Nu-Salt and pepper and dip into organic ketchup)
  • 1 cup fresh cherries with Greek yogurt
  • Raw red, yellow and orange bell peppers with a hard boiled egg
  • 3 dates and 3 dried figs with 1 Tbsp. nut butter
  • 1 kiwi  with 10 almonds
  • Whole grain crackers with 5 shrimp with Greek yogurt, dill, Nu-Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup kidney beans with Greek yogurt and melted SoyaKass Gluten Free/Dairy Free Cheese
  • Baked Apple (bake halved apple for 1 hour at 350 degrees, top with cinnamon and agave nectar)
  • Baked Pear (bake halved pear at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, top with raisins and honey)
  • 1 hard boiled egg with 1 Wasa Cracker and hummus
  • Watermelon sliced/cubed dipped into a mixture of Greek yogurt, balsamic vinegar and lime juice
  • 1/2 cup high fiber cereal with soy milk and a handful of peanuts
  • Tofu Bites (Extra firm tofu, drained and cubed set into the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees; dip cooked tofu bites into hummus and sprinkle with Galaxy Parmesan Cheese)
  • Dried Banana Chips with pecans
  • 1/2 cup black beans, salsa, olives and whole wheat crackers

What’s your favorite afternoon snack?
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I love to hear your feedback and comments. Stop by and visit FacebookPinterest or Twitter for more conversation!  Or get posts delivered via Email or RSS Feed. Thanks! 


Amie Valpone, HHC, AADP, Editor-in-Chief of TheHealthyApple.com is a Manhattan based Culinary Nutritionist, Personal Chef, Professional Recipe Developer and Food Writer specializing in simple Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free ‘Clean’ recipes for the home cook. Visit Amie on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.


photo credit: javajoba via photo pin cc

I know no one wants to think about cold and flu season, but now is the time to get ahead of the game.  Blackberries are coming into season here in the Northeast.  While they can be a bit strong tasting on their own, they pack a powerful health punch.

My little blackberry picker

Blackberry elixir is used when you first have the signs of a cold.  It has similar health benefits of the elderberry syrup we make in the fall. The berries have high levels of both Vitamin C and E, both immune-boosting antioxidants. My stepmother told me it was used by her family for generations, which inspired me to make my own. I’m a big fan of trying to treat a cold quickly, and without a visit to the doctors office.

Fresh blackberries off the vine

Our neighbor has a generous blackberry bush and we made it a family affair to collect some.  Both kids ate some and liked them.  I found them to be a little too strong for my tastes.

I collected about 1 1/2 cups of blackberries to make our first blackberry elixir.  The berries should be rinsed and well drained.  Remove stems and discard any moldy berries.  Add them to a glass jar; I used the pint size.

Cover the berries with brandy

Cover the berries with the brandy.  Secure the top and gently swirl.  Place in a cool, dry spot in your kitchen.  Swirl gently for a few days, then let it ferment for eight weeks.  Mark your jar with the ready date so you know when to strain it. It can sit longer, it will just get stronger.  You can add a tablespoon of sugar to the elixir, however I try to avoid white sugar when possible.  If it’s too tart when you taste it, you can add some simply syrup to the glass.

When you first see the signs of a cold, pour yourself a warm glass just before bed.  Drink it up, get cozy under some warm blankets, and feel better in the morning.  Cheers!

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I love to hear your feedback and comments. Stop by and visit FacebookPinterest or Twitter for more conversation!  Or get posts delivered via Email or RSS Feed. Thanks!  I’m sharing this with Sustainable Ways I‘m Lovin’ ItThe Morris Tribe and Green Your Way.

My kids are popsicle crazy.  Morning, noon and night they want to make popsicles.  In my quest to avoid unnatural food dyes and excess sugar, we started making our own popsicles.  Welcome Zoku to the family.

Zoku makes popsicles super fast.  10 minutes fast.  If you have kids, you know fast is good.  They have no patience for waiting for a treat and this is just long enough.  Plus it becomes a fun project when you start “decorating” your popsicles.

Lemonade and local strawberries

Dress up the everyday popsicle with strawberry slices.  Or go with a sweeter option and add in mini chocolate chips!

Our go to popsicle is yellow or pink lemonade.  I like the Newman’s Own Organic Lemonade which has no high fructose corn syrup or artificial colors or flavors.  Both kids love it.

Watermelon and lemonade popsicle

There are all sorts of special accessories for the Zoku.  We have a basic model with 2 moldsand if our family grows, we will be in the market for a larger option down the road.  I love the idea for making a bunch of popsicles for the kids and their playmates when they get older. They all already get excited about clicking in their “drip trays.”

I picked up my Zoku at Williams and Sonoma, plus the Zoku Quick Pops Recipe Book.  You can also find them on Amazon.

And yes, the Zoku is also good for making boozy popsicles for the grown-ups too.  Shhh…don’t tell the littles.

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strawberry lemonade popsicles (1)