Wednesday
Oct222014

October #Unprocessed - Week 3 Update

Week 3 Update:

This week was less of a struggle and I attribute that largely to having a good menu plan in place for all of our meals and snacks. Having our menu planned out in advance gave me more time to experiment in the kitchen since I wasn't standing at the fridge wondering what I was going to fix for our meal. I used that extra time to try a few things, one of which was substituting plain Greek yogurt for mayo in some of our condiments. I wasn't really a fan of using Greek yogurt in my tuna salad sandwich, but I thought it was a great way to lighten up my buttermilk ranch recipe. I used the lightened up ranch dressing on a salad for lunch and with cut up veggies for snack. Before I knew it we were out of ranch dressing again so I'll have to buy some more spices and make it again for next week.

I also had the opportunity to try a few more recipes using the white whole wheat flour I bought during week 2. I found that in my pizza crust and pita recipes I could use it as a substitute for all-purpose flour without any problems. In fact, my husband didn't even realize I had made a change to the recipe and he's normally the first one to notice when I've messed with his favorite dishes. This goes down as a win in my book and I'll likely be making the switch permanently. 

It's Not Easy Staying Unprocessed

There were a few times this week were I didn't stick to eating unprocessed. My husband decided he didn't like the flavor of yogurt cups I bought him for work. They're getting to the point where we need to eat them or throw them away, but we have a rule in this house in regards to food waste. We don't waste food... period. Even during the challenge I wanted to stick to this rule, it's very important to me, because every time I have to throw food away I know I'm throwing away money. It may have been the healthier option to throw them away, but that would have been $2 I had wasted. That may seem like a small amount, but over time it really adds up. As a compromise I decided to split one of the yogurt cups with my son for a snack, but it was so sweet I couldn't finish more than a bite. This tells me that my tastes have readjusted themselves this month, which was something I had been hoping for. I've worked very hard to limit sugar during the challenge and the hard work has paid off. I decided to dilute the remaining yogurt cups with what was left of the vanilla yogurt I bought last week for my breakfast. While my snack won't be entirely unprocessed, I will be consuming less sugar. As I've said before sometimes less processed is the best you can do and I'm ok with that.

There were a couple of other instances of not eating unprocessed this week, one of which was our yearly trip to the fall festival. We spent the afternoon at one of the local farms picking pumpkins and going on hay rides. One of the highlights of this trip is always stopping in for a treat, picking pumpkins is hard work! Besides, they have the best apple cider doughnuts I've ever had. While I was tempted to pick up a box to take home I limited myself to one (and let me tell you, that was really hard.) It was delicious and I knew I didn't need to feel guilty about this once a year treat, because it was just that, a treat. We ended the day with a trip out for Chinese food and while I didn't make a healthy decision about what I ate, I did decide to eat a smaller portion and bring the rest home to split with my son for lunch the next day.

Fighting Food Cravings

I was really fighting food cravings this week and I contribute that largely to stress and lack of sleep. I'm stressed out over the price-tag for my upcoming dental work and the pain is keeping me from getting a good night sleep. When it comes to food cravings I'm a firm believer ignoring them is not a good idea; that typically leads me to binge eating unhealthy food. I decided to go out and buy a loaf of bread to feed my carb cravings. I could have made a loaf, but sometimes I want the convenience of not having to make it myself. I was able to track down a loaf of bread that was unprocessed and I was surprised to find out it wasn't any more expensive than a regular loaf of bread. I ended up eating PB&J sandwiches for breakfast all week, slathered with my home made pumpkin pie spiced apple butter. 

Budget Impact

I didn't see an impact to our budget this week. My only extra expenditures were for a loaf of bread and a jar of natural peanut butter. This little splurge cost me under $6 and is something I may have bought anyway. Now apples being on sale for $0.68 per pound, that had a huge impact.  I bought nearly 30lbs so I could make caramel apples, apple pie filling, and more applesauce. That, however, wasn't related to October #Unprocessed... it was one of those deals you just can't pass up since we seldom see apples under $0.99 per pound.

Next Week:

We'll be having a Halloween party so I want to come up with several more #unprocessed party foods. I'll be making Roasted Red Pepper Hummus with pita chips and serving a cheese platter, but I want to try and unprocess my Caramelized Onion Dip recipe. All I need to do is make mayo from scratch, but that is something I've never done before. I'll also need to decide what I want to serve for dinner, we should probably be responsible adults and eat something other than the candy the kids bring home.

Tuesday
Oct212014

Tuesday Tea - October Selection Club - Simple Loose Leaf

This week we're taking a break from Fair Trade teas because I wanted to take a moment to tell you about the changes that are coming to Simple Loose Leaf, the tea subscription service I review each month. October will be the last month for the selection club, Simple Loose Leaf is rolling out a new plan called the tea co-op as well as a new online store.

The New Tea Co-op explained:

  • You'll receive a box each month with a ¼ ounce sample of each of the new teas featured in Simple Loose Leaf's online store. You can expect to receive 4 - 6 new teas each month.
  • After you sample the teas in your box you'll be able to order more from the new online store. As part of your membership you will receive a card with a discount code for 50% off your purchase in the online store (not including shipping.) 
  • All teas ordered from the online store will be charged flat rate shipping. It will be $3 in the US, and is estimated to be $5-7 for Canada (the exact price for Canadian shipping has yet to be determined)
  • The new Co-op membership will cost $15/month, $9.95 less than the current club. 
  • Your account will be charged on the 25th of the month and your sample box will ship out the 1st of the following month.  (i.e. Charged on October 25th and Shipped on November 1st.)

I'm excited to see that Simple Loose Leaf is finally offering a way for me to order more of the teas I've enjoyed from my monthly box. Check back next month for my first review of the new tea co-op and make sure to use the coupon code below if you're interested in signing up.

Where to Purchase: 

You can use coupon code NotStarvingYet for a 50% discount on your first month’s membership at Simple Loose Leaf 

October Selections:

Hojicha Green Tea 
Yunnan Jig Tea

White Pear
Pu'erh Spice Tea
Peppermint Herbal

Peppermint Herbal

Review:

There is something incredibly soothing about peppermint tea. That is why I always keep some on hand for those days when I'm stressed out or not feeling particularly well. It always manages to lighten my mood and set my stomach straight when I'm sick (or when I have eaten more than any one person should in one sitting.) Lately I've been drinking a cup after I take the pain medication my dentist prescribed, it helps ease the upset stomach it always gives me. Since peppermint is naturally caffeine-free it's the perfect late night drink so I often find myself having another cup before bed. A relaxing cup of hot tea is the perfect way to end a long day, although lately my toddler has been drinking more of my peppermint tea than I have. It's always been his favorite flavor.

My Rating: 80/100

Would I order this again? Yes! Peppermint is something I always keep on hand for when I'm sick, plus it's a great tea for children.

Disclosure:
In an effort to be open with my readers I want to let you know that Simple Loose Leaf has provided me with a free subscription to their service. As always, all opinions are my own. 
Sunday
Oct192014

Pumpkin Pie Spiced Apple Butter #Unprocessed

I really hadn't planned on buying more apples this week, but I made a last minute trip to the grocery store and discovered that they were on sale. I've never seen them priced so low and I may have been tempted to pick up a few (or possibly 12) pounds. After my marathon canning session last month where I spent my days turning 75 pounds of apples in to sauce I had decided I was done with canning for the year. Not because I was tired of canning, but because I ran out of jars. After turning my house upside down I found a few empty jars that I had been using for other purposes and decided the first project I wanted to cross off my list was apple butter. It's something that I haven't made it in years, but I felt like it was a great project to tackle for October #Unprocessed since one of my goals this month has been to reduce the amount of sugar in my diet.

Fruit butters such as apple butter, apricot butter, and vanilla bean peach butter are a great option for anyone wanting to reduce the amount of sugar in their diets. An entire batch of fruit butter uses 1 cup of sugar (or less) whereas jam or jelly will use as much as 5 cups per batch. It's definitely a much healthier option that will still allow you the occasional sweet treat. I've been enjoying mine on whole grain bread any time my craving for something sweet hits. These days I find that I don't even miss the extra sugar from jam or jelly, plus my house smells like fall every time I open up a jar. 

Apple Butter
makes 6 half-pints or 3 pints

Ingredients

7-8 lbs apples (I used Galla)
3 tablespoons home made pumpkin pie spice
1 vanilla bean
¾ cup light brown sugar or 1 cup of turbinado sugar

Equipment

immersion blender (optional)
water-bath canner or stock pot with lifter
6 half pint canning jars with lids and rings
jar grabber
magnetic lid lifter
funnel 
butter knife
ladle
clean dish towels and cloths 

Directions

  • Wash, peel, and slice apples. Place them in the crock-pot and cook on high with the lid on for 2 - 3 hours.
  • After 2 - 3 hours puree the partially cooked apples with an immersion blender or food processor, return the puree to the slow cooker. Continue cooking the apples for an additional 6 - 8 hours with the lid off.
  • After 6-8 hours the contents of the crock pot should have reduced roughly in half, if they have not you can continue to cook the apples down further. 
  • Open vanilla bean pod with a knife and scrape the insides into the apple butter. Add brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice and stir until well incorporated.
  • At this point you can fill your jars and keep them refrigerated for up to a month or process using the water bath canning directions below for storage of up to one year.
Canning Instructions
  • Sterilize your canning jars, rings, funnel, and any other equipment that will come into contact with the apple butter. You can do this easily by putting everything in the dishwasher and running it. Just don't put your equipment in with dirty dishes.
  • While your jars are sterilizing fill your stock pot with water and let it boil. It takes awhile for a large pot of water to boil, so keep this in mind. You don't want to fill your jars before your water is ready.
  • Once you're ready to fill your jars, place a sauce pan on the stove. Add your canning lids and fill pan with several inches of water. Bring the water to a simmer and allow the sealing wax on the lids to soften for several minutes.
  • Fill sterilized jars with hot apple butter leaving ¼ inch head space at the top. Remove air bubbles with a knife, wipe the rims with a clean damp rag, place lids on top and fasten ring until fingertip tight.
  • Place sealed jars on a rack in the canner or stock pot. Make sure jars are covered with water and that the waterline is about an inch over the top of the jars, then cover pot with lid.

You do not want the jars coming into contact with the bottom of the canner or stock pot because they will bounce around and likely break.

Processing times for this recipe are 10 minutes for elevations of 0-1,000 ft and 15 minutes for elevations of 1,001-6,000 ft. These times are for quarter-pints, half-pints and pints only. 
  • Process half pints and pints for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Time starts once the water has come to a complete boil again. You may need to add boiling water to keep the water level up as the jars are processing.
  • Remove jars from canner, set on a clean dish towel, and let them rest for several hours until cool. You should hear a popping sound as the lids seal. 
  • To check the seals of your jars press the center gently with your finger. If it moves up and down the jar is not sealed. You can either reprocess using a new lid never reuse an old lid or once the jar is cool, eat the apple butter. You know you want to and you deserve the treat after such hard work!
  • Label with detailed contents and date, then store in a cool, dark, and dry place.

Other Notes

I decided to use Galla apples for this recipe because they are naturally sweet which meant I could use less sugar. If you use another variety, especially one that is tart, you may need to increase the amount of sugar. 

If you're new to canning and want a more in-depth tutorial I highly recommend purchasing the most recent edition of the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving and Canning. It's full of helpful tips, recipes, and best practices to follow when canning.

Disclosure

This posts contains my Amazon affiliate links. I try to keep advertising unobtrusive and to a minimum in order to provide you with the best experience possible. Please keep in mind that this is a necessary evil to cover my expenses in running this blog so I can continue to provide you with quality content.