Saturday, February 23, 2013

Star Fruit Magic Wands

This is a fun little project I dreamed up for my daughter's upcoming 6th birthday party. It is fast, pretty, and best of all, kids love the magic wand effect. What can I say? Kids love edible things that look like non-edible things.

Here's the scoop.

Star Fruit Magic Wands
Makes 6-8 magic wands

2 large star fruits

6-8 6" bamboo skewers, ideally the kind with one pointy end and one blunt end

Wash the star fruits, then slice into 3/4" thick slices. (You will have a couple of end pieces that don't work as snack away on those!)

Insert the pointy end of the skewer into the bottom part of the star on the star fruit slice, about 1" deep.

Serve immediately, or for a colder popsicle-style treat, let the star fruit magic wands chill in the freezer for 20 minutes.

For a serving suggestion, consider a stout vase or two filled with glass pebbles or marbles, to hold the wands in place so that the magic wand star design really stands out!


What simple kids' birthday party ideas have you been trying out lately?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Dairy Free Paleo Cream Cheese, and Raspberry Cheesecake Truffles

Ever since we figured out that my youngest daughter had dramatic behavioral and developmental improvement when we cut dairy out of our diet, she has been dairy-free. Since I'm still in the home stretch of nursing her - now usually just a couple of times a day - I too have kept myself dairy free, since many problematic food proteins are able to pass through mothers' breastmilk. I've valued the experience for the fact that it has forced me to become much more inventive - and to have a solid understanding of how the dairy-free alternatives I craft taste for my youngest daughter.

Some things were easier to give up than others. I have not missed milk much. But pastured butter and ghee? Ohhhh, how I miss those. Another thing I've greatly missed is the class of ultra-rich full fat cultured cheeses, like mascarpone and cream cheese. Luckily, I recently came up with a cream cheese substitute that is based entirely in whole foods. I am proud to share that basic dairy-free cream cheese recipe - and to show you one example of how it can be adapted and applied in the creation of a decadent dessert!

Here is the basic cream cheese recipe. When the basic recipe is made as shown below, it will not be sweet - it will be fairly thick, and have the very tangy creamyness associated with plain full fat cream cheese.

Basic Dairy-Free Cream Cheese
Makes roughly 1 cup

2/3 cup raw organic cashew butter
1/3 cup organic palm shortening
2 tsp. raw organic apple cider vinegar (this is available at most grocery stores now for around $3.50/bottle)
1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. ground sea salt

Combine all ingredients at room temperature using a mixer, stand mixer, or powerful blender. The longer you whip, the smoother your mix will be. If desired, add in the vinegar and lemon juice to the mix slowly, tasting as you go, to customize your desired level of tanginess.


Now, let's kick it up a notch in a easy-to-come-together special dessert: Raspberry Cheesecake Truffles. These puppies are so rich and deliciously satisfying, most folks enjoying them as a post-meal dessert will probably be content to savor one truffle in all its glory. I love the Cadbury-egg-style-surprise factor of biting into these and hitting a gorgeous, juicy raspberry!

Dairy-Free Raspberry Cheesecake Truffles
Makes 8 Truffles


  • 1 batch "Basic Dairy-Free Cream Cheese", as shown above
  • 1/3 c. maple syrup (this can be adjusted to taste/sweetness preference, or omitted altogether)
  • 1/2 tbsp. vanilla extract

  • 8 fresh raspberries


Melt 4 oz. of the chocolate, either using a double boiler or warming in the microwave for 2 minutes at half power. When the chocolate is melted, stir it with a clean, dry spoon until it's entirely smooth. Using a standard table spoon, spoon a couple of spoonfuls of the melted chocolate into each of the cavities of the silicone mold you've chosen to use. Use the back of the same spoon to push the melted chocolate up the walls of the cavities, so that the melted chocolate comes all the way along the sides to the top of each cavity in the mold. Wait 5 minutes, then repeat the process, so that the remaining still-melted chocolate at the bottom is pushed along and clings to the hardened chocolate on the walls of the cavities.

Add maple syrup and vanilla to the cream cheese batch and whip the cream cheese mix until smooth. The consistency will be like barely-warmed butter. Spoon 1/2 teaspoon of the cream cheese mix into the bottom of the silicone mold's chocolate-coated cavities. Press 1 fresh raspberry into the center of the cream cheese cheese mix in each cavity, then top each raspberry with another 1/2 teaspoon of the cream cheese mix. Put the silicone mold in the freezer for at least half an hour - the surface of the cream cheese mix must become very cold and firm up just a bit before adding the last bit of melted chocolate on top.

Once the cream cheese is sufficiently cold and firm, melt the remainder of the chocolate. Remove the silicone mold from the freezer, and spoon the melted chocolate onto the top of the cream cheese mix in each cavity until the chocolate covers the cream cheese entirely and is the melted chocolate is level with the top of the cavity.

Place silicone mold in the fridge until chocolate sets fully. Very gently, peel back the silicone as you ease each truffle out of its cavity. Serve within 24 hours of creation - so the raspberries are at their juicy best!


Truffle Adaptations and Other Suggestions

  • Try other fresh berries (strawberries, blueberries, etc.) or small pieces of fresh fruit in place of the raspberry.
  • If you like, you can make these with unsweetened dark chocolate, or stevia-sweetened dark chocolate, and the truffles will then be entirely free of refined sugars. In our house, I used both Scharffen Berger's unsweetened 99% (I buy mine at Wegmans) and Enjoy Life allergen-friendly chocolate chips with great success.
  • If you or your loved ones are nut-free, you could easily substitute unsweetened organic sunflower seed butter for the cashew butter above when making your batch of "cream cheese" for the truffles. You will not get the same cream-cheese flavor effect, but instead of cheesecake bites, you'll end up with what I'd call sunbutter-and-raspberry-jam truffles. Yum!
  • If you want sweetness in your cream cheese mix without adding the carbs from maple syrup, you could add just a few drops of organic stevia extract instead.
  • As shown in the top photo, you can skip the chocolate aspect of the dessert entirely, in favor of spooning the sweetened vanilla-added cream cheese mix over fresh berries in a pretty bowl. This makes a simpler, faster, colorfully fresh option for a company dessert!

What dairy-free alternatives have you been enjoying lately?


This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Shopping Amazon through Primal Kitchen affiliate links supports Primal Kitchen at no additional cost to you, so thank you!!

Friday, February 8, 2013

On The Folly and Heartache of Perfectionism

There's a lot of hullabaloo on the paleosphere right now about an eyebrow-raising study, in which the lead content of bone broth made from organic chickens was found to be roughly 10 times more concentrated than in the tap water used to make the same broth - and the researchers say that this because bones are where lead is sequestered in the body. Of course, since our family eats a lot of soups made from homemade broth, you can imagine my panicky gut (no pun intended) reaction to this revelation. However, I am trying to not. freak. out. First of all, I know next to nothing about a) the source journal in which this study was published, and b) about lead concentration levels and their associated dangers. Secondly (and I thank God for this), there are so many brilliant minds heading up the real food community - many of whom are MDs and PhDs, so I am looking forward to reading their blogs' soon-to-be posted analyses of the study's data. That's not to say that I should not research and come to conclusions of my own, but so often I appreciate some dots being connected for me due to my lack of professional or educational expertise.

Still, my heart was heavy yesterday afternoon as I tried to soak up yet another situation where I thought I was doing well by my daughters, but ended up with at best a murky conclusion. After all, hang around the interwebs long enough, and you'll find that there's a conviction rendered against just about anything you can put in your mouth...spend any time searching specifically for dietary interventions for neurological disorders (as with my daughter's sensory processing and speech delay issues), and you're down an even deeper rabbit hole of often conflicting nutritional advice.

So, what am I now to do? I think, mostly, to remember Teddy Roosevelt's advice:
"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."

That is the most that I can do as a mother. Ya know better, ya do better. So for the next week or so, I will suspend bone broth from our diets until further conclusions can be reached. In the meantime, I rely heavily on grace to sustain us where my well-intentioned dietary decisions have failed or may fail in the future.

There may not be a perfect dietary plan to support my daughter and her quirks; we may be tinkering with what helps her or hinders her for years to come. But, I'd like to think that despite the trial and error, in the aggregate, over time, we are averaging an uphill climb.

By this, I mean to say that even though there may be hiccups over food sourcing, contamination (besides this current lead/broth imbroglio, as with arsenic in rice, chicken, and apple juice), trying to make decisions over what is worth buying organic and what is not...on average, our choices have improved. I may not witness this week to week or even month to month, but I can testify to that improvement when looking over years.

You'll recall from a previous post of mine that I was once an extreme couponer. Here is one example of one of my coupon runs...I think this one cost me somewhere around $25. This run happened somewhere around 2008, if memory serves me rightly.

I was laughing to myself today as I pulled into our driveway after a trip to Wegmans. I thought to myself how fun it would be to recreate a grocery run lineup on our front porch...4 years (give or take) later!

Boy, I wish I could say this run had cost me $25...ha!

Side note: Having practiced extreme couponing, I did not walk away from it having learned nothing. Am I still using my savings strategies? You bet. At Wegmans today, I put most of our dollars to the "highest value added" items that we eat: organic meats and vegetables. (We also like to save by purchasing naturally raised meats from local farmers in bulk, but we are between bulk orders right now.) Apples and pears, coconut milk, and jarred pasta sauces rounded out the run. I picked up that butterflied organic leg of lamb because it was marked half off, and my organic chicken drumsticks were selected because they were the cheapest in cost per pound of organic chicken meat, as compared to breasts, wings, and whole chickens. I bought organic grassfed beef chuck roasts and ground beef, similarly, because those are cheapest per pound.
It does not take a rocket scientist to conclude - especially when comparing the two pictures above - that the ongoing habit of improving thousands of tiny little decisions over the course of days, weeks, months, adds up to a very different health trajectory in the long run. I may not ever know precisely the optimal foods to feed my family, but I certainly know that the bottom photo comes a whole lot closer to that elusive ideal than does the my grocery run from the top photo. (I do find it very funny that the only commonality between the two pictures is bacon.)

So take it to heart: Even if you have arrived at the point of delving deeper into your choices, and you are starting to feel confused, know that a handful of big decisions (avoiding sugar, for one) will have the greatest impact for your family. Yes, there are plenty of more minor decisions that remain for my family to research and tinker, but, instead of feeling the immense pressure of perfectionism, I try to rest in God's grace to keep us humming along, and thank Him for the progress that we've been able to make thus far.

Do you have a before/after grocery picture that you like to use as a reminder of how far you have come?

Edit to add: Chris Kresser published his first take on bone broth / lead here. It is a worthwhile read, and I definitely recommend following Kresser's site and other major players' sites in the next week or so to see what other information comes to light.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...