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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

100% Pure WINNERS + Broccoli Cheese Soup

Thank you to everyone who entered and shared the giveaway this past week!  I hope you all have enjoyed getting to know 100% Pure.  Be sure to bookmark their website!

We have TWO lucky winners of the 100% Pure Black Tea fruit pigmented mascara.  Congratulations to our winners: KristenB and Natalie Bean!!!  Please email me with your mailing address and your tube of Black Tea mascara will be on its way to you by tomorrow.

Now, I need to answer Cortney B.'s question:

"I  am looking for ideas for broccoli cheese soup.  I used to use Velveeta.  Any suggestions on how I can alter it for either Core or Advanced Plan?"  - Cortney B., Wyoming
I've been working on perfecting my broccoli cheese soup quite recently actually, just as Courtney wrote in.  I like to add quinoa to mine, which will thicken the soup up quite a bit, but makes it hearty and filling.  Adding the protein of quinoa also makes this soup a complete meal on its own!  Alternatively, you can leave the quinoa out for a thinner soup.  Replace with shredded chicken or white beans to make this a whole meal.

Broccoli Cheese Soup
Makes 6 Servings

3 cups organic broccoli florets (I used frozen)
1 Tbsp raw butter or coconut oil
1 cup yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup dry organic quinoa (I like the tri-color, but any color is fine)
4 cups sodium-free organic vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups organic unsweetened almond milk
Sea salt and fresh pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground thyme
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 cups raw cheddar cheese, shredded

1.)  If you prefer, chop the broccoli into bite-sized pieces now and set aside.  (I leave mine whole.)  In a large saucepan over Medium heat, add the butter and onion and saute until soft, about 8-12 minutes. Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil.

2.)  Rinse the quinoa until water runs clear, then add to boiling vegetable stock.  Reduce heat to Medium-Low.  Stir in broccoli, cover, and simmer for about 16-20 minutes, until quinoa is tender.

3.)  Puree the cooked mixture with an immersion blender or carefully in a standing blender. (I don't puree mine, I like the quinoa and broccoli texture.  However this soup is traditionally prepared smooth.)  Return the soup to the saucepan and add the almond milk, garlic powder, ground thyme, Worcestershire sauce and nutmeg.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  Reheat the soup on Low heat, being careful not to boil it.  When the soup is hot, stir in the cheese until just melted and serve immediately.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Enter the 100% Pure Giveaway!!!

Just a reminder that we're currently in the middle of a giveaway!  100% Pure has donated two of their all-natural fruit pigmented mascara in Black Tea color!  By the way, I forgot to mention this before, it has a very low toxicity rating on the Cosmetic Database of 2.  Remember, we want to stay at 2 or below for all of our makeup and body care products to lessen the toxic burden our bodies take on a daily basis.

Don't forget to enter the giveaway!  You can read about qualifying and enter here.  Good luck!  TWO winners will be announced next Tuesday morning!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: July 25, 2012

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Product Review + GIVEAWAY: 100% Pure

It's about time for another giveaway here at Healing Cuisine, wouldn't you say??  The company I am introducing you to today is 100% Pure, and I am completely in love with their products!  In fact I have switched over and now almost all of my make up products are from 100% Pure.  (I am still partial to my MiEssence for face care and concealer, but I still give two thumbs up to the purity and quality of 100% Pure's face care lines!)

I hadn't heard of 100% Pure until earlier this year.  I remember reading an article in a magazine about it and was intrigued to learn that they are the only US company to use patent-pending technology using fruit pigments and extracts to color their products naturally.  From there, I visited their website, talked with friends about their products who were long time users, and eventually I had to email the company for more information and to talk with someone about setting up a giveaway for you guys -- because you have to learn about 100% Pure, this company that is taking care of women and the toxic burden placed on our bodies by society!


100% Pure is an organic cosmetic company that has over 500 different cosmetic products (categories: fruit pigmented cosmetics (patented/patents pending), skincare, bath & body products and haircare).  The company is still a baby, having launched in California just 7 years ago in 2005, but the business is growing rapidly due to the high demand for their natural products.

100% Pure’s vision began when Susie Wang partnered with her boyfriend Ric Kostick and her brother, James Wang, because she became disillusioned while working as a skincare formulator for some of the world’s largest cosmetic companies.  Wang discovered how toxic some of the chemicals were that are commonly used in cosmetic formulas when formulating an eye cream and a chemical spilled onto the lab table and eroded it.  Shocked at how harsh this chemical was, Wang got passionate about creating a line that is truly 100% Pure...a line that is free of harsh detergents, artificial fragrances, chemical preservatives or any other toxins.

100% Pure formulas are vegan (or vegetarian when honey is used), never tested on animals and the makeup brushes are made from synthetic fibers instead of the traditional fur that most makeup brushes are made from.  100% Pure is a green company - all formulas are biodegradable and packaged with environmentally friendly materials such as post consumer recycled soda cans, recycled water bottles, bamboo pulp, recycled paper and recycled glass.  All printing is done with non toxic vegetable ink on all packaging, catalogs and other marketing materials.  ((I LOVE THIS!!))

While picking blackberries one summer in her organic garden, Wang discovered how beautifully the berries stained her skin which gave her the idea of using these healthy pigments in cosmetics.  Recently patented in the EU with China and US to follow, 100% Pure is the only cosmetic company that uses fruit and vegetable pigments to color cosmetics.  The benefit of fruit and vegetable pigments versus the other traditional ways of coloring cosmetics (synthetic dyes or minerals) is that fruit and vegetable pigments contain an abundance of antioxidants and vitamins.  ((This is why I have switched to my eye shadow, lip gloss, mascara..etc..all from 100% Pure))

fruit pigmented, truly natural

I've got to tell you, I am very, very, very picky about my eye make up and especially mascara.  I was born with a permanently clogged tear duct in one eye and without one in my other eye.  My eyes are unable to cycle and filter their tears, so my eyes are very sensitive to allergens and chemicals.  I can tell within just minutes of applying mascara whether it will affect my eyes or not.  Basically I have never been able to wear much makeup or mascara.  I've tried all the "natural" brands.  To date, MiEssence had been the only brand that was pure enough that I could wear their mascara for an entire day with little issues.  That was until I discovered 100% Pure's mascara!

The company was so kind to send me a tube of their Black Tea Mascara to sample and test on my sensitive eyes.  I tested it out for the first time on a day I knew Austin and I would be home all day, in case of an adverse reaction.  I knew I probably had nothing to worry about after reading the ingredients of the mascara (read them here) - everything listed was natural, organic, and I didn't see any vague terms that could be away to hide something bad (always gotta watch out for that!).  After trying it out, I can't tell you how ecstatic I am about this mascara!!!

First of all, when you open it up, it smells like blackberries with a hint of coffee!  I had no reactions at all after applying.  I am able to wear this mascara all day, multiple days in a row, with no pain or reaction.  And by my personal standards, that means this product is pretty darn close to being a whole food (not far off for sure after reviewing their ingredients!)!  When wearing it, you barely notice it's on your lashes because it is so light and soft.  I swear my eye lashes are healthier now after a month of using the Black Tea Mascara, too!

I am so happy to have a honest, natural mascara that I can actually wear.  This mascara seems to give a good fullness and lengthening affect that we women want for our peepers.  The brush really adds to the lengthening effect.  It is a unique shape, and actually has a wave to it.  Oh yeah, and no clumping!!  All other natural mascaras usually clump on me and I have to comb through to get the right look.  Not the Black Tea Mascara.  It glides on perfectly, even with two coats!  I am very satisfied and will continue to use this product every day!  And check it out.  Yes, I did an infomercial-esque before & after shot.  ;)


All eyes are on you now!  100% Pure also sent me 2 Black Tea Mascaras to giveaway to two of you!

The Giveaway Contest will run from Tuesday July 24th until Monday July 30th at 11:59pm.  I will use Random.org to select the winner and announce it here at Healing Cuisine at 9:00am on Tuesday July 31st!  TWO lucky winners (open to U.S. and Canada residents only) will receive a full size tube of 100% Pure's Black Tea fruit pigment mascara.


Leave a comment below for each of the ways you chose to enter.*  (If you have already done one of the following in the past, it still counts as an entry this time! - e.g. "I'm already a follower of Healing Cuisine on Twitter."  Simply leave me a comment below stating it and your entry still counts!)

        -  (1 entry)  'Like' 100% Pure and tell Susie Wang which product of 100% Pure's you love most (or are most excited to try) on their Wall

        -  (1 entry) Follow Healing Cuisine on Twitter  (my handle: @EliseJSchwartz)

        -  (1 entry)  Follow Healing Cuisine via Google Friend Connect, leave the name/username you subscribed as in your entry

        -  (2 entries)  Subscribe to this blog via email (located on right column), leave the email address you subscribed as in your entry

        -  (2 entries)  'Like' this post on Facebook

        -  (2 entries per day)  Tweet this daily:  “Healing Cuisine giving away @100percentpure fruit pigment Black Tea #Mascara! Enter today! http://www.healingcuisinebyelise.com/2012/07/product-review-giveaway-100-pure.html @EliseJSchwartz #giveaway"

*All winners entries will be verified.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

How To: Blackberry / Raspberry Jam

I had to finish this natural pectin series with a classic jam recipe.  This is another Advanced Plan suitable jam, Blackberry Jam!  You can also switch out the blackberries equally with raspberries or blueberries.  Delicioso!

Blackberry Jam (or Raspberry, or Blueberry Jam)
Makes 4 half pint jars

3 lbs (10 cups) organic blackberries, washed and shaken dry
2 1/4 cups xylitol
Juice of 1 organic orange (rind reserved)

4-5 sanitized half pint jars and lids
1 muslin bag or tea ball

1.)  Mash the berries and decide if you want seeded or seedless jam.  If you prefer seedless, run the berries through a mesh strainer or sieve (You can also add some of the strained berry pulp back to the mix if you want a slightly seedy jam).  Combine the berries, xylitol and orange juice in a large non-reactive pot.  Chop the reserved orange find and put in a muslin bag / tea ball.  Place bag in pot, cover, and set on counter for 3-6 hours.

2.)  Place pot over High heat on stove and bring to a boil.  Skim off any foam along the way.  Stir constantly until jam reaches setting point, around 218 - 222 degrees F (use a candy thermometer).  Test the jam using the ice cube test (hold a spoonful of the jam over an ice cube for a minute or so and see how well it gels.  If it doesn't form a giggly skin, it needs to boil a few minutes longer.  Test again until gel point is reached).

3.)  Remove bag of orange rind and discard.  Ladle jam into jars leaving 1/4 inch room at top for air.  Push out air bubbles with a spatula.  Put lids on and place jars in pot of boiling water for 10 minutes.  Remove jars and set on counter to cool.  Check lids for proper seal after about 15 minutes before dumping out hot pot of water from the stove.

How To: Rhubarb Jam

This is the third jam recipe as part of our pectin discussion.   You may like to check out the past two Advanced Plan jam recipes for Strawberry Jam and Cherry Jam.  Today we're using rhubarb, another low glycemic fruit (well technically it's a vegetable, but most people call it a fruit, kind of the opposite of a tomato...).  This jam is very low in sugar, and by carb count, you can have about a 2 Tablespoon serving if you are on the Advanced Plan.  I add a bit of honey, because it needs the little bit of sugar to make the pectin gel up.  Rhubarb has so little sugar in it naturally that we need to add some to move the process along.

Both Dave and I grew up with bushes of rhubarb in our backyards.  I think it's a pretty common thing to grow in Michigan (maybe the northern mid-west) if you have the room for it.  If you asked Dave what his favorite pie is, he'll always tell you his mom's strawberry-rhubarb custard pie.  You just don't find fresh rhubarb down south like we had in Michigan or Minnesota.  There is maybe a couple week opportunity at the grocery store when I can find it tender and perfectly ripe.  When I do, I clear out the shelf and make what I can so Dave can have a taste of home.

This jam is one I made while living in Minneapolis a few years ago.  You get a subtle sweetness from the honey to balance out the tart bite of the rhubarb.  We mix it with fresh strawberries and granola for a refreshing strawberry-rhubarb breakfast.  Or we spoon it over pannukakku for a rhubarb-custard dessert.

Rhubarb Jam
Makes 4 half pint jars

6 cups (2 pounds) diced organic rhubarb
1 cup raw honey
1 cup xylitol (I used powdered to ensure it dissolves)
Juice of 1 lemon (reserve the rinds)

4-5 sanitized half pint jars
a muslin bag or tea ball

1.)  Combine diced rhubarb, honey, xylitol, and lemon juice in a non-reactive pot.  Stir and combine.  Chop the reserved lemon rind and place it in the muslin bag / tea ball.  Add the bag to the pot, cover, and place in fridge for 24 hours.

2.)  Remove pot from the fridge, stir, and place over High heat.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Continue to boil while stirring until setting point is reached, between 218 - 222 degrees F (use a candy thermometer).  Do the ice cube test to check the gel consistency (hold a spoonful of the jam over an ice cube for a minute or so.  If it wrinkles up and gels to your preference, it's ready to can.  If not, continue to boil for a few more minutes and recheck.)

3.) Ladle jam into jars, leaving 1/4 inch space at the top for air.  Push out bubbles with a spatula.  Place lids on jars and place in a pot of boiling water for 10 minutes.  Remove from pot and set on counter to cool.  I check the lids for proper seal after about 15 minutes before I dump out the hot water pot from the stove.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Traditional Strawberry Jam (Sugar-Free!)

I can't wait until my son is old enough that we can go strawberry picking together.  He's not quite there for this season's round, but I'm hoping next year he'll be able to enjoy it.  I also can't wait until he's a little older so I can teach him how to make this classic strawberry jam!  It's a favorite of ours.  I usually double this batch (if we have enough berries for it) and keep a few jars for the freezer since we use the jam so frequently.  The rest of the jars are boiled and sealed for the pantry.

I actually use this jam mostly for flavoring other recipes throughout the rest of the year when strawberries are called for.  Sometimes it's a few spoonfuls in smoothies or baked goods, but I think the recipe I make the most using this strawberry jam is a strawberry vinaigrette for our salads.  Year round, it's an easy way to get a little taste of summer on your plate!

This recipe is part of the pectin discussion we started on Tuesday.  I'm sharing my four favorite jam recipes with you that don't require added commercial pectin.  This recipe (and yesterday's Sour Cherry Jam) is sugar-free, commercial pectin-free, and Advanced Plan friendly!

Strawberry Jam
Makes 5 half pint jars

6 cups chopped organic strawberries, ripe (can be fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup chopped organic strawberries, unripe
2 cups xylitol (I use powdered to make sure it dissolves)
Juice from 1 organic orange, saving the peel and rind

Large tea strainer or muslin bag
5-6 sanitized half pint jars and lids

1.) Put the chopped strawberries, xylitol and orange juice in a large stock pot.  Chop the orange rinds and peels finely.  Place into the tea ball or muslin bag and add it to the stock pot.  Bring to a boil over High heat, stirring constantly.  Strawberries tend to foam, just skim off any foam and discard as it boils. 

2.)  Reduce heat to Medium-High and continue to boil until the jam sets.  When the jam reaches a temperature of 218 - 222 degrees F, do the ice cube test to see if it sets as you wish.  (take a small spoonful of jam and hold it over an ice cube for a minute or so.)  If the jam on the spoon has formed a skin that wrinkles when you push it, the jam is set.  Use a candy thermometer to monitor the jam temperature.

3.) Ladle the hot jam into jars leaving 1/4 inch of space at the top of the jar for air (push out air bubbles using a spatula).  Screw on the lids and process jars in boiling water for 10 minutes.  Remove jars from counter, set on counter to cool, and check after 15 minutes to make sure they all sealed properly.

How To: Cherry Jam

I hope you enjoyed our discussion on pectin and jams/jellies on Tuesday.  I am excited to share some of my favorite jam recipes with you, most of which will be Advanced Plan approved!  If you have a tried and true jam or jelly recipe to share that you love, please share it with me!  I am looking for guests to share their recipes on upcoming posts!  Email me: elise@healingcuisinebyelise.com

When I was growing up, we had a big sour cherry tree in our backyard.  Actually, I should clarify that.  It was in our neighbor's yard, but most of the branches hung over into our yard.  I didn't appreciate sour cherries then.  Every summer I went over to the tree as the cherries were turning blush red and nibbled into one.  And every summer I spit it out because it was sooo sour.  I opted to walk to my grandpa and grandma's house and climb up their black cherry tree and enjoy their stash.

Fast forward to today...oh how I wish I had access to fresh sour cherries in my back yard.  I love to make a sour cherry jam.  It's actually quite good over vanilla ice cream!  We also enjoy it over toasted coconut bread with butter.
Cherry Jam
Makes 5 half pint jars

6 cups organic sour cherries, pitted and halved
3 cups xylitol (I use powdered to ensure it dissolves)
1-2 cups fruit bodied organic red wine (CORE PLAN ONLY and completely optional!  I got this tip from a girlfriend a couple years ago.  It adds a third layer of flavor to the jam, makes it extra exciting on the tongue. )
4 organic Granny Smith apples or 6 crabapples, as under-ripe as you can find
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (reserve rinds and pits)
Rinds and pits of 2 lemons

1 large muslin bag or tea strainer
5-6 sanitized half pint jars & lids

1.) Put the sour cherries, lemon juice, xylitol, and optional wine in a large non reactive stock pot. Chop the apples roughly, leaving cores intact.  Place the chopped apple and lemon pits in a large muslin bag or giant tea ball (so you can remove from the pot later, after pectin is released).  Add to the pot, hooking off to the handle of the pot.  Bring mixture to a rolling boil over High heat while stirring and cook for 10 minutes, or until xylitol is completely dissolved.  Apple pieces should start to soften a bit, too. Remove from heat, cover and place in the fridge overnight.  The pectin will extract more as it sits.

2.)  The next day, put pot back over High heat and bring to a full boil.  Stir constantly until the jam begins to thicken and set -- around 220 degrees F (I use a candy thermometer clipped to the pot to test the jam temperature throughout cooking).   Once you reach 218-220 degrees F, it's time to do the ice cube test.  Take a spoonful of jam and hold it over an ice cube until the cube cools the jam.  (You can also use a plate pulled from the freezer.)  Once jam is cooled down, test its texture on the spoon.  If it has gelled to your preference, remove jam from heat, take out the bag of apple/lemon pulp,  and begin jarring it.  If it's still too wiggly/watery, boil a few minutes longer and repeat the test until you get the consistency you'd like.

3.)  I seal my jars right away.  Fill the jars, apply the lids, and place them into a pot of boiling water for 10 minutes.  Remove from the water carefully and set on counter to cool.  Before dumping out the hot water from the pot, I always check the lids after 15 minutes to make sure they sealed properly.  This jam will store on the shelf for up to 5 years.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: July 18, 2012

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Questions Answered: Is Pectin Healthy?

I could tell strawberry season came early this year to just about every region of North America because I got emails from so many of you from all over the continent within the same two days!  You were all wondering the same things -- what is pectin?, is it healthy?, is it part of a low-sugar whole food lifestyle, and can you make jam without pectin?

I've got to be honest.  I didn't know there was such a debate going on about the use of pectin.  But once I started to look into it, all the forums and chats started coming up in my online search.  It seems like a lot of us are confused about pectin and its role in our food, both naturally and synthetically.  So it's time to clear things up.  Let's get started!  (You can also skip to the end and read my SUMMARY version if you're looking for the quick version... :)


Naturally occurring pectin is a soluble fiber found in many fruits and plants.  Pectin is a great example of a natural polymer, and is composed of pectic acid and pectinic acid molecules.  It is basically a compound with a bunch of sugars and acids attached to it. (I always find the chemical structure fun!)  Every plant contains some amount, sometimes just a very small amount, of pectin.  In the plant/fruit, pectin is the material that joins the plant cells together.  Citrus peels contain the highest amount of pectin, followed by tart apples, citrus pulp, and carrots.  When heated with more sugar and acid (often lemon juice or vinegar), pectin causes a thickening that is characteristic to jellies and jams.

Like most things in today's society, you can find pectin commercially in both natural and synthetic forms.  Pectin is commonly used as a thickener in foods like jam and jelly, but you may also find it in commercial drinks, yogurt and a variety of other foods, medications, and supplements.  You won't necessarily see it on the ingredients label of a commercial product because it can be grouped under "natural flavors."  In this case, it most likely comes from unripened crabapples or turnips, but the pectin may not be pure.  It can be mixed with preservatives or other chemicals to make it "work better."  You can also buy natural and/or synthetic pectin in a powder or gel form for use in homemade jams/jellies/baked goods.


Yes, generally naturally occurring pectin is a healthy thing.  It is a dietary fiber which the human body cannot absorb, so it passes through us.  Fiber offers a lot of health benefits, such as keeping the colon healthy, preventing blood glucose spike, and reducing IBS or other intestinal health issues.

Because pectin is widely used as a thickener in commercial food preparation, people often wonder how much is too much?  Because it is naturally found in fruits and vegetables already, pectin consumption does not typically cause side effects.  But, like you may expect, consuming too much pectin may result in stomach pain, digestive issues, or diarrhea.  Over consumption of pectin may also prevent your digestive tract from absorbing your food's nutrients.


One of the biggest confusions I've found about pectin is what it's purpose is in jams/jellies.  A lot of folks think you need to use pectin when making homemade jam or jelly because it prolongs the preservation period.  The truth is, pectin has no affect on the preservation time frame.  Adding pectin to jam or jelly (or anything) only affects the gelling of the end product.  It makes for a thicker, glossier spread.  You can get away with making homemade jams or jellies without adding extra pectin to it.  Can your jars as normal for a long shelf life, multiple years safely.  Or store your jars of jam in the freezer for up to a year.

Remember, all fruit naturally contains pectin.  Some fruits contain more than others.  (The pectin content in all fruit is also generally higher when fruit is just barely ripe and diminishes as it matures from fully ripe to overripe.)  If you're not planning to enter your jam in a county fair contest or the like, you can probably get away with a slightly runnier texture by leaving the extra pectin out.  Or simply boil the jam longer to thicken it naturally by breaking down the pectin already within the fruit.  That's the old fashioned way of doing it anyway!

Here is a handy chart to help you remember which fruits have the most pectin and can boil down to a gel on their own, and which fruits need added pectin to gel up into a jam/jelly texture:

 Fruit Pectin Content Chart


So how does pectin fit in to our way of eating?  Natural pectin is mostly fiber and bonds together with a little bit of sugar.  The sugar is what allows it to gel up and set.  Natural pectin that you consume in your fruit/veggies is okay on the Core Plan, but you'll want to consume as little pectin as possible on the Advanced Plan -- we already know which fruits are okay for lowest sugar content, and not to go overboard on those fruits.  It's important to watch the natural pectin intake as well, especially in the initial phase of the Advanced Plan.  Pectin is essentially a complex sugar and it can aggravate your GI tract while your body goes through changes and healing.

If you're looking to use commercial pectin, you'll have to read the ingredients closely.  There is a wide range of commercially made pectins.  Some contain dextrose, a chemically derived sugar from corn.  Some pectin brands are "sugar-free" but you'll note that they often contain artificial sweeteners.  And many contain other fillers and chemicals.  Read closely!  All of these are no-no's while following a Maximized Living or whole-food lifestyle.

Personally, I don't buy anything that uses synthetic ingredients.  This includes the use of synthetic pectin or commercial pectin.  While you can buy pectin in powder or gel form from the store, in my opinion it undermines the purpose of making a whole-food organic product which is free of synthetic additives at home.  Even if you're buying a pure commercial pectin, you have no idea of the toxic load from pesticides/herbicides used on the fruit it was extracted from.  To most optimally stick to your Advanced or Core eating plan, you'll want to use completely natural, and organic if possible, pectin in your jams and jellies.  You can easily make homemade pectin from apples, lemons, or oranges.  Or you can forgo the use of extra pectin in your recipes at all.

Our wedding favors...please ignore the jelly beans.  :)
When Dave and I got married in August 2008, we gave away 250 jars of jam and marmalade as our wedding favors (pictured to the right).  I spent the year of 2007-2008 making those jars of jam in my tiny studio apartment's "kitchen", a batch of 12 jars every other weekend or so.  At that time I didn't know the difference between synthetic and natural pectin, and I wasn't following a 5 Essentials lifestyle then either.  But I made my own pectin to save money, and because I had read in a cookbook that it made for a better tasting jam than using a powdered pectin.  Here is the recipe I used -- it calls for Granny Smith Apples (Advanced Plan approved!):


Green Apple Pectin

3 lbs under-ripe organic Granny Smith Apples, unpeeled, uncored, chopped
filtered water
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1.)  Add the chopped (but unpeeled and uncored) apples to a large stock pot.  Add enough water to cover.  Add the lemon juice.  Bring to a boil over High heat.

2.)  Cover, reduce heat and boil for about 2 hours, or until the apples are mushy and the mixture looks like apple sauce with skins floating in it.  Stir as needed to prevent sticking.

3.)  Carefully strain mixture into a large bowl through a large strainer lined with doubled cheesecloth, a clean tea towel, or a jelly bag.   Don't smash or scrape the apple mixture through as you'll get a cloudy pectin, but rather let gravity do the work and let the moisture drip through.  What drips down should be almost clear liquid and slightly slimy to the touch.  That is the pectin!  Let it drip over night.

4.)  Discard strained apple skins and bits.  Return the apple liquid to the stock pot and bring to a boil for  30-40 minutes.  The mixture will reduce by about a third.

4.)  Pour into sanitized jars and store in fridge (7 days), freezer (1 year), or water process (1+ years).

That's it!  That's all it takes to make a truly natural, pure, organic, sugar-free pectin!

How do you use it?  That is the difficult question.  Start by referring to the fruit pectin content chart above to get an idea of how watery the jam may be based on which fruit(s) you are working with.  Then, prepare your jam/jelly and test out your homemade pectin!  You'll learn from experience!  For a batch of 12 jars, start out with about half a cup.  A great way to test your pectin as you get started is the ice cube test.  As you finish up the first batch of jam, just when you are ready to fill the jars, remove a spoonful of the jam and hold an ice cube against the bottom of the spoon.  It will take a few minutes.  If the spoonful sets to your liking, you can fill the jars, seal them and store or process them to your liking.  If the spoonful does not set, add bit more pectin and a splash of lemon juice, bring to a full boil for 1 minute, and test again.  Continue until your jam sets to your liking.  After a batch or two, you'll get the hang of using your homemade pectin!


There is one brand of commercial pectin that I found suitable for the Advanced Plan.  The brand is Pomona's Universal Pectin and you can find it here.  It is a low methoxyl pectin, meaning it is sugar-free and the jelling is actually activated by calcium phosphate rather than sugar.  Other pectins require the jam/jelly to be at least 55% to 85% sugar (that's more sugar than fruit!) in order for the pectin to set.  That would be too much sugar for anyone on the Advanced Plan!  This type of pectin is perfect for a recipe that uses a low amount of sugar, like the natural sugar from the fruit.  And this brand is made directly from citrus peels, so we know where it's coming from. It's not organic, but they make a truly pure product with no preservatives, no dextrose, and no artificial anything!  You can sweeten your jam/jelly using xylitol or stevia if you want, but no sweetener is required to make this pectin work.  I have never tried this brand personally, but if you decide you want to stick with commercial pectin, this would be the brand I would use.  It seems to be the most natural and the most pure.


Are you still puzzled by pectin?  Did I overwhelm you?  I'm feeling a little fuzzy headed as well after all this research, but let me sum it up.  At the end of the day, the best way to make jam/jelly for the Advanced Plan is to not add any extra sugar or pectin at all.  Make it the old fashioned way and let the natural pectin in the fruit do the work.  Second best option is to drop some lemon or orange peels and a few spoonfuls of raw honey into the boiling jam and let it do what nature intended.  Third best option is to make your own homemade pectin from under-ripe organic Granny Smith apples or Crabapples.  And fourth best option is to use a low-methoxyl sugar-free pectin that doesn't require added sugar to gel.

Out of all of this, after stressing over if I was using the proper wording and not mistakenly talking about gobs of hair product, I learned that the words "jell" and "gel" mean the same thing, as do "jelled" and "gelled".  :)

I hope we all learned something from this!  Would love to hear your thoughts!  I'll be following up this post with some of my favorite jam recipes, coming at you starting Thursday and throughout the weekend!

Check out my top 4 favorite sugar-free jam recipes (using no commercial pectin!):

Sour Cherry Jam
Traditional Strawberry Jam
Rhubarb Jam
Blackberry / Raspberry / Blueberry Jam

Monday, July 16, 2012

Dark Chocolate Cashew Ice Cream

Yesterday was National Ice Cream Day, as declared by President Reagan in 1984.  Even though the "holiday" is older than me, I had never known of its existence!  But I must admit, I was pretty excited when I pulled up my Today.com page to check the morning news and learned of the special frosty treat occasion.  Any excuse to make a tub of ice cream is welcomed at the Schwartz household!  :)

Ohhh, and I have to tell you about my new present from my hubby!!  When Austin and I got home from our Michigan vacation, Dave surprised me with a VitaMix on our kitchen counter!  OH, I was so so excited and surprised!  We had been saving for this for so long, but had to keep tapping into the VitaMix fund for things like car repairs and *ahem* a baby.  I have made smoothies and sauces and soups in it every day since!

So, to bring this side story full circle, I have been wanting to try a new dairy-free ice cream using cashews instead of coconut milk.  I am not the biggest fan of coconut flavor, and don't get me wrong the Vanilla Bean Ice Cream using coconut milk is still really tasty, but I wanted to try something different.  And I wanted to get a mixture that is closer to the texture of dairy-based ice cream.  You know, that super smooth velvety texture.....  Well I've been waiting for my VitaMix to give this cashew ice cream method a try.

You can make this batter in a regular blender, however you'll need to blend it longer to get it smooth enough.  You may also prefer to strain the mixture before adding to your ice cream maker to prevent chunks.  And if you don't have an ice cream maker, you can pour the batter into a large metal bowl.  Pop it in your freezer and stir it every 15 minutes with a spatula until you get the right consistency.  This one is worth the extra work!

This cashew ice cream was heavenly.  I nailed that velvety texture I have been pining for.  And the dark chocolate depth is out of this world!  We will definitely make again!  It hits your dark chocolate craving perfectly, and paired with fresh strawberries...ooh baby!  I think the cashew cream really made it.  I'm now dreaming of a maple-pecan version.........!

Dark Chocolate Cashew Ice Cream
Makes 6 Servings

2 cups organic raw cashews
2 cups organic unsweetened almond milk
3/4 cup powdered xylitol
2 tsp pure vanilla
1/2 cup unsweetened pure cocoa powder

1.)  Soak the cashews in filtered water at least 6 hours or over night.

2.)  Rinse the cashews until water runs clear.  Drain them.  Combine all ingredients, including drained cashews, in blender.  Blend until completely smooth (strain if you wish).  Pour into ice cream maker and freeze according to instructions.  Serve immediately or freeze to set 2-4 hours.

TIP:  If making ahead to store for more than 24 hours, add a Tablespoon of arrowroot powder when blending the ingredients together.  This will prevent crystallization that occurs when storing ice cream in the freezer.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: July 11, 2012

Friday, July 6, 2012

Homemade Hamburger Helper

We are back!  Austin and I took about a month off from our normal routine and spent a lovely couple of weeks in Houghton and L'Anse, Michigan.  So refreshing to relax and put all our cares away for a little while.  And a few of you asked how Austin enjoyed the water...well, he loved Lake Superior!  I was a little too busy trying to save him as he leaped into the lake that I couldn't take a picture.  But here he is right before as he crawled across the shore splashing, giggling, and eating sand.

I am still catching up to all of your emails and messages.  So sorry if you haven't heard back from me yet!  A reply is coming!!  Little man is popping out two more teeth, rounding out to a pearly 9, so my attention to anything else has been a bit thin. I appreciate your understanding!

Now, this is a new recipe that I made sort of by accident one night.  We hadn't done the grocery shopping.  In fact, we had been many days over due for a full on grocery store trip.  I was left with one can of coconut milk and tomato paste in the pantry and a pound of ground beef thawing from the freezer....let me just say it's times like these that some of my best kitchen magic happens.  (After all, a very similar scenario is how the Lemon Garbanzo Bean Cake was born!)  I call this Homemade Hamburger Helper.  And it takes less time to prepare than the boxed version!

Homemade Hamburger Helper
Makes 4 Servings

1lb grass fed ground beef
1 small onion, minced
1 cup filtered water
4 red potatoes or 2 sweet potatoes, quartered and sliced  [CORE PLAN]
(Replace potatoes w/ 2 cups cauliflower, broccoli, or zucchini)  [ADVANCED PLAN]
1 can organic full-fat coconut milk
1 small can organic tomato paste
2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground thyme
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp arrowroot powder
Sea salt, to taste
Fresh black pepper, to taste

1.)  In a large stainless steel or cast iron skillet, cook the ground beef and onion over Medium heat.  Remove from pan.

2.)  Add 1 cup of water to the skillet, leaving any fatty or brown bits in the pan.  Bring to a simmer over High heat.  Add sliced potatoes (or vegetables), cover, reduce heat to Medium-Low, and simmer for about 6-10 minutes or until fork tender.

3.)  Uncover and stir in coconut milk, tomato paste, garlic powder, thyme, onion powder, and sea salt and pepper.  Sprinkle arrowroot over top and stir in thoroughly, leaving no clumps.  Stir in ground beef.  Bring back to a simmer over Medium-High heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, until thickened.  Serve immediately.

We have my husband to thank for realizing this dish tastes almost exactly like the potato stroganoff version of Hamburger Helper.  He couldn't get over the taste and texture, and he was actually the one who encouraged me to share this recipe.  To enhance the stroganoff experience, you could leave out the tomato paste and add in some mushrooms.  Enjoy this easy dinner fix everyone!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: July 4, 2012

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