Author Archives: Celeste Beck

HOW TO DRY AND ROAST PUMPKIN SEEDS

roasted pumpkin seedsDrying or roasting pumpkin seeds is a great way to store a nutrition-packed snack in your pantry for months after you are done carving your Halloween pumpkins. After carving pumpkins with my family this year, I didn’t want the pumpkin seeds to go to waste, which are a powerful source of protein, fiber, and healthy fats. One ounce, or about 1/3 cup, contains 5 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, and 5 grams of healthy fats. 

pumpkin seedsWashing and drying your seeds is super easy, and worth the effort for all that nutrition. You can store the seeds for later, or roast and eat them right away! If you just dry out your seeds (no roasting), they can last for up to a year if stored in a cool pantry. After roasting, you can keep them in your pantry for up to 2 months.

Here are the super easy steps below.

STEP 1: HOW TO WASH PUMPKIN SEEDS

  1. Place pumpkin seeds in a bowl (along with stringy pulp), and fill the bowl with water. How to wash pumpkin seeds2. Gently massage the seeds with your hands to separate them from the pumpkin pulp. As the seeds separate, they float to the top of the water, where you can easily scoop them out.How to remove pumpkin seeds from pulp3. Place the seeds into a colander and run water over them to rinse off any remaining pumpkin strings.How to remove pumpkin seeds from pulp4. Pour the pumpkin seeds onto a clean kitchen towel, and gently pat them dry (they will not become completely dry – this is just to get off any excess water from washing them).How to remove pumpkin seeds from pulp

STEP 2: CHOOSE TO DRY OR ROAST YOUR PUMPKIN SEEDS

Once your pumpkin seeds have been cleaned, you basically have two choices: 1) dry and store the seeds (with no oil or seasonings) for longer term storage 2) Roast and store the seeds for consumption within the next 2 months.

When choosing whether to merely dry and store, or roast your pumpkin seeds, the important thing to consider is whether or not you want to eat your seeds within the next couple of months, or save them for later use. Dried seeds last for about a year, whereas seeds roasted in oil last for up to 2 months in your pantry. If you merely dry your seeds without roasting them in oil and seasonings, you will have more versatility in recipes and for use later.

OPTION 1: DRY YOUR SEEDS (easiest and can be preserved up to 1 year)

  1. Turn your oven to the lowest setting – mine was 170 degrees – so that it is warm, not hot (you just want to dry the moisture out of your seeds, not roast them). Place your pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet, spreading them out so that they are in one layer without overlapping as much as possible. Place the baking sheet in the oven for 3-4 hours, or until they are dry, stirring each hour.How to dry and store pumpkin seeds without roasting them

2. After the seeds have dried, allow them to cool completely before storing (if you store them while they are still warm, that can cause moisture to develop in your storage container and cause mold growth). Put the dried, cooled seeds into an airtight container, and store in a cool, dark pantry. How long they last depends on storage conditions – the cooler, drier, and darker the storage, the longer they last for up to 1 year.

SOMETHING TO AVOID: When I was first experimenting, I just let my seeds dry overnight, without drying them out in the oven. Since they seemed to be completely dry in the morning, I just threw them into a storage container in my pantry. Mistake! About a week later, I noticed fuzzy white mold growing on the seeds. So even if your seeds appear to be dry, do NOT skip the step of drying them out in your oven!

OPTION 2: ROAST YOUR SEEDS (enjoy for immediate snacking, or in your pantry for up to 2 months)

  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
  2. After washing your seeds and patting them dry, toss them in a little bit of olive oil (about 1 tsp per cup of seeds) and salt to taste.
  3. Spread seeds onto a baking sheet in a single layer.How to roast pumpkin seeds
  4. Place your baking sheet in the oven, and roast the seeds for 10 minutes. Remove the seeds from the oven, stir, and roast them for another 8-10 minutes.How to roast pumpkin seeds
  5. Remove the seeds from the oven, and allow them to cool completely. Place cooled seeds in an airtight storage container, and store in a cool pantry for up to 2 months. Pull them out whenever you want a healthy, protein-filled snack!How to store roasted pumpkin seeds

Options for storing pumpkin seeds:

  • Canning jar (This is my preferred method, because it is airtight, keeps bugs out, and I am able to see through the jar to make sure none of the seeds are becoming moldy.)
  • Airtight ziplock bags
  • Vacuum packaging
  • Airtight plastic container

Extra tips:

  • Pack food in amounts that can be used all at once (food is exposed to air and moisture every time it is opened, which decreases quality).
  • For dried seeds to last the longest and maintain their nutrition, it is important to store them in a cool, dry, dark area. If you don’t have a cool pantry to store them in, you can also store them in your refrigerator or freezer. When they are stored at cooler temperatures, they last longer.

 

 

Low Sugar Spiced Pear Butter

Low Sugar Pear ButterSo I just discovered pear butter! I have been making apple butter every season for a while now, and I remember when my mom would make it while I was growing up, and it was so delicious! But I never realized that you could make the same thing out of pears, until my mom gave me some pear butter a few months ago! And it was just as, if not even more delicious, than the apple butter. I think I may now actually prefer pear butter as the tastiest if I had to choose, and I especially like it because the texture comes out a little bit creamier! It is delicious on toast, pancakes, or your favorite waffles!

I still don’t have a ton of time to spend in the kitchen, which is a main reason that I do not really enjoy canning. So…I made this recipe in my crockpot similar to the apple butter recipe, to minimize the required hands-on time. And it worked out great!

Here are a couple of tips I learned along the way, as I researched recipes and instructions on making pear butter.

  1. Use ripe pears
  2. Do NOT use Asian Pears for this recipe. (“So Easy To Preserve”, a research-based preservation guide from the Cooperative Extension of the University of Georgia, warns that canned Asian pears can develop botulism, unless they are acidified first before canning.) So for this recipe, I used Bartlett pears, which do not need the extra acidification.

I used the following recipe from the preserving guide I mentioned above, but added some orange extract and spices to make it even more delicious (and used ⅛ the sugar)! If your crockpot is big enough, feel free to double the recipe (I did). The added orange flavor is delicious – you will really love this! This is seriously the most delicious fruit butter I have ever tasted.

HOW TO MAKE HEALTHY CROCKPOT PEAR BUTTER

(makes 4 half pint jars)

Ingredients

20 pears
1 tsp orange zest
⅓ cup orange juice
½ tsp orange extract
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp Allspice
½ tsp nutmeg
⅛ tsp cloves
½ cup sugar (optional)

  1. Grate zest from a fresh orange.how to use orange zest, how to make low sugar pear butter
  2. Put the orange juice and orange zest into the crockpot you will be using to cook the pear butter. The orange juice can be either freshly squeezed or bottled orange juice (I grated the orange zest from the peel, and then used all of the juice from the orange. Because I didn’t have any bottled juice on hand, I then used reconstituted orange juice from frozen to supplement the remaining amount of orange juice called for in the recipe, and it turned out great!)
  3. Wash, core, and peel pears. Cut them into quarters. As you cut the pears, put them in the crockpot and mix them with the orange juice. This will help to keep the pears from turning brown.how to use orange zest, how to make low sugar pear butter
  4. Once all of the pears are in the crockpot, turn the crockpot to low heat. Allow the pears to cook for 2-3 hours, or until they start to break down and become very soft, as shown below. You can then use an immersion blender to blend the pears into a smooth puree (or blend the pears in batches in a blender or food processor, then put the puree back into the crockpot).how to use orange zest, how to make low sugar pear butter
  5. Add the orange extract and spices, and stir them into the mixture.
  6. Once the spices and extract have been mixed in, taste test the puree. If you are happy with the flavor and sweetness, no need to add any sugar! If you want it a little sweeter, add up to ½ cup of sugar. (This is MUCH less than the 4 cups of sugar called for in the original recipe.)
  7. Take the lid off of the crockpot, and allow the pear butter to cook for an additional 2-3 hours, or until the liquid has evaporated, and you can take a spoonful of the pear butter and not have the liquid separate out of it. It will reduce down quite a bit in the crockpot as the liquid evaporates (as you can see from the lines in the crockpot below). The pear butter, when done, should be a thick, smooth consistency.how to use orange zest, how to make low sugar pear butter
  8. Enjoy the pear butter right away, or store it in the refrigerator for use over the next few days.

If canning: Pour pear butter into prepared jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Follow normal canning procedures to process the jars in a hot water bath according to your altitude. The recommended canning time, using ½ pint jars, is 5 minutes if you live at an altitude of 0-1000 feet. Add 1 minute of processing time for each additional 1000 feet of altitude (according to research-based preservation guide So Easy to Preserve). If you have questions about how to properly can, you can find information on the National Center for Home Food Preservation website. Store your canned pear butter in a cool, dark pantry, and use within one year for best quality.

How to Make Healthy Strawberry Fruit Leather

Strawberries are perfect for making fruit leather! This is the perfect delicious snack, whether for kids or adults, and a great way to get the benefits of strawberries weeks or months after harvesting or purchasing them!

how to make homemade strawberry fruit leatherIngredients for Basic Strawberry Leather (Makes 2 fruit leather sheets)
4 cups strawberries
2 Tbsp honey (optional)

Other Optional Ingredients
Unsweetened flaked coconut
Vanilla extract
Greek yogurt

Directions

  1. Wash and hull your fresh strawberries. Add strawberries and honey (if using) to a blender. Add optional ingredients such as vanilla extract or greek yogurt. Blend on high speed until the strawberries turn into a smooth puree.
  2. Place a non-stick dehydrator sheet over your mesh dehydrator tray. If you are using a dehydrator sheet that is not non-stick, lightly oil it. Pour strawberry puree onto the dehydrator sheet and spread until it is about 1 inch away from the edges on all sides, and about ¼ inch thick.how to make healthy strawberry fruit leather
  3. Sprinkle any optional ingredients such as flaked coconut on top of puree.
  4. Place the dehydrator sheet into the dehydrator at 135 degrees F for about 8-10 hours, until it has completely dried, but is still soft enough to bend and fold into a fruit roll. When it has dried sufficiently, it will look like this and roll up easily.how to make homemade strawberry fruit leather with protein, how to preserve strawberries
  5. HOW TO STORE FRUIT LEATHER: Remove the leather from the dehydrator sheet (it should come off easily if using a non-stick sheet or if the sheet was properly greased). Place the fruit leather on plastic wrap or wax paper, and starting from one of the corners, roll the leather into a fruit roll. Place the leather into an airtight container for storage, and label with the date. Fruit leather will store well for 1-2 months in the pantry, several months in the refrigerator, and up to one year in the freezer.Strawberry fruit rolls

HERE ARE SOME OF MY FAVORITE VARIATIONS OF STRAWBERRY LEATHER!

Coconut Strawberry Leather

In Step 3, after spreading the puree over the dehydrator sheet, sprinkle unsweetened flaked coconut evenly over the puree. Follow remaining directions to create a delicious leather! Your puree will look like this before you dry it.how to preserve strawberries, how to make healthy homemade fruit leather

This is what it will look like after it has dried. It should easily roll up like this.how to make homemade strawberry fruit leather with protein, how to preserve strawberriesStrawberry Yogurt Fruit Leather

  1. In Step 1, use 3 cups fresh strawberries instead of 4. Add 1 tsp vanilla and 1 cup plain greek yogurt to the blender, along with the strawberries and honey. This is a great option if you are wanting to make a healthy snack with more protein.
  2. Follow remaining directions. Your poured puree will look like this (yes, a little bubble gum pink!)how to make homemade strawberry fruit leather with protein, how to preserve strawberries

Coconut-Strawberry Yogurt Fruit Leather (my personal favorite!!)

  1. In Step 1, use 3 cups fresh strawberries instead of 4. Add 1 tsp vanilla and 1 cup plain greek yogurt to the blender, along with the strawberries and honey. I love this version because it is delicious and has some added protein compared to regular fruit leather.
  2. In Step 3, sprinkle unsweetened flaked coconut evenly over puree.
  3. Follow remaining directions. Here is what your puree will look like.how to make homemade strawberry fruit leather with protein, how to preserve strawberries

TIPS FOR SUCCESS WHEN MAKING HOMEMADE FRUIT LEATHER
Here are some things I have learned in the process, that really help to have success with this, that I will share with you!

  1. Checking for dryness: When you check your fruit leather to see if it is done, be sure to check the middle for dryness, since fruit leathers tend to dry starting at the edges and dry in the middle last. The leather should easily peel off the dehydrator sheet when it is sufficiently dry, and should feel slightly sticky, but not wet or moist. Do not over dry it, or the leather will become brittle and will be difficult to fold onto itself without breaking.
  2. Roll up your dried fruit leather while it is still warm, and it should roll up easily. If you wait for the leather to cool, it becomes difficult to roll up without breaking.
  3. This is delicious, so keep it out of reach of your kids (and yourself!) if you want it to last more than a day!!!

Healthy Ways to Preserve Strawberries

Healthy ways to preserve strawberries, how to preserve strawberriesStrawberries are in season in the spring or summer, so that is a great time to think about buying some in bulk, or even better, harvesting them from your own garden! So what are the benefits of strawberries, and how can they be preserved for later use?

NUTRITIONAL BENEFITS OF STRAWBERRIES
Strawberries are a nutritional powerhouse,  best known for being high in Vitamin C, with one cup providing more than the recommended daily intake for vitamin C. They are also full of antioxidants, low in calories, and a natural source of fiber and folate, among other nutrients. So they can provide a delicious, healthy snack or sweet treat!

HEALTHY WAYS TO PRESERVE STRAWBERRIES
In the refrigerator, strawberries normally stay fresh for only a few days, often needing to be eaten within 3 days. So if you have too many to eat in 3 days, and want to enjoy them later, here are some delicious ideas below!

Strawberry Fruit Leather

Sources:

  1. Ohio State University Extension. Selecting, Storing, and Serving Ohio Strawberries. http://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/HYG-5531 accessed on 8/10/16
  2. Fruits & veggies more matters. Strawberries. Nutrition. Selection. Storage. http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/strawberries accessed on 8/10/16

How to Preserve Avocados

how to use frozen avocados, how to preserve avocados

I love avocados! They are a great source of natural, healthy fats. I use them all the time – for homemade guacamole, as a salad dressing, in desserts and smoothies, diced on top of salads, or just eaten plain!

Luckily, I was recently able to purchase very cheap avocados in bulk from a local food storage distributor, for less than half the normal store price. Since I use them often, I decided to buy 20 and come home and freeze them as part of my food storage (now that avocados are expensive in the stores, I wish that I had bought more!). As I was picking through the already ripe avocados, I overheard a couple of ladies asking each other how to store them. So I thought this would be the perfect post, in case others have the same question! 

Note: Freezing of avocados works best with a puree, so freezing them will mainly be helpful for recipes where you would normally use mashed, fresh avocados. You can also easily throw them into a smoothie or toss them with salad greens any day of the week!

 STEPS TO FREEZE AVOCADOS

  1. Wait for avocado to ripen. (You know it is ripe because it will yield to gentle pressure when you squeeze it. The avocado will also change from a light green to a dark greenish/brown color when it is ripe, as shown in this picture.)color of ripe avocado, what a ripe avocado looks like, how to tell if an avocado is ripe
  2. Cut avocado in half, and remove the pit.how to freeze avocados, how to preserve avocados
  3. Using a spoon, remove avocado from the peel, and mash it with a fork until it is a puree.how to puree an avocado, how to freeze avocados
  4. Add 1 ½ teaspoons lemon juice for each avocado (bottled juice is fine). Mix or blend juice into the puree until it is smooth (it is okay if it has small chunks and is not completely smooth).how to freeze or preserve avocados
  5. Pack puree into a labeled, freezer safe container, leaving some room at the top for the avocado to expand. I leave about 1/2 inch. Seal container and freeze. If using a ziplock bag, remove all possible air before sealing the bag. If frozen properly, avocados can be frozen for up to one year and still retain their nutritional composition and overall quality.How to freeze avocados in ziplock bags

TIP FOR FREEZING: I use quart sized, freezer quality ziplock bags to freeze my avocados, which I label with the date and number of avocados in each one. Ziplock bags are great because you can flatten them before freezing and then stack them on top of one another. That way, they store easily and take up relatively little room in your freezer.

TO USE AVOCADOS AFTER FREEZING: Remove the avocado puree from the freezer, allow it to thaw, and use it as you normally would in any recipe calling for mashed avocados.

Strawberry Banana Ice Cream (Dairy Free)

how to make homemade strawberry banana ice cream, how to use frozen bananas, recipe with frozen bananas, recipe with frozen strawberries

This is a delicious alternative to traditional ice cream, and a great way to use frozen strawberries or bananas! Compared to traditional ice cream, it is dairy and fat free, lower in calories, and much more nutrient dense, with lots of potassium and Vitamin C!

INGREDIENTS

2 frozen bananas
4 large frozen strawberries
2 Tbsp dark chocolate chips

Substitutions: You can use frozen cherries instead of strawberries for a delicious cherry chocolate ice cream (one of my favorites)! Cacao nibs can be used instead of dark chocolate chips.

DIRECTIONS

STEPS USING A YONANAS MAKER

  1. Allow bananas and strawberries to thaw for 10 minutes (so they are only slightly thawed; do not let them thaw longer, or the ice cream will be mushy).
  2. Insert ingredients into the Yonanas maker in the following order: 1 frozen banana half, 1 frozen strawberry, ½ Tbsp dark chocolate chips. Place a bowl beneath the Yonana maker, where the ice cream will come out.
  3. Turn on the Yonanas maker to process ingredients, using the plastic plunger to push ingredients through.
  4. Repeat steps 3 more times with the remaining ingredients, letting the ice cream fall into the bowl you placed beneath it.
  5. Place ice cream into serving dishes and enjoy!!

OR…

STEPS USING A BLENDER

*Add 1/2 cup coconut or almond milk and 1 extra strawberry

(When using a blender, I recommend using frozen banana slices instead of banana halves, which may be easier for the blender to process.)

  1. Place frozen bananas, strawberries, and milk in blender, and allow fruit to thaw for 10 minutes before processing.
  2. Gradually turn your blender to high speed, and allow it to blend at high speed until ingredients are mixed together into an ice cream like consistency, or use the frozen desserts option on your blender if it has one. If needed, with the blender turned off, use a spoon to intermittently scrape down the sides of the blender in between blending until an ice cream like consistency is achieved. I used the tamper on my Vitamix while it was blending.
  3. Add dark chocolate chips to the blender, and pulse or mix at medium-high speed until the chocolate chips have become small bits incorporated throughout the ice cream.

Strawberry Milkshake

frozen bananas, Healthy strawberry banana milkshake, how to use frozen strawberriesI thought of this recipe as a last minute idea, because a strawberry milkshake sounded really good to me this afternoon! So I decided to tweak a favorite homemade banana-strawberry ice cream recipe, and turn it into a homemade milkshake instead. It turned out delicious! Note that you can make this dairy free, simply by using a dairy-free milk instead of cow’s milk. I often use almond or coconut milk, or a blend of both, in a recipe like this, but any kind will work great depending on your preference.

The great news is that this shake is so healthy for you! This recipe serves 4 large glasses, with each glass containing 150 calories, which is less than a third of the calories in many fast food small milkshakes. Each serving also has 30% of the recommended daily intake for vitamin C, as well as lots of potassium, calcium, and other nutrients. So think of this as a great alternative the next time you are craving your favorite fast food milkshake! It is also a great way to use your frozen bananas.

(Serves 4)

INGREDIENTS

1 ½ cups almond milk (any other kind will work too)
9 large strawberries (fresh or frozen)
3 frozen bananas
3 tablespoons dark chocolate chips

Substitutions: If you want to make this with zero added sugar, you can substitute raw cacao nibs for the dark chocolate chips.

DIRECTIONS

  1. Add milk, strawberries, and bananas to a blender. Allow the bananas to sit for about 10 minutes, to defrost slightly before blending. (If you try to blend the bananas straight from the freezer, it will be more difficult because they will be rock solid, and your blender may have a hard time processing it.) Turn blender on high speed, and allow to blend until ingredients are fully blended into a smooth milkshake. Turn off blender.
  2. With blender turned off, add 3 tablespoons of dark chocolate chips. Turn blender on low speed, and blend chocolate chips into milkshake for about 20 seconds, or until they have blended into tiny little pieces throughout the shake. (Blending the chocolate chips slowly helps them to stay in small pieces. If you want to blend them completely into the shake, to make this more of a chocolate-strawberry smoothie, you can add the chocolate chips at the beginning and blend them at high speed with the rest of the ingredients.)
  3. Enjoy!!

TIP: You can add less milk if you want your shake to be thicker, and more of an ice cream shake.

Healthy Chocolate Almond Smoothie

how to use frozen bananas, healthy chocolate smoothie

I love this smoothie for a healthy treat, and it is also the perfect way to use frozen bananas in a tasty recipe! It is a much healthier option than many desserts, because it uses mostly whole food ingredients that are packed with nutrition. If you want to add even more nutritional value, add a handful of spinach before blending – I often do this, and you can’t even tell!

(Serves 2)

INGREDIENTS

2 whole, frozen bananas
1 1/2 cups milk (I prefer an almond-coconut blend)
2 Tbsp toasted almonds
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips (at least 70%, or as dark as you prefer)
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 pitted dates
Dash of nutmeg (optional for serving)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Add all ingredients to a blender. The bananas should be used frozen, but allow them to thaw for 5-10 minutes in the blender to allow for easier blending. Turn the blender up to high speed, and mix at high speed until ingredients are blended and smooth.
  2. To serve: Pour the smoothie into glasses, and serve with a dash of nutmeg if desired. The smoothie is best if served right away, when it is still chilled.

Banana-Oat Pancakes (Gluten and Sugar Free)

gluten and sugar free pancakes

I got this recipe from a friend of mine, and it is now my favorite pancake recipe! It is so easy, and is a perfect way to use ripe bananas that you have on hand.

INGREDIENTS

2 whole, ripe bananas (if using frozen bananas, allow them to thaw first)
1 cup rolled oats
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp baking soda
½ tsp cinnamon
Dash of salt

DIRECTIONS

  1. Add all ingredients to a blender. Blend on high speed until the mixture forms a smooth batter.
  2. To cook: pour pancake-sized amounts of batter onto a lightly greased skillet or frying pan that has been heated to medium-low heat. Cook the pancakes until small bubbles start to form on the top (about 1 minute), and flip them over to cook for an additional minute on the other side, or until the pancakes are lightly browned on each side. (Note: These pancakes cook faster than some traditional pancakes, so be sure to keep your eye on them!)
  3. Serve pancakes with your favorite toppings and enjoy!

How to Freeze Bananas

 

Frozen bananas stackedWhy do we want bananas in our food storage? They are rich in potassium, fiber, vitamin C, Vitamin B-6, and magnesium. Also, they taste great and add variety to your food storage!

Bananas are one of my favorite items to have around because I use them all the time. I love them for their nearly daily use in smoothies, for banana ice cream, and one of my favorite pancake recipes!

It can save you money to buy bananas in bulk, or sometimes the grocery store will sell their ripe bananas at a discount price. I recently bought a 40lb box of bananas for $11 (27.5 cents/lb). It gave me roughly 100 bananas to preserve. Freezing is an easy way to preserve them – see how below.

EASY STEPS TO FREEZE WHOLE BANANAS

I think this is the easiest method, and is great if you want to use your bananas in smoothies, to make banana ice cream, or basically any recipe that calls for bananas. 

  1. Wait until bananas are ripe to the point of being a deep yellow color with brown spots. Peel bananas and place them side by side on a cookie sheet, leaving space between them so that they don’t touch. I break the bananas in half for easier use after freezing.Ripe banana ready for freezing
  2. Place cookie sheet in the freezer for several hours, until the bananas feel solid and are frozen through.How to freeze bananas on a cookie sheet
  3. After bananas are frozen, place them in freezer bags. Removing as much air as possible, seal and date the bags. Gallon sized ziplock bags work great. I especially like this method for storing because you can easily stack bags of bananas on top of each other in the freezer, using your space efficiently. frozen bananas labeled ziplock bag

Storage: Keep bananas frozen for up to 12 months for maximum nutritional quality.

HOW TO USE FROZEN BANANAS

You can use frozen bananas in nearly any recipe that calls for bananas. For most recipes, just thaw and use the bananas as you would normally use fresh ones. Here are some of my favorite recipes where I like to use my frozen bananas.

Healthy Chocolate Almond Smoothie

Banana-Oat Pancakes (Gluten and Sugar Free)

Strawberry-Banana Ice Cream (Dairy Free)

Strawberry Milkshake