Archive for the ‘October Unprocessed’ Category

This last weekend I purchased a bushel of Fuji apples. One of my absolute favorite apples. Ever. My intent was to store them in our cool basement since they’re such good keepers. (For a good list of apple varieties and their qualities visit pickyourown.org)

Instead I’ve been going mad for baked apple goodness. Sunday I made these:

apple dumpling

Apple dumplings that are knock-your-socks-off good. The key to such a good flavor was the boiled cider – also known as apple molasses – that I made. Just a little bit imparts an amazingly intense flavor. Sure you could buy it online and have it shipped, but if you have the opportunity you should try to make it, especially if you can get local apples!

So because I couldn’t get enough of that yumminess, I had to make something more…. but better for me.

Enter Apple Dumpling Oatmeal.

I prepared this last night before bed in 15 minutes, and it was ready to go for me this morning. You could alternatively prepare this in a dutch oven, or on the stove top if you don’t care to leave a crockpot plugged in all night. I’ve given you three options! Just bring your appetite. This is a stick-to-your-ribs kinda meal. The kind that makes you want to get outside and get something done. That, or help yourself to seconds…

apple dumpling-inspired oatmeal

Apple Dumpling Oatmeal

Makes 6-8 LARGE portions

  • 2 medium cooking apples, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 1-1/4 cups steel cut oats or thick rolled oats
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 rounded tsp boiled cider (lick the spoon!)
  • pinch salt
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar (brown, raw, or sucanat), honey, or syrup
  • 1/2 cup raisins, dried cranberries or cherries (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
  • (if you don’t have access to boiled cider, substitute 1 cup cider for 1 cup water, then get to the store and pick up some cider and boil it!)

Dutch oven:

Preheat oven to 400F. Meanwhile add ingredients to dutch oven on the stove top, bringing them just to a boil. Cover and put in oven. Immediately turn off oven. In the morning you may need to add some liquid in the form of milk or water, and to reheat on the stove just a bit.

Stove top:

Add ingredients to medium saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Cover tightly and lower heat to medium-low, stirring occasionally. It’s done when your oats are soft and apples are no longer firm.

Crock Pot:

Add ingredients to crock pot and turn on low. Let cook at least 6 hours. Stir gently before serving.


Top with a drizzle of fresh cream(and maybe some maple syrup) and enjoy it while it’s still warm!


You can find Jennifer at Unearthing This Life where she’s currently focusing on autumn and homeschooling.

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Indian Summer

Here in the Midwest we’ve had a late blast of summer weather bringing with it Indian summer. We should be thinking of a sweater to fight off the chill, and instead we’re spending days on the beach and keeping our windows wide open. It’s been absolutely gorgeous, in a bright yellow and warm orange kind of way.

What could be better than an autumnal ice cream as a cool treat?

I’m not talking pumpkins here. I mean a tasty and mildly spiced ice cream that hints at the cooler days that will be upon us soon. Something a bit mellow – like these warm days.

honey cinnamon frozen custard

Honey Cinnamon Frozen Custard

made in a 6 cup (liquid) capacity ice cream maker

  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 cup cream*
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1-1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom (optional)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup honey mixed with 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  1. In a large saucepan, heat milk, cream, 1/3 cup honey, cinnamon, and the optional cardamom. Bring to 160° F. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a medium size bowl.
  2. Add small amounts of heated milk mixture to eggs, whisking the entire time. Once you’ve added about 1/3 of the mixture to the eggs you can add the egg mixture to the heated milk. Cook over medium for about 10-15 minutes, or until the mixture begins to thicken.
  3. Put custard in the refrigerator to chill completely. Once this is as cold as it can get without freezing, it’s time to churn in the ice cream maker. In the last two minutes of churning, add the honey and cinnamon mixture so that it forms a swirl in the custard instead of combining. This last part may be easier to do after the custard has set up in the freezer for about an hour.
  4. Freeze for 2-3 hours before serving.

*I used my raw milk that I’d previously skimmed the cream from. If you’re using whole milk you can omit the cream for a lighter ice milk texture. Substitute 1 cup milk for the cream.

Honey Cinnamon Frozen Custard


Jennifer can also be found at Unearthing this Life where she blargs about almost everything from raising chickens to homeschooling to opinions about food.

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With the first week of October Unprocessed behind us, we wanted to let you know how we’re doing!


I (Xan) was already pretty unprocessed, but I confess that since last year I’ve slacked off quite a bit, mostly on the label-reading front.  So I made the discovery that you cannot buy unprocessed pasta at chain grocery stores. I’ll try the mercado, but I’m not holding out much hope, since pasta isn’t really a biggie in hispanic cuisine. But you never know. Suzy thinks I should make my own, but I’m not there yet. Will try the specialty shops.  The good news is our favorite tortilla chips, El Ranchero, unexpectedly have the following ingredients list: corn, lime, corn oil, salt. Here are the things I made this week, to keep me unprocessed:


I have a terrible thing to admit. We ate out last night. Living here in town I find it increasingly difficult to avoid dining out on occasion. We ate at a Mexican style restaurant and I chose a real chicken breast topped with chorizo and real cheese. Sure, I could’ve avoided the processed chips … and the margaritas…, but I feel I could’ve made a far worse decision. At least it wasn’t typical fast food.

For the most part, meals around our house are pretty unprocessed. We make our own butter, breads, and even cheeses. Meat is purchased at the local butcher instead of the meat department of the grocery store, and our milk is from a local farm – and it’s raw. But that doesn’t mean that all of my meals are gourmet works of art or some Foodie delight. Lunch the other day was simply some rolled out dough from the bread that was rising, baked into a pita and topped with ground peanut butter and homemade jam.

school day lunch

Experimenting is fundamental at our house too. We get bored easily eating the same things over and over. This week I came up with a recipe for Shepard’s Pie. It needs some refining, but it was sooo much better than the mashed potato and canned veggie casserole I grew up with.

Better Shepard's Pie

And as a special treat this week, Hubby and my daughter made dinner for our Sunday guests! It’s one of our favorite meals from our restaurant days. I adore that she loves food as much as we do. It makes it simple to teach her how to eat healthy and gets her thinking about where and who her food comes from.



Here at Chiot’s Run we were 98% unprocessed as usually. Last month (before the challenge started) her purchased a few of his favorite cookies at the health food store (Newman’s Own Organics Ginger-O’s) and he finished off that pack. At the beginning of the week I made a big batch of beef stew that we’ve been enjoying eating on, and a pot of chicken soup. When I’m busy, I like to make a few big pots of soup each week and we rotate between for quick meals.

This afternoon we went to the Algonquin Mill Festival. We enjoyed some pancakes made from flour they grind right there at the the steam powered mill (we took some of our homemade maple syrup in a jar so we didn’t have to eat the fake stuff) and Mr Chiots enjoyed some pumpkin pecan ice cream, it was also made by steam engine and contains only: milk, sugar, pumpkin, eggs, spices, nuts and vanilla. It’s really nice when you can find something to buy while out and about that’s not highly processed and full of chemicals & preservatives!


How is your October: Unprocessed coming along? Have you learned anything or experimented with new foods?

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Computers and modern transportation have made this world of ours seem a lot smaller. It makes luxuries that many of us might afford seem commonplace. I can order shea butter made from nuts handpicked by African locals, wool from the “Highlands of Peru”, and water bottled all the way in Fiji and have them shipped to me here in the midwest. But do I need them… especially when I can get a comparable item from somewhere closer to home?

It’s a mixed blessing. Modernization and change can be good thing, but I wonder, “At what cost?”. Not just the cost to my pocket book, but the cost to our surroundings – the local industries and businesses, job rates, fuel prices, and the impact on the environment.

Just like I have doubts about processed foods, I have some issues with purchasing food online. Some of these “must have” herbs, oils, seasonings, and out of season vegetables can hardly be better for the environment with all their fossil fuels and packing than all the pesticides and fertilizer a conventionally grown product may have. I have some concerns with purchasing food from places like Amazon, for example, simply because the items are organic, or they fall under the latest diet fad, or are the latest craze in grains. How can it be any better than picking up packaged processed organic convenience foods at your local grocery store?

olive oil

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled that these goods are available to those that would otherwise have no access to local organic products or allergen-free foods. I love that my sister, with her gluten- and lactose-intolerances, can easily find alternatives for her diet. But for a majority of us it shouldn’t be an issue. One of my biggest fears is that globalization (in the sense of marketing and shipping) of the organic industry will hinder the local food movements. When we choose to order food and goods online, I feel like we’re cheating our neighboring farmers even the chance to decide if they want to go organic, or sell at the market or even direct to stores.

With all that said, I admit I’m no saint. I have my coffee and teas; I’ve ordered bags of flour and even Meyer lemons; nuts and avocados from the States and Mexican mangoes frequent my kitchen when they’re in season. I keep balsamic vinegar. And wine… I have not given up my wine (hic!). Let’s not even talk about Peppadews. It’s been said many times before, “Moderation is key”.  If you want to splurge on something, choose wisely and limit your purchases and usage. For example, I try to choose Californian olive oil instead of those imported from Italy, Argentina, and Tunisia. I also purchase in bulk any items that need to be shipped – like flour. But I do purchase a majority of my vegetables and fruits from local farmers – and I buy lots at a time to can, freeze, and store*. Doing so is an investment in future meal. Yes, it requires some time and very minimal equipment, but it sure is an improvement in value and taste. I also try to forage when I can, and I’m not shy about asking family and friends if I can pick extras from their gardens and trees. Those Peppadews I love so much? I limit the amount I purchase and keep them as a special treat: a luxury.

Canning SessionSet your own limits. What is acceptable to you? Would you be willing to spend a couple of Saturdays  at the end of summer to put up the products of a good harvest? Can you fit an hour a week into your plans to go to the farm stand or market instead of the grocery store? Is it really okay to purchase organic garlic from Argentina, when you can wait until fall and pick it up locally? Can you get by with eating foods grown strictly in your own country? Would you be willing to eat seasonally and regionally instead of buying out of season fruits and vegetables from California? What ingredients would you be willing to give up, grow yourself, or purchase locally instead of having them imported? Would you be willing to be an activist and get the ball rolling on a local farmers market?

I think it’s phenomenal that so many more small businesses are cropping up and offering organic goods where they weren’t previously available. I love that there are so many alternatives available for people that have food challenges, like allergies and intolerances. I also think it’s important to stay educated and keep questioning how we can make things better for our families, the environment, and our local businesses. Food quality is very important to me, and I frequently find myself researching what I can do to improve it while reducing my footprint. My time and pocket book is also important to me, and I always have to work on consolidating my projects and errands. So while I may purchase a few key items online, you won’t find me getting box-loads of organic meals delivered to my door. Instead you’ll find me bringing box-loads of organic veggies home from the market to put up for those long, cold winter days and searching for ways to advocate local resources.

Farmers Market

(*A note on purchasing and preparing foods in bulk: It’s amazing how much cabinet space is left when you get rid of all those factory processed and packaged foods. Cans and jars of goods stack easily and don’t have as much empty space thanks to settling. Freezer space is nice if you have it, I’m currently storing a lot in my parents’ deep freeze since ours is long gone. I keep 20 pounds worth of flour in air-tight storage bins and have kept long-storing items like winter squash under my bed.

It may be intimidating to spend the little extra cash up front, but the investment of a little money and time up front will save you money and time later down the road. Less grocery shopping, means more time and more money in your pocket. Start small and add more projects as you feel more comfortable and can afford to add more to your project list. Share projects with someone else to save money and time, find canning jars and storage containers at garage sales or look for end of season sales. Over time you will notice a difference in the amount of money you spend on food, but it may take a while depending on how much you actually prepare and store.)


– Jennifer is also at Unearthing this Life, is on Twitter, and has written for Rhythm of the Home.

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All food is “processed” unless you’re a strict raw vegan. And I suppose even raw vegans cut up their carrots.  Every time you cook, you’re processing your food.  Some foods, like those carrots, require essentially no processing; others, say, cheese, don’t exist without processing.

So how far do you want to take this? I’ve always done this to some extent, making tomato sauce from tomatoes. I remember the look of disbelief from the admissions director at my kids’ school, when we told them we ate home cooked meals together as a family 5 to 7 days a week. We ate out plenty, from fast food to Chinese carry out, but mostly we ate at home. (This was more a function of poverty than of philosophy.)

When I started really expanding my garden, and becoming more mindful of my food, I started “processing” everything. As I mentioned in the intro to October Unprocessed, I make a lot of things that people think are difficult, because they’ve been marketed as “exotic” foods, or complex, or time consuming: mayonnaise, flat bread, “Italian” syrup, pickles, jam.

For many in the unprocessed challenge, it’s about understanding where our food system has gone off into the chemical wonderland, and trying to climb back out of that rabbit hole.  For me and my family, it’s about moving the process back into our home, about making our family food system not just consumptive, but also productive, because we are the producers of the raw ingredients, and the artisans behind the meal.

We’ve been encouraged by the food and advertising industries to think of ourselves as helpless and stressed–no time, no expertise, no access–especially as regards our food. They don’t even call us “people” or “citizens” anymore–we’re “consumers” or “viewers;” the activities of our lives reduced to passive acts. Consumption is what defines modern life. And it doesn’t count unless you spend money on it. We have in fact, been blamed for the current stalled economy, because we stopped buying things we didn’t need, and moving into houses too big and expensive for our needs. We’ve allowed ourselves to be defined by forces that do not have our interests at heart, to become part of the processing of ourselves.

Well, consumption is a fatal disease. So while you’re going unprocessed, think not only about choosing foods that don’t contain processed ingredients, but also what foods you can easily process yourself. Stop being a consumer, and start being a creator. Here’s my number one, from a recipe from Stacey at Little Blue Hen, who is also doing the October Unprocessed challenge.

Don’t even think of it as homemade. Think of it as “artisan” where you are the artist, instead of just the consumer.

Artisan Mayonnaise
Adapted from The Perfect Pantry via Little Blue Hen
Makes about 4 cups

4 egg yolks
8 tablespoons room-temp water
2 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 cup light, unflavored oil (canola, safflower, or grapeseed. The flavored oils, like nut or olive will give your mayo a distinct taste of the oils)
1 teaspoon salt
juice of 1/2 lemon

Put egg yolk, water, and mustard in the bowl of a 3-cup food processor. Run the blade to make sure it catches the mixture, dribble in a bit more water if needed or stir up the yolk to get it to catch. Run the food processor until the mixture is pale yellow (about 30 seconds or so). Stacey recommends room temp eggs, but I liked the results better with eggs that just add the chill off, about 10 minutes out of the fridge.

The oil must be added very slowly to ensure that the mixture emulsifies. With the motor running, drizzle in the oil in a narrow (pencil tip width) steady stream. You can tell the emulsion is working because you’ll start to hear slapping sounds as the food processor runs. Some recipes recommend stopping when about 1/3 of the oil has been added, and then continue to add by teaspoonfuls, but I’ve found it works fine to just keep the steady stream going. Stop the motor and check the mayonnaise to make sure it is emulsifying. If so, continue adding the oil slowly until it is all combined.

When all the oil has been added, add the salt and lemon juice. The lemon juice will help increase its shelf life. I’ve had this mayo last 3 months in the fridge.  Little Blue Hen makes this recipe at only half, but I have found that the larger recipe makes the emulsion work more reliably.  Make a tiny meringue with the leftover whites, or add two whole eggs for a mostly-egg white omelette.

It took me about 3 tries to get my rhythm on homemade mayo, but it is so superior to even the best store bought that once you get the hang of it, you’ll never buy mayo again.

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