We all have our guilty pleasures. Despite being a practictioner of plant-based nutritarianism and an armchair detective of nutrigenomics, it'd be terribly insincere of me to deny how much I really enjoy the addicting taste of certain processed junk foods, pop tarts being among my favorites since my college days. Although I strive to methodically apply the science of holistic eating to my family's meal plans on a daily basis, I have my shortcomings. I'm not a perfect mother nor do I pretend to be, which is why I have a basket in our pantry specifically designated for grab-n-go, pre-packaged, extra processed convenience foods. Ideally, this junky basket wouldn't exist if it weren't for the fact that having young kids means our hectic mornings start extra early and are often rushed, and despite our best efforts, we still end up finishing breakfast in the car, arriving at our destination just in the knick of time if not a few minutes later. I'm not proud of it but, as a mom, those little toaster pastries are a breakfast saver! Thankfully, with a little meal-prep playtime and lots of planning, satisfying alternatives to the proverbial breakfast pastry can be realized.
Homemade "Heart-Healthy" Pop Tarts
Adapted from a recipe by the brilliant Alyssia of Mind over Munch
For the pastry dough:
2 cups of oats
1/3 cup of solid coconut oil (stick in the fridge for a few minutes if your oil has liquified; it must be solid for the pastry dough)
1/3 cup of unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup of golden milled flaxseed meal
2-4 tablespoons of ice water
Natural fruit preserves of your choice. I used strawberry.
Confectioner's sugar OR a scoop of vanilla protein powder of your choice blended with 2-4 packets of stevia (to taste) in the food processor
Milk of choice (I used organic vanilla soy)
1. Make the Pastry Dough
Run the 2 cups of oats through a blender or food processor until it becomes a fine powder (oat flour). Add the solid coconut oil, applesauce, and flaxseed to the blender and process until it begins to take the form of a crumbly pastry dough. Remove from the blender/processor and place in a mixing bowl. Add 2-4 tablespoons of ice-cold water and knead the dough with your hands until it all comes together. Divide it in two and wrap each ball of dough in plastic wrap. Stick them in the fridge for 20 minutes or in the freezer for 10 if you're short on time. You'll want to set a timer because if it sits in the cold too long it will harden and become difficult to work with in the next step.
2. Roll the Dough
After the dough as been chilled remove it from the fridge or freezer and place it between two sheets of plastic wrap or parchment paper to make the rolling process easier and mess-free. Use a rolling pin to smooth it out to about an 1/8 of an inch thickness.
3. Carve out the Tart Bottoms
Carve out as many pieces as you can before balling the dough back up and re-rolling it. You can use a rectangular cookie cutter for that commercial pop tart appeal, but I didn't have one so I used a cute heart-shaped cutter instead. Place the cut-out pastry shapes on a nonstick cookie sheet sprayed with Pam or coconut oil; these will be your pop tart bottoms.
4. Apply the Filling
Spoon about a teaspoon or two of fruit preserves onto each tart bottom and spread it out leaving a little border for the seal. Don't overfill or they may explode when the fruit filling reaches boiling point in the oven.
5. Top the Tarts and Seal
Continue carving out tarts until no dough remains. Place a carved pastry tart over each pop tart bottom. Press the edges down with your fingers and then press them down again with a fork for that pretty pastry aesthetic. Use that same fork to poke several sets of ventilation holes on the top of the tart lest you want to spend your evening cleaning berry guts and burnt pastry out of your oven.
6. Chill and Bake
Spray the tarts with some cooking spray (I used coconut spray) to encourage browning in the oven and return the tray of tarts to the fridge for about 25-30 minutes before baking; you really want to ensure that the coconut oil in the dough doesn't melt. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the chilled tarts at 350 for 25 minutes and allow to cool before applying the icing.
For the icing: take a cup of confectioner's sugar, a teaspoon or two of fruit preserves and a few teaspoons of milk. Mix until you get your desired consistency. I recognize that confectioner's sugar is a worrisome ingredient and not one you'd want to incorporate often, especially if you plan to make these in bulk batches and freeze them as a part of your family's meal plan, so as an alternative you can sub out the powdered sugar for vanilla protein powder (whey or plant based such as rice protein) processed with a few packets of stevia or monkfruit for that powdery confectioner consistency.
You could top these with sprinkles for a truer reinterpretation of the original but unfortunately I didn't have time to go out and buy sprinkles made of naturally derived food color. I find, however, that the berry fibers in the fruit preserve do a good enough job at giving this recipe the festive look of sprinkles and a healthy dose of color.
Having tried these myself, I must submit that they do not taste 100% true to original, as the creamy coconut and nuttiness of the oats give it a slightly different flavor-- a robust, complex, and satiating flavor that tells of its whole foods, domestic origins. However, I actually prefer the richness and complexity of the homemade version to the original. Even my husband and two-year-old can vouch for that as they have become disinterested in the store bought variety, craving instead the homemade ones. The fact that my two-year-old ate three right off the bat and wanted to trade her cookies and cream Pop Tart this morning for the one mommy made says a lot, especially when you consider that us millennial mommas prepare tons of inspired, healthful, pinterest-worthy meals only to have our toddlers stubbornly reject them on a regular basis (or maybe that's just my kid and me... please tell me it's not just me!).
If being plant-based isn't a priority for you or your family, you could probably sub out the coconut oil for cold butter or ghee and achieve a closer match taste-wise. You could also make this completely fat free by replacing the coconut oil with another portion of applesauce.
As a nice little bonus, these homemade tarts are lactation boosters made primarily of two potent galactagogues: oats and flaxseed. If you are a fellow breastfeeding mother, this may be a nice change of pace from overnight oats and lactation cookies.
I do hope you'll give these a try. Let me know how it turns out for you and what modifications you make to suit your nutritional needs. If you're a fellow pop tart fan (I'm assuming you are if you're reading this post and you've read this far), what's your favorite pop tart flavor? If you couldn't guess from this post, nothing tops strawberry in my book.
I look forward to sharing more fun recipes soon.
Much love and good eats always,
I mentioned in my last post that one of my personal development goals for 2017 is to become more creative and resourceful in order to run our household at maximum efficiency. As a nursing/pumping and full-time working mother on a minimalist mission, I've come to value pragmatics and efficiency very highly. One of the biggest changes that I've implemented in order to work towards this goal of maximum efficiency has been the transition from a traditional bucket and stick mop to a steam mop, a game-changer that not only frees up the limited space in my cleaning cupboard but also produces the most immaculate, hygienic floors I've ever had in comparatively less time and with little strain on the lower back and knees (pregnant gals, you feel me?). (For a more in depth look at my weekly cleaning routine, check out this post.)
Steam mops utilize less water than traditional mopping methods (about 16 ounces of water covers our 700 square ft tiled floors) as they convert water into hot steam that loosens dirt, allowing the microfiber mop head to remove it with one pass. In addition, steam mops disinfect with high heat eliminating the need to use of harsh chemicals that are neither good for our lungs nor the environment. All this aside, if there's one thing I missed about traditional mopping, it was the clean scent of citrus and lavender that would fill the house as I mopped. Nothing screams freshly mopped floors like the powerful smell of "Mistolín" and "Fabuloso." Am I right, my fellow Latinas? Granted, the lemony lavender scent in most common floor cleaners comes from cheap artificial fragrances that expose us to an unfortunate multitude of respiratory irritants and neurotoxins. But, gosh, did that scent ever reassure me that the house was getting cleaner by the minute! Steam mops are a different creature altogether. Because steam mops clean with steam alone, and their water reservoirs should never be filled with anything but distilled water, meaning no vinegar or cleaning solutions, there are few options for achieving fragranced floors.
As it happens, the steam mop that I purchased, the Bissell 1940 Powerfresh, came with samples of a product Bissell makes for enhancing the steam mop experience, a fragrance disc that diffuses a floral lavender scent throughout the house while the steam mop is engaged. The coordinating microfiber removable mop head even has a tiny mesh pocket on the inside to accommodate this fragrance enhancer should you choose to use one. Given the rave reviews and popularity of these scented discs, it would appear that I wasn't the only member of the steam mopper population who missed that "clean smell" upon making the transition; there is a definite demand for this sort of product.
I'm not one to turn down a free trial so I gave the fragrance discs a shot. I found that they worked well enough at producing a lingering floral scent. Unfortunately, since switching from plugins and scented candles to essential oils and natural soy/beeswax candles, any artificial fragrance, no matter how pleasant the initial whiff, nauseates me after a period of prolonged exposure. By the time I was done steam mopping with the fragrance disc at work (about 15-20 minutes later) I needed a glass of water and a long rest on the sofa. Even if the scent hadn't been so grating on my olfactory system, I just can't justify spending almost a dollar per unit on a one-time use disposable product, especially when you consider that I mop our floors on a weekly basis. Not only is it wasteful but it isn't cost-effective. And so, although I loved the concept, I would not repurchase the product. However, I would take the concept and rework it using resources I already had on hand.
Essential oils are one of the most versatile long-term investments in homemaking efficiency that one can make. Quality oils from reputable distilleries are a minimalist luxury worth every penny; I, personally, purchase my oils (the ones pictured in this post) from Florihana, a top-notch French distillery that produces oils of the highest quality I've ever experienced at a remarkably reasonable price point thanks to the appropriately placed emphases on transparency and eco-conscious cultivation methods instead of pushy, scripted MLM campaigns, but I digress... Essential oils have a long shelf life of several years if stored properly and kept in cool dark environments and a few drops go a very long way because of how highly concentrated these plant extracts are. Initially, I was drawn to essential oils as a natural alternative to popular domestic amenities such as wall-plugins and scented laundry beads, but the benefits of essential oils reach well beyond simply smelling nice. Many of them have therapeutic, medicinal properties. A few of the more common and relatively inexpensive oils have antimicrobial properties which are fantastic within the context of chemical-free household cleaning. Lavender, lemon, and tea tree oil in particular come to mind when exploring ways to disinfect the home environment while making it smell fresh and inviting. And so, with this knowledge in mind, I decided I would incorporate my favorite antimicrobial essential oils into my steam mopping routine.
For this hack, I applied a few drops of lemon and lavender oils to a cotton round. 3 to 4 drops of each oil is enough to get a very full-bodied fragrance going. I sometimes incorporate peppermint, as it a known insect repellent; as a South Floridian, I am always looking for ways to keep ants and critters out of the house during rainy seasons and rather than pay top dollar for a fumigator to bring destructive toxins into my home. And of course, it helps that I truly enjoy the sweet scent of peppermint. A word of caution to breastfeeding mothers and mothers of young children: peppermint may reduce milk-supply if a lactating mother over-consumes it or is overexposed to it via diffusion. Likewise, it is not rated as a "kid-safe" oil as it may irritate a child's respiratory system. Thankfully, the few times that I've diffused it both my children and my milk supply were unaffected.
I used disposable cotton rounds that I had in my bathroom cabinet but ideally this hack can be made waste-free by making your own reusable cotton rounds. It's as simple as cutting up old t-shirts and worn textiles or repurposing old absorbent nursing pads from your last breastfeeding journey. If your steam mop doesn't come with a pocket for a diy fragrance disc, you can either sew your own into the inside of mop head or simply stick the fragrance disc inside the microfiber mop head freely.
I hope these tips are useful for you, whether you are looking to minimize your homemaking routine or not. If you try out this hack, please let me know in the comments below. What's your favorite oil to diffuse while cleaning?
Until next time,
Hello, friends and family! If you follow me on social media (Instagram & Facebook) you may have noticed that I gave myself a two week hiatus from technology as a minimalist birthday gift to myself. Withdrawing from daily social media interactions is good for re-calibrating the mind and eliminating the invisible mental static that builds up over time due to prolonged periods of cyberspace overload. It just so happens that at some point in my rejuvenating birthday break, my old faithful Lansinoh pumping bra, having worked overtime for my children through two breastfeeding journeys, decided it would retire to the lonely, dank world of "Bra-zkaban." It leaves behind an irreparably broken zipper and Oxi-resistant milk stains-- the proud marks of a dedicated lactation garment. However, in its untimely departure, it also takes with it the understated luxury of hands-free pumping. Having spent more than I'd like to admit on yummy birthday food and new nursing tanks (it took me two breastfeeding journeys to realize just how worthwhile and liberating nursing tanks are!), the prospect of purchasing another $50+ pumping bra was upsetting to me. And so I did what any "pinteresting" minimalist momma does best: DIY.
Admittedly, I've never been much of a DIY'er. In the past, I've been able to come up with great ideas but my clumsy, artless hands are just not crafty enough to realize my vision to perfection, leaving me with no choice but to abandon my craft in utter frustration and disappointment. I recognize that over-idealism and perfectionism are more of a hinderance than a motivator when it comes to actually completing DIY projects so this is an aspect of my personality that I'm working on. One of my personal development goals this year is to be more resourceful and patient when creating my own solutions to daily hurdles such as hands-free pumping. Thankfully, designing a DIY pumping bra is so simple that even an inexperienced DIY'er like me can do it.
This project only takes five minutes and has saved me a nice chunk of change. What I like best is that it has given purpose to a forgotten cotton night-nursing bra that was taking up space at the bottom of my lingerie drawer. I never liked this bra much for night nursing or exercise but it's nice to see that not every purchase that hasn't met my expectations needs to end up in a donation bin or on an Ebay listing. There's a great sense of accomplishment when implementing thrifty modifications to bring new useful life and practical value to something that didn't spark joy or serve a purpose before.
If you are in need of a hands-free solution to pumping (what multi-tasking momma isn't?), I do hope you'll give this bra hack a try.
What You'll Need
Step 1: Mark
Put on the bra of your choice and adjust your breasts accordingly for a natural fit. Using a marker, mark the location of each nipple.
Step 2: Trace
Place the stem of your flange on the mark you made in Step 1. Trace around the flange with a marker to outline the area of fabric that will be removed in order to create the slits that will accommodate your flanges during pump sessions.
Step 3: Cut
Using a pair of very sharp scissors (such as the kind that seamstresses use), cut over the circle that you traced in Step 2. I personally find it easier to carefully fold the fabric circle drawn onto each "breast cup" in half and cut along the lines as if it were a semi-circle. Whatever your approach, when finished, you should have two circular slits in each "cup" of the bra.
Step 4: Pump!
"Look, ma! No hands!"
Put on your re-imagined lactation bra, insert your flanges, and pump away as you enjoy a matcha latte and avocado toast, page through a good book, watch Youtube videos, or write for your blog. Lord, my "millenial" is starting to show...
I'll be posting another quick, easy five-minute DIY (DIY Under Five) in the coming days so come back and visit soon!
About la maestra:
Bienvenidos! Bem-vindos! I'm Ali, a World Language maestra from Miami who went from hard-core maximalist to soft-core minimalist upon becoming a mother. The flexible form of minimalism that I practice, domestic minimalism, allows me to run my household efficiently and foster a home free of clutter and full of joy for my whole family. This is where I record my experiences as a wife, working mother of two, and homemaker. Thanks for stopping by.