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,
Ever since becoming a mother of two under two, I find I have less time to cook than ever before. My diet has taken a big hit as a result, as I've been relying on takeout and delivery more than I'd care to admit. As someone who loves cooking, eating clean, and also wants to run a more minimal household, this upsets me. Ideally, we should be meal planning and cooking/eating every meal at home but this is a skill I'm still developing as I juggle my duties as a mother, which include (but are not limited to) frequently nursing my son and pumping for my toddler, and my duties as homemaker, keeping our home tidy, clean, and orderly. Come August, when my maternity leave is up, returning to my full-time teaching position will be added to that list.
Thankfully, my interest in Korean cooking led me to discover how quick, simple, and satisfying many Korean dishes are. What I love about many of these recipes is how they emphasize a variety of vegetables and whole grains over animal products. Although many recipes, including the one I will be sharing with you today, traditionally include some meat and eggs, it's very easy to convert these recipes into plant-dense vegan meals due to the heavier emphasis Eastern cuisine places on plant foods. Unlike a lot of Western cuisine, the meats in many of these dishes act as flavor agents but do not comprise of the substance of the meal. The fact that such recipes lend themselves to easy personalization means you can tailor them to your family's specific tastes by changing measurements or swapping out one ingredient for another. It's almost impossible to "mess up" one of these meals so you don't have to worry about winding up with something completely inedible for dinner if you don't have the same exact vegetables on hand or use precisely the same measurements.
"Bibim guksu" was the first Korean meal I learned to prepare. It is a simple dish of noodles and spicy red pepper sauce. Although it is usually served with thin wheat noodles called "somyeon," I've prepared this with whatever noodles we have on hand, from spaghetti to ramen, so if you don't have thin wheat noodles just use what you have in your pantry. There are a few ingredients on the list that you will need to secure beforehand in order to achieve the vinegary, salty-sweet spiciness that makes the flavor of bibim guksu so distinct: gochugaru, which is a spicy red pepper powder (not the same as American red pepper flakes!), and gochujang, a spicy red pepper paste. Without these ingredients, you won't be able to make the sauce. These are the only two ingredients you will not be able to swap out because there are no comparable alternatives that I know of in Western markets. You may, however, be able to find these two items at your local oriental market. If you don't have access to an oriental market, follow the links in the recipe for information on where you can buy these.
La Maestra's Bibim guksu Recipe
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.