Some of my most vivid memories growing up involve Saturday mornings filled with cartoons and Pop-Tarts.
Pop-Tarts are nothing more than dessert disguised in breakfast form, but as a kid I accepted that and used it to my advantage. With a pastry crust, fruit filling, frosting and sprinkles on top, Pop-Tarts had the ability to make any average day seem like your birthday, but they also had the ability to put you into a sugar-induced coma. One pack of frosted strawberry Pop Tarts (because no one eats just one..) contains 420 calories, 12 grams of fat and 28 grams of sugar. Along with that not-so-stellar nutritional profile, Pop Tarts also contain a variety of not-so-nutritious ingredients, which include:
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Soybean and Palm Oil
Aside from the dangers of high fructose corn syrup (diabetes, metabolic syndrome, damage to the immune system, acceleration of the aging process and dangerous mercury poisons), the two particularly scary ingredients here are the food dyes. In today’s world, we hardly bat an eye at the neon green soda we’re guzzling or the technicolor ice cream we’re eating, but numerous studies are showing the profound impact these dyes have on our health. Red 40 and Yellow 6 are dyes commonly used in the food industry, who in total, dumps over 15 million pounds of dyes into our food supply each year (Curran, 2010). Out of the nine dyes available, three of the nine carry known carcinogens, and four of the nine have been known to cause serious allergic reactions in consumers, most notably, behavioral issues in children. Even more terrifying is that seven of the nine dyes were shown to contribute to cancer in lab animals, including, but not limited to brain, testicular, colon cancer and general mutations (Curran, 2010). Nutritionally, these dyes provide nothing, and their continued use presents profound and unnecessary risks to our health, so why are they still being used in our food?
Well, long story short, dyes have the ability to make a product look better, or appear to be of greater value than it actually is by masking the absence of more costly ingredients, i.e., fruit and vegetables, which perfectly illustrates why I believe it is so important to be educated on the food we eat. Hugely successful, dominant corporations are knowingly feeding us poison under the guise that the evidence found against food dyes is more of a ‘suggestion’ rather than proof. What kind of reasoning is that, and what exactly does it take for something to qualify as a concern? The sad truth of it all is that the worst food offenders are often those targeted towards children, who already appear to have the worst response overall.
While the challenge of getting kids to eat healthier is nothing new, there are plenty of ways to make the process less painful that don’t involve them having to give up their beloved foods, or you feeling guilty for letting them have it. I am well aware that the majority of these products are bought out of convenience, and I get it, we all lead incredibly busy lives where the last thing we want to deal with is putting in the extra time cooking requires, but like most things, you can make far healthier versions at home with ingredients that suit your lifestyle. Thankfully, this recipe allows you to make a big batch at once and store the rest in freezer for 2-3 weeks. Simply reheat and eat.
To make this process even easier, I turned to a company I trust using, Bob’s Red Mill, for their Gluten Free Pie Crust Mix. No, this is not a sponsored post, but I have always found success with Bob’s Red Mill products, and in instances such as this, they are a real time saver. While the flour mix does contain a small amount of sugar, this is the best mix I have found in replicating the authentic Pop-Tart taste that is still gluten free. The crust is also dairy free, as I used Earth Balance Original Buttery Spread. The filling is my Blueberry Chia Seed Jam, which contains nothing more than 1 cup of organic, unsweetened frozen blueberries, 1 Tablespoon of chia seeds, 1/8 tsp. pure vanilla extract and 1 Tablespoon of organic coconut nectar. This jam worked amazing in this recipe, and (surprise!) works great as a jam substitute in general.
While you can certainly make a traditional Pop-Tart shapes with the dough, it’s a little difficult and time consuming, and mine turned out…..let’s just call them ‘rustic’ looking. I found that using a biscuit cutter worked MUCH easier, and made for uniform pieces that took far less time to match up. For reference, I used a 3-inch diameter biscuit cutter, and got about 18-20 mini Pop-Tarts.
Cooking time listed in this recipe includes the time it takes for the dough to chill prior to assembly, as well as the time for the assembled pastries to freeze before baking. Pastries can be stored either uncooked or cooked in an air-tight ZipLock bag with pieces of parchment paper in between each layer to prevent sticking. If freezing uncooked, allow pastries to freeze on a cookie sheet or other flat surface for the full hour before storing in bags.
- ***For the pastry shell:***
- 1 16-ounce package Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Pie Crust Mix
- 1.25 cups of Earth Balance Buttery Spread
- 6 Tbsp. ice water
- ***For the Chia Seed Blueberry Jam:***
- 1 cup frozen organic, unsweetened blueberries
- 1 Tbsp. chia seeds (either color)
- 1 Tbsp. organic coconut nectar
- ⅛ tsp. pure vanilla extract
- Prepare pie crust mix as directed on package and chill for 1 hour.
- While waiting, prepare your Blueberry Chia Seed Jam by placing 1 cup of frozen blueberries in a small saucepan with 1 Tbsp. coconut nectar, ⅛ tsp. vanilla.
- Bring the blueberries, vanilla and coconut nectar to a low boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low-medium to simmer for about 5 minutes and lightly mash the blueberries with a potato masher or fork, leaving some for texture.
- Stir in your chia seeds until thoroughly combined and cook mixture until it thickens to your desired consistency, or around 10 minutes, while continuing to stir frequently.
- When finished, remove from heat and set aside.
- Remove prepared pie crust mix from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature until malleable.
- Roll dough between two pieces of heavy-duty plastic wrap or waxed paper to 3 – 4 mm thickness. Periodically removing and repositioning the plastic/paper will make it easier to roll out the dough.
- Cut the dough with either a pastry cutter for rectangles or a biscuit cutter for rounds. Cut enough for two pieces to each pastry (one for the bottom and one for the top). If the dough becomes too soft, transfer the squares to the refrigerator for about 20 minutes.
- Place a generous ¼ tsp. of the Blueberry Chia Seed Jam in the center of each square or round. Lightly brush the edges of the dough with water and top each square or round with its’ matching half. Press the edges to seal and crimp with the tines of a fork, dipping in water before each crimp. When finished sealing, vent the top of the pie by gently piercing it once with your fork. Repeat until all pieces have been filled and sealed.
- Transfer to the freezer and freeze for 1 hour. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Transfer pies to parchment lined cookie sheets and bake on middle rack until golden; approximately 15 – 17 minutes.
- Transfer pies to a cooling rack and let cool for at least 20 minutes.
- Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days if not freezing.