My friend Leslie runs a Chicago-based jewelry business called LittleGemsUSA, from which 50 percent of all proceeds go straight to charity. Today it is our pure honor to feature that business here, alongside a recipe for the homemade graham crackers I am obsessed with, and accompanied by a giveaway for the sweet little bracelet I’m wearing in the pictures. I love Leslie and I love what she’s doing, so it was my idea that she do an interview/giveaway (UPDATE: congratulations, Katrina!) here. When she sent me the answers to her questions, I cried, because, in case you’re wondering, she actually is as kind and humble as she sounds. After the Q/A and photos below, you’ll find more information about these graham crackers and more information about Leslie’s business, including how to win the bracelet and you can go purchase jewelry that will support women and children in need. This is one of those posts that I feel really proud of and thankful for, so please do scroll all the way to the end.
Q: Tell us the short 60-second version of what LittleGemsUSA does. What is it? Why should people know about it?
A: LittleGemsUSA is a jewelry company I started so that women can look stylish and also make a positive impact in the lives of women and children in need. 50% of profits are given to charities that help women and children. Currently we have fashion jewelry as well as gemstones set in sterling silver.
Q: What made you want to start this company?
A: A couple years ago I had my eyes opened to the fact that so many people around me are experiencing immense pain. Just meeting physical needs of food and housing for some people is almost impossible. I looked around and thought, “Why isn’t somebody doing something about this?” I wanted to see big corporations that have big money help fix the problems. I justified myself in thinking I can’t change the world. I’m only me. At some point though, I thought, “What if I helped just one person?” If I was the person praying in desperation, wouldn’t I want someone to at least try? If I fail, at least I fail while trying.
So I started LittleGemsUSA. Crazy as it sounds, I feel it is my worship, whatever happens or doesn’t happen is for God’s Glory. You’ll find these words on the bottom right of every page on my site – Soli Deo Gloria…to God Alone be the Glory.
Q: What has been the most exciting part of working with this business?
A: I don’t know if I would say it’s exciting to me as much as moving. I recall earlier this year when we raised money for women in Rwanda that don’t have work or a way to provide for their family. At the end of the campaign we were able to buy two sewing machines. Going to bed that night it was the first time I knew exactly what this meant for these women. I was moved to tears. For all the struggles to tag inventory and lug it to shows, untangling necklaces and recordkeeping, it was worth it to know that I have helped change the lives of two women. In effect I helped get them a job or a career. Earlier I said what if I just helped one person, but now I knew I had helped two. It was exciting, yes, but I’m prone to water works so, crying it out brought joy, if that makes sense. A childhood friend is in Rwanda (single, young woman) so her charity, Love Alive International, is near to my heart.
Through charities, we have helped victims of trafficking here in Chicago, helped keep girls off the streets in India, bought Christmas gifts for kids, bought two sewing machines for two women in Rwanda, supported a sports program in Chicago that keeps kids safe from gangs, raised funds for school supplies for underprivileged children and also funds to send six children to school in Rwanda. Now we are raising money for Angel Tree to purchase Christmas gifts for children whose parents are incarcerated. These are kids that most of us are not thinking about.
Q: What are some of your biggest challenges?
A: My biggest challenge is getting the word out about LittleGemsUSA.com. I am not the person that wants to ask favors of friends. I’m an independent single woman and I want to get it done myself. I want to be the one helping others, but the fact is that I can’t do this alone. You start a business and realize you have to know something about everything….impossible. I have to depend on my sisters (they help me constantly) and people I’ve met online to help spread the word. I work full-time so my lunch hours and evenings are spent trying to learn about marketing or websites. It’s like you’re drinking from a fire hose. But most of all I need help of people like me that think they are just “one person” [because] that one person has a voice. Follow us and share our posts and you’ll be putting your hand out and pulling a person up who is praying for that hand of help.
Q: How can we help?
A: Please join our email list [scroll to the bottom of the homepage for the signup form]. Other than [this giveaway at Food Loves Writing], the giveaways that I do are only for those who are on my list. Also, follow us on Instagram or Facebook. We put most of our content there.
Q: If someone wants to buy a Christmas gift through LG, what would he or she need to do? How does it work?
Go to our website and select the Store menu option. You’ll see categories on the side, or [you can] browse through everything. We accept credit cards, and orders over $50 receive free shipping. After you purchase, the order comes in to me. I get home from work, first make myself a cup of Shanna’s hot chocolate [haha!], then wrap the LittleGem and get it out to the post office the next day on my lunch hour. I collect the money throughout the campaign, subtract out expenses and then give half the profit to charity.
For more information about LittleGemsUSA, go straight to its website and shop now! Oh! And every commenter on this post will be automatically entered in the giveaway, which ends next Saturday, December 20. For a bonus entry, let us know you subscribed to the LittleGems newsletter!
Now for the graham crackers!
Einkorn Spelt Homemade Graham Crackers Kissed with Molasses
About 3 dozen, give or take, depending on the size of your crackers
One day last week I was mega craving homemade crackers and went on Instagram, where I found a pretty picture of molasses crackers that sent me straight to experiment. While I never found that user’s recipe, I did find scores of graham cracker recipes online that used molasses, and playing around with those formulas, using einkorn and spelt flours we had on hand, this is what resulted. They are crazy good. I mean, I-ate-a-batch-in-two-days good. Sweet and molasses-y and perfect for eating with a little chocolate on top. Another bonus: you mix everything in the food processor, roll out the dough, slice it and bake it, that’s it. The whole thing is not a long process, and that means faster crackers to enjoy!
A few quick notes:
— The thinner you roll the dough, the crisper crackers you’ll be able to achieve. I found that 1/16″ thickness was ideal, using a dough scraper (like this one!) to pull up the sliced cracker dough from the counter onto parchment. If you go thicker, the dough is easier to work with, but you’ll have more cookie-like crackers, also good, but different. Leave them uncovered for a few days and they’ll get a little firmer, however.
— The smaller you cut the dough, the faster the crackers will cook. We did little fluted rounds and some large and small rectangles. The smallest crackers baked up in 10 to 11 minutes, the largest in more like 13 to 15.
2 cups (plus more for working with dough) all-purpose einkorn flour (want to know more about einkorn flour? check out our book)
1 cup whole-grain spelt flour (or whole-grain einkorn would also work)
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cubed
1/4 cup molasses
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 to 1/2 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place einkorn and spelt flours, coconut sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a food processor; pulse to combine. Next, add the cubed butter, and pulse until distributed throughout (i.e., you don’t see huge butter chunks anymore). Last, add the liquids (molasses, honey, 1/4 cup milk and vanilla extract), whirring the food processor until everything is combined. If the dough won’t come together, you can add a little more milk; if you overdo it and the dough is too moist, you can just work in more flour in the next step.
Form into large mass of dough and plop onto floured counter. Split in half, setting unused half in plastic in fridge. Working with remaining dough, roll out to 1/16” thickness or as thin as you can get it. Cut out shapes with a knife or cookie cutters, and place them on your prepared baking sheets. Fork. Bake 10 to 15 minutes, until firm but not burned (watch carefully). Repeat process with second half of dough until all dough has been baked.
If your crackers were a little thick, they may be soft coming out of the oven, but they’ll firm up in a few days if you leave them uncovered on the counter.
Suggested serving ideas:
Dipped in tea
Eaten with squares of chocolate on top
Paired with homemade marshmallows (I want to try these with maple syrup and coconut sugar) and melted chocolate for homemade s’mores
Ground up for homemade graham cracker crusts in pies
*LittleGemsUSA provided the bracelet for the giveaway, but we were not compensated in any other way. All opinions express (other than interview question answers!) are our own.