Saturday, April 30, 2011

Homemade Deodorant

I guess I'm on a blogging spree - three posts in less than two days? But I've had this topic on my mind to write about for a few weeks now so I'm finally getting around to it.

I made my own deodorant and I love it! When I first started looking into it there seemed to be so many methods with so many complicated ingredients that I gave up very quickly. Didn't seem worth it! But once I found the perfect simple recipe and tried it out I got hooked. Please note, this is a recipe for deodorant, not antiperspirant. It will not stop you from sweating. Antiperspirants work by blocking your sweat glands, using aluminum and other nasty chemicals, and they have been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. Also they are usually heavily scented, often not a big deal but there are an increasing number of people out there with scent sensitivities who won't be able to stand next to you if you're wearing a scented antiperspirant. I'm sensitive to this because my younger sister used to be very allergic to scented products and had to miss a lot of classes in high school due to inconsiderate people (sometimes teachers!) loading themselves up with smelly stuff.
Anyway, deodorant simply works by absorbing some of the smell. The active ingredient in this deodorant is baking soda. Know how it absorbs smells in the fridge? Works the same way in your armpits! I still keep a stick of antiperspirant on hand for occasions where I really wouldn't want to be sweaty, like if I were wearing a nice dress to an event or something, but for day-to-day use I love this stuff. Keeps me feeling fresh and non-smelly! Cory uses it too - under protest. I simply stopped buying his regular stuff so he has no choice, but honestly the man doesn't stink anyway. Seriously, he can go weeks without putting on any deodorant or antiperspirant and you would never know. I'm not so lucky.
But enough blabbing, on to the method. All you do is take equal parts coconut oil, baking soda and arrowroot and cream them together with the back of a spoon until totally smooth and combined. Two tablespoons of each is a good place to start. It takes some elbow grease because the coconut oil is quite solid, but once you finally get it all combined you can pack it into an old, empty antiperspirant stick, pop it in the fridge for a few minutes to firm up and then apply it just like you would the store bought stuff. It's still a bit softer than regular antiperspirant so you have to be gentle so you don't make a mess, but the coconut oil makes it pretty firm. Personally, I keep mine in a jar and just use my fingers, but if you don't like the idea of that (and Cory didn't!) the empty container method works too. Another option: you can, if you want, add a few drops of essential oils if you absolutely must have a pretty smell. Lavender is popular. A lot of people also put some tea tree oil in it, because that's an antimicrobial, but I prefer to leave mine plain. With skin as sensitive as mine I worried that essential oils would just bother me, and I prefer the unscented product anyway.
One last note - a lot of recipes call for corn starch instead of the arrowroot. That's fine, it would do the same thing, but I try to stay away from corn starch as much as possible because of how highly processed it is. It's not a "natural" product. Arrowroot on the other hand needs no chemicals or high temperatures for processing. It's readily and fairly cheaply available at the Bulk Barn.
So those are my thoughts on homemade deodorant. It's great if you're trying to stay away from chemicals but still don't want to be stinky! I haven't looked into the cost breakdown of this, but I'm sure it's also cheaper than a regular store bought stick, and WAY better for you and the environment. Think of all the plastic packaging you're also saving!

Potential Disaster

Well, tonight I decided to use up the leftover cup of grated zucchini I had in the fridge from making Chocolate Zucchini Muffins for the Wellness Fair last night. I decided that I wanted to make brownies, since I was tired of muffins. I googled the internet for Chocolate Zucchini Brownies and found LOTS of recipes, but nothing that was really what I wanted. My criteria for a recipe were: cocoa powder, not real chocolate (I didn't have any) not a huge amount of sugar to make it easier to sub with honey; fudgy, not cakey; only 1 cup of zucchini because that's all I had; and lots of butter, mostly because I wanted to try substituting some of the butter with peanut butter but still wanted it nice and moist. I couldn't find ANYTHING. So... I went to the kitchen, and using an old stand-by recipe as a very vague starting place, I proceeded to not do anything it said and made brownies. They are in the oven now. I'm going to hold back on posting this until I can give a verdict, because I'm a little dubious as to how they're going to turn out. But here's what I did before I forget completely...

Potential Disaster Chocolate Peanut Butter Zucchini Brownies

In a large bowl, I combined:
1 1/2 cups of spelt/whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
In a microwavable bowl:
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup peanut butter
...melt these together in the microwave, then stir in
1 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla
...until smooth.
Pour into the dry ingredients, give it a quick stir to cool it down then add
2 eggs
1 cup grated zucchini
...and stir until thoroughly combined.

Pour into a greased 9x9 pan and bake at 350 degrees for... well... I'm not exactly sure yet as it's still in the oven. I will get back to you on that, but I set the initial timer for 40 minutes. We shall see.

Next day final verdict: This recipe turned out a moist, dense, delicious... chocolate cake. Definitely not the fudgy brownies I was going for. I know what I did wrong though, my original recipe did not call for baking soda, but I added it in because I was worried about the whole thing turning into a brick. I should have not worried and just let the eggs do the work, or only added perhaps the teensiest little pinch of baking soda.
I didn't think you would be able to taste the peanut butter because there's only 1/4 cup in the whole recipe, but you can totally taste it and it adds great flavour. Overall, this was a very yummy experiment. I'm just disappointed that my brownie craving has to remain unfulfilled. But at least I didn't waste all those ingredients! I have a yummy chocolate cake to show for it :)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Leftover Egg Whites

One of the problems when making your own mayonnaise is the leftover egg whites. The miser in me cringes against dumping them out, but I seem to struggle with what to do with them. Leftover yolks are fine, I just add them to scrambled eggs, but I don't like my eggs with extra whites in them, and there's not a ton of nutrition in them, though there's lots of protein.
I've tried a few different things - some people suggest freezing them for future recipes, which is certainly a good option except that I know myself, and I know that frozen egg whites would languish in my freezer for months until they were freezer burnt beyond recognition. There's always simple meringue cookies, but I'm not a big fan of those, especially after a day.
So my current favourite thing to do? Make macaroons! There are lots of different, fancy recipes out there that call for whipping the whites or sweetened condensed milk, but I follow this simple method and they turn out delicious every time. I usually have two egg whites after making mayonnaise, but since they don't come in a standard size you have to play with amounts a bit to get things right.

Throw the egg whites in a bowl. Add a pinch of salt and a splash of vanilla. Now sweetener: obviously sugar is traditional, but I really like them with maple syrup. For two large egg whites, I'll use a bit less than 1/2 cup of maple syrup. That's plenty sweet enough for me, but if you really like things sweet you could use more. Now break out the elbow grease and give this a good whisk until it's well combined. It will be a bit foamy on top. Now just add enough unsweetened coconut to make a scoopable cookie "dough." I also add flaked almonds, because they are delicious. So probably around 2 - 2 1/2 cups of coconut and almonds, but don't start with that much, just add until it holds together. Then scoop by the tablespoon onto a greased (don't be like me and forget that step or you'll be chiseling them off with a knife) cookie sheet, and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, until they're starting to brown. Pull them out and resist for another 15-20 minutes until they firm up a bit, then dive in! After all, there's no sugar right? And coconut and almonds are both super good for you. So fun to have a sweet cookie that you can eat pretty much guilt-free. And for those who don't like fat (not me obviously), they're pretty much fat free too, except for the almonds. Of course you can make these just as easily without almonds, I just love them.
And there you have it, cookies from start to finish in about 20 minutes, and you didn't waste those egg whites. Perfect!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sleepless Nights and Meatball Soup

Last night was one of the worst nights we've had with Eli ever since he started sleeping through the night. I woke up around 2:00 for a bathroom run (pretty standard this late in the pregnancy!) and he must have heard me, because the screaming started then. He was incredibly tired from our long weekend in Nova Scotia, the five hour drive we'd had that day, and then a late bedtime because we were at a friend's house. I got him up and rocked him back to sleep, then laid him down and rubbed his back until I was SURE he was asleep. Ten minutes later he woke up again. Dragged myself out of bed, repeat the process. Back to bed. Ten minutes later, he was up again. This time it was Cory's turn! He got him up and changed his diaper, then rocked and soothed him back to sleep again. Ten minutes later? You guessed it. I knew Cory wasn't feeling well, so I decided to handle it. He had a really runny nose and Cory thought that maybe he was waking up because he couldn't breathe properly. Unfortunately we don't own a humidifier, so I grabbed the next best thing I could find - the kettle! I squirted some tea tree oil into the water, brought it into his room and plugged it in. After soothing him enough that he was lying down, I sat on the floor in the dark and flipped the kettle on every time it shut off again until I thought his room was steamy enough. By the time I managed to drag myself back into bed again, it was 4:00. Thankfully though, the kettle seemed to do the trick. He stayed asleep! Until 6:30 that is, when we were both up for the day. It was one of those nights where I questioned my decision to have children, but it's too late to give them back now! By the time I had a couple more hours of sleep in me though I was thankful for him again. I expected him to wake up this morning with a vicious cold considering his condition last night, but he seems to be fine, albeit a little tired and grumpy. This evening I put him to bed with the tea tree oil steam again, and also rubbed Vicks under his nose and on his chest and on the bottoms of his feet. I had never heard of putting Vicks on the soles of ones feet until I moved to Browns Flat, but people around here SWEAR by it for curing what ails you. I remain skeptical, but at least it can't hurt him. Here's hoping tonight is an improvement over the last one.

Tonight for dinner we had Italian Meatball Soup. YUM. I've made it twice now and I think it will become a staple around here. I love soup because it incorporates lots of healthy vegetables, homemade chicken stock, healthy fats and you can get away with less meat than in other meals. Here's my recipe, it's loosely based on Italian Wedding Soup, but that traditionally uses tiny pasta called pastini (I think), but I like to use quinoa instead, just to be difficult. As always I'm not really including a lot of measurements here. When I first made it I made so many meatballs that I froze half of them. This made it a lot quicker to make the second time since all I had to do was pull them out of the freezer and throw them in the pot.

Italian Meatball Soup

For the meatballs: 
ground beef
1 egg
bread crumbs
parsley
parmesan cheese
italian seasoning
salt and pepper
Mix together using clean hands and scoop out by the tablespoon, forming into balls. You could always make them bigger if you want, but I like the little ones for soup. Now here is the optional part: you can choose to heat up a skillet on medium high and brown the meatballs a few at a time, or just leave them as is. The first time I made this soup I browned the meatballs. This made them prettier and gave them a nice flavour, but when I didn't bother the second time I really didn't notice much difference. I'll probably just skip this step from now on! 

For the soup:
1 large onion
4 cloves garlic
2 large carrots
3 stalks celery
several tablespoons olive oil
Heat the oil in a large stock pot. Dice the vegetables and saute in oil until they are starting to soften. Don't skip this - sauteing prior to adding the stock really makes the veggies soft and gives them a better flavour. Crunchy onions in my soup? No thanks. 
5-6 cups of chicken stock or water or a combination (beef or veggie stock would be fine too)
Italian seasoning
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 bay leaf
(Feel free to throw in any extra spices you feel like at this point, I added some good old Mrs. Dash!)
Bring this to a rolling boil.
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
meatballs from above
Add to pot. Return to a boil, then cover and simmer 20-25 minutes. 
baby spinach, torn or chopped into bite sized pieces (I used about half a 5 oz. package)
a few tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Remove bay leaf. Add spinach and parsley, stir and let spinach wilt. Serve immediately, topped with extra parmesan cheese if desired.

Very yummy, very healthy, and quite simple, especially if you do the meatballs ahead of time. Eli loves this soup, it gets two thumbs up from him! Oh, and if you're going to be freezing meatballs, make sure you flash freeze them. This means laying them out on a baking sheet to freeze prior to putting them in a bag. This way they'll keep their shape and won't all stick together. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Back to Normal

My house is beginning - beginning - to look like normal again. Hallelujah! Life returns. It's frustrating when you start to feel better and look around at the chaos that was once your home. Not only are you well behind on normal tasks, there are also extra tasks that really ought to be done now that the sickness is leaving. All the bedding should be washed, surfaces need to be wiped down and sanitized, and the whole place should really be aired out.
Not to mention that when you make a lot of things from scratch, you tend to start running low. There's no bread because you haven't made any, we ran out of mayonnaise and I had no energy to make more, the freezer is void of chicken broth and we're running low on yogurt. ACK! Being a "do-it-yourself-er" is great, until you can't.
But like I said, I'm starting to get there. We have mayo in the fridge again. Cory ended up buying a loaf of bread downstairs so I have another couple days before I have to worry about that. Broth is simmering on the stove, laundry is just about caught up on, sheets are in the dryer and you can see the living room floor again. Not that it's anything pretty to look at considering how many crumbs made their way onto it, but at least it's visible.
Wanted to post quickly about dinner last night, because I was struck while throwing it together that something so elegant and gourmet looking could be so easy. Cory came home from work and was concerned that I had gone "all out" in making a nice dinner, but honestly it was so simple. Just proves that elegant does not have to be a lot of work! I made Lemon Basil Pasta, but added lots of garlic too. I firmly believe that everything is better with garlic. This simple cream sauce tossed with pasta was very easy to make, and that's the most complicated part of the whole dinner! We also had roasted asparagus (trim asparagus, toss with olive oil, sea salt and pepper and bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes) and steamed mussels. I love buying mussels because they're relatively inexpensive (about $4 for a package and that lasts us two meals) and seem like such a special treat. Also SO easy to prepare, just rinse and then steam for 5 minutes. I like them best steamed in white wine, but I didn't have any so plain water it was. Still fantastic. I'm just happy I could still make a yummy dinner with minimal effort, and very little cutting and chopping. It was a good supper.
My boy is waking up now, and must be tended to I suppose. Time to fold more laundry...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lemon Ginger Tea


...is what we've been living off of the past few days. Eli has been feeling under the weather since Thursday, and Saturday the flu finally hit him hard. I was thankful the puke-fest happened while I was over at the church and my wonderful husband dealt with the aftereffects. I was really tired when I got home but managed to haul myself into town to pick up groceries, because we really needed them quite desperately. I'm glad I did it, but as soon as I got home I crashed. I was barely able to throw some supper together, thankfully I had stuck a chicken in the oven to roast before I left. Anyway, I ended up being sick that night and Sunday morning was pretty desperately ill with the flu. Couldn't even keep water down. Eli was still sick too, and my wonderful husband stayed home all day and took care of us. We were disappointed to miss church since there was a missionary coming to speak and a luncheon afterwards, but there was nothing for it. Eli and I were in no condition to go, or to be left alone. My sweet husband was patient and understanding as he got me everything I needed, took care of diaper changes and rocked our boy to sleep. I must have told him a hundred times that I was so thankful for him, and I still don't feel like it was enough.
The sudden reversal of roles was frustrating for me. In our early days of marriage it didn't bother me a bit to have him wait on me, but now that a couple of years have gone by I hate not being able to take care of him, to fix his meals and make the home a pleasant place for him to be. Certainly we strive to serve each other equally in our marriage, both doing things to help the other, but there are just some things that have naturally fallen to one or the other. Since I'm home, it just makes sense that I cook the meals and keep the house clean and take care of Eli. To be suddenly stripped of that ability makes you feel very helpless. I think it was partly an issue of wanting Cory to not be as miserable as I was, and wishing I were well enough that he could have gone to church and work, but it's also largely a control issue. I hate not being in charge of my own house.
But it's Wednesday now, and I'm finally starting to perk up a tiny bit. I made and ate three real meals today for the first time since Saturday, and ran one load of laundry. There's a lot more to catch up on, but I have to take it pretty easy. I was getting worried when I couldn't even keep water down on Sunday, knowing that if I didn't start being able to keep it down soon I was going to get too dehydrated and the risk of early labour would start to become more real. It's a lot scarier when you know your body is trying to keep you well and also take care of another little life! As much as I hate hospitals, I knew that IV fluids were going to become necessary if another day like that went by. Praise God it didn't, and that Baby Boy is well protected from viruses inside of me. I can't imagine having to deal with this AND a newborn... ugh. Some things are better left unimagined.
After taking Monday and Tuesday off to help take care of us (and because he wasn't feeling so great himself, though he hasn't got the flu yet), Cory headed back to work today. I missed him, Eli and I had a hard time getting along with each other since he's still very weepy and whiny despite feeling a lot better, and my temper is short and patience worn very thin right now. We managed not to kill each other until Cory got home, and he is blissfully asleep for the night. As I will be too before much longer.
Maybe after I finish this cup of lemon ginger tea. This is my favourite tea even when I'm not sick, and when I am sick it soothes my throat and calms my stomach and comforts my soul. Perfect.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Ketchup

I think I posted about this before - but since I just wrote up my homemade ketchup recipe for an e-mag that friends of ours are starting up I thought I might as well throw it up on my blog too.

Here's the little blurb about the e-mag in case anyone is interested:

My wife and I would like to present our new online magazine publication, "Tell it on the Mountain". Reaching people here and around the world. There will be interesting articles to inspire you, How To's, Children's Page, Teen Page, LOL Page, Classifieds, Advertisements and Much, Much, More. Coming Soon! If you are interested in advertising your business, or a free issue to your inbox, contact us at tellitonthemountain@live.ca Looking forward to hearing from you
By: Sherwin Mac Burnie Sr.

I'll be contributing recipes, healthy living tips, and whatever else I come up with I guess! Cory will also be writing articles on various topics, this month he's writing something for the "Teen Page." Anyway, here's my contribution for this month!


                It’s fast approaching that time of year again. Barbeque season! This summer, instead of grabbing that regular old bottle of Heinz, why not try making your own ketchup? By making your own, you can control the flavor and ingredients to make it exactly the way you like it, and you can also avoid the high sugar content of store bought ketchup. Making your own ketchup is easier than you might think, and while there are as many different methods and recipes as there are bottles on the grocery store shelf, here is my preferred way to make everyone’s favourite condiment.
Homemade Ketchup
1 small onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
½ tsp salt
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup vinegar (apple cider or white wine)
1/3 cup molasses
1 28oz. can diced tomatoes

                 Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and salt and sauté until the onion is soft. Pour in the vinegar and scrape the bottom of the pan. Add the molasses and the diced tomatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer for anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 ½ hours, depending on how thick you want your ketchup to be. Now taste and add more vinegar, salt or molasses to taste. I like sweeter ketchup so I always add more molasses. You can also add any spices you might like at this point. We like a bit of cayenne, cinnamon and cloves in ours, but feel free to add whatever you think might be good. How about curried ketchup? Or hot sauce ketchup? Taste and adjust, this is the fun part! Once you like the way your ketchup tastes, let it cool down and then blend until smooth. If you have an immersion blender this would be a great time to use it, otherwise put the ketchup in the blender or food processer in batches. Store in the fridge, either in a jar or funnel into an empty squeeze bottle. Enjoy, knowing you’re doing good for your body and your taste buds.