Saturday, February 7, 2015

Natural Product Review- Tea Tree Oil

Next on my list of items to replace was my acne cream.

Although I've never had awful acne, I do suffer from occasional breakouts, usually associated with PMS.

Because of the frequent breakouts, I used to keep acne cream on hand.

After reading up on natural remedies, I noticed tea tree oil kept coming up in magazines and books as a very effective treatment for acne.  So I decided to give it a try.

So far, I've been impressed.  You can use the essential oil straight up, or combine it with other things to make it a bit less powerful.  I use it straight up.  I put it on a cotton ball and apply it wherever I need it.  Actually, I've begun using it once a day in the spots I know I have trouble, to see if I can ward off breakouts before they happen.  I'll let you know if it works.

I will say that this stuff is fairly odiferous.  I don't mind the smell- it's sort of piney.  But some folks might not like it.

Natural Product Review- Jane Iredale Dream Tint Moisturizer

This was one of the first natural products I invested in when I decided to eliminate chemicals from my daily routine.

This was pricey.  I mean, like it hurt to place the order.  I paid $39.00 for this stuff.  I think I sat and stared at the screen for about 5 minutes before I mustered up the courage to hit the "confirm order" button.  But I'm so glad I did!

I read about this company in the book No More Dirty Looks.  I highly recommend this book for people who want to learn about the dangers of chemicals in personal care products.  Dream Tint was a product they recommended by name.  After looking at the whole line of Jane Iredale products, I'm pretty sure this won't be my only purchase from them.

I adore this stuff.  Firstly, I don't use very much, so this tube could last at least 6 months.  The coverage is light.  It makes my skin feel so soft, and the tint is very subtle.  It almost has a matte effect.  And I love the fact that it has safe SPF built in!  I have used other BB creams in the past.  My biggest gripe about most of them was that they looked cakey on my skin.  I'm 46, and I am developing lines and wrinkles around my mouth and eyes.  Normally, tinted moisturizers and liquid foundations find those lines and wrinkles and pile in.  I look worse with those products on, than I do when I go without makeup at all!  This is very different.

I know it's hard to commit to eliminating chemicals when the natural products come with a price tag like this.  But I guess the reason I finally did it was the thought that treating all the conditions that could present themselves because of exposing myself to chemicals would be more expensive than investing in safe products and paying more for them now.  Not to mention, I don't hesitate on splurging in other areas of my life that aren't nearly this important for my overall health.

My next purchase from these folks will be their mineral make up loose powder.  Sometimes I feel like I need a bit more coverage in the winter.  I'm going to order the powder as soon as we get paid this month.  I'll be sure to post about it after I've tried it out.

Going Green

I have been struggling with making a decision for a long time now.  For the last few years I've been making great strides in eliminating processed foods from my diet, and switching over to mostly organic foods.  I understand the need to be careful about what goes into my body.  But there was one area I seemed blissfully ignorant about- my personal care products.  I'm not sure why I never thought about the zillions of chemicals that get absorbed through my skin.

So I started educating myself about it.  And what I learned scared me to death.  I started with the book No More Dirty Looks.  After I finished that, I read The Green Beauty Guide.  Then I checked out the Environmental Working Group website.  I use their cosmetic ingredient database, as well as their new FoodScores app, which identifies safe, organic food options.

Now I'm slowly but surely replacing my chemically dirty personal care products with clean, natural options.  I am finding that this is a daunting, sometimes expensive process.  And it is a trial and error journey.

Because I have committed to making almost everything we eat from scratch, I really don't have time to concoct all my beauty products as well.  So I also made the financial commitment to buy the things I don't have time to make.  So just know- if you have the time, this doesn't have to be hugely expensive.  Most of the products you buy, can be made much more cheaply, and safely, at home.  I just don't have that kinda time.  But there are a few things I make myself.

The simplest of those things is face wash.  I simply take a handful of oatmeal and run it through my small coffee bean grinder.  I have one I use only for grinding spices.  I cleaned it out with some white rice, then blitzed the oatmeal in it.  I grind it to a fine powder.  Most nights I just put about a tablespoon of it in the palm of my hand, then add a few drops of warm water to make a paste.  I smear the paste all over my face, let it set a minute, then wash it off with warm water.  Once a week I treat my skin to the deluxe treatment.  For this, I use the tablespoon of ground oatmeal, add a little greek yogurt, and a little warm water.  I use it the same way I do the plain oatmeal.  I let it sit on my face a little longer- maybe 5 minutes- then I rinse it off.

So don't automatically assume you have to buy a ton of stuff.  As a matter of fact, I've learned to use one product for several different applications.

I use coconut oil for tons of things.  I cook with it.  I use it as a night time facial moisturizer.  I also use it to condition my hair.  I also use it speed up the healing of small cuts and bruises.  The best thing about this is that it's relatively cheap, compared to buying a separate cooking oil, moisturizer and deep hair conditioner.

You owe it to yourself to do a little homework.  Educate yourself about what you're putting in your body.  The government is not looking out for you on this.  There is little, if any, real regulation of the cosmetic industry.  Companies are out to make money- not look after your health.

My Favorite BBQ Sauce Recipe

These are the raw ingredients for my favorite bbq sauce.  I have tried quite a few different recipes, but none of them grab me the way this one does.  I think it's because of the molasses and chipotle.

I found this recipe on the Foodnetwork.com site years ago-way before I ever started blogging.  As a matter of fact, I think it was the first from-scratch condiment I ever attempted.  Now I regularly make bbq sauce, ketchup and mustard.

This is a Bobby Flay recipe.  It went with a burger recipe, but that part of it was lost years ago.  It looks like there are 3,000 ingredients, but honestly, I have every single one of them in my pantry at any given time, so it really isn't hard.  Oh- and I ALWAYS double it.  I give a few small jars away, then find excuses to slather the rest on anything I can find! :)

Here's the rundown:

Bobby's BBQ Sauce

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 Spanish onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup ketchup (I use my own homemade, but if you don't make your own, splurge on organic)
2 tablespoons ancho chile powder (you could sub regular store-bought chile powder)
1 tablespoon paprika (I use smoked paprika)
1 heaping tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (I always sub apple cider vinegar)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 chipotle in adobo, chopped
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon molasses
salt and pepper to taste

Heat canola oil over medium heat and add onion.  Let it sauté around for about 4 or 5 minutes, until it gets soft.  You don't need to put any color on it.  Then add the garlic, and let it cook for about a minute, stirring constantly.  Then dump everything else in (except the salt and pepper) and let it come to a boil.  Turn down the heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes.

If you want smoother sauce, use an immersion blender, or blend it in very small amounts in a regular blender (be careful blending hot sauces- it can splatter out and burn you).  Add salt and pepper to taste.  The recipe makes 1 cup.

I have never tried to water bath can this stuff.  Honestly, it doesn't last long enough.  So, put it in a mason jar, label it (and date it) and put it in the ice box.  Mine has lasted as much as a month without growing any visible ickies.  But like I said, it rarely lasts a month.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Chai French Toast

This was my culinary project for Sunday Brunch.

Yesterday we drove to Grand Junction to do some shopping, and on the way out of town we stopped at one of our favorite places to eat sushi- No Coast Sushi.  Will wanted dessert, so we ordered the Chai Creme Brûlée.  It was delicious.  I guess that's what inspired me to try this out.

So I don't make French toast very often, and I'm not sure why.  It's pretty much easier than pancakes or waffles, and you get the same sort of carb-soaked bang for your buck.

I really don't have a recipe for French toast, but here's what I think I did...

Chai French Toast

3 slices homemade bread- or something of good quality- not white sandwich bread- mine were huge
3 eggs
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 good pinch of kosher salt
1/4 cup chai tea liquid concentrate
3 scant tablespoons unsalted cultured butter (or regular)
a few pinches of kosher salt
maple syrup for the table

First, I cut 3 pretty thick (about an inch) slices of homemade bread.  We make our loaves in a round shape, so the slices were pretty huge.  I set them aside while I pondered the custard part.

In a medium bowl, I cracked the 3 eggs, added the heavy cream, salt and liquid chai concentrate.  I whisked this until it was really foamy.

Then I got out my griddler and preheated it on the griddle setting at 375 degrees.  You could also do this in a skillet on the stovetop.  I was just lazy and wanted to cook all 3 slices at one time.

I went back to the custard mixture and poured it into a glass pie plate.  Then I added 2 of the bread slices so they could begin to soak.  I'm guessing I left them in there about 5 minutes.  If your bread is thinner, don't let it soak until it falls apart!  I flipped them over to the second side and let them sit another couple of minutes.

When the griddle was preheated, I put the first two slices on, then began soaking the third.  I didn't put butter or any kind of oil on my griddle, because I just find that it makes it harder to clean afterwards, and things don't stick to it anyway.  I use a Cuisinart Griddler, but just do what you normally do when you make pancakes, and you'll be fine!

I let them cook for at least 5 minutes on the first side.  I wanted to make sure the inside was cooked through, and not runny.  In the past, if I didn't think it was done on the inside, but was getting too dark on the outside, I've finished it in the oven.  Luckily, I didn't have to do that this time.  I added the third piece to the griddle, and flipped the other two over.  I'm guessing the second side cooked about 3 minutes.  Really, this part isn't rocket science- pull it off when you think it's done!  The third slice was ready a few minutes later.

I slathered the pieces of bread with about a tablespoon of cultured butter each, then gave each a pinch of kosher salt.  I served it with maple syrup.

Like I said before, I should make French toast more often.  This was really delicious!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Reflecting...

I was looking at my blog stats this weekend.  I don't do that very often, because I don't make any money off my blog, and I really just use it as an easy way to transmit recipes to people when they ask me for them.

But I saw something odd.  The number one most popular post on my blog- and I mean over the entire time it has existed (2007)- is Brunswick Stew.  And it wasn't even a real version.  It was a total and complete cheat.  I have no idea on earth why people find this recipe.  I don't even think I used key search terms with it because I didn't know what they were.

Just for fun, I'll post the link to it here.  Seriously, people have way too much time on their hands....

Here's my cheater Brunswick Stew.

Old School Simple Egg Salad

Egg salad may be the least photogenic salad in the universe.  I tried to get all artsy with it.  But it still looked like sewage.  So this post will have no picture of the yumminess.  But I felt the picture of Duke's would suffice, because using the best mayo you can get your hands on is essential.

Egg salad really only has 2 ingredients: eggs and mayo.  Everything else is just window dressing.  So you need to get the best eggs and the best mayo you can.

I am an egg snob.  I am fortunate enough to live about 10 minutes away from Osage Organic Farm which sells organic, free range eggs.  I can even go and spend time with the chickens if I want to.  Most of the time I don't, but I could.   I think organic, cruelty free eggs are important.  End of sermon.

I've written in another post about my fanaticism when it comes to Duke's mayo.  I've smuggled gallons of this stuff out of the South.

As far as variations on this recipe, there are untold millions.  The number of eggs you use determines how many you can feed.  Four eggs usually makes enough for me to last for 2 days if I eat the salad on crackers.  And I really don't want to get into methods of boiling and peeling eggs.

I've spent many hours cussing over a sinkful of eggs that wouldn't peel worth a darn.  Now I usually put the eggs in a saucepan and add water to cover- and add a splash of vinegar.  I bring the eggs and water to a fast boil, turn the burner off and set a timer for 20 minutes.   After that, I dump them in the sink and run cold water over them for a few seconds, then peel.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.  Life is uncertain.

Here's the basic recipe.  Take it and run with it.

Old School Egg Salad

4 boiled eggs, peeled and chopped (I use an old egg slicer I inherited from my mom)
3 or 4 tablespoons of Duke's mayonnaise
2 tablespoons of sweet pickle relish (or any other pickled thing: capers, pickles, whatever)
Salt and plenty of black pepper

Put everything in a bowl and mash it up with a fork.  Then make a really good sandwich, or eat it on Wasa Crackers.

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